Daniel & Jean-Claude Besse

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Lessons from Barcelona (drafting?)

It's packed, so act like it

As much as the myth of an ironman is about being an individual event against yourself, it is far from being individual and straying further from it years after years. Don't get me wrong, it does push yourself mentally and physically to your limits and will be mostly determined individually. The large majority also plays fair in the drafting game and tries to respect the rules given the conditions. The amount and density of top athletes racing these days simply means that given the conditions sometimes takes more importance than the respect the rules part. And this can only be more true for pros or top age-groupers that fight for places and qualifying spots instead of time. The most hilarious part spectators don't even realize? 'The winner rode on its own, at least!' Yeah, drafting a few meters behind these media motorbikes (and remember, the rule in this case is 35m behind a vehicle, not the usual 12m).

Anyway, you can complain and complain, it's a never-ending debate. In the end, you have to fight it, registering only for races with less density or tougher courses for instance, or accept it and try to play smart. When we registered for Barcelona, we knew what we got ourselves into. A completely flat bike course with a record of 81 male pros registered, all not too far from each others as the top ones are busy with Kona. The smart in there basically boils down to, swim fast because you can, bike not too hard staying with a group if you can but do not overdo it, and hope you can run like crazy after that. I'm talking sub-3 marathon; we wanted it a few times, but we were never quite there actually. Only a controlled bike can lead to this (and it did as Jean-Claude already wrote).

My goal going in was setting that PB (<8h50), and a clear one if possible. 8h45 was the mark I fixed myself, with a stretch if everything is fine just below 8h40. I honestly did not expect sub-8h30 and didn't realize I was racing for it until 30k of the marathon when mum told me I could do it. Naturally, it got me thinking in the following days, what made it possible? A great shape and race for sure. Nevertheless, I think the fact that I rode a group had also an impact (for the clarification: from km 60 to 170, with sometimes more 8-10m than the 12m required, always with a referee motorbike though). With Jean-Claude having already related the race itself, I thought I would use the downtime of off-season to run the numbers and write some code to play with all the data I have recorded from power-meter and GPS. So bare with me, and enjoy the ride (you can draft me here)!

Virtual elevation, or when flat may not be flat

Power estimation formula

OK, this section might be a bit more mathematical and technical (ie skip it if you want). It is just to show you where the numbers and graphs come from and how much confidence you can put into the data. I will try to simplify it here.

Our goal in the end is to quantify how hard or easy the bike was in Barcelona and for this we have at disposition the GPS data from my Edge 520 and the watts measurements from the Powertap P1 pedals. Let's dive directly in the power formula (see https://3record.de/about/power_estimation#bike):

P = (C_aero + C_rolling + C_slope + C_kinetic) * v

with P the power (in W, watts), v the speed (m/s) and different contributions (∝ = proportional to):

  • C_aero: fighting the apparent wind (your speed plus any head wind) with a given frontal area, C_aero ∝ CdA * (v+v_wind)^2
  • C_rolling: tires having some rolling resistance and being compressed by your mass, C_rolling ∝ C_rr * m
  • C_slope: climbs, or you bringing your mass on top of height differences, C_slope ∝ m * h
  • C_kinetic: accelerations or differences in speed, C_kinetic ∝ (v^2-v_init^2)/d

Bringing it all together, we get an equation quantifying our aerodynamic CdA based on data from GPS or pedals with just two additional unknowns (wind speed and rolling resistance):

P = (X_areo * CdA * (v+v_wind)^2 + X_rolling * C_rr + X_slope * h + X_kinetic * (v^2-v_init^2)/d) * v

Of course, having data recorded each seconds, we could try to solve for CdA (which might often change due to position on the bike or presence of a group or not) setting a constant C_rr and wind direction+speed. The variations of the data makes it quite difficult however to extract anything but noise from this.

Virtual elevation

The trick here is to rewrite the equation for h, the elevation difference, and solve it on larger intervals than the record interval of 1s. For all references, the idea comes from GoldenCheetah's Aerolab/Virtual elevation. While it was first devised to ride loops and optimize until the virtual elevation is null, comparing it to GPS data also works quite well. The main advantages is that GPS errors on each seconds generally cancel out in the elevation as you will use the cummulated elevation difference from the start to the end of your solving interval. As such, you end up with a matrix equation:

h = A * (Cda, Crr, 1)'

The visual representation for the bike in Barcelona is the following (see CdA analysis on 3recordActivity analysis on 3record for the raw data) which is solved by default for the full duration but can be solved on shorter intervals by zooming the plot:

3record - Virtual elevation
Virtual elevation plot for my bike at IM Barcelona 2018.

Note that we made here the assumption of no wind, which might introduce some errors, When the difference on the bottom subplot is negative (orange curve drifts high compared to the real GPS elevation), it means that the aero was actually worse than what is presented on the boxes above (head wind, bad position, etc). On the contrary, a positive difference (orange curve goes down) means a better aero than expected (tail wind, good position, drafting, etc).

You can already guess from there that my second lap has been better than the first one (orange curve first goes up then down). I think we're therefore ready for some aggregated data.

180k worth of plots

To understand them correctly, here is the short bike report. First 55k on my own, where I realize at the U-turn that I will be soon overtaken by a big group. time to eat and prepare to catch the train. Effort is relatively constant and feels easier on the way back (until 90k). The larger the group becomes, the more irregular it is. Overtaking amateurs in their first lap also makes it worse and worse. Finally, in the last 10k, the group explodes and I take the lead of those who did not break in front.

OK ready. Gimme the plot!

First, what you would see if you were simply looking at the tracker and taking the time. A constant speed slightly above 39km/h average (around 40km/h without th first 3 and last 3 kilometers with lots of bumps and aerobars interdiction). All the plots below have a smoothing over 120 points, or 2 minutes, for better visualization.

IM Barcelona 2018 - speed

Now some people might stop there. Perfectly paced 180k, somewhat faster than Zürich, but not too much considering the easier course. A good decision nevertheless, as it would allow for a very fast marathon. The whole point of this exercise however is to say, it did not feel that hard or that constant. So let's look at power next (I must say for full disclosure that I have the impression the pedals had some drops during the race with watts being shown as only half during one-two seconds before coming back to normal, probably the right pedal wireless connection not performing that well).

IM Barcelona 2018 - power
Power (NP=Normalized Power in red, AvgP=Average power in blue).

Anyway, it is clear from the plot that I ride a 250-255W normalized ("equivalent constant effort", average of the fourth power of the watts over 30s which is supposed to account for intervals or non-constant efforts) and only very slightly lower this when riding the pack. The average power is however another story. In the first 80k, I am basically riding my own pace with average power being almost equal to normalized power. The effort is constant (note: voluntarily lower than in Zürich where it was around 250W average during the first 100k but 275W normalized, the climbs explaining the differences there). After that, I am stuck in the group, and having to follow the pace, I sometimes push more, sometimes less, quite often also not pedaling to keep the required distance to the athlete in front of me or dropping behind when someone overtakes me. You can clearly see this in the VI(Variability Index=normalized watts/average watts) plot. VI=1.0 would be a perfect constant effort, and I'm not too far from it in the first half. VI=2.0 is way too much for any ironman textbook... do they target pro packs though?

IM Barcelona 2018 - VI
VI=Variability Index=NP/AvgP.

The same information can also be seen in the amount of time spent pedaling. In a constant effort, you are always pedaling except for turns or intersections. In the group, I always had to stop pedaling to keep myself from getting a penalty. Notably, I gave a big push at the beginning of the descent but hardly pedaled for the rest of it in the second loop (large drop around km 130).

IM Barcelona 2018 - pedaling
Percentage of the time spent pedaling.

And to conclude, the CdA. Around 0.23 for the total ride, it is sensibly better than my usual (more in the 0.27-0.29 range). Riding alone I was actually just like normal, a bit higher at the beginning (maybe 0.3) then around 0.27. Only with the group coming and getting bigger and bigger did it get always better. The more irregular it became, the more I tried to take concentrate on nutrition and on stay aero, and it clearly shows in the plot. Only in the last kilometers did I push again a bit more, and got out of the aerobars for the small climbs to stretch my back and get ready for the marathon.

IM Barcelona 2018 - CdA


Alright, believe it or not, this took me quite some time to put it all together, yet I am still not 100% sure what to take out of it. But here are a few points:

  • Riding 250W instead of 270-275W in Zürich made a huge difference in the perceived effort. Probably, we should learn to be more constant in the effort even when the course is not flat.
  • (Kinda-)Legally-drafting at 10m is around 10% saved watts thanks to improved CdA.
  • Too big pelotons suck. Riding is irregular with no gained advantage in comparison to riding to 5 or less. My supposition is that if the group would have been smaller, the first one on the front would have been more motivated to push a bit more in average with the same normalized power, and the final time would have gotten even better.
  • Waiting and staying with a group is much easier, if only mentally. I was in a waiting-the-marathon mode instead of a racing mode, and it means it felt much easier to follow the nutrition plan and not get bored on the bars. If ever stuck in a group, take it easy and trust your run.
  • My personal goals in ironman have gone from sub-9h to sub-8h40 (to managing sub-8h30 before it was actually planned). Now I have been twice in the top-15 pro and with a single minute faster I could have been 11th in Barcelona. Nonetheless, I have to get better on the bike and ride ahead of such a pack if I ever want a top-10 or top-8 to be called on stage the following day.

The goal for next year is not yet clearly defined, and might actually be quite different than sub-8h30 in terms of time. I think it is always difficult to compare raw times in ironman and PBs do not mean as much as in marathon or running in general. Barcelona remains a great experience though with a lot of confidence gained and lessons learned. For now, having fun riding, running, swimming, and training will be enough!

IM Barcelona 2018 - bike
Enjoy the ride!
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3 commentaires
Very nice analysis, thanks! (GoldenCheetah's Aerolab/Virtual elevation is indeed a very useful tool for the one who takes some time on it, and you derived it pretty nicely).

A few thoughts below:
1) I guess that you have to mention a few calculations assumptions:
- No tire deflation over the 180km (would increase C_rolling)
- Stable ambiant conditions (pressure, temperature and humidity all affect several power components)
- No transmission frictions (would add another power component)

Anyway, with these limitations in mind (of limited effect), your calculations still remain largely valuable and interesting, leading to the other points... :)

2) Regarding the effect of pack riding on variability index, a first logical conclusion for race training is to include more interval training. As always, the need is to prepare the body to manage race conditions, here being a highly variable power with 350-400W bursts intersped by 0-100W periods. This is generally not the way long distance triathletes train...

3) Still regarding power variability, its intermittence will also have other effects, for instance regarding race nutrition. The stress response caused by high intensity bursts will lower digestive ability, necessitating as well a non-linear nutrition plan. What about ingesting more energy in the first, non-packed part than in the second? What about varying food texture as well (f.eg. bars and gels first, liquids second)? I would, however, keep fluid intake broadly constant since water absorption is less affected by blood dynamics than energy (carbohydrate), which leads to interesting osmolarity issues...

4) I definitely agree with your conclusion "probably, we should learn to be more constant in the effort even when the course is not flat" that can be related to your other points regarding perceived exhaustion (be it pack riding, etc.). My comment here is related to carbohydrate oxidation which is exponential: A power increase of 10% will translate into a far higher increase in carbohydrate oxidation... In other words, a perfectly linear power will spare more glycogen and, since muscle glycogen levels are related to perceived exhaustion, will be mentally easier to sustain...

Not only explaining the pain difference between 250W and 270W, this point can also be related to pack riding: As there is a few (tens of) seconds lag between the actual power and its perception, this lag may, when repeated hundreds of time, cause an extra glycogen oxidation that would be best spared. Here you are lucky enough to have your bicycle powermeter, so believe it and try to smooth power transitions as long as you can when in packs (i.e. not allowing another rider to close the gap).

5) Beyond tactical considerations, the main physiological drawback to adopt a perfectly linear cycling power pace is regarding cycling efficiency. For instance, managing a constant 250W on a downhill is difficult, if not impossible due to the required cadence that deteriorates cycling efficiency (i.e. the mechanical to metabolic power ratio). So, another tip here may be to train for various cadences, to allow for a greater ability to truly normalize your power (and smooth transitions).

Hoping that these few additional thoughts may be of some help, feel free to also comment and, again, thanks for your great analysis! :)

par Robin le 21-10-2018 à 12:26
Hi Robin,

Thank you for your comments, very interesting from you just like I still remember your nutritional advice in Zürich last year regarding our handling of Frankfurt.

1) sure, lots of assumptions. Actually we have an efficiency factor in our model if you look at the link to 3record. But anyway, I would say this analysis is limited by data accuracy and wind being unknown. Some aerobar pods with sensors are coming to the market and might help fix this.

2) I actually like that better than the boring constant 5h effort ;-)
It's just not the most efficient.

3) interesting. I sure had a lot more focus on staying aero and following my nutrition plan than during the previous ironmen. However I certainly realized that pace does have an influence on what I can ingest and my willingness to eat.

4-5) Yes, some variability due to profile is acceptable but we have a lot more than other pros and probably too much. We should push a lot less in the climbs and a little more on the flat or descents, and we would probably end up being faster for less stress on the body.

par Daniel le 21-10-2018 à 17:21
Thanks for your answer. :)

4-5) Regarding pacing, you have a few websites that may help:

a. To define an appropriate power on a known cycling course

b. To define the power goal considering your FTP/lab testing

c. I also looked on research papers and, while many emphasize the importance of pacing on performance, I found none that specifically focused on male pros riding as packs during long distance triathlons. A few of interest still:

-Bike and run on downhill segments predict long distance triathlon performance: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24405984

-Pacing strategy of a winning female pro: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30161089

However, I agree that the case of a female cannot be applied to males due to far less athlete density. Then, the specificity of pack riding seems to have not been studied so far.

par Robin le 22-10-2018 à 11:45

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Ironman Barcelona

People are often quoted saying “never again” at the finish line of an Ironman. Zurich 2018 was somewhat different for me, straight ahead claiming I wanted to race another one in the same season. Not that Zurich was terrible, but it wasn’t at the level I wished it to be, and I had at heart the desire to show something better. It didn’t take long to have Daniel on board, and after briefly considering Emilia-Romagna and Wales we settled onto Barcelona early October.

Barcelona is one of the fastest course ever, and also the second biggest Ironman race in terms of participation. Only downside, there might be a lot of drafting (though it isn’t always obvious how it will turn out among the PROs in front).

From one IM to another

Barcelona being just over 2 months after Zurich, it leaves times for recovery, a (relatively long) hard block of training, and tapering. Thus not just riding on the fitness wave, but also potentially improving it. I felt like the small interruptions with holidays, military and conference in June prevented to show full potential at the end of July. The stomach pain on the day was also unfortunate, but those are things you might have to deal with at an Ironman.

Off we went and trained, with 2hrs on the week following the Ironman, but already 10+ in the next ones. Uster triathlon was great, and after a tough block (with two days off work) the following week-end, it was rather tired and doubtful that I joined the start line in Murten.

Remained a few long rides, one or two key sessions on the track, and time for tapering. Times goes by quickly. I tell everyone before the race that I am way better prepared, but doubt when Daniel says I should aim for 8h50-8h45. Only race performance is a true indicator of your shape.

Airport selfie #chillin'withmymuffin.

On Thursday the travel is a bit rough (good thing we opted for an early flight), with over 7hrs delay. I am happy Daniel keeps the mood “chill”, we’ll make it to race location (Calella, roughly 60km north east of Barcelona along the coast) and did not plan anything else anyways.

Lead up

On Friday we mount the bikes (first time with the TTs), and get to test them on the first and last 20k of the course. My legs are just rolling, the pace is steady fast, and Daniel tells me to keep quiet when I ask whether we should do some race pace intervals. Turns out we were riding close to race pace already – it felt so easy.

After a quick PRO briefing we are joined by the support team (Nadine, Gianna & Jamie). Remains a few carbo-loaded meals, a short jog on Saturday morning with a few race pace (and faster) strides, as well as dropping the bikes and bags in transition on Saturday afternoon.

Before race jog
Before race legs shake out.
Bike drop
Bike drop.

On race morning we are greeted with lightnings, stormy rain, big waves and the likes. Not the ideal conditions, but it is supposed to calm down by the time we get out of the water, and at least it’s not super hot like the last two ironmans. Apart from a last minute need-to-find-a-charger emergency all is good.

Race morning shower.


Let me introduce the salty washing machine: 81 PROs, beach start, sun barely rising at the horizon through heavy clouds, and waves climbing to the spectators’ feet along the shore. Contrary to rough conditions on the bike, this doesn’t bother me here (rather opposite, I was keeping fingers crossed the swim would be kept as planned). Once the gun goes, it’s a few meters of running until getting knocked down by the first wave, and swam over by the guy behind me. Boom, boom, let’s get this fight started.

Swim start video.

Until the first buoy it’s bumpy to say the least. I also lose my googles thanks to someone’s misplaced foot. After the right turn I re-settle but after looking ahead the first group is gone already, and I find myself pacing the second pack (a huge one by the way).

The rest of the swim is rather uneventful and boring. Waves so high you don’t see the next buoy on most of the sightings (but often trust the foam ten-twenty meters ahead of the lone guy in-between packs). The water being relatively shallow, and us swimming along the coast means it won’t get better at any point. Not worth fighting it, just go with the flow. One concurrent always tries to go past me, but fails. I wonder if I should let him pass or not. On the other hand I am not really getting tired at that pace.

Only question: which one is the buoy at which we need to turn around? Very often I don’t see the next one before having done half of the in-between buoys distance, guess I’ll just trust Ironman for putting different ones there as they promised (they did).

Once out of the water a quick glance at the watch shows 53min. Could be better, but not so bad. I guess the distance to the first pack is bigger than usual. A quick run through showers to get the salt off, pack the suit with some gels (on top of the on-bike ones), and eat one biberli already.


Once on the bike and the shoes fixed, we have a first three-kilometer stretch in the city of Calella where aerobars are forbidden, due to the road being narrow and bumpy. Out of that portion and onto the coast road, I get passed by a few people, despite my Garmin showing above 280W. Calm down, JC. The plan is to take the bike easy. I might lose a few minutes, but will more than make that up in the run. 250-260W it is, slightly ambitious but if I don’t burn too many matches it should go smoothly (and since it’s mainly pancake flat not burning matches should be easier than in Zurich).

Another few people pass by, all way too eager to make up lost time in the swim; I don’t try to stay with them. Some rolling hills in the first part, that changes a bit from the very flat announced course. I do not regret that. I still mostly feel like I am waiting for things to happen. Kilometers go by quickly - we’re talking about 38km/h average. The road is clear and wide, fully closed to traffic. At some point I see people in the other direction already; it must be the first of the two new “climbs”. I meet Daniel right before a sign that say “U-turn 500m”. Not so much delay then! Turns out - as I confirmed by looking at the GPS on the second round - that sign was 1.6km away from the actual U-turn…

Aero is key
Aero is key.

Semi-highway back and forth, before attacking the actual highway for the second climb. Power goes slightly up to 280W, the pace stays steady at around 30km/h for most of what a Swiss athlete cannot seriously call a climb. Again the U-turn is just randomly along the road, and no official nor timing mat seem to be checking that people actually go up to there. Weird.

For the second time I meet Daniel, as well as the first two women slowly but surely closing the gap behind me.

I still ride completely alone, and this from km20, until the 65km mark. There a media motor bike catches up, and sure enough while staying next to me or slightly behind he doesn’t point his camera towards me. That can only mean one thing: Laura Philipps is tagging on to my pace. No change of plan on my side, still aiming at 250W. Not long later another PRO man passes in front, at which point I realize we are 5 with the first two women (not sure who brought who back onto me). An official on the motorbike is also there, but rather making space for the media and making sure no one draft Laura and Yvonne than giving cards it seems. People are fair, and ride at 10-12m in general (except at the rare roundabouts). The pace is a bit less steady, as I will realize later the leading guy has gotten carded already and trying to gain some time before stopping at the penalty tent.

We are already reaching half-way, and I keep eating as much as possible. No bonking today! Daniel seems to be in a tighter more crowded pack with many of the people who passed me in the first 20k, and gains distance quickly. Doesn’t seem like he has much choice, whereas we do.

Daniel bike
Daniel starting his second lap.

On the start of the second lap Yvonne lets some gap build up, which I bridge in two hard fought kilometers, but otherwise I am just tagging onto their pace without gaining much aero advantage. In the aid station and start of the climb the pace is relatively slow, I move up to second position in the pack, but decide not to take the lead. I am still on plan for 4h45, better run a great marathon than dig into the sugar reserves now.

At the top Laura notices Yvonne in pain 100m back, and decides to put 300W in the descent. Chopfedammi-***! I push to stay with (partly out of the bars sadly as not super confident at 60km/h), then need to brake as the motos don’t really know where to stay, sprint again to regain speed. Not ideal, thus I decide to let a little gap build up and smoothly get back into the wagons at the final turn (the train decreased in size to 3 though).

Once at the final U-turn I am very confident on my energy reserves. A bit less about the rain drops that start falling. Laura pushes hard again, after having recovered for 20km behind the other guy. I stay with them, but the rain that falls more and more heavily starts to bother me. They are very cautious in the turns, but push really strong in the straight lines along the train tracks. At some point around km155-160 I let go. I am on my own again, just wishing the rain would stop and I can switch to running.

Bike end
Going into T2.

The rain will stop eventually, but not before a heavy 5 minutes where riding 47km/h on the bars with back wind is not super reassuring to me. I feel like I lost a bit my will to push, and the watts (as well as my average time on the bars) drop until reaching transition. No biggie, the last 3k are again treated with caution out of the bars, and 4h48 for 181.5km is where the computer stops.


In transition I take a bit more time than usual, eating half a honey waffle, packing all the gels in the trisuit (since no personal aid is allowed contrary to Zurich), and drinking my own iso mixture. A 3-hour marathon is the plan, and that should take us at 8h45 or just above.

The first steps are very reassuring as the legs feel great, and the very cushioned 4% shoes bounce nicely in the packed sand. I was worried in the days leading to the race that this road in-between transition and finish would not give back, losing energy by slipping; turns out it’s very enjoyable. Gianna asks if I am doing well. She’ll just get a quick sign, but yes all is good (I add ‘for the moment’ nevertheless). First kilometer already, sub 4min, let’s slow down the pace.

After the second kilometer also below 4 minutes, I finally settle into a pace that seems very controlled, at around 4’05/km. The first part along the beach is nicely running through spectators, with some shadows, and the sun partly hiding behind clouds. After a small out and back, we go below the train tracks to a long stretch towards Santa Susanna. I realize after the race that it is probably only 1.5km, but feels much longer due to it being exposed, fully straight, and without any spectator.

Anyways soon later I reach the 10k mark in a flattering 40’09. My Garmin shows slightly less distance, and consistently so over the marathon (to finish in 41.9km). The race hasn’t started yet. It’s a bit like Lucerne, by 10k it should sound like a joke. I smile when I hear Jamie saying “great pace” (I know!). My left foot is already dripping blood since the kilometer marker 8, but oh well – it’s a problem for post-race JC (in-a-race JC couldn’t care less about post-race JC’s worries).

Smiling in the run.

After one of three laps I tell myself that I am on a good track. We’re above one third of the marathon, and yet I still keep myself from running faster; running in a controlled way. The speaker announces my name, along some “keeps flying” comment. It’s true that I catch a lot of concurrents in the process.

Not much to say for the next bit. Still on track with one gel about every 5km, iso every second aid station, and as much water as possible to throw on myself and rinse down the sugars. The sun comes out briefly, before hiding again. Second 10km in 41min, half marathon just below 1h26.

Daniel run
Daniel moving just as fast.

From then on the feeling of flying slowly dies off, and keeping a roughly constant pace is costing more and more energy and mental dedication. But it is far from the fight an IM has been before. In fact nothing could stop me now, as long as I stay clever and keep eating until the very end. I ask the supporters to tell me something (“what did Melanie do?”). Need to think of something else than my quads hardening.

Km 30 arrives relatively fast, and once again I just lost 1min to the previous ten kilometers (42min). For the first time I switch the watch to total time, 8h45 should be doable. It becomes slowly but surely difficult to keep the stride length, the feet stay a bit longer in contact with the ground, but the pace never goes above 4’30/km. Try to enjoy the final stretch if you can!

And enjoy I did. It doesn’t matter at what rank I finish (23rd), I showed I can run a sub 3hrs marathon after pushing above 240W for close to 5hrs. That’s all I wanted. A PB in 8h42 is just a bonus (or a logical consequence if you want). What a final point to the season 2018…

Finish video.


First of all: super proud of Daniel, whom I meet after the finish line. Clocking a sub 8h30 is a long term goal I announced a few times already (as well as a 2h30 marathon - alone), and while he tries to tone it down to drafting-aided, he showed it’s in our potential.

After a brief stop to the medical tent - now it’s post-race JC suffering from heavily bleeding feet speaking. He’s not regretting pre-race JC’s choice of shoes though; the sole was just great during. He just wished the laces were put on tighter. – after said red-cross stop, it is time for shower, massage, a few bites of sandwich without real appetite, and sharing impressions with supporters.

In the next few days sleeping and eating habits are still shaken by the adrenaline, but I am really proud of the performance. No next goal for the moment, it’s time for a well-deserved off-season break.


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C’est un bloc chargé de deux semaines très intensives qui nous mènent au triathlon de Morat samedi 15 septembre. Le premier week-end du mois consiste en un enchaînement long-intensif-long. S’en suivent des séries à pied dures mais où la fatigue m’empêche de bien dérouler les sensations. Puis la semaine d’avant course comprend une longue sortie aussi bien sur les barres du contre-la-montre qu’avec les baskets. Je suis crevé, et malgré avoir prévu de courir à Morat en "train-through", décide de prendre un jour de pause le mercredi avant ainsi que pépère le jeudi. Peu importe, "milky way" (TSB) est toujours dans le négatif le jour J (et ce depuis le 19 août), faudra faire aller.

Sur place on retrouve du beau monde : les copains du Rushteam, les collègues du Team Tzamo, la concurrence Team Koach notamment. En prenant la course en passant, j’oubliais presque qu’elle distribue des prize money, et que le niveau y est meilleur qu’ailleurs sur TriCircuit.


L’eau est bonne, mais la combinaison autorisée. Je suis aux alentours de Freddie Staal, David Herzig et Daniel au départ natation. Autant dire que je vois que des pieds pour une fois, et ne m’extirpe pas du tout une fois le coup de pistolet donné. Je suis plus ou moins des bulles, mais ça s’étire vers l’avant. Un long aller légèrement sur la droite comme d’habitude à Morat. Mon guide se plante un peu avant la bouée, et met les gaz pour rejoindre le groupe après. Damn ! Si j’arrive à la première bouée dans les bulles, je me retrouve seul lorsqu’il accélère et finis la natation pour moi. Mon niveau ces temps à l’entraînement est un peu plus faible que je ne me le souhaite, et si sur Ironman ça reste respectable, ça se paie sur un 1500m rapide (mené comme par hasard par Daniel).


A la sortie de l’eau surprise on sort par l’autre arche que prévu. Je me retrouve en 5 secondes devant ma place sans avoir eu le temps d’enlever le haut. La transition aussi est un point que le switch sur longue distance n’a pas forcément favorisé. Bref sauter sur le vélo et pousser en direction du Nespresso d’Avenches. Vent de dos ça défile vite, à se faufiler parfois entre voitures et tracteurs à des vitesses approchant parfois ma limite de se sentir à l’aise sur les barres. Une fois le virage à droite en direction du Vully effectué c’est une autre histoire. Urs Mueller me reprend alors que mes cuisses me rappellent les efforts des deux semaines précédentes. Le compteur se bloque à 280W, au lieu des 300W escomptés. Dans la bosse pas de miracle. Je pousse mentalement, mais les pédales mesurent moins que dans The Beast sur Ironman à Zürich !

Allez Jean-Claude. Peu importe le compteur, on approche de la moitié. Je reprends Freddie et un autre concurrent, alors qu’Andreas Gruetter me reprend dans la deuxième montée du Vully. Le vent souffle plus fort désormais (ou alors on le remarque plus de face avec la fatigue). Et j’ai l’impression de pousser péniblement sur le retour. Seul point positif, la position est agréable sur les barres, et les kilomètres défilent malgré tout assez vite.

Uster group
En T2.


Une fois descendu du vélo et enfilé les chaussures, départ sur un bon rythme mais sans trop forcer. Un point sur le côté me gênera un peu, je reste donc dans le rythme conservateur. Pas de concurrents directs en vue, ni devant ni derrière, j’ai mon petit train-train. Sur la deuxième boucle on reprend les meilleures dames, dont une tente de s’accrocher un kilomètre. Petit défi pour moi d’hausser le ton, les jambes ont vraiment de la peine à passer dans la réserve aujourd’hui. L’impression d’avoir couru un olympique au rythme semi-iron. Ça coule bien dans le rythme endurance, mais elle est passée où la vitesse supérieure ?

Alors que Daniel en a terminé déjà depuis 6min en deuxième position, je prends la 6e place overall. 3e de la catégorie, et vainqueur des championnats suisses universitaires. Et puisque c’est train-through, et ben le lendemain matin c’est 95km de vélo à 35km/h de moyenne sur les barres, enchaîné par 10 kilomètres de course en rythme ironman+ dans la forêt. Bizarrement j’ai eu de meilleures sensations que le jour de la course. Être capable de récupérer si vite d’un olympique est un excellent signe. Dernière ligne droite avant Barna…

Uster group
Podium catégorie 18-34.
Uster group
Podium Championnats Suisses Universitaires.
Uster group
Bière de fin de saison. A un détail près pour deux d'entre nous ;)

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Doublé sur olympique à Uster

Le fameux plus jamais

Tout participant à un ironman (ou partenaire/proche/supporter) connaît bien ce fameux "plus jamais" qu'on dit en tentant de reprendre ses esprits le soir même en se convainquant que cette fois on s'y tiendra. Et pourtant, magique comme il est, notre cerveau efface très vite les souvenirs de souffrance et de longueur pour ne se rappeler que les points positifs. La drogue faisant alors son effet, le jamais devient un peut-être puis un pourquoi pas et enfin une inscription. L'intervalle de temps entre chaque étape dépend de beaucoup de conditions. Pour nous, après Zürich, la démarche n'a pas trop tardé avec une récupération express (comparé à Francfort) et, l'option d'inscription "tardive" avec la licence PRO aidant, nous sommes désormai inscrits pour l'ironman de Barcelone en octobre. Avant cela, reste à rouler encore et toujours, ainsi que se faire plaisir sur quelques courses plus courtes comme préparation. La première a eu lieu aujourd'hui: Uster.

Train through

Ce qui est bien avec une préparation longue distance (et un volume conséquent), c'est que les olympiques sont devenus beaucoup moins compliqué: tapering minimal, pacing sans trop se poser de question, préparation (voire inscription) de dernière minute. A fond (ou presque) tout du long et ça va bien passer, la confiance est là. Et ça c'est heureusement confirmé une fois de plus aujourd'hui. Entre les 250km de vélo du week-end dernier et une semaine relativement chargée, j'avais un peu de doutes quand à mon état de fraîcheur et la façon dont les jambes allaient répondre. Vendredi à l'entraînement du TVO, les 4x5' sur route se sont avérés beaucoup plus difficiles que prévus quand bien même pas faits à fond. Le tendon d'Achille qui tire un peu, les mollets très durs, et l'envie qui manque. Pourquoi l'avoir fait? Jean-Claude a dit qu'Uster était une train-through race... mais en vérité, je me dis que ce n'était pas forcément une bonne idée de forcer une série dans ces conditions.

Geiles Gefühl

Whatever, no stress, no pressure. Le but est de faire Uster avec ce qu'on a. Et c'est toujours mieux d'avoir des sensations de m* à un entraînement plutôt que durant la compétition. D'ailleurs, dès la natation, le ressenti n'est pas si mal. Je pars juste derrière Jean-Claude dans ce rolling start, pour le rattraper vers la première bouée. De là, je mène la danse, sans trop savoir où sont les autres. Je vois plus souvent des gens à qui je prends un tour (et dont le rythme est parfois très différent du mien) que Jean-Claude ou mes concurrents direct. Qu'importe, je fais ma course, avec ce que mes jambes veulent bien fournir (et pour une fois un peu moins le compteur).

Ainsi, je sors de l'eau dans l'ignorance la plus totale et au milieu des athlètes du short et m'élance seul sur mon vélo. Les 300W sont rapidement atteints, sans que les jambes si douloureuses deux jours auparavant ne se plaignent. Et ceci résumera presque l'entièreté des deux tours du Greifensee. Seules distractions au programme sont des athlètes (et une voiture) à dépasser, soit du short au premier tour, soit du premier tour dans mon deuxième. Il me semble que je reste nettement plus sur mes barres que les dernières années sur le même parcours. Tant mieux, à Barcelone, le parcours tout plat me fait un peu craindre la lassitude au niveau de la position sur la longueur. 300W average, 308W normalized, autant dire que, mis à part les quelques chicanes de Fällanden, mon rythme est régulier. 41.2km/h de moyenne sur 38km, joli!

Uster run

Et en courant aussi les sensations sont bonnes. Je regarde peu (pour ne pas dire pas du tout) la montre. Les jambes tournent, le rythme est sûrement bon. Juste après le demi-tour, je croise Jean-Claude qui n'a pas tant de retard que ça, personne d'autre ne semble être de l'olympique par contre. Avec les départs échelonnés, on ne peut être sûr de rien par contre et il faut tenir le rythme jusqu'au bout. Pas de soucis, puisque j'arrive à tenir le rythme sur le retour ainsi que l'entame du deuxième tour. Un petit gel à 6km, le check avec Jean-Claude à 7.5km pour voir que je lui ai repris un peu de terrain. Mentalement je me force encore à pousser à fond. Les mollets deviennent gentiment durs et se plaignent de plus en plus, pourtant ils devront accélérer encore sur le dernier kilomètre (sans d'autre raison que la tête en a envie et qu'ils le peuvent).

Uster podium

Bref, une belle course qui m'a fait très plaisir tout du long. Pas de coup de mou, pas de fatigue comme vendredi, pas de réactions bizarres d'un quelconque muscle, pas de mur, pas de surprise hors plan à gérer. Que du positif. Et le doublé 1er et 2e avec Jean-Claude comme cerise sur le gâteau. Peut-être que prendre une course comme elle vient, sans pression, est parfois plus facile mentalement. Ou peut-être que la préparation longue distance a rendu les olympiques plus aisés.

Uster group
Photo de groupe.

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Ironman Zürich

Frankfurt last year was Rushteam's big yearly excursion, and brought many newbies and experimented iron(wo)men to the world of long distance. This year there would be fewer oranges at the start line, but starting in Zürich was the guarantee to see plenty of known faces along the course. The road to Zürich started early. Very early. Despite a busy schedule with work and everything around, we registered as PROs and summed up a tad above 200k of swimming, 5000k of biking and 1000k of running over the first 7 months of 2018. They weren't all easy, I've seen ups and downs, FTP breakthroughs as well as blow-outs and painful plantar.

But there I was, on a warm Friday evening, lining up in the yacht resort serving as media center. PRO briefing and bib number pick up. Around me only fit people, all eagerly awaiting the gun shot of Sunday morning. I am rather confident on my race shape, though probably more stressed than ever before, with the exception of Frankfurt (the “most xx than ever before, except Frankfurt” is a recurrent theme, brace yourself…).

Not much to say for Saturday, an easy day mostly spent at home, one tab open on the tracker of the 5i50, the other on MeteoSchweiz. At 4pm we rack the bikes in transition zone, and get back home quickly. Dinner for 8, thank god friends and family are here for a relaxed atmosphere, because I'd be dying otherwise.


On Sunday morning once the bike is pumped up, the bags filled, the Garmin set up in racing mode, we get towards the start area. A few familiar faces wish me good luck, contrary to other races I think I might need some this time…

As usual before a race I am not very talkative (some may even say as usual would suffice).

You're on the front line
Everyone's watching
You know it's serious we're getting closer

Race nerves
Pre-race nerves.

Starting as a PRO means you get to compare to the very best only. While very cool, it's also some added pressure on a good result.

The start line isn't very packed, yet as soon as the gun goes off there is no extra politeness. You gotta fight for your space, and while I can do that against the first guy next to me, when Ronnie pushes for some feet I'm not really armed to fight… (and it's probably not worth the effort).

Race start
Race start.

After the first turn at the yellow buoy, I get sort of nauseous. A few hundred meters later part of my breakfast finds its way backwards into my mouth. There's no holding it, nor swallowing completely back in, so off goes a little “fish nutrition”. Throwing up in the lake, though not much, wasn't the ideal vision for a good Ironman start. But hey as they always say, “prepare for the unexpected, and get ready to be surprised nevertheless”. It's gonna be a long day.

I lost a few positions in the process I believe, and get towards what seems to be the back of the second swimming group. I switch temporarily to 6-beat kick to secure the connection at the second buoy. Once in the slipstream, time to glide. 2-beat kick, long arm pulls, no worries it'll be ok.

Along the long stretch opposite Mythenquai our group splits in two, and I keep right with what seems to be the slightly slower guys but shorter path. Not much to say here, I could be swimming slightly faster but at the expense of a lot more efforts than drafting. At the very end of the straight line the group merges again, which causes some chaos, I have to get out of comfort zone slightly to not lose connection, but get back into gliding pace before the swim exit. I try to pee a bit before exiting the water, but can't. It should then hold for the next 8 hours …

Swim exit
Swim exit.

Standing up on the green carpet next to Ronnie, I get a glance to the watch. Slightly above 55min (I actually started it too early, it was rather slightly below). Not too bad, perfectly in the planned pace.


In T1 I start eating already, put my stuff on, grab my bike and here we go. Shoes laced up, and getting up to speed. Ronnie is way too fast, Samuel Hürzeler as well, but around km 10 a Spaniard and a French overtake me at a pace that seem negotiable. Barely faster than me alone, and with legal drafting at 10-12m certainly much less efforts. I stay with them until Meilen, get to the front of the group, back behind again, until they explode at the first little climb going away from the lake. I lose a gel because my box stayed open from the previous one I took. It ends up in the chainring with a loud noise, but after one pedal spin backwards it falls off and all is sorted out. Two german überbikers pass me; even at 300w I can't stay with them, and thus decide to let them go.

Getting closer to The Beast the pace is ok, legs are feeling great. The stomach is another story, but that's nothing the head can't shut off as a mere inconvenience. I enjoy the climb, getting out of the bars and climbing at reasonably high wattage. No familiar faces at the top, probably the only place I expected it but didn't see anyone.

Bike climb
Bike climb.

In the descent towards Egg I surprise myself by being much more cautious than I thought I would be in a race. No biggy, relax and push on the next climb. Towards Forch it's then full pace on the aerobars, and here we are, ready to descend, at 36km/h avg but with mostly climbs only.

The descent is again not my forte; I eat a bar, and start along the lake with renewed motivation. I look forward to getting towards Bellevue, Mythenquai and Heart Break Hill. There are so many people cheering on me, it's like 20 bonus watts coming from the air around. Especially Heart Break Hill. Almost feels flat. Literally pulled up by people. Amazing feeling. Just look at the crowd. I love it.

I'm on my way
I'm on my way.

Meeting Dani and the rest of the PROs that are quite a bit ahead of me is another kind of news to swallow. But hey my plan is my plan, and I asked people not to give me ranking infos before km 20 on the marathon. Because an Ironman is still mostly a race against your own limits. And some days your limits are closer than you expect. I've thought of giving up on the bike already, I'd be lying to say the opposite. But I couldn't do that to the people who've come to support, spend the day in the heat to see me pass by, to the many trainings I've completing for the sole reason of being ready on that very day.

Taking a bottle from Jamie I also realize what I suspected since a few miles: I've been following my eating plan, but drinking much less than anticipated. It didn't use to be a problem in recent races, but with the stomach in pain I might have overlooked that until km 80. 2h36 and some seconds on the first lap, no need to go faster anyways.

I'm getting better at reading those signs I believe, and start to slow down slightly, anticipating some bad times ahead. While the head was especially good at shutting down the stomach pain, the legs are more pushy when they ask for some relief. Along the lake some wind has come up as well, and I tend to get out of the bars here or there in the tiny little climbs. Come on JC, drop low and show the world your nice new CdA of the latest trainings.

Flying through Mythenquai.

I'm actually happy once in Hombrechtikon. I can start climbing. Philip is there as a nice surprise. The first two age groupers as well as PRO women overtake me in close drafting pack, even forcing me to pull on the brakes when they steer to the right of the road nearly in my front wheel. The referee is apparently more concerned of me getting in the group than the others riding together. Whatever. They're in a different race. I've been doing a solo ride for 100k now.

In the climb 20k later I'll catch some of them again, despite not holding up on the pace of the first round. It's tough out here, and the pace in Forch is somewhat slower but still anticipating a sub5 bike ride.

The part along the lake from Küsnacht to the finish line is longer than I wished, and the power meter showing smaller numbers than I want to read. The marathon won't be a honeymoon; it wasn't planned to be. 5h00 on the bike, just a few minutes slower than I wished, the 3h marathon would be a perfect sub9.


But I know that hoping for a 3h marathon in those conditions is utopic. I don't have the energy, and the heat is too oppressive. I'll get a quick glimpse at the watch km 1 and 2, and stop looking at it afterwards. I'm not here for a time any longer; I'm here to finish that fight. Show them I am stronger than the pain, and prove to myself that even if the day wasn't perfect, it isn't that bad either (sometimes I am more proud of not fading too much in bad situations than the top speed on an ideal day). As Sophie said a week before, “your bad day would only be a slower marathon”.

Run start
Run start.

Similar to Frankfurt, running instead of biking is a nice change of gears, and I have some enjoyable kilometers (not many) before signs of critical emptiness of the energy tank show again. Contrary to Frankfurt I eat, and eat a lot. Because I've learnt in Ironman that you can barely eat enough, and probably not too much, on the marathon. So I swallow 7 gels and other snacks in the first half marathon. Not because I wanted to, but because I could. The pace is not getting faster, but at least I'm not bonking. It also keeps me hopeful that the end will turn out ok, that I'll run my plan eventually, at least for part of it. Iso and ice very often, water always, bouillon once, even a banana piece as well as a quarter of an apricot. Whatever fits the bill of being easily grabbed while running through an aid station and doesn't sound disgusting (redbull I'm looking at you).

Km 13 at Bürkli platz, I'm in autopilotmode. Going past the Samaritan tent, two of them get up, grab a bike and start to ride next to me. Oh shit, I must look like hell. Never mind, as long as you keep running it'll be fine. They can't force me to stop if I'm running. The little climb along Rennweg was unexpected on the first lap but works better on the next ones, the uneven ground on Chinawiese still as painful, the sun just as hot. But I got a third done, who thought it'd go by so fast (ok not that fast, but somehow it could be worse). Instead of smiling or not responding I start telling everyone how much it hurts, and “I wouldn't recommend this”. Once again being in Zürich is amazing, and I couldn't imagine doing it without the many friends along the road. You guys have done an amazing job at cheering me up. Even Philip tricking me into thinking top20 is an amazing position while nearly all behind 22nd had given up already. Even Gio telling me the podium was few seconds ahead when he knew perfectly they had just lapped me. Even the many who told me my cadence looked good.

Getting lapped
Getting lapped.

At this point I also tell PA and Phil how I needed to throw up early morning, it all sounds so far away right now. The plantar is a bit hurting but definitely not the limiting factor. Jamie seems to be in pain for me when Gianna hands me the Hot Shot. Now I'm sure I'll finish, and it seems somewhere between 9h15 and 9h30. That's more than the 8h50-9h15 window I allowed myself going into the race, but that is what it is.

RW starts playing “catch me if you can” with me, overtaking me twice and me overtaking him twice as well. While he wants to wait for me when I am in pain, I advise him to race his own race. And internally thinks he could run a 3h marathon, or maybe he would just hit the wall. The line is sometimes very thin. Joanna is always smiling and cheering on, but I don't really ever answer, my apologies.

Just keep running.

I pick up the pace again, slow down a tiny bit, before finally running properly the last stretch. It's a weird feeling missing your objective, but carrying home the best your body had to give on race day. On the one hand I cannot be too disappointed, because there wasn't more than 10min to go grab in that particular shape on that particular day. On the other hand, I believe I could do better in a day like Rapperswil, and am somewhat eager to show it. The carpet is also more of a relief, coming back from a battle without losing, rather than the magical feeling of Frankfurt.

I'm also very happy for Silvan and Joanna grabbing their Kona slots moments later. Have this feeling of not wanting to do anything but still hurting even just lying down for a few hours, I didn't miss that. Muscle soreness is bad; not quite as much as last year, but my second worst ever. I lost 3.2kg during the day, and as in Frankfurt badly need a very warm shower at the finish garden (despite the outside heat). It's like a fever, even coughing in the first hour. Sleep and eating habits heavily perturbed for the next two days.

Finish line
Finish line, not quite a party.

It takes me a while to actually ask and get told I ran a 9h20, and finished 18th PRO (28 at the start line). I wished for a top 15, for that we'll have to try again. I would also have easily grabbed a Kona slot as an AG, but I don't regret the choice of starting as a PRO (while many people seemed to question that). I got my own empty streets, no drafting problems (though some may have been riding as packs in front), my own race. It's my result, and I'll have to learn from it in order to grow stronger. There's probably going to be a next one, but I don't know when.

Finally, once again, thank you to everyone in Zürich or away, sending messages, cheering, shouting, watching, tracking, providing the little extra motivation to dig deep. You are the best!

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1 commentaire
Chapeau, belle gestion de course!
par Josué le 07-08-2018 à 09:46

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