This was the inaugural "Ironman Barcelona" with a massive field of 2,600 athletes. In previous years this race was branded "Challenge Barcelona" and had half the number of athletes. Evidence of the Ironman/Challenge turf-war that is underway.
A pleasant wet-suit sea swim with a dry start from the beach. The bike course is fast, flat and hot with an all-closed-road cycle on good surfaces. The run is also fast, flat and hot but offers some shade along tree lined beach-front promenades.
The start is in waves with 3 mins between age groups, which allows a bigger field with less congestion on cycle as less athletes exit the water simultaneously.
The race venue is the lovely beach resort of Calella, which is 80 minutes drive from Barcelona. A bit like hosting an Ironman in Brighton and calling it Ironman London. Catalonia is terrific with great climate. Autumn poolside breakfasts and outdoor suppers in the numerous restaurants.
Hassle-free registration, briefing and racking with everything within a 1km radius. Lots of good value hotels nearby. I used "Hotel Mediterrani Express" costing 111euros in total for 3 nights, which seemed insanely cheap to me for what was superb accommodation within 300 metres of start and within 800 metres of Transition. Nice quiet room and a good pre-race sleep.
Roasting hot in the days prior to the race with heavy thunderstorms forecast for the race itself.
Lots of texts and face-book messages from well-wishers. Massively appreciated. Thanks everyone.
Heavy rain with thunder and lightning on race morning. Got soaked inflating tyres in Transition and the disc was too wet for the valve patch to stick on, but faithful duct-tape came to the rescue as usual.
Put wet-suit on in the dark because the generators kept failing (probably flooded) then trudged over to swim-start through muddy puddles.
Did a warm up swim and was ready to begin when announcement blared out that there was a problem and more news would follow in 2 minutes. Being a poor swimmer, I was almost hoping for a cancelled swim due to electrical storm risks. However, I quite fancied the wave-start swim and the water was rather nice. Announcement then declared the race would continue as planned with just a 30 minute delay.
We were all starting to get cold by the time our wave marched to the start-line. Limbering-up started in earnest and the Frenchman in front of me suddenly did some elaborate clenched-fist arm movements, landing a direct hit on my chin. Maybe I should change from triathlon to boxing, because I coped with that punch quite well and regained consciousness in time to sprint into the surf.
A nice swim with the added interest of getting swum-over every 3 minutes by the aggressive elite swimmers from each of the wave-starts that followed ours.
Wasted some moments in T1, putting on a rain-jacket for the cycle. Further rain was predicted and I thought the jacket may reduce road-rash if I came off (like I did at Bolton a few weeks earlier). Sun came out and I roasted in my jacket but I was not prepared to waste more time removing the jacket. Got lots of comments along the lines of "are you warm enough Englander?...ha…ha…ha". Blasting past at an average speed of 22mph for 5 hours was the only answer I needed to give.
It was a nice cycle on 90% flat surface. The slight inclines and descents were very welcome, because its rather painful being on the aerobars constantly.
Delighted to enter T2 without mechanical problems or punctures. Started the run with just 6:37 on the clock, which was uncharted territory but something I had fantasised about. Sub-10 hours seemed off the menu but my PB of 10:57 (Challenge Roth 2012) and even Lawrence Wintergold's club record of 10:37 (Outlaw 2010) seemed within range. Small matter of needing to avoid bonking on the run like usual.
First mile was the slowest at 8:28, whilst the sun-cream was applied. Managed sub-8 mins for mile 2 to approx mile 18, then started to slow down as usual. Took a salt tablet every 10k and paid attention to fueling/hydrating. Pace never dropped off badly and by mile 23, I was confident of hanging-on.
Practically sprinted the last 800 metres and felt terrific (stored that memory to dip into next time the going gets tough). Tears of joy finishing in 10:07 with a 3:30 marathon. Actually thought I may have made the podium.
Felt great and scoffed lots of free food plus a free beer. Collected my stuff and texted my lovely wife, Helen, who informed me I was just 36 mins slower than the age-group winner but I was placed 13th. The top 3 had all finished in practically the same time, which must have been a bit of a scuffle.
The top guys had taken 15-20 mins off me on the swim and maybe the same amount of time on the cycle. However, my run was second fastest with just one guy in my age group being just one minute quicker.
I don't see me becoming a good swimmer any time soon, but I reckon I could risk pushing harder on the cycle now that confidence in my run has increased.
Florida Marathon in 3 weeks then Ironman Florida the following week. Bring it on!