Ironman Vitoria Gasteiz 2021

Ironman Vitoria Gasteiz 2021

It’s 5am and the alarm goes off… not that I needed it I’ve been awake for a few hours excited that the day is finally here.   

The race is a split transition so I get dropped off up at T1 or as near to it as we can, Zoe heads off to park the car and I start what seems an eerily quiet walk down to T1 …ever seen the film werewolf in London …. whatever you do stay on the path! It was pitch black cool and foggy. I Headed into T1 no fuss got my bike stocked with nutrition and Wahoo on and working. Bike is ready T1 bag is hung up, I am ready.  

The start was scheduled for a very civilised 08:20. I found a quite spot in the corner of T1 and put my hoody, just concentrating on what lies ahead, just sitting and mentally prepping my race and staying relaxed and calm… I was ready!

At 7:30am I walked out of T1 to meet Zoe, with my wetsuit on and ready to go…… then as we sat chatting over the race plan one last time. We watched the fog I mentioned before start to roll in. It soon got to the point you could no longer see the water let alone the markers or safety boats. The start was delayed and rightly so. I lay down and relaxed I couldn’t control what was going on so just focus on what I could and that was staying calm. Zoe was fantastic chatting and laughing keeping my mind busy and relaxed, but mainly calm.

At 9:30am the fog was as thick as ever and then the bad news came over the race speaker… the swim was cancelled, and the race was to be a bike run. I was gutted and felt cheated…The swim had been a weakness for years, but this year I had put the time in to make that swim become a good standard. 

I sat with Zoe for 5 mins then parked the disappointment removed my wetsuit and got ready for the bike. Giving my head a shake and getting ready for what I do best pedalling my legs!

My bike was racked on the last racks on the right at the furthest point from the bike exit. We were set to race at 09.45am. I was now hungry and feeling the cold as the fog covered the field. Riders were set of in 2’s every 2 mins I watched the first line go off, it took 24 mins for the first line to go, there was 4 other lines before me meaning I had a least another hour to wait. At this point I was very hungry over 5 hrs since I had last eaten. I went to my bag and got a towel out and wrapped it around myself and found a little shelter from the cool wind and I waited and waited, I began to eat supplies of my bike I knew I had enough on the bike for 6 hrs, but I would have to deal with that later the course I needed to eat something now. Finally, we were ready to race; some 5 hrs since I arrived, it was 11am.  

I jumped on the bike and set off, it was cold but that would pass, I set off steady until I got a little heat in my legs. The road was busy with riders, and I have never seen so many triathlon officials on the bikes every 2-5 mins one was passing. I made good progress and felt very comfortable on the bike, the course was fast but rolling and I was surprised how much the rolling hills took out of my legs. It was a beautiful bike course, and the scenery was stunning, you ride around the lake we should have swum in (crystal clear now), it was beautiful. I happily ticked off the Km’s and had to mentally keep a check on my pace some of the roads you just wanted to let it go on them. I was in my happy place and felt good, the feed stations provided bottles of water but not in bidons just in the plastic bottles you get in the shops, I couldn’t fit them into my carries and kept losing them, I was aware I had probably not drunk enough water as a result, and the heat was climbing, with a forecast over 30 degrees later. I got to my special needs bag where I had water, but it was carnage you had to get your own bag (Covid rules) bikes were left in the road riders walking about searching for their bag’s…. It was just crazy, I decided to push on without my special needs, as soon as I set off again, I thought to myself, “you might regret that later”. I kicked on through some wonderful villages a steep bank lay ahead crowded with people music blaring. I pushed up the hill to a massive cheer from the crown, would I regret that surge …. Probably……. was it worth it Christ YES!!! I settled back in and soon I was into T2 I set a target of 5:30 hrs and as I cycled in to see a happy Zoe and told 5:38hr on the clock I was pleased with that.  

I was quickly in and out of T2 4mins 45sec my PB…seems practice does help!

Now for the Run, 4 laps of the run course; the course had changed disappointingly again due to covid, normally you run through the city and the support and atmosphere are meant to be superb. We were on the outskirts of town running through a park and industrial and commercial areas … the park was well supported with people and music, but most of the run was quiet and not very scenic at all, it was flat and unfortunately boring…. I like nice scenery it takes away the pain.

There were feed stations every 3km ish and my strategy was when I needed use a feed station, to walk it, to drink and fuel, then get myself together and go again. If I was to walk, I would control how long that was going to be for, so I used the stations for this, and it allowed me to drink more comfortable rather than throwing it everywhere.

At 20km the heat was around 33- 35 degrees and I was beginning to feel it, I slowed a little took on a little more water and some fuel… Zoe popped up just at the right spot, I can’t tell you how great it is to see your support crew willing you on; it lifted my spirits and I pushed on, the next 8km I can only describe as painful and miserable (they don’t put that on the brochure do they ) I was in a tough spot and just had to keep going, I broke the route down into smaller sections and ticked each one off, I got into a little rhythm and soon I started to feel a little better, my run became more relaxed and I started to pick up. When I the last lap, I can’t describe how pleased I was! I turned and off I went the light was starting to fail now and route through the park was pitch black, they had only lit it with small battery lights on the edge of path, it was eerie in the dark, but I really enjoyed this section all the support had left the park and apart from a few isolated supporters; I felt alone. Back out into the Commercial Centre part and I felt good, at this point I had 7km to go and knew I had done it. 

I turned at the halfway point on the loop had a drink and set off back, I said to myself that is my last stop till I finish, lets finish strong. So, I set off picking up my run I’m feeling good (or as good as you can feel) I feel like I’m flying at this point…what a strong finish. THEN my Garmin beeps and tells me just how slow my pace is… I remember thinking FFS that can’t be right I’m flying now.  It did make me laugh out loud that my perception was so far off reality… Who cares at this point; I was about to finish what I had been training for over 18 months!

I turned into the arena area, the music was blaring and there it was the red carpet… I ran down the finishers shoot to all the normal noise that comes with an Ironman, let’s face it that’s why we put ourselves through this! It’s that 10 seconds red carpet that costs you all the money and time, it is an addictive drug like buzz.  All done my target was 4hrs:30 for the run and I kicked in 4hr 33mins, with my bike time a total time 10hr 17mins, I am happy with that…. well, I was for then, until I start thinking what could I have done differently?

Broken and ready for food and a beer never again… or maybe I will take just a little look at next year’s race schedule 😊