Karen’s ‘Dream Team’ at Longueil Sprint

Longueil Sainte Marie – Team Sprint – May 28th, 2017

Race reporter: Karen


The hardest I have worked at a triathlon was Sunday at Longueil.
And without further ado, to debunk the myth of me protecting my unborn child in the photo above, I confirm that I am not pregnant!

Longueil Sainte Marie is located 70km north east of Paris on the way to Choisy au Bac. Both events are organized by Compiègne Triathlon. It was a qualifying race for the Picardie Region.
I participated in a team with PSC Triathlon (where I am also a member).  This was my 1st team event.  We were 4 women and 1 man.  I had previously met Nargisse at training, I met René-Luc Thursday eve at Torcy and met  Floriane and Marion on-site.

The location of the race was at a ‘base nautique’ with a beach. The water was measured at 23.5° at 100m depth the night before which allowed for wet suits. We thought perhaps they set the temp just under 24° specifically in kindness for this reason.  When we went in the water to warm up. To my delight, it was clean and clear enough to see that the plants had not grown high enough for me to touch them. It was a go!
There were 76 teams and about 10 different colored caps spread out so that it was easy to identify each group while swimming. While watching you could see the blues overtaking the yellows and gaining on the purples etc, which was fun. Departures were in numerical order every 1:30. There were 5 benches for teams to sit on and move up as their time arrived. We were team #26 with a departure at 10:39.
I had heard leading up to the competition that one of my teammates was the best swimmer on the PSC team and used to train with Laure Manadou. The reason she did not go with a faster team was because he was not able to run. On the ride over I was told to not worry, because Floriane would push us if we got tired.  I said you mean she will be moral support? They said no, she will literally push your legs to help you forward.

The swim looked like a heart with two loops. Out straight, left around the 1st buoy, left around the 2nd and back. Next was what they called an ‘australo-picardie’ exit. There was a buoy to walk around at the edge of the water, all the while keeping feet submerged, and off again for the other loop in the same format.
I started keeping up with the group and around the first buoy I saw they were pulling ahead.  And then…..I felt a hand around my leg and whoosh. Just like pushing off the wall at the edge of the pool. Sudden flight. Floriane stayed with me the entire race which kept me within 20m of the other three by pushing me every once in a while. (Note she was not even wearing a wet suit.) This also meant that I was obliged to swim crawl for the distance, as if I swam breast stroke she could not help me. This was the first time I have ever done a full crawl swim at an event. I think knowing she was there calmed me down as well because at times I would intentionally try 2-stroke breathing thinking it would be easier and gradually become aware I had fallen naturally back into 3-stroke breathing.  We finished in 16 minutes which was about 8 minutes under my usual speed =)
In a team event you must move through transition together so when Floriane and I arrived at the edge of the lake the others were still there.

For the 1st time this career, during only about 30m distance to transition, I did a flawless removal of my wet suit even over my watch. I surprised myself. I kept in mind something Sylvain had told me which was to get it off my arms fast while the suit was still full of water. At Choisy I had both arms still stuck while running since it didn’t go well. I left my cap on with goggles on my head and ripped the arms right off.
The four ladies were ready fairly quickly and we had to wait for the gentleman just at the exit of park because we had to leave intact. So 10 minutes later…..kidding.

It was about a 100m run to the mount line. The cycle was 2 loops of flat surface and one incline/decline.  It took a little while for 5 people who had never cycled together before to get going; two of the ladies were on their 1st outdoor tri.

My guardian angle Floriane pushed me about 75% of the way. I wanted so much to thank her for helping in the swim however I could literally not breathe I was moving so fast. She kept calling out – 30kph, 32kph… The end of the 1st loop brought us all the way back to departure where we had to do a U-turn around a cone in the width of a single lane of paved route. Getting started again they told me to take a drink and when I spoke a few words Floriane said – if Karen can speak that means we can go faster, and we were off.  By the last few kms I was seeing ‘mirages’ of the left turn into the event park where it was not.
In the end we averaged 29kph with a max speed of 39.4kph, where my own average is around 20kph. Thus the breathlessness.
At that point Floriane was dropping out so she helped put our bikes on the rack to allow us to go faster. There was truly not much room in transition.

To note on a team event, the non-drafting distance is 35m. The refs were a tough group at this event. There was a penalty lap for any team that got a blue card and we saw some.

The run was 3 loops around the lake (which gives you a concept of the size of the lake).  Just for fun – 100m out of transition – there was a 30m stretch of sand to get through – 3x. It was like running in place.
The rest was on grass.  I could not move. I didn’t particularly feel short of breath or have muscle pain, I just literally couldn’t move myself. Turned out Marion who said she was injured and couldn’t run, could still run faster than me!
I wanted so much to walk or go slowly but we were four. So guess what?  I had alternating pushes from Nargisse who propelled me from my lower back in one jolt which could be difficult to manage as it was abrupt. I was spending energy trying to keep my balance and recovering. She kept cheering me on and Nargisse was just about the only reason I kept going moving my legs at that point.
I called at René-Luc who was way out in front to no good end as we had to cross the finish line together. He came back and put his hand on my shoulder and I had to run at his speed.  Once I figured out how that worked we ran next to each other and I would say okay push me until that tree, or until that woman in the red shirt. I would prepare myself psychologically for a sprint and during the time he was pushing I would think, wow this is what it feels like to run fast!!!

When we finally crossed under the navy blue arch we stopped, high-5’ed and hugged each other and then heard screams that it wasn’t the finish line. Bizarrely there was a 2nd white arch around a corner to the right that we couldn’t see across another stretch of sand.  Then!!! finally we were done. After a few seconds I set out on my own to walk off the adrenaline. I saw someone under an ice cold outdoor shower, took off my shoes and stormed under. It was a scorcher on Sunday and by that time I was on fire.

This was the greatest experience of TEAM, far beyond what I could ever have imagined. These people I didn’t even know literally, physically pushed me so I could keep up and be a part of them. They engaged their own race effort and gave even more to me. I am still completely floored.
I am a person who always wants to be the giver. I try to not need anything from anyone. And for races it is always me who drives the car which is tiring to do before and after.
At the end of this early-on seemingly confusing endeavor where I considered backing out many times, I had to let myself receive support in order to make it, almost to the extent of being carried. It is made of so many victories that Garmin doesn’t give a badge for.

I was in so much psychic discomfort during this entire race that the whole time in my head I thought this is the last triathlon I will ever do. I honest and truly don’t like going fast.  It doesn’t mean anything to me at the moment. Maybe I will continue to train without competing. We shall see.

That aside I HIGHLY recommend participating in a team event whether here next year or at Verneuil (which is a qualifying event for the Coupe du Monde so worth the team being there) event where we had a men’s team 2 weeks ago. It is something unlike even a relay participation.  Nothing you can do as an individual has any value unless it is done for the whole group. You can’t save the group time, you can’t do things your own way, you can’t even get on the podium unless you can tie yourself to your team and use the collective strengths to support the collective weaknesses. Extraordinary…

With all my heart I thank my team in order from the photo above René-Luc, Nargisse, (me w/o child), Floriane, Marion as well as Tristan (not pictured) for driving me and his support through it all <3