Upon arriving in Spain, I had the same thoughts of “What are you getting yourself into?” However, with a top 10 placing under my belt, I felt good about what could be. To an extent, an iron-distance triathlon is just an eating contest with some physical activity. So, if I handled my nutrition better than the previous race, there’s no reason why I couldn’t perform better. Easier said than done, of course.
The race didn’t start until 8:30, so in relation to most other events, we had the luxury of “sleeping in.” On the downside, it was quite warm at 8:30. After warming up in the 24º water with a wetsuit, I was already feeling quite warm myself.
|Professional men swim start.|
For the swim start, the 50-some pro men lined up along the beach and were off at the sound of a cannon. I had what I thought was good positioning in the first 100 meters, but absorbed a solid heel to the face. As a result, I had to stop to readjust my goggles. After getting back into it, I spotted a small pack not too far ahead and made a push. I caught the group a little over a quarter of the way through the swim. From there, I sat near the back and kept an eye on anyone trying to get away. Everyone just held their positions and since the pace felt slow, I made a push of my own. With 750 meters to go, I jumped out wide and moved to the front. Naturally, everyone else accelerated, but I maintained my position as co-leader. After making the last turn, our group bunched up and I now know that my foot is ticklish even while swimming. Someone kept lightly brushing my underfoot with their fingertips and I squirmed – oh the things you learn about yourself in endurance events.
|Beautiful area to ride. Great paella too.|
There were a couple of guys out of transition just ahead of me, so I had some people to pace off of. Then, several guys came flying by from behind and were forming a group not too far ahead. After brief deliberation, I decided to catch the group. In total, there was about 16 of us and yes, we were riding legally. In fact, we had a marshal practically escort us around the course. We went through the halfway point in 2:17 and best of all, it didn’t feel all that taxing. At this point, I was right on top on my nutrition and feeling good overall. Skip forward an hour and I was alone. Just like the race in Henley, my discomfort and fatigue grew at nearly the same mile marker. I knew this feeling was inevitable, as I simply don’t have the miles in my legs. Taking in nutrition also became more difficult. It seems the longer I ride, the less and less I can tolerate anything remotely sweet. Thankfully, a friend had given me salt tablets (and let me borrow her aero helmet) and if it weren’t for those, the last lap on the bike could have been a lot worse!
|I got awesome tan lines on my back.|
The race clock was around 5:45 getting off the bike, so I felt good about my chances of breaking 9-hours. In an attempt to avoid a third lap hell, I went out more conservatively than at Henley. The first lap was exactly what I was hoping for and was still feeling good. Shortly after starting the second, my watch died – didn’t bring the charger. Then I tried to get some calories in, but my distaste for anything sweet remained. Fortunately, the friend who gave me the salt tablets also gave me those gummies I spoke of in the Henley recap. I could eat a few at a time, but couldn’t handle more than that. At this point, I was failing in my eating contest with some physical activity. The worst parts of the run for me were the out sections of the 4-lap course. Oddly enough, we had a tailwind, but I just plain struggled. I kept my focus on the present kilometer and determining what I needed at the aid stations. When I made the turn and faced the headwind on the third lap, I actually felt like I was running, er, jogging. With one more lap to go and determined to run with the wind, I hit a wall; heading to the turn-a-round for the final time felt the longest and hardest. With only 5 km to go and a headwind to compete with, I was able to pick up the pace yet again and finish relatively strong.
|I obliged all those with high five requests.|
I finished 21st in 9:23 and despite not breaking 9-hours, I’m happy with my performance. In all honesty, how can I not be pleased? Considering the race two weeks prior, I’d say I got on just fine. Besides the great race experiences I had courtesy of the Challenge Family, I met a lot of great people and owe many thanks to several incredible individuals. Without their generosity and hospitality, this race wouldn’t have been possible. You all know who you are!