sub10… sub10… kona slot… kona slot…


Barcelona Ironman 2019… biggest IM on the planet

Diana’s prep for this had gone really well, on both the swim and bike (not the run due to calf injury, which Nicky & Ray really helped me with). I had been cycling looooong bikes with Rod, even persuading him out for a couple of six hour rides! Paul, David, Dave K and the rest of the “piemen” let me tag on with them after I had done a couple of hours too, (Richard and Michal permitted to miss out due to illness (Rich) and Michal (racing IM Copenhagen, climbing up mountains in Slovenia and working in SA etc etc, etc). So bike ticked, long swims ticked, and after the freezing Scottish and British Champs in Aberfeldy I was looking forward to a warm race. Squeezed in my long runs in the last 3 weeks getting up to 32km the weekend before, my pace wasn’t too good because of all the running missed, but i was sort of confident of being able to do the distance.

Off to Barcelona with my support team, Jak 1st with Kyle joining us from Zaragoza, Lewis couldn’t come due to work pressures and Mum was on holiday with Mary. The days leading up to the race went really well, bike built immediately, tested and swim preps done. Early sat am I got up put the kettle on and heard a voice “a wee cup o tea” it was Lewis, he had made it… wow, I had Jak and the boys here… no pressure then haha

As usual race day for me is full of nervous tension, going over my plans, routes to transition, finding my bike, placing of swim and bike bags etc etc. I try to use the nerves as an energy and keep a positive mind, but IM starts are always so emotional, thinking of all the training, your family, your coach and then they start that boom, boom, boom, boom mimicking a heart beat… i didn’t need that i could feel my own wanting to leap out my chest! I thought about James’s wise words, its only a swim, bike, run.

Got in the pen, I had planned with Diana and Neil to start in the 1hr 5min pen, but because of the signage and the fact it was still dark I actually was in the 1hr pen, just behind the 50min (real) swimmers. so I let them go and slotted in toward the end of the 1hr guys, its a rolling start which is good for some folk, but I do miss the mass start and mayhem. I suppose its safer and 3,800 running into the sea simultaneously would get a tad messy.

Had a great swim, on the way out you had a current assisting you but I still kept pushing, thinking that I need a good swim for sub 10. Sighted pretty well and wasn’t involved in any punch ups, turnaround towards the beach and then right angle back to the beginning. This time the current was against you, but I felt great in the swell, it was like surfing, lifting your hips up and Neil had suggested to try and increase my cadence in the rougher conditions on the way back.

Peter Segan (my cycling hero) uses others in his sprint group to climb to the front, I used other faster swimmers who were coming past me jumping on their toes, working harder to stay with them as long as possible and when they left me tried to keep up the pace until the next faster swimmer came along. It worked for me this time, you have to be careful not to jump onto swimmers with poor sighting going left and right, but it was pretty easy to sight as the swell was really big so if you timed your sighting at the top of the wave you could see no problem.

I exited the swim well having practised the days previously, waiting until I could touch the sand and feeling the wave on my legs to propel me up and onto the beach. In calella the water starts a few inches deep, then progresses quickly to a foot deep, then immediately 4 feet deep if you try and stand up 2 or 3 meters out you are in the wave and its difficult to progress to shore, so touching the sand is the deal.

So out and heading to the t1 tent. I always feel good when I exit the water… not being a fish 🙂 into the tent and a quick transition and to the bike. I was very fortunate to have a great bike position, easy to find 1st row and opposite the entrance to the tent. although when you are fatigued and there are thousand of bikes it can be easy to miss your bike. Long run through t1 to the exit, had shoes on the bike, progressed through past the mount line while people faffed, and I was off.

The 1st 3k was tight through the narrow streets, so tribars use was prohibited, I used the easier pace to sort out my shoes/velcro, drink, then onto the main course. Great smooth surface and closed roads, found myself passing lots of people already and thought I was maybe pushing too hard too early, but was feeling good and wanted a sub 5hr bike so I knew I had to push hard.

Nutrition was planned at 1 get per 30mins and I had decided to keep my bike light and only have 1 bottle on at a time, picking up alternative water and electrolyte bottles on the course. that worked really well also dumping gel wrappers, empty bottles in the drop zones at the beginning and end of feed stations. Its a serious race with a serious number out on the bike, but after seeing a guy wipe out 50m in front hitting a cone, I decided to signal all the lane changes and hazards (bottles etc) to my competitors behind.

I had been told, after I signed up, that the course was for drafters and that so many people would be cheating. Yes, there were some people but that was for them, I found when I approached a group i was travelling faster and so just kept passing. That way you have no issues with the marshalls and the problems are all for the others. I had thought if a large group formed in front and they were travelling as a peloton I might not be able to catch it, but this never happened.

I had a wee issue with my spares bag on the rails of the saddle, it came loose at the right hand side, velcro had separated. I did hear a weird noise and then a german guy told me what was happening, iI thought it might catch in my gearing or wheel if it came off, so at a good place, pulled in and got it sorted. It did happened again on the 2nd loop, over the speed bumps, so just repeated the process. The route was pretty flat with a few undulations and 1 small pull (described as a climb, yeah right) where people rested and fuelled… nah, that’s where to attack, passed loads on the uphill that we had to do twice. We passed small towns on the way where the support was amazing, giving people a simple thumb up whilst on the tribars costs nothing and gains you loads of encouraging shouts of “fuerza tigre” and “animal”… being a nhtc tiger it worked very well for me.

My watch was working on the bike leg and as I approached the outskirts of Calella for the final time it was showing 4:35, my sub 5 was going to happen. Off the tribars to repeat the tight last 3k in Calella town. I thought, get my feet out and on top of my shoes early before all the tight right and left hand turns and speed bumps, but the descent into the tight square increased my speed quickly, did my left shoe perfectly before the turn and was confident doing the right whilst just around the turn, unfortunately the shoe slipped out of my hand and the heel hit the ground, my cleats are tight, the heel of the shoe hit the ground, distracted me and made me swerve left, I countered it back right but by this time I was off the saddle and the bike was swerving with me hanging off it.

Fortunately I was on my own so didn’t take any other riders out and didn’t hit the crowd at one of the most popular areas. I heard screams (not mine :)) and i hit the deck, my right side taking all the impact, my bottle cage was carbon… obviously… but it split in 2 and left 3 razor sharp edges which made an afwy mess of my knee and the impact on the ground on my toes split my left one and smashed my right big toe. I sat up surrounded by great onlookers, 2 policemen a french lady all asking if I was ok.

I was like in a bubble, so much noise going on around me but I was hearing my own voice in my head, hmmmm can move my toes, legs, fingers, arms moved my head around and thought right, no time for a rest haha. I was weirdly speaking spanish saying bali, bali, ok, ok and said something in french to the french lady about me being fine, got up got checked my steering along with one of the policeman and got back on. The people all around went crazy I was very appreciative, but left shaking my head and thinking… what an arse!

Got into t2 the blue carpet and astroturf was so comfy on my feet, which along with my hands were pulsating and numb. Got to my run bag grabbed it and sat down. It was only then I saw how much blood I was wearing, a Japanese man was sitting next to me and I checked my left big toe, it was badly gashed and when i pulled it apart to see how bad, he said “oh”, quite funny really. I had a decision to make, is this it… how could I run a marathon with this… would I loose too much blood? I thought about Jackie, Kyle and Lewis outside the tent waiting, not having seen me for 6 hours and not having witnessed the crash (thank goodness).

It was then I remembered Raul’s story, Olaf’s friend who had raced IM SA this year having broken his toe at the pasta party the night before. I met him in Calella the day before the race and I told him how his story was amazing, and how he overcame the pain, disappointment and negative demons to complete the race in 10 hours 30. He told me he said to himself try the first 1km, then 2, then 3 and see how it goes. I decided to try the same, slobbered some vaseline on my toes, stuck lucy’s lucky socks on and ran out the tent, to be greeted by Jackie, Kyle and Lewis screaming at the top of their voices (well they had been waiting a long time). My 1st 1km was stupid fast all that adrenalin and support I didn’t tell them I was really toiling.

Managed the first 3k and looping back past my family, the negative thoughts were overpowering me, I was dreading telling them but I thought i was finished, I stopped and said that I had had it, it was over. They didn’t know about my feet and thought I just had some road rash, bumps and cuts, they had been waiting so long they just screamed at me to keep going, don’t give up, keep going, you can do it. That got me started but in my head I was so negative, I ran back through transition on the astroturf and it was lovely and soft again, I thought of all of you guys spurring me on, my family, my friends and tried another kilometre, then another, then another.

Once I got to 10km I felt if my foot held out I could finish, but thoughts of sub 10 had gone, even winning my age group was going to be difficult because of my slow pace. Jak, Kyle and Lew then told me I was still in 1st place and to keep my pace, but 2nd place guy had gained and I was now only 7mins ahead with half the run still go go. I decided to walk through some of the stations, feuling myself properly. Only 3 loops I kept telling myself and then after completed 1 I thought, come on how much do you want to win. My family were amazing, screaming encouragement and I started to use Sue’s small fast feet, I found it didn’t hurt so much and my pace was getting quicker. When someone faster ran past I jumped in behind them to draft in the headwind for as long as I could and used the tailwind to try and up my pace. On through the 2nd loop (hard) and onto the final loop (harder). Gavin and I have a race plan, to lift the final 5km pace as much as possible as everyone was hurting by then, but instead of 5km I thought make it the last 3k. Then on through the comfy transition with only 1300 metres to go Kyle shouted to me sub 10 was on, I had to race hard to the end. I had completely ignored the sub 10, thinking just about keeping going and staying 20mins ahead of 2nd place. Kyle said I had 7 mins, I was amazed and a surge of adrenalin kicked in and I ran as hard as possible (probably quite slow) toward the finish. I got round the bend into the finishing chute to hear Jackie screaming “you’re a tiger, you’re a tiger” and Lewis screaming “KAAAAAAAMAAAAAAAAN DAD” I looked up at the clock, I had 2mins to spare I was ecstatic and even stopped and walked over the line… wow I had done it!

Even now writing this, I sort of can’t believe what happened, its surreal. I am so grateful to all of you for your support, its been incredible, I drew strength from each and every one of you, my Mum, Dad, Mark, Diana, Neil, but its you Jackie, Kyle and Lewis whose support in race week and encouragement on the run was unbelievable and made the whole thing possible.

swim pb, bike pb, ironman pb, age group winner and kona qualifier … wow