Embrunman was on a bucket list for a while and this year it was finally time to see what I can do on one of the hardest ironman distance courses in the world. My biggest concern before the race was a few extra kilos that were caused by “see food diet” after Roth. I think that for this distance it’s better to have few kg too much than too few. So, in one of those rare occasions when common sence prevailed pre-race nerves I thought that I’m in for a good race if this is my main concern.
Start was at 6:00. It was still dark so for the first loop we followed a boat with reflector. I had a solid swim and exited the water with about 3 minute gap to main favorites Zamora and Faure who both had 4 wins here.
I figured that on course like this the best result will have those who crack the least. My plan was to do my own race and not look at others. First climb starts 200m after transition and I knew that was the most likely place to overpace yourself. Big climb to Izoard comes after 80km when there’s already some fatigue in the legs. So I went quite conservative up the first climb. It was a bit strange that I didn’t warm up so much after 20 minutes of climbing, but when I saw 3C on my Garmin it wasn’t so strange any more. Luckily, descend was in the sun.
I held good pace up to the bottom of Col d’Izoard and a small group formed around me with Delsaut, Debil-Caux and Herlbauer. Someone shouted that we’re 1 minute back to Zamora and Faure, so I realised that the column of cars and motorbikes just in front of us is actually following the lead group.
They say that Embrunman only starts after 80km on the bike. At that point two Frenchmen from my group passed me and their tempo seemed a bit too high so I decided to stick to my plan. Herlbauer dropped back, so from that point on, I was on my own.
During the day the wind picked up and after the descend from Izoard there was quite strong headwind. I was alone, there was far less spectators, road surface was quite rough at times and there was still 70km to ride. It was time for a bit of suffering. After reaching Embrun again I found out I was in 8th spot and I could see 7th while climbing Cote de Chalvet. I rode that last climb at the similar intensity as the first what was a good sign that I paced well.
First thought that went through my head in T2 was: “Only 3 hours left”. Another good sign. Run course is not nearly as tough as bike course but it’s still far from easy with 2 bigger climbs per loop. I was conservative at the start and waited for others to start slowing down. For a long time I was about 30s behind 7th placed guy and I finally passed him 15 km into the run. At that time two other guys appeared in front of me and they also held 200m gap for quite a long time. At the end of the first loop I could see one more guy ahead. I passed all 3 of them almost at the same time and found myself in 4th place.
I continued at my own pace and got a gap quickly. First 3 were quite a bit ahead so I just wanted to defend my position. It was getting quite tough to hold the pace. My knees were hurting from all the hills, I had light cramps at various spots and around 35km I also got bad side stich and could barely move. Trevor was not far behind me and I was hoping he’s far enough not to see me struggling. Somehow I reached last 3km which were more or less flat. Once there I felt better, started running properly again and held 4th spot until the finish.
So far this season was not so good in regards to prize money and this was maybe my last opportunity for larger paycheck. Embrun has one of the highest purses in sport so 4th place here is worth more than a win at most other races. There was not a single decision I made during the race that I regret and think it would be better if I did something else. I managed to pull 100% of my capabilities when it was the most important, so I’m very happy about that.