2015 ITU World Championships – Chicago, USA

It is said, for all project, that rather than looking at everything that’s left to accomplish (i.e. in my case, 28 minutes faster to be Olympic champion in 2020) and feel discouraged, demoralized or frustrated, we should look at everything that’s already been accomplished on this journey (i.e. in my case, from beginner to 56th at the World Championships in less than 2 years) and be appreciative, smile, enjoy and eventually cry with pride and happiness.

I love crying. I promise. Because this is when the connection with my intuition is always the highest. I still am at Boston’s airport and the security staff, the stewardess, the lady selling newspapers or the young girl at the Starbucks may not understand why I am teary now.

I am not gonna tell you what you could be in 2 years. I am not gonna tell you that in 2 years you could be this amazing or that fast. Because if you had told me in September 2013, back when I had never swam and didn’t have a bike, “G, go hard at this and in 2 years, you’ll be at the World’s and finish 56th”, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have froze. I would have been scared and I would have never started. I would have told you, “Nah, nah, impossible for me to do this in 2 years”, “What? Me? I can do that?…”

Oh yeah G, you can do it. And here’s how you did it…

6am, protein shake, beans, extra protein chocolate milk, 1 Clif bar, 1 coffee (I don’t like coffee but I’ve read that cafein does miracles before a race so I’m trying)

6:30am, cold shower, music from war movies and I whisper my battle plan.

7:04am, I am in the train, heading towards Grant Park.

7:30am, I arrive at the transition area and gulp one last Clif bar. Coach told me not to eat past 7:30.

8:00am, my bike is set, ready but the start is at 10:50. Almost 3 hours to go.

8:30am, have been visualizing my transitions for the last 30’. 1- I take my bike, 2- I put it on the rack, 3- take my left shoe, 4- put it on, 5- right shoe, 6- put it on, 7- take my shades, 8- run hard. I do it once in slow motion, once at average speed, once all out.

8:40am, these are my first World’s and it’s so interesting to see how other guys of that level set up their bikes and tape their gels.

8:50am, the race hasn’t started yet but I know I am already stronger. Last year, during my first season, I used to be a ball of nerves on the days before a race. So much that it made me unhappy. I thought it was really a shame because I am supposed to love doing this and be happy while doing it.

Then during this year’s European Champ’ships, I noticed something weird. I spent the 3 days before the race feeling scared and let me be impressed by others, their bodies, their bikes…etc. But on race morning I had become a true killer. I was in the zone. I wasn’t afraid of anything anymore and even more, it’s in others’ eyes that I could see the fear. Weird, uh? I thought it was weird to switch from being weak to invincible just like that, almost instantly.

But here in Chicago, I have spent one week in killer mode. Maybe that’s because I now know that this “fear of the last 3 days” is something my mind just made up. In fact, here, during the whole week and before the race, I have felt people’s eyes on me, as if I had just become a champion.

Since I am into public speaking, I’ve often read that body language is more important than spoken language and that when you want someone to feel something, you should walk and move as if what you wanted was alreadly reality. It is said that “if you want to have success one day, you should walk today, right now, as if you were a f****** lion, the king of the world”.

In 2012, I wrote a book and I wanted to sell 50,000 copies. So I used to tell myself, “How would a writer having already sold 50,000 copies would walk?” Suddenly my gait changed a bit..but I didn’t sell 50,000 copies.

But ever since I have been selected in the French national team, it became obvious. I became that f****** lion. It’s inconscious, you know. Just like I don’t tell myself when I am stressed, “I am gonna walk with my head down, my chest tight and I am gonna bite my nails”.

This is how I am at the World Championships, unscared.

9:30am, I have 10 minutes to meditate. The purpose of my meditation, lately, is to create silence around and within me and listen to God. Sometimes He tells me I can be an emperor, a legend, 10,000 times more than what I hope to be. Sometimes, He tells me, “I am holding your hand. I am protecting you”. Some other times, like right now, I cannot hear Him.

9:50am, I putting up my wetsuit and drop my gear. It’s time to go to the pontoon.

10:50am, we are 116 at the start. 60 start at 10:50 and 56 at 10:53. We are 2 French. I start at 10:50 and the other guy at 10:53. I tell him, jokingly, “Man, you’re gonna catch me back?”

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SWIM

The start is in the water. As usual, I am in first line, a bit on the left, exactly where I wanna be. My coach and I have prepared a great battle plan: 200m fast, 1000 stead and 300 where I speed up.

I calculated that “200m fast” is 50 strokes with my right arm. Unfortunately, after only a few meters, my goggles become all foggy. I am still counting my 50 right arm strokes but this goggles are making me…aaaaaaaah…which makes me spend 50% of my time telling myself, “Ok G, calm down, the race is still long, swim well for 1500m and take these goggles off” and the other 50%, sighting and keeping my head up to try to see where I am heading. Sometimes, I can see that I am swimming towards the other side of Lake Michigan, towards Detroit 😉 Sometimes, I can guess a human shape swimming in front of me. At one point, I can see a green cap swimmer (the 10:53 start wave) and tell myself, “Damn, the other Frenchie’s gonna catch me back!”

Nevertheless, despite all this, I do one legendary turn! Swimming closer to a buoy, a guy comes on my right hip to take the inside. But there I use a big right arm power stroke to go to the buoy and guide me and take 2 or 3 left arm strokes in a row. I might not be able to see s*** but I am underwater with a great smile.

I finish the 1500m in 23’39, which is my 2nd best swim of the season but man, how happy I am to remove these goggles.

Right now, I am 47th.

TRANSITION 1

There is about 200m between the water and the exit and my bike. I usually am a transition devil but here, I struggle to remove my wetsuit, which gets stuck to the chip on my left ankle. Nevertheless, I still make the 36th best transtion time.

BIKE

I take the Arcadia, my bike. Run past the mount line but here, I suddenly freeze and cannot jump on my bike. So I stop and get on it old school style when another guy suddenly hits me in the back wheel. As he’s screaming, “S****!”, I wonder how he managed to hit me right in the wheel and not in my leg or the derailleur.

My bike strategy is the following: 10k fast between 158 and 166 beats, 15k steady and 12k where I speed up. But when I tell my coach that the course is 37k, my coach says, “Damn, there’s no thinking. Go hard and go to battle. If there is one group taking shape, pedal hard and stick with them. But in no case you take the lead”. But my bike performance was actually inter-galactic! I’ve been fast during the whole course and kept sucking the wheels of the Australians, Americans and British in front of me.

I finished in 1h flat. That’s an average of 37 km/h with my 8,8 kilo bike, my aluminum wheels and my 3 chain rings!!! 2 months ago in Geneva, my average was 32,5km/h. 4,5km/h faster in 2 months!!! However, despite my crazy time, I only perform the 84th time.

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TRANSITION 2

I am 100m away from the dismount line. I get off and swing my leg to the back and swing it to the front like a prince. This seems quite normal since it’s the technical move I repeat the most in practice.

I run with my bike towards the transition area and once again messes up. I rack up my bike, take my left shoe…but my bike falls. I rack it up again and take my left shoe again…but the bike falls again! So I rack the bike up differently but it falls again. I am tired of this so I rack it up in the most classical way, with the front of the seat. Then you know the rest, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 take my shades and 8, run hard and shout “Damn, I did a s****y transition but I’m gonna run like a beast”.

RUN

The course is 10k long. 4 times 2,5k. The strategy is: 400m fast, 2 laps at race pace and strong for the last 2 laps. Once again, I execute well. My hips move well. I have a nice stride. I over take a bunch of people only to be overtaken by space ships. I must be around 15km/h. A Kiwi has been right on my hip for the last 5k and at the end of the last lap, I shake his hand and say goodbye.

Later, an American, a British and a Mexican over take me. They’re running really fast and I can see that their breathing hard. I can see the marking on their calf and realize they’re in the same age group. “No way I can let them go!” So I start running fast, real fast and I am surprised to see how fast I can run. 100m away from the end, I overtake them and can see the finish line.
But Hosch, the American and Martinez, the Mexican sprint hard and both beat me to the finish!

 

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Even if I look easy on the picture, I don’t think I could’ve sprinted faster. However, I think I could’ve ran faster for at least one more kilometre. I finish the run in 43’03. That’s incredible slow for me, which makes me think that I might have ran with too much reserve and that after my crazy bike, I might have under-estimated how much gas I had in my legs.

I finished this race in 2h13, that’s 56th out of 116 overall but most of all, I finish first Frenchie 🙂 The second finished in 2h16. You can see the overall ranking here.

2h13 with a 37k bike and 7’ of transition in Chicago. 2h18 with a 40k bike but only 2’ of transition in Marseille. So I think I can say it officially, “I beat my PB by 5 minutes”. Sometimes I am a b**** with myself but sometimes I dig me 🙂

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There is another person I do dig and that’s you. This week, I received hundreds of amazing encouragements. I wanna thank you from the bottom of my heart. No, really. I am truly grateful. If I have been so serene and mentally invincible this week, it’s without a doubt thanks to you. I love you.I mean it. From now on, each time someone will tell me about his or her project, I’ll deeply encourage him or her, thinking of how much your words energized me this week.

I am now somewhere above the Atlantic ocean and I wanna leave you with 1 nice story that happened this week 🙂

Another athlete from the French team got his bike stolen a few days before the race! Coaches asked then if there was another athlete who could lend him his bike. Would you lend your bike to someone else? At first, I though, “Hum…no, I…not my bike, I can’t, it’s fragile…it’s custom-made for me and…what if he falls with my bike?…” Then I told myself “My God, if my bike was stolen, I would be so crazy happy if someone lent me his”. But despite my fears, from the moment I caught me thinking this, I then told myself, “G, if you’d like someone else to do it for you, then you’ve gotta do it for someone else”. That’s how I did lend my bike to a stranger a few days before my A race of the season. After his race, he went to me and said, “I am originally from Cuba and we have a saying there that goes, ‘we don’t lend wives or cars’ but you, you lent me the equivalent of your car so if there is anything I can do to help you, tell me. Oh and by the way, I have an apartment in La Havana, in Cuba and in February 2016, there will be the Latin America ITU Championships. You are invited” 🙂

Next race? The French Nationals, in Nice, on Sunday October 4th.

Until then be unbelievable. I am gonna have to be this way too because I have just been hired for my second japanese translation ever. Yes!

Peace.

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