Ironman Vichy race report Tom Stark
So now it’s behind me, the 12th Ironman and 16th long-distance race! I’m somehow more than proud now, so there was no telling for me personally that I would finish the race, more on that later.
What a coincidence, the triathlon in Vichy takes place in Department 03 – Allier in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps region. A scenic region in the heart of France. The 6th edition of the race under the Ironman label has withstood the Corona requirements and was able to delight its athletes and spectators with an Ironman and Ironman 70.3 triathlon full of passion.
My race already started on Friday, namely with the hunt for impressions of the bike course, because this has turned into a very demanding route through the eastern hinterland. It doesn’t really taste like those well-known sweet lozenges here, more like salt and isotonic drinks, which you need to conquer the same amount of altitude (2400) as the Ironman Lanzarote.
I am impressed with that beautiful landscape here. During the cycling, I was approached by 3 residents in the villages and out of the car and got best wishes for my race on Sunday. The climbs are moderate, but quite long, I’m not sure whether the triathlon bike will be the right decision. On the long, straight, and quiet climbs, however, with a speed of 40+ kph, it goes really fast through smooth curves. The 80 km test drive in my new Santini Triathlon two-piece went well.
Saturday morning the morning run is motivated, the first runners of the Ironman 70.3 are already on the promenade and I get goosebumps here, watch athletes, referees and spectators, and indulge in the racing feeling.
Race day in Vichy
For me personally, the race day was a challenge, not only compared to the sporting demands of the triathlon, but rather the circumstances up to now. Training with my constantly damaged knee, a new, exciting but time-consuming job and the corona conditions didn’t allow more than 20 km running, 5 km swimming and 200-300 km racing bike training per week in the immediate preparation for the competition. That’s why I lowered my expectations many times over and just wished for a nice triathlon.
So, as always: I’ve collected excuses beforehand and race day can come. Swimming, if I had only noticed that the start is 15 minutes before sunrise, then light-colored glasses would have made more sense, hence the swimming begins interesting because it is in the dark. I try to stay in the corridor of the others. The route here is fun, just straight ahead parallel to the bank. I just let myself slide, and it feels excellent, also overtakes a lot, even though I was at <1:06 on the starting grid.
The change was good, the start on the racetrack was bad. Had a flat tire just after the starting line. The spectators help me keep my bike. I can’t find an object or the hole, strange, change the hose, the valve breaks when inflating. Cool, I only have a spare tube! Mhh, so I take another look and try to switch back to the old hose – what a magic, it lasts and I can race with it! Ok, now let’s go, time counts and I don’t want to disappoint my friends on the trackers. It goes on at a speed of 40+ until the first ascent, then on and on, and I relax mentally.
On the climbs, I am quickly overtaken by others, as usual, especially the perceived Tour de France mountain flea on the Willier racing bike catches my eye. I notice that I overtake him on every flat stretch. The other comrades-in-arms are cool, some 50-54 age groups and also 60-64 age groups who drive around me. 2nd lap then rain, I make the descents even more carefully, at 18 degrees Celsius I feel a bit chilly. My great respect once again to the real racing bike freaks who overtake me on the descent at a speed of 50+ and drive up and away on the ideal line.
It’s 6 hours, a significantly longer pre-load time than my 5 hours bike splits on other races. Then I switch to the running track, I take it easy, because this time I don’t want to go for a walk from km 24 again. 2 laps I am on the road with an Ironman rookie who is 10 years younger than me, I pull him and actually I am quite happy with my 5 min/km pace. But again from the 3rd lap walking breaks, this time mainly due to the poorly trained muscles and the swollen knee. I am encouraged by my family, triathlon friends and training groups, and also the audience here, who lie to me again about how good it looks and what a fabulous performance it is. Ok guys! I have my pride too, I’m going to do this, and we’ll do this! It feels like I’m tipping down the 20th Cola / Iso mix and yes, after the 4th round I’m on the finish line here. Nobody sees the tears in my eyes beneath the beam on my face and the pride in my chest to be here.