On September 8th I raced the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France. This was the 2nd race on our racation. The 1st race was the ITU Olympic Distance World Championships on 9/1/19 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
After Lausanne we shifted into tourist mode. We picked up a rental car in Geneva. This car would prove to be a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because it took us and all our gear where we needed to go. It was a curse because it was an SUV so it was very challenging to park in the tiny parking spaces and garages. Just picking up the car was a major challenge as we had to pick it up from the French side of the Geneva Airport. This caused some stress as we split up to do this task – not the best decision we have ever made since I did not have any phone service. Laurie picked up the car while I waited on the Swiss side with the luggage. It all worked out and we were reunited after 90+ minutes.
Our first destination was Turin, Italy for 3 days. We enjoyed some morning runs along the Po River. We toured the Egyptian Museum, the Royal Palace of Turin and the National Cinema Museum. We also went to the Cathedral of Saint John The Baptist where the Shroud of Turin is located.
The next stop was Monaco. Both of us will always remember driving into Monaco. Everything went well, but navigating the narrow and curvy streets gave us some excitement in our SUV. The locals must have thought the Beverly Hillbillies had rolled into town when we arrived. We found a nice place for dinner and strolled around the iconic casino and marina the following day.
The final 4 days of our journey was in Nice, the Cote d’Azur. I met Laurie in June 2000 and the day after meeting her I traveled to Nice to race the ITU Long Course World Championships. I was smitten with Laurie from Day 1 and so I always wanted to bring her to Nice, one of the most beautiful places in the world. My dream was finally coming true after 19+ years.
Part of the story that must be told was the very sobering security presence around the race venue – lots of police and soldiers carrying big guns. The French will never forget the 2016 Bastille Day terrorist attack on the Promenade des Anglais where 87 lives were lost. This was basically where the 1st transition area was located.
The women’s race was held on Saturday while the men’s race was on Sunday. The water temperature in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday was cool enough that the women wore wetsuits while on Sunday it had warmed up so wetsuits were not permitted for the men. I thoroughly enjoyed the 1.2 mile swim. It was a beautiful day and the sea was very calm. I had a good swim as I came out of the water in 36:09 (1:52/100 meters), in 84th place.
I was very anxious about the 56 mile bike portion of this race. The women and men had different experiences on the bike course simply because there were only 1,778 women while there were 3,261 men. The route went from the Cote d’Azur to the climb up the Col de Vence and back down again. The course had 4,927 feet of elevation gain. The climb was not that hard as the gradient averaged 6-7%. The challenge for me was the descent. I am not very skilled or confident in my descending abilities. I had one moment on the climb when another cyclist put his hand on my backside. That is standard operating procedure when the cyclists get close together. I joked with the guy by saying I thought that was the hand of God giving me a push. God was very clearly on my mind as I was anticipating the descent.
Once I reached the top and started the descent I became very cold. I was soaked with sweat from the climb and we were in the shade for the first part of the descent. Because I was shivering, I was tempted to stop, but was glad I pressed on because I knew I would warm up once I got lower and started pedaling again. We went through 10 very typical French villages and each time we’d approach a village there would be a welcome sign. I learned to take that as bad news as that always meant speed bumps would follow. The bumps were fairly gentle, but they were another obstacle to maneuver through. I think due to a combination of being chilled, the bumps and simply being so anxious and tense about the descent my right shoulder started to really hurt. It got so bad that I could hardly move my arm. This problem seemed to come out of nowhere. Thankfully I had warmed up a lot by the time I reached the aid station at mile 47 where the descent had pretty much ended. I decided to stop to get a drink and use the bathroom. This was 2 minutes very well spent as my shoulder loosened up and I was rehydrated to hopefully set up a successful run. I finished the bike in 3:40:01 (15.6 mph). This dropped me to 198th place. Not very good, but I was safe and sound.
The 13.1 mile run was 2 laps along the Promenade des Anglais. I love this part of Nice. It is beautiful with constant views of the Mediterranean. Because of some early season knee issues, I purposely was slightly undertrained for the run. I was confident that on race day, I’d be A-OK and I was. I ran 1:37:11 (7:28/mile) and I finished in 6:01:33. This placed me 167th out of 214 male finishers in the 55-59 age group and 2,860th out of 3,261 male finishers. That’s a far cry from winning my age group at the 2018 Ironman 70.3 in Muncie where I qualified. Muncie and Nice are different beasts.
To see my race pictures, click on this link
Living the life…