Ironman 70.3 Pescara was my first important race leading up to Ironman Barcelona this next October. I wanted to use it to gauge if my current training was going in the right direction.
On race morning Piero and Evan stayed in bed while I got ready, had breakfast and hitched a ride with friends to the start. My bike was already checked in so I went into transition and placed the water bottles on my bike, checked the tires, re-checked my T1 and T2 bags and then went in search of a better cup of coffee than the one offered at the B&B.
With a forecast high of 35°C (95°F) it looked like it would be a tough day for everyone, and a small recipe for disaster for a race starting at 12 noon. After the coffee we stayed at the cafè in the shade for as long as possible.
The water was warm towards the shore and the officials weren’t allowing the Pros to wear wetsuits. I swim well without one but none of the amateurs wanted to part with theirs. Since we’d swimming quite a way out in cooler water I thought I wouldn’t boil in the neoprene suit so I kept mine on too.
I felt confident going into the swim, better than ever before. I owe this to our team’s new swim coach Andrea Ferretti. He gave us so much attention this year and put a spark back into our workouts.
I got a bit bashed in the first 300 meters but then pulled ahead. There were long rolling waves and I feared getting seasick. I kept swimming and tried to ignore them which seemed to work!
As I made it to the big buoy for my turn back to shore the first men’s wave caught up with the women and starting swimming over us. I didn’t mean to be rude but I kicked one of them off me. Too much damn testosterone!
SWIM: 1st out of the water in my age group in 37:47 – Huzzah!
#IMBarcelona Swim Gauge: I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, increasing my distance once a week so I’m comfortable swimming 4km.
This year they introduced the transition bags to the event, which meant you either had to have your bike shoes on the pedals ready to ride or put them on in the changing tent and run in them to your bike. The transitions were long, about 750 meters. I couldn’t see myself running that far in cleats. On the other hand, I’d never tried putting my cleats on the fly. But I gave the latter a shot and it was a good call. I didn’t fall over and I saved a few minutes.
I don’t have any photos of the bike section so I can’t show you the strong headwinds we faced for 70 of the 90km. I saw three bikes FLY off the course when they got smashed by sidewinds. I also saw a few athletes laying flat on the ground surrounded by medics. It was a slight mess out there to say the least. I followed my planned strategy: pedal easy but steady going up the hills, take advantage of any downhill sections and eat as much as I could in the first bike section.
At every aid station I first grabbed a bottle of water and poured it over me, then grabbed two more bottles to drink. I had to keep reminding myself to eat and drink. I know that sounds ridiculous but you’re concentrating so hard on steering and avoiding accidents that you forget.
#IMBarcelona Bike Gauge: Everything felt good in terms of speed and strength on the bike. I feel like I still need to dial in the nutrition. Something quite not right yet. I’ll be experimenting during my long training rides.
Always happy to get to T2 (two-thirds finished!). When I ran out of the tent and on to the course I wanted to die. The heat was oppressive and I felt nauseous. So I walked a lot, and as with all my races I reminded myself that this was supposed to be “fun” and for “fitness” (ha!) and that it didn’t matter what time I came up with, just that I continued to feel good.
At the first water station I poured water over my head. I grabbed a sponge that had been sitting in an ice bath and put them down my trisuit to cool my body off.
For 13 miles I played every mind counting game I could come up with. Run three minutes, walk one. Run one whole kilometer (zero success there). Run one hundred steps, walk fifty. There were a lot of athletes walking but there were a lot of athletes feeling okay and running the entire time. This is where 10% of the field had problems and pulled out of the race.
On the far side of the loop I spotted a city water fountain behind some bushes and when I opened the spigot ice cold water came guzzling out! I put my whole head under it and ran the water down my neck. When I’d finished there was a line triathletes behind me waiting eagerly to do the same. I think this was my saving grace because at every loop I stopped here and cooled off, feeling more awake and ready to tackle the next loop.
At every water station I ate as much as I could stomach and then drank whatever they had. I even tried a cup of Red Bull at one point (ick!) and resorted to Coke in the last six miles. I tried talking with a few athletes but nobody was in a talking mood. I probably wasn’t either though I found myself talking out loud to myself at one point.
Then all of the sudden it was finished…
#IMBarcelona Run Gauge: Considering I hadn’t trained at all for the run and that my longest recent distance had been 10km, I should be happy with this. I’ll make myself be happy with this! The Hubs reminds me that my knee is better than it’s been in a year and that things are looking up. They are. Remember that, Julia…
Final time: 7:05:54
I found my family and friends waiting for me at the finish line and Piero got a photo of me with my medal.
I showered right away, tried to eat but resorted to just drinking water and salts for another hour until my appetite returned. We had to stick around before heading back to the hotel because I saw that I’d placed in my age group. Ironman hands out some really nice trophies and I didn’t want to miss out on mine!
From the photo you can spot who are two are the awesome European ladies and who is the Californian hippie from the 70’s…
I took a full week off from formal training, happy to go for a walk and a swim to keep moving . I’m back to regular training now with a plan mapped out from here to October when I leave for Bar-The-Lona. Can’t wait!