2012 70.3 Pays d’Aix

Coach’s remarks: Enjoy reading Andy’s race report, he tells it exactly how it was, a great race performance on your debut Andy as like all of the team who have raced at this level, these 70.3’s are no joke…. You chose a challenging course, Roth will seem much easier, not sure on Phuket though 🙂 Great reading Team,

Aix-en- Provence Ironman 70.3 – 23 Sept 2012.
This is my first Race report since joining the T2A team, so I thought I would send it out to the market to get some initial feedback. Here are a just a few of the comments I have received: “Definitely one of the top ten triathlon race reports we have ever received here at the magazine” –  horse and hound magazine. “We haven’t seen scenes like this since Wiesbaden” – portaloo bi-monthly. “I don’t remember him from school” Alastair Brownlee
“Me neither” Jonathan Brownlee.

General information / background / introduction/ Prologue:
I entered the race just after the 2012 Abu Dhabi triathlon, not sure why I picked this one but it fitted with the timing as I am doing Noosa Olympic distance at the beginning of November in Australia and also it’s a part of the world I have not been to before. it was around the time I entered this race when I joined tri2aspire team as I knew I had to get a lot fitter to complete this race given how I did in Abu Dhabi and be a bit more serious about training.
So I looked at my big world atlas and decided the best way to get to France was probably in an aeroplane; you can fly direct into Nice from Dubai then it’s a pleasant drive about 160k west along the A8 to Aix-en-provence (note I have put some translations in case some readers are not French speakers). Aix is a fairly large town with a decent sized university and lots of really nice old buildings; famous for its fountains and a passion for big knockers. Its also the hometown of Paul Cezanne (famous impressionist painter) who was obsessed with painting a particular mountain (mont sainte-victoire) and numerous bowls of fruit. Coach actually raced as a pro and lived in this area for some time and I could picture him spending many a lazy afternoon, hands behind his back, perusing
small galleries and art exhibitions wearing a beret and reading about the history of the French impressionist art movement. Probably also attending poetry recitals in the café’s of an evening. It is a really lovely place and the centre of the town has a great buzz about it over ‘le weekend’ (the weekend) – Winston Churchill used to go there and smoke his cigars outside “le deux garcon” restaurant and watch the people go by apparently. The town is in the Hinterlands of the Alps so the scenery is just fabulous (Mr Hawkins can explain what Hinterlands means as he is a geography expert), about 30ks to the coast, so you could easily do a day trip to places like St Tropez, Cannes, Monaco. Non of which I visited, but the point is you could if you wanted to.

RACE: (le Race)

The race organisers had decided on a format which was a swim, followed by the bike leg and then finally a run. This was the same as other triathlons I had done so I was familiar with the order which was good. Also Simon Marshall had explained this same race format to me and how important it is to do it the correct order at a party once so I knew what to expect.
The mass start was something I was worried about from the day before when I went to check the course as they had two markers about 50m from the beach which I thought were pretty close together, so basically 5mins after the pros went off everyone at the same time was swimming thru a relatively narrow gap. It wasn’t until the first right turn after about 900m that I could breathe
properly and get any kind of rhythm going! Also at my pace in the swim you are swimming with the guys who slip in the odd breaststroke and kick you in the head or swim in the wrong direction. There was one guy who I became convinced was just there to piss me off and swim across me, kick and generally disorientate me! I wasn’t able to shake him for the whole race! My sighting was poor and I clocked 2050m in the swim on the watch. The path from the garmin is pretty funny actually as it’s a zig zag line all the way, an extra 150m is 3 minutes for me so that is something I need to work on. I would have been delighted with under 40 mins, but given the French violence and lack of direction Ill take the 41mins.
There was a 600m run to the transition zone from lac de peyrolles (lake of peyrolles) Then was onto the bike section. I drove the bike course the day before and was a bit shocked to be honest, I knew there was steep hills up but hadn’t thought about the descents; the road surface wasn’t great and it was a series of switchbacks on the way down. On the first big descent there was one right turn that came from nowhere so I hit the brakes and my rear wheel locked up and slid from under me with a stone bridge parapet fast approaching, I let off the brake and reapplied and skidded again – I missed the big brick thing just and didn’t fall but I think I lost my nerve from this point on the downhills, so the general format was catch a few on the up hill and then watch them fly past on the way down – I honestly don’t know how they got round the corners at that speed. Strangely I am much better at turning left than right – does anyone else have the same issues!? From now on I will seek out anticlockwise bike courses. According to my watch there was 1,811m of climbing and most is somewhere in between hatta and jebel hafeet in terms of steepness there were sections at 15% apparently, so overall was happy with the bike time. One funny incident was about 20k into the ride after the first big descent I hit a big crack in road and I convinced myself the brakes were shifted and were rubbing so I pulled across and stopped to check, next thing I hear from another guy is “MONSIEUR!!!!’, so I looked back and this other guy rides straight into me. Fortunately he was a tiny French dude so I dropped the shoulder (reflex from rugby days) and he went flying off crashing to the floor to my left. As I rode off I asked if he was ok and he just said sorry! Oh well C’est la vie as they say.
The only part of the ride that felt familiar was around 55k mark where there was new road surface for about 10k, fairly flat where I could get on the aero bars and just pedal and relax a bit at decent speed, apart from that it was either uphill flogging or downhill scared sh+tless! So apart from that 10k section couldn’t relax during the bike course.

So far so good with no major drama, then we came into Aix for the run. It was 4 laps of a loop out of town down to the river then back up the hill again, I reckon each loop involved a 50m climb, it was here about 7k into run I realized all was not well! I wont go into details but I had some “nutrition issues” that had to be dealt with! This threw me a bit as it was hard to get into a decent running pace combined with the steep little hills and turns I would describe the run as chaotic (and slow!) plus the bike course had knocked me for six. You got a band to put on your wrist after each lap so it was hard to gauge who you were really catching or competing with as I would catch up to someone then realize they were on their last lap so then you are demoralized! I think I would prefer one big lap. The run was a disappointment for me as I wanted to run a solid half marathon, but it was not to be and as they say in France… such is life.
So all in all not the greatest performance but a good learning experience and I now feel re-motivated to train harder. For those people who have done the full ironman distance I salute you as the thought of doing that twice frankly makes me feel ill!
Gushing emotional bit: I would like to take this opportunity to share something about t2a as a relative new comer to the team – the welcome since I joined has been amazing and for me it is very inspiring to train with such a positive and talented bunch of people – real life changing stuff, so for that and all the good luck messages etc thanks a lot!