FINISHER Eva Kovacs taglia sorridente il
traguardo all'IM Barcellona.
If you think that it is challenging to race two Ironman races in 3 weeks, I can tell you, it is even more challenging to write two race reports in 3 weeks… ;-)
So… Ironman Barcelona on October 2 was going to be a very different race from Ironman Weymouth, just 3 weeks earlier. From a solitary (and secretive) adventure in Weymouth to a (well publicized) race shared with a dozen of team mates from Bedford Harriers and a fantastic supporting crew composed of family of athletes as well as triathlon enthusiasts that made it all the way to Barcelona to cheer us! The pressure was on, because you didn’t want to disappoint them… As the likely “limiting factor” of the group, I knew that I would keep them on their feet and out of their beds for an additional few hours. Sorry guys, but thanks for being there until the end…
I flew to Barcelona on Thursday morning and then drove to Calella, which is a little over an hour drive from Barcelona. Despite the name, the race is actually not in Barcelona, but in Calella, a village of the Barcelona-Maresme region, on Spain’s eastern coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. I didn’t manage to see anything of Barcelona during this trip, other than the airport, and, on my way to Calella, some residential buildings and factories and a cemetery that looked like a beehive. I found out later that this was the Cementiri de Montjuïc (Cemetery on the hill of Barcelona). Needless to say that I need to go back to visit Barcelona properly, something that has been on my bucket list for about 15 years.
Registration and shopping at the Expo (I managed to stay within 11 GBP, a personal best) followed on Thursday afternoon. The hotel where I was staying was a bit primordial, hot and noisy, but it had the advantage that it was close to the beach and to everything linked to the race. On Friday, I did a short recce of the bike course. The first section (10 km) was somewhat hilly, but the rest seemed mostly flat, at least so I was told (I didn’t ride the entire course). Friday evening it was the welcome banquet with the Bedford Harriers massive, where we learned that Great Britain was the country with the most athletes (yes, ahead of Spain) and that Ireland was third. No wonder that, with all of that English speaking, it felt like I never left the UK, except for weather, of course. And, yes, there were a few Swiss too, about 30. On Saturday, it was race briefing and check-in of the bike and of the bike and run bags. The weather looked good (with a possible shower later that night) and the weather forecast was promising. Athletes and supporting crew (we would recognize them on their heats in yellow and black team colours) were all ready for a full day of work.
The swim was a single lap of 3.8 km in the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea (ca. 23C). It was a rolling start leaving from the beach of Calella and this again proved to work really well in limiting congestion at the start and the level of kicking throughout the swim. It took about 30 min until I could finally start, but we were well entertained with music and some athletes were warming up dancing salsa. The sighting in the water was quite good and we were lucky as the waters were fairly calm, certainly less choppy than in the days before the race. I was pleased with my swim time, though I didn’t have a clue at that time, as I forgot to start my stopwatch. Overall I had an enjoyable swim but I was glad when I saw the arms of the many volunteers grabbing our arms to get us out of the water back again on the beach of Calella.
I could hear my name when I ran through transition, but my eyes were still getting used to the light and my ears were not able to detect who from our supporting crew was shouting and from where. I had an ear infection leading to the race, which was not conducive for a good preparation as I had to be on medication, and I was a bit hearing impaired on race day. My transition was a bit messy. The tent was full and I didn’t get to sit on the bench, and changing in standing position when you have just been swimming for 1,5 hour is not ideal. I also had some problems with my sunscreen bottle and half of the product ended on the wetsuit of the lady that was standing next to me. She didn’t look particularly happy. No time for long apologies, and off I went to get my bike, after a quick porta potti (porta loo for the Brits) stop.
The 180 km bike course was supposed to be flat: 2 laps from Calella to Montgat and back, mostly along the seashore, with a short and technical 3 km section in Calella, to be ridden both at the start and at the finish of the bike course (aero position was not allowed). I knew that there would be a somewhat hilly section at the beginning of both laps, but no one was aware that there would be another long hill somewhere during the course. This was an add on that had not been included in the athlete’s guide. I started with a high pace (no wonder as we had a strong tail wind), but pretty soon, exactly when we hit the long hill, I realized that the bike would be a struggle, and there were still 150 km to go. My feet, legs and lower back started hurting, so pushing hard on the pedals would not be an option going forward. An upcoming headache added to the misery. So, I sat back and tried to balance pace with pain to manage as best as I could the rest of the ride. I had to stop at some point on the second lap to stretch, and that did help a little. My highlight (or lowlight) was hitting one of those orange cones and managing not too crash or damage the bike, a bit of scary moment. It was good to see my team mates along the course, but some were too quick to see me.
For sure I was glad to be back in transition, even though I wasn’t looking forward to a marathon run. My transition was uneventful, though I was looking forward to a stop at the porta potti, yet again. 500 m further, they told me.
The 42.2 km run was a flat, 3 lap course, again mostly along the beach. The section between transition and the finish was filled with spectators while the section at the opposite site was lonely and (later in the evening) very dark. I was still on my quest to find a porta potti. The first set of porta potties 500 m into the run was too dirty to even think of getting in. The next set was occupied, bummer. When I reached the next set, I saw that one porta potti was being vacated. Finally! While I was approaching, I however saw a spectator making its way to it too. Normally I am not an aggressive person, but no way that I would let him get in. It was going to be “mine!”.
At the start of the run, the sun was out and it was warm, maybe around 25C. Luckily my pains seemed to be less disturbing than on the bike. At the end of the first lap, the sun started to go down, the wind started to pick up and the temperature fell significantly. My run was a mix of running and walking (a bit more running when there were spectators cheering, particularly those with yellow and black heats). Sometimes I was running and chatting with other athletes who were also doing their best to keep going. And for my American friends, don’t expect pickles at the aid stations here in Europe. I had passed the zone close to the finish three times before getting there for the final time, and each times I would put a smile on my face as I was hearing great (mostly Latin) music and the speakers cheering the athletes trough the finish. After 14 hours 21 minutes and 43 seconds it was finally my moment to enjoy the loud finish, with hands in the air and lots of high fives. This was #27.
Some have asked me if I am going to retire again. No, I am not. So, expect more race reports from me next year. But I have not decided yet which race or how many it will be. I like to keep a bit of a suspense though I will figure out my 2017 season fairly soon.
Thanks for reading my report. And for my team mates and supporting crew that were in Barcelona: thanks for being there and for all your support!