Nikki Barnard: Ironman France 2016 Race Report

This is a guest blog by coached athlete Nikki Barnard. Nikki has been working towards her goal of completing an Ironman for nearly a year, and has overcome some very difficult injuries along the way. She's shown real dedication to both her training and her rehab - it's a pretty inspiring tale, as when she signed up for coaching with Rob Wilby, she could barely walk due to stress fractures in both legs. It's fantastic to read her story of overcoming the odds to achieve her dream! Now her injury problems are behind her, we can't wait to see how fast she can go in her next Ironman :)

In 2014 I decided that a plan should be put into place to get me to the start line of a challenge that has been on my 'to do list' for some time. 

A full distance Ironman race. I did a little research and decided upon IronMan Zurich 2015. Sadly, a nasty injury got the better of me in the spring of 2015 cancelling all adventures and races that were among my ever growing list for that year. 

My time came round again, and I was still very keen to participate in an  Ironman event. Nice Ironman is relatively local to me living in France and offered an early season race date that would give me time to recover and perhaps endure other challenges that have been pending on my list, so I signed up, sought help and coaching advice from Rob Wilby, and began my mission. 

Race day approached fast, and before I knew it, I was in Nice, sticking on my race day numbers and making my way to the Promenade des Anglais for the start of Ironman Nice 2016. This year Nice introduced a rolling start to their swim course which I took some comfort in as in previous years the start has looked vicious. I penned myself in the 1hr20min group, and anxiously waited and chatted away to some other folks in my pen. The gun went off & I waded in and set off. I found my rhythm fairly quickly and settled in for the 3.8km sea swim. It was rough at times, getting in perhaps too close to the markers, I caught a few smacks and kicks to my head. One fellow stopped to apologise for kicking me right in the chops, I mean, given the circumstances, I couldn't have asked for a better outcome than that!


As the swim came to an end I was just ecstatic; I'm not the strongest, most confident of swimmers and on a race reccie a few weeks back, the sea (and the deep blue unknown) totally got the better of me. So, to be on dry land and alive felt like a flipping result for me in its self! 

Into T1, a quick(ish) change of clothes, I grabbed my bike, and away I went. The Nice bike is one of the few, if not the only course on the European Ironman circuit that is one single 180km loop. It is hilly (2100M+) and challenging, but it is oh so stunning.  The forecast predicted a little rain so it was expected, and as I hit KM 100 or so the heavens opened. A good friend of mine who is an experienced IM athlete, told me before the race began, "If it rains, it's not just raining on you, it's on all of us." Or something to that effect. Too true. We were all being nailed by the torrential rain, and it made descending fast very sketchy in places. I was cold, but I knew a hill climb was coming up, and I would hopefully warm up again soon. An advantage of being so cold was that I couldn't feel my legs burn when I gave it a bit of welly when I hit the climb :-) 

I came into Nice just after 7 hours of biking and cycled passed the runners already out on the course; I heard my name being yelled. It was my friend who was also competing. It was wonderful to know she was safely off of the bike, and on the run doing her thing! I saw my friends and Husband who were on the course in force just before I reached transition which was also great and I was feeling excited to see what the run had in store for me. 

Some may say that Nice's run is mentally very challenging as it consists of 8 laps of 5 and a bit Km up and down the promenade. That being said, it offers the chance to soak up some great, and much-needed support from your friends, family and the hundreds of other, kind and supportive well-wishers.  My legs felt good; I was happy. I had a plan to run 9 minutes walk 1 minute which I wanted to give a good go at sticking to unless 'mechanical issues' occurred. And that they did. KM 16 my stomach did a full 180 and my plan soon changed from 9/1minutes  to running between porter potties which were dotted around the run course. I managed to keep it together and worked towards the faster you run, the faster its over, theory. 

I ran down the finishers path about 4 hours and 25 minutes after I started my run. Crossing the finishing line is a moment I will not forget anytime soon. Ironman Nice was a fantastic race, friendly, scenic and very well organised. It gets two thumbs up from me and has left me looking very much forward to my next IM adventure, whenever or wherever that may be. 

Big thanks to my coach, Rob Wilby & my Physio Benji for sorting me out and getting me race ready :-)