Challenge Barcelona by Simon Rolfs
I've learnt a lot about triathlon in the last 3 years since I did Derby Tri on a road bike borrowed from Mark Gardner. It was the third time i'd been on a bike since I was a kid and it wasn't until half way round that I figured out how the gears worked.
Wind forward 3 years and I find myself on the start line of Challenge Barcelona with Mark next to me, with thoughts of heart rate zones, nutritional strategies and the challenge of peeing on the bike floating around my head. Coming off 25 years of playing rugby, thrashing my body for 80 minutes a week at high intensity (its hard bringing on the half time oranges), the next 12 hours or so were destined to be a challenge of patience and control, both of which are new to me (ask my wife).
The swim itself was enjoyable, a beach start and first buoy within 200 yards made me feel right at home as I threw myself into the mêlée. Having not had a chance to swim in the sea in preparation I was a little concerned about the salt water and waves but I settled in and came out with a comfortable 1.08 swim.
I arrived in T1 to find Gardner rummaging through my kit, no doubt trying to help himself to my special 'tingly' chamois cream! After a quick drink that he offered me (which tasted suspiciously of EPO) I flew out of transition and onto the bike course.
The first part of the bike is through the town and with my garmin still sorting itself out, I had to resist that rugby player's voice in my head telling me to chase after Mark and kept it nice and easy.
The day before the race had seen torrential rain and high winds such that racking of bikes had been delayed until race morning. Fortunately on race day we were treated to ideal conditions, slightly overcast, but warm without being too warm and some light coastal winds on the bike. So with ideal weather and smooth tarmac I was feeling good as I got underway.
After about 20 minutes of the bike I heard a sudden whirring noise from my front wheel so pulled into the side of the road. I later found out that Simon Lloyd had asked me if I was ok as he blew past at 30mph. On checking my front wheel I realised that my front tyre still had air in but a discarded gel pack had adhered to it. I quickly removed it and started riding again only to hear the same noise from the back wheel as i'd managed to ride over it again.
The bike course at Barcelona features 2 long out and backs and a shorter one all along the coast, so spectators out on the bike course (and we had plenty, all resplendent in orange) do get to see you multiple times. The support that we had from friends and family really was invaluable, you get a real lift when someone shouts your name although I could tell some of them were flagging when they seemed more interested in ordering coffee than my riding prowess on one occasion. However a little prompt was enough to raise a slightly delayed cheer and I knew that they still had something in the tank.
Sticking to my plan on the bike meant no racing with DTC members who came past me, Paul Newton made me feel like I was standing still and Gav Fletcher accused me of not pedalling (its a good job he didn't see my mini motor). Did I hold back too much on the bike? I don't know and never having done the distance before there was always going to be some guesswork. But on the final loop I caught Chris Redding and we had a chat, and a little sangria before pressing on to finish the bike in 5.58 (after a slight altercation with a traffic cone - it came off worse).
I also discovered later that not content with his alleged use of performance enhancing paella, Mr Gardner had been caught drafting and had a nice 8 minute rest in the penalty box. I always thought you got 10 minutes for a yellow card so I suspect we should be adding another 2mins to his time, not to mention the street Welsh he used to remonstrate with the official (allegedly).
In T2 I was ready to go when I remembered to put some chamois cream on to keep chafing in certain 'areas' to a minimum. As I took the lid off one of the marshals asked if I wanted any help. As tempted as I was I didn't think it would be fair to scar her for life.
I always run too fast off the bike. This is because its always such a relief to be out of the saddle that I get carried away and with 4 out and backs I knew I needed to pace myself. I'd heard those who had done it before say that an ironman doesn't start until mile 16 of the run, or that the half way point of the race is mile 20 so I knew tough times were ahead but I felt smooth and comfortable.
On my first lap Paul breezed past me (again) on his 2nd lap on his way to a 9.54 finish, a superb achievement to join the ten hour club. After 2 laps of the run I could feel things starting to get on top of me and I slowed right down and at one stage sat at the side of the road for a minute. At this point Gav came back past me, he'd already been through a bad patch, and Jayne (who was part of our ladies relay team with Louise Fletcher and Diane Hamilton) shouted some words of encouragement (or possibly abuse) which spurred me on.
Again our supporters popped up in different places and were instrumental in keeping me going, I couldn't have them seeing me walk and I managed to pull it together for a decent last 10k of about 65 mins including a 'sprint' finish.
I know many of those who read this will have done plenty of iron distance races, but I would say to anyone who's thinking of doing one that you should get on with it. I think it's achievable for just about anyone, not necessarily next week or next month but with the right attitude and commitment you can build that endurance base and get there, if you want to.
I must also add that the trip as a whole I think was a massive success, having someone with the knowledge and contacts of Mark took all the stress out of the trip. I'm always more worried about the logistics of what kit needs to be where and when than I am about the race, but this was a breeze. Our hotel was 100 yards from transition, and were able to provide food late at night or early on race day.For those who don't know Mark runs Teamlink - a company that specialise in taking teams away on tour.
I think it was also great that we were able to have a couple of days to recover and celebrate in the sun - I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun a bunch of triathletes can be after the race, it was almost like being back on tour again, but without the singing or (as much) nudity. Further details of the afterparty will of course remain 'on tour' but there was at least one broken wrist so it must have been fun.
I'd also like to mention Andy Thornton who has helped me with my training plans and steered me on the right course for this race. Again I think a goal that seems unachievable on your own can be made so much more realistic when you get help from the right people, and there are plenty of such people in the club.
Speaking of which the rumour is that the next club outing may be in the offing, apparently IM 70.3 Mallorca could be an option, so I recommend you start saving and training - and if you don't think you can do a half next year, get a relay team together and train for one event. Then you can put them all together in 2013
- Swim - Louise Fletcher 1:42:56
- Bike - Diane hamilton 6:02:42
- Run - Jayne broomhall 3:57:03
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