Euans Ironman France…
It was over a curry and a pint in the autumn of 2010 that a friend suggested that we enter Ironman France. I had just completed my first two triathlons ever during 2010, one sprint distance (400m swim, 30km bike, 10km run) and one Olympic distance event (1500m sea swim, 40km bike, 10km run). As I considered the jump to an Ironman distance event (3800m sea swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run), I though why not. What I did not release in my haste to enter, was that the bike section is considered one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging in the International Ironman series.
After a fairly disruptive training plan due to surgery on one of my arms, bouts of colds/coughs, & a mountain bike crash that put me in hospital, my original 40 week training plan worked out to be a messily 14 weeks. This was not the best preparation for my first Ironman. My Doctor suggested that I would not be making the sensible choice if I raced, then again is anyone sensible who completes a race like this.
I made the decision I was going to start and hopefully finish this epic event. I knew I could not achieve my original goals, in respect of a target time, but I could go out and enjoy the day.
So the week before my ironman I caught a horrible cough, what more could challenge me! Each day closer, I could just not get rid of the cough. Oh nooooo!
After very little sleep I got up at 0345hrs to get some breakfast down me then head down to the swim start & transition area for a 0600hrs start. I was still coughing away so knew today was going to be even harder than it should be!
2800 people in a mass start is a daunting think, especially if swimming is your weak discipline. The sun rose up and the gun went, the adrenaline got pumping and the crowd roared. Here we go, the start of a very long day.
The 3800m swim in the Mediterranean was better than expected. I got out of the water feeling surprisingly good and much more confident than I was when the gun went. The hardest part of the swim was trying to cough, bring up & get rid of phlegm without affecting my breathing or causing me to swallow water. After jumping onto my bike and heading out of Nice I realised that I had lost my timing chip. It must have come off when I took my wetsuit off. So I headed back to the transition area, sorted a new timing chip and headed back out on the bike course. Mentally I had gone from feeling good, to being stressed and annoyed. I had also added an addition 8 miles onto my original 112 mile route and wasted at least 45 minutes. I had gone from middle of the pack to nearly last.
The bike route was tough, and I mean very tough. As you headed into the Alps you just felt you were constantly cycling up hill. One single climb was 25km at an average of over 6% gradient. The sunny beat down with such intensity that everyone was feeling it, even the locals. At 37 degrees and 80% humidity you could not avoid the heat and the way it sapped your energy. Whilst the climbs were tough the down hills were exciting and slightly terrifying, especially as the fatigue set it. After 120 mile on my bike I just needed to run a marathon.
It was great to get back into Nice where my wife and two children were cheering me on. The crowds were massive and the atmosphere uplifting. The running route was 4 laps along the Promenade des Anglais. The legs just wanted to seize up and I was struggling to take in any fluid and food. The heat was still stifling, but luckily every couple of miles there were cold showers on the course that you could run or walk through to cool down.
After a tough day, on a tough course in tough conditions with minimal preparation I crossed the finish line with my kids running by my side with a very enthusiastic commentator congratulating me on joining the small group of individual who can call themselves an ‘ Ironman’.