5:03:09 – 17th Male Pair, 24th Overall
~ 7.2k swim, 30k run
At the briefing we were again told that the course had to be changed due to the water quality in front a Cannes as a result of a burst sewage pipe. This meant we would do two loops of the islands and then to the jungle loop. This was still a good course and the only bit we were disappointed was removed was the hilly section above Cannes. It also meant that a fair chunk of swimming would be removed which wasn’t great for us. The overall distance though was roughly the same. We were assured it would be quite a race as the winds will pick up. The cut off before the long crossing back to the mainland was in place because they “didn’t want pairs taking 2 hours to get across”.
As we crossed to the start in the ferry with Jo and Katie (“Cannes We Kick It”) the weather and sea looked rather benign. As we walked up the start in the monastary Andy and I commented how much better it was than last year (an oft repeated comment throughout the day). There wasn’t too long a wait till entering the start pen. This time we placed ourselves pretty close to the front. Jo and Katie met us and we suggested they go a little ahead of us. My feeling was, though their first race together, they’d have a good chance of getting on the podium. Last year we just beat the 3rd placed ladies and I felt they would probably be slightly quicker than us (being a little slower as a pair swimming but definitely faster running).
The gun went. Usual insane pace, people passing, Jo and Katie out of sight. It soon settled and we didn’t have to slow for the narrower, trickier section right on the coast. It’s about 3km and by the final of those we were starting to pass some runners. We could see the flag for the first crossing and could tell there was a strong cross wind. I aimed left and set off. It was rough, really rough. As I crossed most others started to get further and further right of us. I ended up second guessing myself. Was the flag really left of that tower. I ended up hedging my bets and not going quite so far left. I was wrong, should have stuck to my guns and had to swim a little more in to the current to get out by the flag. (As an aside the race photos show quite a lot of people at this point deciding to climb out not by the flag but at the end of the harbour wall and run along it. Thus missing between 50 and 100m swimming in to the current and wind. Reckon it would save even the strongest swimmers a couple of minutes. At some point they’ll have to have some rule about how close to the flag you have to exit).
On the small island Jo and Katie soon passed us. We’d clearly passed them without knowing in the swim. We felt this would happen throughout the day – we’d pass on the swim and then they on the run. It would be fun to see them regularly. 3k round the island and back across to the other island. The sighting was not so easy as there wasn’t a nice tower as a point of reference but now I knew how strong the wind and current was so I aimed well right and managed a pretty decent route. With the revised course we had to do a full, 7.5k, circuit of the Island.
As we rounded it and saw the mainland we discovered just how accurate their forecast was. The sea had completely changed. It was very rough, white tops. We commented (in more colourful language) that it would be ‘interesting’. We are relatively strong in rough seas and I love swimming in them so we were looking forward to it.
A ladies pair came by who we guessed were probably in third place (they were) and awaited Jo and Katie trying to decide how best to describe how far ahead the others were. They never caught us so we headed in to the crossing back to the small island wondering how far behind they were. This time I stuck my guns and headed left bringing us to the flag without a final swim in to the current. We could see teams getting back in to head back. A full 3km ahead of us already. This included a ladies pair which looked to be flying. Back round the island and the 4th and final crossing of this section.
Back on the island the 3rd placed ladies passed us for the 4th time. Now to psych ourselves up for the main crossing. It still looked bad as we came round. We grabbed out swim buoy then had Michael explain how to sight. There was a pylon on top of a big hill. He said aim for that. “Keeping aiming for that the whole way across. DON’T CHEAT” – it was a great way of putting it. I knew exactly what he meant.
One, two, three JUMP. In we got. Off we go. It did not disappoint. It was rough, it was inconsistent. It was fun. I got stung within 1 minute. Minor distraction. My focus in these condition is on two things. Make the most of every stroke. Stayed relaxed. I pulled long and pushed hard at the back of the stroke. I did not fight the waves. Try to roll with them. Don’t let them annoy you. Sight less often as raising your head makes them hit you more. Trust you’re swimming straight. I normally breath right but that’s where the waves were coming from. I did that but when I missed a breath I’d breath left. Breath every 3 or 4 every so often as taking a breath seems to not be as smooth through the waves.
As Michael had explained where to sight most were going along the same line. This meant we periodically passed groups. This gave focus. One group of 3 pairs on each others toes suddenly ended up right beside me having veered right. I was shoulder to shoulder with the back swimmer cursing him. It then dawned on me what he must be thinking: “all this ocean and some fast swimmer from behind choses to swim over me” – no time for apologies. They were going too far right and I was on their right so I surged to pass and get on my course.
A little later we come on another group and it’s almost the same situation but I spot it so at the last minute manage to veer left across the last persons feet and get on their left of follow my line.
The sighting Michael had told us was bang on. Follow the pylon (which seemed well right of the flag) all the way and it landed us right on the flag. Rachel and Lotte were there cheering. I exited with a big smile on my face – that had been a lot of fun.
Now for the long ‘jungle’ section. Just like on the sprint course. I’d really felt quite terrible running till now but on this section started feeling way better running. We hit the big hill and took it steady. It felt worse than yesterday though that may been the extra hours we’d done prior to hitting it. Soon up the hill and on to the jungle bit. Everyone is quite dispersed now so we had it to ourselves. It gave Andy a breather as he’s so much quicker then me on this sort of terrain. Soon we were on the road descent and catching a couple of mens teams ahead.
The 1,2k swim that followed was rough but with the wind and we managed it in about 17 mins. It was fun, every so often catching a wave and cruising.
Short run to the next swim. We thought we were motoring … probably weren’t. Rough again but with the wind and managed to nail this on my third attempt this weekend just skirting the rocky groyne. Final run and then the short swim to the finish. Bliss – it was completely sheltered and therefore totally flat. Great swim to finish with.
Crossed the line well up the field. Only better placing we’ve had at an OtillO is in Scilly which has an even higher proportion of swimming. Very pleased with how we went.
We race a lot which helps our ranking enormously but even so we felt quite proud following this result we’d made the top 10 in the rankings. Should mean we can do Sweden again next year.