dinsdag 7 oktober 2014

Triathlon Lac du Salagou


This year, my goal was to finish two Long distance triathlons (half-ironman distance). One of them would be Eupen and the other a race abroad like last year's Natureman. When I was on holiday in the Cevennes last year and I visited my friends Cyril and Joelle from Montpellier, they told me they were playing with the thought to organize a race at lake Salagou. I told them, if they do so, I would come over and participate. So I did. My preparation was much better than last year. No sickness or bad injuries (except for a fall on my knee, but that just affected my speed, not my endurance level), so I was ready for it! Obviously, I just wanted to finish in a good fashion, but I also wanted to have a good race to not make a fool of myself in front of so many friends from Montpellier that I hadn't seen for a long time!
Like last year, my good friend Bert joined me. Which made the trip and stay even more fun. It felt really good coming back to the region of Montpellier, where I had lived for 2 years from 2005 until 2007. Especially seeing my friends again!

We arrived on Thursday afternoon. After unpacking, we went to check out the race area. I met Eric, Olb, Patrick, Joe and Cyril who were working hard to get everything ready for the weekend. I knew immediately that it was going to be an amazing race looking at the scenery.
On Friday, we went for a ride to get to know what was awaiting us and we didn't get disappointed. What the guys from MAT (Montpellier Agglo Triatlon) prepared was really amazing: a beautiful route on the roads near lake Salagou. 



On Friday, it was rather cloudy and we even got some rain during lunchtime. The type of weather I like most during a race. I hope that at raceday, temperatures stay low enough, otherwise it's gonna be killing...
On Saturday, we went to watch the Olympic distance race, always nice to watch pro's in action. We also saw more friends from montpellier, José, Nanard (still going at his age!), Patrick, Thibaut, Clem, Aurelie, Marie, Audrey, and my coach for Embrun and great athlete Julien. We didn't explore the running track upfront, but given the time it took the first to finish the 10k lap, it promised to be tough :-). The clouds that were covering the sky on Friday made way for clear blue skies, temperatures were rising with it. Not the perfect weather for a Belgian...


Finally, Sunday, raceday! Clear blue skies from early morning, that's gonna make the race even harder for me than it already is... Departure time is 11:00. So we will be racing at the hottest time of day... Drinking will be even more important! First off, 2km of swimming. I decided to not force it too much but to swim with a good feeling. As a result I felt that I was in 60th place after the first few meters. But while we got further, I noticed I was passing by other participants without too much effort. It looked like I was having a good day :) I was pleasantly surprised to hear I was in 21st position when I left the bike zone, 28min including roughly 100m run to the bike park. Pretty good on +300 participant. However, that would mean that a lot of guys would be passing me, given the fact that swimming is my best part. The track was pretty tough, so best not to push it too much.
I decided not to look too much at my heartrate and just go with the feeling. Not too many guys passing me, I felt good. Drinking and eating in time. After the first lap, I was still around 45th place. I swapped both empty bottles for two fresh ones. 

Still feeling good. As I mentioned before, the ride was pretty hard, with one big climb with percentages to 9%. I tried not to go too fast on the first round, but the second time we got to the climb, I decided to push it a bit more. The sun was burning at the hottest time of the day... Still I felt ok. But then, when we got at the top, out of the shade, I started to feel dizzy, I felt like I was being roasted... It was still more than 20k to the end of the bike, so I decided to slow down a bit. It was at that point that the first female passed me, I remember I felt like a zombie, and so I looked like one as well, apparently... Perhaps I should just quit this triatlon thing... so much training for yet another disappointing race...

The descends that I took really good the first lap, were a struggle in the second lap. I really had trouble focussing, man, again, I was struck by the heat... I should look for cooler places to race... The wind was starting to join the race, so the way back to the bikezone was even harder, especially with all the others passing me by... Well, let's just try to finish this bike, find a second wind by slowing down and eating and drinking. The legs were feeling pretty ok, so let's hope for the best in the run. I finished the bike in 3h08min, not that bad given the track and the heat stroke I got. I must have lost at least 10 min in the last 20k, if not more...
Well, now that's passed, let's focus on the run. That was looking like fun, mostly off-road with a nice climb, that we pass twice. At the bike zone, I saw Dje, another friend from Montpellier. He wished me good luck, I was going to need it...

I started off pretty good, the legs felt ok, but that was running in relative shade. After 1k, we got into the open on a slight climb and that's when the sun hit me a second time. I felt I was being cooked alive... I got cramps in my hamstrings, whatever I tried, they didn't want to go away...
Although I used salt in my drinks, it looked like I lost too much water and salt that my muscles just couldn't function properly... It felt like Embrunman all over again... I was thinking of quiting, I felt like shit, all that training and sacrifice for nothing... I stood there for 15min, unable to even walk. Finally, after being in the shade for 5 min and trying to push away the cramps, I felt like I was able to walk... still roughly 20k to go... I saw Bert coming and decided to run with him, that worked, although only for 1k, then the cramps got back... Philippe Garcia, another good friend from Montpellier passed me by, I remembered from 2007 he was better at coping with the heat, he looked pretty good in the run. For myself, I could barely walk, but I was just looking forward to the first aid stop. I refueled and refreshed and got new spirits to continue. I was passing by other zombies that were apparently also struggling from the heat. I was happy I was wearing my waterbelt and shared some of my wealth with a guy that was struggling even more than I was. It was at that point that I decided to fuck it all and enjoy the scenery, which was amazing. Switching between running and trying to push away the cramps every 1km, I slowely came closer to the finish.


Except for the cramps, I was feeling pretty ok, although extremely disappointed. But I decided to not risk my health, unlike some others that wanted to sprint at the end and then collapse to the ground... I finished finally in 6 hours and 10 minutes...133rd on 236 finishers.  

Feeling like a fool to run 20k in 2h30 min... But ok, I finished, which in this case is already something to be proud of if you know that from the 300 participants, 70 didn't make it to the finish line, almost 25%... So, just be happy to be a survivor of what was yet another amazing adventure. Yes, I was disappointed with my performance, but the event fits nicely on my list of amazing races, next to the Natureman, Embrunman and Nisraman. Maybe they should call it SalagouMAN :). I would recommend it to anyone who is up for a challenging race in an amazing scenery, organized by an amazing team! Bravo le MAT!

Oh yeah, just to show how "bien cuit" I was, here is the evidence:

Lessons learned: carry more drinks on the bike (2 bottles is not enough for me) and use more sunblock!

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