I need to get faster, maybe that would make these reports shorter. Anyhow, Challenge Barcelona was my first ironman distance race of the season. It wasn’t supposed to be but after not racing Roth because of illness and shortening of Challenge Vichy, it was. Large part of Spain was under water but we had a bit of a luck and it only rained on Saturday. Probably a good thing as it prevented us from spending the day at the beach. Staying under the sun draws energy and we needed every little bit of that for Sunday.
Rain ceased over night and Sunday turned out to be dry and pleasantly warm (20-22C). Ideal conditions for a race. One of the reasons I love this race is 8:30 h start which allows you to get a good night sleep if you’re nerves allow.
It was an uneventful swim. The position I found myself in after 200m was my position at the swim exit. I ended up in a first large group 6 minutes behind the leaders. There were 7-8 guys in front of us divided in 2 smaller groups. Not bad but there’s a lot of work in front of me.
After taking a shower and brushing my teeth in T1 I went on the bike course. (I bet you’re looking at the results and can’t tell if I’m joking or not). I need to stop wasting time in transitions.
First 90 km of the ride were perfect. After a slow start it took me a while to catch my swim group and I managed to do that just after the turnaround. At the turnaround I had a chance to see the situation in front. There was a small group in the lead, then few lone riders and then my group. At first I wanted to save some energy riding in the group but I quickly changed my mind and went to the front as I wanted to catch the leaders. Pace was fast but comfortable, the group was getting smaller and we were getting closer to the lead.
Then at about halfway point of the ride things started going in another direction. Swoboda caught us and picked up the pace. He had 4:13 h bike split in Podersdorf so this was not unexpected. I took a risk and tried to stay with him. At one point he got a small gap and I went way over my comfort zone to bring him back. Then, when I already burned myself few more guys from the group went around me and I couldn’t follow them either. In 15 minutes I went from feeling superb to feeling totally spent. At the end of the second lap I went to the back of the group in order to catch a breath and recover a bit for the run. The pace slowed a lot and in last 30 km our gap to the lead group (besides Swoboda who was now alone in the lead) went from 2 minutes back to about 4 minutes. But at least I managed to recover and felt decent coming into T2.
We had 4 loop (out and back) run course, so it was once again easy to see your position. My plan was to take it easy for the first half and then try to pick up the pace. I knew second part of the run will be crucial and a lot of time can be made up in that portion of the race.
It’s never easy to judge run pace after coming off the bike. I was negatively surprised when I saw 4:50 at first km marker. Luckily that was because I started the stopwatch too early. Next km was in 4.01, then 3.57, 3.59 and then bunch of them in 4.00-4.03 range. It felt easy and after seeing the situation in front of me I knew podium is within the reach if I don’t blow up.
During the second lap I still held 4.00-4.03 min/km pace and it still felt very easy. At one point I felt like I might cramp but that subsided after a few kilometers. I went through first half marathon in 1.25 h.
Then things started going in another direction once again. Legs were getting heavy and within first half of 3rd lap my pace dropped from just over 4 min to 4.30 min/km. Different kind of fatigue than in shorter races. It still felt easy but the legs just wouldn’t move any faster. I could barely lift the legs off the ground. If there were any worms on the road I’d have to go around them otherwise I’d trip.
Starting the last lap I found myself in 7th position. I took a quick glance at finish line clock which read 7:40 so I figured I could end up just under 8:30 h. Until then I had no idea about overall time. I was stuck at 4:30 min/km pace and it was impossible to up the speed. It was getting obvious I won’t be able to catch anyone and after 8:28 h I finally crossed the finish line in 7th spot. There was a guy 5 s behind me and I wasn’t aware of him. Luckily I didn’t celebrate much.