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Gavin Reid




Joined: 12 Mar 2005
Posts: 14
Location: London

PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:20 pm    Post subject: Embrunman Reply with quote

Or the greatest long distance triathlon in the world.

Facts and figures:

Swim 3.8k, 2 laps of a sheltered lake, usually about 10 metres from the bank and almost in your depth. So pretty easy apart from the start being in the dark so 900 lunatics hitting the water not actually able to see each other.

Bike ride: 188k (the T shirts say 185k but according to my bike speedo this is under by 3k or so) with 4000 metres of climbing. I've seen 5000 but having looked at how that was calculated I am pretty sure it is too high. Certainly if you want to compare it with a Tour profile in the mags 4000 is about right. I would guess at a Cat 2, maybe a 4, an HC, a 3 and a 2 on the bigger climbs.

Run: Presumably 42.2k, 800m sounds a bit much on the climbing, will try to measure it next year (after the race!). But it is certainly a very hilly marathon, the two climbs to Embrun town are ferocious and the long haul to Baratier x 2 not steep but long and strength sapping.

After action report:

Picked up Judy and the boys and headed across to Embrun to register just behind living legends (for us old gits) Tabarant and Azcon. The boys then spent the evening before the race decorating the course with spray paint, helpful stuff like "Come on Dad, only 188km to go" or "You've got to be joking" (at one particularly steep corner on the Chalvet). 0400 in the tent race day was pretty cold, a strong Northerly Mistral had been promised. This was not the 27C at 0600 we had at Nice; it generally is quite cold first thing though so think hard about your kit if you are doing Embrun.

Swim start is unique. Very dark, 900 odd racers and a fairly narrow section between a buoy and a headland after 300m. This makes for a somewhat bumpy start, but at least you can't get lost since all the bodies push you the right way. As soon as you pass the first buoy it all opens out though. I have never swum in such a well mannered race; everyone does their absolute best to give each other as much space as possible and swim away from you if you bump each other. This is not a tough swim, cut off is usually generous, lots of poor swimmers, canoes you can rest on etc. On the other hand on the second lap it gets really beautiful, with the peaks of the Alps on either side of the lake pink in the rising sun. The swim is not my favourite event but I was paddling along thinking "What a privilege to be able to do this, don't ever forget it".

Out in 65 minutes, 300th or so. One of the other two Brits in the race was next to me in transition so we had time for a quick chat while readying for the serious stuff. I went for arm warmers, a bandana under the helmet (new one after cracking my last my here last year) and bib shorts. Only one layer on top though, thought hard about it but probably a mistake. 39 x 26 gearing, tri bars mainly to rest the arms.

Bike:

This is where it really begins. Had an interesting start. In the 400 metres of flat before the first climb of the day, which is about 35 minutes, I nearly ran into someone going the wrong way, presumably to pick up something he had dropped. In the excitement I think managed to knock the chunks of Power Bar off my top tube without noticing till too late. Hmm - not a good race to run out of food. Still, cheered up as I rode past Judy, the cowbell, the boys and assorted graffiti on the climb out of Embrun and started to cut through the field. Less cheering to be rapidly down to my 39 x 26 but it was going to be a long day, no prizes for being a hero on the first col.

REST OF RACE REPORT TO FOLLOW

Gavin
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OldNick




Joined: 11 Dec 2004
Posts: 1924

PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 6:36 am    Post subject: Re: Embrunman Reply with quote

Gavin Reid wrote:
Picked up Judy and the boys and headed across to Embrun to register just behind living legends (for us old gits) Tabarant and Azcon.

You, yourself are a living legend to some of us, Gavin. Cool Looking forward to the continuation. Smile
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rhysie




Joined: 24 Aug 2005
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm seriously thinking of doing it next year. I was in Argentiere watching part of the bike section (tapering for IMUK!!!!)Have ridden the course in two parts bloody fantastic. Col d'Izoard on closed roads just like the tour but a lot slower Very Happy . There was a huge buzz about the place.
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Big Bopper




Joined: 08 Jun 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2005 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Come on! You can't leave us hanging at the best bit! Very Happy

BB
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AndyS




Joined: 05 Jan 2004
Posts: 9970

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2005 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TLD would only need to move a couple of weeks earlier to be far enough away from IMUK for people to do both if they wanted. There was 7 weeks between Austria and IMUK and I didn't feel compromised at all at IMUK. Lets have a look at the callendar, that would make the race fall on June 25th - oooh, the longest day. Wink That would leave 3 weeks between TLD and IMA and 8 weeks between TLD and IMUK. Brilliant, 25th June it is then. Very Happy
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Gavin Reid




Joined: 12 Mar 2005
Posts: 14
Location: London

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2005 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK chaps, now it gets serious. I should confess in passing that quite a lot of the grafitti on the road out of Embrun had been sprayed on by the boys the night before the race, in particular "Come on Dad, only 188 km to go". Depressed me, don't know what it did to the others!

First climb is a steady grind, about 35 minutes, reasonably steep, with a stunning view over the Serre Poncon in the morning sunlight. If you do it just keep thinking "take it easy, the Col de Chalvet starts at 180k". You will pay heavily for any overenthusiasm here. Descent is great fun, fast and sweeping but tends to be cold; I was shivering enough not to be too bold and actually got overtaken a couple of times (didn't happen at Nice) but resisted responding to this challenge to my manhood (they were bound to be Italian). There was the odd soul in skimpies; they were in for a very long day. We rolled back to Embrun along a "flat" road; this is actually a series of 5 minute climbs and descents. Fabulous experience turning off the main road; jam packed on either side up an easy grade. I was overtaking someone up there and the crowds were having to move back on either side, very Tour de France. I could feel the hair rising on the back of the neck; very emotional. Combination of cold weather, good hydration and glycerin was having an effect though, had to time things carefully. Did see the odd softie actually stopped at the side of the road - get serious guys, this is Embrun!

Two hours into the ride and we turn up toward Guillestre. L'Izoard commence! Plan B on the food front (shovel in as many bananas as possible at the feed stations) is working well. Do try to ride or drive the section up through the Gorges of the Guil before the race if you do it. If not you will be likely to either stop or ride into the river watching the view, it is just stunning in places. Got a lot of rest on the tri bars, and probably a little time since there was a cold, worrying head wind coming down, not the normal warm friendly tail. Reports put the Gorges at 2C, though it didn't feel that cold.

Two hours 55 and I turned onto the Izoard proper. Soon passed the rider in black and white I had already passed 5 or 6 times. This was going to be really tough, the headwind was pretty firm. Also passed more great grafitti (not ours this time): a profile of the course with a blob at the bottom of the really big spike and "Vous etes ici". Thanks chaps, I really needed that. The next half hour was more and more strength sapping, as we came up to the top of the glacial valley everyone (including me no doubt) was just drooping over their bars slogging into the wind. The really steep section was almost a relief because there was more shelter from the wind. Used my special tactics on the ramps of the upper Izoard though - running great Tour riders names through my mind "Van Impe, Bahamontes, Ocana" etc to the rhythm of the pedals, women I fancy (obviously just you Judy!) etc. Talking of which where were Judy and the boys? More grafitti on the road, the names of the 3 GB riders they must be ahead - yes, excited boys, cow bells, try not look too pained.

The TV chopper was fluttering overhead in the breeze, the long string of riders was ahead of me, I was racing up a Tour classic, you don't get many moments like this in your life. We are so lucky to be able to do this.

On to the Casse Deserte, another incredible view moment. Not many spectators up here; the wind is bitter and very strong. Stand up and stretch the quads then onto the final hairpins to the summit. The volunteers are fantastic up there in the cold. One pushes a newspaper up my jersey, another rips open my special needs bag and puts the bottles into the cages for me, a third pushes water bottles into my jersey. More banana and onto the descent - this is going to be scary in the wind. I nearly got blown over descending Ventoux in training; the Izoard is worse.

And that's all we've got time for tonight Mr Derek!
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rhysie




Joined: 24 Aug 2005
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2005 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy
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OldNick




Joined: 11 Dec 2004
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

C'mon, not enough typing going on here..... Wink
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Norsemandave




Joined: 11 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2005 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is wetting my taste buds, I want more Cool
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Gavin Reid




Joined: 12 Mar 2005
Posts: 14
Location: London

PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2005 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you don't enjoy the start of the descent from the Izoard you might as well give up cycling, beautiful fast sweeping hairpins on a great surface, followed by tighter bends, brake hard, kick the bike out, take care coming up to other riders. Any cars pull into the side of the road to let you past. This opens into even faster straigher sections, last year it was total exhilaration at 80kph+. This time it got frightening, shivering with cold with the front wheel kicking dangerously in the wind. One of the French pros was reported to have got hypothermic on this section, not surprising. Concentrate hard, don't fall. Got overtaken by a couple of bolder riders, the cycling standard here is fantastic. I was pathetically grateful to get down safely to Briancon, warmth, a chance to ease aching back and neck.

It must have been 20 minutes riding and onto the next climb before I shed the newspaper up the jersey though. The next section was fairly easy, mostly downhill with a following wind; only downer was passing an (official) race marker which helpfully said "Plus de 60km". Thanks! Shed a bottle going over a bump in Argentieres but one of the spectators (who looked as if he had watched Merckx going through) rushed over and gave it back to me. Then the fun stopped. Two kilometers of ferocious climbing straight up the side of the valley from Roche de Rame. I've done it fresh and it's pretty hard then, let alone at around 150km. It's hotter as well, this is where the ride really hit me last year. The descents are diabolical, really bumpy, tight turns, exciting drops. Passed the corner where I went over the bars last year doddering round at about 5mph this time. Neck, arms and shoulders really suffer, and concentration goes. My drinking seemed to be falling behind as well and somehow the wind swung round to a headwind. The views down into the Durance are still utterly stunning though and help to take your mind off what's happening to the body.

On towards Embrun, climb to the town. Depressing sight of the lead runner coming down the hill already 8k or so into the marathon. Then the cruelest twist of the race - you turn into Embrun, you've down about 178k it's only a couple of k downhill to transition . . . and then the little yellow arrows swing you round up the Cote de Chalvet. The paper last year had the headline "Le Cote de Chalvet, c'est mortelle" which I think means it's deadly. It's hot, it's steep, it's rough and you've got a Tour mountain stage in your legs. The boys had grafittied one particularly awful corner "Mon Dieu" and "You've got to be joking", which at least made me smile. The black and white rider overtook me again near the top and we rode over the col together. Followed him down the final descent which is pretty dreadful, steep, bumpy and gravelly; you get no rest at all as you clatter down the last slopes to T2.

Must be feeling better than last year though; actually jogged into transition and only sat on the helpfully provided chair to change one sock and shoe. None of this changing tent nonsense here; you just strip off if you want to change out if bike kit. We checked this at briefing and the charming lady just said "But of course, zis iz France!.

Out onto the run, just a hilly marathon to go; this really is a totally bonkers sport.

"You can't leave us there Mr Derek!"

Final installment to follow.
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sjr




Joined: 25 Mar 2005
Posts: 980
Location: Plymouth or Granada

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2005 5:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What an absolutely gripping yarn. Please Mr.Reid tell us all about your exploits in the final leg of Embrunman. I'm impressed already and feel I'll be bowled over by the end. Well done Sir!
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painintheknee




Joined: 22 May 2003
Posts: 148

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2005 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gavin Reid wrote:
If you don't enjoy the start of the descent from the Izoard you might as well give up cycling, beautiful fast sweeping hairpins on a great surface, followed by tighter bends, brake hard, kick the bike out, take care coming up to other riders. Any cars pull into the side of the road to let you past. This opens into even faster straigher sections, last year it was total exhilaration at 80kph+. This time it got frightening, shivering with cold with the front wheel kicking dangerously in the wind.

Final installment to follow.


Well, I love cycling but it is exactly this first paragraph that scares me about riding in 'real' mountains! I've done a bit of riding on smaller Canadian mountains, but they are nice and wide and well paved. When I see the dropoffs in Europe I know that I'll end up crawling down the mountain at like 20kph Smile.

After reading your report I think that it is high on my list over the next couple of years!

Looking forward to reading about the run,

Dr. PITUK
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Gavin Reid




Joined: 12 Mar 2005
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Location: London

PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 10:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the legs were moving and the back not too bad; run belt loaded with Enervit, ziplock of salt, gel and SR3 bottle. Big improvement on last year when I limped out of T2 dripping blood with a thumping headache and seized up hip feeling an idiot. Didn't need to stop at the lake to put my head under but take a tactical walk on the first vicious little hill (1 in 4?). First feed station came up pretty quickly. Wasn't too hot but put the pouring water plan straight into action. This wasn't as critical as Nice at 41C but still worthwhile. Then on along the rough gravel track round the lake, past the water trough where I jacked it in last year (more pouring) and up the fierce climb to Embrun town. Walked the bottom to drink and sort out my kepi but somewhat to my surprise was able to run (shuffle) the rest.

Then it is the most scenic run section in tri, up the beautiful cobbled pedestrian centre of old Embrun, with the Alps as a backdrop, tourists drinking in all the bars cheering you on, what a lift. If this doesn't inspire you then just grab your remote and give up tri. Remembered to follow Judy's instructions and zip up my shirt on the way up the official photographer. Then a deeply dispiriting moment - Stuart suddenly shot out of the crowd when he saw me and sprinted up the hill to warn Judy I was coming, leaving me miles behind - You little swine! Still seeing Judy and the boys again, first time since Roche de Rame, is a real boost. Through a flatter section, starting to feel worryingly hungry with 36k to go. Time for the pigout plan to roll into action. Drink some coke, grab a tomato, eat some salt, open a gel on the (nasty needless to say) descent then onto the only flat road section by the Durance. More road painting from the boys - Union Jack with "Allez les rostbifs" and a Tricolour with "Allez les bleus". Shovel in more tomato and banana and trot on. Rubio Martinez overtook me just before the start of the long grinding climb to Baratier - was not losing ground on him too quickly and was feeling surprisingly good at this stage.

Passing our camp site the support was unbelievable; everyone feels a hero in this race. A rather gorgeous lady with long tanned legs is riding just ahead of me with a sign on her bike saying "Allez mon ange". Things are looking up until I realise she is with a couple of runners I keep passing and getting passed by, never mind she's still good for morale! You pass just by the finish at the end of the first lap, bit depressing but the cheering just lifts you again. Heading along towards the watertrough it looks as if "mon ange" (the chap with the long legged lady) is in trouble. When he's running he's as fast as me but has to keep stopping. This a race where the wheels can come off fairly terminally; hope he finished. It's noticeable that people are not taking the "no one running with you" rules too seriously, and I should hope not, this is Embrunman, if you finish you are a triathlon god. Another short tactical walk on the steep climb, eat salt, drink, then up past the beer drinkers again; a bar raid (as in Tour de France in the 60s) is looking very tempting. Down the hill and slog along the Durance; even though it's flat this section seems really hard. More walking through the feed stations now, indigestion is settling in. I suspect the combination of tomatoes and orange slices is probably less than ideal. The slog up to Baratier seems really endless this time and my thighs are getting really sore; on the other hand I know I WILL make it this time. Find some great cake at the feed station on the climb (can't find it afte that), get more water poured over me from the never ending supply of small children helping at the side of the road (Merci mes braves) then down past the clumps of spectators. Moving a hand to acknowledge them is getting more and more of an effort but you have to try, they cheer, they shout "Allez Anglais" and occasionally "God save the Queen". Wearing a Union Jack top from Foseca on the bike and GB team kit from the long course worlds certainly helps with the support; lots of the little groups (bike & run) are really organised - a child gets posted to call your number, then they find you on the start list and cheer your name "allez Gaveene" or whoever. How to feel a hero!

On to the lake; my neckband has disappeared under my shirt and the marshall tries to send me round another lap but my frantic handwaving persuades him to relent. Walk the last feed station, drink and pour then on to the finish - but then you get routed on what feels like an endless lap of the car park before finally hitting the finishing straight. Judy and the boys hand me the Union Jack reserved for long distance and I run the last 300 yards on air . . . till I finish and fold into a handy chair. A man turns up with a mike for a short interview "Yes, yes, yes, the greatest triathlon in the world, thank you Gerard" etc. Must have been looking rough because a couple of medics hover round with a stretcher but manage to wave them off and totter to the massage tent. Then start shivering violently (in 80F or so) and the two lovely girls massaging me get a blanket and another medic. However, by Embrun standards I think I am in reasonable shape and get released to find ecstatically Judy and the boys. You don't get many days and moments like this in your life, it will be with me forever. A month on and I still haven't stopped smiling .

Final result: 1.05, 7.03, 3.25 + two somewhat lethargic transitions for 11.43, 1st in age cat, 46th overall.

Swore never to go over sprint distance again but needless to say am looking for accomodation for 15th of August in Embrun next year - this is worse than crack! And I don't think this was as good a performance as Nice so I have to try a bit harder this time.

See some of you at the Serre Poncon, 0600, 15/8/06 I hope.

Gavin
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rhysie




Joined: 24 Aug 2005
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 11:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

11.43!!! Fantastic effort. Your race report reads too modestly so to read your finish time was a suprise (only 1hr50ish over the course record)but I failed to break 12.30 at IMUK when targetting sub 12 so can I raise the bar? Really want to do this race but it will take me f##king ages, not a race for a PB.
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yoyodub




Joined: 17 Feb 2005
Posts: 331

PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2005 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Truly an outstanding time!
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