PHILIPPE'S IRONMAN TRIATHLON FRANCE 2016 MATCH REPORT
Well .... we're now incredibly close to what seemed impossible when I sat, completely broken, in my hotel room after Ironman Wales 2014 declaring "never again". If things pan out, I could be on the start line at the 2018 Ironman World Championships in Kona - Hawaii. How utterly incredible is that?!? Ironman France in Nice was my 12th finish.
As has become customary in my first Ironman of each season, I felt strong after a good winter of swim, bike, run, but there was the elephant in the room ... literally! With no. 12 in mind, finishing was all that mattered. I did however, find a couple of new ways of being a numpT!!
There was no way mechanicals would spoil the day, so I had the bike fully serviced and fitted new tyres and inner tubes. On the back wheel, I lost the inner tube dust cap - not a problem, what's the worst that can happen?!!?
Swim 1:18:17 - As planned
My first Open Water Swim of the year - happy that the wet suit fitted!. It took me 10 minutes to get into the rhythm and then all went pretty much to plan. My Garmin shows I kept a pretty straight line and I got out feeling good. Swimming in the Med is great fun.
T1: 11:48 - As planned
Relaxed, took time for a loo break. I have still not managed to pee whilst swimming - that always costs me a minute or two in transition (too much information?). No need for sun cream, it was starting to rain. I avoided the carnage at the very narrow mount line and headed off. Sorry Rosie and Gaby - I missed your cheers.
Bike 8:26:36 - Way behind plan
The 180k bike is all about Le Col de l'Ecre - a 16k hill, climbing 1,000 metres, about a third of the way in to the bike. The climb started way below the cloud line, but as we climbed, we got closer and closer to the mist and closer to the rumbles of thunder. By the time I got to the top, it was feeling tough, I was pushing hard for little speed and assumed I was knackered and the elephant in the room was taking its toll - just keep moving Phil.
A few kms after the Col; pop - front wheel puncture. A quick change of inner tube and ready to go. I look at the back and that's gone down too! Not good but don't give up! Wheel off and quickly strip the inner tube out and out pops ....... the dust cap! Like a complete numpT, I had trapped the dust cap in between the inflated inner tube and tyre - result - a slow puncture which had been dragging me back for a couple of hours. No excuses - plonker!
Whilst the bike pump worked well on front, by the time it got to the back, I couldn't get the pressure on, numpT mistake no.2 inadequate pump. I will reassess my puncture prevention and fixing.
Having fixed the back puncture but with limited tyre pressure, I had to cycle 8km to the next feed station standing and leaning forward to put all the weight on the front tyre. Nothing like a spin session half way through an ironman bike!! Managed to get to the feed station and used their track pump for full pressure - right game on!
By the time I got going again it was slashing it down and the feed stations were heavily populated by shivering triathletes wrapped in space blankets, waiting for the sweep wagon. For once, my extra baggage was helping me - keeping me warm!. Time to descend 1,000 metres on narrow roads averaging 45 kph - I achieved a significant improvement on 2014 - I had crashed in 2014!!
Into transition and shouted to Rosie and Gaby why I had taken so long.
T2: 9:08 - As planned
Quick change - dry clothes, comfort break - excellent, I am well hydrated. A bit of banter with a referee who is taking the p155 because I have forgotten to take my cycling gloves off. We are having a laugh together and I look up to see Rosie an Gaby screaming - "COME ON, COME ON - STOP CHATTING AND START RUNNING!"
Run:5:45:56 - As planned
The first 10.5 km was fine, I moved ahead of schedule and felt OK. After that, as usual, it became the traditional shuffle punctuated by incredible support from Rosie and Gaby "COME ON, COME ON - STOP CHATTING AND START RUNNING!"
Without Rosie and Gaby's support, I wouldn't have kept going - they were not going to let me stop, and they must have run a marathon chasing me keep me going! Amazing.
My Garmin was telling me I was on track but with very little contingency - this was going to be close! Then, with 7km to go, I went blind ....... my Garmin ran out of power! NumpT or unavoidable mechanical? Don't know yet - but I was now blind to my projected time.
Every couple of minutes, I took to asking people on the side of the road how time was getting on?
- "10:21, 10:25, 10:27" came the answers from those who knew exactly why I was asking
- Dunno - about 11 o'clock from those that didn't - merci!
Last 500 metres - Gaby ran up the course to fetch me and drag me home if necessary and Rosie waited by the finish line - "COME ON, COME ON - STOP CHATTING AND START RUNNING!" I had less than 10 minutes before cut off - hundreds of people were lining the route and screaming at me to keep going - incredible atmosphere - down the magic carpet and we'd done it - 8 minutes and 15 seconds to spare - JOB DONE!.
Great day and a great week in Nice afterwards doing absolutely nothing. Next stop Tenby in September - the elephant needs to have left the room! That is the tough one - as Paul explains at the IM Wales pre-race briefing "Every Ironman is hard, then you get the harder ones, then the hardest ... then there's Ironman Wales" Bring it on.