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Antoine J. Desroches: What I learned at Ironman 70.3 Texas

Blogger and pro triathlete Antoine J. Desroches reflects on his race last weekend at Ironman 70.3 Texas. Desroches was the first out of the water and earned himself a top 20 finish in a field of some of the sport’s best competitors. Here, he gives five lessons he learned from his race.

Credit: Joe Feaga

1. You’ve done the work, don’t stress about your race preparation

Some people consider sport a science and others see it as an art. For me, swimming is an art and to keep mastering this art I need to never lose my feel for the water. I like to make sure I’m doing a swim workout every few days, even more when it’s race week. Once in Texas, I learned that I could not swim the course days before the race and that the only pool was a 45 minute drive from Galveston. I was anxious that I would lose my feel for the water, or even worse, forget how to swim! However, I thought about all the swim workouts that I’ve done in the pool this winter which gave me confidence before the race. This can apply to many other situations when your pre-race preparation is not ideal. For instance, if you’ve injured yourself and had to decrease your running mileage or stop running altogether a few days or weeks before a race. If you’ve done the right training for the past few months you should not stress about your running fitness. However, if you start questioning your fitness, your performance will probably suffer.

It’s all about believing in yourself and your ability to perform.

2. The shortest way is not always the fastest way

When you choose your position on the start line, you should not only consider what is the shortest way to the first buoy but also what is the fastest way. When I chose my position on the start line I went completely to the right. It was the longest way to get to the first buoy but I had noticed that the current was coming from the right and would push me toward the buoy. My intuition was good because. My swim start was less chaotic than if I had been at the left of the start line and the water current slowly brought me closer toward the first buoy. I was then able to take the lead.

Consider the course ahead of time and strategize based on the info you have.

Credit: Scott Flathouse

3. Use your brain

When I exited T1 in the lead I could have gotten so excited and pushed way too hard at the beginning to maintain my lead for as long as possible. That would have screwed the rest of my race. Instead, I remembered what my coach said in our pre-race Skype conversation. I maintained an effort which followed the same pace throughout the 90 km bike to have a good run. This also applies if you see one of your competitors overtaking you on the bike at a blistering pace that you know you can’t sustain. Chances are that he/she won’t be able to maintain this pace throughout the bike either and that you will catch him/her at the end of the bike or during the run.

4. Aero is NOT everything

“Aero is everything” is a popular saying in the tri world, but even though aerodynamics are indeed really important, it’s also important to have a bike position which is comfortable and allows you to push big watts for the whole course. This is what I figured 10 km into the 90-km pancake flat 70.3 Texas bike course. Even though my position was aerodynamic, my back was hurting so much. I couldn’t push the watts I needed and even worse, I had to get out of my position to relieve my back pain. It resulted in the most painful 90 km of my life and a disappointing bike split.

Credit: Mike Alexander

5. Good things can come out of bad situations

When I ended the bike course and started to run I was both relieved that I could finally get off my bike and stretch my back but also disappointed that I lost so much time on the bike leg. But I soon realized that because I didn’t bike well my legs were fresh and I could have a good run. I wanted to catch some of the triathletes who overtook me on the bike.  So I was able to turn those negative thoughts into positive thoughts which allowed me to run well and finally break the four hour mark in a 70.3 that I’ve wanted to break for so long!