Ironman Barcelona 146.6... Race Report


"Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that's very important for good health." - Dalai Lama

  


DECISION

So before I dive into the race-recap, I need to explain how I got to even writing this in the first place. Approximately 4 months ago, I signed up to race Ironman Barcelona. 2 days prior to signing up, I remember having a conversation with a friend that I would never do a 140.6 at least until I’m well into my 30s (I’m currently 27). I’ve been racing Sprint and Olympic distance races for the entirety of my triathlon career.   Always had the need for speed, enjoyed racing 6-10 times a year. When training and racing longer distance races, you have to cut back on the frequency of racing (it’ll take a huge toll on your body... and you’ll burn out quicker). So one evening at 9:45pm, I received a phone call from a gentleman inquiring about my triathlon coaching services. Odd hour of the day to call, but endurance athletes are a bit loony in the head(as am I, haha), so I’ll take it. We met up for coffee following morning, and he tells me him and his son have signed up for Ironman Barcelona and need coaching. Great! I accepted him as my client and we were psyched as can be to get started. Just as we were ready to leave the coffee shop, he invited me to race it with him and his son, and I accepted within 5 minutes. Well, life escalated quickly! It was time to get to work... 



TRAINING

I had to make adjustments to my training, as I had to slow down my pace so I can endure longer workouts. Having trained at high-speeds my entire triathlon career, this change of pace was the most difficult for me in training for the 140.6. I felt fortunate to have the time of day to do my workouts at a reasonable hour of the day since I am self-employed. Thank goodness! Don’t think I’ve had to do  any 5am workouts in my 140.6 training blocks :)

Training wasn’t easy. It was hard, but it prepared me for race day...


  



RACE WEEK

4 months later... hello race week...

Jason and I left for Barcelona from Oakland Wednesday afternoon, and arrived Thursday afternoon(Jason traveled with me on this trip to Europe, and it was so nice to have him by my side and experience this with me!). After our 11 hour flight, we caught the train into the town of Calella, and got to race check-in 5min before it closed for the day. The race was moved to Saturday from the original date of Sunday due to the Catalan Referendum, so everyone had one less day for race prep. Once we got my race packet, we met up with Joe(coaching client) and his son Jack at the Ironman Village, and shortly after that we went straight to the VRBO to drop our bags, found some grub, and passed out for the night. 

 

   


T-1 DAY

The day before the race, I woke up at 3:30am. I couldn’t sleep! I tried, I really tried. I forced my eyes shut, and tried to calm my mind down, but nothing worked. It’s not like I was nervous for the race, because I wasn’t. Which was quite odd. Calm and collected. Just another race weekend, except slightly longer than usual. In fact 4 times longer than the race distance that I’m used to. You’re probably thinking that I must have done a 70.3 before even thinking about attempting a 140.6! Nope. Never raced a 70.3, neither have I ran a marathon. Ironman Barcelona will be my very first 140.6 distance race. This surprises a lot of people. Why? 

 

  


The sun does not rise until 7:45am in Barcelona. Over an hour later than what I’m used to back home in California! I pour myself some instant coffee and I get to work on my bike. Instant coffee!? Kaori, what were you thinking!? Okay, for those who know me well, you know I love my coffee... making coffee with instant coffee grounds would be the last thing I would do. I even brought my own coffee brand beans (shameless plug of the Endurance Cubed Time Trial Blend), assuming there was at least a pour over device or a simple coffee maker... nope. Our VRBO in Barcelona had a very fancy coffee maker, that I could not figure out how to turn after over an hour of trying... the house was so hi-tech that we coudn’t even figure out how to close sliding doors! Guys, the house was truly lovely, it was just way over our heads. 

After building up my bike, watching the sun rise, and layout all of my race gear, it was time to head down to the Ironman Village for race briefing and drop off our bikes and race bags. At the race briefing I learned that there were 73 nations represented and 3000 athletes signed up to race! That’s a lot of crazy masochists from all over the world! Reality really set in for me when we dropped off our bikes bags. Alright, I’m actually doing this! No big deal, right? I chase adventure racers around the wilderness for 9+ days, this is nothing. No big deal... I think shooting adventure races really helped me mentally prepare for this race. No big deal... I’m ready. I’ve trained for this. I’m ready. 

 

 

  

 


All that was left to do was eat dinner, visualize the race, get a good nights sleep, wake up and race. Dinner was enjoyed with Joe and his whole family, Jason, and my friend Derick who found time out of his busy schedule to join us in Barcelona. We had about 15% of the entire Team Endurance Cubed here eating dinner together in Barcelona :) Once we fueled our bodies for the night, we settled into bed and dreamt of crossing that finish line the next day...



THE RACE

Race morning is here! Our alarms went off, made my cup of instant coffee(*sniff*), made a solid breakfast, taxi’d down to the race venue, and walked into to transition to finalize setting up our gear. Everything is going just as planned. Nutrition is dialed, shoes, helmet, race belt all in place... good. Final use of the restroom, and it was time to put the wetsuit on! Got a quick warm up in the water(I believe it was 72 degrees?), and got in line for the start of the race. 

The professional men and women started shortly after 8:00am, and I started approximately 10min after their start. The race start was organized as a rolling start based on your anticipated swim time. I lined myself up towards the front of the 1 hour mark. 


Swim *1 loop (2.4mi)

I had an incredible swim. 2.4 miles of smooth swimming. Several kicks in the face, but other than that, I felt great and 
finished the swim at around 57min. I beat several pro’s out of the water, so that was a nice start to the race! 

PC: Jason Peters

PC: Jason Peters


Bike (part I of II) *warm up 5k bike?

pre-flat (3k zone) - PC: Jason Peters
Transitioned from swim to bike pretty quickly, got out on the bike with a technical first 3k bike course. The many speed bumps in the first 3k knocked many water bottles off of bikes, and I lost my splash guard on my Profile Design aero bottle. That caused me to lose 1/2 of my water from the bottle the ride. Good thing there were many aid stations throughout the course that allowed me to refill it when it got dangerously low. Once we got out of the first 3k zone, it was quite smooth, few inclines, but mostly flat. So up to this point, the race was going great for me... 

This is when things got real interesting...! 5k into the bike, I got a flat in the rear. At the corner of my eye I noticed a penalty tent where I got my flat so if I needed a bike mechanic, I could get their help. 

*At the race-briefing, they mentioned that they placed bike mechanics at the penalty tents instead of having mechanics roam the course in a van. The Catalan Referendum caused the race to originally be canceled, but IM race officials negotiated with the government to move the race to Saturday, but had to shorten the bike course as part of this negotiation. This caused the course to be a 2.5loop course, congested with cyclists in this shortened course(3000 athletes), so they had to rid of the sag * 

 

I quickly took my rear wheel off, get out my tire levers(one flung out of my saddle bag and was no where to be found, so I used my multi tool as my second lever to take the tire off. Tire was off, old tube out, new tube in, C02 out, ready to inflate, C02 inflator snapped. It snapped! That thing has worked every single time I’ve used it, until the time I actually needed it to work. I was f**cked. Maybe I should have had an extra C02 inflator?  If you know me, you know I get flats all the time. Is it bad luck? I don’t know. It just happens. I’m freaking out, and I realize that I saw the penalty tent just a few hundred yards back, so I’ll just go to the tent to get help. All I needed was a tool to pump my tires. I could have risked getting a penalty by asking a bystander to use their pump, but I didn’t want to risk it. Now that I think of it, maybe I should have just done that. I run with my bike on my shoulders to the penalty tent and I found no bike mechanic. Sh!t!&@! The next penalty tent was 15k away, OR 5k back to the start. Well, two race staffers find me in distraught, and they sit me down as they text the other staff to find out where that bike mechanic is that’s supposed to be at that penalty tent. 10 whole minutes later (I’ve lost 20min at this point), they tell me I have to go back to the start with my bike. 

final 3k of bike - PC: Derick Smith


Run (part I of II) *bonus 5k

Okay, so I quickly pick up my bike and start running with my bike on my shoulders back to the start. Can’t waste any more time! Better go! Possibly the worst 5k I’ve ever ran in my life. I’m crying, my body hurts from suddenly stopping to fix the flat, I don’t recommend running a 5k with bike shoes and a bike on your shoulders. So many emotions going through my head. 

I contemplated quitting multiple times. I continued. At the rate I was going, I could have had a chance at my pro-card or even a Kona spot for 2018. It was now a race to finish. Competition of completion. On that run back to the start, I threw out my back. Ouch. It must have been the way I was carrying my bike. Can’t exactly remember how it happened, but it hurt a lot but I had no choice but to continue. It was now a fight to the finish. I eventually got back to the transition area, where the bike mechanic was and he pumped my tire, and I was back on my way out on the bike... 

Results online show that I have a DNF. This is due to me going over the timing mat in the wrong order than it was programmed to do(although officials asks me to lift the chip over my head when going over the mat). I’ll see if I can resolve this with them soon...


Bike (part II of II) *2.5 laps (112 miles)

Got through the technical 3k part, and now time to make up for lost time (lost about 1hr 20min). Passed lots on the bike, but there was no way I was going to catch up to the group of riders I had originally gone out with. What made it worse was that there were a ridiculous amount of pelotons on the course. Draft fest! Where were the race officials to enforce that? I understand that it was hard to not draft for the amount of cyclists on the road in such a short, multi loop course... but still. Grr. 1st lap, smooth. 2nd lap going north... HEAD WIND! Now this was not in the forecast. I think it is safe to say that we were going average 12mph into the wind. Rough. My back hurt like hell after hurting it on that last 5k run, so it was hard to be in aero... push through the pain... 2nd lap going south... tail wind! Yes! Got through the last half lap... done. Bike. Done. Enough. Of. You. 

PC: Derick Smith

Run (park II of II) *3 laps (26.2 miles)

Struggle bus. Shooting pain up my back with every pounding step. I tried to ignore it the best I could in the first 8miles... but my pain tolerance couldn’t take it any longer. It was a jog, walk, fight to the finish. I was able to get a small boost of energy when seeing our cheering squad after every lap(loved seeing my cousin Alex who recently moved to Spain!). The course got dark. There were less people on the course. Less energy. Found myself in a dark place. I couldn’t control my emotions. Cried a good portion of the 2nd half of the last lap to the finish. In so much pain, but I had to finish. Was almost there. I didn’t fly all the way to Spain to DNF. 150m to the finish, you could hear the energy at the finish line, so I get my sh!t together, wipe the tears and gave it all I had to run down the finish line. 

I crossed the finish line.

Although I finished 3 or so hours slower than my anticipated time, I still finished. I’m happy I did. I’m proud of everyone who competed. Still reflecting on my experience... 

I am so proud of both Joe and Jack completing the Ironman. Barcelona was their first triathlon, ever. Joe has a background of running half and full marathons, and Jack is a recent graduate from Cal Poly and played on the mens soccer team. Great job to them both for achieving their goals!! 


PC: Derick Smith

PC: Derick Smith



RECOVERY

The night after the race, we got back to the VRBO, I attached myself to the MarcPro, and passed out. I knew that moving around was the best thing for me rather than staying stationary for days after racing, so I did my best to do chores around the house the next morning, kept the blood flowing, walked around the cute little town of Calella a bit, stretched, treated my back, and kept it low key for the first day after. For the rest of my time in Spain, Jason and I enjoyed Spanish cuisine, architecture and soaked in their culture as much as we could before we had to leave. We caught a flight to London from Barcelona, and I enjoyed the greenery and architectural sights of London while Jason attended a conference for work :) My Garmin says I logged in approximately 30 miles of walking during my time in England! Active recovery win. 

*more photos from Calella, Barcelona and London will be published later in the week*

 

 

 

Ran into Jeff Thompson on the Calella train station platform! (Fellow Cal Poly Tri Alumni)
Great to hang out with Cousin Alex in Barcelona who recently moved to Madrid! 
Diane! Seisen reunion in London Pt 1
Sonia! Seisen reunion in London Pt 2
Always a great time with this guy... pic: London, England

THANK YOU

So much time and effort went into this race. You kind of have to dedicate your life to it for a year or so(I did 4 months). 

Coaches have coaches too. Coach Nate Dressel... thank you. Thank you for having patience with me as my life can get crazy at times. (Coach Nate is currently training for Ironman Arizona 2017! Your turn, soon! 

Eunice Lee, sports masseuse extraordinaire! Thanks for the conversations and putting me through some seriously painful massages that helped in the long run ;) 

Endurance Cubed & personal sponsors: 
Nutrition: Fluid Nutrition + Pro Bar + Bioastin
Compression: 2XU
Recovery MarcPro + 2XU
Gear: Blueseventy + Zealios Skincare + Rudy Project

Joe, for the opportunity to head to Barcelona with you and your family to race the Ironman with you and your son! #peerpressure 

Jason, for your love, patience, and endless support <3 

To all my lovely friends cheering me on back home... sorry I freaked you out with the tracker stats when It showed the 'DNF' ;) 

        


WHAT’S NEXT

Would you do another Ironman? I got asked that a lot. I don’t know. Maybe. I’m tempted to have a second try at this race. I’ve got unfinished business. :p Trail races? Adventure races? Mountain biking? I’ll definitely be returning to my sprint & Olympic triathlons, but we’ll see what my next ‘big’ challenge will be! Time will tell. For now, I will enjoy off season. 

What’s next on the immediate calendar? 

  1. I am writing this race blog on my flight back to California from London. *Updated Sunday*
    Landed in Oakland Friday night, drove back home to San Luis Obispo (midnight arrival), woke up and drove to Shaver Lake to shoot Jenny and Casey Bateman's wedding!

  2.  Drove back to San Luis Obispo the evening of the wedding, to shoot the City to the Sea Half Marathon early the next morning.  **Photo Gallery Coming Soon!**

     

     

  3. Sleep for a week
  4. On October 22nd, I will be shooting the All Out Events Dawn to Dusk Adventure Race in my home town, San Luis Obispo! The race is 12 straight hours of racing (kind of like an Ironman, but add kayaking, ropes course, trail running, mountain biking and orienteering).
  5. The very next day on October 23rd, I will be hosting the final Morro Bay Triathlon Pre-Race Clinic before the big race day. Come on out to receive a detailed race briefing as well as a turn by turn race course recon tour!
  6. Morro Bay Triathlon, which I am the Race Director of will be held on November 5th, 2017 in Morro Bay, California. I offer a scenic end-of-season sprint & Olympic distance triathlon, and for those who don’t like swimming, I offer a kayak or stand up paddle board alternative option to the swim!

Kaori

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