I arrived in Calella on Friday night at about 8pm, in time for some dinner, a quick stroll though town and then put the bike back together.
Calella was nice enough, it was a strange mix of elderly types and triathletes, the Euro rate at the moment made it seem pretty expensive but I was happy with the location of the hotel, being only 5 minutes from transition.
The bike went back together with out any major mishaps, the retaining screws that keep the back wheel away from the frame had moved during flight so when I first put the wheel on it was all wonky which worried me a it but after a little bit of faffing, that went back on ok.
Saturday was a fairly busy day, I went out for a 20 min easy run (stomach did not feel great) and then a 30 min spin on the bike over the first part of the course. Roads were super smooth but I came across more rolling hills than I had expected. I then had some breakfast and went to register, all well organised. Popped back to the hotel to grab my wetsuit and then went for a quick dip to make sure it still fitted ok! No trouble there, water was a nice temperature and fairly clear, some decent sized waves though, not too choppy, more large rolling waves.
After the swim I went back to the hotel to relax for a bit, watched the F1 qualifying and sorted out my bags, then off to the race briefing before taking the bike into transition. The last act for the day was to pick Erika up from the airport. her flight was on time so I was back in bed by just after 11pm.
Race Day Being only 5 minutes from transition and having bike and bags already racked, I did not need to get up too early. Alarm went off at 5am and I grabbed some breakfast at the hotel which they had put on early for the triathletes. Pumped up bike tyres and did final check of bags and a walk though of transition and was feeling ready. There weren't many portaloos so I decided to walk back to the hotel to use the facilities which was nice to be able to do rather than have to que up!
I then headed back to the beach, wetsuit on and a quick dip before lining up in the start pens. Looking out at the swim course I knew that navigating was going to be tough, there are a number of markers that are always in the water for boating etc and the race buoys were pretty small and with the waves similar to the day before I was apprehensive.
I was in the second wave (out of 4) so it was soon time for us to start. I moved to the right of the pack to get some clearer water so swam an outside line around the first marker which was 250m straight out. This was the only bit of certain navigation I had for the next 30 minutes!! I could not see any other markers but was able to use the sun to make sure that I was heading in generally the right direction, I finally saw the final turning buoy and was probably 100m further out to sea that I should have been but was at least still on the course. I made the turn and the next and was then trying to relax into the swimming on the section back along the coast, although I was finding this difficult to do whilst constantly worrying about whether I was heading in the right direction. At this point my timing chip also decided to fall off, luckily I felt it come undone and grabbed it just before it sank, tucked it in the arm of my wetsuit and carried on.
Finally saw the final turning buoy and then with the crowds on the beach it was easy to find the finishing area. My goal was for about a 33 minute swim, however I definitely swam further than 1.9km so was not too worried about a time of 37.15. Run up and over the timing mat with my arm on the floor to make sure that my time got recorded and then grabbed my bag and went into T1.
This is the first time I have done 'Ironman style' transitions where you have to grab your bag of stuff and go through a changing tent rather than having it all next to your bike, and although they felt slow, nothing went wrong. I put the timing chip back on my ankle and went out to get my bike, T1 3.58.
The first couple of km of the bike are a bit twisty and narrow until you get up onto the main road, there are also some speed humps on the first part which gave me my next problem of the day. The bit of mesh that stops your drink from coming out of the handlebar mounted water bottle launched itself out of the bottle on the first speed hump, as did most of the contents of the bottle, lesson learned for next time, make sure that thing is wedged in better! This was a bit of a pain for the rest of the race as if I put more than half a bottle of liquid into it as soon as I hit any sort of bump it would cover me and the bike in sticky sports drink, not nice!
Once onto the main road the ride was great, road surface was super smooth and I felt good. My aim was to keep my HR to about 145 and never let it go above 153 on any hills. With a tailwind for the first section I soon got in under control and was flying along, I love that bike with the race wheels on and a smooth road! The first 25 km flew by and we were soon on to the inland section which was a very slight climb up for about a 10km stretch. This cannot really be described as a hill and with a favourable wind I got up there with no trouble, only slight drama was running over a water bottle that the guy in front of me dropped at an aid station but luckily I stayed upright.
Saw the leaders coming back down the hill, looked like the guy n front was making his move as he was hammering himself!! I got to the turning point at 35km in about an hour which included the uphill section, although at this point I was expecting the final 35km back to Calella to be into the wind so I was keeping my expectations in check. Back down the 'hill' with a few twisty parts and a couple of steep speed humps and onto the coast road again, this time into a slight headwind for the 10km to the turning point in El Masnou. This was where the Tour De France style packs started to form. I've never seen anything like it in the two years I have been doing triathlon, it was shameful stuff, packs of 100 or so riders making no effort to abide by the rules. As the packs came past me I would sit up and let them go, the problem was that into the wind, once I got back to my HR target I caught them back up. I decided to put in a bit of an effort to get past them and abused them all as I went by!
I got to the turn around at 56km feeling good, this part id pretty much dead flat so I was in a nice rhythm. A couple of packs came back past me on this section, more abuse from me, particularly to the Brit in the Thames Turbo kit that I had seen in the middle of the pack both times, at least I knew that he would understand my ranting, I wish I knew the Spanish for 'Cheat!'!!
There were marshalls on the course trying to break up the groups but they had no real affect. I tried not to let it worry me, although when you see 250 people overtake you who are all blatantly cheating it is a little but frustrating! The last 20km or so were into a bit of a headwind but nothing too bad and my legs felt fine over the little rollers back into Calella. Jumped off the bike for a 2.33.44 bike split, average HR 146 and felt great.
T2 was uneventful, 3.30.
Crossed the run start line and immediately used the loo! The course does a mini loop to the south (about 3km in total) before coming back past transition and then heading up the coast to the north east. I saw Erika as I came back through past transition and wasn't feeling great, my stomach wasn't too happy but I was holding my chosen HR. As I left T2, I had 1.41 to break 5 hours, I knew that this was going to be beyond me but had hoped to be able to run 1.45ish. The first distance marker I saw was at 10km and I was well off the pace. I had hoped to be able to pick it up in the 2nd half but this was not happening and I was fighting just to hold the same HR. I was slowing through the aid stations to make sure that I was taking on plenty of nutrition but it was pretty hot out there. The run back was tough, I could feel my pace dropping but tried to keep plugging away. Finally got back to Calella and turned off for the run through town, this was good with lots of supports and noise, and also some nice shaded streets. The final km is up hill and it just gets steeper and steeper, initially I thought that this was a nasty way to finish the course, but the crowds were huge and it was like the Tour de France with the crowd parting as you ran though them, epic stuff.
The guy in front of me started to walk and the crown exploded with noise to try and get him going again, it was pretty cool! I just about managed to keep running and was pleased to hit the flat running track for the last couple of hundred meters to the finish to come in on 5.17.17, a run split of 1.58.51.
Somehow Erika had managed to miss me coming up the hill and with family not able to get into the centre of the athletics track where the finishers were it took me 20 minutes or so to find her which was a shame. I was really disappointed with the run time but still pleased with a pb and proud to have completed the race. As always I try and analyse the race and learn from it for next time, there were a few things that I think contributed to the below par run
1. Bad stomach in the week leading up to the race - not much I can do about this
2. I need to make sure I keep track of fluid intake on the bike. I was drinking plenty but cannot say how much so this could have been a factor for the poor run.
3. All of my training has been based upon the Ironman, I have not ridden an HIM paced ride with a run off it so maybe I was expecting too much. My last HIM I definitely went too hard on the bike but I don't think I did this time, my HR was well controlled and I felt fine coming off the bike (much different to last time!!)
4. The heat was a real factor - this was one of the reasons for going away to do the warm up race, I plan to do my long runs for the next few weeks during the hottest part of the day rather than early morning to try and help me get used to this. All in all, I enjoyed the experience, definitely didn't go exactly to plan but I still have 6 weeks before the A race.
It turns out that the disqualified more than 250 competitors for the drafting on the bike which I think is a good effort by the race organiser. Here are a couple of pictures: