Well, now it’s been 2 weeks since I returned from a 2 week work trip to France where I basically failed at training for my soon to be here 70.3 race. Obviously since this was a business trip, I spent most of my time at work, but I tried to split my free time between eating/training/sight-seeing. I’m pretty sure eating won out most of the time because the food was amazing.
The good news is, I was able to fit in at least one session of each sport while I was there. Running is easy because you can run anywhere, though I managed to get myself lost enough that a few of those run weren’t really productive. I did get 1 “long” run of 7 miles in, at least. There was a tram line that ran through the city that run right past the hotel I stayed in so I followed the tram to the end and back which was pretty safe and kept me from getting super lost.
I also polled my triathlon friends at work for a place to swim. There is a nice 50 m pool in the downtown area – not far from the hotel either and it wasn’t too expensive (less than 4 euros). The French are super serious about their hygiene though. Caps are absolutely 100% required in the pool and you had better take a full shower before you get in. No shoes on the pool deck either! The pool was kind of a mess of people swimming breastroke randomly everywhere, but I still managed to get in a short swim before a big thunderstorm blew in.
The most fun part was the biking. I met up with an American ex-pat working there who happened to have an extra bike in the right frame size for me to ride. So I brought my pedals, shoes and helmet so I would have no excuse not to get on a bike. We went for a crazy fast ride out in the country and I also spent some time putzing around the city on the bike just to do something.
The highlight was getting the opportunity to ride up the Puy de Dome over the weekend. This volcano/mountain used to be a part of the Tour de France route way back when, but it’s now generally closed to bicycle traffic. So once a year the local cycle club hosts an event for people to come ride the course and it just happened to be the weekend I was there. Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, so even though I suck at climbing I decided to give it a shot.
The ride started from a little village nearby called Orcines and we did a short warmup before heading to the climb. Let’s just say it was hard. I think the average grade is like 10%. The distance is not far – maybe only 3 miles, but 3 miles at 7-15% grade is pretty brutal. I started out ok, but once we started hitting 12-13% I was pretty miserable. I took a breather around the halfway point, then kept going until I had about a half a mile left to go and could not pedal any more. The last bit is where the grade goes up to 15+% and so I got off that bike and pushed that sucker up to the top. Unfortunately, someone totally got it on video camera. There was a guy (probably from a local news station) who rode by on a motorcycle and asked me if it was too hard (in english, thankfully). YES IT WAS.
Still, I made it to the top, and descending is always way more fun. We had to wait until a set time to come back down so everyone would come down together, but there was food and wine (this is France, after all) at the top while we waited. It was freezing up there, but luckily I had been smart enough to bring a jacket.
Descending was incredible. It was really neat to see ~300 cyclists coming down this mountain all at once. We all gathered again at the bottom for awards. They gave out awards for the fastest climbers obviously, but I got a little gift for traveling the farthest for the event!
After that, we rode back to the car to drop off the extra junk, then took off for a little more riding (on my poor jello legs, ow)to make it about 29 miles for the day. Really a lot of fun.
Of course, coming back, I had to face the reality of getting back in training gear and not eating dessert for every meal. Good to be home!