Ironman 70.3 Marrakech, October 27, 2019 (L)
Race Reporter: Benoit
On the 11th June 2017, 6 am, I left Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to reach Nha Trang beach where I ran my very first triathlon: 0.5 km swimming, 20 km biking and 5 km running. It was such fun that I promised myself to do it again.
On the 27th October 2019, 6 am, again, this time however I woke up to run my first IRONMAN 70.3 in Marrakech. Same weather conditions, different challenge. I expect the whole race to last something between 6 to 7 hours. I told myself that no matter how long it takes, I would have to finish it.
When you compete for your first half IRONMAN, organisation is a whole process.
1 – Register. The easier part. Just spend 350 euros and you are in.
2 – Get a bike, or try to do so. I don’t know how it usually works, but I first tried to rent a bike in Marrakech. By the time I made up my mind, all the bikes had already been rented out.
3 – So here comes plan B. Bring my own. First get a travel case. This was not so difficult. I just had to a look at Le Bon coin. Then I purchased extra luggage room on the plane. This is how you just add an extra 150 Euros to the final bill. Anyway, putting back the wheels on the frame in the small Medina alleys in Marrakech was a unique experience.
4 – Book plane tickets and a ryad, a typical Moroccan hotel. AirBnB is full of nice ryads for every budget. The only tricky part was to choose between staying in The Medina or by the lake. The first one let you easily visit the city center. The second one, conveniently close to the swimming start, avoid waking you up at 5 am on D-day. As I came with 2 supporters, one of which was 18 months old, I chose the first option, the “very quiet” medina.
5 – Training ! I chose to train 5 days out of 7 following a set plan. I have to say that the expaTRIés training sessions have been more than useful. I did attend the expaTRIés sessions twice a week. On Thursday evenings to swim/run and on Saturday mornings to bike/run. Nice for getting all the necessary advices. Then add the occasional nice long bike rides organized on Sundays and you are all set.
6 – Land in Marrakech and set up the whole race: I got my bib on the Saturday along with the 3 transition bags and it took some time to understood how those 3 works (I recommend doing a check list). Then I jumped on a shuttle bus along with my bike towards the lake. I saw the lake and familiarized myself with the environment, racked my bike and started thinking about the race. Finally, I just had to book a taxi as an alternative to the 5 am Sunday shuttle bus. Waking up at 4 am was not an option. For that, in Marrakech, you just need a bit of patience, great negotiation skills and … a little bit of extra money as it will costs you 75 Euros.
5 to 6 am on Sunday, October 27th, I was fully awake even before my clock rings. My program was : to eat, take a shower, get on the taxi and arrive to the lake. Here I was, in front of this magnificent Lalla Takerkoust Lake.
The place was just amazing, the weather was not cold at all, which was a sign that the end of the race will be much hotter. We were almost 2 000 competitors, waiting for the start to be given. In Marrakech we did a rolling start, which were good news for me: no struggle in the water, no elbowing, no need to avoid competitors. Swimming is not where I am the best, so I needed to manage these 2,9 km the best way.
The water temperature was perfect, around 19°. The mountains all around were wonderful and the sun was rising. For my first IRONMAN, I felt so lucky to swim in such conditions.
As I said earlier, my main goal for this Ironman was to reach the finishing line. Therefore, I started swimming quietly, not in a hurry, as I knew I had to keep some energy to go through the whole race. I believed this even more when I saw other competitors abandoning the race after a few minutes after entering the water.
50 minutes later, I am running to my bike. The course is promising we should bike through Berber villages of the Atlas and the spectacular landscapes of the Ourika Valley. A few minutes after leaving, I came across a few competitors running next to their bikes back to the starting point to repair them. This was a kind reminder to me: the road was a bit damaged and what I was the most afraid of on this IRONMAN was a mechanical problem.
The outside temperature had increased. I applied a sun blocker during the transition but I felt like the sun would beat me at some point. The course was nice and hilly at the beginning, then it became quite monotonous with just a very long straight line. All along, I felt quite good, I steadily drunk my special water enriched with formula powder instead of the Coca-Cola/water mixed by the organisation. I did not feel any sort of fatigue. It was a pleasant ride through the typically Moroccan landscape. After three and half hours, the city of Marrakech finally appeared.
Now the temperature was at least 30 degrees and I could feel it through my whole body. I am used to it because I used to run in Vietnam a lot. The first kms were just fine, we did the same route twice, but unfortunately not through the centre of Marrakech. Race organisation was great, the path was clear with police everywhere securing the road. There were a bit of people cheering us. On the 10th km, my beloved 18 months supporter was there to give me a bit more power and energy, which was great.
I crossed the finishing line after 6h50 minutes. So happy to finish and delighted to say that I did it! I can feel pain in my legs and what hurts even more is my burned skin. I appreciated the medal much more than I usually does. Now I am a marathon Man and an half IronMan. The feeling is so great that I might just want to become a full IronMan now.