My First Ironman, Nice - By Philippe Dutilleul
A friend told me once an ironman is something extraordinary done by ordinary people. I know now what he meant. This race is unique as it tests both your physical and mental strength. It is a unique challenge to see how far you can push your limits and realize that you can exceed them.
The night before the race I didn’t sleep much. I woke up one minute before my alarm clock at 5 am, excited and very anxious. From that moment the race was on. All my equipment was in order, and I followed the same routine as in training: 15 minutes to get ready, energy drink and energy cake for breakfast, checking the bike, putting on my wetsuit, and get in the water for a quick feeling of the temperature.
Then this is it. I am standing with the other on the beach and I feel the adrenaline coming. 5, 4, 3, 2 ,1, I ran into the water. The first 400 meters were awful. I felt I was going to drawn. I couldn’t move my arms as two guys were in front of me. The same with my legs people behind me were grabbing them and I was punched in the face by the guys on the side: almost lost my swim cap and goggles. Help me! Help me! I want to get out of there! This is what I wanted to shout. Fortunately the race started to open up before the first boo. Then I was in the zone, enjoying my swimming, looking under the water and noticing a few swim caps and goggles that some unfortunate guys lost during the fight of the start.
1h16 for the swimming: not great, but not bad !
Time to get ready for the bike with a challenging 180 km uphill course. Right away I pace myself: 30 km/h while the others think it’s an Olympic distance and start like crazy. The course starts with a nice 20km flat which is a good warm up. Then the climbing starts with 800 meters at 12%, and then 7 km climb, flat again and then 24 km of straight climbing in full heat. As I had the course before in training, it was a huge advantage because I knew exactly what to expect. Once the climbing is done, it is flat, two more hills and then 60 km of descent, where you need to be really focused on the road as it is technical.
The bike went well, like a big day in the countryside, but of course very tiring: 7h16. But the worst part was coming.
Coming back to Nice I asked myself how I was going to run a marathon? I was so tired, exhausted! There is no way I can run 42,2 km.
I had no choice, so I started running to see how my legs were feeling and it was working I was able to run, not fast: 10km/h but I was running. I was able to keep this pace for 10 km. From km 10 till km 20, I was still running but slowing down 8 km/h.
The half marathon was done and I was done too !!!
The next 10 km were just hell! My mind and body were shut down. The only thing I was able to think was to tell my legs to move on, but they were saying no!
I was still running but at 7 or 6 km/h ! It is a strange feeling when you reach this stage. You can’t take it anymore, but you are still there moving. Before starting the last 10 km, I saw my wife. Kissing her meant the world for me and bam!, it gave me back energy. I started running again as fast as I could 12km/h and hold that pace for 5km, This is where I realize, it all on top, it’s in your head. If you’re mentally ready you will finish. Then I slowed down to 10 km/h.
When I reached the finish line I had 40 seconds to finish under the 14 hours, so I started sprinting (I know, I don’t believe it myself) and missed them by 9 seconds (but not the cut off time which is 16 hours).
I am an ironman : 14h00,08.
Will I do it again. Already signed up for next year in New York.