In our second report from Barcelona, Mark Turnbull shares his thoughts on the greatest challenge he’s ever faced in his life (no, not the race – it was the thought of having to share a bed with Mark Kelly!).
I booked up with the Ponteland Tri group as an event like this is so much smoother, less stressful and more enjoyable when approached in numbers, and with 7 competitors and up to around 13 supporters it was fantastic.
Also part of the group were Roy Pattison and Damian Chandler.
A mixture of Ironman virgins and hardened competitors looking for a time.
A brief diary of the weekend’s events:
Thursday – check into hotel – oh how we laughed when Mark Kelly and I, who were sharing a room, were told there were no twins left. Receptionist – “It’s ok guys the bed’s big” (it wasn’t). Luckily David and Sarah Levison swapped their twin room, phew!
Registration and then a couple of beers (honest)… and then a couple of small red wines
Friday – morning 1 hour easy bike planned – but (the Hotel porter man) broke my presta valve blowing the tyre up – omg!
Mended it and went out a bit later, 6 miles down the road – bang it broke again and had to limp back to base.
Getting that fixed was very stressful as I couldn’t get the right valve extender and it wasn’t properly ‘fixed’ until the Saturday.
Friday afternoon – briefing by Mr Ironman, Paul Kaye and then an easy swim.
Saturday – backwards and forwards to a bike shop a couple of times and then an hour ride just to make sure everything was ok – no problems phew!
bike racking, transition bag prep and eating lots.
Sunday – Race Day – we awoke to thunder and lightning, rain and rough seas.
The start was at 8:20 ish so fairly late by normal triathlon standards.
The overall race strategy was the same for 3 of us, myself, David and Steve: swim survival, bike 5 hrs (23mph) and run 3:20 to 3:30 plus transitions should be an easy sub 10 hours.
Swim: Just to add to the atmosphere David, Steve and myself started together, beep beep beep go!
I did 1:17 which was actually a pb for this distance, but I’d hoped for a few minutes more in calm conditions.
There was at least a 6 foot swell that provided a few comical moments but ended some races there and then with people struggling in the shore break. Once out it was a bit choppy with the wind/current blowing you down the course and then a struggle back looking for yellow buoys hidden behind the swell.
Bike: very flat and very busy is the best description, with a few rain showers making roundabouts treacherous. Unfortunately quite a few crashes on the slippy roundabouts including the overall winner, but also John McGargill in our party who dislocated/broke his shoulder – oh no everyone was gutted for him to say the least, but I think he’s on the mend already and hopefully looking forward to booking up another.
There was actually a hill put in that you had to climb twice, obviously on a 2 lap course, but we went up it at 20mph with the wind behind! I can’t believe that some people were actually complaining about the hilly course – clearly never been to Northumberland.
3 of the guys got penalties that seemed very random, more for ‘blocking’ when trying to get off the front of a group.
My strategy was to start the swim as near to the front as possible, so as to be cycling at the faster end of the field and it pretty much worked. I was overtaking for pretty much the whole ride until near the end when all I could do was bridge over from one group to the next, each one faster than the last until about 20 miles to go I couldn’t get off the front and had to sit in a peloton eating my lunch and taking in the scenery (in an ironman!). Actually very frustrating as you feel you could go faster.
Finished the bike on 5:05, just under 23mph average.
Run: early target pace was 7:30/mile with an 8 minute backstop which I’d roughly worked out on the fly would get me to 9:59.
I ran a 1:40 1st half and a 1:49 2nd for a 3:29 marathon.
I actually thought I was fine for 9:59 until pretty much the finish. The final 10k I had 48 minutes – no problem right? Didn’t factor the aid stations and stopping for another wee (aaaggghh) and finished on 10:01, 10th in the V50 category.
I’m chuffed with that – went for it, gave it a good crack and a minute doesn’t matter, it was a superb event and I achieved the target (very nearly).
Time just slips away everywhere during the course of an ironman, quite apart from being a slow swimmer, 3 wee stops, wet roads on the bike, a bit of nutrition walking on the run – all adds up and the clock stops for no-one!
The rest of the Pont Ironmen were buzzing with their races afterwards, well done all (especially Steve – 9:44! very well done).
That’s it, definitely recommended, would do it again in a flash.
The Russells, Winters, Levisons, Fiona and Liz were all tremendous in support (even though David and Richard were originally meant to be participating). Thank you lots!