Karen and the field of greens at Chemin des Dames

Chemin des Dames S – Chamouilles – May 21st 2017

Race reporter: Karen

I did a DNS but DF. When I got in the water to warm up, it was a FIELD of greenery. I inquired among the other women to learn that the plant life went all the way out. Sean says – à la Cergy – I say imagine a sunken wheat field that has grown up 30cms from the surface. You could probably walk on it 😉 Ewwww. I can already not swim at Cergy so this was a no brainer.  I thought to myself – are you really going to walk away from this – and I knew that after a poor experience in the cold the prior week in Choisy, life wasn’t worth the stress. A shame as the weather and water temperature were perfect, and the abundant plant life is witness to how clean the water is.

I headed to the nearest ref to turn in my chip and dossard. I had previously introduced myself as a ref earlier in the morning (when I saw I put my bike sticker on facing the wrong way…). I had also met the race director (and family) the previous night since I stayed over in their residence and ate there. Turned out I was the only non-family/friend/member/volunteer/service provider which is (I finally figured out) why I stood out. So, refs and director discussed amongst themselves, asked me 10x if I was sure about the swim and gave me back my dossard.

I was allowed to watch the 750 loop and head back up just before the exit of the 1st swimmers. After about 30 women left the bike park they sent me off on my way. In lieu of being tired from the swim, it was a challenge to get my energy going from being in this awkward situation. I enjoyed being in the front of a crowd and getting applause from the sidelines of people who weren’t yet worn out from cheering. I imagined them impressed by my place in the competition =)  The course was up and down from the start which made it interesting. Not very hard if I could do it!!!  We then had a 1km slow climb, a few kms of relatively flat and then a 1km total descent. At times I thought there were cars behind me but it was only a few men on bikes!

I have to say that I always know I am not the slowest swimmer because I am still passed by so many on the bike. Here though, due to my starting position, it was a heyday. Good thing I had a head start. Watching their speed I was thoroughly convinced that my brakes must have been stuck to my back tire. I didn’t want to break my rhythm to check, figured I would tough it out and be proud to announce my accomplishment at the end — all that with my brakes on!!!….and at the end it turned out that I just need to build some muscles.

There was a very dangerous portion of the race returning from the bike section in the S event. We crossed the run route where there were masses of people cheering. It was impossible to see further. It appeared to be the end of the course, however people started screaming to keep going and turn left for the dismount line. For some of the people in front of me clearly racing for their time, it must have been frustrating.

The run was along the water in a fashion similar to Choisy in that there was an out and back and then an out and back. This time I clearly determined what distance was left for the 2nd session to pace myself. The departure from the base to the turn around point was straight uphill – on dirt – a wood bridge – roads – paths etc.  At the turn around point there was a short downhill section and then if felt flat from there. Everyone said so. Disappearing hill.

I was fairly psyched when I saw my neighbor 276 (I was 275) still on the run portion when I got there because as she ran by in her direction someone yelled out to her that she was in 1st place. I felt awkward crossing the finish line as if I was an impostor. They were calling out so many names I prayed they wouldn’t call mine.  Turns out I did an excellent time of 1:15 without the swim =)

Back at home base I chatter with the lovely winner (who did 1:14 with the swim!). She is from Lille so recommended doing the Dunkerque race because though cold, the water was clear with just some small, inoffensive jelly fish……..by the look on my face she knew I wasn’t going to be seeing her there.

For anyone not bothered by greenery, I highly recommend this race with a smallish feel – it is very family/friends run by the Association of Chamouille/Cap d’Aisne. It sold out this year – 400 S, 100 Junior, 500 M with people on site turned away. The competition level was impressive in all three divisions. There are lots of places to stay overnight to enjoy the region on the Saturday; alternatively you can do the easy drive out and back for the afternoon M race.