StoneBrixiaMan Xtreme Tri, July 3, 2021 (XXL)
Race Reporters: Nícolas
Prologue – From the ‘kids’ to the Xtreme: 18 yrs of triathlon.
Like most that start on the sport, the ultimate goal was an ironman. But 1st, there was university, then exchanges, then 1st job, then masters, then… and with all the evolution on equipment, training and recovery methods, nutrition plans and so on over the years, an Ironman was not as challenging anymore. An Xtreme tri had what I was looking for. Not only from a physical perspective, but for the whole exp: more equipments, planning, logistics as less accessible places, start/finish far from each other, harsher conditions, need of support staff etc. A real project.
The initial idea was to involve my family and my coach while travelling to a new place. They would follow me in the car and my father or my coach would run the last mandatory part with me. My dad had introduced me to the sport when I was 10. Finishing with him would be the closure of cycle on the pinnacle of the sport that I had practiced for most of my life!
For months I trained with a lot of uncertainty and restrictions, but as time went by, the race confirmed. As did the fact that they would not be able to come due to travel restrictions with Brazil. Less than 2 months prior to the race I had no support but had to keep myself motivated and training!
One thing at a time, everything was solved. Pedro, a friend in Milan, and Mareike Harder from the club accepted to join me and Andrea was assigned to me by the race organization for the mandatory support section as I couldn’t find someone by myself. Can’t thank them enough for it!
Moral is that I waited several yrs and there was never the perfect time, I just had to take the 1st step and make it happen.
Swim: Dive into the unknown.
1:30am. Wake up, no thinking, I had left everything ready. Eat what’s on the table (muslix, oats, dates & banana w/ honey & milk; salted avocado; coffee – same as always), grab what’s by the door. Go to transition area. Set the cycling gear, get the food on the bike, calibrate tires, dress the wetsuit. 3:20am, get on the ferry to cross the lake for the start. Once on the other side, I can slightly see the light beam to the sky marking the swim arrival – the course is a straight line with no buoys, you aim directly on the other side – I also get a house on top of the mountain just above the arrival as reference.
4:00am, race is on! 1st time in the dark. As soon as I start, I can’t see the light beam, so I use the house above. As I progress I see people getting away to the left and no one in front. I get worried, but to my right there’s a staff on Stand-Up. Took me a while to understand as I could only see the lights on his body looking like a Xmas tree . “If he’s there, I should be in a reasonable direction” – I thought to myself. 1st km done and I start getting close to an island on my right. It doesn’t feel right and now the Stand-up went to my left. I still can’t see clearly the arrival and keep going. Suddenly some algae and the water gets hot! That scares me, I had gone too far to the right! I correct to the left; the island is gone.
Halfway through and now I see the light beam! The Stand-Up is close again and I see that there’s ppl right behind me. I get confident again and now I am sure where to go! 1km to go, it sems so far and I feel like I’ve been for hours in the water. I start to feel cramps behind my left leg. I reduce the pace, get behind someone, and try to appreciate the sky getting brighter and the mountains taking shape! 🤩 I start enjoying the swim and soon I get to the other side, but the cramps are stronger, which worries me for the cycling. As I get out of the water, my left arm and shoulder is also terribly cramped, hard to get the swimsuit out. I had no idea of my time. In T1, Pedro tells me I am 12th out. Much better than expected.
Bike: The best ride of my life.
After an unnecessarily rushed T1, off I go to the bike. With the cramps from the swim I knew I had to be attentive to cadence, hydration and take salts earlier. I set a comfortable speed, admiring the road by the lake and sunrise, despite the cloudy early morning. Little by little I overtake someone, then another one and another… “It can’t be possible, I may be among the firsts now. Am I pushing too hard? Are they saving for the climbs?”. Many were locals and were probably used to train in these mountains, while I did all my training in the flat Paris region. I try to contain my excitement and focus on my race.
Some 50k in, Pedro and Mareike finally find me with the car. In Edolo, km75, we replace my malto bottle before climbing Mortirolo and they joke: “Take it easy, you’re in 5th!”. I get to the 1st refreshment at Trivigno with 97km in 2nd! While I stop for a refill and a wee I drop back to 4th. The sun is out and the views are stunning. 1st mountain pass done.
The descent starts and I couldn’t relax as I expected. Downhill is not my thing and this one scared me. Very steep, my rim brakes screamed on each hairpin turn calling for extra attention. We even had to stop midway down for a flock of sheeps – the kind of unusual stuff you only see in these events. I get to the the valey in 5th. Legs are good, it’s the arms with the cramp from swimming and after so much braking that bother a little.
A steady uphill lead to Ponte di Legno, km 140. I stop for another refuel. No sign of my support car, but Andrea is there and manages to find a RedBull I had planned to take.
Over 17km of climb @8% ahead to top Passo Gavia. Pedro and Mareike join me in the beginning. The scenery is a good distraction for the effort and heat. For my surprise again, I start taking back the positions lost on Mortirolo’s descent and even manage to take a shot of the overtake to 3rd with my GoPro that Mareike had just handle me (very me). The final km are endless, but eventually I get to the top in an unimaginable 2nd place!
It was fun to have some adrenaline in competing for places, but I wasn’t there for that. So I took my time at the top to put the jacket on, take a last photo and fix my camera on to film the descend. Needless to say, I gave back all positions taken on the way up haha but I enjoyed my moment. Apart from a totally dark 400m tunnel and the fear of flat tire It was a pleasant descend back to Pt di legno for T2, over 1h ahead of my optimistic plan.
Run: I AM A STONEMAN
So far everything had gone better than any prediction I had done. However, start a marathon with 2.3km of vertical gain on high altitude trails after 8+h of effort was unknown ground for me. Plus, I had drastically reduced running the previous 4 weeks managing a pain on my right foot. Leaving T2 you go through the crowd on the street and seated by the cafés cheering you up on the charming center Pt di Legno. You feel like a pro. I ran this 150m section and suddenly the center ends and you find yourself alone in the 1st uphill. I simply couldn’t run anymore, heavy legs.
The gravel starts and the hills just get steeper. I alternate trot/walk up to the 1st refreshment on km 8 where other 2 athletes with their supporter pass me. I stick to them. We go down the valley and then up the other side. After a few kms I’m exhausted. Another 2 overtake me and walking I get to Valbione refreshment on km 17.
A technical descent takes back to T2. Still feeling weak I let “gravity do the job”. A careless loose step and I twist my right ankle. I sat for a while waiting to see what I feel on my foot; if I could stay on the race. Anyway I had to get back to T2, so I get up again. Fortunately, the foot doesn’t bother much
Back in T2, Pedro joins me for a couple of km. I am now feeling better. I walk on the hills and run on flat/downhill sections. Still, in km 25 another 2 catch me. I go with one of them, Diego. We push each other up to Tonale, km 32, where the final and toughest ascent to arrival starts. Here Adrea joins me. The heat had given place for rain and, as we go up, for cold as well. The further we go, the slower I get… In the last 3km not a single step is firm and stable; my twisted ankle complains. Idk if it was the altitude, hypoglycemia, fatigue or altogether, but this final kms were brutal, really extreme. I was probably on my limit. With the dense fog I only see the arrival few tenths of meters before it. A whole year of dedication to this project was now condensed in those meters. In a mix of emotions – accomplishment, relief, thrill, happiness, frustration for my parents not being able to be physically there – I cross the finish line in Passo Paradiso at 2600m asl: I AM A STONEMAN!
Epilogue: what’s next?
Almost a year from resgistration to racing – not to mention the months digesting the idea prior to it – a few months building a good base, followed by almost 6 months of specific training. Training that peaked almost 20h/week. Now, back to Paris, besides the accomplishment there’s a feeling of emptiness. Suddenly I don’t have to think all my day schedule to fit the training sessions, check the weather, go after equipment (I had just resumed triathlon when I joined the club last year after moving definitely to Paris and had to go after all the equipment from scratch), manage food and if I would have a meal ready when arriving from a long session (struggles when you live alone ^^).
Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun on the way. I don’t recall a single training I didn’t start motivated, even those on winter at 6am. I discovered new places and met new people. It was a great adventure that pushed my limits and exceeded my expectations. Totally worth it! Time to set the next challenge. Thank you to all Expatriès family, especially those of the Sunday rides, with whom I progressed, became friends with and that followed the live tracking; you certainly made a difference! Hope this report motivates you on your next challenge as well =)
The event focus on the experience, there’s no distinction between positions, but for those who like numbers:
Swim – 3800m – 1h12 (3900 actually swam) – 12th place
Bike – 175km, 4500m D+ – 7h27 – 5th place (2nd best bike)
Run – 40km, 2300m D+ – 6h52
Total: 15h33 – 14th overall / 84 finished / 130 started