In 1982, this city began its reign as host to one of the wolds most famous triathlons, thanks to a twist of fate. This triathlon would have been called the Monaco Triathlon, however due to the poor fate of Monacos Princess, who died in a car crash two months before the race was planned, the race was moved west down the coast, and would now be called the Nice Triathlon. A really tough course built it a reputation and it became extremely popular, even being televised alongside the biggest triathlon in the world (IM WC in Kona, Hawaii). The International Triathlon Union took over organising the race in its famed years, however the ITU then turned its focus to making Triathlon an Olympic sport and the Nice Triathlon lost its way. Until IRONMAN came along in 2004 and created IRONMAN France. One of the toughest and most famed races in Europe. Jump forward to 2019 and the city is buzzing with 5000 athletes and their families for the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships. Anybody who is anything in Triathlon is attending the race and a really special atmosphere and weekend is created.
I’m in the holding pen, 2 min until go time. A rare chance to get in a practice swim was a great way to finish off what was a great warm up for me. With a late start time (8:42am) I feel really prepared and ready to go. Stomach is feeling perfect after a bottle of Training mix for breakfast and a caffeine gel 10mins before my start time. There’s a nervous group around me but it seems to be good nerves. These guys are fit, they’re the best in the world in the 25 - 29 age group and I cannot wait to race them! They might be fit but they don’t have any Triathlon manners… Mark Allen, multiple IRONMAN World champion and Nice Triathlon 10 Time Champion is leaning over the fence watching us! Everyone is just walking past him, I shuffle my way over to him, ‘Mr Mark Allen, you’re a legend’ fist bump and a hand shake ‘Good luck man’, yeh cheers Mark but as my boss says, Luck is for losers.
We’re set off in groups of 6, beep beep beep, go! Except for me it wasn’t all go, it was stay calm look who’s hitting the water first and find their feet. I’ve had 2 weeks of little to no swimming due to a shoulder problem I can’t quite figure out so this swim is all about survival. We swim to the first turn buoy as a pack that wants to work together, I feel great and don't even notice my shoulder. As we turn it starts to break up and I have to settle with finding my own water and rhythm. Confidence in my shoulder grows and I swim the rest in ‘race mode’ feeling stronger as I go. Exit the water with 30 mins and change, frusted as I felt faster than the time shows. Post race analysis shows I swam long, the pitfall of no open water training in the Dubai summer!
I feel a level of calmness and preparedness pre race these days that I used to dream of in previous years. This is my 20th middle or long distance triathlon and having the experience is invaluable. Transition goes smoothly, other competitors are forgetting helmets, falling over bikes, fumbling gels. I get in and out unharmed and onto the bike.
Col du Vence, it’s been the talk of the town. I have a plan and i’m going to stick to it. One part of the plan is being light for the climb and not having weight on the front of my bike for the descent. Secret training Big energy is my go to for middle and long distance racing. One bottle is fully loaded and 2 other bottles are split 1/2 and 1/2. My plan is to drink my aero bottle before the climb, meaning only 2 are full for the climb keeping my weight down and the front end empty for the descent. This works well and I hit the climb ready for for a long effort! Immediately the pace slows, some are going full gas up it, some seem like they’re going backwards. I’m watching my power meter like a hawk until I get to Vence and hit the 10km climb at an avg of 7%, from there it’s all on feel to the top. Vence is buzzing with support and I get a great kick before starting the hardest section. At the top of the climb i’m looking at my numbers and wondering how this run is going to go, they’re high and I may pay for this later… I did the descent in practice so I know what’s coming, there is traffic as expected, and getting annoyed only wastes energy. Ride hard but stay safe, thats all i’m thinking. I get down with zero damage and back to the flat road for 10km of ‘legal racing’ into Nice. I say ‘legal racing’ because it’s anything but that. Drafting is now simply a part of AG triathlon. IRONMAN try to police it but they simply cannot, you can’t have 2000 people start a triathlon and not get drafting. Its seriously annoying but again, annoyed energy is a waste. I keep myself out of trouble and let the packs ride on by, hoping a motor bike is following them. In 2017 when I raced the World Championships in Chattanooga, the penalty tents were full! I’m not sure if this race was the same.
Bike complete and my energy is great. I finished the other two bottles of Big Energy, my power has come down to a less leg ripping intensity and i’m excited to execute my run plan.
T2 is smooth, glasses on, clouds on, iso gel for the road and I jump on the fun bus. This bus has a strict schedule and I am adamant to stick to it. My summer has been spent rehabbing my achilles after some peritendinitis and I’m still at that point where I can just get a smile from running pain free. The first 5k is very cruisey just finding my run legs which luckily are there. KM 6 - 9 I think my watch is broken because it keeps auto lapping at 4:15/km. My plan is to begin ‘racing’ at KM 10. Naturally I over react here and hit a low 4’s, panic and pull it back a touch because in reality the real race begins at KM 15… I’m having one gel every 20min and because i’m on the fun bus its caffeine only… Stomach still feels great and I know i’m in for a solid 2nd half. Pace is descending as planned and I almost feel impatient for the final 5km where my goal is to be sub 20min for it. The final airport end turn comes and it’s go time.
There was a great on shore breeze coming as we ran parallel to the beach, i’m searching for a decent pacer to give me some shelter but it’s not happening. A few people are blowing up now, paying for earlier efforts that weren’t sustainable…
3km to go and it's seriously go time, I’ve picked out a competitor in front who is running well but I can catch them. Drawing level I hear ‘hey Tom!’ it’s a guy I raced in Bahrain last year, him and his brother absolutely melted me in the final 3km of that race, this has to be fate. ‘I know you can run!’ my idea is to bait him into running faster so I can grab a lift… It works and he goes. I’m more than happy to go with him and under 4’s we go… This is where the fun bus gets really fun! 2km out and I decide I want to drive the bus, next stop 3:40’s. Eduardo (my fellow passenger) stepped off the bus for a minute but he’s back and it seems he wants to drive again, awesome… I’m happy to ride shotgun. Red carpet is appearing and I decide I want my bus back, full gas to the finish in true InnerFight Endurance style. Eduardo comes over a few seconds after and the atmosphere is unreal!
It’s not often I cross a finish line happy... the times I have is because I’m either first over it or I’ve executed the race to my full potential. This race wasn’t particularly fast looking at the numbers, but I squeezed every drop out of my current form and fitness and executed my race plan exactly. The support from everybody and particularly David and Rianca at Secret Training is a huge help. Wolfis Bike shop ensuring I have the best bike and kit helps more than they can imagine, On Running really helped me with my achilles problem and switching to their Cloud Surfer shoe has been a game changer. Lizzie at DISC Sport therapy Dubai keeps me going (somehow) and Rory at ICSF and Marilyn at MCC helped me get the most from myself for what was a seriously special race. I was lucky enough to have family and friends with me all week making it all run smoothly and keeping me on track but also down to earth and stress free. Super important for racing happy!
Here’s to a shot break before the 2020 goals get under way!
As always, #NoWeakness.