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EMBRUNMAN…deserves all CAPS « Brandon Marsh's Blog


EMBRUNMAN…deserves all CAPS

Embrunman is not a normal race. It does not deserve a normal race report. My race report is a bit tardy, and I have refrained from reading any of the other so I don’t ‘steal’ any content!

Until I read some of the TeamTBB blogs that were from last season, I’d never heard of Embrunman. When I got to camp, I not only heard about Embrunman, but James and Scott were both gearing up pretty seriously for the race. James was 3rd last year, and he was looking to improve on that. Last year, Scott did not race Embrunman…said he wasn’t ready. So, when after my 5th at IMUK, coach said I earned my entry to Embrunman, I wasn’t sure what to think.  I think that TMac was in the same boat when it was made known to her that she’d be racing Embrunman as well!  Even Matty was getting into the action…though apparently his race would not last quite as long.

This year has been an interesting one. I left engineering (AGAIN!) in January. This time to focus on racing and training since Amy and I both had the opportunity to race with TeamTBB. In February, we landed in Thailand for our first ever training camp with the Team. Like James quoted to me about his training…Amy took to the training “Like a duck to water”. I, on the other hand, felt like it was a big adjustment to going from a full time enginerd to a full time athlete. Training in Thailand and then Austin was hard. My races had gone so-so by my standards. My finish at UK was the best this season, even though I didn’t have a great race for a fair bit of the swim and about 1/3 of the bike. So again, I still felt like I was adjusting when IMUK came around. Just a day or so removed from IMUK, and I was faced with one of the hardest races in the world staring at me in less than 2 weeks. Talk about adjusting!!

I was pleased that Sutto thought I was going well enough to back up with 2 races, or at least I was pleased that he thought I was going well enough to send me to Embrunman. It’s not a race that is on the North American calendar, nor are there any races on the North American calendar that are like Embrunman…other than their distances. The swim can be cold, really cold. The bike has 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) of climbing and is 188k instead of the normal 180k. The run has over 400 meters (1,300 feet) of climbing. Until you actually compare that to some of the ‘normal’ Ironman distance courses, you don’t realize just how much more difficult this race can be. The bike climbs to over 2,000 meters and up top it can be cold as well, in fact, it was close to snowing at the summit on Saturday evening before the race!!

So on Sunday morning, I lined up with probably over 1,000 others in the pre-dawn darkness for Embrunman. You can read a bit about our race from Doc’s point of view here. His comments about not having legs are too true…when they’re gone, they’re gone. Mine seemed to be gone, I’m sure that someone found them somewhere between Bolton, England and Embrun, France and wondered what poor soul would be looking for them!? I pushed on, not letting the fact that I felt much less than stellar try to toy with me. But, it does and the mind can wander, but I brought it back on task each time. I actually bet that some who saw me wondered if I were out ‘racing’ or just out ‘riding’.  At times, I have to say that it was a bit of both.  I concentrated on getting the calories in, and by the end of the ride, I’d probably eaten more than some families eat in a day!! I soldiered through the run with my pace slowly creeping up…or gradually slowing down depending on your terminology. I crossed the line a shade under 11 hours in 13th place. James asked if it was my PW…personal worst! It wasn’t, but it’s not far off.

So, as I write this almost a week later, it was a good experience. The magnitude of the bike course is difficult to describe. I’m sure it made me stronger!

The French have an attitude and love for triathlon that can’t really be put into words. I’m sure that a triathlon is a ‘check the box’ event for some, but I really think that triathlons for most are an event that they really love and enjoy. For a race that was, to me, more difficult than any other race that I’ve done to date, the equipment in the transition area was noticeably basic. There were very few disc wheels, and even carbon wheels were not the norm…probably due in part to the terrain. There were more ‘old’ road bikes than fancy tri bikes…the fancy tri bikes were likely ridden by the TeamTBB crew!! The crowds and spectators were great. It wasn’t uncommon to see a group of teenagers standing on the side of the road with the competitor list in hand looking for your number and calling out your name as you passed on the bike or run. This went on the entire run course and through almost every village on the one loop bike course.

Next up will be one of the ‘more difficult’ US races…Ironman Wisconsin. Amy and I did this race last year. I’ll be going back this year to improve on last year’s 9th place finish.

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