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Race Report - Nice World IM Champs 2023 - Well done Charles

Updated: May 19

By Charles Henwood

Finally , better late than never , but had to enjoy the Family holiday in the French Riviera first

Race Report - IM World Champs , Nice Apologies , LONG post , but the only way I know how Before I get into the race report , just a quick recap on how we ended up here. Did my first IM in May at Port Macquarie, did not have the best end to my race , But was very lucky / fortunate due to a very generous roll down , was offered a slot to race at the IM World Champs , as much as I felt I did not really earn the slot as others before me , I could not turn down the opportunity to experience the “BIG”show as this is a once in a life time opportunity for a mid pack athlete, So with the Families approval , we signed up.

So what was the plan , 1. Take the Family on the journey , their reward for all the sacrifice over the past year 2. Maintain the efforts from Port Mac and right the challenges that I had experienced on race day

Let the journey begin , after a few weeks rest it was back into training , had already been on a 10 month IM program , so hey whats another 4 months onto that, Goals set , maintain swim , prepare for what is the most challenging cycle course on the IM circuit and right the memories of the run from Port Mac, I thought I had put alot of prep into Port Mac , but again with a strong Team around me , spent many more additional hours in training to ensure I was ready for this challenge , fortunately a number of the RTC Team were also on the same journey and were always available for those longer sessions , Marty , me and the hills became very good friends , no Saturday was complete without a minimum of a 6 hour ride with over 3000m of climbing , Karen and Panda were always there for me to join on the long swim / run sessions , Alanah took over from where Jacko had left off , Tristan was on hand for the Bike skills session to get me over and down the French mountains in one piece, Spent extra time with my nutritionist to change up my plan as race day would be a very different challenge to Port Mac and had the ever present “BEST”coach in Mary partly in person and then virtually for the back end. So after a 14 month training block , got through the 4 month training block , injury free , as healthy as I had ever been , change up my nutrition plan , my remaining challenge was the swim and my nausea , Last few OW swims at Suttons proved challenging and resulted in a number of “fish feeding” sessions , Other than that I was ready for each leg of the race, bring on race week. Left for France via Doha on the Monday , loooong trip , just under 14 1/2 hours to Doha 2 hour layover then just under 7 hours to Nice , had a plan on how to avoid jetlag and had my sleep plan all worked out ,

Let the “pivoting” begin , only managed 3 hours sleep over the 2 day period , other than that , flying with Qatar Airways through IM was the best decision , not a single issue and all luggage and Bike arrived safe & sound , good start off to our accommodation , was really chuffed with the place we booked perfect location and just what we needed for our 2 week stay , quick stop at the supermarket for supplies then of to do my 30min power walk. Wednesdays started off with a light ride to test out the bike , no issues , tested out the first 20km of the course and it got interesting real quick with some short very sharp climbs and me trying to remember to ride on the right side of the road, bumped into Doug & Lisa Locke on the Promenade , always great to catch up with fellow RTC members , then an easy day exploring a bit of Nice, by the afternoon I started to feel a bit off , Sinus’s started playing up and just felt really drained , lack of sleep and maybe a little jetlag setting in and a clear difference in temperature ( HOT ) so to bed early and ready for Thursday . Woke up on Thursday and was really not feeling well , only had a 30min run , got through it but clearly something was not right , needed an hours rest before we set off to do some more exploring, really battled to get around and now knew I was not well , major congestion , throat felt like I was swallowing razor blades , little coughing and some body aches , so took it really easy, and off to the pharmacy for medication, In the afternoon it was the Parade of Nations , a MAGICAL event , having the opportunity to walk with my Family in the Parade was an absolute privilege and a really special moment, lifetime memory, Also got to share the experience with my training partner Marty, great way to round off our journey pre race day , also had Geoff along to enjoy the experience , RTC well presented in Nice

After the parade it was off to check in , seamless process and really well organised in and out within minutes , IM really do their best to take the little stresses out of the athletes lives, Stop off at the expo and Merch Store , really had to be disciplined not to buy to many goodies, so damn hard Thursday ended up being a really long day and I was struggling more than ever , So a quick chat with the Family and change of plans for the lead in to race day , I was not in shape to be out exploring and needed to focus on being ready for Sunday. Friday was a challenging day , woke up feeling even worse , but continued with race prep , Short swim with Marty to start off , I was the only one who swam with no wetsuit , contrary to IM posts I had been tracking water temperatures and there was no way we would have a wetsuit swim , ave 25deg , Swim location was stunning , pebble beach was interesting , massive drop off into the water , ( they even have ropes to pull yourself out of the water ) once you hit the water , so warm , so clear but so damn SALTY , The swim was a real challenge struggling to breathe with major congestion is not a great recipe for a swim , but needed a sense check on where I was at , after doing 1km I was done so ended the swim early , then did a short ride and run which both proved just as challenging , I then spent the rest of the day in bed to recover, While the Family explored Nice a little more. In the afternoon had a quick catch up with Mary , to chat through where I was at and how I was feeling , ( apparently wife and coach had been chatting about my health as I was choosing to avoid it ) At this stage a clear change in plan for Sunday , it was now all about just finishing , enjoying the experience and managing my body on the day , zero attempts to break any PB’s or attempt to race, just survive and get out in one piece was the new goal. The evening was all about the much talked about Athlete Banquet , something I was advised not to miss as it was a big part of the experience , so worked up the energy and off to the Banquet , Sad to say a MAJOR let down ( echoed by many athletes ) , food was below average, entertainment was bizaar, Highlight was getting to sit with Athletes from around the World and the evening became about sharing stories and journeys which was priceless, after the Banquet was the English race briefing , after running behind time managed to get back to our accommodation by 10pm, not ideal and another long day. Saturday, status quo remained , still not well and battling to even speak , morning started off with race day prep , thanks again Panda, photo’s work wonders Key piece of advise , ALWAYS read the AIG , never assume what was relevant in your previous race applies in your next, even if it’s the same organisers , some more pivoting required as special needs rules were very different to Port Mac, so some rework needed to nutrition plan , but no stress as I had the time to prep, more time in Bed and then off to rack my bike in the late afternoon, As always , this is where it started to become very real , racking went relatively quick, again great organisation, but got a real feel for the temperature that we could expect on race day , was really hot and sweated some beads as transition was really exposed with minimal shade , then back to the room for some more R&R. At this stage I really knew I would be in for my toughest day ever , gathered the Family for a debrief and my needs on the day, pre warned the Girls that they would potentially see me in a condition they are not used to , but under no circumstances are they to show their concern while I was in sight , but just to be my cheer leaders, Evening was eventful , pre race nerves , normal lack of sleep , my worry was the cold sweats , changed clothing 3 times over the course of the night and was really worried about what race day would bring. Finally - Race day So what was the plan , just finish , manage my body and not do any long term damage , enjoy the experience, What did we know , Swim would be a challenge , bike would be at least 1 hour more than normal and hey lets see what the run brings , nutrition would be key and would need to start early with the really tough bike course , high temperatures expected and remember to ride on the right side of the road cannot afford a DQ!! 3.30am , gave up trying to sleep , still not feeling great , but I was racing, even though the golden rule is to not race when sick , this was World Champs so for me different rules applied , any other race different decision may have been made , 5am , next pivot , as I expected , Non wetsuit swim announced , did not phase me as I had prepared for it Late start 07h30 so could take my time getting to the start for last minute bike check and pre race prep , managed to find Marty for last minute catch up , then wait for a bathroom , over 2200 athletes , 18 toilets , who ever thought that would be sufficient It was now go time , standing at the swim start with over 230 athletes in my wave, this was going to be different , had not prep for that , deep water start , really rushed to get to the start buoys , but positioned myself well and experienced the most crazy swim start ever , now truly understand the machine wash effect , Just kept reminding myself of those skill sessions with Jacko and quickly got into a good rhythm following feet and bubbles, first 1km went really well and was sticking to the plan , then things went up a level , the front group of the next 200 athletes caught up and it was the young guns who had no respect for their elders , literally swam over me , goggles got repositioned and I needed to move wide to fix them , somehow managed to take in a large gulp of sea water , not great , from there the swim went backwards , goggles kept filing with water so a number of stops to correct , after 2km nausea and vomiting started , fed the fish a number of times on the remainder of the swim and all pre race nutrition was cleared by the end of the swim next pivot , knew nutrition on the bike would be even more key , the end of the swim was fun , human chain of volunteers to help us get out of the water , those pebbles and steep bank where an experience, First sighting of my cheer squad , amazing the lift that gives you T1 , took my time , gut was not doing well after all the sea water intake , quick bathroom break and off to the bike , Biggest focus on the bike , stay on the right , avoid the cars ( yes 90% of the course was open to all traffic , but kudos to the French , so aware and respectful of cyclists ) stick to the plan , power below 190 , HR below 130, Focus on nutrition as I was already in a negative, First 10km were flat so could get into a good rhythm quickly and that’s where it ended , climbing started early, with the steepest sections within the next 20km , some brief rolling hills before the “MAIN” climb of the day, nearly 20km of climbing with over 1400m of elevation to follow , as challenging as this was , it was the most spectacular piece of riding in my life , most amazing scenery and villages we got to ride through, did not push hard at all , stuck within my limits , by the time we got to special needs at just over 85km, my legs were feeling great , but the rest of my body was in destress , nausea had ramped up and I just had nothing in me , nutrition was on plan but I was struggling with solids , temperatures were now over 35deg and the wind had started to pick up , quick toilet break , refill of nutrition and off we go again , Unfortunately nausea and now moved into the start of vomiting , so really focused on ensuring that I was not pushing any limits as the course was a little easier than the past few hours , One of the nutrition changes we made in training was adding salt tablets on the ride due to the heat and my sweat rates , as much as I had never had challenges with this in training , plan was to take a tablet every hour , took me a while to realise , but within 15 minutes of taking a tablet I would cramp up and then vomit , so after 5 hours into the ride , I cut this out to see if it would improve and it did , I was now managing to take in fluids without the nausea , by the time I got to the 45km downhill I had already lost an hour on my original planned time and knew it was going to be a long day , was really conservative and tried my best to recover and get nutrition on board on the downhill section , where the original plan was to make up time, but nothing was working , I was feeling so drained and as much as I felt I had put in minimal effort so far , I had nothing further to give , so it was now really into survival mode and just get to T2. Finally got to T2 , as much as it was the most spectacular ride of my life it was also the most disappointing, This was where I had put in the most training and where I should have shone but had “FAILED” horribly , Going into T2 I was broken , worse than Port Mac , physically & mentally I had no idea on how I was going to get through a marathon and this was the first time I seriously started to consider a DNF , lessons learnt from Port Mac , when in a bad way , stop and recover don’t push as it just makes things worse , so this was my pivot going into T2 , take my time , put in nutrition and then get onto the run , after 15 minutes in T2 I had not even managed to get my runners on , worry now turned to panic , just being vertical was a challenge , my good friends the medics even started asking if I was ok and if I needed assistance ( here we go again ) , All good , just trying to gather myself was my usual response , then I had a thought , After any really tough training sessions if I did not feel well , a lie down would always get me back on track ,

So off I went to a race official in T2 and asked permission to take a power nap , approval received, so there I was in T2 taking a power nap on the floor for my allowed time of 20minutes , ( would love to know what was going on in the other athletes minds when they saw me ) but desperate times call for desperate measures right , so T2 would now be over a 40minute session , but I was comfortable with this if I could reset the body , also figured the sun would be starting to set and out on course would be a little cooler, In this time so many thoughts went through my mind , fortunately a skill I have gained over the years is the ability to mentally really dig deep even when my body says NO , so it was time to activate this mode, finally I had gone from how do I explain to all that had been on this journey with me about a DNF to , how damn privileged am I to have this opportunity , many others would have loved to have this opportunity and the event is far bigger than me , just get my shit together and not only for myself but for all that had invested time in me , to get my arse off the floor and get to the finish line and if I was going out , it would be with a BANG and not a whimper. But how , still had nothing in me , nausea was next level ( but at least no vomiting ) , spent a few minutes figuring out nutrition plan as I was now surely in an even bigger negative , more importantly how was I going to tackle a marathon feeling the way I did , So the plan was to walk the first lap , take in as much nutrition as the body would allow then get back to doing 7min km and that should get me home within cutoff , not great , but not a DNF. So on with the trainers , nutrition loaded , bathroom break and started the run, we can do this , Next pivot , as I exited T2 vomiting started , got to the edge of the course , hanging over the side rails ( yes I have a video to prove it ) I had the biggest spew ever, for the first time it was not nutrition but Bile and damn must have been over 3 litres as I filled up the road drain , had a number of volunteers came up to check if I was ok , even with continued vomiting I was like , no all good, I will be alright But in my mind I was really concerned as this is what got me to my low point at Port Mac , biggest difference was I still had 42km to go , Ironically , this was my turning point , I instantly felt 200% better than I had in the last 8 hours , so I had light, Was very disciplined and stuck to the plan , did not even attempt to run , was really hard as this is the section of the course with the most spectators edging one on , Marty went flying past on the opposite side of the loop looking really strong, but I had a plan and I had to get nutrition in , After 5km I really started feeling stronger but time was now my challenge , first 5km took nearly an hour so could no longer afford to walk the rest of lap 1 , so made the decision to start running , but would be at a slow pace , before I knew it I was running 5min30 km , I knew this was too fast so started clock watching to slow down the pace , this worked wonders , after the 10km mark I for the first time knew I could do this , just needed to manage myself as anything could happen in the remaining 32km , kept to a 5min45 pace and walked the water points , taking on my nutrition , topping up with water then coke at every 3rd water point and a Maurten gel every 40 minutes ( NO Salt tablets only change to my plan ), watermelon also became a new on course best friend and was the only solids I could get in. Just before the turn point of lap 1 , there was my cheer squad , doing as I had asked , screaming and cheering as loud as they could , even more motivation to keep going , the last words they kept shouting was , nutrition , nutrition , nutrition , only one place this would have come from , Mary being present even when she was many miles away , even more motivation to lift my spirits Lap 2 not too eventful and found my running legs , winning , saw Marty again flying to the finish line , super chuffed his race day had gone well , turned for lap 3 , with the slow start was happy with just over a 2h30 for the first half , At this point based on how I was feeling , WTF , could not believe how my race day had turned around , made the decision to give the last half of the run a full go and have something positive to remember the race by , but still within reasonable limits as anything could happen , Stuck to my nutrition plan , topped up my Infinit & gels at special needs at around 26km , was really disappointed with IM from this point , majority of the water points went from full offering to water and if you were lucky coke , only 1 or 2 of the water points had any other form of race nutrition , really felt for those behind me , fortunately my nutrition plan was self reliant so had what I needed to get to the finish line and just used the water points for water. Start of lap 4 , cheer squad there again , just what I needed to keep me going for the last lap , still feeling good If I pick up the pace could get to a 4h30 marathon , could not believe where I was at , so picked up the pace to 5min30km , still walking the water points , went past the 32km point , my mental block point , no issues and feeling good , time to record new memories and that what I did , last 10km was my strongest finish in a long time , started with a few cramps at 38km , so sucked down a crampfix , man that stuff is GOLD and was good to go , with 2km to go I had just over 10 minutes to get to a 4h30 marathon , well let try this , ramped up the pace and chased down the hallow ground , best complement I got all day was when I passed another athlete and he said good work you “runner” , memories from Port Mac run starting to fade. Finally the Red Carpet appeared , Family there all smiles shouting and screaming , the moment I had waited for and thought would not occur a mere 5 hours earlier , really special to finally be able to share the emotions of the red carpet with the Family , grabbed my Aussie flag , took my time and really savoured the moment , then those magic words with a slight change , Charlie YOU ARE AN IRONMAN , with tears in my eyes and relief that I have not felt before , managed an easy run over the finish line , under a 2 hour second half and spot on 4h30 ( 24 sec ) now that’s how I needed to finish off the most EPIC race of my life and have something to feel proud of , the last sign of a great finish ,

Finally managed to get rid of the tradition of visiting the Medical tent after the race , this time round I walked my way into the recovery area , was joined by Doug who had finished just after me to savour our achievement , then a change of clothes and off to have a feed , Disappointment number 3 , recovery zone was so well below par , meal options not great , IM Oceania ( Port Mac ) can definitely share what a world class recovery zone looks like with the World , So with not much food in, resorted to Coke and watermelon for recovery and off to meet the family , celebrate our achievement and then off to collect my bike and transition bags and a 2km walk back to our accommodation , finally the end of a very eventful day. Finally the end of what has been a CRAZY 14 month journey , getting to that finish line not only on race day but through the entire journey has helped me appreciate what an IM is all about , IM is not for the faint at heart , it is build to test you physically and mentally in ways you could never dream possible , Then World Champs takes it up another level , even if its not in Kona ( sorry had to put that in ) But to echo my message from my earlier IM ,with the right Team , 200% individual commitment not only physically but mentally too , even an average athlete can achieve extra ordinary things, IM will knock you down ( not just once ), but it not about how many times you get knocked down , its all about how you deal with every curve ball that is thrown your way , more importantly its all about how you finish. I was again not fortunate to have the perfect race day, but with my health challenges on the day , tough course and conditions , I am so proud of how I dealt with every challenge that was thrown my way and still managed to get to the finish line, with over a 20% field DNF justifying how challenging the race truly was , again just reemphasising how amazing the Human body and mind is , Even when you are beaten and down thinking you have nothing more to give, you do , Dig way down deep and you can find a way , this IM for me was living proof of what is possible , trust in the process , listen to your body , keep a clear head , pivot , pivot and pivot again, always have a back up plan for your back up plans , you will need them The last 14 month journey has made me an even stronger person and athlete, and would strongly recommend it to anyone who has the ability but is sitting on the fence , take the plunge and enjoy the ride , you will never regret it ! It was an absolute privilege to have been afforded the opportunity to race in the IM World Champs and to have shared the course with the elite athletes of our sport that we all look up too, as well as my fellow RTC Athletes , Marty , Doug and Geoff To everyone who was a part of my IM journey , I am forever grateful, Family , friends , coaches , training partners , colleagues , other RTC athletes were all key parts of this journey, Special thanks to Mary , for having me as an athlete under you guidance is a HUGE privilege , Looking forward to what the next 12 months has to bring. For now whats next ?? who knows ( not another IM )

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