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Paris Super Sprint Triathlon 2016 Race Report

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This past Sunday was the Paris Super Sprint Triathlon, which is an indoor tri held annually here and put on by Expatriés – one of the local triathlon clubs.  Like all early season indoor triathlons, it’s a great way to work out any race day kinks prior to the bulk of the triathlon season – which typically starts in April/May.

I raced it two years ago, but had to skip last year due to travel.  Here’s how it went down this time!

Pre-race:

My race wave starting time was at 3:30PM, an appropriately Parisian starting time, if I may say so myself.  While it’s common for many Parisian running races to start mid/late morning – it was mostly just luck of the draw that I had a later wave.  Generally speaking the faster you were, the later the wave.

The event was held at Piscine Henry-de-Montherlant, which sits just on the edge of Paris by a few hundred meters, right alongside the highway that rings the city.  In fact, you’d run over the highway during the run course.

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The check-in process only took a minute.  They validated they had a valid medical certificate for you on file (like all races in France), and then checked your ID.  At that point they gave you a small race bag with a few brochures for nearby events and your race bib.

From there it was onto the swim deck to kill some time.  The Girl was volunteering to help on the bike segment, so she got to work.

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Meanwhile, I generally did nothing but sit back and relax and watch some start waves.  I found it kinda neat that the Wattbikes actually created ripples on the water from the fans pointing down towards it.

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About 45 minutes before my wave I went out for a brief 1.5 mile run.  Just a gradual build in intensity to shake things out.  For these sorts of super-brief events you generally want to get a warm-up run/bike/something in.  Getting it much closer to the start time would have been tricky.

After my run we had a short 5-minute presentation of the rules by the race director as well as the local officials.  I should note that despite only being about 140 people (with a max of 10 people racing at any one point in time), there FOUR officials from the triathlon federation present.  Here were two of them:

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And they were doing a legit good job of being involved in all aspects from swim to bike to run.  Compare this to many races in the US with thousands of participants having perhaps 2 officials at best.

Swim:

At precisely 3:30PM, the starting horn went off, and the 8 or so of us began our swim.  It was a mere 300m swim in a 25m pool.  Pretty easy and straight forward.

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As it seems is my annual right of passage at triathlons, I managed to forget my swim goggles.  Thankfully Julio had a pair to loan me.  And while slightly big for my head, they seemed just fine and dandy…at first.  I’m the one in the nearest lane, photo courtesy of Julio.

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Until the last 2 laps anyway. At which point they flooded faster than the Titanic.  No biggie, I had a funny feeling that might happen.  I was able to keep my eyes open underwater, but totally hosed up a flip turn when I was closer than I realized and then ended up swallowing a bunch of water somehow in the process.  Don’t ask.

No worries, hydration is good – right?

Anyway, I finished in 4:50 (swim of 1:40/100m), which I’ll count as functional for only swimming…well…less times this year than I have fingers on one hand.  The last time of which was 30 days ago.

Bike:

I pulled myself out of the pool and onto the deck.  The bike was less than a foot from the edge of the pool, making for the fastest T1 time you’ll ever have (actually, transition times weren’t tracked).

The triathlon was using Wattbikes, which tell you your power, speed, and cadence (and transmit it via ANT+).  They were all configured to a goal of 7,000m.  Thus each competitor could adjust the resistance as they saw fit.  By increasing your resistance you went faster (but with higher wattage required).  This ensured an even playing field.

You could adjust the resistance by using the lever on the left side of the bike:

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Meanwhile, the screen gave you all sorts of stat goodness. And at the bottom of the screen was your ANT+ ID for Speed/Cadence/Power.  So I paired that to the Garmin Fenix3 HR that I was wearing.

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(Thanks to Julio for the above/below bike pics)

This allowed me to get speed/cadence/power graphs.  Though, for some reason it seemed to take about a minute for it to recognize the Wattbike.

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I had pre-configured the bike saddle height, as well as had my running shoes adjusted so that they fit well.  There were no bike shoes used here, just cages of sorts for running shoes.

Off I pedaled.  Definitely too hard.  I started off for the first minute or so around 400w+, then backed down to about 300-325w.  I don’t know why I thought that’d be valid.  I’ll blame that on the pool water.  I ended up settling on a touch below 300w as quite doable.  My guess is that if I didn’t start at 400w+ for the first minute, I would have burned less candle and been able to sustain the 300w without issue.

Around the last few minutes of the bike I started feeling a bit queasy.  At that point I felt like I was going to throw up.  I backed off the power a bit more, bringing it down into the 250w or so range.  Basically trying to lower my HR a bit.

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The entire bike segment though was only 9 minutes long, so you’ve only got so much ‘runway’ to work with.  As soon as the meters remaining counter showed zero, you were good to leave the bike and begin running

I finished up the 7KM bike in 9m59s, and then headed out onto the run.  Julio (and The Girl) both got snaps of my screen afterwards – showing the final stats:

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The stats are pretty straightforward with 285w average, and 474w max, and a 42KM/HR average speed.

Run:

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To get out of the pool area you go up a few flights of stairs that take you almost directly into the massive Bois de Boulogne park that the run is held in.  Like anytime you encounter stairs in a race, there’s nothing fun about them.

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By time I got to the top of them, I knew something wasn’t right.  I made it about 10m away from the ‘finish’ line (which was at the top of the stairs) and stopped to throw up.  It wasn’t a huge throw-up, but a weight loss nonetheless.

One of the guys at the finish line came over to check on me.  I believe he even said something encouraging.  It’s a bit fuzzy.

I then ran about 10m more.  And stopped to throw up again.  Not a ton this time either.

Finally, I started running again…and stopped one last time to throw up about another 10m later.

This time I had a much more substantial puke. JENGA!

The entire three-act process took about 2 minutes, as seen on my Garmin file:

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After the 3rd puke – I was good to go.  As my Dad always said – ‘Give it a good puke and you’ll feel great’.  Truer words never spoken.

I got back up to pace somewhat quickly.  I wasn’t feeling tip-top yet, so my pace was about 6:23/mile (4:00/KM), or a bit slower than I figured I’d run.  But I reeled in a few people that passed me while I was throwing up, so that was positive.

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But with a 2.5K run, you’ve only got so much runway to make up time, no matter how fast you run.  I ended up finishing in 11:46, or about 2-3 minutes slower than I had planned if you remove the puke diversion.

Wrap-up:

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Overall I finished in 27:17, putting me in 20th place out of 136 finishers.  The 2-3 minutes of puking cost me a Top 10 finish.  But, such is life.  Here’s the full GC file.  Note that the swim paces are off because I forgot to change it from my 33m pool to a 25m pool.

I don’t know what triggered the puke, especially since I didn’t eat anything more than a bowl of cereal 4 hours prior.  So nothing odd, but, if I had to get the every-few-years puke out of the way, I’ll definitely take a short super-sprint over a longer race.

This distance race is so much different than that of typical Sprint race, let alone that of a Oly tri or Half Ironman/Ironman race.  It think my brain is hard-wired for those intensities, rather than the uber-short 25-27min super-sprint.  Though, I think internally I think these are more fun.

Next up on my triathlon calendar is the Versailles Triathlon followed by the Paris Triathlon, both in May.  Haven’t quite decided what’s on the docket for April, have a few bits of travel in there – complicating things somewhat.

Of course – I highly recommend the Super Sprint Tri if you’re in town or a local, next year this time.  It’s a blast and an awesome way to spend 30 minutes.  I wish there were these events every month during the winter, I’d be there.

With that – thanks for reading all!

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39 Comments

  1. Michael Swann

    Maybe it was the big gulp of pool water?

  2. Remco Verdoold

    Nice sprint, I haven’t seen these indoor events in the Netherlands (unfortunately). The bikes really look like the bike version of the indoor rowing machines.
    Throwing up can have two origins, one is being ill, but that will not give such good cycle and swim times. It is the gulp of pool water! Which reacts (chlorine reacts) with other food you ate and drunk. Chlorine together with the sulphuric acid in your stomach added with probably some high carbohydrates will react violently. Adding water (liquid) low in calcium (eg not milk) will make matters worse and remedy is to get it out FAST. Yes blame the pool water, open water probably would have been better as it is rich in algae :D

    • taniwha

      They are indeed really close cousins of the indoor rowing machine as they were developped by the british retailer of the rowing machine, or sort of.

      Ray,
      What about that 46/54 leg force, is that a regular pattern?

  3. Chris C.

    Afternoon sickness?

    ;-)

  4. Crispin E.

    Sounds like a great format for the winter (apart from the throwing up). I’m interested to know if you were you given a chance to pair your Fenix 3 HR with the Wattbike you were going to use before the start of your race. I know when all 6 Wattbikes are in use at the gym where I work, it’s a confusing nightmare trying to pair my Fenix 3 with the particular bike I’m on (unless it’s paired before and I’ve turned off any pairings to the other Wattbikes previously paired); not something you’d want whilst transitioning and starting the ride, hence wondering how it worked at this event.

    • We had about 10-15 minutes before the start of our wave on the bikes (basically once the previous wave left).

      At first I figured things would be a pain in the butt to configure, and then I realized the ANT+ ID is listed at the bottom of every one of the main dashboard screens, making it super easy to pair. Only took a few seconds once I realized that. I paired one sensor for power, and one for the speed/cadence sensor.

    • Crispin E.

      Good to know you have time to do the initial pairing. That little ANT+ ID number on the Wattbike screen is essential when there are a number of them in close proximity and all in use. I’ve also had to learn my HRM Run ANT+ ID so I can work out which HR is mine when I get the Wattbike to pair to my HR (not essential in a race as you’d have the HR on the watch anyway, but nice to see your HR on the Wattbike when training).

      I’m going to see if they run these sort of events at my local leisure centre/pool; I really like the idea.

  5. Seb

    Is 46%/54% of power L/R a strong asymmetry on the pedals or not ?

    Is it normal for you ?

  6. ifor

    Good to hear there is more racing on the calendar. Your dad knows his stuff nothing better than throwing up to sort out a queasy stomach in a race situation. Not so good in a sprint race like this though. I had it on a good number of occasions doing multi hour fell races or mountain marathons. There the tricky bit tricky bit is getting some food and water down in order not to bonk an hour or two later. The feeling of relief and being able to get going properly straight after the throw though is great.

  7. Josh

    1) How many folks realized the celebrity they were racing against?
    2) Were you pleased with the F3HR?

    • All good with the F3HR. I had used a HRM-TRI in order to get HR during the swim, and then let it carry over to using that for the other two segments.

    • Josh

      Good to hear, because my F3HR base model with HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM arrives today from CT.

    • Nice!

      I think roughly the way I look at it for triathletes is that the F3HR’s optical HR would be used for 24×7 mode, and most runs. But for swim/bike/race, to use the HRM-TRI strap (or swim if pool).

    • Josh

      Ray, In just 2 days with the F3HR I have found the HR readings throughout the day and overnight to be super stable as compared the the 235 I briefly owned. Do you attribute that to: Less light being able to escape from the larger profile of the F3, better algorithm, other factor? I’ve not yet had the opportunity to run outside with it yet to test everything else due to kids being home from school during spring break.

    • I think it’s partly light (though not much), and partly advances in the algorithm. I don’t remember off-hand when you had the FR235, so a lot has happened in the 4-5 months since it’s been available.

      It’s one of those cases where if you fall into an edge case (even if only 1-3% fall into that case), and they knock out 2-4 of those edge cases, then it’s quite a big change for a larger number of people.

  8. Ken

    ” Like anytime you encounter stairs in a race, there’s nothing fun about them”

    That hurts! I guess we won’t be seeing you at One World Trade Center climb on May 15th, then? There are a number of European races if you’re looking for something closer to home, though none in Paris since the Eifel Tower runup has already occurred this year.

    • Mike Richie

      Ha Ha – I did a race (for charity) up the Prudential Tower in Boston years ago. But that is exactly 1/2 the number of stories at One World Trade Center. Ouch! You start out doing two steps at a time, not so much later on.

    • Isn’t the Eiffel Tower run-up though tied to an Ultra Trail/Marathon race? Or is there a standalone version?

      I’d do the standalone version…

  9. Robert

    At least you didn’t have to run on a treadmill, that could’ve been ugly!

    Just curious how is the entry pricing over there for tri’s? Seems stateside it constantly going up and I know in the midwest we’re cheaper than a lot of other areas in the states.

  10. kevin

    Hey Ray – are you running the latest publicly available version of the firmware for the F3HR? I thought it was 2.20? Looking at your Garmin Connect log I see you’ve got 2.85.

  11. Michael

    How did you like the Wattbike? Thoughts on using it to train indoors vs. a bike attached to a trainer?

    • I think the Wattbike is cool, but I can’t see buying it (or recommending buying it). For this particular purpose it’s awesome. But for the average person, it’s really hard to see why you’d invest in a Wattbike over an electronic trainer. First, with a trainer you’re riding your bike – which means your getting miles in the exact position you’d be racing in (or training later outdoors). Second, trainers support numerous apps – the Wattbike not as much. Third, you won’t quite get the fit flexibility of your own bike.

      Again, I think the Wattbike is cool tech, but in 2016, I don’t see it as a good consumer purchase. Gym’s, events, etc…sure, but not the end-consumer.

    • Tim Grose

      Wattbikes are getting increasingly common in gyms in the UK. I use one regularly and even use it with Zwift! I use it with some SPD shoes too as the standard platforms allow trainer use or these. The only thing I need is their longer seat pin – perils of being 1.95m tall!

  12. I’ve never heard of a tri like this, where you use a stationary bike but run outside it looks AWESOME. Sorry about your stomach sick though.

  13. Thank you Ray for the credit (I’m the Julio he mentions above). The event was pretty cool indeed and we would love to have DCR readers as participants next year if they happen to be in Paris. I leave you here some links to follow:
    http://www.supersprintparis.com
    http://www.expatries-triathlon.com
    link to facebook.com

    We are @expatriestri in both Instagram and Twitter.

    I’m happy to answer any questions you might have!

    • Raul

      I would advise to put the bikes a bit to the back so cooling can be done from the front, where you most need it (the head!!)
      Cooling is underestimated. (in all test centers where I’ve been it was poor)
      My stats were best when I had put my trainer outside on a windy day!
      OK, it is only 10 min. but starting to run (and then stairs, inside!) when you’re already overheated……
      The Wattbike has a fan for the resistance. I think Taxc has/had a model where the output was led to the front. Nice example of ultimate efficiency……

  14. Was there much ventilation? I would imagine it would have been hard to keep cool on the bike without a fan blowing on you, especially at the higher pace. Heat compensation over about 200W without some ventilation is near impossible and can be very uncomfortable.

    • There was an open door that cooled a bit, but not much.

      However, each person had a ‘fanner’ (or whatever you call that role), who had a standard pool kickboard to fan the rider. It worked surprisingly well. You can see The Girl in one of the photos fanning people.

  15. Jens Leen

    Cool! I’ll be there too at the Triathlon de Paris. Do you think it’s easy to reach the swim start at Choisy-Le-Roi in the morning by car (girlfriend will drop me off) or do you think it’s better to pay for the extra shuttle service that brings me to the swim start? Greets from Belgium

    • Yeah, last year was super easy for folks wanting to get dropped off – lots doing that.

      We just took the RER train out there and then rode the short distance to the start.