Thursday, June 30, 2011

Aussie language lesson

Boucles de Seine was the scene of my second foray into triathlon in France. I was equipped with the mandatory three safety pins, I seared into my memory that I had to rack my bike by its saddle in reverse on completing the cycle leg, and that my race number must be displayed on my back whilst cycling but on my front whilst running. All the French bureaucratic administration was taken care of, it wasn’t going to distract or slow me in this race, nope.

So it was of course with much dismay, that after leading for two thirds of the race, that I stood a metre from the finish line prohibited from crossing it.

Rain had threatened to place an additional challenge to second triathlon, which happened to fall on a long weekend, and only two days after returning from a mission to Mexico. Mercifully, the sun was shining in the morning as I cycled (sans roadside cheer squad) to the Expatries Triathlon Club President’s for my lift out to Boucles de Seine, which is a good part of an hour outside of Paris.

Packed in with President Bob’s lovely wife and two little kids, my Cervelo hung on for dear life, only just, on the hatchback mounted bike rack. One stop en route to adjust the far right leaning and strap slipping bike rack, my bike and I arrived at the race at 12:15pm, with the race scheduled to start at 1pm. Not having picked up my registration kit, I was relying on the French tradition of being fashionable late to buy me some extra time to settle in, get my transition sorted and sufficiently relax before race start.

With a massive queue stretching well outside the registration building, looking at my watch I knew there was no way that it was going to clear in time for the race start. This was partially due to the unique race format of the event. It was a team event, and required each team member to physically present themselves at the registration desk with their triathlon licences in hand.

This was no regular team event though. I wasn’t doing just one leg, nor was I doing the event as a relay. This team event required you and your team members to compete at exactly the same time, working together to be able to register an official team time.

My team consisted of four blokes and I. Bob the club president and Roth ironman, Henry the uber tall American who hadn’t done a tri in about 10 years, Rob who’s new to triathlons, and Richard who had never done a triathlon before. Yep, definitely a formidable bunch. We were, however, all sporting our new club tri suits, which happen to be slightly transparent when wet fluoro green and white – smashing baby!

We finally get into transition at about 12:50pm and President Bob coached the rest of the lads through their set up. We weren’t given any security tags for our bikes, in fact, there was no security and family and friends came and went as they pleased in the transition compound. I surveyed the surrounding bike bling to calculate the probability of Cervelo theft...hmmm relatively high, although surely the TT bike with the carbon race wheels in the next row would be higher on the pecking order than my P2.

Richard, moi, Henry, Bob, Rob
Our team’s wave start was 1:42pm, but of course French style, we didn’t actually start until closer to 2:15pm. This gave us time to walk down to the swim start, and for me to run back to an unmanned transition area to get my spare swim cap as we weren’t provided with any in our registration kits. I least got a little warm up jog in.

The team discussed tactics, would we swim our own races, and then meet at the transition area to ride together to take advantage of drafting, or would we try to also draft off each other, but mainly uber Henry in the water and swim together to then set off as a team for the ride? Decisions! We were told that we only needed three team members at the end of the race to register a time. So this allowed some of the team members to drop off without the entire team being penalised.

I managed to get a quick warm up swim in, whilst a little on the cool side, it was warmer than the 13.8 degrees I experienced in the manky lake of Etamps in my first French triathlon. I warned the boys that I would be at the back of the team pack for the swim. Although I could’ve sworn that the boys were going slightly off course on the leg to the first turning can whilst I tried to maintain the most direct route. Mind you, I could barely call them buoys,more like little party balloons in the water, they were that small and hard to spot, with only two of them over 750m. Sure enough the boys did veer slightly but managed to correct.

As predicted, I was last out of the water, but I wasn’t too far behind the boys. I dashed into transition where they were gathered getting their wetsuits off. I peel mine off, plant my sunnies on my face and am slapping my helmet on when I hear President Bob say “wipe your feet and put your socks on”. What!! “We don’t have time for socks!” I yell as I’m grabbing my bike, “You’ll catch up to me” my voice trailing in the distance as I’m sprinting for the transition exit.

The cycle course was only 18km, and it wasn’t until the 10km mark that the boys finally got to me. President Bob instructed that I tuck in behind to finally use the power of drafting. I pick third spot behind uber Henry....aahh the slight sting in my legs dissipates a little. After a kilometre or two, I notice that my pace is also dissipating, I move up into second position. I’m getting antsy now, as I’m starting to half wheel President Bob, who keeps looking back to see how the team is going. With six kilometres to go, President Bob instructs that I take it home. “Gees thanks” I say, “I’ve only be out here on my own” but I take the opportunity and break away from the pack.

As I’m pushing out the remaining kilometres I notice that I have a 12 year old boy virtually millimetres from my rear wheel, drafting off me nicely. Ok, he was probably 16 years old, but he was definitely sucking my tyre. With a about a kilometre to go, the cheeky bugger slips to the side and passes me. I try to keep with him, attempting to ignore the fact that his legs are fresher than mine thanks to me.

Flying back into transition, I’m preparing myself to perform the time wasting manoeuvre of reverse parking my bike. Helmet thrown down, race shoes on, I grab my cap as President Bob and uber Henry come into transition. I’m making my way to the exit when I realise, thanks also to the instructions from the sidelines being shouted by President Bob’s wife, that I need two team members to exit. I turn back to the boys and start screaming “Hurry up!” and I’m clapping my hands frantically. President Bob looks up and instructs that I go ahead. “I can’t!” I’m yelling back. So for my benefit, the boys run over to the exit, and once again I tell them they’ll catch up to me.

The run course, which was around the lake, could’ve almost been a trail run in some parts. No water stations, as per French standard, I try and focus on getting into a rhythm. ‘The boys will be here soon’, I tell myself. Meanwhile, I spot my 16 year old nemesis, he’s clutching his hamstring. ‘Ah huh, he is weakening, I can crush him...I mean catch him’ I’m encouraging myself. As I passed him, I almost felt sorry for him, and was tempted to say “Allez, allez”, but figured he’d had enough of my help that day and silently drifted passed him.

6th place in the mixed category
My watch beeps at me telling me that I have one more kilometre to go, ‘where are these boys?’ I’m wondering. Only 500 metres now, no boys, 250 metres, still no boys. The three of us have to cross the line together at exactly the same time in order to register a team time. 100 metres to go, I look back, and I can’t see any fluoro green. So yes, I suppose the colour does have its benefits. One metre from the finish line, I hit the stop button on my watch not able to cross over and turn back to wait for my team mates. Having lead on the bike and then the run, I had to wait a further four agonising minutes before President Bob and uber Henry finally turned up. Despite this, our club came 6th in the mixed team category.

And while we were all having fun going around, I taught my team mates a new Australian verb that day - “chicked”.

Chicked

verb

1.       the act of a female competitor comprehensively beating her male counterparts in the same sporting event: wow dude, you got chicked!

Thanks also to my ex-RaboBank team cyclist friend who came to watch, and instructed from the sidelines that I go ‘faster, faster’. If you’re ever wondering how to transport a time trial bike on a vintage MG convertible...this is how. No need for an ice bath following the event, just cruising down the freeway at 100km back to Paris with the top down should do it.

Better than the family hatchback

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