Ironman Vichy 70.3, Saturday 26 August 2017
We travelled out to Vichy in a couple of groups, some taking the ferry and driving, and a few of us flying via Lyon on the Thursday evening, staying near the airport then hiring a car to drive to Vichy on the Friday morning. We arrived in Vichy by 10.00am having had a very relaxed journey; I’d recommend it logistically. Registration was straightforward, the overall set up is excellent at Vichy, it was then on to check in to accommodation, put a bike together, have a quick spin then return to the event to rack and attend the briefing. My only complaint is they align the briefing with the pasta party and it starts at 7.00pm the night before the race. The actual briefing didn’t finish until nearly 9.00pm and the tent was fairly warm to say the least!
Having fought with swimming since starting triathlon in 2016, I really felt it had been coming together and I was looking forward to seeing how much I’d progressed; I’d had a 44minute lake swim at Stafford 70.3, then 42minutes at Marlow half-iron distance which I’d treated as my last warm up event in July. Vichy has other ideas though and has been a non-wetsuit swim on a couple of occasions in the last few years. To be fair to the event they kept a constant stream of information on their Facebook page although it only became apparent on the Thursday evening that the practice swim scheduled for the Friday (before the Saturday event) was in an outdoor swimming pool rather than Lac d’Allier where the event swim would take place; there would also be no warm up swim in the lake on the day.
Come race day, the rather expected announcement came at 5.45am that it would be a non-wetsuit swim as the water temperature was 25.1 degrees. In some ways this reduced the stress of faffing with a wet suit and would obviously help in T1. That said, I’d never swum in just my tri-suit and had no idea how it might effect my swim overall.
We arrived in good time and sorted final bits with the bike; Vichy has the added benefit of providing access to both red and blue bags the morning of the event. I joined the queue for the rolling start and was looking forward to the race, the weather was excellent and everything had gone well so far. One consideration was how much slower I might be without a wetsuit and if everybody had joined the queue in the position they might swim in a wetsuit or without. Either way, it was crowded swim and difficult to get into a rhythm. The course is a one lap lake swim and very well marked and easy to sight which helped. I tried not to look at my watch too much and just grind it out. With about 400m to go I felt slight cramp in my left ankle which was strange and I put it down to kicking more and just focussed on getting out the water. I was out of the water in 45minutes and didn’t hang about through T1. Having settled onto the bike I was fairly happy all things considered, but knew that a good bike was needed to give me a chance of dipping under 5hours which was certainly an overall target.
The bike course is rolling with nothing overly steep. It was a hot morning and having cramped slightly in the water I possibly overcompensated and drank a fair amount – I knew I’d need to stop at some point but was hopefully I’d hold out until T2 or the run. The last 6-8km are all downhill and at that point I knew my average speed was on target, 22.1mph for the course and 2hours 33 on the bike. T2 was again fairly swift and as the facilities were in use I waited until the first opportunity on the run.
The run course is largely flat and along the river, with a short section through Vichy itself and a short section through the event set up. It’s well supported and not too crowded. I found a rhythm and tried to maintain a heart rate of about 160 for as long as I was still on target time-wise. I knew I had about 1hr 35 for the run to dip under five hours and kept a careful eye on where I was up to and how I was feeling. With 2.5km to go I pushed on slightly and then again with the final km. I knew I was under 5 hours coming into the finishing chute but was very happy to run in 1hr 32 and an overall time of 4hrs 57.15.
Overall, the Vichy swim is well set up and an easy route in and out of both T1 and T2, the only slight unknown is if wetsuits will be permitted for the swim. The bike and run course are both stunning and well supported – aid stations are well positioned and well run. I had a couple of friends doing the full IM on the Sunday so we stuck around to watch and support – again the full seems like an excellent event (two laps of the half course for the bike and run).
I’d targeted Vichy 70.3 as my A race for the year, and following a change of jobs in April, then Stafford 70.3 in the middle of May I decided I needed some help with scheduling training and making sure I was heading in the right direction; which is where Steve comes in. I haven’t been with Steve all that long but from the start it has gone well. I’d explained what I was trying to achieve and Steve set out training to suit my goals and work around trips away and times when I wouldn’t have access to a bike or a pool.
It’s been hugely helpful having the ‘having to think about it’ taken on by Steve, and just grinding through some sessions knowing if sessions are ticked off then I’m heading in the right direction. It was also reassuring when I couldn’t squeeze sessions in that Steve would move things around to suit and remove the less important sessions to ease the schedule slightly.
Having gone sub-5 hours and having felt very comfortable to the end of the run, it certainly seems to have worked. I’ll look forward to working out my 2018 events and working with Steve to see how I can achieve the best possible results.