Half-fuelled by a water-logged Starbucks coffee, I am nursing a very sore foot as my mind wanders back to the International Triathlon in Deauville a few weeks ago. It is no secret that when athletes go silent, it’s usually because they’ve picked up an injury they don’t really want to admit to and / or acknowledge.
However, I would much rather focus on more positive things than temperamental tendons, so will leave that particular bitching and moaning for another blog.
My main worry when I woke up on a blustery June morning on the Northern coast of France was not the ache in my heel which had been hanging around for weeks but rather what state the sea was going to be in for the 2km, 2-lap swim. My wake-up run gave me the answer I didn’t want: shipwreck-level badass.
I jogged back up the beach towards breakfast pondering how on Earth I was going to negotiate the swell; wondering if the organisers would take the risk of sending 2000 amateurs into the wet grey craziness and if they did, how they were going to stop half of them from drowning.
I never got the second answer but there were a lot of boats and divers around, and apparently no one died. The pros lined up at the front of the bunch and from the moment we sprinted, pushing and shoving, down the beach into the crashing waves it was pure, utter mayhem. Pulled by the current, tossed around in the swell, making it to and around the plunging orange buoys was an exercise in seafaring. One in which my skills were clearly lacking. I just concentrated on making my arms go round and keeping my lungs free of seawater, ignoring the diverse tactics and interesting trajectories my fellow swimmers were trying out around me. In the end I don’t think it made much difference; we all swam in opposite directions to each other, and way further than anyone planned.
The last wave finally tossed me onto the beach on my knees and I narrowly missed a face-dive into the wet sand as I scrabbled to stand. So much for elegance. In my prostrate position I vaguely registered that there were ankles moving all around me and it took me an instant and a quick look to my left to understand why: what looked like half the amateur field was jogging up the beach towards their second lap: the current had pulled them so far off course there were guys 200 metres down the seafront trying to get back to basecamp. I had come off pretty well.
It nonetheless took me some time to get over the havoc of the swim and settle into my bike riding. When I did, I realised the course may not have looked hilly enough for me on paper, however the constant twisting, turning, bumping and shaking were literally right up my street. I may not have had the pure power but I knew I had a clear technical advantage over my competitors. In an all-too-rare burst of inspiration I found my legs and my confidence and let my bike go: two hours of tire-skidding, teeth-rattling, risk-taking madness resulted in me having an absolute blast, and gave me a nice buffer heading onto the run course.
As in the water earlier, the crest of the wave was inevitably followed by a massive dip and my running was considerably less smooth and impressive than my airborne bike riding. Unless you count my dive through the crowds lining the famous beach promenade and into the public restrooms between George Clooney and Steven Spielberg, which I was pretty proud of. I’ll spare you the toilet humour and gory details of the GI issues which surfaced on lap 1 of 3 and kept me entertained long after the race was finished, but didn’t stop me smiling down the finish chute and lifting the tape over my head.
(Actually, let me amend that: I no longer try and lift the banner over my head because my arms are too short to get it clear over my scalp, and it ends up wrapped around my ears. Instead, I have to be content with grabbing it at waist level and dancing around with it skirt-style.)
Thanks to Carrie, Scott, Kévin, Jacky, Vincent and the whole organisation team for a fun weekend and a great race! I love stepping off the usual labelled circuits to explore new events and locations, and Deauville in its cinema-infused worldliness certainly provided. I’d also like to give special kudos to all the people who tackled that swim – it was the most brutal I’ve ever encountered in a triathlon, and one which will definitely go down in the history books*.
I celebrated my win with steak and chips and a slow run along the beach in preparation for what I thought was going to be Ironman Nice a few weeks later. My foot was in agony but I chose to ignore it, reasoning that a little inflammation would be sorted with a couple of easy days and good dose of ibuprofen.
As my current weak-coffee situation illustrates, that was definitely not the right thing to do…
Back on track soon!
* Great video report of the race here. Swim conditions illustrated between 00:50 and 1:30 🙂