IM France – Race Report

29 06 2009

If you haven’t, please read Nice Day 3 before you read this.

I woke up at 3:30 feel tired, but no headache, which was really good news. I had one baguette with ham, two yogurts, a slice of bread with honey and almost a litter of orange juice.

I met with Ignacio at lobby at 4:50am. We walked to the transition area with the Beatriz and Natalia (his wife). Interesting enough, I wasrn’t eally nervous. I was focused, but not nervous. I was horrified with the number of bikes… it was an ocean of bikes.

IM France 033

I found my bike and pumped up the tires, put my gels and drinks on the bike and got a good luck kiss from Beatriz. I thanked her again for taking care of me and told her “I would not  be here if it wasn’t for you!” I truly believe that.

IM France 047

Now, the race… a long day:

Swim 1:09:54:

Mass start with 2500 people, that tells you something… it was crowded! Now, what did surprise me was that it was not as rough as one ould think tough. I was in a blender with1000’s of people, every one was on the same boat. People were less “aggressive” the any other race I have ever done. I was swimming with my head out of the water for about 3 minutes before I could start to swim properly, but even then I could not get to my pace because there was too many peo0plearound me. I started to drift to right to get some room and I started to go around the mass. I passed a lot of people, but I swam at least 100m more.

Mass Start 1

Mass Start 1

Mass Start 2

Mass Start 2

Swimming with the Mass!

Swimming with the Mass!

On the first loop I started to feel my neck burning from the wetsuite, it is very different in the salt water, I never got that on a lake. When I got out of the water (first loop), I was a bit dizzy, but because I started to kick at the end of the loop, it wasn’t too bad. I walked a bit and re-enter the water. This time I had much more space to swim. I manged (somehow) to get a good line to the buoy. Oh by the way, I NEVER saw the buoy until I was really close. I was just “following the herd”. First loop pace: 1:56/100m

I finished the second loop and I was like “Wow, this is going to be easy!” I was feeling absolutely great, not tired AT ALL. Second loop pace: 1:37/100m

T1  13:32:

What can I say? I wasn’t on a hurry. I was trying tofigure out how it works with getting the bag, sticking the wetsuite bac into the bag, finding the person to return the bag… very differnt from any triathlon I’ve ever done. The only thing that I did do right was sunscreen. I left the transition area totally white! Oh, who do I see at T1? Carlos! I couldn’t believe it. I thought I would be at least 5 min behind him.

Bike 7:28:26:

First mistake, the Aero-Helmet. There are a lot of long climbs, thus low speed and a lot of sun! Hot, Hot, Hot! I was cooking my brains.


Anyhow, I started feeling great, but I thought it would be wise to hold back on the first 20 km, till the first long climb. The first 500m of climb at grade 13 or more, and my heart rate was 185 bpm! I looked at it and just thought “this can’t be good”. Fortunately it was just 500m and the climb wasn’t very steep afterwards. I mange to bring the HR back to 150’s and I continued trying to keep my wattage at around 200W. At the first down hill, I passed through Carlos. I just shouted “Go Sandbagger!!!” and continued the downhill.

Can’t remember how much we went downhill, but it was a good break. We then started to climb again, but this time for 20km. The worst was the heat. As I mentioned, my head was cooking. I ran out of water at the last 5 km of the climb and I was really suffering. At the last water station of the climb I stopped, got water, inifinit and Carlos passed through me.


I’ve catched up  with Carlos and we finished the climb together. We even “hold hands” for the camera… which was not a good idea. Carlos felt flat on the ground! The camera man came running to check on us, but fortunetely he was fine, and he told us that the picture was good! 🙂

Once at the top, 70 km into the bike course, I was starting to get a bit worried. There was a big flat, and I thought it was time to get some speed… but I couldn’t keep up more the 120W. Just like on the computrainer. Carlos picked up a bit of speed and I was going to try to stay with him, but I just couldn’t do it. To make things worse, my chain came off and I had to stop completely to get it back on. It took me at least a minute to put it back on.

Then the first downhill! I started going down and I get a noise “flap, flap, flap”. My tires… the front tire. It didn’t feel like it was flat though. I look at it (didn’t stop) and I saw what look to be a tape on my tire. I kep going until the 180 degree turn. I stopped again and removed the tape from the front tire. I kept going downhill until the first flat spot, where I stopped for the first pee break.

The problem was that I was still feeling very weak. I was at the 80km mark and I thought “I wont finish if I don’t get better”. Until the 60 km, I was very good with my gels, but after that, I started to get full. So I decided to get a coke next stop, which went down like a real meal! I also took a banana After that point I started to feel much better. I got to the turn around, which is flat, and I could already do my 180W (my target).

I saw Carlos again, and I was about 5 minutes behind him. When I got to the 100km mark, another short climb (7km). This time there was a lot of trees and I managed to keep a 150 bpm at ~190W. Slow, but good. I was at the same pace as everyone else on that hill. I started to feel that I could finish again!

As the last 7km hills were behind me, I thought to myself “This is my downhill, this is my hill now!” I didn’t want to go down like crazy and end up in a stretcher, but I was going to go as fast as I could feel safe! The first part of the downhill wasn’t very steep, but it was getting there. I started to pass everyone that I was riding with. I could recognize the names of the guys that passed me on the way up. They really looked like pylons.  I kept shouting “On your left” all downhill. The problem was when I got after the shopper… Oh, did I mention that there was a shopper “parked” in the middle of the downhill? Yep, a big ambulance chopper which was there to pick up someone that crashed. Fortunately there was enough crew guys to tell me to slow down, betofore I hit the chopper!

Anyhow, after the shopper, there was a pretty steep downhill. That is when I caught up with a bus. It took me a while to pass it, as the road was narrow and I wasn’t sure if there were cars coming uphill, but I managed to pass it. Not much later, there was a car… also managed to pass it, then the ambulance, I left it behind too. Now the moment of fear: after I passed the bus, the car and the ambulance, there were no bikes in front of me! No one, nothing. I got to a relatively flat place and I couldn’t see anyone behind or in front of me. I started to think “Damn, I must have passed a turn while I was passing the cars.” I slowed down and started to think if I should turn around and make it up the hill… but then finally I saw a bike coming down and passing me (I almost stopped at that point). It never felt so good to be overtaken! I continue the road following the guy and at the next cross I could see the “M dot” mark again (every crossroad had one marking the way). I felt so relieved, you have no idea.

20x30-INAN0359At the end of the steep downhill I passed Carlos again and we went together the rest of the downhill. He kept some distance so that we were not disqualified. When the hills were done and we got to a flat spot I had to stop for a nature call. Carlos kept going, but I did catch up with him on the flat, which told me that he wasn’t in very good shape as he is always faster than me on the flat.

T2 10:34:

Carlos and I were chatting and we decided to go together on the run. Again, a very long transition with plenty of sunscreen!

Run 5:21:03:

I think this was the most frustrating run that I ever did. I started to run with Carlos and I was feeling quite good, considering the bike course that we had just done. We started the run at about 11 km/h (about 5:30 min/km).  However, it was very hot; it was around 30C, no shade, no cloud in the sky.


We decided to stop at every aid station to get wet and hydrate. I had some gels with me too, but I couldn’t eat them anymore. I think that was probably my biggest mistake. I drank only coke for the first o two of the four loops of the marathon. When I started the run, I was already feeling a “want to cramp” on my left hamstring. That was the sign that I missed completely. At this point I should have started to eat bananas and take Infiniti at the aid stations. Brian also passed us, but he was in his 3rd loop!

Anyhow, we continue the run, and the heat was brutal. At half way on the first loop, I stopped the first time to stretch my left hamstring, but as I was stretching the left one… the right one started to cramp! So I decided to continue easy enough to avoid the cramp. That is when I started to get very annoyed. I was feeling OK, my HR was 130 and I was running at 8 to 9 km/h, I couldn’t go much faster.

Carlos in other hand looked tired and welcomed my company. I look at my watch and I was 1 and half hour out of my target… I thought “whatever”, let’s just finish it. So Carlos and I continued in that pace until we finished the first loop, walking at every aid station and running between them (well, jogging at 8 km/h).  When we finished the loop, we got our first “chouchou” (the band you got when you finished a loop). I kissed the chouchou and another three and I was going to be an Ironman!

The second loop was just pathetic. We slowed down to 7 km/h, my heart rate at 125 bpm. I was really annoyed, and just looking at the other athletes with the 3 “chou-chou’s”. I had only 1. I started to eat bananas at each aid station, on top of the coke. At the end of the second loop I was feeling quiet well. I kept with Carlos for another half loop, but then I felt he was slowing down too much.  I wanted to see if I could maintain a better pace as the sun wasn’t as strong. The temperature had drop to probably 26C (from 29-30C).

The second half of the third loop I started running again at 10 km/h at 144 bpm. At each aid station I took bananas and Infiniti. I thought I need salt… should thought about it in the first loop! I kept going, but I couldn’t go faster as I was still feeling that I would cramp. Beatriz was on the middle of the loop (i.e. 2.5 km from the starting line) and as soon as she saw me running (I mean more than 7 km/h!) she started to cheer a lot. It was great, but I told her that I was feeling great, but I couldn’t go any faster because of the cramp.

I finished the third loop. One to go!!! I could do it; I knew it was going to be very feasible. When I crossed with Beatriz again, she had a banana in her hand, which although I wasn’t suppose to take anything from someone outside the event… I took it anyway. Reality is that the bananas on the aid stations were small slices and a bit black and smashed, unlike the one I got! I ate almost the whole banana and continued. I continue to run at 10 km/h but walking at each aid station for more bananas and Infiniti, as my left leg was really cramping. At the end of the last loop, about 100 m to finish, I could see the “Finish Line” sign and the crowd shouting “Allez Hans!” but I had to stop 3 times because of the cramp.

Finally I sow the actual Ironman sign, the announcer shouting something that sounded like “You are an IRONMAN” and I started to run again, the last 30m I was running like a pro! OK, maybe not a pro, but it was a descent run.

I crossed the finished line and I thought “Wow, I did it, I did it!” then I looked at the time again and the second thought on my mind was “Man, I will have to do it better next time”.


Looking back, I think I’ve done a few basic mistakes:

  1. Aero helmet: as I mentioned, way too hot for this course. There are just too many long hills to use one. I didn’t know it could make such a difference. That really dehydrated me on the climbs, where I ran out of water twice.
  2. Food (Bike): I started well with the gels, but I needed something else. Maybe another flavor to mix it, or probably even better, salt pills.
  3. On the run I should have started earlier with the bananas and not rely as much on coke as I did, since it didn’t have any salt or electrolytes.
  4. I need to improve my bike. Although I think that I could have done much better on the run if I had eaten properly, I don’t think I could have done the bike much better. Even with the right helmet.

In summary, I loved the race, I will do another Ironman. However, I’m definitely not happy with my performance. I think with the training that I did, I could have done much better, but the experience is priceless. Doesn’t matter how much you train, the actual race is much harder. You need the experience (yours or someone else’s) to do it right.

Leaving and learning, that is what it is all about. As long as I’m having fun, it is all good! Maybe not the time I wanted, but it was much better than staying at home watching TV! 🙂

Oh, I forgot to mention. I got an Ironman “tattoo” on my neck.

That is as close as I will get to a Tattoo!

That is as close as I will get to a Tattoo!


Nice Day 3

29 06 2009

Day 3, not a good day. Beatriz, Brian, Angela and I drove through the bike course. That was a big mistake because:

  1. We didn’t eat properly during it (took us 4 hours)
  2. It wasn’t really any different from the computrainer, in fact a bit easier (some of the grades are very off in the computrainer)
  3. There are so many turns that Brian got sick, we even had to stop for him to… well, you know. As for me, I got back to the hotel with the biggest headache I have ever had. I hate to take pills, but I had to take a Tylenol.
  4. When we got back to the hotel, I still didn’t have time to eat. I had to get my bike and check it in.

One thing has to be said, it is a fantastic course. It is just beautiful!

When I finally check the bike in, it was 5pm. We started to look for a Italian restaurant, but they were all closed. We found a nice restaurant close to the hotel, but it was closed till 6pm! We did some groceries and went back to the hotel. My headache was getting worst, I took my second tylenol.

Around 6pm, we went back to the hotel and I tried to eat. However, even with 2 tylenos, my headache was getting really bad. I could not eat. I had maybe 1/4 of the meal and I was dying to go back to the hotel and lay down, but Beatriz was chatting to the owner (Italian guy) and his wife (from Brazil, Salvador). I finally said “Guys, I’m dying!”.

When we were finally leaving, a bunch of Brazilians showed up. They were going to do the race too. I think they did this course before and they all had done at least 4 Ironmen. Anyhow, at that point I just wanted to get back to the hotel.

At the hotel I just brushed my teeth and went to bed. It was 7:30 PM when I layed down. I sort of slept till 9:30, when I could not take it anymore. My head felt like my bike tire, with 130 PSI and pumping!

Beatriz was sleeping like a baby, but I had to wake her up. At this point I was 100% sure I wasn’t going to race the next day. I was trying to convince myself that “it was ok, there would be a next time”. This may sound like I’m exaggerating now, but trust me, I am not.

Beatriz woke up and asked me a bunch o “doctor’s” questions, and told me that chances were that I was having a migraine. Probably because I was tense or the car ride. She gave me two extra-strength tylenos at once, gave me a massage (my legs were very tied too). Afterwards she stayed beside me until I fell asleep. I must have been around 10 or 10:30pm. I past out completely.

At 3:30 I woke up, tired, but no headache!

IM France – Quick Report

28 06 2009

This is going to be very quick. I have a lot to write, but I need to get some rest.

Swim: easy. Considering that for the first 20 minutes it is just impossible to go faster, I was pretty happy with my time. I could definetely go faster,  but it was wise not to. Good out of the water completely fresh.

T1: Wow! Could it take any longer? Saw Carlos as I was going in to the tent.

Bike: lets put it this way, hard does not describe it. There are no hills at all, seriously. There are mountains!! Carlos and I passed each other a few times, which was great for the moral.

T2: Carlos was there with me again

Run: good start, I was actually feeling OK, but the heat changed that pretty quickly. I left the tent with Carlos and we were going to try to run together as we pretty much blowed up any chances of getting even close to the time we wanted. In summary, cramp, cramp, cramp, cramp, cramp.

I’m glad I finished, but next one will be different. I made a lot of mistakes, which I will change next time.

Carlos, great job man, you were sick days before the race. You should be proucd of yourself. I am!

Postive: It wont be hard to beat our Ironman PB! 🙂

Guys, thanks a lot for all the emails. It really means a lot to me!

Most important of all (no kidding), THANKS, THANKS, THANKS to Beatriz, she was the true hero. I’ll tell more the next posting.

Nice Day 2

26 06 2009

Today we woke up early and went to the beach for a quick swim. Unfortunately Caca couldn’t make it, but he said he is feeling much better, which is good news! I did meet with Brian and his wife tough.

IM Nice Swim Pactice

IM Nice Swim Pactice

I swam about 15 minutes, if that. I went out to the first boye and back. While I was in the water, I was feeling fine, but it was  very salty, which in one hand made the swim pretty fast, but in the other hand was very salty in my mouth. I made a huge effort not to swallow any water. When I got out of the water, I was not feeling well. Very dizzy and overall not well. I drank a bit of water and gave it a couple minutes and I was alright. I think it is the motion of the ocean, moving up and down with the waves. It will be very interesting after the first loop coming out of the water and back in… Brian didn’t have the same problem, neither did Beatriz and Angela. 

After the swim we went back to the village to register. Funny momment too, as I got a little nervous again. In general I have so many new things going on that I don’t think much about it. In general everyone is nice, it is unbelievable. Excellent atmosphere. We spoke to a feel other Canadians too, as they saw my Muskoka 70.3 cap and shirt, they come talk to us.

IM France Registration

IM France Registration

After registration, Brian and I went for a quick bike ride. Unfortunetely my bike was making a funny noise from the front wheel. It sound like the wheel was touching the brakes, but it wasn’t. It wasnt’ the magnet either. I was getting woried, so I decided to back to the IM France Fair, as there was a bike shop from Shimano doing adjustments (Free!).

I waited for about one hour to someone to look at my bike.I told Brian to do his bike workout without me as it wouldn’t be fair to him to waitthere. When my turn finally came, the guy looked at it and told me not to worry, it was most likely the valve vibrating and that the carbon from the wheels really amplifies the noise. He pushed a bit the tape that I had there for that exact reason, and after that… it the bike was fine.

I went for a 20km ride and back to the hotel to get something to eat. The rest of the day rested until the pasta dinner.

We went to the pasta dinner with Ignacio and his wife. Ignacio is an Argentinian guy that I met through the blog. He kindely offered us a ride to the dinner party. I didn’t see Brian at the dinner or Caca. I later found out that Caca didn’t go, he decided to stay home and rest. To be honest the dinner wasn’t that great. I was expecting some sort of speach or something, but nothing. The dinner at the 70.3 in Muskoka was much better organized.

IM France Dinner Party

Nice Day 1

25 06 2009

I’m going to be quick, as I’m very tired…

We landed in Nice at 14:20 as scheduled. As the plane was landing, I could see the Mediterranean Sea and I couldn’t stop thinking that I would be swimming quite a bit in those waters. I got butterflies on my stomach. It was the first time I really got nervous about the race.

Once we touched down, the next stress was the bike. Did it make it? Do I have my bike? You never know what can happen… Fortunately it was there! I was so relieved to see it, you can not imagine. It even came before the bags. Who needs bags anyway? 🙂

As soon as we got got everything, we got a bus that was suppose to stop in front of the hotel, and it did, but we didn’t get off. Instead we were chatting with a German guy that was going to race too. So we had to walk a few blocks back to the hotel. A great usage of the greatest invention of all, the wheel! I had my backpack with cameras and the bike box, while Beatriz  was pulling the two bags.

At the hotel, we checked in and as soon as we walked into the room, Beatriz went to the shower, and I started unpacking and mounting the bike. Again, no problems. Took me about 30 minutes and I even had some spare pieces! I brought some quick-release, just in case, as I couldn’t remember seeing it in the box. I didn’t want to take any chances and if I had forgotten something, I would want to find out as soon as possible to get it resolved. All good though. Tomorrow I’ll go for a test drive, I don’t think it would have been a wise idea to ride as tired as I was (actually, I am!)

Once I was done with the bike, I took a quick shower and then we left the hotel. We walked along the beach to the bike fair, which is about 10 minutes walk. Unfortunately I forgot to take an ID with me to register, so I’ll have to do that tomorrow.

The good part was that as soon as we walked into the fair, we saw Carlos and Fernanda. If we had planned it, it wouldn’t be that perfect! Carlos registered and Beatriz and I went for snack, we haven’t had a decent meal yet. We then bought two Boyle sunglasses (one for me, one for Beatriz).

We walked back to the hotel with Carlos and Fernanda and we stopped at a grocery shop to get some stuff for breakfast. Immediately after we went for dinner (pasta) and here I am, writing, almost sleeping… in fact, that is exaclty what I’ll do now, I’m going to hit the sack!


22 06 2009

I’m not really sure what to expect. I don’t think it really matters how much you train, it never seems to be enough.

I’ve been training specifically for this race since January. Many miles, a lot of sweet… here is what I have done:

January through June Training Volume

January through June Training Volume

Duration: 301 hours and 23 minutes

  • Bike: 4085 km
  • Run: 850 km
  • Swim: 162 km

The interesting is that yesterday I finished my first week of taper, which was just 12 hours of workouts. It included a “little” run of 1 hour and 40 minutes and I took really easy, I even cheated… I was 4 minutes short! 🙂

Well, now is time to rest. This week will be really short. I’ll be racing on Sunday, so I wont be doing much till then. Just a few short workouts, like 1 hour bike and 30 min for run and swim workouts.

I was supposed to peak two weeks ago, but with the Muskoka Long Course, the total time was less than what is was supposed to be for that week, but in other hand, I got much more intensity out of it.

I’m also changing my habits to see if I can beat the clock. I mean the time-zone! We have a 6 hour difference between Toronto and Nice, so I’m going to bed about half hour earlier each day. Today I woke up at 4:30, tomorrow I want to be up at 4 and 3:30 on Wednesday. That will leave me with about 3 hours to deal with when I get in Nice, which is much better than 6, specially considering that I only have 3 days before the race.

I find the trick is to wake up early and have breakfast right away, which reminds me, it is almost time for lunch (9:40 am).

Carbs, carbs and carbs!

I feel GREAT! Ready or not, here I come!!!

IM France Bike Course – Hard Spots

18 06 2009

For what is worth, here is a detailed look at the hard spots of the IM France Bike course, based on my Computrainer Bike Profile and what I did back in April. Take it with a grain of salt, but to be honest, my Milton and Muskoka Chase courses where pretty much bang on. I was surprised to see how close it was to real life.

I also have other graphs in other post blog: IM France Bike Course

You can tell the hard spots by HR (red), Power (green) and Speed (blue):

  • 20th KM: climb starts
  • 21st KM: first hard climb
  • 24th KM: killer climb, this is the hard one

IM France Bike 21-26 km

  • 56 to 69th KM: there are a series of short steep hills
  • 71st KM: we’re home! The rest is relatively easy

IM France Bike 55-68 km

  • 105 to 110th KM: There another series of hills, which although not as hard as before, we will be tired.

IM France Bike 100-110 km

Well, that is all I did on my training… the weather got better later and I did my other long rides outside.