Maybe I’m overconfident, or maybe it’s because I just enjoy taking part and don’t (yet?) take it too seriously, but my ‘pre-race day’ is fairly simple:
- go for a run
- unpack and repack everything
- have pasta for dinner
- lay out everything for tomorrow’s race, several times, until I panic that it’s getting late and then sleep fitfully for a few hours.
It was a pleasant change to not be traveling the day before the race.
To go for a run the day before is something that pretty much everyone says you should NOT do. But I am not a confident runner and so want to make sure that I don’t freak out on the day. I set off for a short 5km run just to get a feel for running in Barcelona. I headed off to Avinguda de la Diagonal, a lovely wide boulevard with a pedestrian/cycle centre section. There were quite a few people out running and it was obviously a popular place to go to exercise.
A few kilometres in I realised that actually I felt really good so instead of turning round and working my way back to the apartment I carried on to the end of the road — where I found a small park “Parc de Diagonal-Mar” which had an amazing metal sculpture almost like a roller-coaster track running round and over a small lake. The apartment we were staying in was right around the corner from Segrada Familia which meant going back up hill from the sea front. The only problem with running along Diagonal was the number of traffic light controlled crossroads so you had to stop (or sprint) every few hundred yards. On the way back I went a slightly different way so that by the time I got to the apartment I had covered a full 10km.
After showering I set off to visit the Fundació Joan Miró. The Miró museum is in the Montjuïc region and can be accessed by Funicular — or at least it is supposed to be! I got to the Paral·lel metro station only to find that the Funicular was closed and instead there was a bus replacement service outside the station. I left the station and you could see where the bus was going to leave from by the huge crowd milling around by the side of the road. I dutifully stood in line and then as the bus pulled in 100 tourists from round the world decided that they were too important to queue and pushed towards the doors of the bus. The driver then pulled forward and only opened the front doors so all their pushing was in vain and I ended up getting a seat. The journey up Montjuïc was pretty twisty and I was glad to have decided against just walking (which was my initial reaction to the closed funicular).
The Fundació Miró is an amazing building, huge gallery spaces with high ceilings. They have works from pretty much every phase of his life which means they range from absolutely mind blowing to ones which, personally, were a bit too weird.
View of Barcelona from the roof of Fundació Joan Miró
They have a few pieces outside and the view out across Barcelona was stunning — couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.
Before leaving England I had, with the help of my friends, put together a list of sights and had unfortunately found that the Olympic Pool had just closed for the end of season but I was very close and still wanted to see the Olympic park so afterwards I headed just a short distance further up the road. First I came to the athletics stadium, built for the 1992 Summer Olympics. You could look out over the grounds but not go down to the track. Outside, the Olympic park itself is huge with various water features and a massive paved area with gigantic columns. And then on the edge is the needle.
Montjuïc Communications Tower
After a brief wander I headed back down the hill to the replacement bus and onward to lunch…
While true athletes will probably react to the next bit in horror (or possibly with jealousy), as stated earlier, I don’t take it very seriously.
I had arranged to have lunch with friends at Cal Pinxo — a restaurant in La Barceloneta which was just down by the sea.
Padrón Peppers, squid rings and more…
We shared a mixed starter with Padrón Peppers, the food equivalent of Russian roulette where most of the peppers are quite mild but every so often you get a hot one, and a selection of deep fried items, including squid rings, sardines etc. Absolutely delicious, and truth be told I would have been happy to have just had more starters they were so good. But the reason we were here was the house speciality — Paella.
Cooked in a large steel pan like a flat bottomed wok they plate up first then bring the pan to the table for you to help yourself to seconds — hence the photo only has half left. A couple of beers and a pudding latter I was seriously full!
The main course — Paella
After an amazing lunch I made my way along the beach and then went in search of ProBike — a bike shop a friend had recomend at lunch — as I wanted to get a cycling shirt from Barcelona to add to my ever growing collection.
I found a sports shop on the way which was huge so spent a while having a look round there and then just up the road was ProBike. It’s a good job I have a little bit of self restraint as they had some great stuff — both bikes, acessories and a decent amount of cycle clothing. Was tempted by the Movistar dark blue top but they only had it in small sizes and no matter how many miles I swim, bike and run it would never fit! But they did have a ‘ProBike Barcelona’ shirt in a retro colour scheme which was perfect.
The night before the storm — Literally!
I headed back to the apartment and stopped at a supermarket to get some pasta for dinner. Then it was time to check through everything and try and get a decent night’s sleep.
The weather report suggested that there was going to be a pretty bad storm on the Sunday but so far there had been no sign. Even as I got up and looked out the window it was dark but with clear skies. I gathered all my kit and set off in the darkness for the athletics track which was to be transition. There were a handful of others cycling along until, based on my memory of the road map I headed streight on at a junction and was on my own for a moment but then it was so cool as more and more people joined our convoy like bicycle flash mob! As we got close to the sea front there were a few spots of rain and by the time I had started racking my bike the heavens opened. It was a full on tropical storm with lightning and thunderclaps separated by less than a second. The organisers stopped anyone from going near the bikes as they were worried that the bike racking — which is esentially a framework of scaffold poles — could act as a lightning condunctor. We all pressed ouselves against the wall aound the trackside and tried to take shelter but by this point I was sodden. There were mumblings about would the race be cancelled or delayed or mabye the swim section replaced with a run — somthing that filled me with abject terror — I would rather swim in a storm than have to do an more running than absolutley necessary! In the end they just delayed the race though instead of saying what time the waves would start they just kept saying that the start was being delayed by 30 (then 40…) minutes and each wave would set off 5 minutes after that. The problem was no one knew what time the first wave was supposed to have started, as it was the elite only wave, in order to work out the new start times for our own wave!
Eventially we were allowed back into the main transition area which was once the grass area inside the athletics track but was now a rather muddy swamp.
At least everyone was in the same boat so to speak and the rain had slackened off a lot. As the sun started to rise the skies cleared and it looked like it might actually be quite a nice day for a race.
I put my wetsuit on and made my way to the start area. All the previous races I had done the start was in the water — that is you float about a bit, gather behind an imaginary line and then the gun/whistle/claxon goes off and you start swimming. The Garmin however is a beach start which means, on the signal, you have to run into the water and ‘dive’ in.
The start was horrific with people swimming into and even over each other.
I had made the common mistake of being very close to the front of my wave. Before my first triathlon I did a training day with Virgin Active down at Richmond. One of the first things they said was hang back at the start ‘cos it will get hectic — so much so that even in the simulated start someone ended up with a black eye!
Anyways, in the first few races I did and found that I should be about ⅓ of the way through the wave. By London 2014 my swimming had improved so much that I was in the first half dozen and stayed there for the whole of the swim. Difference was that London is very often the first Tri people have a go at, especially charity fundraisers so I was given a false sense of security. So I only allowed one row of people between me and the start rope. A couple of the other competitors just ambled towards the water so I ran like I was David Hasselhoff this meant by the time I hit the water there were only 2–3 people in front of me at which point I was like ooh look at me I’m gona win this wave! Uh, nope. Oh my god it was mayhem as the ‘walkers’ flailed like a cross between the energizer bunny and a combine harvester. They obviously knew what they were doing though as they made progress through the field and by the first buoy a dozen had barged past ( or more correctly ‘over’) me.
I kept up a steady pace, not particularly fast as this was my first 1500M in the sea. By the first buoy we were quite a way out from the beach and the waves were starting to become hard work. The next section was parallel to the beach and really had to fight the waves. Coming up to the next turn point I was just plowing onwards and, not being able to see much through my goggles past about half way, I banged into one of the course safety canoes which was a bit embarrassing! Dipped my goggles so I could de-mist them and made it round the turn to head back to the beach. I splashed onwards comforted by the fact that I had just overtaken a few stragglers from the previous wave (each wave has a different colored swim hat) so I knew I wasn’t going to have the slowest swim time. Not a hundred meters further and I felt a bang as I, yes you guessed, hit my head on a canoe again! The tide was dragging me sideways more than I realized and so I started sighting more often until I finally reached the swim exit. It was then a short jog back to transition — where I would grab my bike — while unzipping my wetsuit and getting it to my waist so save time.
Even though the rain had stopped and the sun was out the ground of the transition area was very muddy. I fumbled trying to get out of the suit while at the same time avoid the puddle by my bike. Put my glasses on and could now see the mess so I chucked a half bottle of water over my feet and tried to wipe off the mud and got my socks & cycle shoes on. Next helmet on then it was time to grab my bike and run / splash my way to the bike start.
Cycling in the sun
The bike route was absolutely fantastic but as a ‘draft legal’ race the bikes were scarily close together. The road was drying out but the hairpin bends where still dangerous especially where they crossed over the tram tracks and many people struggled whereas the miles of cycling in the English weather definitely helped as I moved through the field. There where 4 laps of the bike and it took me about an hour so there was a lot of overlap between waves with people struggling on their 4th lap at the same time as those with fresh legs on their first. There where a few groups with a full on team time trial train and they where seriously quick. I managed to hang on to the back a few times but struggled to maintain the pace in the traffic but as I started to get a feel for the course I had an absolute blast especially sprinting out of the hairpin bends!
At the end of the fourth lap I made my way back into transition dumped the bike and swapped shoes from bike to run. The ground was a little drier by now and I avoided most of the big puddles.
Despite the previous day’s run my legs felt good, no doubt helped by drafting a little on the bike. The route was lovely and unlike the bike was thankfully an out-and-back rather than multiple laps. The turnaround point was up hill at the Arc de Triomf and it really felt special running up to it. The sky had cleared completely and could feel the sun on my shoulders as a carried on — glancing at my sports watch to see not just how far was left but my overall time. It looked like if I could go a little faster I would hit the magical 2hours30 which I had missed by just 5 minutes in London. I was amazed as I was sure the sea swim wasn’t good enough but it gave me an extra burst of confidence and so I pushed on. As I passed the 8km sign I was starting to struggle and had all but abandoned hope of 2:30 but the watch was saying my pace was good. With 1 km to go I was overheating and wanted to slow down so much but I knew there was only another few minutes to go and then it would be over.
That last 5 minutes felt like an eternity and then I could hear the crowds at the finish line and the finish chute came into view I pushed and started to sprint for the line only to realize the finish line was actually still quite a ways off there was still another 200M to go and I had the painful realization that I might burnout before the line. No must keep going I Can Do This.
Finish with a smile!
I crossed the line and was so happy to have finished. I starred at my watch in disbelief — it looked like I had done it in under 2:30! No I must have started it late or maybe paused it accidentally in transition.
I knew it was close and that was good enough for me. As I picked my way throught the crowds to get back to my bike with the medal hanging round my neck I was so proud.
As I got my phone out of my bike to call my friends who were spectators so we could meet up I saw there was a text on the lock screen:
"Nat:0:29:33, TR1:01:22,Bici: 1:06:54, TR2:03:27, Cursa:0:47:44 Garmin Barcelona Triathlon"
A sub 30 sea swim despite nearly knocking myself out (twice)? Wow, and a run which was nearly 6 minutes faster than London. This all looks promising…
The total? Well let’s just say I was happy with this line of the txt —
"Felicitats, Mark Temps: 2:28:59"
I had done it by a whole minute!
It took a while to navigate the crowds but I eventually met up with my friends who had kindly brought some fizz.
A brilliant end to what at the start had looked like it was going to be a disastrous day.
Thank you for reading, I hope you found it interesting — or maybe even inspiring! I would love to hear from you so please do leave a comment