Full circles and Ferris wheels: Julia’s Challenge Rimini

View from the Ferris wheel at Challenge Rimini
View from the Ferris wheel

Shauna and I were working over Skype and chatting about Challenge Rimini that I raced a few weeks ago.

Challenge Rimini is part of the Challenge Family races. I’d raced the half distance with 1900m swim, 92km bike and 21km run. Gah!

“So, what’s your angle on the story going to be?”

“Hmmm… let me see. Maybe it could be about how I felt great the whole race. Or it being my last year in the F50 age group…”

I must have still been recovering from the race because I passed up the most obvious theme.

Rimini was the first city I spent time in when I arrived in Italy in 1978.

I spent a year as an au pair for an Italian family and the grandparents lived in Rimini.  I lived in this seaside town for the first and last summer months. The family had a beautiful four story home right next to the port and just a few minutes walk from the beach. I had the entire fourth floor apartment to myself which was bigger than my home in California.

Together with the excitement of being in a new country came feelings of melancholy and loneliness that weren’t always easy for 17 year old me to handle.

But here I was 36 years later (THIRTY-SIX!) and seeing the same sights; breathing the same air. I love coming full circle.

So… the race!

I arrived Friday night to attend the presentation of the elite athletes. Ironman champion Chris McCormack, a.k.a.  Macca was supposed to be there. That was one of the reasons I wanted to go to this Challenge race. But alas, the guy was a no-show. Something about an injury… whatever! They had a beautiful buffet and I got to catch up with some friends. There were a lot of fit young athletes and it was fun to see them strut and be presented.

Elite Athletes in top shape
Elite Athletes in top shape

The next morning my Saturday schedule went something like this:

  • Watch the morning sprint races
  • Pick up race packet and check out expo
  • Close myself in hotel room and finish all the work I needed to get done to end the week.
  • Wait for husband and son’s arrival then set up bags (they had my bike)
  • Have an awesome pre-race dinner with my cheerleaders.

Check, check, check, check and check. I was so happy to have Piero and Evan with me, though I knew Sunday would be a longer day for them than for me.

On Sunday morning we all walked together to the bike check in. Piero took my bag and Evan my bike. He kept wondering aloud whether or not he could fit on the bike. Answer: probably yes, but don’t try it. That’s Mamma’s other baby!

Coach Julia Jones at Challenge Rimini
It was also Mothers Day – bonus!

Two Rimini novelties I noted since I lived here in the summer of ’78:  he English tourists have been replaced by Russians and they’ve erected a huge Ferris wheel at the end of the pier. Evan kept pestering Piero to go on it but Piero was busy shooting photos of the athletes and the race.

Coach Julia Jones at Challenge Rimini
Evan helping me zip up, ferris wheel in background

But at some point something must have clicked in Piero’s head because he got the idea that he could take photos from the top of the Ferris wheel. Much to Evan’s delight they went three rides around until Piero was happy with the photos.

The swim at Challenge Rimini, 2014
Swim action viewed from the Ferris wheel
The swim at Challenge Rimini, 2014
More swim action!

My swim went fine. I felt good and on course. I was also really pleased that when I emerged from the water I wasn’t totally wiped out and could actually run to my bike. Not always the case!

The bike segment was really hard! I’d been told there would be headwinds going out (and up the hill) and that they would change to a sidewind on the way back. That’s exactly how it was! If you ever decide to race Challenge Rimini just know that the bike course has steep uphill 15% grades and an unforgiving 10km uphill section. Other than that everything was great.

Elite bike athletes at Challenge Rimini, 2014
First two elites come in from bike…

There were loads of staff and volunteers on the course to make sure you were okay. And actual marshals busting athletes for blatant drafting (all men!) and many DQs for that.

For my Ironman Zurich food experimentation I tried little rolls with almond butter and honey . Delicious but impractical. I also tried the new Powerbar Wafers

Dear PowerBar, if you want to send me a case of these, please do! They are the perfect combination of crunchy, salty, sweet and don’t leave that icky sweet taste while biking. Thank you!

I ate a little of something every 30 minutes. I drank but never had to pee. I took that as a bad sign of the 25°C/77°F  temperature. I drank every 15 minutes and tried not worry too much about  it.

It took me 2:17:00 to climb the 46km to the top of the turnaround and  1:35:00 to get back T2. Like I said, really tough bike course.

In the meantime Piero was happy to shoot photos of the pros biking and  running.

Elite athletes running at Challenge Rimini, 2014
Sexy, sexy legs…
Elite athletes running at Challenge Rimini, 2014
More sexy legs

My run was… okay. It was really hot for me and I thought they could have used an extra water station. It was three loops around, out and back, mentally very easy to handle. The problem was that every once in awhile my mind would wander and even though I had energy I’d stop and walk. Towards the end when felt I was walking a little more I gave myself a “buck up!” talk and mustered up the energy to run the rest of the way.

Runners at Challenge Rimini, 2014
The run is like a party… a painful party 😉
Runners at Challenge Rimini, 2014
More runners
Coach Julia Jones running at the Rimni Challenge triathlon
Digging deep

Piero was waiting for me at the finish, along with my friend Paola who had come to the beach for the weekend with her husband.

The best thing about this particular long distance race was that after a good night’s sleep and one more nap I was totally recovered and ready to train. This gives me hope and confidence for the next eight weeks of training until D-day!

So, two thumbs to up the Challenge Rimini organisation and thanks to all the volunteers for making it such a wonderful day.

P.S. I came in 3rd place in my age group and got a beautiful glass trophy as big as my head!

P.P.S. Speaking of challenges, we’ve just opened registration for our June 5K & 10K Courses. I’d love to coach you for the summer… come along for the ride!

Coach Julia Jones wins third place in her age group at the Rimni Challenge triathlon
Third place age group!