28 May 2009

Barcelona Challenge Half Ironman

I guess mentioning Barcelona here in the UK may be considered a dirty word considering Man U's beating last night, but we're talking triathlon people! Yes it's been yonks since I entered any updates, but I've become a bit of a Twitter junkie lately. Last weekend I took part in the Barcelona Challenge Triathlon on the Costa Brava in Spain (Obviously). This was the first time this event was run by the Challenge team and appeared to have all the quality you'd expect from a Challenge event. I was totally under trained as I've had one cold after another and a bike crash that took me out of action on the bike and swimming for a few weeks. It didn't matter as I was committed to do this event. I went down with a big group from my Triathlon club Tri-Force and it really made this event a real festive one at that. I think that we were about 25 competitors and supporters who went down initially. I brought my wife and our 7-month-old (her first ever flight) which was nice to have around I must say. We spent the first day travelling and checking in. It takes quite a bit of effort getting such a big group on the move... geez. The following days consisted of the obligatory sea swim sessions, bike building and spinning, a run or two, etc. It's really important to try to acclimatise and test out your kit without actually pushing yourself too much. You tend to see people hammering a bit too hard race week as the excitement builds. This is usually a BAD idea. Anyway, to the race itself... The event was straight forward an each discipline was pretty much a one lap affair respectively.

The Swim 1.9 km

There was a big swell in the water at about 3-4 meters. I was in the first wave (fast guys, fire/police championship, pros) and got the heck kicked out of me. I held on to a steady pace as well as some speedy toes. The field broke up quite quickly due to the swell. At the turn around point I was doing quite well. Unfortunately, I got pushed by the current towards the shoreline and had to make about 300-350 up to get back to the final buoy. So my swim was closer to a 2250 swim... not nice. Probably the worst swim time of my life, but at least I didn't cheat. I heard later that 100's of my fellow competitors actually skipped that final buoy, cutting out some serious distance off the swim.

Swim time - 43:23 Ouch!

Silly time taken in transition - 5:05

The Bike 91 km

This was a mostly flat bike with a short'ish 11 km climb (out and back) stuck in the middle of the ride. There was an incredible tail wind all along the coastal road bringing up my speed to about 40-45 kph. Sweet! Anyway, even though the swim was a wave start, the bunches started forming after the hill. By the final turn around point at 58 km, it was a "Draft Fest". Now I've done events all over the world, but this was the first time I've ever seen anything like this. There were about 8 peletons formed up as I headed to that final turn. And it's really odd that this occurred as the the very wind that brought us out to this point miraculously shifted in our favour. This sort of negated the survival draft that a lot of people find themselves in when fighting heavy wind. Nevertheless, a pack built around me. So what do you do in this case? Allow the pack to pass you only to be spat out by the following group and the next? Sit back and enjoy it? Fight it out? I tried to jump ahead of the group that formed up around me. At the same time, the race referees tried to break us up. I got in the lead and ended up pretty much dragging along 50+ riders for about 8 km. It's funny actually as when I got tired and slowed down, so did the pack. When I pushed the pace, the whole group fought to keep up. I finally had enough and sat back for the rest of the ride. I know, but there wasn't much of a choice in the matter. Consequently, we found out later that about 250 cyclists were DQ'ed and it wasn't officially announced until the race actually finished! So no draft penalties handed out at all! Automatic disqualification. Un'ffing believable. So finally I ended up dropping the group in the final kilometers of the bike portion of the event and finished strong! Bike time - 2:35:16 Cool!

Yet more silly time taken in transition - 5:38! Grabbed the wrong run bag and had to run back and get mine. Aren't those bag hooks always too close together?

The Run - 21 km

Once out of transition, I certainly did not feel my usual speedy self. Nevertheless, I managed a cruising 11.5-12 kph. With my trusty Garmin I proceeded in hammering out the run. The nice thing about a an out and back course is that it gives you a chance to see the Pro's hammering it out. Man, Paul Ambrose was looking great out there as was Timo Bracht. There was just no beating Clemente Alanso as there was some heavy daylight between he and Timo and Paul. Anywho, we had a headwind out to the main turn around point with a lot of sun. I just knew that the last 10 km was going to be hot and testing without that cooling wind. Consequently, it was steamy out there with very little protection from the sun! There were loads of holiday makers out there eating pizza, drinking beer, and cooling off at various pools and beach areas (b@sta@rds). And to make matters worse, my Garmin died (freakin batteries!) at about 14 km..... I dropped my pace a bit here and started treating the aid stations like moving feasts. Not really, but I started walking them a bit dumping copious amounts of water on myself as I really started to heat up. The running surface throughout this event was so varied; sand, wooden slats, cement, ashphalt, etc. It kept things interesting. One last turn at about 19.5 km and we were heading into town to the finish. The organisers put a brutal little hill in there to finish up at the sports stadium. It was like a little Tour de France climb with spectators closing in on all sides. I walked for a couple seconds, but was finally pushed up that hill with such great support from the crowd. Then finally, we hit the stadium with just a half lap to finish. Run time - 1:56:28

I crossed the finish line with a total - 5:25:47
. Way off target, but I'll take it!

The Barcelona Challenge was a good way to start the season in anger. There were some serious organisational issues that need to be worked out (as there's a full distance event in October). These were numerou
s; we needed a better race briefing (wasn't worth attending), a start gun perhaps (didn't hear anything and went with the flow), resolve the drafting issue(TDF - course change?), course marking for the bike (almost non-existent - rubbish spray paint on the run) and proper/professional refereeing (no Draft penalties? Only DQ's). Nevertheless, I had a safe and enjoyable event. If they resolve these issues, I might come back.

Now I'm just in recovery mode, doing a bit of training this week. I have a self-supported century planned for Sunday as I couldn't get into the Chiltern 100 (left it too late). Six weeks from now I've got Ironman Switzerland. I'm hoping for a PB and go under 11 hours, but as I've proven time and again anything can happen during an Ironman. ;)


Anonymous said...

Awesome stuff. Great blog. Quick question, what kind of triathlon shoes would you recommend or do you use?

Dan Bennett said...

Great Job Ironrav....
Dan Bennett
Accredited British Cycling Tutor progressive cycle coaching