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Embrunman 2016

Anyone fancy a quick jaunt down to the Alps on August 15th for a post Lanza recovery session?  image

This is the second big event for me ( and bruv) this year as i have unfinished business from 2013.

For those who havn't heard of the race, my 2011 report is on the PSOF website ( when I did complete it) so it is 1-1 at the moment.

Luckily I have managed to tie it in with Mrs Slim's 50th birthday...conversation along the lines of ' Is Embrun one of your favourite places dear?'  'Yes' she replies.  'Oh good, I'll take you there as a birthday treat'!  'But I'll just pop off on the 15th to do a quick race'!

Both looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. But it will be interesting to see whether a fresh water swim makes a difference to my sickness issues.

All welcome to join us down there!


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    Yay! I loved that race report so looking forward to this one image
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    chiltern 100 warmup..??

    what passes do they go over??  
    I need to look at the route....  I biked up the Durance valley last year, but no doubt missed all the interesting bits

    have fun and enjoy it




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    Chiltern 100 was a couple of weeks ago.
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    slimshadyslimshady ✭✭✭

    I think the Chiltern 100 has gone this year.  Never so keen on it since it has been taken over by a big events company.

    The big climb on Embrunman is the Col d'Izoard but there are a few more whose names I dont know I'm afraid.

    It would be a perfect race for you OC with your biking strength..but I cant wait to get the race report for the Trans Continental image

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    As it's a cold January day I thought I'd post my race report from Embrunman 2016.

    Another DNF I'm afraid! I wasn't sure I would ever do a race report but eventually managed to bring myself to complete it.

    Not as long as my 2011 report!   image

    It is hot, very hot.  I peer from under my visor at the white sheer heat which envelops the French country lane along which I walk…slowly.  This is no Ironman walk where the finish time is assured as we swing our arms and march forwards to the inevitable finish with cheering crowds and a red carpet.  This is a stumble, a slow acknowledgement that I will never finish this race…today. I know I cannot finish, I am ill and sick and have just picked myself up from the grass verge where I have been forced to crouch and vomit the last fluid from my body. Willpower combined with despair is making me stumble forward. I know that once I stop again then it will be for the last time and my dream of another Embrunman finish is over.  All I can hear in the still blazing air is the repeated sirens of a stream of ambulances ferrying a constant source of athletes to the nearby hospital.  I shake my head slowly and wonder. I wonder at my motivation or sanity in participating in an event which hospitalises so many of its athletes? The sound is very real and I become frightened. My skin is prickling and I am alternating between freezing shakes and having a hot fever. There is nowhere to hide from the sun.

    I knew my race was over after the bike. I could hardly walk to my bike rack and the white plastic chair which awaits any Embrunmnan entrant in transition. I was utterly spent and could not contemplate a run…could not even think of what to do next…it was just so hot. I racked the bike and heard my name being called through the mesh fencing. My family stood a matter of 20 feet away with my children urging me on. I slowly put my trainers on and stood up and without warning burst into floods of tears. I turned my head away from my family and sobbed uncontrollably for a few seconds before pulling myself together. I then stood with my head down and looked at the blue carpeted floor. Did my family see?  If so we have never spoken about it. Never spoken about how a triathlon race reduced me to floods of tears in transition.

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    I slowly unbend and walk towards the exit of transition. I have a white race cap pulled down firmly against dark sunglasses in a desperate attempt to hide from the sun. I slowly walk towards an aid station situated only a matter of feet from the exit . I have determination..I will not simply give up. One thing might save me. If I can just drink a cup of coke and keep it down then maybe I can survive. I reach the trestle table and see cups of real coke being shielded by the volunteers from an army of wasps. I reach for a plastic cup and gulp the sickly liquid down. I turn to walk away and can already feel my stomach angrily rejecting the black fluid. Sure enough shortly after I crouch by the gravel track and retch the contents onto the verge. That is when I knew. I should have just stopped and walked back the short distance to transition. There was no way I could continue. Stubbornness said otherwise and with a middle finger to the Fates I stumbled on. It was just a question of when. The when was 7 miles further on and a polite but firm referee having a quiet word with me as the ambulances flew past. I cannot remember much if any of our conversation but she told me to try again next year and took my race number…or did I hand it over…it doesn’t really matter.

    It doesn’t ruin my family holiday and it does not take away my love for this race. It is hard, brutally hard and I knew the stakes when I entered it again. I had completed it on my first attempt in 2011 but then couldn’t resist going back again in 2013 where I had a nightmare of mechanicals resulting in a DNF.  This was meant to be the grand return, the righting of wrongs and the triumph to a year which had already included Lanza in May. My brother Andy was also attempting the race having heard so much about it from me.  He also DNF’d – his first ever.


    But the positives. The swim went well in the clear and warm waters of the Serre Poncone lake in the early and cool hours of the morning. As usual the race started in the dark and we all followed the lights on canoes. The sun slowly rose as I cruised around the two lapped swim in my usual slow way. The Alps rose majestically on each side of the lake and I could see the high peaks with each breath and just wonder.

    Setting out on the bike it was straight up a Col. The morning was cool and perfect for cycling but I knew it would not last. Sweeping back down towards Embrun again the day was already growing warm and the sun was beginning to blaze. Now begun the slow but spectacular climb towards the Col Izoard. Crowds lined the roads and cheered us on as the day got hotter and hotter. The river Durance with steel grey waters gushing down the mountainside rushed past as we rode through valleys and tunnels blasted through the looming Alps. Holes in the tarmac showed where rocks had fallen from the peaks above and left their craters like a crazy machine gunner.  I just hoped that the million to one chance wouldn’t happen to me as I rode underneath! The road turned left and I knew that here the Col Izoard started in earnest.  Pedalling to a steady rhythm I slowly made my way past the ski lifts standing incongruously in the green meadow grass on the lower slopes. I was suffering, and more disturbing was the familiar feeling of sickness which was preventing me from eating my nutrition or even sipping a drink.  ‘Not again’ I groaned as this was becoming the norm for me during a race.  Something was making me sick and so began the spiral which normally led to a wretched run with sickness being the overriding theme.

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    The road began the switchbacks through the dense pine forest clinging to the precipitous slopes. I stood on the pedals and pushed the power simply to stay upright. I was absolutely determined to reach the summit without touching the ground and I slowly ground my way upwards. Eventually the trees ran out. The altitude too high for any growth marked the start of the upper slopes and the moonscape of the Casse Desert. I knew the summit lay a few switchbacks ahead and I passed through the shimmering rocks of the desert and tried to ignore the terrible heat of the sun. I eventually reached the summit and saw the long line of trestle tables laden with food.  A volunteer rushed over with my special needs bag and handed it to me with a grin.  A far cry from 2013 when I had had my number ripped from my number belt by a French referee at the summit and suffered an ignominious ride back to Embrun in a hot coach with my bike bouncing on a trailer pulled behind.

    I set off from the summit and descended fast. I series of fast switchbacks were followed by a long straight descent before more switchbacks and the town of Briancon. This was fun and this was fast! But I hadn’t managed to eat or drink any of my special needs due to a rising sickness and I knew my time was limited. I also knew that the Izoard is only one, albeit the highest mountain on this course and I had some tough climbing still ahead. I also became aware as I turned back towards Embrun and cycled along the valley that I was now in the face of a strong headwind. It was hard work..bloody hard work. The wind reminded me of Lanza but I was even more tired and there was more climbing ahead than at the Island race.  I struggled through and gritted my teeth. I tried everything I knew to ease my pain and sickness. I put powdered milkshake mix in a water bottle but it just turned lumpy and made me gag.  I squirted juice from a small concentrate bottle into my water to make it more palatable but I still couldn’t drink. I forced myself to eat an orange segment but I just sicked it up. But the crowds were fantastic.  As I suffered and ground my way resolutely back towards Embrun they lined the route and shouted ‘Courage’ and ‘Allez’!  They took the time to look at my number and then look at the programme to call out my name. ‘Allez, allez, Simon’ they called…’courage’.  Cars would come past with flags fluttering from the windows and people leaning precariously from the doors. ‘Simon, Simon’ they called and waved at me happily.  I have said it before but you do feel like a superstar at this race.  I think the locals and the French are amazed that anyone actually starts this thing and are then determined to give you as much help as possible in completing it.  French News helicopters fly overhead as you cycle the course and you are left in absolutely no doubt how big an event this is to the French.

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     Eventually I came back into Embrun and psyched myself up for the cruellest twist of all. The 112 miles of a normal Iron distance course is not enough for this race. No, they have to bring you right back into the town and then suddenly send you up one final mountain, Le Chalvert, to bring the race to 115 miles and tax your heart and legs once more before the relief of transition. I was ready but it still hurt badly. I passed several competitors sitting motionless on their stationary bikes with their heads staring down. Others were lying on the verge and I wasn’t sure that some of them would ever be able to continue. But I stood and slowly turned those cranks and literally called on every reserve I had to make it up the switchbacks to the top. I eventually found myself on the rough gravel road leading back to transition and my arms were screaming at me even though it was a descent.  I thought of nothing. My mind was totally blank. Everything was spent and it had been 8hrs and 35 mins since I had left.

    Will I do it again?  I’m not sure.  It is now one finish out of three starts and the sickness which seems to plague me on these events is getting worse. You cannot finish this race if you cannot eat or drink properly. I have somehow scraped through Lanza and Wales on inadequate nutrition which was messy but possible. It is not possible on Embrunman. It is a historic race, one of the originals and has not sold out to the monolithic Ironman machine. It is a big deal in France, and is often the first question a Frenchman will ask you…’have you done Embrunman?..  ‘Yes’, I can answer, but it has smashed me back twice in return!

    But when I do hang up my long distance shoes ( and I might have already done so) then my experiences in Embrun will always be the highlight of my foray into long distance events.  As my friends in France would say, viva L’Embrunman!

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    wow, amazing write up matey, proper from the heart

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    incredible write up... fabulous read.

    lets be honest.... its all prep for an Ironman on my 100th birthday
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    That's what I call a race report, great stuff slim. 

    One year, I will do this race.  But not this year..

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    Choked up in sympathy a few times reading that Slim! Nice!


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