Embrunman 2013

Well, I'm going back to Embrun this year for the 30th anniversary of this iconic race.

As it's the anniversary they are putting on a duathlon, standard, sprint and kids triathlon in the week leading up to the big one on the 15th August.

The shady tribe are driving down again and I cant wait to see the French Alps and the lakes once more.

If anyone is still uncommitted for an Iron distance race this year then i can thoroughly recommend Embrunman - read my previous race report if you want a flavour of the experience. image

London marathon in two weeks and then i better get serious!

Anyone doing Bala - see you there!  image




  • Slim you sick puppyimage
  • I was thinking of something silly in 2014.....
  • slimshadyslimshady ✭✭✭

    OC - you know you want to!  image

  • Leaving for France on Sunday...cant wait  image

    Embrunman on the 15th as always and my taper is driving me mad ( as always)

    I'll write another race report whatever happens but it wont be as long this time ( promise)   image

  • joddlyjoddly ✭✭✭

    Have a great time, Slim - and we'll be expecting ALL the details in your fullsome report image.

  • looking forward to teh report....good luckimage

  • Good luck Slim !!

  • Thanks all...really looking forward to it image

  • Hi guys. Thought I would check in here. Hopefully on the start list for Embrunman next year. I have actually started swimming and have had a solid bike base This year. Running, not so much.

  • Slimshady, how did it go?  I have an interest in this race, would like to hear about it.

  • I had spoken to Slim via that other forum as he gave me some great advice with his previous experience of the race but unfortunately his day didn't go to plan image   It might mean he has another crack in 2014 though. Every cloud and all that...  Hopefully he will be along soon to give you the details.

  • Thanks for that. image


    Where to start?  I agonised over whether to post this race report as it is not the positive report which will encourage new Pirate members to take on the challenge of IM.

    But then I thought  maybe people should see the ‘other’ side of this long distance racing especially the pitfall of investing too much of your self-esteem in being a long distance triathlete.

    Yes, some of it is definitely self-indulgent and it has made me feel better writing it out- so please choose to read it or not as is always the case on these forums.


    Embrunman is special.  For those who ploughed their way through my report in 2011 I think it is pretty obvious that this race has a very special place in my heart and in 2013 I decided to do the long trip south again.

    Everything went fairly well on the trip down to Embrun.    The Shady tribe stayed in Troyes again to break the journey before continuing on to Embrun where a lovely pitch for our tent had been reserved by Burt the campsite owner.  Burt was also doing Embrunman for the 4th time.  So far his record was 2 finishes and 1 DNF.   It was a great atmosphere in the town itself with huge signs across the main roads and lifesize models of swimmers, cyclists and runners on major roundabouts!  After all, it was the 30th anniversary and the residents and organisers were making the most of it!


     This time I had deliberately planned it so that we only had one full day before Embrunman as I think I spent a day too long in 2011 getting nervous and falling out with everyone, which nearly ended in divorce!!  So the next day I went to the Salle de Fetes and picked up my race number and bag.   Embrun was just as I remembered with the old cobbled main street bustling with locals and athletes  and a cool well for refreshment in the centre.  My only real concern was the heat which was extreme and even in the late afternoon well into the 30’s.

  • We then went to the glittering blue lake next to transition where we would be swimming the next morning. I was very careful to keep out of the sun and did a short swim before sitting under a tree in the shade with plenty of bottled water. 

    After racking my bike I returned to the campsite and sat quietly in the shade and waited for the morning to arrive. I didn’t sleep well and soon got up at about 0315ish to have my breakfast of a tin of rice pudding and fruit.  Surprisingly it went down quite well and I felt as prepared as I could be for the day ahead.  I gathered my crate and after saying goodbye to a very sleepy family I walked to transition.

    On arrival it was much as I remembered it with the royal blue carpets covering transition with the bikes bathed  under stark white lights.. I chatted to the handful of fellow British competitors as we pulled on our wetsuits and prepared for the long day ahead. As I absently span my rear wheel whilst waiting for the swim I noticed that it wasn’t running freely. Not wanting to start mucking around with it minutes before the race I convinced myself that it was simply nerves – I mean I had done many 100 milers in preparation for the race and why would it not be running freely now?  I soon found myself standing under the lights on the shingle beach waiting for the hooter to signal the mad rush into the lake and the pitch black swim!  I knew my family would be out there somewhere watching the start and I steeled myself up for what for me is the most nerve racking part of any race..  

  • Suddenly everyone surged forward and we were off!  I just waded out into the water and started to swim.  I think there were a lot of people behind me but it was pretty civilized and I don’t remember there being any particular ‘biff’.  The swim was steady for me and I never had a particularly bad moment.  It just seemed to go on and on as usual and I was disappointed when I came out to see I was very near the back.  The swim time later turned out to be 1hr 35mins which is not good but expected for me I guess.  I grabbed a cup of tea from a volunteer and  got dressed for the bike ahead.  I soon left transition and was straight into the first climb of the day!  I saw my wife and children waving to me as I climbed out of Embrun and then I settled in to the grind of the bike leg.  But something was wrong.  I still don’t know what exactly was wrong to this day but I felt underpowered and the day ahead seemed to be looming long and hard.  I was struggling up the hills which I didn’t particularly notice in 2011 and everything just seemed hard.  Was my brake sticking on?  I’ll never know…maybe I was just having a bad day but it seemed very hard. The weather was glorious and it looked even now as if the day was going to be a scorcher.  I came down from the mountains and crossed the great lake.  Heavy traffic was impeding my progress slightly and at one point I was having to scoot along the outside of cars which I don’t like.  I didn’t realise it at the time but I was very near the back and I think this had something to do with the heavier traffic.  Then suddenly there was a big crunch as I tried to change gear and my chain was rammed in the front mech!  It was such a crunch that my instant thought was ‘that’s the end of the race’.  I got off and managed to tug it back out and get going again.  But when I tried to change to my big chain ring the chain came off again.  I soon realised that I couldn’t use my big chain ring at all and I was limited to the easiest 4 gears on my small chain ring and couldn’t use any of my other gears!  Ok, I thought just carry on with what you’ve got…the thought of failure after so much training and travelling was just too big to contemplate..  So, I carried on in the ever increasing heat but was still finding it hard to cycle up the hills.  What was wrong with me?  I had done the training…I cant remember how many 100 mile bike rides but certainly enough and my running had been going well with a marathon back in April.  What was happening to me?

  • I went through the mountain passes leading towards the Col ’L’Izoard but sweat was literally springing from my forehead.  I then made the decision to stop for a moment to remove my teeshirt from under my Pirate top as I was simply too hot.  As I stopped two very friendly competitors stopped to check I was ok which was fantastic.  They were French but spoke good English and had already spoken to me as we cycled along earlier.  I waved them on and said I was fine. I put my tee shirt in my rear pocket and carried on to the Col ’L’Izoard.  I made the left turn up the mountain and began to grind away.  But it was too hard.  What was happening to me?  It was literally killing me to keep any pace going.  I gradually made my way up the mountain through the villages and around the never ending hairpins in the pine woods.  I was trying my very very best but was standing on the pedals and praying for the top to come.  I had to halt when my rear brake suddenly seized on and I released the clip and somehow managed to get going again.  The heat was intense and my mouth parched even after repeatedly swigging from my bottles.  It was much longer than I remembered from 2011 and I kept thinking I will have to walk I cannot keep going.  Eventually the inevitable happened and I got off the bike.  I walked with increasing shame up the mountain and then tried to get on and ride again. I had just started to get into a steady pace when BANG…my front tyre exploded!  My front tyre went flat almost instantly and a French man behind me uttered an expletive and managed to just avoid my sudden stop.  It was a good job I was going very slowly up a hill! The heat was extreme and I was flagging fast!  But overdrive just kicked in ( or survival) and I pushed my bike to some spectators and turned it upside down and got on with the job of changing the inner tube. The official photographer was close by but obviously not for me! I got the tube out but when looking for why it had punctured I saw that the sidewall of the tyre had a 1inch hole in it. I didn’t know what to do so put a new tube in and thought I’d see how things went. Next disaster was trying to pump up the tyre with my mini pump.  My arms from the constant pulling on the bars coming up the Col were already shredded and I just didn’t have the energy to really put the air in the tyre!  I cant describe the heat which was almost like white light. I was close to the summit of the L’Izoard without any cloud cover in this blinding heat.  Things were not good!

  •   I eventually managed to get about 40 psi in the tyre and decided this would have to do for now and I set off again towards the summit. But after a hundred metres the combination of the soft tyre and my weary state meant I had to walk again.  I decided to keep walking to the summit which was only a few hundred metres away and then I could reassess my tyre to try and get more air in it and maybe make up some time on the descent!!!  I was not thinking straight and was in this mode which I think you sometimes need for IM which is to simply keep going no matter what is happening.  I shudder now to think of descending the Izoard with a flattish front tyre with a big hole in the side which could blow at any second.  My previous experience of the descent in 2011 showed me that it was the fastest I have ever been on a bike with some tricky hair pins at time…definitely life threatening to have a blow out on your front tyre!

    I reached the summit and as I walked towards the aid station a referee dressed in his black and white striped top held up some sort of card and I got the gist that I had been timed out of the race.  He then proceeded to rip my number from my belt and sent me to a parked van close by where I could see at least 10 bikes already loaded.  The ‘broom wagon!  My bike was loaded on but there was no room for me in the van and so I had to wait for the next van to arrive before I set off with another 11 French men on what I call the ‘bus of shame’ back to Embrun.  This mini bus journey was in itself horrible as it had no air con and I felt travel sick after a matter of minutes!  I couldn’t speak to anyone to tell them how I was feeling and at times I was having to swallow hard to stop myself being sick!  Due to traffic hold ups because of the race it took 2 hours to get back to Embrun with me sitting in a constant state of nausea and what was felt like shell shock with what had happened to me during the race.

  • I had actually biked for 6 hours before being pulled from the race and the referee might well have saved me from myself by timing me out on the top of the mountain. This also occupied my thoughts on the way back to Embrun.  It scared me that I had been prepared to attempt the descent of the Izoard with my front tyre blown out.  What was I thinking?  I then thought of my family patiently waiting in Embrun for my reappearance on the bike and I thought about their reaction if I had crashed with the potential consequences on a mountain in France.  It was during this long journey back that I began to reassess my priorities and realized that I had got things spectacularly wrong.  I had trained my arse off with the general lack of family time which this entails to do a race in France which had become my worst nightmare.  But worse was the fact that I had been prepared to push it beyond the bounds of what is reasonable or responsible for a father of two young children and wife.  My life had somehow got out of kilter and triathlon had become a burden rather than the challenge and stress relief that it had started out to be.  I thought of how important my family were to me and during that awful ride on the bus something changed inside me.  My love of triathlon simply died… It had nearly come between me and I family and I could see that now.

    I arrived back in Embrun and found my bike had gone missing!  Noone knew where the driver of the other van had put it.  The trouble is I didn’t care too much.  See if you can find it I said to a marshal otherwise I’ll come back tomorrow and if it’s gone it’s gone.  I was then told that even if it was found I couldn’t pick up my things from transition for another 2 hours.  I then hobbled off in my bike shoes to look for my family who I guessed would be somewhere close to transition.  I found them after about 10 minutes of walking and came up behind them as they stared up the road looking for my return on the bike.  I tapped my 11 year old son on the shoulder and he turned round and was speechless for a moment.  My 9 year old daughter then turned and when she realised that something had happened she burst into tears and hugged my waist absolutely distraught.  This triathlon lark is a real winner I wryly thought as I tried to comfort her and explain to my wife what had happened. 

  •  Noone knew what to say really…we had travelled hundreds of miles over two days to reach Embrun.  It had dominated my life for the past year and was meant to be a celebration of months of training.  Instead it had turned to failure and none of us knew how to deal with it.

     I had made up my mind on the trip back To Embrun in that awful minibus that I could not allow the end of the triathlon to affect my families holiday.  I therefore walked back to the campsite past all the spectators still out supporting the race and had a shower and change which at least made me anonymous and not an obviously withdrawn competitor.  I rested for a couple of hours before returning to transition with the race still in full swing and managed to find my bike and pick up my gear.  Once again we all had to walk through the crowds still supporting the event which was extremely hard. Once back at the campsite I decided that we all needed to go out for a meal that evening and so after another rest we all walked the mile into Embrun for a pizza.  I almost had to put my mind in neutral as we walked past the spectators and runners still slogging away in the heat.  We sat in the open air restaurant and I could see a competitor who had obviously finished the race tucking into his meal.  As we made our way back to the campsite it was about 2200hrs and runners were still out on the course.  In the gloom I could make out runners who looked absolutely done in, walking or staggering, or in one case spread eagled on the grass, and the fact they were approaching the town meant that they had at least 8 miles left to do. At least the terrible heat had now gone and evening taken over.  The runners I saw looked absolutely baked from the sun and not in a good way.  It was at that moment that I actually felt glad not to be in their shoes. .I returned to the finish and cheered some athletes  back in as they stumbled towards their medal before returning in a daze back to the tent.   This triathlon lark can be a bit like self -harming.  I no longer wanted to self- harm in this way and actually began to embrace this idea of no longer putting myself through this pain both in training and the race itself.  Surely my family was more important than this madness?

  • I realised that I had invested too much of myself in this concept of being a long distance triathlete.  It had become a symbol of self-identification and I had begun to define myself through this long distance sport. It was only now that I realised how dangerous this had become.  My self-esteem was tied into this concept and therefore to fail was a huge knock to my very being.  I had felt the first guilty stirrings of ‘glad to not be a part of this harm’ when driving past the runners in the minibus.  It was a point of the day when the sun was at it’s hottest and I had begun to think the unthinkable…I don’t envy those guys out there in that heat.  What was happening to me?  Where was the never say die  triathlete?

    The rest of the holiday passed in a blur.  The next two days whilst staying in Embrun was hard.  Very hard to watch people walking around in their finisher’s tee shirts which seemed to be everywhere.  I had really wanted another especially as it was the 30th anniversary.  I felt a fool for buying a 30th anniversary tee shirt before the race as I would never wear it now.

    However we camped our way back to Calais and I would lie if I said I didn’t actually enjoy the rest of the holiday because I did.  I somehow managed to put the events in Embrun behind me and bury them.

    Embrunman -1  Slimshady – 1

    PS – Burt also DNF’d!

  • Postscript


    Something has happened and I’m not sure what.  I havn’t felt very well since Embrunman…nothing dramatic but just a not feeling great feeling physically.   I feel as though an elastic band has snapped and I have neither the  mental willpower or physical strength to attempt any further long distance exploits..

    Very unsettling and strange! 




    I’ve begun to start the training process again and have entered Ironman Wales!  My hand was forced a bit by the event looking to sell out.  I have taken a gamble and just hope that my mental state will allow the training to increase to the level required.

    But I will always put my family first and will never forget my thoughts on a blinding hot mountainside in the French Alps.

  • Thanks for posting your report Slimshady.

    I DNF'd at the Outlaw half which was my first ever DNF and I can relate to your feelings, hopefully you are recovered and with some gentle training you get back into the positive frame of mind needed to push on further with the training.

  • Slim, good report.  I am sorry that Embrun didnt work out for you, it does sound like you were most certainly affected by something wether that was heat on the day, nutrition or an underlying bug is kind of irrelevant at this precise moment
    Take the break that you need, refocus and see how the year pans out, Wales looks an awesome race
    Triathlon and more importantly IM is so all encompassing and a lot of the advice we see given to newbies is the family impact and you have highlighted this perfectly

    Onwards and upwards  (and check that nutrition!!)

  • Slim great report very honest and a change from the success stories, i used to have a strict rule ironman year, no ironman year which worked a treat then somehow i did 3 in a row and mentally it gobbled me alive. IVhave had a great year off still done some stuff The Wall ultra being the biggy and am looking forward to Nice next year but will be sticking to my bi annual rule in future. Enjoy Wales i love that race and hope to revisit one day image

  • joddlyjoddly ✭✭✭

    I'm sorry, Slim, didn't realise you'd had such a dreadful time. Your very honest report really moved me. 

    You've entered IMW, and that was a good move. I think maybe you have to come back after a bad one to really mature as a long distance triathlete. (I seriously underestimated a fairly key event last month, ie. all my fault, and have also been asking myself what it's all for).

    I think you're being a bit harsh on yourself about getting addicted and the effect on your family. Lots of blokes spend 3 hours a day down the pub etc, and your family must be proud of you. You may have had a bug on the day (not that Meldy's opinion is likely to be worth listening to image), but you probably wouldn't have killed yourself.

    Looking forward to sharing IMW preparation with you,

    J x

  • I know my place Joddly  image

  • .... somewhere at the back with my pots of money  image

  • I hate skeeeeeenking reeetch triatheletesimage 

  • Honest stuff Slim and well worth new and old reading to keep a sense of reality.

  • Slim, sobering but valuable reading for a newbie. Thanks.


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