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Fiona Ford :: Stellar Performance at Ironman France!

Fiona Ford :: Stellar Performance at Ironman France! Thanks Spence! Finally on June 24, the morning of IM France; the day counting, 20 hour training weeks, wattage watching, resting, nutrition planning, and tapering was over. The atmosphere in Nice had gradually been building all week, matching my own excitement. All this made it pretty difficult to do the opposite and what was necessary to conserve energy, rest and be confident there was no need to do the unnecessary 'one last session'. On the morning I felt ready for a great race… Waiting on the rocky beach for the inevitable start was the worst part, as the start timing was pretty casual. All hell broke loose once the neoprened bodies hit the water and I found myself in a fair bit of trouble after about 20m, to which there was no solution but to get swimming - and fast. After the far turn at nearly 1km I finally settled out of hypoxic breathing and got into my stroke, exiting the first lap in around 32 minutes. I tried to negative split the swim and had a great second lap, coming out in an hour which was on target. A kindly Brit voice let me know that I was around 25 seconds behind the lead woman, as I ran up the ramp towards T2 (thank you whoever you are) a bit of a surprise. There were only 4 of us in the women's change area, and a few minutes later I was out to find my trusty steed waiting in transition. Riding a Planet-X Superlight Carbon Pro with Xentis wheels and Dugast tubs, it was ready to go climb hills weighing in as one of the lightest bikes in transition at under 8kg. To keep an eye on my wattage and HR, I set my Ergo power meter to give me an average reading throughout, rather than give me feedback in real time. The start of the bike threw up a few surprises. I just managed to avoid a collision about 10m in front of me when a guy overtaking decided not to give enough clearance or hold his line on the outside. They both clipped wheels and the resulting crash was instant. It set my adrenaline going having only just missed the rider rolling across the middle of the road. However, I had more to worry about when stomach cramps set in, getting worse whenever I tried to eat anything solid. I resorted to fluids after the first hour and tried to force down gels instead. It had limited success although I still thought I'd have to stop a few times to be sick, but soon enough the 21km climb loomed ahead and I wasn't stopping once the road tipped up! By the top and over the timing mat after the last switchback turn, to my relief I spotted my fiancé Rob just behind me. He briefly gave me some advice about the probability of salt water being the cause of my poor stomach, and encouraged me to get through it before riding off down the descent. At one of the last feed stations I finally found a cure for it - flat coke! Half a bottle did the trick and I started to feel much better once on the last part of the course into Greolieres, I knew the road well from here on, after our April recce trips. The Ergo feedback had successfully kept my energy in check, and I seemed to have plenty in the tank coming back to Nice into the headwind. Michelle Parsons breezed past me on the way down the promenade me into T2, so that was another indication my bike split had been competitive. I thought she'd have found me much earlier on the course. After a classic Fiona 'faff' in T2, trying to multitask way too much, (those volunteers are angels!), it was out onto the run course. Wow, it was hot! It took the customary 10 minutes, just like all those Spencer brick sessions, to get going. I decided pretty early on that I'd need to max out the aid stations every mile and take on as much as possible. I'd had plenty of time to calculate a calorie deficit on the bike once the nutrition plan went awry. So I ran mile reps, 24 of them and it worked well. It was a superb moment to turn into the finishing straight and make the final run in to the line. Mike O'Reilly commentating caught sight of me and gave me a huge bear hug - he knew it was my first IM attempt and later mentioned to me that he couldn't believe I was 'finishing so soon'. Andy (Planet-X) was in the finish chute, confirming that I had won my age-group and was in the women's top ten. Awesome - and unbelievable! I waited for Rob who was having a mare out there on an injured leg and in contrast it wasn't great to watch him struggle in. Having done the majority of our training together over the last 6 months, and knowing his capabilities, they'll have to wait to see the light of another IM day. Spencer's coaching got me to the start line in the right shape to have a fantastic experience. He is right though, it's all down, or up, to you on the day. And what a day it was! Hawaii is now my next big goal, having accepted my slot on Monday after the race. It all started to sink in when Mike O'Reilly, who keeps track of course records, told me I'd set a new age-group course record. Well his exact words were actually something else, but i'll keep that to myself for now. Later that evening at the awards presentation, it was slightly overwhelming to be up on stage with the top ten women overall especially as a first timer…. Think I was probably more than a bit tired! Three weeks off now and then it's back to Spencer's drawing board to sketch out some plans for Kona. Bye for now, Fiona

29 June 2007

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