Monday, June 14, 2010

Half Challenge Barcelona Maresme - Race Report Part II

Yeah - so I kept you all waiting....

Ahem - soz about that...

Before the race day itself we had done a little shopping;

Jules got a new pointy helmet but was unsure which way it was to be worn;

And what on earth could this area be... usual pre-race "second guess" the course design reccie;

... this was in fact neither swim out, bike out or in or run out... in fact it was a run turn and to the right was going to be the finishing shute!

and so.. to it.... 

Race Morning

The hotel kindly laid on an early breakfast for racers, no hot stuff (not that anyone wanted that) but a really good spread none the less. It was during  breakfast that leaving time was discussed, although clearly Jules was doing the man thing of concentrating on one thing at a time (his bread and jam) as he missed the vital conversation;

Karen - what time shall we leave, I want to be their early and chill in transition. Don't want to be stressed about being late
Anita - Agree. Let's say we want to be there an hour early, give 5-10mins to queue to get in and a 10mins walk... and a bit extra.. .how does leaving 6.30 sound
Karen - good. But that has to be the last leave time
Anita - yep -maybe we should aim to leave at 6.15 that mean we'll be left by 6.30
Karen - Cool
Karen to Jules (who clearly had not been paying attention)...  Jules - you got it. We're leaving 6.30 latest. But that is the latest. No phaffing. No messing. That's when we're off. But know you're starting 45mins later so if that's too early, well... you're on your own!!
Jules - Nah, would rather go with you guys. 6.30 it is.

Time rolls forward. 6.20 the girls call through to Jules, to tell him leave in 10!

6.28 Jules rings the girls... "Do I have enough time to go to the loo?"....

..... Well we went down and got stressed, probably waited a millisecond then left 0630+milisecond Jules still at the hotel... well we did text and told reception to tell him we'd gone!! But left him we did, not knowing he wasn't going to look a his phone!!!

So cruel. But he figured it out and met Anita and I at our respective bike racks and we had a big 349a hug.... GAME ON!

Having sorted bike on rack with drinks, shoes and food (the bike was racked the day before but I didn't want to leave anything else with it). I headed for the transition tent to hang bike and run bags and, on the other side of the tent, my post race bag. All very well organised.

Music was playing, the sun was rising, what a buzz. What an atmosphere. We headed down to the beach front and got into the surf for a quick feel for the water. It wasn't a flat sea that morning but wasn't really really rough either. Still glad to have got a feel even if it was a cold feel. Got out the water met back up with Anita and Jules and headed around to the carrolling area for the female athletes. Due to the course being so flat and fast (bike) there were wave starts to split up the drafting. Pro Men, Pro Women, and then rest of Women before age group men. SO EXCITING to be right near the front as the pro men went off.... But my oh my did we get a feeling for the swim - there were only about 20 or so pro's and almost immediately one guy was well off the back and looked to be struggling with the waves. I'm sure he must have been hit or something because at one stage it did look like he turned around to come in. By the time they got to the first buoy, 200m straight out, he looked like he was 50+ metres down. Long swim for him....

No sooner the pro women were lining up then it was our turn. My first ever beach run in start. HOW EXCITED WAS I! It was the last few minutes as we were lined up I took a moment to think, you know those thoughts of what this event means to you to do. Everyone must have that reason, and I'm sure everyone's reason is different. Nearly got quite emotional... Anita was with me, so told her "God I could cry!" thinking that she'd slap me into shape, she just turned around with tears in her eyes telling me to stop it! A very funny moment!

Still they gave us a 30second warning which soon slapped us both out of it... The adrenalin was beginning to flow!

So the course was up 200m, right for 500m, left turn up 100m, left turn, back 800m, left turn and to the beach for 300m and in. Well it was supposed to be right?

The hooter rang and despite thinking I'd walk down, clearly I pegged it down with the carelessness of a five year old heading to the surf for the first time! WHOOP! and SPLASH! I was in. There were 84 women in the heat and quite a bit of beach front so there wasn't too much of the usual clashes. Remembered what Anita had said about swimming under the big waves (surfer style), although there weren't that many to have to do that.

Despite the buoys being UBBER HUGE the first was still a little difficult to sight, had to time it with an crest of a wave. Still first buoy in and right turn. Again thankful for the Friday night swim I remembered, after a few minutes thinking "God I'm getting nowhere" that we were swimming against the natural current. So settled down and tried my darnest to sport that damn turn buoy. Really mostly didn't have a scooby-doo. Couldn't see it for toffee. Did manage to gulp in quite a bit of sea water however as the waves were on my left and I was bi-lateral breathing. Rapidly realised this was not such a good idea so somehow managed to switch to breathing more to my right!! For a while I did think the entire ladies field were heading in the wrong direction. I mean I was kind towards the front of the pack, there were people around - but I couldn't see that buoy for what felt like an eternity!!

FINALLY spotted it and we were quite close in - phewy! Short hop (ok swim) up to the next buoy and we turned back, now with the tide for 800m. Realised at this stage that I was in cruise mode and it was time to put some effort in. Everytime someone from the heat behind (which were the police and firemen!), I tried to head on totheir toes. It was about half way down the back straight that I went past a red swim cap.... what did that mean I hear you ask... well that meant I had just swam past a male PRO... ROFL!! I MEAN! This was clearly the guy who nearly turned back, and believe me I wasn't and am not that strong a swimmer. So I did have a chuckle that a pro male and been severely "chicked" by quite a lot of the women's heat! Poor bloke!

The next turn bouy was easier to spot - probably because we were with the waves and had a bit longer on the top of them to see it. Finally got there and got completely excited about seeing the beach and the exit!! Still felt really strong and comfortable, although also feeling the cold seeping in.. I started kicking for home and heading left of the exit (as the current pulled you right)... 

Scrabbled up the beach and looked at my watch... 34:30.. COMPLETE WHOOP! Was hoping for sub 35mins and given sea condition ubber pleased to have still achieved that... and then I remembered it woudn't count unless I got over the timing mat! So bad foot or no bad foot I legged it up the beach, undoing my wet suit as I went. Cool! How excited was I!

Ran into transition tent, grabbed my bike back, helmet out and on, some phaffing, then realisation that actually I was still in a race... so again.. bad foot or no bad foot I sprinted at full pace to my bike.... and I mean sprinted. Completely full of adrenalin, passed a few people more sensibly jogging. But there would be no run for me that day, so sprint I did.

Yes well I headed out, feet on shoes ... little nasty speed bump just after I got on... Oh how I would wish later on that I had made a mental note about that little obstacle!

The bike itself is an excellent little lapped course. The first 3k are in the resort so it's draft legal as really, given the number of speed humps and twist and turns you can't but be near someone. But as soon as you're out of town and onto the main road it's game on. It starts with several ripples of hills, nothing serious, enough to have to change into an easier gear - but you fly down the other sides and then you're onto a flat and really fast section before a dead turn and head back, each leg being about 20k with aid stations at the turns either end.

I have to say it was an excellent course. The roads were closed to traffic and there was quite a bit of support out, especially at the top of the more cheeky hills. My aim was to keep my HR and cadence around 130-140 and 90rpm respectively. Bit of a nightmare then when I first got on my bike to discover my Garmin 310XT (you know the waterproof, triathlon version) neither synced in with my HR or bike computer!! NIGHTMARE! So I quickly set about (whilst navigating the speed humps and twists of the first 3k) doing a scan for both the HR strap and cadence sensor!!

Was I go all the data I was happy! A lovely day - bright sunshine, still early enough for it not to be too hot. The aid stations were excellent, not that I needed more then a bottle swap (mainly because I wanted a Challenge Barcelona Bottle!! LOL).... but they were well stocked and the helpers seem to know exactly what to do. FAB!

I got the first lap done in 1hr 20mins... YOWZER - that was faster then I thought..... Managed to keep it up for the second... Was pretty happy; although the course was short (something like 52miles rather then the required 56 - but I think that's because they had to change the route from last year to cut out some dodgey bit of road), I managed to average a smudge over 19mph throughout!!

I got to the town roundabout after my second lap and took the right hand exit to head back to transition. I was grinning from ear to ear (mainly because I had chicked a guy on the bike - and believe me that never happens... and no he wasn't on a shopper)... but mainly because I had executed my race beyond expectations. This training regime has certainly paid off.

So I whizzed back through the town, twists, turns, speed humps and all.... continued to push it as there was no planned run (although to be fair I had done what everyone had told me not to do and had put my trainers and cap in my run bag).... to be honest... I may have tried to run, I may have not. But as we know the course had other plans.

Coming down under a railway bridge you know you're one right turn away from the transition line - at least that's what my memory banks said. I was somewhat surprised to discover I was two in fact as I nearly ploughed straight into a wall where the was a non-marked right hand turn!! I wasn't the only one to nearly come apart on that turn!! Luckily I managed to slam the brakes on and get round it before turning left into a tree lined street at the end of which I could see the dismount line!


I was so thrilled! So, already had my feet on my shoes, I took my right leg around my bike to stand on the left pedal - figured I do this a little early as there were quite a few people at the dismount line stopping and getting off... so my plan was to glide in, dismount a little back and run through them... and then came THAT DAMN SPEED HUMP!

I'd forgotten about that. Too late to do anything. Considered for a milisecond running off the bike but I was still flying along, so tried to land it off the hump..... well I guess you know the rest. I landed myself, rashed up my left thigh, left knee (thankful for the calf guard on my whole left leg would have got it), right knee, right toes (*3) and top of right foot.

I was not a happy person

I admit I did swear

They had no warning signs on the road, by the side of the road or even a marshal on it. If I had been the only person to have fallen foul of the speed hump then I would fully blame myself. But I wasn't! Not to be out done, my room mate also 8mins before me, did exactly the same - not as many cuts but was very lucky as her helmet saved her head from the curb.

Lesson learnt!!

To be fair they looked after me afterwards well. They got one of their doctors mobile and caught up with me in the transition tent where they patched and stitched me up and gave me a nice painkilling injection in the bum! Nice!

After Race
The gang all met up. Anita and I compared road rash and even got treated and xray'd each the next day. Jules and Anita really smacked the course. Both with PBs and Anita coming 3 in her Age Group, something like 10th OVERALL and even beat a Pro!! Like - wow!

All in all a great day out at the races! We celebrated with a beer in the sun and clapped in the final finisher before heading back to the hotel for shower change and head out to the awards ceremony (for Anita to collect her trophy) and into the town to find Pizza and a glass of wine!

Final Thoughts

It was a shame to end the race by skidding on my backside! It was a really great event and I'd certainly recommend it. The run is flat and fast (although hot looking!), and the Spanish fans were excellent throughout. I wrote to the organisers and thanked them for an excellent race (other then the obvious), suggested they mentioned the speed hump in the race briefing in the future which I think they will. Well in fact I will find out...

Because of the accident it meant no training for two weeks, and given the earlier problems I had with my foot it really but the Challenge Copenhagen race in complete jeopardy. But the Challenge family have done me proud. I wrote to them and despite it all being managed by different organisations locally in country, the Danish guys have refunded the most part of of entry fee and I've entered "CHALLENGE BARCELONA!" which is some 6 weeks later and on the very same course as this race!! So the count down has been moved - I'm still heading towards my first Ironman distance but now in October :0) I good result I'd say!

Some ouchie Pics;

Thigh on the evening after;

Legs the afternoon after being pact up....
And Anita got in on the foot action;

The day after - I think the doctor liked me in fish-net...

Today the only thing to show is pink scares on my toes and a still sore right heel bone. But nothing which is stopping me Swim Bike or Run!! YEAH!


  1. You are one tough cookie! Based on your experience, I will forgo the flying mounts and dismounts! On to the Challenge!!

  2. Indeed a tough cookie! I registered for the Half Challenge barcelona in 2012 so will DEFINITELY be on the lookout for those speed bumps. Great report BTW.