Ironman 70.3 Barcelona

It’s been two years since I’ve raced a 70.3 properly and I’d kind of forgotten how much fun they can be. Short (relative to ironman), hard (relative to ironman) and done and dusted by lunchtime. What’s not to like? I went into Barcelona 70.3 with no real expectations of a great performance and felt absolutely no pressure to do well. I’d really been struggling with consistency in training since South Africa and had been swimming, biking and running like a chopper. And the numbers supported that; it wasn’t just in my head! Some people questioned my decision to race but I’d decided a recovery week in the sun with a hard race at the end might just be the reset I needed to get me on track again. I love racing and also know that sometimes racing is the best way for me to get fit. So my goal was simply to make sure I recovered in the run up and enjoyed the trip.

It turned out that going into a race with very little expectations is actually quite a good way to embark on a race. It certainly makes taper week pretty laid back and easy to enjoy! Though I was travelling alone when I saw the start list I knew I’d be in good company in the run up. One of the nicest things about triathlon is the people you meet along the way. Your competitors (and commentators – talking about you Paul Kaye!) become your friends.

The weekend before I’d raced the Monster Mojo half Ironman in Peterborough. After a bout of tonsillitis in the days before this race I was pleasantly surprised to feel pretty good on the bike on the day. I didn’t run hard so perhaps that was the decent training session I needed and it definitely gave me a little bit more confidence that I may be fitter than I thought I was.

When it came to Barcelona, all in all I had a great day and I’m absolutely delighted with my second place (even if I do feel a tiny bit guilty for stealing it from Parys Edwards in the last km of the run). Parys is one of the most gutsy girls I’ve ever met; she races like there is no tomorrow and I think our attitude towards racing as professionals is pretty similar. We both love it and appreciate how privileged we are to be doing it. I certainly learnt a lot by racing so close to her for 4.5 hrs. In ironman you’re telling yourself to hold back. In 70.3 you can’t do that, as I realized when she flew past me out of sight on the first climb. It has crossed my mind that the fact that in general I am able to put together a quick final 5-10 km on the run simply means that I’m not racing hard enough the rest of the time. Perhaps one day I should see if I can push myself hard enough to blow up…..

Overall, Barcelona is a cracking race. The bike course is immense. Hilly, technical and scenic. If you like hills it’s one of the best 70.3s I’ve raced. The only criticism I have is starting the age group men in a rolling start 3 minutes behind us. It meant we were surrounded by packs from half way round the bike, which has a massive impact on the women’s pro race. Firstly it was dangerous, particularly on the descents. Secondly, the packs stop you riding your own race. To ride legally you end up doing massive surges to get to the front, or sitting up as they then pass you back. You’re either burning matches or not moving forward. Finally it makes it an unequal playing field; at least two of the girls who finished behind Parys and I were blatantly taking advantage of the situation to minimize their own workload. There’s no reason not to start us 10-15 minutes earlier so we can have a clean race like the pro men do. But other than that the race was brilliant fun and it absolutely flew by. I remember 8 miles into the run thinking, blimey, I’ve only got 5 miles left. I’d better put my foot down. I’ve never thought that in an Ironman!

So back to the UK now for hopefully a bit more consistency. I’ve got a few fun events coming up starting with the Tour of Wessex this weekend. Next big one is 70.3 Staffordshire, and then my main target Ironman UK. Happy racing everyone!

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