Well spotted, Jack! My wife mentioned that the footage was more focused on the 40-49 Women's race, as they were on the first row of ergs, while we slow men had to make do with the back side of the arena. She spotted the orange shirt bobbing back and forth a couple of times. I learnt from the experience of BRIC in 2018 where I chose a blue shirt not realising that the marshalls were all dressed in a similar shade
As mentioned by Rick and Ewen it was great to manage to meet some of the virtual team for the first time.
Overall it was a worthwhile experience, despite taking about 23 hours from leaving my front door to arriving at my Paris hotel on Friday afternoon, and then having to reverse that all on Sunday to be back home by Monday lunch to prep for work on Tuesday. It didn't help that they cancelled our Sunday morning flight out of Paris because of Storm Ciara approaching Heathrow. Discovered that on Saturday night, so threw me in a spin because my daughter and I were supposed to be meeting my parents and siblings for lunch in London. Quick purchase of Eurostar tickets got us back on track, but we nearly got blocked at Gare du Nord because I didn't realise my daughter's transfer visa was meant to be for Heathrow only. Fortunately some Border Control common sense prevailed given the special circumstances and they waved us through.
I did a 7:54.9 about a month ago, so I was fairly confident of sub-8, and was happy to settle for last place just to say I was there. I was impressed by the buzz of the venue with a lot of hype, dual English / French commentators, loud music, flashing lights and interesting races to watch before mine. Managed to catch Rick looking smooth and steady in the first race of the day, but couldn't move close enough to cheer him on because I was blocking a seat in front of erg 68 so that my daughter would have a prime spot to video my race.
About 30 minutes before go time I stripped down to the racing kit, and headed off to find a bathroom before jumping on a warm up erg. I could feel the butterflies already, and the heart rate was about 30 bpm above normal as I started my warm up. Fortunately I was expecting this after the same happened at BRIC, so not too concerned. Went through my standard warmup and then snapped a pic of my monitor for the logbook, but making sure I "accidentally" got a fanboy snap of the Pavel Shurmei mountain getting ready to warm up across from me.
I'd just wrapped the warm up when the call came for race 28 to assemble. Off to the holding area for 10 minutes of standing on a number 68 sticker, taking in the aroma of multinational sweat all around me. Then everyone filed into the arena in order of number, and it was off to set up the erg and get ready for some fun!
I'd just finished the final set ups when the call came for handles down. Heart rate still ridiculously high, and the legs weren't feeling particularly lively, so this was going to be a struggle. It doesn't help that part of the start routine includes audio of a heart beat while they go through the "Sit Ready" / "Attention" / "Row" sequence!
I set off with a couple of strong strokes, and then settled quickly into the target 1:58s and 1:59s, although I saw a few too many 2:00s and 2:01s occasionally pop up. I didn't look to be coming last, and it did look like I could haul in the guy above me, so I decided to sit on the original plan, and then see what I had left at the end if I needed to wind it up. Things started feeling a bit heavy in the middle, so it was a pleasant surprise when I looked up to check on my daughter and saw Rick bellowing encouragement from the stand in front of me. Definitely helped lift the spirits, and keep me focused on the result!
I'd managed to get ahead of the guy above me (he faded based on what I saw of the results), and then considered going after Roberto Beretta. I thought the name seemed familiar, and afterwards I found out I'd beaten him by a few seconds in London in 2018. Clearly his training stayed on a better trajectory than mine because he improved over London by 7 seconds and I slowed by 0.9. I gave it a solid push from just under 300m out, but it didn't look like I would catch up in time.
Happy with the 7:51.9 in the end - season best by 3 seconds, and a few other boxes ticked on the day. Also discovered afterwards that one of the lightweights in race 30 didn't make weight and got pushed into our classification with a 7:52.0, so my late push kept me in 115th out of the 119 finishes. 2nd-placed South African on the day
Then it was a quick chat with Rick before we went off to find a spot to watch Ewen get a top 10 in the real Men's 40-49 race (and a French National medal).
And finally a chance to get a semi-sweaty team photo after his race before a quick chat and then we all drifted off to make the most of the rest of the short trip to Paris.
I had my doubts on whether I should go, but very happy I followed through in the end!