Ironman Barcelona 2019
2nd time round!
So I’ve never done a race report before. Not sure why I’m doing one now!
It wont change the day or the result. But it may give insight to some what a hard day is in store when completing a full distance triathlon.
I arrived in Calella, Barcelona on the Thursday, 3 days before the race. This gave me the 3 days to check in, register, pick up bike and bags from Ship My Tri Bike, shop the expo, do a recci bike and swim and just pretty much relax and get the body rested for the big race ahead.
The lead up to this year’s race wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked. I didn’t do as many hours as I had done for the race last year. I didn’t have the training companionship I had from the club like we had in 2018, when 10 of us lined up on the start line. There were 5 of us in the club this year starting the 2019 race but we all trained separately and didn’t touch base much about what we were doing and how we were feeling. I did have 2 friends from Maynooth doing their first ironman also and we did our long Sunday cycles together (4/5+ hours) so that was good to have people to draft off and push pace with. So as much as I didn’t have the consistency of training this year, I felt the hours I put in were more structured and so it was quality over quantity this year. Fingers crossed it works out.
Race morning –
The alarm clock went off at 5am and it was breakfast at 530am with Dr Phil. I was feeling pretty good and relaxed. I could see Phil was quiet and slightly nervous. Not much was said between us.
The walk down to transition is about 1.5km from the hotel, so myself and Phil met Barry C and Brian outside the hotel for the walk down. It was still very dark but loads were out doing the same walk as us. Nerves, excitement, fear and tension were all present in the air. The element of the unknown was floating around.
Into transition and all I had to do was put my food and drinks on the bike. I had it all ready in my back pack so it was easy enough to do. Then the wetsuit came out and we all put the body glide/ vasoline on. I noticed I had my talc powder bottle at the bottom of my bag- crap I never put talc in my runners and bike shoes that were already in the transition bags. The bike and run transition bags were put in place the day before when the bike was racked up. Do I run over now and try and do it before the transition closes, only 5 minutes left to leave transition, or do I just leave it? Sure, ill be grand. I never get blisters and I have a change of socks in both transition bags along with towels to dry my feet. So, decision made, talc powder was put away and ignored. This will come back and bite me ☹
Myself, Phil and Andy decided to line up together for the start of the swim. I swam 1.19 last year and felt I was some bit better this time, so I wanted the 1.15 pacers. As did Phil and Andy. Lining up here at the start line was the first time the nerves set in. What the hell was I doing?? I am not race ready! I shouldn’t be here. All the doubts set in. Looking at both Phil and Andy I knew they were having the same thoughts.
Buzzer went off and away I went. I had no plan in mind for the swim other than keep going and no stops. The water was calm but there was so much crowding and arms flying everywhere. I got smackedmany times on the legs and back and was pushed off my sighting so many times. I got to the half way point and checked my watch, 2040m in 42 minutes, slightly off pace but doing good. I decided to put the head down and pull a bit more on return trip. However, we now had the current going against us so this was slightly harder to swim, but still 100% better than last year’s 4 foot swells and waves. As I was getting close to home something made me look at my watch, oh no it was on pause, it said 3080m in 1.02 mins, so I restarted it and hoped I hadn’t missed much. I didn’t recall any kick or bang to my wrist, but it could easily have happened.
Swim finish and my watch at end of swim said 3646m in 1.10hrs. I missed about 200m from the full swim in my watch time. Overall I was happy with my time.
Swim Time- 1.18.26
I saw Mam, Fiona and Angela when I got out of the water and ran into transition, I screamed and waved at them.
Into T1 and change out of wetsuit, helmet and bike shoes were put on and out to the bike. Bumped into Andy on way to bike and both of us ran out of T1 together. He was thrilled with his swim too and said he had seen Phil in the transition tent, so he was only few seconds behind us. I was totally buzzed going out on the bike course.
As I had done the race last year, I knew what the bike course was like. The first 3 km were through the village of Calella and were winding and technical. Then out onto the main road and it was 2 laps of 90km with a small ‘blip’ of a hill in the middle. Last year that hill was Mount Everest to me. I was more confident about it this year.
Bike was going well until I came to about the 60km mark and food station. I needed to stop for a pee stop. I have never in all my years cycling needed to stop when out on bike but something told me to stop and take the 2 minutes in the portaloo. Back on the bike and down to the round about to start 2nd lap. The crowds were amazing at the round about. Saw Mam, Fiona, Angela, all of Marta’s crew and loads more Irish shouting once they saw the Naas Tri top. The atmosphere was unreal. I managed the 1st lap in 3hr 2 minutes. Slightly off where I wanted but I did have a pee stop. Now time to pick things up and get going again.
I was only about 5 km into the 2nd lap when my stomach started to spasm. Where did this come from? No idea. I couldn’t even take a sip from my energy drink. Tried some water and this too made the stomach worse. My friend Brian pulled up beside me at this point. He was beaming. He was loving the whole race and atmosphere. He just wanted to chat and have some company. I told him I wasn’t feeling great. Told him I didn’t know how I was going to keep going. All I wanted was to get sick. He got worried then about me but I told him to go and keep doing his race and enjoy it all.
I just about managed the climb between 110-120km. Staying low on the TT bars of the bike was so uncomfortable for me. The only position I could hold was hands on the elbow pads of the TT bars- so sitting up high and tall- giving absolutely no aero benefits. I started to struggle big time on the bike now. Mood was low, emotions low, stomach in bits and it just kept spasming. The tears started. All I wanted was off the bike. I kept thinking if I got off how would I get back to the transition area, or even let my family and friends know I was ok. At the food stop at 150km I had to stop again and use the toilet. This was when I started retching and getting sick. I was at rock bottom now and just wanted out. But somehow, I got back on bike and made a pact with myself to just get to T2 and finish then. It would only be another hour and I would be done. I took it really slowly for the last 30km and really felt sorry for myself. As I rounded the round about and made it down to the last 3 km of the bike, the crowds were still out cheering. Most people were on the run but there were still some coming in off the bike. I wasn’t paddy last. Thank god! I could see my gang of supporters out waiting for me and the camera and phones were out to take pictures. All I could do was clean the tears off my face and smile at me. For all they knew I was having a great time. Little did they know the struggle I had for the last 3 hours.
Now to take a little step back in time…
Everyone knows you don’t do anything new on race day. You use clothes and equipment you have trained in and use food that you have eaten before. Don’t do anything new on race day.
Well I did ☹
I normally suffer from a very upset stomach when I’m running. I never seem to be able to settle it. I had been told numerous times to take immodium to help settle it before it gets back. Well I never tried it.
So the night before the race I got a packet and took 1 before bed, and then I took 2 more race morning before breakfast. So that’s 3 tablets in space of 12 hours on a normally functioning gut and stomach. Looking back, all the stomach issues I was having on the bike was the immodium working and not letting any of my energy food and drinks digest. They were just collecting in my stomach and spasming the living daylights out of it!!!
Bike Time- 6.31.00
So, into T2 I go. As I dismounted the bike at the dismount line I slightly stumbled but thought nothing of it and kept going. I racked my bike and as I was leaving the bike area and going to the tents, I saw 2 friends of mine in the stand. I walked over to them and I was in tears. I told them how sick I was and sore and that I was done. I was giving up. I couldn’t go on. Told them to meet me the other side of the tent after I dropped off my ankle tag.
However once I got into the tent I decided to put on my runners and run visor and head off on the run. What harm was I going to do by attempting it? The nutrition and gels I had planned to bring for the run were left behind. I wont be using them!
So off I went and started the marathon. I walked the first 100m and then I started to run. Shooting pain shot up through my right foot and bang straight into my already upset stomach and more sharp spasms. Oh no. What was wrong now?? I couldn’t run at all. Couldn’t put any pressure down on the outside of my foot. The base of my little toe was so sore and painful. I must have broken it when I landed awkwardly off the bike at the dismount line. (itsterrible being a physio/ having a medical mind as you think of absolutely everything and the worst-case scenario!!). I tried to push 100m walking, 100m running for the first 1km, but I was getting nowhere. I had to just walk. So, walk I did. At about 10km I managed to see a medic on a bike, and I pulled him over. Told him I wanted to tape my foot up. He looked at me weirdly, so I just took tape out of hisbag and taped my foot myself, compressing the little toe to make less movement out of it. It really did help with the pain and reduced it by 50%. So, the toe was not broken but I had strained the ligament badly!
The run course was 3 loops of 13 km. I managed to finish the first loop. The 2nd loop I tried to run / walk 200m at a time, so I slowly improved my pace. But the last lap I was just zonked. I wasn’t able to run/ shuffle at all. Body just majorly fatigued. My mam ended up walking the whole last lap with me, giving me encouragement and just generally chatting, distracting me from the last 13 km. One of the rules in an Ironman you are not allowed any help from the supporters or bystanders. You have to do it all yourself. Well with only 3 km to go an Ironman official came up to us and told us I would be disqualified if mam didn’t leave my side. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t going to win the race. I would be lucky to win last place. But he was strict enough, so mam took 4 steps to the left and mounted the path and kept walking along with me.
For the whole run I have no idea what kept me going. No idea what was motivating me to get to the finish. No idea why I just wouldn’t give up.
All I knew, I was going to get to the finish line at some stage, somehow and get that medal.
Run Time- 6.44.14
The last hour of any ironman race is renowned for the electric atmosphere. Well did I experience it this year. The last 1.5/2km of the race was jammed packed with spectators and finishers. They were all cheering and clapping and shouting encouragement. It really was emotional passing by them at my slow walking pace.
The finishing red carpet was unreal. I thoroughly enjoyed it last year, but felt I went through it too fast.
I cleared all the tears off my face once more and put the biggest smile on my face and off I went to enjoy the last 100m of the race. I was high fiving and waving at everyone. It was unreal. I was soemotional and exuberant.
Overall time 14.49.34 …… I damn proud of that time. Not what I wanted or expected. But now worth so much more.
Till next time ……..
Without the leadership and understanding from Steve I wouldn’t have even gotten to the start line. With how hectic my work schedule was this year Steve was able to modify and adapt the training according to what I could do. He made me strong enough to start, just unfortunately I wasn’t able to give him the race result he deserved from me.
Thank you Steve