5:44:07 – 27th Mens Pair, 35th overall
~ 40k running, 9.7k swimming
This report really has to start the day before to give it proper context. So… last night was going to be our last night in Cannes since Rachel and I had to get back after the race on the Sunday as I had lectures first thing Monday morning. This meant that we wanted to go out and enjoy ourselves a little.
Following the briefing (which I’m trying to erase from my memory as it went on, didn’t tell us anything we couldn’t have read about and told us nothing about the stuff that wasn’t available online. ) we met up with Lotte and Rachel to head to an Italian restaurant to have dinner with Marc and his family. It was a lovely meal. Marc and, his daughter, Alice had had a great day, as had we and we were buzzing. Apparently, one diner thought we were far too loud and absolutely lost it. Screaming in french at the top of his voice. We had no idea what was going on other than some lady seemed pretty upset and then left. It was most bizarre but didn’t spoil our evening.
We left Marc and his family to head home but as we passed Le Martinez we decided to have a last drink. It was a lovely out door bar with a english couple playing live music. This meant two bottles of red later Andy and I are back at the apartment cracking open a beer whilst we sort out our kit not getting to bed till 1am.
The 6am alarm call confirmed it might not have been the best approach as Andy and I discussed how tired we were over our scrambled eggs.
We had to catch a ferry at 7:45am to an island where we had a nearly hour wait for the start. We found a quiet bench and sat there mostly yawning.
I think the lack of sleep, lead to a little apathy and some very bad decision making. We managed to convince ourselves that we should just start at the back of the field and race through. We, kind of, justified it to ourselves by saying my toe was pretty uncomfortable so a slow start would be wise.
The gun goes and it doesn’t take too long for us to cross the line. My toe is not great and it’s making me run funny. We discuss how I need to be careful not to run differently and create another issue. I concentrate and soon it’s not too bad. We look at our pace and it’s 4:45 per KM so it doesn’t seem that slow back here. Then it grinds to a walking pace. We hadn’t realised the path would narrow and go round some trickier sections. This was now rather frustrating.
After about 3k there was a 700m swim which was beautiful. We had a few people to get through and it was carnage near then end as several sighting challenged pairs converged on us and one in particular who, tethered, went pretty much perpendicular and in to a boat. Stopping completely and between the two of them and their tether managed to stop us and several other pairs. I was not impressed.
We then did a full circuit of an island before reversing the previous swim and back round the other half of the first island. The water was beautiful and clear giving great views of sea grass and all sorts of fish. The running on the islands was fantastic on lovely easy trails (in the most part) with plenty of room to pass. This brought us to one of the longer swims of the day, 1.5km back to the mainland.
The sighting was pretty tricky with no intermediate sighting buoys. Initially I just had to trust that everyone else was going about the right direction and follow the pink swim tow buoys we’d been given to blow up and use (not mentioned in the briefing – though it wouldn’t have helped if it had been). So far across I spotted the exit flag and stopped following the other swimmers. At this point a mixed couple edged by. Wow! This had never happened before. I got on their feet and it was ace. Luckily for us she wasn’t towing the buoy as it seemed to be right above the back of her knees. Also, her shoes were crossed and right above the water, it looked like perhaps she was towing them. Even more intrigued. I sped up to take a look. It looked like they’d rigged the tow buoy to provide some extra floatation. Then she had a pull buoy between her shins. The net effect was to bring her feet right out of the water. I dropped back on her feet and cruised along quite in awe every time I felt the puddle of water coming of the guys paddles.
His sighting was slight erratic, so at one point I decided to go my own way and see. It was soon obvious that even with his slight weaving he was pulling ahead, so we surged again to get back on and stayed there virtually to the exit.
Now we were on the mainland and it was like an extended version of yesterdays race. The route though typically used the swims to avoid the most congested parts of town. When we were running it was a good pace. A lot was below 5 min / k and certainly it seemed about the fastest we’ve run in these sort of events. It was encouraging as we were moving through the field.
The first swim on the mainland was the same as yesterdays first swim. No disconnecting tether issues this time but there was an annoying solo swimmer – in swim run wetsuit, wearing an Otillo cap but no bib or chip – on the course and getting in the way.
The second swim along the shore was the longest on the course at 2.2km. My arms started to suffer and it certainly dragged. From quite a way out I’d spotted a great land mark for the exit (a high rise block) so was able to take a straight line across the shallow bay. It was rather frustrating that on two occasions we had a marshal in boat gesture at us to tell us where the exit was. Each time it stopped us in order to tell us we were going the right way.
Next up was the first climb of the day. It was very hot now so we got our wetsuits down. We’re pretty efficient at this now. We keep running and take it turns whilst the other holds all the paddles, hats etc… This run weaved it’s way up to a cross at the top of a hill. The views were stunning. As we contoured round the top a lady from a mixed team came by on her own. I matched her pace and asked where her partner was. She didn’t know and seemed a little upset, sounded like he’d just run off. He wasn’t at the next aid station where a marshal stopped her.
The descent from here was great, down, up and through a castle, then through the old town along pedestrian streets packed with people. It was clear why they told us not to tether for the urban sections!
Next up was a long swim right back along the beach we had swim and run out along. There was a green buoy which we had to go to the left of. Following this buoy I could see the exit flag so headed straight for it. After about 500m a kayak cut right in front of us. I stopped and said “I can see the exit flag” – he kept indicating to go in. Then said “you need to go round the green buoy”. I looked back, saw it and said “Oh!”. He was funny, replying “Yes! Oh!”. I made to head back to it but he shouted “Allez allez” and indicated to keep going. I decided to do what I felt was fair and swam perpendicular to the flag till I was back on course. As we exited, I told Andy what I’d done (he hadn’t realised), then we ran by the Race Director, Michael. I told him we’d missed the second green buoy. He replied “Don’t worry about that. I really appreciate you telling me.”
Now we were back on the course from yesterday. The big long climb was not so bad now we knew what to expect. We were going strong and passed three pairs at the top of the steep bit. The technical descent didn’t seem anywhere near so bad and before we knew it we were back at the aid station on the shore at “Willy beach”. Now in yesterdays race I’d come through there and not noticed it was a nudist beach. I had been rather surprised when on Saturday night people were asking if I’d seen all the ‘willys’ and ‘boobs’. This time I made a point of looking and was staggered I’d completely missed it the previous day. The naturists were quite getting in to the race with a large crowd of them opposite the aid station cheering us rather enthusiastically. All bouncing up and down in their different ways.
The entry was changed very slightly from the sprint so we had to clamber round some rocks to a rather high jetty which we decided was too high to risk jumping so we slid down the slippy rock. As we sorted paddles we saw another pair jump in and get their tether caught round an anchor on the jetty so it was very taut when they were in the water. They were lucky someone behind could free it and very lucky their tether wasn’t shorter – the drop was ~ 6 feet and with a short tethered could have caused a serious injury.
The rest of the course was swim heavy and my arms actually started to feel better. We clawed in more teams through this 1km swim at the end of which we were greeted by enthusiastic cheers from Lotte, Rachel, Mark, Hilary and Alice. They had a car so drove along side cheering as we jumped from rock to rock along the sea defences. I focussed on not getting distracted. Then 800m run before the next decent swim where we passed a couple more pairs. We slowly reeled in and got slightly ahead of a female pair but they hit the beach ~ 20m before the flag and ran so ended up ahead of us. This rather annoyed me and though we typically don’t go chasing down female pairs I decided we should make an exception here. We ran hard and got ahead. Then swam the first 100m flat out and got a decent enough gap so we could enjoy the final 100m run to the line.
Yet again another great swim run race which we want to do again. In fact, I’m, not sure we’ve ever not wanted to re-do races we’ve done.
Part of the reason for racing was to try and get a high enough ranking to get back to the World Champs in Sweden on merit. The points have gone up and it’s certainly looking good: