Third time's a charm, right? Well, not quite.
I am extremely pleased with my performance at IM France this year. I swam a little bit faster (still not fast enough, right Tim?), was a little slow on the bike, but had my fastest run ever (2:54) to bring home second place! I learned that, if provoked, I run faster than I think I can. :)
I've done this race the past three years in a row. Why? Well, when I first came in 2013, I previewed the spectacular bike course and was enjoying my time in Nice when my bike was stolen - the day before the race. I managed to get a loaner road bike that didn't fit me well, but I was at least able to complete the race and take home 4th. Last year I didn't have quite the bike mishaps (even though I did accidentally lock it - and my keys - in my rental car for awhile) and managed my first sub-3 marathon to capture 3rd.
I am determined to win this race and I hope the upward trend continues in my favor. The sights, people, sounds, scenery and time of year make this one of my more favorite places ever!
This year I had a minor hitch with my TT bike not showing up from the airline until the day before the race. (Always something with my bike when I come here!) I was feeling good with all three disciplines and just impatient to get the race started. The waiting game the few days before a race are always the worst, isn't it?
Race morning prep went smoothly and into the water we went. This is a two loop course with a short run on the beach between each lap and in past years I have typically been caught by the mass of age groupers by the beginning of the second loop. But not this year. I was nearing 200m left before they caught me, so I figured I had a decent swim time.
That extra minute or so faster in the swim put me in a much better spot on the bike, not having to dodge the groups of cyclists and continually slow down and wait, avoiding a drafting penalty. It was very nice to have a clear course to race. I felt good, not stellar, on the bike but was passing men, so I figured I was alright. Near the top of the first big climb (Col le Ecre) I was passed by Emma Pooley. No shocker there, I figured that would happen at some point. I just wasn't sure if I should try to hang with her or continue my own race. I continued my own race, but in the end she only out-rode me by 4 minutes. In hindsight I wished I would've felt better on the bike than I did to go a little faster, but it is what it is.
Onto the run. Emma and I came out of transition together, she was a few steps ahead. She started running 6:00-6:20 pace and I think both she and I were hoping this pace wouldn't last too long! I stayed behind her for a mile or so until she slowed, and I continued to press on. My effort level felt fine so I decided to keep going and let the pace naturally slow, but all the time holding the same level of effort. Besides, I had 6-8 minutes to make up on Jeanne and Cait and I wanted to snap the rubber band with Emma as quickly as possible.
Jeanne came back pretty quickly (she had a pretty fast bike split!) and I wasn't quite shaking Emma as much as I would've liked, so I continued to push. I also wasn't gaining much on Cait and wasn't sure how much I would, but I pressed on. I knew my coach might be watching my run splits online and ready to have a heart attack, but I focused on good hydration (it was heating up fast), nutrition and just holding steady. This is a 4 lap course along the Promenade des Anglais and it can really wear on you mentally. Luckily, each lap the course starts to fill with more and more people so it's constantly evolving into an epic party!
With Emma a safe enough distance back, I had to take a rare bathroom break. Nature was screaming! With that done, I focused on reeling in Cait if I could. The out-and-back nature of this course gives you opportunity to see the time gap and I could tell I was putting time into her. But I only had 10k to go and 2 minutes to make up. So began to dig way deep to pull out any effort that was left! I could tell I was closing in Cait, based on what I was hearing along the course (even if it was in French). I hit the 5k to go mark and think I had about a minute or so to make up. A pretty tall order against one of Ironman's best runners, but I dug in.
Close to the finish line is Hotel Negresco that has a round tower on top. It can be a welcome (or dreadful) sight as you near the end of the race. I so badly wanted to get to it as fast as possible, but I also wanted more distance to reel in Cait! In the end, she held off a little over a minute from me to snag a great victory. We both raced each other hard, to the very end, and for that I am really happy!
So, with a 4th, 3rd, and now a 2nd placing, guess where I'll be in June of 2016?
As always, I am incredibly blessed to have such dedicated family, friends, Timex Multisport Team, PowerBar Team Elite, SKINS, Trek, Shimano and a host of sponsors to deliver me to each start (and finish) line. Suffice it to say, it takes a village - and I couldn't do it without you!