Thursday, 25 August
Hello Ironman 70.3 Vichy 2016! It is so incredibly hot. The thermometers are showing 34 degrees and it keeps rising. I go to the Ironman village to register and pick up the bags, but I need to get my doctor’s certificate first. He won’t be there before tomorrow morning.
Friday, 26 August
A fairly easy day. Made a few squats at the doctor’s office to get the certificate, registered and checked in the bike. Water temperature is at 24.3 degrees – 0.3 higher than the allowed maximum for wetsuits. Bugger. I really counted on it.
Saturday, 27 August
The competition starts at 6:50 so I get up at 3:30. I have an hour’s drive ahead and some last minute prep on the spot: pump up the tires, put the gels and the water on the bike. It is a bit of a rush.
First is the 1.9 km swim in the Allier lake. I stand in the 47 minutes box. There are over 2000 athletes participating in Ironman 70.3. It is a rolling start, meaning that 3 athletes go in the water every 4 seconds.
I jump in the water and go a couple of meters under, which is unexpected. The water is dense and all I can see is a small, green sun. When I’m back at the surface I want to float a bit to recover, but someone jumps on my legs and sends me underwater a second time. I have to start swimming to get away from the start line. I do a few strokes but something is very wrong. I cannot catch my breath and I swallow a big gulp of the muddy water. I swim up to a kayak, rest and start again, but my breathing is still messed up. After a few strokes I have to stop and rest at the kayak again. I am determined to go on. People on the shore are shouting “go on, you can do this!” and I keep trying, but it is not going away. I lost my spirit and precious minutes that separate me from the cut-off time. With a heavy heart I grab the line and climb up on to the shore.
The race is over. It feels like it was all for nothing. Months of preparation, the trip, friends and followers cheering for me at home. I know that I can do it – I’ve swam more than that in open water before, I bike 90 km with my eyes closed and I run a double distance and more.
It seems that quite a few people had to stop at the swim. They were probably also counting on using their wetsuits. I talk to my coach, he says that I should concentrate on triathlons for now and practice in open water as often as possible, simulating competition conditions. The season is soon over, but I still find a couple of triathlons I can sign up for before the fall.
I was hoping for three Ironman medals this year and I’ll have to settle for one this time. But my eyes are still on Kona one day, even if I have to rethink the schedule. I haven’t said my last word yet.