29 August 2019 - By James Montgomery
Ironman Vichy 70.3
Saturday 24th August 2019
Sandy Karl had traveled to Vichy in central France to take part in the Ironman 70.3 middle distance event. Vichy is not only well known for its heat but also for being a fast flatish course. Well, the first was true, with temperatures well into the 30’s over the weekend in most of France but with the second, this year the organisers had decided to change the bike course, taking the riders over the other side of the River Allier where it is quite a bit hillier.
Wake-up was at 3:15am with the shuttle bus pick-up at 4:30, arriving at the venue at 5am. Final bike checks and drinks bottles in place were made in transition and the call for line-up came at 6:30am for the swim. Competitors are self-sectioned to where they expect to finish the swim so Sandy went for 36-38 minutes. The water was a comfortable 21 degC and wetsuits were allowed. The swim was fantastic and Sandy felt like she was gliding through the water, managing to capture a spot where she wouldn’t get thumped and also to draft as often as possible. In the last 200m the course took a deviation to the left with everybody clearly eager to get out and that’s where Sandy received a knock to her head but continued undeterred and finsihed the swim in a shade over 36 minutes.
Transition 1 should have been straight forward, but Sandy had a little faff with fitting her bike computer and very quickly lost precious time but out on to the bike course, she was feeling very motivated until hitting the first climb after only 6 miles in. There was 4 expected climbs but this first one was steep and challenging up to its 1,980 feet top elevation and that was only the first hill! There wasn’t much of a break before facing the next challenging hill then they seemed relentless with the third and the fourth climbing up like a nasty serpentine. After the third climb Sandy was involved in an incident when another competitor pushed her off her bike. Thankfully he was given a penalty for his actions. The descents were not straight forward either, with technical twists and turns requiring early breaking to avoid hitting a wall or flying over the side, meaning any chance of building up useful speed was quashed. Sandy also started to struggle with taking on nutrition, becoming nauseous and with 30 miles gone and could only take on water. Then, and possibly due to the last 6 miles going through the town, it was forbidden to use the aero bars which would have take the hands away from the brakes. Again this didn’t help with the speed but Sandy still managed to finish the tough course in under 4 hours.
Into Transition 2, thankfully off the bike onto the run, with muscles a bit achy but still feeling strong for the upcoming half marathon. Sandy was still feeling a little nauseous but carried on fueling on water, orange slices and on lap 2, finding that cola was doable too. It was a nice run course along the banks of the river, but could have done with a bit more shade; being used to the sun helped and nothing was stopping her. Sandy maintained a good pace, running all the way around helped along by a fabulous crowd and water hoses at the aid stations, finishing with a big smile on her face and happy with her time given the challenging bike course and the heat.