Last Sunday I raced Challenge Barcelona; an ironman distance triathlon on the Costa del Maresme in Spain. It’s been two years since my first ironman experience at the Outlaw Triathlon where I finished in 10hrs35, finding all three disciplines tough just to get through the distance. Back then I was definitely under prepared and under trained. I raced in mountain bike shoes. Ridiculous.
Going into this race I felt in much better shape and wanted to see that reflected in the whole experience as well as my finishing time. Becky, Maurice and my brother Henry were with me, they joined the thousands of people cheering at the roadside and it was great to be able to share the experience with them.
So a perfect set up for the race. The day before saw torrential rain and gales but race morning turned out to be calm and cool. The swim was in the sea and followed a simple rectangular course along the coast to complete 2.4 miles. My swim training consists of functional gym work with occasional (i.e. a couple of times a month) swim sessions. Minimalistic to say the least. Anyway it seemed to work, I had my best swim and felt good the whole way round. I swam 1hr02 which isn’t going to break any records but is good enough for me and a few minutes off my previous time.
Onto the bike and out of town onto closed roads which follow the coast. A few climbs but in the big ring the whole way round so nothing serious. Bit of a headwind going along the coast but otherwise flat and fast. So 112 miles on the aero bars! Fuelling during an ironman is essential and I made a bit of a gamble relying on whatever was at the aid stations, turned out to be ok and I had a load of High5 gels which I’d used in training. In general I try and get through a 750ml bottle of sports drink plus 2 gels every hour on the bike. On reflection I think I needed more than this, and a bigger breakfast! Finding a decent breakfast in Spain was impossible. But anyway, nutrition aside, the bike was ok, distance wasn’t a problem, I wanted to get sub 5 hrs but ended up bang on 5hrs so happy enough with that.
Which leaves the run. I find you never know how a race is going to go until you start running. At which point you find out if you packed your running legs or not. Mine appeared to be all present and correct and I headed out to run 26.2 miles. The first few were fine and I had thoughts of hitting 3hrs for the marathon. Very quickly those thoughts disappeared. It was now survival. I got a lesson in how to suffer! There were highs and lows but progressively more lows. The desire to stop and walk for a bit was almost overwhelming. I stopped once for a pee but that was it. I ran through the aid stations. I ran past people walking. I ran past my family cheering. For the pro athletes who run sub 3hrs for the marathon I have full respect. I was gubbed. Doing 4 laps of 10.5km and aiming for 50 mins per lap took it’s toll. I finished the marathon in 3hrs27. What got me through was thinking about Becky, Maurice, my brother, my gym clients, family, sponsors, supporters, friends and everyone on Tiree; how would I explain that I’d got that far and then stopped, how would I explain giving up. No way. Not now. And also a very clear decision of Never Again. This is it. Not doing this ever, ever again!
And predictably, those thoughts of Never Again were soon allowed to mutate into What Next? What if I did a bit more training? What if I wore an aero helmet? What if I had a fry up for breakfast? And so the old google machine is fired up with “triathlon events 2013”. Bring it on!
And lastly, we went back to the course later that night after getting cleaned up, there were still people finishing. It was almost midnight. The bands were still playing, the crowds were still cheering. It was all getting a bit emotional. Every single person watching was cheering every single runner as they finished. Occasionally you’d make eye contact with someone as they reached the finish and in that moment you see exactly what triathlon is all about. But you have to be there to witness it and experience the atmosphere and emotion. Respect to everyone who finished Challenge Barcelona and all the best to everyone who decides to give triathlon a go for themselves. That’s me done for the season and now into winter training. Looking forward to training with Team Tiree and getting some brick sessions in. See you on the road.