Exploding Porridge, a Jaunt to Barcelona & Getting Trapped in a Lift – Donald Barber
My race day in a nutshell, a day I will never forget and something I trained for religiously day and night for 9 months – Sunday 4th October was Ironman Barcelona!!
5:30am – The alarm was going off, it didn’t really matter as I was awake and buzzing, all I wanted to do was get out there and race. The idea was to try and make race day as close to a normal training day as possible, I found this did not start well as I shut the door on the microwave coated in burnt porridge within the hotel restaurant. Fruit salad and several pain aux chocolate was an adequate replacement. My kit was ready to go and I started on the long walk towards the start and transition area. In Barcelona the finish and start are separated by about 2km, Hotel Garbi was located adjacent to the finish which I would be thankful of that evening!
The overnight winds had calmed, the sea was nowhere near like the 10ft swells we witnessed on Thursday and calming music was being played over the speakers in transition as the sun slowly came up. I did my bike checks, loaded it up with food and made sure I was happy with everything. This literally took about 10 minutes and by 7am I was out of transition and standing around while 2600 other athletes faffed around. It was now nearly 2 hours till the start which meant a lot of standing around although this time just seemed to disappear. By the time I had met up with Teresa, Mark and the much appreciated support crew it was time to start thinking about what lie ahead. My pre-race plan was now starting to kick in with gels and bars being consumed and it was soon time to make my way into the pens. I queued up with Mark and watched the drones flying overhead listening to the now pumping music and absorbing the atmosphere.
The race was to be a ‘rolling swim start’ which is a new way designed to reduce the anxiety in the swim. To be honest, if you are going to try and avoid the washing machine it’s just not going to happen. As soon as I got near the 200m turning point it became a pinch point, a bash to the face was to be expected! The first half of the swim felt good, I was going strong and the adrenaline was flowing, the way back however was somewhat choppy! Sighting became hard, and you had to pull heavily to stay on course. Quite why someone was swimming backstroke I don’t know!
Out of the swim, running up the beach I was trying to work out my time, 1:07!! I knew I felt good but that was 10 minutes quicker than I was expecting. A quick shout at Teresa and I ran into transition, past people walking – why? It soon became apparent that there is no shame in an Ironman transition tent! Get you get kit on as quickly as possible at any cost! I had trained all year to shave time off so the last thing I was going to do was have a full change.
The bike course starts with a slow meander through town over as many speed bumps as they can find! When you get out of town you climb a short hill and then you are on the way to Barcelona, twice. Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than going past cyclists with their all singing all dancing carbon time machines & space age helmets on my bike that’s worth less than my borrowed Garmin. The course is mainly flat with 5km of rolling mountains at the start and end of each lap. Back along the speed bump assault course, into transition and onto the run. The cycle was good; I had planned to average 19mph and ended up averaging 19.7mph which meant I finished that in 5:40, 20 minutes ahead of schedule. At this point my legs felt good, I felt good and it was the perfect set up for the run.
The run consisted of a 4 ½ lap course that would take you past the finish a cruel 4 times before letting you down the mat. It was at this point that I saw my traveling boozy entourage for the first time. I think they had been in Oktoberfest for the rest of the race! There is nothing like this to give you a boost, I cannot explain how this brings up your levels wherever you might be on the run. Every time I went past I automatically sped up.
I managed to hold 9:30 miles for the first 18-20miles without too much of a problem before I went colliding into that fateful wall. I had planned to hit it at mile 23 so I wasn’t far off. The next 7 miles became a counting session with coke, gels and energy shots being consumed at regular intervals. Soon enough the last lap came round, my legs were at breaking point but that didn’t matter I wasn’t stopping for anything, it was time to dig deep and throw in the kitchen sink to finish averaging 9:59/mile.
The realisation when you turn in and start running down the red carpet for your first Ironman finish is unreal, and hard to explain. I could hear my support crew shouting as I did the traditional Ironman shuffle through the finish to receive that medal I had broken a sweat for.
I returned to the hotel for champagne before I was rudely shouted at by Manuel to get out of a lift we managed to get stuck between floors and walk the 6 flight of stairs to my room, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
11 hours 15 minutes and 40 seconds and I loved every second. It is an unforgettable experience that I couldn’t have shared with any people better than those who came out and supported. My coach and friend Teresa got me through this and I can’t wait to get started on our next project!
Ironman is an experience I can recommend to anyone, you can always make time even if it means running at 11pm or swimming at 6am, it’s worth it. Barcelona is a cracking race, holds a brilliant town party atmosphere and well worth it. This will certainly not be my last Ironman although I have enough apparel from the expo to last me a while!
Always Keep Your Powder Dry and Anything Is Possible!