Enter Sandman is blaring. The beach is full with wet-suit clad athletes looking out into the rising sun. The ocean is flat, inviting even. A cheer goes up as the pros are introduced and take their place at the front of the field. The anticipation in the air, will quickly turn as the red mist drops. The buzzer goes, a short run down the beach and into the sea, easily cleared in a few strides and a dive into the scrum. The swim leg has begun.
It was an early morning start and I faffed in transition way too much. The result, no warm up swim. Something I instantly regretted after a few strokes. The hype of the start had my heart rate through the roof and my breathing was following. I needed to find my zone and relax. I slowed down, took a few more breaths and looked to regain my calm. Focusing on one stroke at a time, one breath at a time, I began to get into a rhythm. Rounding the first buoy it was a ‘straight’ swim down the coast before turning to head back towards the start. This passed with little issue. Breathing to the right, keeping the sun out of my eyes. Rounding the bottom of the swim, we head back. Trying to breathe to the left proved difficult. I was not swimming straight and kept going off course. Breathing to the right hampered sighting, but at least I was staying straight…ish. Rounding the last buoys and the shortest leg out. Scampering up the beach the swim was done, 31 minutes, taking 4 off my last swim.
Following a bit of a mess getting onto the bike / feet into my shoes, I was on the bike course. This was the leg I was hoping to improve on the most, however given the varying nature of bike courses, it was still an unknown. The first 3km were along some back roads, after this it was onto the main road, into the drops and full gas towards the first of 3 climbs. The first climb came at 10km in, Sant Sebria – Collsacreu, 8.8km long averaging 3%. I stayed low for the majority, only popping up near the top when the gradient jumped up briefly. Passing over there was a great, fast descent picking the speed up to over 43kph. The main climb was 10km long averaging 5%, but with sections in the 10%-15% range, climbing from St. Celoni to La Costa del Montseny. The top was reach at the 40km mark, followed by a very sharp 2.5km drop. I was lacking in either the nerve or skill department, but most likely both. Many of the gains made on the upside, were quickly lost through the tight bends. Once safely through and back onto the main roads the speed once again picked up and I started closing in on my competitors. I kept the hammer down on the bike closing the course off in 2:40, what turned out to be less than 20 min off the top pros.
Through T2 and onto the run. I had learnt from last time, and checked my watch to make sure I had all the details I needed. Pace, heart rate, distance, good to go. Running out of transition down towards the finish area, I was feeling slow, I was expecting this. I covered off the first few km passing the turnaround point, back up and through transition, which was very cool! Heading up the coast I check my pace, 4:02, and I am feeling slow! I try to slow down even more, wanting to stick to a 4:20 pace. This eventually come around the 6km mark. The run was great. Approaching the 13km mark, the blister I felt on my foot pops, there is nothing that can be done so I keep running. Pushing the discomfort to the back of my mind. With 6km to go I feel my pace flagging, looking down its dropped into the 5:30 range. Payback for the overly quick start. I am counting down the kilometres. It’s all ‘downhill’ to the finish. Under the trees and through the amazing crowds lining the bottom half of the course. Rounding the last turning point I am onto the magic carpet and pushing for the finish line. I stop my watch, 1:41, (a run time I was ecstatic with) but what was my overall time? I had missed it crossing the line. Adding the individual elements together it dawned that I may have gone sub 5… Not this time 5:02, so close, but a job well done. I finished 145th overall and 29th in my age group (top UK finisher if that counts).
Sitting in the recovery zone, regaining my composure I reflect on the day. It was great! Some key learning points and possibly some silly rookie mistakes. 1. Do a swim warm up.2. Talcum powder is your friend, use more in the running shoes. 3. Pacing remains key on the run. As is always the case, in the hype of the event you start thinking about the next one and the road to the next red carpet. Weymouth in September, can I get even faster on the run? What marginal returns can I drive on the swim and the bike? Those will be future problems, now it’s time to sit on the beach and enjoy a pizza and beer… or two!