Deauville. Le retour.
A year, almost to the day, since I competed in my last race. So much water under the bridge. So many changes, so many negatives, and finally so many positives.
A year, almost to the day. Twelve months which can probably be broken down into three pretty clear phases.
Deauville 2017 – December 2017 : f*%k life
No point in going there again. I was a miserable, depressed bitch for much of that time. I let my injury get to me and had no idea who I was, what I was doing or where I was going. Fair play to all the people around me who didn’t give me as good as they got during that time, I probably would have deserved it.
December 2017 – end February 2018: sutto style
Decided to get my shit back together. Didn’t think I would ever go back to Brett Sutton based on our previous relationship, and then when the opportunity arose I did. Because I wanted to get my head down and work my backside off, and I believed the only person who could get me to do that was Brett. Also because I guess my oversized athlete ego appreciated that someone like him would believe in me.
It worked for a while. I went to Lanzarote, trained hard, got fitter. I started running again in February, and subsequently chose not to ignore the warning signals when my foot got upset two weeks in. That’s when it didn’t work anymore. Suffice to say we didn’t agree, and I was duly kicked out of the squad.
Riding my bike in Costa Teguise
March 2018 – Deauville 2018: MY style
There is nothing like having someone imply you’ll never make it, to get the blood boiling. But first, if I wasn’t going to be able to race, I needed some form of other income. I stopped trying to run. I took the TT setup off my bike and replaced it with a standard road handlebar. I thanked sponsors for believing in me but refused their money this year. I am not a thief, nor a fraud.
I was hired as a regular translator for a rather large bike brand. I took on the organisation of a roadbike tour through Switzerland in August. I accepted a job as a full-time sports teacher in a school close to home. I learned you can actually teach kids how to throw a javelin by watching a YouTube video ten minutes before class, even if you would probably kill someone if you tried to throw said javelin yourself.
Weekly training went from 25 hours to 15, at most.
Average sleep per night went from 9 hours to 7, at most.
Average smiles per day increased around 500%, at least.
Contents of my bank account increased marginally, finally 🙂
On May 5th, I was invited to participate in the Deauville triathlon once again.
I was cycling well.
I would survive 2k in the water.
I had two 30-minute runs under my belt and a month and a half to build up to the race.
It would have been easier if I hadn’t taken a massive spill off my bike three weeks before (more on that coming up!).
It would have been easier if I hadn’t received an email three days before requesting the translation of a 5000-word legal document, asap.
It would have been easier if I had slept more than twelve hours in the three nights leading up to the race.
It would have been easier if the French train service hadn’t been on strike (then again, what did I expect?) and it had taken me less than eleven hours to get to Deauville.
But what does make it easier is that I no longer have the time to look for excuses.
You do what you’ve gotta do, with what you’ve got on the day.
No ifs, not buts, and no becauses.
I was put up in the fanciest hotel in town, full of people who had probably never set their backsides on a bike in their life. I felt obliged to discreetly carry mine through the lobby every time I walked in and to use the hidden lift down the corridor so as not to inconvenience anyone. (I had less qualms about hosing down my energy-gel-plastered machine in the 5* bathtub after the race.)
My hotel room. Scared to unpack bike in case I get grease on the walls…
… so I put it in the bath instead 🙂
Deauville is a lovely little town. The buildings are beautiful, the beach is pristine, and if you can get away from the Parisian aristocrats driving their Aston Martins down the streets with their noses in the air, you can actually find coffee for less than 2€.
Needless to say there weren’t many triathletes in my hotel, but the race atmosphere was as cool as I remembered it. The organisers do a wonderful job of running a flawless event with over 5000 participants, and the course is pretty amazing too. Give it a try if you’re looking for something different!
Deauville run course. Gene Kelly making sure we get it done.
Yet in the end the race itself was kind of secondary. The only really important part about it was the finish line.
Water conditions were perfect compared to last year’s washing machine: I swam straight and didn’t hit any buoys. Didn’t fall on my face in the sand either.
I had screwed a tribar clip-on onto my trusty little road bike. I wore my road shoes with fiddly ratchet straps, which I put on before getting on the bike. I emptied the entire contents of an energy gel over my hands and handlebar rather than into my mouth (hence the bike in the bath) at km 21. I struggled up the last hills and appreciated the encouragements of a couple of guys coming through shouting Allez Emma!
Absolutely honoured to wear #1
I took a minute to tie my standard shoelaces in T2 because I no longer own the elasticated triathlon version, and shuffled out onto the promenade in the lead. I high-fived a few kids and stopped for water and coke. I did something I’ve never really done before: I ran with my head. Never mind that I couldn’t actually have gone much faster, my one and only priority was to finish the race without hurting myself.
I had imagined crossing the line as being quite emotional. It wasn’t really. I didn’t do the whole Swiss Roger Federer thing and cry. The satisfaction was much, much deeper than that.
In fact in a weird way I’m glad I didn’t win. I know the work it takes to reach the highest level, and it’s work I very clearly haven’t put it – for whatever reason – over the last year. Anna Noguera flew past me with 8km to go and was on a completely different run planet. She more than deserved the win; my victory was a whole different one, and would have been the same had it taken me six hours to complete the race.
I don’t give a shit who tells me my goals are small compared to what they used to be. That I should be aiming for more than a smile at the finish line.
Fuck you. Happiness is worth more than a million victories.
Please excuse my language.
Thank you to the organisers and all the friendly faces in Deauville. To sponsors Skinfit, KeFORMA and Saucony for sticking by me. To the people close to me for their unwavering belief and support. To all the helping hands along the way.
Don’t EVER let anyone tell you you’re not worth it.