South African LD Triathlete of the Year 2011/2012

Cannes? Nooooo! ROYAN

Crazy ideas are something I am good at coming up with. One has to say that doing a half Iron distance race, 6 days after an Ironman is pretty crazy, or some would say just plain dumb! Despite the obvious stupidity, there were some reasons why I decided to take on this ‘6 day’ feat….

Gastronomy from the top class Garden Ice Cafe :}

I drove down to Royan (about 2hours from Poitiers) last Friday, and apart from some issues with parallel parking french-style outside the hotel (how do you somehow squish a car between two bumpers!?!), I arrived well without the use of GPS. The Pro athletes were hosted in the quaint and charming Alpha Hotel, which was conveniently situated about 400m from the race site, yet far enough from the party goers. Apart from a groaning toilet and Simon Billeau’s snoring in the room next door ;), it was ideal!


Perfect car for messing up your hair ;)

As I had no idea what to expect from the course, Bastien from the race organisation offered to take me around the course in a car. What I didn’t expect was a REALLY cool car! Pictured is the car :). I almost let my love of fun and fast cars distract me from one of the most scenic courses I have ever seen!

When I decided on this little ‘6 day’ feat, I had no idea that this course was far from easy, and the race organisers have a very strange sense of humour! Firstly, the race could only begin at 14h30, because, due to the tides, there would be no water to swim in any earlier! Then of course there was the left current, the chop and some very big globby jellyfish…

Knowing where to stand at the swim start was vitally imperative, and I can’t say that I got this right. Within minutes of the gun, I was fighting off a washing machine of big male arms, the left current, mouthfuls of Eau de Royan and grabbing handfuls of those squishy jellies! As a result, I swam really slow, came out the water first, but I had definitely not got the advantage I was hoping to get, with two girls coming out right on my heels. The run to the transition was a really long one, so the organisers really made sure that the blood was back to the legs and everyone was well warmed up for the bike…

Someone remembered the SA Flag!

The bike was a really challenging, and energy sapping 3 lap course over the dreaded ‘little’ hills of Meshiers. The problem was not that they were little or exceptionally steep – rather it was the fact that you had to ride them on the way out, and on the way back, which multiplied by 3 would give you a total leg mashing 18 repetitions! Despite my previous week’s warm up of an Ironman, my legs felt pretty darn good on the bike :). I felt really strong, and for once got to use my descending skills to gain some time over some particularly bumpy downhill sections whoooo….hooooo! Amazingly, 90k felt relatively quick in comparison to the Iron 180k :). Soon I had a comfortable lead of around 5minutes…until the last 5km, while in the process of overtaking some male competitors, I was shown a black card by a rather hasty referee :(:(:(. While I have to respect the decision, I cannot help but wonder why he did not take a minute to actually study what was actually happening – did he really think that if I had not been drafting for 85k that I was about to start in the last 5k??? As for the males who think it is cool to suck female wheel…GGGGRRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!

Local Royan architechture...

So that was that. My hard earned lead disappeared through a penalty which meant 4 minutes prison time. This is not always the worst thing that can happen – sometimes it is useful to get your heart rate down, eat, and in my case, have a pee :D. By the time I was released from prison, the stiffness had plenty of time to accumulate in my legs, and I emerged at the same time that the second girl started the run. On a good day, this would have turned into an interesting race on the run, but my legs now felt like lead, my left calf disfunctional, and I couldn’t match her pace. I had signed up for this, unsure of what I was going to be able to do, but knowing that I was prepared to give every last ounce of what I had. The run was very challenging, even if you were well rested – the organisers must have had lots of laughs when they decided that we would run across 3 small beaches (yes, in thick dry beach sand!), on two of the laps! It was actually pretty hilarious to see athletes wobbling their way across the beaches! There were many strategies as to what to do – take shoes off, wear socks, no socks…. I decided that I would wear socks (I still had the battle scars from the previous week), and then just hope for the best. Everyone seemed to suffer, including my friend Tristan (who although terribly disappointed with his race), who had the misfortune of not packing socks, and then still having the most not-so-funny stomach issues which led him to a little mid-run ‘baignade’ in the ocean ;).

The podium :)

Unfortunately, even though my heart was wanting the win more than anything, my legs would not tolerate anymore :(. I finished a credible 3rd place. Finished, exhausted, but knowing that I had given everything of my best in the last 6 days, and for that, I couldn’t ask for more. The podium is always a great place to be, even if you know that you’re going to feel the pain for some time after ;)…

I have nothing but the sincerest thanks to the organisers Etienne, Stephane, Bastien and all the volunteers for a race (and party) that is going to become one of the most famous in France! It was great to do and share this event with so many friends, in particular Valerie and Tristan (my hosts in France), Philippe (who was great to see making his comeback after 10years!), and the guys and girls from the clubs of Stade Poitevin, Chatellrault, Charentes, Royan who have made me feel so welcome! Merci boucoup a vous tous, et j’attend la saison 2012 avec impatience et bien sur je m’inscrit pour la course de Royan 2012!!


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