That is it, it’s four days since I’ve crossed the finish line of the 2018 Mainova IRONMAN Frankfurt European Championship race and what comes to mind is that it was a day like no other, a day I will remember for a long time I believe and what a day it was!
As per my previous posts, that journey started back on 1st of December 2017. A few months before that I had completed my first triathlon during the 2017 Ironman70.3 in Rapperswil, Switzerland and after another few more olympic distance races, I realized I had fallen in love with the sport. Then and receiving an offer to enter the Frankfurt full distance Ironman, I thought I would give it a try and as usual a serious one.
Serious meant I would basically chose a coach and try my best to put everything together so I could fulfill that goal I had set in my calendar. My mentor and very good friend had once spoken to me about what I would define as the race package, basically and in order to make a performance happen, all aspects need to be mastered. You can’t wish to perform without trying hard for it, so from August 2017 I started getting things together.
Swimming, cycling or running would all be key to the final performance, working the weaknesses but also getting the better things bettered would all play on that given day so I set out on putting the gear right but also getting that coach to help me work it out and above all preventing me from getting injured I thought.
Back in December, I had just come back from a DNF during my first given try at the marathon distance, injury had healed and I was back on the run. I had got myself a time trial bike in September thanks to my partners and had started working out my speed as well as the ability to sustain it while swimming would be the biggest work I believed.
We took it easy at the start, cross-country skiing was to be my way back at work during the winter months. It was hard work but I thought it gave me some good physical and mental work as well if looking back at it. It’s never easy to start something from scratch and surely when it requires a lot of technique, it doesn’t get better than that in terms of hard work.
The journey was set and pretty much I got a whole weekly program scheduled for a 7-months period in order to achieve. Skiing, swimming, running, cycling or being gym work, it was pretty much like having two jobs. The normal one on working hours and another one when you normally think it’s beer-o-clock or time to rest. But I wasn’t meant to do so for the next 30 weeks.
Altogether, it was great but hard too. Commitment is a thing which may be hard, I guess the good days are the ones you appreciate the most but there are bad ones too, even weeks when tiredness hits and mental goes completely down. I also happened to almost quit when on 1st of May I hit a car head-on while going out on a time trial ride. That was hard but my coach, friends and family all got me going and I also believe that such moment does help the final performance now, it builds.
Back to Frankfurt, I arrived there on the Monday before the race, getting used to the place, the town and getting to know the swim, bike and run courses had been part of my plan. Hotel was a bit remote from the town center but calm and cool if considering the room. The first few days were all about a little bit of training and getting rested properly, no intensity just endurance and keeping the body and mind set on the performance that was to happen.
My family, mother and sister, joined and although I had been reluctant to the thing it did happen to be a great one. Having my mother to take me to the race shuttles on the race day morning was an important point just like seeing my sister and her cheering on me while out on the run. It helped to feel that added energy that day.
So after a short night, having been in bed from 7:00PM on the Saturday before the race, I woke up at 3:00AM and breakfast was to be first thing. Bread, butter, cereals, an isotonic drink and two bananas later, I went down to meet the mother and get out there. A little drive and a big hug later I got into the race shuttle.
Arriving at the start and transition zone, I got my bike fully ready, tyre pressures, disc wheel ready, bike bottles and nutrition on, it was time to get to the start and by 6:20 I was standing out there with my wetsuit on, the pressure was high and following on my race plan, I got myself in the starting zone by 6:30 after a little swim to warm-up. Strategy was simple, rolling start and with the 1h10-1h20 group to start with. Easy on the start, get it going and catch as many as you can by the end.
6:54:04 saw me start the race, 27:00min later I was out for the Australian exit and back at it for the remaining 2.4km left, it was a hard time but I tried to give everything I could. I had swam 208km in training and was not going to take it easy, I tried my best to disconnect the brain and get the pace right.
T – 1:08:57 / 43rd CAT / 655th M / 711th OA.
Five minutes later, I was out on the bike and gone for a 185km, five more than the normal distance due to roadworks but set out on trying to catch even more people, the strategy was to make it a strong ride while trying to get the effort as smooth as possible on the legs as there was to be a strong headwind as well as 1450m of ups and downs. A fast course for sure but not an easy one, still one I loved.
Getting out of transition and going on the Autobahn for a few kilometers in order to get through Frankfurt was the bonus. For the first 90km – 2:30:47 – I got the pacing right and wind wasn’t as bad as they had predicted I thought. The course was pretty technical, a continuous route of ups and downs was tough to handle in terms of power and cadence but as I went for the second loop, I thought I would try to make it an even better one.
By the time I had finished the first loop it was 10:40AM and the wind had actually gone more aggressive, heading out back out from Frankfurt and up north, the headwind predicted happened and it got hard but I settled on trying to make it smooth in order not to lose my legs for the last part, the marathon. By 1:21PM I was back in Frankfurt, taking full advantage of the last 5km of the loop which were downhill, I turned the legs as much as I could to prepare for the run and reached transition 2.
T – 5:14:16 – 35.29km/h / 14th CAT / 144th M / 150th OA.
Now and onto the run, it was the start of the afternoon, as I got into transition zone running by the side of my bike, tarmac was burning, the feet were okay but the way the legs were going was crazy strange. At that point I seriously doubted I would be able to run the marathon. I got my bike racked, got the shoes on and a gel in while getting a whole bottle of water over my head to cool myself down and after five minutes again, I was out to run.
The run would consist of 4 loops of 10.5km more or less and it was hot out there with about 2km of shade only but a nice little wind all around. I got out and started at a pace of pretty much 4:30/km. I though that with the average power given on the bike I would be able to maintain that pace long enough to finish strong and for the first two laps it went alright.
Having looked at my watch and total time by then, I knew I was to be well under 10 hours so I decided to ease the pace a little in order to guarantee the finish time and also in order to eat and hydrate properly at the aid-stations along the course. By the end of the third lap or 30km more or less all was going okay but a little pain had been growing in my stomach and that was something which didn’t sound good.
Rightfully and reaching the 36th kilometer, I had a massive stomach cramp and I mean one that stopped me running and even walking. I had been on course and all had been good up to now but I guess too much liquid food and hydration got it bad altogether. I was not going to quit or walk the last 6km and tried as hard as I could to run & walk in order to get to the finish the soonest possible.
The last kilometer was probably the hardest but I ran it and the mix of emotions started to happen as I reached the finish line, having my four bracelets indicating I could go up the line, I almost cried and just a few meters from there I could high five my mother and sister which all in all made it a very special thing and finish.
T – 3:34:50 / 16th CAT / 232 M / 251 OA
Total time 10:08:21
That is it, a day like no other, emotions that are hard to describe, pain like I never went through but I made it to the end and swam 3.9km, cycled 185km and ran a marathon to finish with in a single day. I never thought I would do that in my life but I have and I will be back out there for sure. As a first, it’s all about learning and I learnt a lot on that day, plenty to work on I would say.
Now back to reality and thanks to all who got me there. My coach, partners, family and friends but I guess this is just the start. Cheers, Louis.