1st race, 1st standing-ovation

The Universe wants me to experience what success is. However, for me to experience it and the cheers of the crowd in April 2015, the Universe put in place a strategy I would have never thought of.

April 19th is my first race of the season, in Cannes. But before that I went on a training camp in a beautiful place, just 50k away from my house, but a place I had never been to!

We are 10 athletes. We are staying in a few small houses, near a golf course. On one side of the house, terrace, sunlight, bare chest, sunscreen. On the other side, shadow, wind and tights.

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The schedule is once again heavy: 2 sessions per day. A 70k bike ride on Monday, slowly building up to 105 on Thursday. I am glad ‘cause overall I am the slowest rider. It’s gonna make me work hard. I am also glad ‘cause our easy pace is 37km/h. I remember last year, I was dreaming to have an average pace of 25km/h.

On Tuesday, hill session on the bike. A 5k hill almost all out, downhill to recover and up again. We do this 5 times. The other guys are pilots. I can’t keep up with them. At one point, I try to be more aero so I put my hands at the bottom of the handlebars. But I do this when the road is in crappy condition. My front wheel starts to shake as much as my legs, the first time I went on stage to speak in public so I start telling myself that the hospital is my next destination. I don’t know how but I keep control of my bike. I told you. The Universe has a different plan for me.

Uphill, however, I’m in front. Two guys are keeping up with me. I expect them to take their turn. But these bastards don’t! At one point, my heart is at 160 but I hear them speaking behind! Drives me crazy…and angry, so I speed up and 100m later, they’re gone.

3 hills to go. I know I am going to suffer. I know I am at 99% but you know it, I am ready for that moment when my body’s gonna lie to me and say that I can’t do more and that I’ve done my best. I know my body’s gonna lie to me and during the last set, I don’t listen to what he says and manage to go up to 166 bpm and leave the 2 suckers behind me, far away.

On Wednesday morning, 75k bike ride followed with a 6k tempo run. In the afternoon, 15x 30/30. The other athletes don’t seem to be familiar with that set. So, I am the one saying “go” and “stop”. In between, I am full speed, in front. I am a cheetah.

Unfortunately, I tear something ion my calf on the 10th rep. I have 10 days before the race in Cannes. It’s gonna be Compex, essential oils and clay.

Thursday morning is swim. Yeah, I do feel good when I run but in the pool, I am on another planet. There is as much space between the 2nd and me than between Ian Thorpe and the world records he used to beat at the beginning of the year 2000’s.

On Friday, it’s time for the duathlon: 1,5k run, 6k bike. 5 times.

During the last camp in Fuerteventura, I finished 5th so this time, I am determined to do better, smarter and be more aggressive.

I am decided to act as a boss and not stay hidden in the middle of the pack. I take the lead right from the start of the run and arrive first at T1. As I expected, 2 other guys soon overtake me. I am in 3rd position but do not panic and start thinking about a plan to get the 2nd place back.

I am on the bike, down on the aero bars. The Universe doesn’t want me to die this month so I can go hard. During the 2nd bike course, I can see that #2 is not 200m ahead anymore but 190! I keep a nice pace and at the start of the 3rd run course, I am only 30m behind. I can smell the blood there and surely catches his stride back. There I starts remembering all the races I’ve seen and ask myself when is the best moment to use the turbo jet in my leg and run away.

I decide to use it 30m before the U-turn and to speed up hard, right after. Will never see him again. At the finish, my coach tells me “4th best time of the season”. “Damn, at the bottom of the podium!”, I tell him.

I was really satisfied of that race where my calf did leave me alone for most of it because I think it’s really interesting to see what happens mentally when you’re first, second, third and second again. To race against yourself, the time and your limit is one thing. But racing against others is another and it’s damn sure exciting.

During the 8 days before the Cannes race, my bike and swim session go well. However, the 15’ easy run the day before the start is not good at all.

For a second, I ask myself if going there is worth it. Isn’t it better to stay at home and rest? So I decide to use my new mental tool. Every time I am going through a rough time, I try to find 10 reasons why it’s great that I am going through such a rough time. I admit that I am sad to be injured but it takes me no more than 30 seconds to find 10 good reasons to go race in Cannes J

It’s Sunday at 12pm. I tell myself that I will swim hard, bike hard and then stop for the run. I sound wise and serene like that but in reality, I am asleep, weak, injured..in my calf but also in my soul. This is why I feel overwhelmed during the swim start whereas I usually enjoy this chaos. After 5 arm cycles, another guys hits my left goggle with his elbow and something inexplicable happens. I cannot open my left eye! My goggle is fine. There is no water leak and my retina is not fractured but I just cannot open this eye! That’s how I swam 1k with only one eye and paradoxically swam as straight as ever. I finished the swim in 15’29, 29th best overall time. Running towards T1, I can feel my calf. A miracle is not gonna happen today.

Once on my bike, I realize something’s changed since the 2014 season. Last year, hundreds of riders used to overtake me. Today, only 10. On flat roads, on the bars, I am solid. Uphill, I escape from every body. Downhill, they escape from me. Suddenly it starts raining like crazy but I tell myself that racing while it’s raining is always a good experience.

The course is hard. There are a bunch of hills. They’re short but with very steep. Once again, downhill, some breeze goes through my glasses and I end up crying at 50km/h, not able to see the road! I finish the 40k bike ride in 1h25, 71st time overall.

I drop my bike at T2 and start running, still hoping my calf will reincarnate. After a few hundred meters, the 2nd female athlete overtakes me. Not too bad for an injured athlete!

Then I reach the 2k turn and starts picturing what my strategy is going to be for the last 6k. Suddenly my calf screams and tells me “your strategy for the last 6k is to stop, walk and give up!”, which I do.

People on the side cheer me up. One guy even tells me to swing my arms in the air and take a deep breath, thinking I had a stomach cramp or something.

Then after 20’ of walk, I reach midway and tells a judge:

“I wanna give up. Where should I go?”

“Hummm….just go to the finish line”

“What? The finish line? Like this?”

So I keep on walking towards the red carpet and the finish line. I am 200m away from the finish line. Security barriers on the side. People behind them. There the speakers sees me and starts screaming in his mic:

“My God, ladies and gentleman! Something special is happening here! Number 1358! He gave everything but still he’s going to finish! Everybody, let’s give him a round of applause!”

The Universe apparently wanted me to experience success, glory for one second. I never thought this injury would be the right strategy.

If you too are experiencing some shitty stuff, be a bit creative, there’s a good reason why it’s happening. For sure.

Just a few days ago, I finished 4th at the national final of public speaking. You know I’m European Champion of that thing. I repeated it so many times. But this year, I could picture myself world champion, competing in Porto, competing in Las Vegas. But I finished 4th. Not even 2nd. 4th.

I went back home and you know what is the first thing I did?

Find 10 reasons why it’s a great thing that I lost this contest.

Keep it up!

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