The race is getting closer and it seemed the right time to check out the Barcelona Ironman Course with a bike route recce.
I left off last week’s post having already started the five-week countdown with a long swim and bike session, then a day off on Tuesday. On Wednesday I worked hard all day and then finished the day off with a Zwift session of 1:45. On Thursday morning I hit the park for a pre-travel day set of intervals, ran at what was not a slower than usual pace, but it was better than just running slow. The journey to Barcelona was long! BA had a number of issues, so we spent six hours at Gatwick getting on and off the plane, and didn’t arrive at our hotel in Barcelona until 2am. It was actually quite relaxing at the airport. I had a slightly ill feeling and enjoyed just zoning out, and I managed to finally get to read Chrissie Wellington’s, Life Without Limits (inspiring!).
We had a lovely lazy beach day on Friday, and then having mustered up some energy got into the sea for a planned 3K swim, I heard the announcement that the water quality wasn’t good today and that the yellow flags meant that you swam with caution. I didn’t really think much of it, until Chris stopped and pointed out a dead bird. He swam over to investigate, but soon realised that it wasn’t a bird. It was a rat, and there was another one close by. I’ll be honest, I wimped out and swam straight back to shore after just 650M! Later we saw more rats washed up onto the shore. I spoke to the lifeguard who explained that the problem was that there had been a big storm the day before (the same thing happened in Brighton back in the summer). She expected the sea to be rat-free in a couple of days.
That night as the rain lashed down, lightening struck and thunder clapped, we agreed that rats might be making a comeback. After some red wine and a late dinner, we were still optimistic we’d do the long bike ride and run in the morning.
Saturday started a little slower than planned, the travelling, the lateish night, and for me, just being tired, meant it was hard to get going. We went for a beach breakfast first, and finally set off on the ride around 11. But things didn’t start well. We hit a cycle path that was overcrowded, soon after Chris got a puncture, then a second puncture. The C02 canisters weren’t working so we had to back-track to Decathlon. Chris is a much faster cyclist than me and we were both tired now. I suggested he go off and do the bike ride work out the course and I do a run. It worked!
Tweaking the plan (again!)
I headed off through a hot, humid and very crowded Barcelona seafront, combing sightseeing with slow running. Chris worked out the route on the pre-recce recce, and did one lap, out and back (57 miles).
On Saturday we ordered room service and watched Netflix. We had a good sleep and even though we didn’t exactly bounce out of bed when dawn broke, we were on the road by 10, both ready to complete as much of the 2.5 lap course as we could.
The course is, as we were told, flat. There are obviously a few minor inclines as you go in and out of the various seafront towns along the N11 route. A fairly busy dual carriageway at first felt daunting, but I soon noticed how courteous Catalonian drivers are. It seems Barcelona is made for bikes, as well as bike lanes in and out of town, there are instructions for drivers to allow 1.5M for cyclists. And there are lots of cyclists going in both directions. We took it very steady, stopped for brunch in Callela (where the race starts and finishes) and then stopped for coffee near the finish. All along the course I was tracking my friend Tori and her girlfriend, and a friend from Eastbourne, as they took on Ironman Wales – and knowing we were all cycling together in real time I was inspired by their valiant efforts. For me the day was just about completing most of the course (100 miles) and saying goodbye to my bike demons and getting used to the tuck position, all of which I managed.
Bric and Trip
We headed out for a short 5K seafront bric run when we got back. I managed to trip up as soon as we were out the door on a small hump at the children’s playground, the bit where the kids land off the slide. I thudded down hard and hit my right shoulder (my broken collarbone side). After a check to see if I had knocked the plate or to check if a screw was sticking up, we started running again. I felt totally fine doing 5K and could have done the hour, but we agreed it was time to eat. By the time we’d showered, changed, scoffed some crisps and found a restaurant it was 10pm. But the food was worth the wait. A short cab journey had taken us to a lovely burger bar.
Start of the four-week countdown
Monday morning started in Barcelona. I looked out of the hotel window from the 13th floor, and saw a slightly less manic city start to London or Brighton, and lots of cyclists! We managed a seven-mile easy run, with a little bit of pace at the end. It was the final session of our recce trip. We considered swimming but now there was a brown foam, as well as yellow flags, so we decided to have some holiday time instead. We walked another five or six miles, meandering our way into the gothic part of town, into churches and shops and stopping for tapas, juice, more tapas. Again, with a quick google search, we found a gem of a restaurant for dinner, Canate. We waited an hour for a table and drank red wine, observing a constant flow of people, some with reservations, some not. But it was worth the wait, and after five or six tapas dishes and the best tiramasu I’ve tasted, we headed back to the hotel waited and ready to pack up bikes and suitcases.
Keep consistent and keep going
I’m now home and at the start of four weeks to go. Today marks another day off as I’ve travelled, washed and unpacked. My shoulder is now stiff and achy but I’m hoping it will ease off – swimming will be interesting. The plan for the week ahead includes these core sessions: swim/bike/run bric at the gym; bike 5.5-6 hrs steady pace throughout but last 15 mins of every hour slightly overgeared + bric run 60 mins easy pace; long open-water sea swim. It’s not time to taper just yet, it is time to continue and be consistent.