A Half Ironman In Provence, Part II

Now it’s time for Part II of Julia’s gruelling adventures in France! Here’s Part I if you missed it…

The bike course was hard. Like really hard. Just look at that damn profile…

Fuzzy but you get the idea...

I’d already seen the altitude map so I knew what was in store. I also knew that the organization had tacked on an extra 30 minutes to the finish time limit and expected it to take me about a half or more to finish the whole race. The good thing about the bike course is that I love hills. I love them in that weird, “this hurts so much, I feel awesome, where’s the top?” kind of way. I knew I could finish the bike; I just didn’t know what shape I’d be in for running once I finished. Now, I just had to think about getting up and down those “cols”.

That's me in turquoise and black 🙂

The road conditions were perfect. The pavement was smooth with few bumps or holes. The race organization was, again, perfect. I saw a volunteer about every kilometre and plenty of referees on the course making sure that there was no drafting. I didn’t see any either. Everybody made fast passes and there weren’t any big packs of riders. Now that I think back I never had any bad moments. It was all hard, but I felt good. My nutrition this time was two protein bars and three gels. I’d packed more stuff just in case and this ended up being a really good thing.

Only photo I could find that shows some of the uphill work we had to do.

We were about 20 kilometres from the finish and going up a three mile 5% grade hill when I saw about twenty people walking their bikes up… in their cleats! I still felt good but needed to get out of my saddle to pump up the hill. A young French guy begged me to stop… how could I say no?

He asked if I had anything to eat. I opened up my bag and handed him two bars, two gels and one of my bottles which was still full. He thanked me and I got back on my bike to continue up the hill.

The bike is also where I had my obligatory grateful moment. I always have them during big events and this time it happened as I was going through the small town of Saint Antonin sur Bayon. I had just spent the last few hours riding up around Montagne Saint Victoire…

Cezanne's interpretation of Montagne Saint Victoire

As I was cycling through the little town the villagers had come out on the street for the day to cheer the race participants. I suddenly notice the strong scent of grape must hanging in the air and this triggered my tears. I don’t know about you,  but odours and scents really set me off emotionally. I thought  to myself, “How lucky am I? Here I am, healthy and racing in a Half Ironman in freakin’ FRANCE on a perfect day with the smell of wine being made and people cheering while my family waits for me in Aix? Who can be luckier than me?”. It was a really good feeling.

Once I was actually in Aix it took a good ten minutes to get to the city centre. They did a really great job of keeping traffic in order but I had to brake a lot for curves, go back up a hill then back down a narrow street. Finally I made it and I handed off my bike, got my run bag and, changed my shoes. Guy nr.1 and nr.2 tried to talk to me while I changed but I was concentrating hard so I don’t remember what we said. I didn’t hear my Piero’s voice but figured he must be somewhere near and I had four laps of the course to run… I’d see him eventually!

So I exited T2 and started running…

  1. Tessa
    You rule <3 I love reading your race reports. Always makes me wanna sign up for a couple xtra races :)
  2. Vijch
    This is awesomeness, I;m heading for this painfilled euphoria this year.....do you by any chance remember what was the water temperature when you did it?