Challenge Barceona-Maresme 2013 Iron Distance race report
SWIM:- 02:00:37 Position 1105
BIKE:- 06:06:41 Postion 844
Run:- 04:55:18 Position 883
TOTAL RACE TIME 13:16:25
Where to begin?
Nine months of training and dedication came down to one day of effort. The day started with an early wake up and my mandatory 400g of MOMA Bircher Muesli for brekkie, down stairs in the hotel to meet a couple of fellow competitors and the kilometre walk down to Transition to get the bike set up and ready, tires pumped, nutrition on board spare tubes and gas canisters ready.
A quick walk back up to the hotel to stick the wetsuit on, HUUB really do rock and Deano at HUUB has been a fantastic support for us.
Obligatory Sportstiks body tattoos in place promoting Harrison’s Fund and then an excited nervous walk down to the beach for the start with friends and fellow competitors Gary and Jamie. I felt fine more excited than anything else but not too nervous, I knew what I needed to do, I’d talked with my brother JJ, a team GB elite performance coach about the race and executing each element to plan and felt an overwhelming confidence that I had done the training and could trust that training to get me through.
At 8:30 the pros went off and 12 minutes later the horn sounded for my age group the 35-39 year olds to get going. Into the water and quickly into my stroke feeling strong and going great. The first 800 meters or so was with the tide and I was moving quickly and strongly through the water. At the turn though and into the long 2.3k swim up the coast against the tide things got pretty tough. I had a few goggle malfunctions as they started to fill with water so had to stop and re-adjust a few times. The water got a lot choppier and I was both really struggling to sight and struggling to keep my form whilst fighting the waves. One fellow competitor decided it would be a good idea to grab both my ankles, he received a short sharp forearm and a cross word and I got on with my race again.
I started to feel quite sick about a third of the way down this leg of the swim and ended up throwing up four times in the sea, I can confirm throwing up mid stroke in sea is not much fun at all. A quick look at my watch alerted me to the fact that I was slow today and that I really needed to get a move on or face missing the 2:15 cut off. The last buoy finally arrived and I emerged from the sea having taken 2:00:37 a full 40 mins slower than my average time. I’ve never swum for 2 hours in my life and was pretty tired from the effort. A moment of disappointment, thinking my time goal of 12:30:00 was no longer achievable was quickly replaced by the determination to execute the next two legs, the 180k bike and 42.2k run flawlessly.
T1 went well, quick change and out to get the bike, fantastic to find Gary in T1 about to get on his bike too and we left together on to the bike course. An undulating two 73km laps and a short 30km lap followed by the short burst back into transition. First lap was great, quite tough but I was averaging almost 20mph and making sure I was all over my nutrition strategy. Second lap started brilliantly with high fives for Harrison and William at the turn and I put the power down for the 2nd lap until the heavens opened with the worst thunder storm and lightening I have ever experienced, at one point the cliff let loose with a land slide and I was cycling in water up to my pedals. Thankfully an uneventful steady third lap and I was in to T2 after a bike split of 06:06:41 to rack the bike and change for the marathon leg.
Every run I have had off a long bike to this point had been incredibly tough for the first 7-8km but today the running gods were smiling on me and I felt strong straight away. The support out on the course from family, friends, the HURTS team (Herts University Research Triathlete Study)… there must have been 300-400 of them on the course supporting was truly incredible!
My strategy from the off was to split the run up into sections and get nutrition on board regularly. I ran between every aid station and walked through each to get fluids and food on board. It worked a treat and the dreaded ‘wall’ never appeared and the laps fell away and my continuous smile… I really was loving it, never faltered. Seeing my family every 5km or so was so uplifting, it’s hard to describe how much having then there meant to me, I love them all dearly for making the effort, it was an endurance event in itself being out there in all weathers for over 13 hours!
Every lap ended with running through the Grandstand and past the finish line, with one lap to go I came through at 32k still feeling great and Dr Justin Roberts, our study lead and 4 time Ironman got on the microphone, ‘Come on Alex Smith, getting it done, 1 lap to go …..cooooome OOOOON!!’
I shouted back, I’ll see you in an hour! A bit ballsy given this was the final 10k of a very long day but Justin has always said, if you’re still in it at the 30k point then that is the time to go balls out for a time. In hindsight I could definitely have pushed harder and done sub 1 hr for that final 10k but decided to stick with what was going well in my first Ironman and just get the job done.
40km in and the emotions of it all and the thought of seeing Harrison and William at the finish line got the better of me and I pretty much sobbed for a km but got it together for the run in to the grandstand. Harrison and William were there ready to cross the line with me hand in hand and arms raised high. ‘I’m a fucking Ironman! 13hours 16mins 25seconds… not bad considering the terrible swim.
Justin was there to give me my medal, a truly special moment, he has been such a support even through the heartbreak of getting injured himself in the run up to Barcelona and having to pull out. Can’t thank him enough for everything!
Donna asked me on the finish line, ‘How was it?’ my reply, ‘in all honesty, that was easier than doing the London Marathon’ If you train, if you dedicate yourself to a task and do the work, then you can achieve anything, and make it feel easy. *sort of.
Will I do it again? Definitely! Absolutely loved every minute of it!
The euphoria of the finish was sadly tempered when we found out that one of our HURTS team had lost his life in the swim, I had been chatting with him on the beach before we got in the water and to think that behind me in the water a new friend had gone, is heart breaking. Ironman is a tough, extreme sport and this happens too often in my opinion and almost without fail in the swim leg….surely something can be done to further mitigate the chances of this happening?!
My final thank you’s go to my supporters over the last 9 months, JP ‘The reshape Coach’ on the fitness side, Gary and Chris at ‘Anatomy in Motion’ Deano at HUUB, Jenna at Sportstiks, Dash cycles, Castelli Café, Dry Robe, Rocco, Fernanda for her weekly massages, Gary ‘Head of Sponsorship’ Smith and Justin for unwavering support! The whole HURTS crew for supporting Harrison’s Fund and delivering such epic support on course and finally Donna for letting me find a sport I now love and letting me put the training in… it’s not been easy and I’m looking forward to spending much more time with them and less time on a bike in the Surrey Hills.
That is until of course hopefully Ironman Austria next year and Challenge Roth the year after…. I do still want that six pack
Swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112 miles, Run 26.2 miles, Brag for the rest of your life – I apologise to you all already