2016 IRONMAN 140.6 VICHY, FRANCE RACE REPORT

2016 IRONMAN VICHY, FRANCE RACE REPORT

The 2016 Ironman Vichy, France is in it’s 2nd year of operation. The Vichy Ironman and 70.3 offers a unique blend of history and beauty to a very professional and technical course!

No Recovery Time

I chose to participate in the Vichy Ironman mainly because of my very aggressive plan to complete two full ironmans in europe that were only 8 days apart. Coming off the Kalmar, Sweden Ironman I decided I would try and get my 9th Ironman checked off the list as I was very determined to get qualified for that elusive Ironman Legacy spot of 12 Full Ironman finishes.

This decision turned out to be the hardest series of race events in endurance training that I have ever done in my life. I felt good mentally after the Kalmar Ironman but my body was broken and now I found myself with barely a week to recover between races.

The Ironman circuit has offered so much opportunity over the last couple years as I have moved up in the ranks from a Bronze AWA medalist to this past year in 2015 a Silver AWA medalist earning a little more respect along the way.

I am also the 2015 Clydesdale National Champion and still hold the fastest time in the Olympic Distance event in Grand Rapids Michigan. This would be the second major race under my new sponsor, Red Ace Organics as they outfitted me with a spectacular new race suit and more!

The Trip to Vichy

Logistically, this race was going to be a bit tough as I had planned to turn around in 8 days after Ironman Kalmar and race another full Ironman in Vichy but I was on a mission. I drove from Kalmar to Copenhagen and then flew to Frankfurt, Germany where I rented a car and got on my way visiting Cologne, Germany, Paris, Lyon France, and then onto Vichy.

2016 Ironman Vichy, France

The Vichy Ironman course has some sentimental value as my father rowed on the exact same swim course which is also a rowing course in 1967 during the European rowing championships in the double sculls event.

My father had been there twice and explained to me that it was a beautiful place to visit as well as compete. The videos on Youtube of this race can really get you pumped up and it’s nothing short of an overall amazing race experience.

The Vichy Ironman and 70.3 are held on the same weekend but alternate days as they really sold this race to the absolute max while more than 5,000 competitors turned out to challenge the Vichy Ironman course. This race begins and finishes at the same point near downtown across the rowing venue in the Omnisports Park.

There is ample parking in and around the park which is really nice and the Ironman committee really impressed me with full blown professionalism as they were extremely organized throughout the weekend during this very busy event. On Saturday I had to drop off my bike at T1 staged right next to the swim start and rowing venue. T1 and T2 were in the same transition area which makes the logistics of the race much easier.

The one mistake I made was not being able to make it to the athlete meeting on friday night as I was really trying to maximize travel time in Paris and Leon. I missed some crucial information regarding no use of wetsuits during the swim.

I always tell my athletes that I train never to miss a race orientation as they give you some much needed information about the course and things to watch out and prepare for on race day. Sure enough, I missed out on some important information and had to deal with some harsh realities on race day.

The Top Three Things I Learned on Race Day

Tip #1

During The Swim portion of the race DO NOT wear a wetsuit or even two different triathlon suits as you will get disqualified as you exit the water into T1. I witnessed two competitors get disqualified for either wearing some kind of neoprene and or another race suit.

Make sure to follow the rules or your whole race experience can be vichy-iron-bike-mountruined. The referees during this particular race were extremely strict so just follow the rules and you will be ok.

Tip#2

The Bike portion of the Vichy Ironman is two loops of gradual small rolling hills with various small french towns and many fans cheering you along the way. Again, the referees were everywhere and they were giving out penalties to those who were drafting each other.

Make sure to look around and be aware of where you are when cycling on the course and if you are within six bikes lengths of the rider in front of you in order to avoid penalties. Overall, the course is fast but the backside of the identical loops offers some more challenging hills followed up by fast downhill grades.

The aid stations were perfectly plotted along the course and the volunteers and fans made it really fun even though I was suffering from pain and ultimately three Ironman races in less than a month.

Tip #3

The Run is four laps around the rowing course and offers some beautiful views of the water and parts of downtown Vichy. Local fans will be cheering you on throughout the run course and there are plenty of aid stations to help you along the way.

I did not have a chance to drive the bike course but in this case ignorance was bliss as my goal for this race was just to finish. In reality as an Ironman athlete you always want to make sure you can drive the entire bike and run course to familiarize yourself with things to come.

Race Day

I woke up on race day very early in order to get to the starting line on time as I was staying outside Vichy in a town called Clermont-Ferrand about 20 miles out of town.

Vichy was very expensive so I decided to stay in Clermont-Ferrand and it actually ended up being an amazing experience as I had some of the best food in that town.

After setting up transition I made sure I had my bike gear put on one of the middles chain ring as it was a flat grade coming right out of the transition for the swim and then I dropped off the morning clothes bag and was ready to go.

 

The water temperature was about 74 degrees as they mentioned that Ironman Vichy was NOT wetsuit legal.

They announced there were over 2,800 athletes racing and it really made the swim course a bit hectic as they siphoned the athletes through a mass chute along the docks allowing just a handful of athletes into the water at one time.

It took me about 15 minutes or more to start after the pro men and woman had started. The water was warm and felt slow as I was now without a wetsuit and fatigued from the Kalmar Ironman just a week prior to the race.

I knew I just had to chill out and pace the swim and kept telling myself to just finish and not worry about my time. There are several points in the swim where you really have to keep your head up and sight out the rest of the course as it got crowded and didn’t allow too much room for error while swimmers were looping back in the other direction on the two loop swim course.

I had a very slow swim time of 1:45 and I could just feel the fatigue starting setting in almost immediately when I came out of the water on the way through T1 and being aware of the daunting 112 mile bike ride ahead … my swim is usually the weakest of all three categories but this particular swim in Vichy was exceptionally slow.

I had also had a slow bike transition as the tent was completely full I had to stand outside of the tent and manage to do everything standing up which made for an unusual challenge and for a bad transition time but I got everything situated and picked up my bike in about 10 minutes.

I really wanted a relaxed and even split time on the bike portion of the race. It was nearly 95 degrees the previous day so I knew I was going to have to take it easy but as I pulled away from T1 I realized the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees and the clouds were blocking the extreme heat from the sun.

It started to rain for a portion of the bike and it helped me stay cool, calm, and collected. I hydrated like crazy on the bike and was smart with my nutrition eating every 30 minutes and drinking fluids at every aid station along the way. You have to make sure to stay on top of your hydration and nutrition… It really can make or break your race.

In this race I had a little too much and for the first time ever in a Full Ironman I had to stop three times to go to the bathroom. The bike leg consisted of two loops around Vichy as you roll through about 6 or 7 small french towns with locals cheering you on.

I was having a great bike leg on first lap and decided to maintain a steady speed on the second lap. My average speed hovered around 19-21 mph and I ended up with a 5:42 bike split time which was surprising considering I stopped 3 times on the course for the bathroom and that I was only about 15 minutes slower than in Kalmar and had limited rest time in between Ironman races. I got passed often during the bike portion of this race but again I didn’t mind due to the circumstances of being totally fatigued from Kalmar.

A Difficult Ending

My run transition at T2 was slow and relaxed while I took nearly 8 minutes and was able to recharge a bit in the tent before moving along to the marathon.

I ran out of transition strong and in control of my pace until the second lap where I just started walking and jogging in between aid stations. It was just a matter of survival at this point as my whole body felt like it was going to break with every step.

On the third and last lap I remember telling myself that this particular Ironman with only eight days rest in between Ironman competitions was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Being that I’ve done some crazy things in my life this was a very bold statement but it was true!

The run ended up being a careful balance of moving, staying clear of injury, and hydration. It was a lofty and ridiculous goal I had in mind to accomplish two Ironman finishes in just one week and three including Ironman Vineman in less than one month, but I thought I would try it and get to my legacy spot of 12 for Kona. I finished with my slowest Ironman finish time of 13:20

The run course was three laps and it was well plotted out with just a couple of light hills and a tremendous cheering section near the finish line. I ended with my second worst Full Ironman finish time of 12:02.. far off my goal of going under 11 hours and an hour off my best time of 11:06 which was done in the cool rain temperatures of Cairns, Australia back in 2014.

Thanks again to everyone for the support, to Red Ace Organics, Rudy Project, Tri Lab, Normatec Recovery, Juice Plus, and of course my fitness center in Long Beach with all my amazing members at Roworx Fitness!

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