IM France–Tres Bien

This is one of the approximately 3 French phrases I picked up last week while in Nice for IM France; it means “very good”. But, from start to finish, everything about my trip to France, including the race, was better than very good–it was amazing! For a first long day back in the office, a 5th place finish and Kona spot was a welcome reward!

The second I stepped off the plane in France, I was met at the airport by my homestay host and contact at Aquasphere, Lindsay, who whisked me away to her gorgeous villa in the hills just South of Nice. As an added bonus, her husband, Simon, is an avid cyclist who not only took me on guided rides of the course, but also drove me around the entire course so I could preview it before the race. Oh yeah, did I mention he is also a gourmet chef?! The meals were so good that I started joking that it must be a conspiracy plan to fatten me up that he’d designed with Alexadra Louison, the adorable and very tiny French pixie who won last year’s race; ) With that sort of 5 star treatment, the days flew by, and before I knew it, it was time for race day.

I had a lot of both nervous energy and excitement heading into this race. Fortunately, I had Coach Paul to keep me in check with a smart race plan, full of process (or pr-O-cess, as the Canadians say) goals. Rather than focusing on times, places, or Hawaii slots–the outcomes by which we all usually judge races, my objectives were based around things that I could totally control. Things like finding a good draft on the swim (big guys that don’t kick), not letting myself go above certain HR zones on the climbs, maintaining good run technique (elbows in, shoulders forward–no more flauntin’ the goods), and staying on top of nutrition and hydration. My mantra for the race was: “conservative, smart, and strong”.

Conservative–Because, in terms of timing, this was maybe a little early. . .I knew I was not the fittest I’ve ever been. Yet. I was looking for a solid day, one which I could learn from, gain fitness and confidence for races later in the season. This meant that I needed to stay in control, rather than going for an earth shattering performance. Big Picture.

Smart–Because it’s important to control what you can control & eliminating mistakes–proper pacing, nutrition, equipment.

Strong–Because a good day depends on staying tough out there from start to finish.  And, anything can happen in Ironman!

I went in with the attitude that if I followed the plan, checked off all of the objective goals we’d identified, then the day would play out how it was supposed to. So, on race morning, I headed to the water nervous, but with a huge smile–just a big day of training.

The swim start was rough–this year there were 1,000 more competitors then when I raced two years ago. While I was glad to have so many friends out there (I consider anyone helping me get to that swim finish a buddy; ), it made for rough going, especially for the first 1,000 yards. I got dunked, kicked, and at one point, someone even grabbed my hand like they were giving a handshake before pulling me under. Brutal. I just zenned out as best I could, reminding myself that we were all just trying to get to that swim exit!

I got out just in front of Laurent Jalabert, the former Tour d’ France rider. . .trust me, it didn’t take him long to fly by me like I was standing still. Even the motorcade seemed to be having difficulty keeping up! Luckily, I was cruising along myself, mostly passing lots of people, occassionally being passed, but keeping things totally under control. After the first flat and fast 10k, the climbing began. I knew we had 21 km of almost constant climbing, some parts steeper than others, but always up. I watched some of the guys take off, I love climbing, love working, and multiple times had to resist the urge to push it. I was checking my HR constantly, keeping it right where it was supposed to be, not taking any chances.

Although I have many IM races left to do, I can’t imagine a more spectacular bike course. We climbed through beautiful historic villages, getting amazing crowd support the entire way. At mile 70, we reached the highest point on the course, and I was feeling good, but pleased about the fact that we had some serious downhill coming.  For a triathlon course, this one is quite technical. If you’re planning on racing this one, 2 words of advice: Road Bike!  My Orbea Diva handled the screaming downhills & hairpin turns no problem, and before I knew it I was back to sea level, cruising back to town along the Promenade d’ Anglais with views of the Mediterranean.

I came off the bike feeling solid, but definitely not fresh. It was quite hot, and even though I’d been conservative on the ride, as my friend Dean put it, “there’s no way to do that ride easy”. I set off on a very controlled pace, with a four loop out and back course there were plenty of spectators and opportunities to see other athletes. I  finished the first two loops feeling  great energy -wise, but the quads were definitely starting to go.  At  the start of the third loop, the legs  were no longer starting to go, they’d  went. . .  By  the last 5k, I  was running with a gait not unlike what I imagine P am Reed looks like in the last few miles of Badwater: )

After last year’s struggles with chronic fatigue, crossing the finish line of this race will always remain one of my happiest moments.  While I know there is a lot of work still to be done, this race was a great stepping stone for me.  I owe many thanks to Andy, my family, friends, and sponsors–K-Swiss, Aquasphere, Vida Tea, LifeSport, Orbea, TechnoSweat, B&L, Clif Bar–thank you all for your love & support.

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13 Responses to “IM France–Tres Bien”

  1. Bree Says:

    You are amazing! What a wonderful race for a wonderful person! Your attitude was the whole reason your day went well and you got that Kona slot… way to be katya!

    AND… I can not thank you enough that before your BIG day you had time to think of me and send that care package… you MADE my day… you totally deserve that joy you got from the finish line!

    See you in Canada and in Kona…

  2. E Swanson Says:

    SWEET! AWESOME KAT! I was cheering for you from CA! I am so, so HAPPY for you. Sounds like an amazing experience, one you will never forget. Those are the BEST! Way to be!

    See you in a couple weeks!

    E

  3. beth Says:

    hey katya-
    what a fantastic return to ironman!….i was in the pool the other day and huxley was chatting w/someone (john maybe? don’t know his name) in my lane…they were so stoked you got your kona slot and i was glad to hear the news!

    hope all is well…let’s do a long run and easy swim soon!

  4. Lifeguard Jeff Says:

    Rather impressed with the blog, as much as the serious ‘on-holiday’ swim workout I witnessed today.

    So I wonder if you gained a “French 15” with all that gourmet fOOd (as they say in Canada also??)? Or did you contain yourself according to your control techniques and coach’s protocol? Or did you did say “qu’est-ce que” and defeat the odds by raw inner performance?

    Support for your continued drive, strength, career moves and Hawaii…

    Par excellance!

  5. Roland, www.xtriathlon.com Says:

    Hi Katya
    Félicitations ! In 2006 you finished 4th, but was not very know here in France. This year was completly different, and we’ve discovered you…
    What about next year ?
    See you in Nice !
    Roland
    Ps : Your race-report is online on xtriathlon…

  6. AC Says:

    Hey KM,

    Great update. It sounds like you had a true lifetime experience. That is a reward all it’s own but, with a Kona slot to boot? Faggetabout it!

    Hope you’re going good.

    L8R SK8R

  7. Dave Says:

    Très très bien Katya ! So you speak French now! You have yet some difficulties with French names: “Louison” and “Jalabert”, be careful!!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the race and won your slot! It was a really hot afternoon on the Promenade, wasn’t it? I finished 670th in 11h53, not bad for my 1st IM… but not good enough to visit Hawaii…

    I wish you to enjoy your following races, especially in Kona, and I hope to see you again (for a few seconds) in Nice.

    Je t’embrasse

    David.

    XXX

  8. AJ Foster Says:

    Great blog Kat! Between the excitement of finishing 5th, getting your Kona slot, and the great description of each step of the race you must be on cloud nine right about now! Congrats on all of your accomplishments and your huge step from your sub par year last year to what is going to be a memorable year to say the least this year. Recover well, keep smiling, and race hard… you’re going to be great Katya!

    -A.J.

  9. Rachel Ross Says:

    Katya,

    Great race report, and CONGRATULATIONS! I love that you too have to make fun of Coach P’s PRO-cess goal pronunciation. You made me want to race France one day.. nice job! See you in Kona..

    Rachel

  10. TGP Says:

    I wonder if this course is the same when I did Long Course Worlds in 2001? It sounds very familar, even the switchbacks, like 14 of them. Yikes!
    Anyway, congratulations! Sounds like you are having a really good season!!

  11. Shauki Says:

    Hi Katya,

    I recently came to know about this site. I read some of your posts, especially the last one. Awesome job! I am very happy for you. Your attitude is great, and that is more than 50% of the equation. I will send you an email as well, so be on the lookout for it 🙂

    You are an awesome athlete, and you are ways from peaking, so keep at it and enjoy it, I know you can kick some …. on the run, even faster than what you did in Niece. I wish I can be in Kona to see you, but you know me, it would be hard to be there and not race:( If by some miracle, they let me race, you will get a laugh 🙂

    Shauki

  12. David Belden Says:

    Nice work! Congrats on the great race, the kona spot, and the fantastic write up. A pleasure to read! We’ve gotta get you back up to Nor Cal soon. 🙂

    -David

  13. Bruce Stewart Says:

    I stumbled across your site as I regularly read Bree’s. That was an amazing account of the race. As you started off it seemed like you almost drowned with all those people grabbing on to you, but you just took everything as part of your training and came out on top. Your story gives me a lot of inspiration for the various things I am trying to accomplish in my life like be a better swimmer and just cope with making a living. I was pleased to read about what Coach P. gets his athletes to focus on. These process goals apply to all of us, and wherever we are at. Well done. So you won’t have to fight Bree tooth and nail for a Kona slot at IMC. That’s one less person she has to worry about.

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