One is never enough when it comes to Ironman. We all say it is at the time, but it’s not. Our MD has just signed up for his second in Frankfurt, we have friends heading out to Kona next week for the Ironman World Championships, and more travelling to Ironman Barcelona this coming Sunday.
All together, it’s making me look back at my own race at Ironman Barcelona in 2011. In hindsight you forget the training, the time and effort it takes to build up the endurance, and even big swathes of the race itself. All you really remember is the feeling of crossing the finish line, having completed one of the great ambitions of an amateur triathlete.
With so much talk around at the moment of long distance triathlon, I’ve been looking back at my own race report from 2011. It seems even in 2011, with the race fresh in my mind, I was open to being persuaded.
Barcelona Ironman Simon Lythgoe
It was my first outing at this distance and although I trained hard for it, I was pretty nervous come race day. Arriving for Ironman Barcelona on the Wednesday as a heat wave kicked in, the forecast for Sunday was mid 90’s which I’d say the locals had definitely underestimated.
My target for the race was sub-12, but this being twice the distance I’d done before, I’d no idea whether that was achievable and the heat wasn’t going to help.
The swim was a beautiful 3.8k along the coast with a slight swell that had me feeling a little sick by the end, but I concentrated on keeping a slow steady stroke and not pushing things too hard. Having got in the water with the sun just over the horizon, I exited into brilliant sunshine in 1.21 and having taken time to immerse myself into a vat of factor 50, I was off on a long ride.
It was a pretty flat course with only a couple of lumps over the headlands. My target was to maintain 20 mph for the course, but more importantly, to keep my HR under 140. I managed the 1st lap of the 2 and a half keeping below 130 and only then did it start to creep up. I came in 5.39 on the bike for the 112.3 miles, so just missed my time target. I was very glad to get off the bike as my shoulders were starting to feel the heat, my butt was done and I couldn’t bear staring at my bike computer a second longer!
Ironman Barcelona, Bike Segment
I felt great as I exited T2 and ran past my folks, wife and kids with a big smile on my face. I knew I needed to keep a 10.30 min/mile pace to achieve my target and this felt doable even though the temp was still in the late 80’s. It was a 4 lap course and pan flat each time turning alongside the finish line (soul destroying). As I ran each lap I expected the next one to feel harder, but it never really happened and I just kept plodding away. It wasn’t until my fried brain let me down that things went a little ‘off-piste’. I got to lap 4 and in the dark on my exact time, I somehow calculated that I now needed to run a negative split of at least 9.45 min/miles to achieve target, so I stepped it up.
I got some way into the lap before I experienced a strange sensation of my feet rising in front of me. Before I passed out I stopped and vividly remember saying “sod this!” and crest-fallen starting walking, knowing that my target was gone and I should just finish. I can’t remember exactly how long I walked, but on an unlit part of the beach path the run was on. I could see the lights of the turn station in the distance. Doing a quick calculation I realised that I’d ballsed up and my sub-12 was still on if I got my skates on. I ran the next 4 miles or so missing all the water stops and only pausing to scream at my cramping calves “shut up legs!!!”
I was very happy to see the Ironman Barcelona finish line, even after realising I’d got my pacing wrong again and had a full 7 mins to spare! The red carpet to the line was easily the best, most emotional finish line of any race I’ve ever run. The support of the crowd was incredible all the way round, but towards the line it was bolstered by the other finishers who were shouting for everyone. I just beamed as I crossed the line finishing in 11.53.45 a bit dehydrated, but in relatively good shape looking at a few others.
The training for the race is so much harder than the race itself (isn’t it always) but even that isn’t as bad as you think it will be as it is incremental peeking at an 18 hour training week. The race is certainly not as hard as you expect and I was always waiting for it to get really tough and it just never happened. I said before Ironman Barcelona that I’d never do an Ironman again, but I’m not so sure any more!