April 21, Cannes hosted a thousand competitors for the first big triathlon of the season on the old continent. A race where I made my debut 4 years ago and then again a year later this time in pro category. Only good memories.
This year, I decided to start the season there, after 6 months without any competition and a very funny winter bad on (r)evolutions in training and on the rest. Progress has been evident in training, whether on short or long efforts. The idea on this first race was to continue in the trilogy defined this winter: test, observation, truth. A scientific protocol somehow. A plan that will be respected in the end.
Like every time, it is an experience sharing wishing that you can identify yourself there and trying making this helpful in your practice. Since 5 days, I have analyzed my race and the truth is that I still do not have all the keys. I leave you speech at the end of the article to express your ideas.
This winter, I questioned myself a lot, look in the mirror my strengths and above all my weaknesses, and develop a better intellectual honesty. A task that is still in its infancy, that hurts and destabilizes, but it is necessary to know me better and reach my full potential, in sport as elsewhere.
For example, unlike the past, I no longer study starting lists. Before, I found an interest (counterproductive elsewhere) in doing the race before the race. Something like the attraction that drives us to slow down when we see a car accident. By force of circumstances, I had seen a few big names through the organization’s communications, but I did not attach more emotions to it than that.
In short, I was at the start line just behind Tim Don and Cameron Wurf, two of the headliners of the race and top athletes of the Ironman World. With the current and waves under the effect of the strong east wind, swimming is shortened to 1750/1800 meters instead of 2000. With a mass start and our white caps, we (the pros) knew that some amateurs (all the red caps) were going to be eaten after only 10 meters of swimming. True prediction. I will never really understand what causes swimmers to start so aggressively, to swim over the others and then to be overtaken a few hundred meters away. The shotgun of the start does not exempt you from leaving your brain on. Even worse, those who pull your legs: it is pure malevolence, in the will to crush the others to succeed. Fortunately, humanity has survived and evolved through cooperation and not through such mentalities. On the one hand, the law of the strongest, the law of the jungle, which is only a mythology, and on the other hand this belief makes society toxic for us and for nature.
Once finished the first half of a big fight where swimming freestyle turned out to be complicated even if it was done without particular emotions (good point!), contacts calmed a little on the second loop of the swim and I finally put into practice what I learned this winter: feel my swimming. What a pleasure to feel the power of push in the water, to have fun accelerating and passing, to adapt the technique, to follow other swimmers. And all that without tiring. I imagine that, with more practice and experience, this is called mastering. I went out of the water satisfied around the 60th place with a pace of 1’25 »-1’30″/100m. I do not know to what extent it could have gone faster without all this fighting because on the other hand there is also a drafting effect with the other swimmers.
A turtle transition later, here I am propelled to 50 km/h on the Croisette for a 106 km windy ride with 1900m elevation gain. A course that deserves to be recognized as the effort management on this hilly profile and downhill trajectories can save precious minutes. What I did not do.
The bad point was too much drafting, including in the TOP 30. Drafting is both CANCER and DOPING of triathlon. This has the greatest impact on the results, fairness and credibility of the race in the end and of our sport more globally. I maintain that it is absolutely necessary to better train referees in discernment to sanction this behavior.
About my performance, I had the feeling of having a speed limiter on my bike, confirmed by my data. 144 bpm average over 3 hours is not enough, I had the same intensity on the Embrun Ironman over 6 hours. But my 9th bike split is not so bad. The last 10 kilometers headwind gave me a glimpse of the IRONMAN Lanzarote in one month. And it was on this section that I saved the most time.
The 16 km run was on the same pattern. Can not put intensity. 150 bpm for an hour is too little. 4 loops with many turns and always this devil’s wind. I preferred the fast course on the Croisette in 2015 with more spectators. Note that the times are not as good as in previous editions, probably because of the more difficult and very windy bike course. It was probably a mistake to look too much at the watch: the pace was not representative that day and I would not have expected to run at 17 km/h facing the wind. Nevertheless I was inspired at every loop to see and run more or less at the same pace (on the first half at least) as Tim Don, Cameron Wurf or Sam Laidlow. My eyes still shine, hope it lasts!
1. I was not able to put the intensity necessary for this kind of relatively short races. The intensity had been more or less that of an Ironman. This is the disappointing point because even though I was able to try out my trio test/observation/truth several times during the race, the interest would have been even greater at full intensity. There, I still have questions to which I have no answer yet.
2. Corollary: at the end of the race, I was neither tired nor cramped and ditto the next day, fresh and ready for training. It’s nice but it is not the goal to be at the best of oneself since it is necessary to give everything on a few hours the D-Day.
3. In fact, it is the first time I have this feeling of being so physically limited. But maybe these limits were psychological? This is weird.
4. This is not fatigue accumulation due to training or heavy loads over the last few weeks. All my trainings are on Strava and even if I do sometimes very demanding trainings from a structural point of view for example, my weekly average training volumes since the beginning of the year are rather low: 7.5 mi swim, 125 mi bike and 22 mi run. Much smaller than last winter.
5. On the other hand, the performance/volume training ratio is rather good, better optimized than in the past, a sign that my methods are improving. On the other hand, the total absence of pain, muscles in tension, sensitive tendons or weakened joints, confirms the effectiveness of my winter training in the idea of becoming more solid. And that only by swimming, cycling and running.
6. In comparison with the first race of last year (Challenge Riccione in Italy), it is better with a gap on the podium that is reduced this year with the world top athletes. And compared to the rest of the board, some have failed the race, some have succeeded the race, some have drafted, I am neither among those who failed, nor among those who have succeeded. A so-so race.
7. Since my first participation in 2015, I noticed an improvement in the organization that has obviously taken into account critical feedback. A more solid organization since bibs withdrawal the day before until taking back the bikes after the race. Road traffic (race on partially open roads) much better managed than some years ago (I remember being in traffic jams in 2016 in Grasse). And personally, I found it far more convenient to have no transition bags and all the race stuff to drop directly next to the bike in the morning before the start.
8. Finally, how not to congratulate all the volunteers who always amaze me of energy and positivity when they encourage and set the mood in addition to volunteering. It is a sort of communion in these moments, nature is our stadium.