Ironman Vichy Race Report

I was born in the former Soviet Union, now the Ukraine, in the city of Odessa. My birth name is Vichislav. My parents called me Slavik and still do in Russian but it was changed to Steven when we got our US Citizenship. To this day my wife’s and my oldest and dearest friend Julia calls me Vichy. When Ironman announced a race in Vichy France it was like a calling. I just completed my 2 IM’s in 1 month challenge and decided to up the anti and see if I can do 3 in 7 week. The trifecta is now complete! Fortunately my older daughter had some time in between her summer and fall semester to join me which made this a great trip.


Vichy France is smack in the middle of the country. About a 4 hour drive south from Paris or a 6 hour drive north from Nice. We spent a lovely 24 hours in Paris, then rented a car and drove down. 
From Nestled in a bend in the Allier River, Vichy is one of France’s most luxurious locations. The peak era of this Auvergne spa town saw visitors flocking there to drink its healing waters and bath in its thermal springs. Vichy has kept its reputation as a health retreat, helped along by the reputation of the cosmetic brand named for the town. Tree-lined boulevards laid out in the 19th century, and art-deco buildings such as the Opéra de Vichy, add to the town’s nostalgic feel. Among Vichy’s turn-of-the-century mansions and riverside parks, there’s a rich collection of confectionery shops as well
Hats off to Ironman for picking this incredible venue with an awesome sports complex. I have yet to see the start, T1, T2, Finishing line, Ironman Village and everything else associated with the race so close together. IMLP comes close. Another attraction besides it being named after me, lol, was the total elevation gain of the bike course. Just over 1,000 meters of hills was very attractive after the killer hills in IM Whistler Canada a few weeks ago.
The swim takes place in the Allier river. The water was above the 24.5* C / 76* F threshold for being wetsuits legal. This was going to be the 1st time I had to swim 2.4 miles without the buoyancy benefit of neoprene.  I was surprised that there wasn’t more excitement and fanfare at the start. I didn’t hear any music at all until I got within 20 yards of the self seeded crowd going down the chute into the water 3 at a time. Starting these races is nerve racking and loud music combined with an energizing MC makes a big difference.
I didn’t want to repeat the mistake of the last two IM’s so I started off at a very moderate pace. Not sure why, but I never picked it up.  That combined with a weird river current and cross current and no wetsuit  resulted in my slowest swim time ever of 1:51:59. I think this pick captures my feeling perfectly after seeing the time on my watch.
I was a little disappointed but was really looking forward to the bike course.  My daughter and I drove around the day before and I knew I was in for beautiful country and farm roads which were relatively flat with awesome views of the Auvergne Volcano range.
Other than some climbs starting at mile 40 and then again at mile 96 the two loop course did not disappoint.  At mile 40 before the 1st long climb I was averaging 18 MPH. I haven’t seen that average on my Garmin on a long ride for quite some time so I was pretty psyched. At the end I was a able to pull off my best IM bike split ever of 6:34:07. It was overcast for most of the 1st loop but the hot sun did come out on the 2nd loop which was a bit taxing.
Look mom, no hands!
The 26.2 mile run course is split into 4 loops going through the river walk on both sides of the Allier River, through parks and a little bit through town. There was minimal crowd support on the bike but that wasn’t the case on the run. It was awesome. I must have heard, “Ali, Ali, bon courage” a thousand times.  “Go, Go…good luck” in French.
The sun was out in full force for the 1st two loops (13.1 miles) and it was sauna hot. Surprisingly aid stations had no ice nor sponges. The only way to cool off was to get showered by a garden hose. I hate that because water inevitable gets into my sneakers but I had no choice. The heat plus spent legs from having a fast bike leg resulted in a 5:30:36 run leg.
The finishing area for this race is quite unique. On all the multi-loop run courses I’ve done in the past the fork for turning into the finishing chute or continuing for another loop is away from the finishing area. Close enough for you to hear the excitement but you can’t see it. On this course you actually go through the finishing area, get the roar of the crowd, and the fork is 100 feet from the finish line.
I was hoping for a sub 14 hour finish but fell 9 minutes short. Oh well, no biggie. Very happy that number 8 is in the books!

Making travel plans to return home the next day was a mistake. I finished the race at approximately 9:30 PM.  Got back to the room by 11:30.  Had to disassemble and pack my bike, sleep for 4 hours, wake, shower, pack, drive over 4 hours to Paris in AM traffic and catch a 7 hour flight home. A bit exhausting. But completing 3 IM’s, in 3 countries in 7 weeks feels priceless. I think I’ll take September off.