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Monday, September 30, 2013

Tribelles. Belle triathletes, belle site, belle information.

It may seem from a quick glance here that I have dropped off the planet this year. No blogs and no race results. I am still writing, just less about me and more about the sport or sports that I love.

Tribelles, my new site targeting women triathletes is in it's early days, but it is up and running. Check it out here.

http://tribelles.com/

It is being developed by myself in collaboration with some of my tri friends and some of Rob's design and technology friends, for women either wanting to get going or go faster and enjoy the sport even more than they are now.

I am loving designing it and writing the articles, although the actual build and some of the logistics are driving me back to my bike for a breather in the real world in between online world challenges. The current site is on a very simple blog base so apologies for limited functionality just now. But wait, there will be more! Coming to a website very near you, very soon is the new cool site which has great forum capability, ability to upload all your training technology (Garmins, Polar, Strava...), tailored and standard program designs, online challenges, competition and more. I am excited about it, I hope you will be too.

If you like the content and articles, please share them with your friends. My goal is to build a strong, broad, global women's triathlon community so we can all learn from each other, share great tips, knowledge and stories and help more women add triathlon to their life or keep it in their life in a really fun, healthy and sustainable way.

As for me, this year to keep triathlon sustainable in my life I took a year away from racing and training seriously. I am loving exploring my fitness and region in different ways, maintaining a good fitness base but using it to do new things. So far this year I have tried my

  • first long course xc ski series, The Haute-Savoie Challenge
  • first marathon, not at the end of an ironman, in Paris last Spring
  • first cyclosportif, La Marmotte riding 188k around the Haute Alps finishing on the mythic Alpe D'Huez after first crossing the Glandon and the Telegraph/Galibier/Lauteret.
  • first skyrunning race, the kilometer vertical at Manigod (1,000m up in 3.5m horizontal!)
  • first trail race, the 42k / 3,000m + Aravis Trail in our valley
  • first high alpine mixed (rock and ice) climbing trip, traversing two different ridges on the Mt Blanc Massif
  • first SBPnoR race (!!!) skate, bike, SUP paddle and absolutely never, no, not even think about running race. I skipped across the finish. 

I have also got myself back on a mountain bike for the first time since the BC era (Before Children) and loving exploring the many magical trails around the valley both with and without Rob and the kids who are also right into their MTBs now too. Next year I may even have a go at an offroad race or MTB race. La Clusaz now hosts a great annual race weekend, the Roc des Alps each year.

Although I was racing skate skiing over winter, I also spent a large amount of time just wooping my way down the slopes, on and off piste last year thanks to a truly wonderful, long and deep ski season. Not much fitness comes from downhill skiing but loads of ear to ear smiles do, so Rob and I got our fill of them in the powder of La Balme and L'Etale. The boys joined us every opportunity they could too.

What I haven't done! I hardly ever run at the track now doing "serious" sessions, haven't felt like swimming much this year and think I have looked at the black line in earnest less than 5 times and my turbo has only gathered dust for over 12 months as despite being an awesome training tool and mandatory for cycling here in winter as we live above the snow line, I decided that if it is not nice for a ride outside, I don't ride. There is always something else I can do that is more enjoyable.

Enjoying new challenges this year!
If I was looking at performance progression as a key indicator for my year it would not have been a great one. However I am delighted to have taken a year out, as I have had a ball, remembered how much fun just being out there is when you are not spending all your time looking at your heart rate, pace or thinking about technique progression. I have explored many areas especially up high in the mountains in the region I live, and got to do things I have thought about but not had time to try when time was completely devoured by structured swim, bike or run sessions or recovery from them.  Now I am ready to meld some of the mentality of this year of doing things for the pure joy of the experience and feeling fit and healthy with a bit of the grit, determination and pleasure from doing things really well that enabled my progression in triathlon. Hopefully it will blend into a good mix! I have signed up to Roth next year so will be back in the land of competitive tri from the start of the European season. For now that means packing my swimmers in today and reminding myself which direction the pool is!

So as the best in the long course world line themselves up for Kona this week, I am starting my 9 month journey to toe a start line again next year in Germany. I am fit, healthy and happy after a great year off. 12 months ago when I finished my last ironman distance triathlon in Barcelona I was anything but. I had become exhausted, a bit physically and mentally burnt out and sick of the constant discipline and competitive fire that drove me. Now I have slotted back into a very healthy discipline, training a good amount each week, keeping really fit and enjoying it, eating well and even trying to finally learn to sleep a decent amount each night (my weakness!). I have learnt to be far more relaxed and adaptable to fit in extended family holidays without my bike, take days off when I am tired, make myself get out and amongst it when I am just feeling slack and integrate the family more and more into my physical activities. It won't be long before I am chasing them, not the other way around!

I am also looking forward to re-entering triathlon with one eye from "the balcony", observing what I am experiencing, not just experiencing it "from the dancefloor". I have been doing that more and more this year and enjoying writing about my observations on Tribelles or for running and cycling publications in Australia and the USA. So keep one of your eyes on Tribelles and you can join me for the journey. I can promise to be honest, generally can be entertaining even if by accident thanks to my ability for occasional misadventure and will do my best to be insightful and informative to help you progress and enjoy your adventures in sport.

À bientôt
Christine

Monday, April 15, 2013

When I grow up I want to be a ....? Time to work it out again.

If you have followed the previous posts you may know that last September I decided to farewell racing triathlon at the pro / elite level. So after three years of training and coaching, I am now training purely for pleasure and health and have time enough to start something new for work.

As I am based in a small village in the French Alps I don't have the unlimited corporate business options of a big city to chose from, but compensating for this I also have some pretty unique opportunities I can progress. For now I am busy building a website dedicated to female triathletes, multisports and adventure racers, swimmers, runners and/or cyclists. I am loving designing and planning it but am impatiently waiting for the launch and working with some great designers and web builders to do so. I'll keep you posted. It is coming to a computer, tablette or smartphone near you very soon.

So today, when I saw this link on a friend's Facebook I really enjoyed it. It reminded me that the uncertainly I feel right now is okay, and that if I keep setting goals and working hard to achieve them, it doesn't matter that my plans are not obvious in a school or university career support person's sort of a way, or even completely clear to me yet. They are emerging goals that have a clear kernel of purpose but will germinate into life in a manner based on a whole range of factors still being provided. So time to add water, light, nutrients and do some weeding and tending to my seedlings. Hopefully with a lot of hard work along with a bit of patience I can find a path to a new role that adds real value to others and provided some back to me, all doing something that I love.

Alan Watts "What would you do if money were no object?"

A great story of someone who followed their dreams and became the best they could be, which became their life and livelihood is Kilian Jornet a Catalan ski mountaineer and runner. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up he responded as follows,

"A lake counter. When I grow up, I want to be a lake counter! The teacher took her eyes from the board, where she was writing a list of the professions that the children in the class wanted to be when they grew up, and gazed over at my desk. 

That's right, a lake counter. But I won't only count how many there are. I'll go up into the mountains and when I find a lake I'll see how deep it is by throwing a stone into the middle of the water, tied to a rope, and I'll see how many paces long and wide it is. Where the rivers that flow into it come from. And where the ones that flow out of it go. I'll see whether there are any fish, or frogs, or tadpoles. And whether the water is clean or not. —Rosa looked at me in even greater surprise: it was not the job that most five-year-olds wish for, but I was quite sure of myself. It was my destiny...

I think that was one of the few times I have said “I want to be”. I have always been more one of those people who say “I'll try...”. I have always been a shy person, and I have always thought it was best to let things take their course, that everything would be alright in the end. So I let things take their course, and my destiny made everything alright in the end.

This quote comes from his blog. The link to his full blog is here if you would like to read more.

Kilian Jornet - Run or Die

It was his destiny and for Kilian, it did work out alright in the end. Today he must count very fast as he holds multiple world champion titles in both skyrunning (mountain running) and alpine ski mountaineering and has won many of the greatest global races in each. He has become one of the greatest mountain men of this generation and a source of inspiration to many with sponsorship deals, book sales, prize money and other rewards that hopefully allow him to live out his dreams for the rest of his days.  I was lucky enough to meet him briefly running in the Chamonix Valley last year. Here is a picture I look of him heading up to Lac Blanc, obviously still counting those lakes!

My quote of the week has another great example from John Lennon of a kids response to a teacher's request for what they want to be when they grow up.

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

Enjoy your day. I hope you are spending it doing something you love too. If not, promise me to take a moment to consider what you want to be when you grow up or ask your kids what it is that they really love and what it is they would like to be.

À bientôt 
Christine

Monday, January 28, 2013

Earth to Christine. Come in please Christine.

Christine here. Sorry ground control, I've been orbiting in space for a while, out of range to all but the closest around me. Now finally I feel like fixing the reception to the rest of the world.

So what has been happening? I last wrote here in September as I headed off for my last race of the season in Barcelona, having decided that it would be my last race in the professional ranks as I was wanting to retire at the end of the 2012 European season. Now, 4 months later I am gainfully retired from racing, recovered from a profound exhaustion that hit at the end of the season and ready to take on some new adventures.

Sorry for the outage but it was important for me to recover properly after the end of last season, spend some time focused solely on those in my inner orbit and building some exciting new opportunities. Watch this space, Tribelles a new website offering advice, a community forum and fun and interesting stories from and for female triathletes all around the world is coming online to a computer near you very soon.

Meanwhile a few of my fellow triathletes and good coaching sites have been writing some great articles so in part as an apology for my lack of writing over the past few months here are a few I particularly liked. 

The first one is by Rachel Joyce about losing your mojo at this time of year. My mojo went on holidays for a while after my season ended through a combination of fatigue and a simple preference to spend time with my family doing little not always heading off training, racing or taking on the next big thing. I am back doing some training just for fun now but have also re-engaged my mojo in a wide range of new adventures. Rachel, coming off the back of an awesome season but with a disappointing Kona has some interesting thoughts.

Rachel Joyce writes about missing mojos

Given that this time of year is the perfect time to review and correct any form errors in your technique here are two options to get you going, one for the run and one for the swim from two of my favourite commentators, Bobby McGee for the run and Swim Smooth for the swim.

Bobby McGee's Running Form Video

It's a great time to do a time trial now to determine your Critical Stroke Speed (CSS) rate. A 400m and 200m TT will give you your current CSS from which you can appropriately baseline your training speeds. It is also a great pre-season point from which you can measure your progress as your training. Try and redo a TT every 6 weeks or so to ensure you are training at appropriate speeds for your current conditioning and efficiency.

Swim Smooth Time trial

Lastly for all those based in the UK, Germany, France, USA, Canada... suffering cold, wet and icy road conditions and short days, you may be needing some fun turbo sessions. Personally I've ditched the bike this winter replacing it entirely with cross country skiing and running. If I was racing seriously in 2013 I would need to be doing plenty of these sessions but to be honest, this year I'm happy not to partake. You can do an extra session or three for me! Personally I like (liked) starting and finishing my sessions on rollers to keep me focused and my bike handling skills in good shape with the really solid efforts on a turbo in the middle. On steady sessions I tend to stay on the rollers throughout.

Turbo sessions from Bike Radar

So wishing you all a fantastic 2013! May you find and follow your mojo to great success this year.

À bientôt
Christine

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Every end provides a beginning. Completing the circle in Spain.

This weekend I'm heading to Spain to finish my season off at the Challenge Maresme Barcelona iron distance race. I'm looking forward to it for lots of reasons. Here are a few;

Starting and finishing the ride in Spain at Challenge Barcelona
  • It was my first ironman race (also my first marathon and first pro race) back in 2010 and I really enjoyed the experience. Somehow I managed to come 8th in 10:13 and generally got hooked on all that iron distance racing offers; the preparation, lead up nerves, the highs and lows of the race itself, elation and relief after, the community of positive, driven souls involved and even the sore body to recover that testifies the extent to which you put it all out there on the day.
  • I love Spain, the people, their openness and friendliness especially to children, the food, proximity to the ocean (in Calella anyway), sun, aridness of the southern region and the fun of being somewhere where language is not really an option for communication again as my Spanish is next to non-existant. This year I have started and finished my season at Spanish races and put another one in the middle.
  • There is a strong pro women's field lining up for the race, including a number of friends, so it should be a good challenge that I am feeling fit and ready for (even if a touch end of seasonish) to chase a good time and place outcome.
  • It is the last race of the 2012 season so afterwards I get to have a break, stopping off at Carcasonne/ Narbonne with the kids on the way back and then coming home and relaxing for a few weeks. I know I am mentally and physically ready for some time out, after racing 11 times since April including 4 iron distance races.
  • Once this is done I think...... that pro level racing for this "girl" may be done. Although I love my fitness and health and have no plans to give up on training and racing as an integral part of my life, I think that this will be my last full season racing in the pro ranks. It has been a blast. An awesome opportunity that, coming as I did to triathlon (and competitive sport) in my very late 30s, I had never anticipated and yet have hugely enjoyed. After three seasons focused on the sport, a few factors are conspiring to move me onwards. I really need to have enough time and energy to support the family needs, especially my two lovely boys who I care for solo during the weekdays due to my husbands work, I am ready to spend more energy helping others develop rather than just myself and also I do have my age creeping up into the 40s.  As yet it hasn't slowed me down, although it does probably put a cap on how much further I can expect to progress, particularly when added to my family's needs. I am no 28 yo single chick who has undistracted time, energy and focus to throw into the sport.
  • Onwards and upwards. I see this as an opportunity to refocus my energies, not a loss or full stop to be mourned. Although I have truly loved competing at the highest level, I will keep training for pleasure as I hope I have (nearly) always done, and may take the opportunity to try some new things to keep up the motivation but from a different angle, starting with some cross country ski races this winter and possibly mixing in some trail running next year. All good excuses to keep spending plenty of time in our beautiful mountains.
  • I'm also looking forward to having more time to help others rather than primarily myself develop in triathlon, enjoying the progression and rewards physically, mentally and emotionally that the sport/s offer. I have really enjoyed the triathlon camps I have been coaching at in the Aravis for a few years now but wish to add a few new layers to this, both face to face and online. Watch this space, more coming soon. 
On course Challenge Barcelona, 2010
For now time to get my head, heart and body prepared for the challenge that is Challenge Barcelona. Tomorrow we leave for Spain. The journey of my pro tri career started there in 2010 and will likely finish there this weekend. It seems appropriate. Wish me luck. Right now I'm just hoping my immune system is in good shape as we've had a weekend with Jackson really unwell with a gastro and cough combo. He has bounced back fast in usual form and so far no one else is showing any symptoms. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

A huge thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way these past few years as I have had this opportunity to race as a pro; family, coaches, sponsors, friends, team mates, fellow triathletes, home stay friends, race organisers .... It has been a ride! One more circuit, at full throttle. Barca here we come!



À bientôt / See you soon

Christine

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Embrun, a true enDURance race

On the bike course at Embrun. Très dur!
Ironman races are not meant to be easy. I certainly have never found them to be anything but long, hard days. Challenging, rewarding, delving deeper within than average experiences allow, but always hard, or as the French say, "dur".  If you are feeling great on race day, you just go faster so push harder to get into the sustainably uncomfortable work zone. If you are doing it tough anyway due to weather, illness, poor preparation ... then it will be a long time before you will be back in the comfort zone of normal life. Even in irondistance races though, there are those that were designed to be harder than most. Some of the variables to mix up the formula to a stronger brew include heat, wind, hills or even cultural/travel challenges like time zones, food, language, familiarity etc.

Embrunman, is the double expresso of irondistance racing. It clearly has been both designed, and is served with pride in being the toughest race on offer. In a style that is a bit quirky as with many elements of the race, it is offered each year on the 15th of August (Assumption Day), whatever day of the week that happens to fall on. This year it was a Wednesday. You may well need Mary's heavenly intervention to race it as it is a different level of challenge to the average. It is almost the antithesis of the relatively fast, city based, prepackaged, international flavoured, WTC endorsed, glossy brochure prepped, Mdot managed affair I last attempted in Zurich. 

Embrun is the perfect location to host such an epic. It is no new concept as it has been serving a long distance triathlon race here for 29 years now. The town centre is a gorgeous old stone settlement surrounding the initial hubs of the cathedral, monastery and hospital. It is perched on a flat area on top of a cliff above a huge lake, tucked in a valley between the mountains of the Parc National des Ecrins and the main range of the Alps that divides Italy from France, +4000m both directions. However this race throws out a few bonus challenges besides the obvious less than flat environment.

The only flat bit, the swim commences at 5:50am for the women and 6:00am for the men who obviously needed a few more minutes of beauty sleep! Sunrise on race day was not until 6:46am so you start in the pitch black following a small flashing light on the back of one kayak that moves at the pace of the lead bunch. The far buoy had a small flasher on it so could be seen once you are within about 50m of it. Not so helpful to me as I had fallen behind the lead women's group led by Juliette Benedicto, Bella Bayliss and Erica Csomor by the first buoy. I managed to get stuck between the first two women's groups so had the very weird experience of swimming most of the two laps in the dark by myself. It was very calm and quite lovely swimming alone with almost no visual references, on super still, warm 22o lake water. It was easy to focus on stroke quality but harder to fire all systems to race pace without the usual adrenaline boosting hubbub of elbows and feet all around me. There were of course others on the lake (1000 or so swimmers plus kayaks etc) but other than a ref / race boat coming and telling me I was heading off course at one point and a few small groups of the faster men passing me on the second lap, I really had to find my own way and keep my focus.

On the first major descent back to the lake
Out onto the bike course and the natural challenges and beauty of the region unveiled themselves km by km. The first 44k loop around the northern section of Lac de Serre-Poncon and back to Embrun is a nice warm up with some relatively short but solid inclines and a really fun,  fast descent back to the lake. The cross winds on the bridge were not too bad at this time of day. Once on the southern side of the lake the morning winds faced us as we headed up the valley for the next 30k or so to Mt Dauphin. This was a part of the course I knew well having ridden it a couple of times last year on Epic Camp (it is also the Embrun OD course) so I enjoyed vying with a few girls and getting into my bike groove. I got to head back past town where I collected the great energy boost as I passed the boys and Rob by the roundabout where we turned towards our next major obstacle, Col d'Izoard.

Nutrition is one of Embrunman's added bonus challenges. Unlike the standard Mdot, Powerbar sponsored affairs, Embrunman is a race where simply finding out where the aid stations are seems to be a well kept secret only known to those who have raced there before or know some secret handshake/Haute Alps code. The aid station locations are not marked in the brochure or online info. Even in the race briefing they flicked up a slide with the locations for a total of about 0.5 seconds. Just long enough to realise there were some big gaps between some of them. I did however spot a piece of paper stuck to a desk by the registration with details of the locations that I quickly photographed into my iphone and later transcribed onto the course map with the help of an independently created online bike route map, as there are no km markings on the official race provided course maps.

Even bike racking is a bit bizarre
What is provided at these aid stations is yet another mystery. The online info was great in it's English version. It seemed that granny bars were available in transition and salty sandwiches were provided in the swim?! Despite being a "masters" category athlete I am not yet a granny, or particularly fond of sandwiches while swimming, salty or not. Even the French version seemed sketchy in detail. Nuts, dried fruit, fruit and salty potatoes were the solids listed as being offered at some aid stations with some foods and drink only offered in an aid station near the transition area which is not so helpful on a one lap bike course. It was not specified which stations had solids on offer except the there was food at the one on top of the col as well as a special needs station. Coke, water and a homemade isotonic drink were offered for liquids. Some aid stations offered "sports drink" as well which turned out to mean Gatorade in bottles that were too small for the standard bidon holder. All bidons had to be exchanged for good environmental reasons within the aid station areas. However some stations were really short and on fast sections of the course, so it made the need for very slick, focussed handovers, especially if you needed two bottles to be replaced in one station.

By the turn up to Guillestre I was working hard to keep both energy and hydration up, knowing how important it would be to getting to the run in good shape on such a long, hot day. Early on the bike course I had already sampled some of the homemade electrolyte drink provided. It tasted pretty good and I would guess was about 4% concentration which suited me. However it was a mystery as to what was in it, how many carbs, salt etc you got as well as how your body would react to it. Not a great place to test something new, but not many alternatives out there as the Gatorade was too hard to keep given the bottle sizes and only offered at a couple of stations anyway, I don't like coke on the bike leg and water wasn't an option for such a long hot day. My guess from tasting the drink is that it was a mix of lemon juice, salt and sugar/honey. Luckily my body was fine with it, but it was pretty varied in strength, saltiness, sweetness and even volume provided in the standard bidon. No gels or bars were provided on course so any nutrition had to be carried or put into the special needs bag for collection on top of the Col d'Izoard and needed to be robust enough to cope with hours of preheating in the sun. 

The day was heating up as we headed up the stunning gorge that marks the proper start of the 16k climb to the top of the Col d'Izoard (2,360m). Following a river upstream was both teasing as well as being cooling. Unfortunately I also found our next major challenge here, a slightly annoying one. Supporters cars vyed with the bikes racing up the very narrow roads that were cut out of the walls of the gorge or through tunnels under them. It was a dangerous mix and totally unnecessary. Personally I think supporters really should have waited to watch their friends from safer vantage points like Briançon or many little towns on the way back from there where you didn't need to drive on the narrow bike course at the same time as those racing to access the route. Last year a friend of mine was knocked off this course and out of the race when hit by a car turning across the racers. He was in 7th place at the time and in great shape. One dream unfulfilled thanks to some careless driver.

Near the top of the Izoard and still enjoying the ride
I felt great ascending the Izoard. I knew it was going to be a good day as I climbed strongly up the final few hairpins through the forest before it opens up at the top into the arid, rock pinnacles of the haute dessert. I felt that I was riding well within myself despite slowly climbing up the top 10 women and should have enough left in the tank for a solid run to hopefully hold or better my position. In fact I was 8th over the col at 100k.

The high desert on Col d'Izoard
I collected my GU gels for the back half of the course, some fresh bottles of "the mix" and a few bits of banana in just a few seconds before using gravity to maximum effect descending fast as I stuffed the food in my back pockets to deal with later. I have learned to descend over the past few years living in the Alps and passed one more girl and many, many guys on the way to Briançon with just two or three heading past me with even greater velocity. It was almost worth a fully vocal whoopety hoot as it is such a fun descent! I held back thinking it was probably not the most professional look, however I still enjoyed a few loud internal yippidee yo's on the way. I also took the opportunity between hairpins and hooting to get some nutrition in, during the straighter bits of the descent and restock the bento box from my pocket for easy access. It was such a warm day I didn't even put my gillet on, something that happens for me (a truly soft Aussie skinned chic) about three times each summer on big descents. I just zipped up my Apres Velo jersey and enjoyed the ride.

The bike had just two challenges and one nice surprise left by the time I hooked left through the roundabouts of fun, vocal crowds in Briançon.
A hot ride back to Embrun into a headwind
The first challenge was the wind. Since we headed up the valley in the morning the wind had shifted and was yet again a headwind, and this time a stronger one as we headed down valley towards Embrun again. I was really careful not to get done drafting so always made sure I was well off the wheel in front as this was a course renowned for umpires that could be a bit one eyed. My recent experience in Alpe D'Huez attested to this risk. Actually here was my pleasant surprise. I ended up having an umpire who decided he liked me as he later said when I saw him after I finished, I always smiled when he passed and was clearly not trying to link up with any other riders to protect myself from the wind. Anyway by the back 50k of the course it was like having a friend supporting on a bike on course as he always gave me the thumbs up or a big smile as he passed. The short steep climbs up the sides of the valley were as expected, tough, hot but not too long. One descent was super loosey goosey with gravel lining each hairpin, but I had sussed that out a few days earlier so no surprises, just a good moment to back off a bit and make sure I got my lines right.
One last hill on the bike course

The final challenge of the bike course was a mental more than physical one. You head back through Embrun at 180k, being teased by being close enough to transition that I saw the lead men out on the run course, including Dan who apparently was so smashed that later in the run he found himself having a little "snooze" in someone's driveway! Anyway I was still one final hill away from the run through and out the opposite side of town. This one was only about 4k to the top but steep and rough, maxing at 22% and utilizing narrow farm roads that would have better suited a mountain bike complete with knobblies! Great to turn at the top though where I saw some road graffiti that said finisher = winner. Very true, and now just the minor detail of a 42.2k trot left so that I could class myself as one. 

One lap down, one to go
The run is two laps around the small protected lake near transition, up a steep path to the town of Embrun  perched on a cliff a few kms away, through the old narrow cobblestone streets past cafes full of supporters or bemused tourists before dropping back down through the veggie patches along the river, crossing the old bridge we rode in on and up the hill in the opposite direction to another village, from where it is nearly all downhill or flat as you head back to transition for another lap. The max grade on the run was +25% so a good challenge to pre-fatigued legs. The day had by then heated up enough to also need to watch out for the melted tarmac sections on the roads. I didn't need to be carrying any more weight on my feet or sticking to the spot!

Nutrition again was interesting with the organisers asking all racers to carry one re-usuable, provided cup, trying to save the 1000s of plastic cups usually used at races and many lost as light blow away rubbish. All a very good idea but somewhat challenging in execution as you worked out where to carry your cup (I opted for upside down in a drinks belt) and it slowed down each aid station. Luckily I was far enough up the field that this really only became an issue by the second lap when the course was much more crowded. There were also significant gaps between some aid stations. I took Erica Csomor's advice and wore a drink belt and then collected two new small flasks of electrolyte at the special needs station at the end of the first lap to bridge the gaps and cover me if I didn't have the chance to collect what I needed. Early in the first lap I was passed by Carla Van Roojen. She went on to post the 2nd fastest run split of the day. Impressive but unfortunately unmatchable by me that day or on that course. However I was happy to find a solid pace and decent form that I held relatively consistently with just a few shortish flat spots during the two laps. The crowds were great and seeing my little but very vocal support crew of the boys, Rob, Tania and Robbie a couple of times each lap was hugely energy boosting too.

The finish was as Embrun-esque as the rest of the race. I finished hot, completely exhausted but happy to have got my pacing right to get to the finish but be ready to fall over at the line, in just under 13hours. I then looked around for a drink and after asking a volunteer or two who seemed surprised by the request, ended up finding the drink station that was on the run course as there was no separate recovery area. Toughen up here kids, if you're done, go sort yourself out! I then collected my truly ugly orange flouro finishers shirt with the three legged man emblazoned on it ("straight to the pool room" with that one!).

Recharging the batteries
So I finished a beautiful, interesting, challenging and very hard Embrunman day. Even better, on a hot and windy day that fueled a 25% DNF or unable to finish due to time cutoffs rate and in a very strong field thanks to one of the largest prize purses on offer, I was able to finish it well. I was happy to be 8th overall femme, 1st veteran femme and in the top 10% of the field (male and female). I was close enough to the top 5 to have heard the 5th place finisher, Carla, who passed me early on the run called through the finish as I went around the lake in my final few kms. All up it was a day best summed up by the word graffitied on the bike course, "Dur". Now I know where the word enDURance comes from. It must have been coined by someone who had been to Embrun on a 15th of August. I am now taking my Duracell batteries for a rapid recharge before my last big race of the season, Challenge Barcelona at the end of Sept.  

A bientôt.

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