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Archive for August, 2010

Life’s a beach

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

 

 

The Beach House

After a very successful Embrunman and a short farewell trip to Leysin, I was unceremoniously evicted from Europe due to my visa reaching its expiration date… Okay, so I wasn’t evicted, I left voluntarily, but not willingly – the threat of deportation and never being allowed back in Switzerland kept me from pushing my luck. Regardless, it was time to leave. Which meant I had to decide where to go…

 

Home (SA) was not a great option, seeing as it is still winter, albeit the very mild winter of South Africa, so I decided on the US – events to choose from, people to stay and train with and the fact that I had a visa in passport already. (Of course, that was only a small comfort, as they are pains to point out that a visa does not guarantee entry, which is still subject to multiple entry criteria – it would be a nervous James who got off the plane in New York! Needless to say, I made it through immigration, otherwise this blog would certainly have a different title (and tone!).)

So now I am at my side-kick’s house in Normandy Beach, New Jersey. Scott and I are back into the training hard for the upcoming Rev3 race in Cedar Point, Ohio, with Bek hanging around here too, completing the Super-hero trio. Normandy Beach, and New Jersey itself has been quite a change from Switzerland, most notably due the total lack of anything resembling a hill (Scott actually told me he has done ‘hill’ repeats up and down the bridge over the river!). But there is plenty of good riding in the countryside, a great outdoor pool at the nearby Atlantic Club (which will soon become a covered ‘bubble pool’ when the weather gets worse – thank goodness!) and we have some good running with a track nearby – all of which we are making the most of as we build on the gains from a summer in the Swiss mountains.

The Beach House, as it is fondly known by all, is a special place indeed. Scott stays here all the time, but the rest of the family – his dad and nurturing (and slightly batty) mother, his brother with his wife and two cute kids (who call me Batman), his pregnant sister with her hubby, and various other friends and relations make the short trip down every weekend and the house is transformed into an energetic, noisy, colourful and vibrant mix of characters, which is incredibly entertaining, if a little exhausting! Although I am not much a beach person, and do miss the mountains a little, we are only a 2min walk from the beach which is great for the hot summer days we are currently experiencing and after a summer in the mountains, it is a refreshing change.

 

 

My favourite feature of the house - The Magic Closet...

 

 

That's my kind of magic... always fully stocked!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am here for at least 3 more weeks, and next weekend promises to be the craziest of the lot in the DeFilippis Beach House as it is Labor (or Labour ;) ) Day weekend (Monday being Labor Day), which signifies the end of Summer and it is apparently followed by ‘tumbleweed Tuesday’ as this summer town becomes a ghost town again for another 9 months… The weekend will be a good one, but I can’t say I am dreading the peace and quiet which will follow it…

Bek returns today from her impressive win at Louisville, and then ‘Super-hero camp’ will be complete again – Onward and upward…

 

 

Embrunman

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

 

"The Hardest in the World"

Embrunman – the T-shirt says, ‘The Hardest in the World’. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t – people cite other events like Norseman – but it is right up there in the difficulty stakes and none of those other events have the strong competition Embrunman boasts! 3800m swim, 188km ride with 5000m climbing then a marathon, also with a fair amount of climbing. A tough day… maybe the toughest…

 

The swim started in the dark. The reason is beyond me – it is not like anyone was in danger of riding in the dark, and they were running in the dark anyway! A half-hour later start would have made a huge difference! I know it would have made a difference to the girls who got an extra 10mins in the dark water with their head-start, and it would have helped me too – about 50m into the swim I swam straight into a jetty! There were no lights on it, but a bunch of big men in boots (that’s all I could make out) pushing us off in the right direction. Needless to say I lost the lead group. I swam with one other guy and we swapped the lead a few times to come out about 3mins down on the leaders.

Up the first climb, which you hit after a nice 400m or so flat warm-up (!) and I caught and passed a lot of people. Near the top I caught Stephen Bayliss and a group of 3 others, which was the lead except for Marcel Zamora and Herve Faure up the road. (Oh, and Tereza – it would take us a while to reel her in!) We caught up to the lead pair at the base of the Col d’Izoard – a massive Hors Category Tour climb, 15.9km and average gradient of 6.9%, up to about 2360m alt. – and then the fun began… Up the mountain the group, much like a tour stage but without the drafting, rapidly shed riders until there was only Zamora and myself left with still a good 9km of climbing to go! And that is how it would stay until the end of the bike, just the two of us. Neither of us gave much at any point of the next 100kms, marking every move up the hills (in fact riding side-by-side for most of them), attacking the descents like dare-devils and pushing the tempo on the (rare) flat sections. I rode 10mins faster than last year for a race-best (and perhaps course-record?) 5h52 bike split (compared with ‘normal’ IM of around 4h30!)

What goes up... and up... and up...!

 

 

Down the final, dangerously steep, rough and pot-holed descent he got a small gap, but leaving transition for the run, Zamora was within sight. 42.2km’s to go. All I had to do was stay within sight of him and wait for the cracks to appear… I saw signs of some cracks, but they were mine, not his! He was very gradually pulling away from me, and despite all the spectators and Doc on the sidelines - probably due to his weird running style which makes him look like he may collapse at any second - telling me he was on the limit and would blow, he didn’t. I stayed as close as I could to pick up the pieces if he did blow, but he ran a very solid 2h53 marathon to beat me by a few minutes, in new course record. (Results)

Congrats to all my team-mates who flew the teamTBB flag very high and proud – T-mac for dominating the women’s race and Bella for toughing out 4th. Steve for his hard-fought 5th, Brandon for finishing an eye-(and mind-)opening experience. And of course my wingman, Scottie for 7th – another fantastic result as he continues to climb the ladder. And a big thanks of course to Doc who popped up all over the course with what we needed (if not wanted) to hear, and Fiona, whom he dragged along with him!

Top 10 - 3 from teamTBB!

 

 

It was definitely, as advertised, the hardest day I have ever had in triathlon, and perhaps my life! It is always amazing to me how short your memory for pain is – I distinctly remember thoughts such as, ‘This has got to be the stupidest race in the stupidest sport in the whole stupid world!’ and ‘This is by far the worst and toughest day I have ever lived through!’. …But then you finish and you cannot really remember the pain associated with those thoughts and you dismiss them as self-indulgent dramatics. And you look ahead to the next challenge, the next race, to next year at the same race. I’ll be back. …In fact, I can’t wait!

Onwards and upwards…

 

TeamTBB’s Tour de France

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

So, following on from my race report on Alpe D’Huez, now that I had a day off to catch up with myself, here is the story of how we got to the race, and back:dsc02675

Like every Tour de France, this one started not in France but in a neighbouring country – Switzerland in this case. The field was much reduced from last year, with only four participants rolling out for the first stage on Sunday – although this means no peloton to sit in, it would prove way less stressful! There was no prologue on Saturday (Ed’s note: There was actually a prologue – it consisted of a very long run up a very steep hill, but seeing as no riding was involved it was not counted in the tour…) so no-one was wearing yellow yet. Scottie, Matt, Dave and myself rolled down the hill heavily laden to the caravan park – this was where our soigneur would relieve us of our bags to be delivered to the end of stage 1. Once the load was considerably lightened, we set off…

Coke, Sprite, Shake, Beer? Stupid question... They serve beer at McD's!

Coke, Sprite, Shake, Beer? Stupid question... They serve beer at McD's!

Stage 1: 152km, Leysin to Albertville, with one Cat 1 climb early in the stage and then rolling hills to the finish. The first climb passed without incident and we were over the Col de la Croix and into France pretty quickly. We descended to the beautiful Chamonix-Mont Blanc where we went through a feed zone (Ed’s note: For this Tour the feed zones did not consist of muizet bags on the fly, but rather a leisurely lunch at a coffee shop…). We rolled on and reached our destination, Albertville with no drama and on time – no doubt thanks to the lower numbers! Unfortunately our soigneur, Emma was less punctual so we killed the time with some McDonald’s calories…

dsc02667Stage 2: Albertville to Alpe D’Huez, 120km, two climbs, one Hors Category, one Cat 1. Day 2 dawned after a very restful and relaxing stay in an up-market establishment on the outskirts of Albertville (our team budget for accommodation fell short of 5-star, so we had to settle for none-star!). Perhaps the best start to a day on the bike you could imagine – the weather was perfect and we were gently cruising down a very scenic valley – our spirits were high… but so were the mountains we had to climb today! We already had a casualty though, so our number was down to 3. (Shame, Dave is only a short-course boy… :P ) We stopped for a good feed in another feed zone before the climb up the Col du Glandon.

Muizet bag? What's that?!

Muizet bag? What's that?!

We climbed the Col (alt. 1960m) feeling good, some more than others – or perhaps some just bolder than others – and after a brief rest at the top (it was cold up there) descended the other side which came out at the lake which would host the race in two days. Then it was another climb up the back way to Alpe D’Huez – we didn’t want to spoil the surprise that the 21 switchbacks would provide on race day by going up the front way…

And the climb begins... (Ed's note: 5% is the current gradient, not the average!)

And the climb begins... (Ed's note: 5% is the current gradient, not the average!)

Day 3: Rest day. We met up with the rest of the team-mates who had left much larger carbon foot-prints than us on their way to Alpe D’Huez and spent our rest day doing what all good tour riders do… training! Good hard swim, easy run, easy ride…

Our race numbers proved prophetic...

Our race numbers proved prophetic...

Stage 3: Race day, Alpe D’Huez Triathlon. 2.2km swim, 115km cycle (3 climbs, Cat 1, Cat 2, HC), 20km run at 1850m alt. Race video here. This would be where all the jersey’s for the TeamTBB Tour de France were decided… I got yellow by a huge margin, and although it was close competition for the polka dot KOTM jersey, with Scottie already a few points ahead from Glandon, I claimed that too by a mere 1:09 over Scott. Results for climb up Alpe D’Huez. (Ed’s note: TeamTBB boys were more than 3mins faster than anyone else up the Alpe – and the only one’s on Cervelo TT bikes. Road bikes? pffffffff! ;) )

Stage 4: Alpe D’Huez to Annecy, 180km flat stage. We started with a nice swim to loosen up the bodies before a midday stage start – it would prove fortunate that the sun sets late on this day… We had again lost a member of the tour (Matt had to stay in Alpe D’Huez as he had not yet done his short-course race) but we substituted him for Bek-star – so it was Batman, Robin and Wonderwoman (or Catwoman – she seems to be having an identity crisis at the moment) who set off on another daring adventure! …It was more of a long day in the saddle than a daring adventure, with nothing much eventful except the occasional torrential downpour just to ensure we weren’t having too much fun. We rolled into Annecy as the sun set – which is around 9pm! Race radio’s proved faulty today and so we were unable to contact our soigneur until after our arrival – like I said, long day in the saddle! (Ed’s note: Race radio’s for this tour consisted of sms’s between international numbers which cellphone companies like to delay for many hours at a time. Fail.) With the help of our very stressed out soigneur, Emma we made it to another zero-star hotel about 10pm, found some more food (luckily we had a good feed earlier at a Kebab shop in Chamonix) and crashed. The tour was beginning to wear on us, but spirits were high still, even if energy levels weren’t…

dsc02674Stage 5: Final day. 150km Annecy to Leysin, one Cat 1 climb, mountain-top finish. Again the weather played along and it was another great day in the saddle. We cruised through Thonon-les-Bains and Evian and the familiar training roads guided us home and lifted the spirits. But by the time we rolled into Leysin the long week had caught up with us and we really only rolled up the hill to Leysin – no exciting final-day sprints or anything to this tour…

Total: 6 days, 737km cycled, plus some running and swimming.

Another great experience with teamTBB and my team-mates and another fantastic week of training. Thanks to Brett for helping us organise it all, Cyrille Neveu, the race director for looking after us and of course to Emma Smith, our able soigneur for meeting us at all the night stops…

Next stop, Embrunman. Won’t be riding there though!

Onwards and upwards…