Julia’s Ironman Barcelona Race Report – Part III

Continued from Part I and Part II.

I did a complete clothing change in T1. I wanted to be comfortable on the bike since I’d be on that saddle for most of the day. My left hand strength is still not what it used to be before the accident so it took a little more time to get the bike gear over my damp body. Then, I put a brace on my arm to protect it during the bike and run.

I ran out of the tent and got my bike, clipped in and turned on my Garmin bike computer, ready for the ride.

The day before I’d taken a spin over the course and already loved it. It started out with 15km of rolling coastal roads until the town of Arenys de Mar. It continued on to fairly flat roads for another 24km with a few bridges, roundabouts and sharp turns thrown in.

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So how do you complete 180km on a bike when you’ve only trained for up to 50km?

The most important thing was staying on top of my nutrition and hydration. I carried four gluten free bread buns with almond butter that I’d cut into eight pieces. I alternated them about every forty-five minutes with pieces of energy bars washed down with water, not actually finishing them all. I was careful not to mix isotonic drinks with my food since I’m pretty sure this is what gave me trouble in my last Ironman.

I paid extra attention to my stomach signals. I waited until things settled down before feeding or drinking again, not worrying about how many calories I was ingesting but making sure that it was digested well. My strategy was successful since I never had to make any pit stops on the bike.

People have asked how I rode the bike with my healing arm. I stayed on the aero bars as much as possible since the elbows take most of the pressure in that position. I could also place my hands above the brakes since the pressure was between the thumb and index finger and didn’t bother my arm. What I couldn’t do was drop down on the bars and brake well with the front brake (left hand). But the course didn’t require a lot of braking and so it worked out fine. I never ever had pain or felt uncomfortable with my arm; I’d never have taken that risk.

As for my bike performance I wasn’t worried about speed, just about getting the job done. Since we were on the coast I knew the wind would be a factor. The first loop felt pretty neutral, maybe a slight sailing power. At the turnaround I could definitely feel a push from behind and tried to enjoy it, ignoring the fact we’d have to pedal into the wind once we turned around in Calella, twice.

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In the race briefing the organisation had touted what a fast course the bike was. I don’t know how fast it is compared to other IM courses or how many damn cheaters took advantage of the two and a half loop course. Granted, if you were a mid pack athlete I can understand that there was not a lot of room on the road to avoid drafting off other athletes. But what I saw was totally ridiculous. Thirty to fifty athletes in a tight pack, blatantly drafting off each other. I saw referees on the course but the penalty tents were all empty when I rode past.

On one hand it got me riled up, but then I reminded myself that the reason I loved the longer triathlon distances was because everyone had their own race. All I had to do was play by the rules and keep my own integrity.

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I loved the view of the Barcelona skyline as we made a u-turn back east in the town of Montgat. The views of the gorgeous beaches kept me entertained. As I finished the first loop Martina Dogana passed me on her second and yelled out “Go Julia!” which really picked me up. Thank you Martina! She finished with a fantastic fifth place.

On my second loop I started passing people and playing cat and mouse with others. On the third loop I passed a 65-69 woman age grouper who asked, “Are we going to make the cut off?”. I told her we’d easily make the cut-off as long as she kept moving. I saw her tuck her chin down and dig deeper. I looked her up later – Glyn Jones finished in 15:13:15, second place in her age group.

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Now knew I was going to finish the bike portion and I started to feel excited. Did it hurt? At times it did but then the muscle pain would dissipate. It honestly was not better or worse than when I go out on a long ride. Note to self: make friends with that achy muscle feeling and just keep peddling.

I rolled into T2 , grateful to put my feet back on the ground.

Bike time: 6:53:46

After racking my bike I ran into the tent but only changed my shoes and shorts. I debated for three seconds whether to take my headlamp but then threw it back into the transition bag, a decision I’d sorely regret hours later.

As I ran back out onto the course I took a quick look at my watch. What I was mostly looking forward to was seeing my family again. I had six hours and forty-five minutes to finish the marathon before the 15.5 hour cut off time. My physiotherapist had taped my left knee. I just had to pray that it would cooperate and stay pain-free for the full twenty-six miles.

  1. Tessa
    Cliff hanger! You cruel woman you!
  2. Maura
    No headlight, six and a bit to finish . . . I am waiting with bated breath.
  3. Sarah Sweeny
    Looking forward to the "big finish!" Thanks for sharing your experience -- it is fun to live vicariously through you.