So now the dust has settled and safely home, I suppose I better write some sort of report…
The French Air Traffic Controllers strike affected lots of people in different ways, Some lost kit and still haven’t been reunited, others spent ages sitting around airports and some of us were lucky with just a 20 minute delay. Arrived OK in Nice, spent ages waiting for the bike bags to be sent out, 5 or 6 very worried looking triathletes hanging around the baggage area…
Hopped on the bus into town, only to find it driven by the Wicked Witch of the Cote D’Azur ! She refused to stop at the bus stops, full on slanging match in French between her and a passenger after she drove past another stop…She sailed passed our stop even tho Sue was shouting “Arête Madam” and I was leaning on the bell. PMT from hell ?
Checked into our apartment and it was perfect, Quick plug YNA= Your Nice Apartment, brilliant service. Went and did some shopping and had lunch. Decided to go and check out the Expo and Transition, even registered in 5 minutes.. Early to bed, but soon up again, Algeria had managed to draw a wendy ball match and all the local Algerians decided to tour Nice waving flags and blowing car horns, Went on from around midnight to 2 am.
Friday morning, and joined up with the arrived Pirates for a swim, CompresSport had a boat out in the bay that were giving out drinks and free sweatbands so worth a swim out. Spent the rest of the afternoon putting my bike back together, all seemed OK, and went for an easy 10 miles just to check everything was OK. Finished off the day with an easy run down the prom with Sue, just to keep all my muscles moving.
Saturday.. Faffing day… Went through each bag a dozen times, and showed Sue I had packed the factor 50 sun cream in my bike bag, so I wouldn’t die of heat stroke on the bike. (yeah little did anyone know). Dropped bike into transition and racked my bags and spent the rest of the afternoon chilling.
As anyone who knows me, knows there is no point me getting up at 4 am and eating, as I just get sea sick and throw up. So a mug of coffee and stroll down to T1 at 5am was fine, Sue excelled herself only 4 minutes’ walk from the apartment to T1 & 2. Checked the tyres and stuck my bottles on the bike, and sat and watched the water for a bit.
Last kiss from Sue and down on to the beach, Very helpful Italian yanked up my wetsuit zipper, and pulled the runner right off the top so it went into quick release and I had to strip it off to set it up again, Had a splash about in the shallows with M.ouse and Little Sister. Watched the Pros set off and then bang.. it’s our turn, I’ve been in some biff fests but this one was a nightmare, swimming over, being swum over didn’t get any clear water on the first lap, Out and over the beach to get back in, managed to get a decent space and started to enjoy myself, until at the last turn buoy I managed to swim over a jellyfish, Didn’t see it but the left side of my face felt like I had a thousand hot pins stuck in it, (Even now on Weds I can’t shave over it as it’s still swollen and sore), Staggered out onto the beach and up the ramp to transition, (1hr 35m 20sec, a great swim for me) Spotted Sue and she had a quick look at my face, Could tell from her reaction it wasn’t good. Dived into the medical tent and 2 paramedics and 1 Doctor stood around looking at it, going Ah jelly fish….. Finally another Doc put some antihistamine cream on it, whilst make jokes about “dopage” Funny guy.
T1, I wish I could do the swim and bike and run in the same kit (I do for half’s, But not for IM), so stripped off and stuck on my good cycle shorts and Pirate top, and then covered myself in factor 50, decided I didn’t need my arm warmers, so jumped on the bike and set off down the prom, got chatting with the guy alongside, and it turns out he lives less than 20 minutes from me back in Cheshire. Finally left the flat of the prom and turned up into the hills, and boy did it turn up, little residential street at 10% just to wake the legs up. Feeling good tho and pressed on, long climb up to Chateauneuf and turn right for the climb to Gourdon, We drove this a couple of years back and the hired Corsa struggled ! Felt I had been climbing OK, Face still very sore and stung like mad every time it got wet, Reached Gourdon and turned left for the Col de l’Ecre… EEEk You can see the road zig zag up the mountain, Still being a fat old bloke allows me to ride a triple with a 30 sprocket, Just keep turning the pedals, around this time a few drops of rain started to come down, Hadn’t been much sun to that point but now things turned nasty. Long flat section through a valley starting to pour with rain and I was getting cold, Couldn’t open my power bars, Fortunately following my test at Bala I had emptied all my gels into a bidon so at least I wasn’t struggling to open gels every 30 minutes, Thanks to Rosey for the tip. The long descent to Greolleres would have been fun, if I wasn’t getting so cold. Stared to struggle braking, fingers slipping off the levers and no feeling as I braked, all got a bit scary. The section through the village itself went past a little bistro we had lunch at a couple of years back, All I really wanted now was hot coffee, began to look forward to the next climb to try and get warm, Stopped for a pee and a nice Gendarme arrived on his motorbike to check I was OK. So I got him to tear open all my power bars whilst he was stopped ! The out and back bit was fun and managed to shout encouragement and helpful comments to other Pirates, I knew I wasn’t going as fast as I had hoped, and around this time seriously doubted I would make the cut off, Had a talk to myself and decided to just go for it on the next 20kms of downhill, Scary stuff.. Managed to catch my tame Gendarme through a set of hairpins as I was quicker than his motorbike (EEEK), Sadly for lots of competitors their races came to an end around this point, kept passing stricken cyclists being tended too by medics and a stream of ambulances coming past, One of the aid stations all the helpers were sat in the back of a large truck, Reminded me of the famous day at Bala. Still pouring with rain and bits of low cloud making sighting the road difficult in places and I admit to taking a few silly risks cornering on very wet roads and hoping to come out the other side. Finally made it out of the hills and onto the flat for the last 20 kms to Nice, managed to chew on a power bar and a banana or 2 from a feed station. Back onto the prom and… Bright sunshine and a clear blue sky, past all the runners on the marathon course and towards T2, Pirate massive cheering me in and Suzie still looking concerned. 8hrs 04m for the bike, almost an hour more than I was hoping for, But it was what it was and it was so close to disaster, just be thankful you are back into T2 in 1 piece and with about 6 hours to do the marathon in.
Not sure what happened in T2, just didn’t seem to be able to get my fingers or brain to do what I wanted and put my shoes on before 1 calf guard, all a bit messy, and longer than T1 where I had the excuse of the medical stop. Plodded out onto the run and straight into the massed Pirate support, Where thankfully Sue retied a shoe lace for me, and Dawn straightened out my calf guards. Plodded along the prom, feeling OK but not great, decided a loo stop was in order. I must now apologise to anyone who used it after me, and to the poor person who had to empty it, But wow did I feel so much better, started to actually run the marathon, which considering my longest runs this year have been Helsby 4 Villages and Bala HIM it was always going to be a grim run. Just before the turn Siggy shouting vocal encouragement (or was it something about me being old and slow ?) took me a while to work out he was in civvies and not racing, Sadly the swim biff fest had got him. Stop Press moment, at the turn round point I had my first ever Red Bull Me at my age and never had Red Bull before, Back onto the prom from the airport and Sue had run up to support and leave the Pirates by T2 to keep me going at that end, Had a quick word and one foot in front of the other, Lots of Pirates to abuse/encourage on the run, Ghost giving loads of support at the turn around and then past the Major orchestrating the Pirate Wave (it’s like a Mexican wave, But with added yellow & black). Second lap seemed to go really easily, Not fast but quick enough and the time cut off was no longer an issue. Heading back to start the final lap Sue ran alongside to keep me company, Well I sort of ran and she jogged alongside, She had even found time to get medical help for 2 collapsed competitors whilst keeping an eye out for me, She went off to find a place at the finish line leaving me to my final 10km lap. The weather decided to have one last laugh, with spectacular lightning flashes over the hills. Last turn at the airport and 5kms down the prom, the lights and noise of the finish line away in the distance, one foot in front of the other mate and it will be the comfy sofa next to Fat Buddha.
I don’t think I have experienced a wall of noise that hit me as I turned onto the finishing carpet, having been running alone for 30 minutes in the gathering gloom to suddenly be hit by the noise and the dancing girls, cheers leaders etc was really disorienting for a moment, Great cheers from the Pirates hanging over the rails and a quick stop to say thanks, Then another few yards and Sue hanging over the barrier, Massive hug and a promise that it is the end of going long for me, Then 10 yds and over the line. Medal and a bottle of water, The organisers then tried to take the bottle off me so they could take some finish photos, that I am unlikely to buy, But hey if it makes them feel good.
Wandered over to collect my street bag and pull on the Iron Spartan T shirt again, Wandered through transition trying to answer text messages from those who had been following and also talk to Sue, Difficult as I hadn’t got my specs on. Collected my bike, and even tho I keep lusting after Cervélo R3’s my trusted Trek 1500 ASLR hadn’t let me down for a moment. Strolled out of transition chatting with Barlos, and straight into Sue, more hugs and kisses. back down the road towards the finish line with “TimeBikes” and his family just in time for the fireworks to signal the 16 hour time limit had been reached. Joined all the Pirates still waiting back at the finish line, and swap stories of how we had all faired. Sue even had a bottle of beer for me in her rucksack she had been carrying around for hours as well as my camera to record proceedings.
5 minutes and we were back in the apartment, Whilst I showered and answered loads more texts and Facebook messages Sue popped over the road and came back with a fresh pizza, So we spent a happy hour sat on the balcony watching the lightning flashes over the mountains whilst having pizza and beer.
As usual the Pirate support was amazing (and loud), and I could never do half of what I achieve without the support, understand and understanding of my wonderful wife and partner Sue.
Monday morning and I left Sue to have a run down the prom on her own, whilst I packed the bike away ready for travel, The rest of the afternoon was taken up with the Pirate award ceremony, the prizes, tall tales to be told, and of course the most hotly contested event of the whole weekend, You thought the IM was the big event ?, wrong The Pirate Mince Off is far more important (Sorry, You had to be there)
Chilled out evening meal, and back to the apartment to finish the packing.
Yet again a great trip, and a stunning event, Had everything, scenery, weather (good and bad), great racing and best of all great mates to share it with.
No one fails at an IM, The effort to get to the start line defeats most, To be unable to start because a well-known airline has “misplaced your bike bag” wouldn’t have had the laid back attitude Meldy gave it from some of us, Some sadly crashed, fortunately without serious injury to person or machine, and some didn’t beat the cut off (No failure in giving it everything tho)
Everyone has a tale or 2 to tell, and of course some of what happens in Nice, Stays in Nice !