Even when everything goes wrong during a race, there is a silver lining, something to hang on to. Those are usually the most enlightening races. As my brother Bertrand is massaging my injured hamstring, I am holding a new blue jersey, smiling despite a disappointing 4th place. I am now a member of the French National team!
I’ve been living in New York City for over five years, before this race I had never done a triathlon in my dear France. I was very touched when in May, the coach of the French team invited me to compete for the National title in Gravelines. For the first time, my parents, my brother and some of my friends would support me as I battle with the best athletes in the country. My dedicated friend Thomas traveled all the way from New York City to guide me for this race, his family was also going to be there behind us.
I was more anxious than usual before the start, I really wanted to have a good showing in front of my family and the coach of the National team. I started the swim way too fast, and after the first left turn, I got tangled with a few opponents and anxiety started to tighten my chest. Dark thoughts invaded my mind, a little voice inside me started to say: “Charles, you are not good enough, your parents are going to be embarrassed. You traveled all this way for nothing, today isn’t your day. You are not a good swimmer, look at this, everyone is passing you. This coach is never going to want you on the team.”
I got out of the water way behind my opponents, after a decent transition, I jumped on the tandem angry. Again, I pushed way too hard at the beginning, I felt that something was wrong in my right hamstring from the get-go. This dark cloud was following me. Thankfully Thomas is very powerful on the bike, on each of the four loops, we were getting faster and faster. It was wonderful to hear my family cheer for us, my brother Bertrand was especially wild!
As we started the run, the coach of the National team told me that I was less than one minute behind third place and that I could catch him. I tried to get in my rhythm, a 6:45 pace or so, but my hamstring started to really hurt and I knew that finishing would be difficult, let alone finishing on the podium. I slowed down and tried to enjoy racing with Thomas. Of course, since this wasn’t our day, we had to stop in the penalty box, Thomas had left his helmet on the handlebar of our tandem, when the rule is that every item must be placed in a box in transition. One more lesson learned.
We crossed the finish line in fourth place, everyone on the team was very supportive. It was fascinating to speak to some of the Paralympians who were there that day, I love this community. The coach was very comforting, he said that this was a great experience for me and that there is always at least one thing that goes wrong during a triathlon. He handed me a beautiful jersey of the National team and made my day!