|Top 'o the mountain! The (cold!) summit of the Ballon d'Alsace with my awesome teammates|
|Scoping out the run course and transition area. Not even polar bears swim in that lake!|
|The pretty run course.|
I enjoyed gluten-free hotel camping with the best roomie ever, scoped out the course (hills, mud, gravel, cobblestone, oh my!), made a panicked trip to the local sports store (long undies! gloves! space blanket!) and sought out last minute physio for an injury of stupidity (damn you soleus!). Spending time with my awesome, well-humored teammates was a great way to alleviate my normal let's-get-this-over-with pre-race anxiety. In those three days, we firmly established the following to be true, for better or for worse:
- French public swimmers do not hide well their dismay for silly Canadians who dare swim in their lane of the 90 degree sweat-box of a pool.
- Steak frites may be the best pre-race food, ever.
- Chocolate coated rice cakes are highly underrated.
- Garmin GPS has no clue how to pronounce street names in French...nor give proper directions.
- French sports stores do not stock gloves nor clothing made from Merino wool in the month of May.
- Every street in Belfort is under construction.
- Acupuncture is awesome.
|The telltale sign of the duathlon.|
Thankfully, the weather folks in France as are poor at their jobs as the ones in Vancouver and race morning turned out not nearly as dreadful as initially predicted. Under a 9 degree grey sky, the rain threatened but did not appear in any great amount. It was humid and chilly - and a complete mud pit in transition.
Due to 90 percent humidity, I made the decision to run in my tri suit only and pull my newly acquired French polyester long underwear, gloves and vest on for the ride. No point in being soaked with sweat. Huddled at the start line in our garbage bags, Gen and I looked very much the idiot Canadians while channeling our inner polar bears in our skimpy tri suits.
|Saving money on team uniforms at the start. Who needs spandex when you have Glad?|
|Run #1. Go Polar Bears Go!|
No females were passing me, though...so I rationalized that everyone must be feeling the same sluggishness. That being said, a TT bike would have definitely been the better choice at the beginning of the ride. My splits indicated I lost about 2 minutes compared to my competitors in the first section. As soon as the up/down and technical riding started, however, I was very comfortable on the R5 and enjoyed a lot of confidence in the descents.
The wicked climb and descent of the Ballon d'Alsace was the highlight of the day. The ascent started well in advance of the "posted" climb, and was about 25k of up, up, up including the last 11k kick up the Ballon. Sweat inducing, seemingly never-ending climb (how can a 28 cog can feel so hard? Did someone switch my cassette? I feel like barfing. Damn you Euro super-cyclists!), followed by an absolutely wild ride on the way down. Flinging yourself down a pitch of technical switchbacks is really kinda nuts.
|Stock photo of the ascent. Fun!|
|The elevation profile of the ride...hilly awesomeness. Why isn't every tri like this?!|
T2 was incredibly slow - I picked up my bike a la cross racing to get through the mucky transition, and my frozen fingers and cramped legs declined to cooperate to put my shoes on. A volunteer helped me put on my shoes, or I may never have left T2. My quads, hamstrings and calves twitched in warning every step - if I stopped, they were stopping too. I talked myself along a kilometer at a time...running with quick feet and power-walking when I needed to. Upon crossing the finish line, I found myself unable to walk. Thankfully, my legs waited until 20.1 kilometers to give up!
|The end of run #2. Legs please don't fail me now!|
I'm chuffed that six months post-surgery I was able to compete somewhat reasonably at this level. I didn't kill it...but it didn't kill me either. A work in progress! All in all, it was a fun, never-to-be-duplicated muddy and absurd experience made most memorable by my teammates, the rest of Team Canada and their support squads.
And, needless to say...when the race was over and the holiday began, I caught the first flight out to sunnier, warmer climes :)
|SUNSHINE!!!!! No polar bears here.|