I TOOK PART TO A 220 KMS NON-STOP SUP RACE LASTING 31 HOURS IN HOLLAND ON A 14' RACING INFLATABLE SUPBOARD

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"With a long history as a swimmer, then as a triathlete, over the years I have tried out numerous water sports, including kitesurfing and surfing. I discovered SUP racing in 2013, on the “La route du Ch’ti”, a relay race on a lake in northern France. In 2015, I decided to take up a new challenge by entering the famous “11-city tour” in Holland. At the time, I had already competed in the 5-day format, without any real preparation, and I found it difficult to finish the 200 km on canals.  

After that event, I started competing on a more regular basis, and by 2017 stand-up paddling had really become my number one sport. When I heardthat the Itiwit team was taking part in theLa Dordogne event, I didn’t hesitate for one second! I bought my 12'6x26 Itiwit Explorace board, I contacted my brother, who is a triathlon coach, and I asked him to prepare a training plan for me in readiness for a 130 kilometre race.  

Two Dordogne races later, and withplenty of kilometres on the clock, I needed another challenge. Which is the reason why I entered the “11-City tour” again, but NON-STOP this time."

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Training

You have to take the time to think things over and ask the right questions before entering this kind of race. It’s only once you have entered, that everything really gets going.

I again asked my brother to come up with a specific 3-month preparation plan, with between 6 and 12 hours of training per week.

I strictly followed the training plan, which included stand-up paddle practice, muscle-building, cycling, running and swimming.

Throughout my preparations, I practised on by inflatable Explorace 12’6x26 board. In my first sessions on the 14'x25 inflatable prototype, I quickly realised the full potential of inflatable racing SUP boards. This board glides through the water very smoothly and the inertia is much better than on my Explorace 12’6. When I think of the technical properties of this board, I really think that the gap between the two types of SUP is shrinking. Soon, the difference will be so small that users will adopt the inflatable variant much more readily. They are so much easier to transport when you are on the road.

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The equipment

The pre-race phase is crucial in this type of event. You have to prepare very carefully, and you cannot afford to neglect anything.

I was lucky enough to be accompanied by Pierre, a friend who also works in the Decathlon Hautmont store with me. He takes part in trails and knows all about this type of exercise. He would also be very helpful by providing the refreshments throughout the race.

As a Decathlon employee, I obviously opted for our own brands that I trust, because I had already been using them for some time: the Aptonia products were all ready for my nutrition, I had four Kalenji outfits for all types of weather conditions, the Rockrider off-road biking lamp mounted on a home-made support for use at night, my super Itiwit 900 carbon paddle and, most important of all, a prototype of the 14'x25  board that Itiwit lent to me.

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Pre-race

We started in four waves. I was in the penultimate wave at 10:30.

The maximum time allowed to reach the finish was 34 hours. My goal was simply to finish the race.

There were 20 of us, including three from France.

I was the only one with an inflatable board. The organisers even asked me whether I really wanted to take part on an inflatable board. They said that they could lend me a rigid board, if I wanted one. That made me want to finish the race even more, just to show them that it was possible on an inflatable board

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The race

For me, the race was made up of two very different phases.

 The first part was a real pleasure. I made good progress at a fast pace. I felt good, and even overtook some of the people who had started at 9 o’clock. I stopped for about 5 min every 40 km for some food and water. I reached the 100-km checkpoint in fewer than 14 hours. I was feeling quite confident.

But the second part of the race was completely different. As night fell, I still felt good, but then the fatigue set in very quickly. At about 2 o’clock in the morning, I started to fall asleep while I was paddling, and I had to do everything in my power to stay awake. Several times, I almost fell off the board because I was dozing off, and I gradually started to forget to eat and drink. Fatigue and the lack of nourishment left me feeling confused, and instead of stopping and resting, I decided to carry on to avoid losing any time. Eventually, at about 7 o’clock, I spotted Pierre. I collapsed on the pontoon, asking him to “Wake me up in 5 minutes”. When I woke up, I was starving and I still had 70 km to go. What I didn’t know was that 40 km would be into a headwind. I was feeling worse and worse. I had no more strength left, and I even thought of retiring, but in this kind of ordeal, the mind plays a crucial role. I finally crossed the finishing line after 31 hours and 25 minutes.

You are never really ready for this kind of effort, but it’s unbelievable just how much the human body can take. I feel happy that I made it to the finish, and this ordeal taught me a lot of things. I came home in eighth place out of 12 finishers… But it was such a huge challenge, that I really didn’t care about my position!

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