I set myself a tough target for 2017, to complete Challenge Roth and Ironman Barcelona. I knew it was going to be tough to commit to training for Roth in July and then Barcelona on October 1st.
Full of enthusiasm I started my plan in January, but within weeks I was suffering with a cold that would not go. The cold wet conditions endured at the Christian Brown ride in February turned the cold into a full on chest infection that stopped any further training attempts. I then lost my Father in early March which further set back attempts to get consistent training. I went to Tricamp in Mallorca, just about clear of the chest infection, but struggled to keep up with the week 2 group of superstars. However, I did come back fitter and ready to kick on, the training plan was ramping up now to Roth in July.
Nicola and I were looking forward to a road trip to Germany in our camper van, we were all packed up and ready to leave. With a final visit to her father, next door, we found him suffering a TIA / stroke. Change of plan and rushed to Scunthorpe hospital. Nicola stayed at home and I headed off for Roth. Yet another sacrifice by Nicola for me.
The race at Roth was not what I planned. The town and build up is great, the organisation with a split transition (start 10 K away from the race end) was really difficult to deal with on your own. Having to arrive at the start at 4:45, before the roads were closed, when my start time was at 7:50, meant a very early start. The swim in the canal although not picturesque is just like swimming in a pool, no real sighting required, simply sight off the straight sides of the canal. I was really happy with the swim and T1. The bike route is rolling and through nice countryside. Unfortunately, I did not get to complete the first of 2 laps. I was knocked off my bike on a descent at 30 miles, by someone who fell behind me and slid into me. My rear mech was damaged such that I could not change gear. This was my worst nightmare and race over. I did limp the bike round to compete the rest of the route in a big gear and got to feel the crowds on Solar Hill.
After the Roth disappointment I settled back into training, getting as much open water swimming in as possible at Hatfield, long weekend rides and long runs. By mid-August I felt ready to race again, keeping the training going and not getting injured was a hard balance an Achilles niggle started to get worse, so I knocked back the running. Did an, 18 miles run beginning of September and then no more running until race day, trying to protect the Achilles tendon.
Arriving in Callela, the weather looked perfect. The Ironman stadium and tents were erected on the beach. I registered Thursday afternoon. Friday, I had a short swim in the sea, at 8:20 am race start time, perfectly flat warm sea, about 21 degrees. Followed by a recce of the bike course. No wind and smooth roads, although a lot of traffic, other cyclists having a recce.
Race day, – Assembled on the beach, to the rousing soundtrack of Iron Maiden and AC/DC to before the rolling start commenced with the Pros setting off at 8:00. I was in the 1:20 pen, watching the faster pens run down the beach and into the water and spread out towards the first buoy. It was soon my time to be released down the beach 2 steps in the water and then into strokes. The rolling start pretty much worked, I had clear water out to the first buoy, 300 metres done, right hand turn to the long leg 1900 metres. It was a long 1900 metres going against a current and the water was a bit choppier then it had been the day before. Past each buoy there was bunching, needing some elbow use to keep position. The return straight with the current behind us was much easier. After the final turn back to the beach down a narrowing funnel I did get a bit lost in traffic. Out of the water in 1:23, happy with that, but I felt really sick, assumed it was too much salt water swallowed. Managed to throw up before going into the T1 tent to change out of wetsuit. Space was a bit limited, but stayed focused and collected bike and out in 7 minutes.
The first 3 K on the bike, was restricted to no overtaking and no aero bars, but there is always one. He lost a drinks bottle that skidded across the road in front of me, needing quick reactions to avoid. Thoughts of the Roth incident crossed my mind. Once on the course properly, quickly got into a comfortable pace and headed to the far turn point for the first time. There was plenty of yellow cards being given out to drafters, I counted more than 20 in the first penalty box as I went past.
Avoiding drafting was really hard on this course. This course has been forced upon the IM organisation because of the Catalan independence referendum due to take place the day after.
First lap completed in 2.5 hours without incident, I managed to glimpse Nicola shouting at me, on the turn roundabout. I was beginning to feel very sick, but kept going. After only a few miles of second lap, I got a puncture, front tyre. Managed to fix OK, but my stomach was really complaining now, and had to throw up. Assuming this was reaction to gels, even though I was using the same regime I always do I carried on, but was clearly losing energy rapidly. I tried to keep hydrated and feeding myself but had to stop several more times before completing the 2nd lap. Just a half lap to get through, the outward against the wind was tough, but final leg with tail wind soon arrived and I could go back through town to T2. Nicola was manning one of the more violent speed bumps and shouted encouragement as I headed through the last 1km.
Finally, on the run, I set off out of T2 towards the finish line. The crowds were amazing very close to what is quite a narrow path. The run is 3 laps, no bands were being used, so there was no way of knowing what lap anyone was on.
The route headed out along the beach path, mostly tarmac, with a bit of rougher gravel. A couple of double backing loops under the railway line and heading out to the edge of town and beyond. Then back to complete the first full lap round the palm trees at entrance to the finishing shoot. Towards the end of the first lap my stomach started playing up again, I forced myself to throw up, before a feed station, so I could immediately try and hydrate again. I was taking water and Iso at each feed station and taking a gel. My energy levels were still getting low. As I started the 2nd lap I spotted Nicola, she told me to man up and get my arse in gear. I dug in a got around the 2nd lap aided by a heavy rain, which kept me cool. However, there was now loads of puddles across the roads, the underpass under the railway was ankle deep in water. I had a little splash dance through it with another struggling competitor and carried on.
Completing the 2nd lap I saw Pete and Chris with medals round their necks and beer in their hands. Knowing, they had completed made me pick my feet and pace up, if only briefly, past the finish shoot for the last time, I set off on the last lap. It was dark now, and the runners were thinning out. I tried to focus on catching each person in front, slowly picking each one off. I was not going fast, but no one was overtaking me either. The last lap was hard, found myself walking slower through the feed stations and walking a bit further past them. Finally, the 41Km marker came into view, zipped up my top and started thinking about making space between the person behind and in front so I could enjoy the downhill run onto the grandstand carpet and get my Ironman photograph.
Completed in 13:54, a lot slower than I hoped, but with a puncture and still dodgy stomach I was happy to be done.
This is my last Long distance race. It has been a long year of training, Nicola has put up with my training and the time it takes away from all the things we should be doing together for too long. Next year standard distance and a couple of 70.3, will be more than enough.
Turns out I had a sickness virus, I got worse Sunday and had to call a Doctor Monday. Was unable to fly home, so we had a couple more days in Callela. We saw plenty of Catalonian Independence referendum demonstrations and road blocks, but fortunately did not witness any of the violence seen on television.