Last year when I finished racing Ironman Emilia Romagna my husband let me know that for 2018 a full distance Ironman was not to be put on the calendar. Ironman training takes a lot of family time too. He did however approve a half Ironman so I looked for the most exciting and challenging one I could find: Ironman 70.3 in Nice, France.It was a new race and will be the venue for the 2019 70.3 World Championships. I looked at the course and saw that the bike portion would be very challenging. It climbed into the hills, passing over the Col de Vence at 1000 meters above sea level. Total climbing elevation would be 1367 meters… and then you run the half marathon! On paper (or rather my computer screen) it looked doable as long as I got cracking on the training. Right.
During the spring I hadn’t been feeling well. Nothing specific, just tired and listless all the time. But it was really affecting my training and racing. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, except for maybe old age.
I got better with a specific nutritional regime prescribed to me by an iridologist. It took about two months of concentrated effort to turn things around. During that time I tried to stay active and keep training but I knew that any swim, bike or run had to be short and sweet. Sometime around the beginning of August I upped my mileage with longer sessions.
I knew this was going to be a really hard race and that I would most likely be at the very, very back of the pack. But I swear, at my age you start to just not care! As long as I made it to the finish line I was fine.
The race started early at 7:00 with a rolling start. I lined up with the 39:00 group since that was my last result at a timed swim. The sunrise on the water was amazing with orange hues, which unfortunately gave way to seeing little white caps indicating rough water. I get seasick really easily but I figured, hey, just 1900 meters and it’s over!
I walked slowly into the warm water and dove into the most amazing colourful world. The sea was an incredible brilliant turquoise blue with very tiny fish dashing everywhere to get out of our way. The underwater world was so beautiful that I actually couldn’t wait to put my head back in after every side breath.
I found a good arm stroke rhythm right away. Since it felt easy I knew that the current was working in my favour and the worst was yet to come. When I got to the first big buoy to turn left the waves were harder to navigate. I was careful with my breathing so as not to swallow any sea water.
Turning left again at the second buoy to complete the rectangle it was still hard to navigate the waves. With each passing minute they seemed to become even more agitated. I started to feel queasy but willed myself to just keep at it.
I’d accidentally left my watch at home so didn’t see my time until later. I came in at 47:24 though that includes a timing mat at about 200mt up a ramp. Fourth out of twelve in my age group. Yay!
It was just as hard as they advertised BUT…it was gorgeous. The weather was perfect. There was a 10km stretch to the top at 8% and I saw three women who had taken off their cleats and were walking up the hill. One young man crying on the side of the road. At least four chains broken and a few athletes fixing.
I tried to just keep peddling and not worry about my time. They had a lorry at the top of the hill ready to load up the bikes of anybody that didn’t make the first cut off time. Thank goodness I made it! I crested the hill, grabbed some fresh water and had to find a bathroom asap.
I’m not sure how much time I wasted in the bathroom but I wanted to make sure that it was just going to be one stop, which it was. I hopped back on my back, ate some “lunch” and enjoyed the downhill portion of the course.
Since I was at the back of the pack there wasn’t a lot of traffic and I could relax for most of the time. I did see two really horrible bike accidents, athletes going too fast on sharp curves. You have to be so careful on the bike, it just takes a second to really do some damage. Rolling into T2 I felt “good”. I thought I was fast but the clock always says not, haha!
I knew the run portion was going to be hard. I hadn’t trained much and there was going to be a lot of walking. But it felt horrible. It was so so hot. And humid. Hot and humid is the worst for running, at least for me.
I started out with the best of intentions but it just felt too hard. After the first 10km I resorted to 100mt walk and 100mt run – just to freakin’ get to the end. They had cold showers out on the course and I used them every time I came upon one. I drank as much as I could, making sure that I wasn’t taking in too many liquids.
At one point I was seesawing with another woman (passing, being passed). Then we were walking together and she mentioned that she hoped to make the cut off. “If you miss it by even one minute they won’t give you a medal…”
Well, I was having none of that! This is where you understand that the MIND is everything. I hauled ass outta there and left her behind creating a 10 minute gap. In the last 5km there were a few tears, a question or two about why I was doing this, then the finish line. I did get my medal after all.
Finish time: 8:26:52
Age Group Place: 9/12
I don’t regret doing this race. I got exactly what I was looking for: a super difficult course and somehow to get my mojo back. Done and done!