ETU European Championships – Geneva, Swiss

You can steal my cell phone. But cannot steal my heart.

I made it to Geneva on Monday, 6 days before the race. A month before that, right after my small failure at the Salagou triathlon, my mom told me: “Greg, I don’t understand you. You are someone very meticulous. You’re crazy organized. You pay attention to all the little things and there, for a race, the most important thing to you…you drive for 3 freakin’ hours on race day!!” 

That’s why I went to Geneva so early. I am actually in a small apartment, at the French border. Through the window, the outside looks like a mix of Southern Europe and North Africa. Pizza places and kebab shops. On the inside of the window, it’s Kenya! It’s crazy hot in here. Probably 37 outside. Inside, the fan is spinning full speed but doesn’t cool any air at all. Geneva is a beautiful city. The area around Lake Leman is really nice. There are parks, bike tracks, the view over the mountains.

Here is what my training schedule looks like for this last week:

  • Monday: off
  • Tuesday: 20′ easy swim
  • Wednesday: 4×4′ hard bike
  • Thursday: 4×4′ hard run
  • Friday: off
  • Saturday: 20′ easy swim
  • Sunday: Race

Every morning, I wake up between 3 and 5. First of all to get my body used to how early the alarm is gonna go off on Sunday morning. Second, to be able to start training at 6am as it is the most enjoyable moment to train since there is nobody and no car outside. Third because when I am done training at 7, 8 or 9am, I have this amazing feeling of lightness because the most important thing of my day is already done and I feel like I have 15 hours of holidays left in my day 🙂

I am going to tell you a secret because I am sure you’ve also struggled with this.

For years, probably decades, I’ve been waking up, every morning, feeling stressed, not truly knowing why but feeling as if I had already a lot of things to do, feeling as if I was already late, feeling as if I couldn’t lose one second. Then, at night, I used to feel like I didn’t do everything I said I would. Then, even on the days where I would do everything, I would still feel unsatisfied.

I tried it all.

Waking up very early and meditate first. Then I switched and decided to actually study japanese first. I tried 25 000 ways to organize my schedule. Tried so many morning rituals until it was time to go train. But still, I would still feel that stress inside…as soon as my eyes opened…and my brain started thinking.

Then during one training camp, I noticed that this stress was suddenly gone.

This is why ever since, I wake up and RIGHT THEN…do you hear me, RIGHT THEN, I get ready for my first training session of the day. RIGHT THEN!!!! Then, when I come back home at 8 or 9, I feel, as I told you, free. Free, because it’s still early in the morning yet the most important thing of my day is done.

Yes, I keep on doing all the other stuff I love/want to do/need to do like studying japanese, meditating, writing, reading but I do it at other moments of the day. And if I take the time to do it, great. But if I don’t, well, it’s no biggie since I already did the most important.

What about you? What is that one thing that you should be doing first thing between 6 and 9am? So that you can feel on holidays for the rest of the day?

During this week, the rest of my days is pretty…well, restful. I take about 6 cold showers a day. I make myself some carrot juices. 51I0WIp9KLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I take one morning and one afternoon nap. I watch the Tour de France and I read. A lot. This week, I just finished “Running with the Kenyans”. It’s a great book which definitely makes me wanna go train in altitude in Iten, Kenya. According to the author, an Englishman running 10k in 38′, going there for 6 months and running 10k in 35′ after coming back, here is a sample of the Kenyans’ secrets to go faster:

  • They run bare-foot
  • They run to go to school
  • Their childhood is made of hard physical labor
  • For them and their community, running is serious. If you’re Kenyan and you say you wanna become a runner, people take you seriously. They don’t laugh at you.
  • Once they decide to train seriously, their regime is training, eat and sleep. Period.
  • They rest a lot more than “us”
  • Their diet is different/healthier than “ours”
  • I forgot the others…

All of my training sessions went well during this week. Except the one on Saturday morning. I was open-water swimming and when I came back to the shore, found my bag open and my belongings spread out. I have a very positive temper and therefore, I was sure that nothing had been stolen. But as I checked my pockets, I saw that my cell phone and my car keys were gone. But as I told you, I have a very positive temper and I was already picturing what benefits I would take out of this situation and what solutions I had in order to go back to the hotel, bring my bike to the transition area this afternoon and go to the start line tomorrow at 4am.

I headed towards the police. Rang. Waited for the door to open. There, there was a sign saying “You are filmed. We see you. You don’t need to ring the bell more than once”. Waiting there, I double checked my pockets AND happened to find my car keys, in a pocket I usually never use. There, I burst out in laughter!! The cops watching me through the camera probably started thinking what the h*** was wrong with me! 😉

Now, off to the race, okay?Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 9.47.32 AM

The race actually started on Thursday. This is when I met all the other athletes of the French Nat’l team and the rest of Europe for the Opening Ceremony. Yes, the race started on that day because when I saw them, their ti-suits, their flags, their bikes and their bodies, I started to stress, comparing them with myself, telling myself some negative paranoid bullshit such as “I am not as good as them”, you know all this kind of stuff we tell ourselves, right?

I spent 48 hours, from Thursday to Saturday afternoon, stressing and unable to deal with it or improve it.

Then suddenly, I changed my self-talk and told myself:

“Okay, all you m*****f******, I am freakin’ tired of you all. Tomorrow, I am all gonna kill you. I am gonna burn you. You’re not gonna understand a thing. Stop f*****’ with me…”

See what I mean? Well, you know what, as soon as I started talking to myself this way, my stress flew away and I started feeling really good 🙂

Sunday morning. Alarm at 3:15am. I leave the hotel around 4. Arrive in the transition area around 4:30. The TA is huge but all the guys in my category (35-39) are on the same line. We are 9 Frenchies and we’re all side by side!! It’s 5:30. I am all ready. 2 hours until the start.

I am ready for a great race. Now, I am killer inside. I look at the others, all those athletes who impressed me during the last 3 days but now I can see the fear in their eyes, it is now them who look “small”.

It’s 7:30. We are 62. One start line. Feet in the water. The first yellow buoy I must get to is right in front of me.

I am dead focus. I am in my zone. I know my race plan and all the little things I will do by heart.

On your marks. Go!

Very quickly, I can see that I am in the leading pack. My stroke feels good and so do my trajectories.

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I get out of the water, all by myself. I run to the transition area and see that 75% of the bikes are still there. Good boy, I must have had a good swim.

I hop on my bike and start pedalling at plus 35 km/h and around 85-90 rpm. I climb the 1st hill and eat my 1st gel. During the descent, other riders and some Frenchies start overtaking me. I finish the 1st loop at a 33 km/h avg. During lap #2, on the opposing shore of Lake Leman, there is a straight line which feels like eternity. At one point, there isn’t anyone in front of me. Still no one coming back from the u-turn and still no one behind me. There, I tell myself: “Damn, Greg, you might be last!” 5 minutes later, a Swiss guy passes me. I tell myself: “Okay G, this time, you’re really last!”

Back at TA. I finished loop #2 at a 32 km/h avg. “Damn!” Almost all bikes are there! But now it’s time for the run. My thing. First good news. my legs are there! The run course is made of three 3km-loops and one 1km-straight line. I eat my 3rd gel at the beginning and finish loop #1 at a 4’03/km pace. I respect my race plan to perfection and finish loop #2 at a 4’02/km pace to finally catch the other Swiss guy who overtook me at the end of the bike! Loop #3, it’s time to use the 1st adrenaline shot I worked on with my life coach. I speed up to a 3’53/km pace and overtake a few more guys. It’s now the last kilo-meter. I use my 2nd adrenaline shot. I get teary. I get thrills and finish the last 800 as if I was David Rudisha.

I finish the race and I am really satisfied with they way everything felt. I did everything I said I would. I executed my race plan. But there, I take a look at the timer “2h22’07””. Last year, I finished my first triathlon in London in 2h22’22”. Obviously, it’s impossible to compare 2 triathlon courses but right then, “Damn”, 15 seconds of improvement over 12 months is not crazy.

I am going to be really honest with you. Over one year. there are hundreds of moments where I am incredibly proud, success or not success, to be on the path towards my dream. But then, at this very moment, as I am heading to the aid station, the only thing I can tell myself is “Damn, it’s hard to go after your dream”.

I finish 45th out of 62 in my category and 316th out of 536 overall. I also finish last Frenchy in my category 😦

I swim 1.5k in 24’52, 24th best time.

T1, 34th best time.

40k bike in 1h13’13”, 57th best time!!!

T2, 27th best time.

Then, 10k run in 39’57, 31st best time.

Here is how my ranking evolved during the race:

After the swim, 24th

After T1, 24th.

After the bike, 50th.

After T2, 50th.

And after the run, 45th.

I am now back home. Geneva was 3 days ago. I rewatched the movie of the race in my head ten times since. I feel a great sense of satisfaction because I executed my race plan very well. I did everything I said I would and I did it well. This makes me think that on that day, I simply did my best.

I also begin to be really proud that I raced at that level. These were my first European Champ’ships and I am really proud I reached that level. Also, finishing last French kind of bugs me just enough to give me an extra motivation for the Worlds in Chicago 🙂

The next race is in Marseille. End of July. In comparison, I will feel serene, serene, serene.

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. Past, current and future. The day I wear a gold medal, you can be sure that 0,01% of it will be yours. The day you accomplish the thing you’ve always dreamt of, I am sure you’ll also give me 0,01%, right? 😉

Peace. Keep on being an example.

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