Krakow, Poland – Week #1.2

The dream is more alive than ever – Here’s how…

1.2 6.5k – 2h53 66.5k – 3h00 25.4k – 2h20 98.4k – 8h13
1.1 10.3k – 3h50 135.7k – 6h20 16.7k – 1h40 162.7k – 11h50

This week, for the first time of my life…:

  • I went to Poland.
  • A cab driver was waiting for me at the airport with my name on a sign.
  • I spoke polish.
  • I performed a speech with the same mic Justin Timberlake wears during his concert 😉
  • I accomplished something I am going to talk for a little while, around the end of this post… 😉

This week, I didn’t fail in anything 😦


I am coming back home after a week on the road for a few interpreting gigs. It’s midnight. I open my luggage and throw everything in the washing machine. I just have enough time to sleep and train before leaving again in 2 days for Krakow and the European Championship of public speaking.


I am calling my coach for a head’s up. His emails are super short: “Tomorrow. Swim. 3k easy”. No hi’s, no goodbye’s. But when I talk to him, he’s the best. He tells me:

“You have extremely…extremely…extremely high ambitions…but I believe in them. Because I like your kindness. If you’re able to have such a dream, it means you’re someone kind”.

“We’re going to start with a stable and light program over…yeah, 12 good weeks, I think. Enough for your body to get used to it. Because here, you’re asking me to build a 1000 story building. And if we don’t build solid foundations, our building’s going to collapse when we are on the 3rd floor”.

He compares our coach-athlete relationship to that of a couple. I like it because he says: We‘re going to go all the way there…”. It’s not only my dream anymore. It became his project. I also like the fact that when we speak, the names of Javier Gomez and the Brownlee brothers are a part of the conversation, as if we were already part of the same world.


I wake up and go get my new bike. There it is. This is for real! I found my Arcadia.

Coach says: “Take your bike and ride it for 2 hours. Nothing more. Just ride it around. It’s him who’s gonna take us there…”.


This afternoon, I have an appointment for a lactate test. A lactate test is a medical test where a bunch of electrodes are plugged around your left nipple in order to perform an electrocardiogram. Then they attach some kind of mask to your face to measure your breathing. There, you get on the treadmill and this is how they know everything that happens in your lungs and your heart while you run.

You start running at 8km/h and the speed increases 1km/h every 1 minute until you jump off the treadmill.

I took such test in 2002 but today, I am stunned by the results!

As a matter of fact, my results are as good or even better than in 2002! Only my speed decreased but since I’m coming back from injury, I am not worried about it.

2002 2014
Age 24 36
Weight 73k 69.5k
Fat % 9.7% 13%
Rest HR 48 48
Max HR 195 bpm 190 bpm
VO2 max 58.8 70.8
Max Aérobic Speed 20 km/h 18 km/h
Aerobic threshold 160 bpm 160 bpm
Anaerobic threshold 181 bpm 176 bpm
Recovery HR 137 bpm 110 bpm


Taking off for Krakow at 6:30 am. The alarm is set for 4:30am…but since I’m awake since 1:16am, it’s useless!

I am here for 2 reasons. First, I am qualified for the final round of the European Championship of public speaking but also because the program of this conference promises to be awesome!

My final is on Saturday afternoon. I didn’t rehearse my speech since the National Final in Paris, 3 weeks ago. I feel my speech is integrated now and that I better rest and take care of my energy. And since I woke up at 1:16am, sleeping’s not gonna hurt me!!!

It’s 7pm and I’m heading for the sauna in order to recover. I don’t know it yet but a scene that could be taken from a comedy with Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler is about to happen. I am in a swimsuit, getting out of the sauna and starting to strech…

A lady comes in and says: “Well, welcome in the lady’s sauna, Sir!”

I smile to her “Well no Madam since there is only one sauna”.

She looks around her and realizes I’m right. She looks annoyed but she’s not going to give up that easily! “Oh that’s true. Well then, I am going to teach you how to really use a sauna. Get undressed!”

(That’s true, I saw people who were naked a bit ago) “Yes but I was planning to leave now…”

“No, no, you got to get undressed”.

“But madam, I am leaving, do you really want me to take my clothes off, stay naked for 10 seconds and then get dressed again?”

That’s where I think she gave up. She goes to the shower and gets in the sauna. I am heading towards the exit but the door is locked! So I stayed for 10 minutes there waiting for someone to come open the door.

Apparently, the Universe really wanted me to get all naked here, what d’you think? 😉


The conference starts at 3pm. We are 400. Jock Eliott, a 60 year-old Australian and 2011 World Champion of public speaking, opens the show. I could tell you what he said but honestly, when someone like him shows up, it’s as if Zinedine Zidane was coming to play soccer in front of you. He can say anything, you don’t care, the effect is the same!

Today’s first contest is the English Evaluation 1/2 final. During an evaluation contest, someone is first selected as a “target speaker”. “Target” because all participants will then evaluate this same speech, saying what they liked, giving points of improvements, suggestions…

It is very easy to evaluate someone. But to do it at such a level is an art. In opposition with my speech which is ultra prepared, an evaluation is built in about ten minutes. You must be clever, show humour, be encouraging, original. I am really in admiration.

The first contestant comes up on stage. German. 6’5”. 35 years old. He offers the best evaluation I ever saw. Right from the start!

To show you what I mean by originality, at one point, he talks about the speech’s humour. So he grabs the paperboard on the side of the stage, takes a black marker out of nowhere, from his jacket’s inside pocket, draws a graphic and says: “There wasn’t any humour during the first 5 minutes then suddenly there has been 8 laughs in the 2 last minutes which makes an average of 1.1 laugh per minute. My suggestion is that it would be better to balance the laughs throughout the speech”. So good!

At the end of his evaluation, myself and all people around me have the same reaction. It was so good we’re screaming.


The D day.

The program is super tight today. 6 contests including my final, some workshops, the most-awaited gala dinner and my 2 training sessions that I want to do at one point or another.


Alarm goes off at 6am. Going out for run #1. I lose myself for 15 minutes in the streets of Krakow, end on this beautiful square. Stop and go back to the hotel.

This morning starts with the English Evaluation Contest Final Round. Surprisingly, the German guy who impressed me so much last night was not qualified for this Final. I am learning a lesson…When you’re into a sport, an activity where the result is decided by other human beings, winning cannot be your only motivation. You must find something else and really be at peace with the judges decision.

There is something I didn’t tell you about the Evaluation Contest. Usually, the target speaker is a member from another club. So nothing special. But for today’s Final, the target speaker is no other than Jock Eliott, the World Champion. Once again, imagine Zinedine Zidane playing soccer in front of you and after, you must evaluate him…Yeah, you gotta be good.

During his target speech, Jock Eliott makes a beginner’s mistake. He has his text with him on a few sheets of paper and peaks at it from time to time. Everytime he does, it cuts the connection with the audience. Mistake.

But how do you mention it with finesse, originality or intelligence?

How would you say to Zidane: “Well, Zizou, sorry but the left foot…”

Most contestants speak and mention the mistake as everybody would have done. But then, one contestant says: “Yes it’s true, you used your notes but I am sure that with a bit of training, you’ll improve, not stress too much and that’ll be fine”. Fast and Funny 🙂

I decide to rehearse my speech a few times. I time myself but realize that damn, it’s 7’50” long! Let me remind you that you are disqualified if you speak for more than 7’30. No choice, I’m gonna have to speed up at one point or another.

It’s 2:30pm. The French Speech Contest Final Round is now. We’re 7. 6 Frenchies and 1 British. I am the only one from France. All others come from Switzerland and Germany.

It’s time for the draw to know in which position I’ll speak: 4th.

I am sitting at the last row of a room with about 50 persons. I vaguely listen to anything that goes in this room. I am zoning out. Turing to cheetah mode. Recreating my energy when I transition between the swim and the bike. Between me, this last row and the stage, there is a 20m straight line. My mic is plugged and I imagine that this straight line is a water lane. I picture myself diving, dolphin kicking, rising back to the surface and BOOM.

I can hear the clap. “…Gregory Berge”. My energy. That’s all I think about.

This speech’s content comes from the bottom of my heart. It’s very intense. I scream. I whisper. I shut up and many times, I get teary. This is why, I was surprised when during the Nationals Final in Paris, 3 weeks ago, to hear that many laughs. But today in Krakow, it’s the opposite as I never saw so many people crying so hard. No, not moved but transpierced. Vulnerable. Open. It was unbelievable. Therefore I let myself go even more, emotionaly-speaking. I am eager to see the video and hear my broken voice, you know that voice you have when you speak with your heart, when you speak about failures, regrets or hope.

I can hear the clap. It’s over. My 7 minutes are. The 2014 season is.

I go back to my seat. Cover my face with both hands and collapse, thinking about those persons I saw crying. What an amazing reward! How lucky I am! What an amazing power it is to be able to touch people’s heart this way. Me, the boy who, back in primary school, was too shy to even ask other boys if he could play soccer with them. Me, that shy boy, I became this man with this incredible power. How could I have known earlier?

I finished my speech 5 minutes ago. I go to my hotel room to get change and go for run #2. 30 minutes later, when I run back to the hotel, I see some people who attended my contest and who’re already going to the gala dinner venue.

There in their look, I can guess their surprise or their admiration. It makes me amazingly proud because I just realize…I am who I say I am.

I tell the world I want to make it to the Olympics. People ask me if this crazy story is for real. But on this day, even when the program is packed, I am out training. I am who I say I am 🙂

It is 6pm and I reach the gala venue. Everybody is dressed to the nines. Vue d'ensemble du Dîner de Gala

The room is huge. The stage, stunning. I feel like I am the Oscars. Tonight’s program is quite straigth-forward:

  1. English Speech Contest Final Round with at stake, a place for the World Championship in Kuala-Lumpur.
  2. Dinner (yeah, yeah, told them I am vegan 🙂
  3. The award-ceremony.
  4. Party time!

During the Final, the level of all speaker is very good and very close.The lady who beat me in Paris, lost in the 1/2 Final, yesterday. The first speech message is “Trust more. Judge less”. The second’s is “When someone says ‘we need to talk’, it means everything but ‘we need to talk’. Actually, when someone says ‘we need to talk’, it’s already too late to talk…”

At my table, a Portuguese lady, a Taiwanese lady, a German man, a Bulgarian lady and an Italian man are sitting with me. It is a special day so I allow myself a glass of champagne. It’s the Oscars after all 😉

It’s probably 10pm, I think. I am not sure exactly. There has been 6 contests and now is time for the award ceremony.

The winner of the English Speech Contest gave a talk about a marathon he ran, in Kenya, on one leg because of an injury, side-by-side with a Kenyan who, because of a birth deformity, was really on one leg!

The winner of the French Speech Contest is sitting somewhere in this room. We don’t know yet who he is. I look relax but inside, I am worried I went over 7’30”.

“The third place goes to…(drum roll)…Be…n Parsons”. Woo! That was close! When the contest chair said “Ben”, I thought she was going to say  “Berge”.

OK, 2nd place now!

“The second place goes to…(drum roll)…”. Woo! Not me yet but a Swiss lady.

Right then, the Portuguese lady, the Taiwanese lady, the German man, the Bulgarian lady and the Italian man sitting at my table, look at me and I am thinking about all those Oscars ceremony I saw on TV where you see all those legendary actors breath of relief, embrace their friends when they hear their name, before going on stage to give their thank you speech.

“The first place goes to…(drum roll)…Grégory…Berge “.

I don’t realize. I have a great smile. Everybody comes to hug me but I don’t realize. I try to push the feeling telling myself that if you’re looking for a French-speaking guy in Europe, no one can do it like I do but…no, I don’t realize yet.



I wake up and get ready for a nice morning with two workshops and probably, tens of hugs and congratulations 🙂 I start to realize what I accomplished and the first feeling I feel is that some kind of peace is slowly settling inside of me. It is calm. It feels good.

The 2nd workshop is titled “How to leverage the best in you”. We’re up for an interesting exercise when the speaker asks us to identify ourselves with an animal (you know for me it’s a cheetah) and come up with 2 or 3 key characteristics.

I am thinking for 5 seconds and to me, a cheetah is quiet, calm, fast, confident.

Then we’re asked to pair-up and I end up with a Polish lady. Now I am suppose to tell her about my animal and she is suppose to find the characteristics. I tell her “cheetah” and she says “invincible, brave”. Feels rather good, right? You can try too.

Later we’re asked to share our latest success and failure. No need to go way back into my time to find my latest success but when it comes to failure, I decide to mention to this Polish lady about my last relationship. At the end of the workshop, she tells me a bit of her own experience in order to comfort me and hopefully teach me something. Then she leaves, turn back and says “Anyway, I know you’re gonna be just fine…you’re a cheetah after all…Rhaaaa!” 😉

2 weeks to go before my race in London and 25 more days before the end of my Dreamfuel donation campaign. If you wish to encourage the dream, that’s where it is.

Screenshot 2014-05-20 23.27.06

This week, learn more about yourself, build one good ritual, take one day to regenerate, find people who are on the same page as you, ask for help. Be who you say you are. Make your dream come true.


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