Derek Gilmartin Race Report: IM Barcelona

My Race Report (and JP’s!!!!)

Barcelona’s Costa del Maresme, and it’s picturesque lighthouse looking out over the vibrant town and beaches of Calella, was the setting for the 68 Nations taking part in this 2015 IRONMAN event.

Our early flight out on Friday morning provided us with all the prep time we needed. Apartment check in; race registration; bike collection (shipmytribike.com); grocery shop (pasta, pasta & more pasta!) and chill time. With the complex offering a small outdoor pool and jacuzzi we took full advantage, while a lot of other competitors took to their bikes and runners with what looked like over the top race conditioning. In my opinion less is more at this stage.

Saturday was the race brief [AM] and bike check in [PM].

Race Day

Swim: Sunday, race day was overcast. Temperatures of 21-23 degrees Celsius. Light winds but nothing to talk about. The Mediterranean was a perfect 18 degrees.  At 8:45am, to a fanfare music and whirling drones (with go pro cameras attached), the IRONMAN dramatic drum roll counted down a shot gun start for the 100 odd race professionals. The remaining 2,500 left the beach in a rolling start, idea being that there wouldn’t be a mass of people hitting the water at the same time. No. I still never received so many body blows in a Tri swim (I thought Tri-Athlone was bad!!!!!). The first 1.7K hugged the shoreline, then the turn around out to complete the loop back. Breathing and sighting were challenged at this point with the number of competitors in the water and choppier conditions to deal with. The final turn for home was fast and I was conscious of this.  No point gaining a couple of minutes in the swim and paying for it later in the day.  The final water exit (a breaking wave to the shoreline which I caught) was all that separated JP and I.

Bike: T1 was uneventful, grab bike bag, change and go. The two and a half loop bike course started and finished with a technical 3km leaving and entering Calella but once out onto the closed open motorway it was fine.  Having not done a lot of European biking I was taken back on how good road conditions were. Having said that there were draft marshals on motorcycles everywhere [10mtr fall back behind your competitor/s unless passing them]. You really needed to be alive to this or you were gifted a blue card [5mins in a penalty box].  The town lands we passed through provided rupturing cheers of support. I had one lucky escape at the 112km aid station. I pulled in for water on the inside assuming (wrongly) my competitor in front was grabbing and going. He stopped! I braked and was on the flat of my back one foot in the cleat the other out. Nobody hurt, nothing damaged, just get on with it. Phewww!!!  My bike nutrition and hydration was successful, (a vital ingredient in avoiding fatigue going into the run) and have no doubt was a massive factor in my delivering a solid bike speed average of 32kph for the course.

Run: T2 was greeted with an over due visit to the rest room. I was feeling grand (little crampy, being honest, but to be expected) going into the run. I was anxious to find my running legs, however I was hanging on the final wise words my 8yr old son Luke delivered to me the night before we flew out. “Dad, take it nice and slow at the start, but then kick ass!” I did my utmost to follow these instructions! I held back for the first 10km loop, upped it for the second, dropped it again for the third and went for it last time around. Supporters narrowed the run route towards the red carpeted finish end in a not too dissimilar way spectators do on Alpe d’Huez at the Tour de France creating a natural Amphitheatre of sound. It was a day of extraordinary colour, fervour and intensity for these supporters. It was evident those that cheered the shrill looks of determination all day understood and respected what it meant for each and every athlete to achieve his or her personal goal. With close on two hundred Irish competitors green, white and gold support was at every corner.

 JP and I met as we overlapped four times. Both of us studying the others face to assert how the other was feeling, neither of us giving anything away, competitive to the last.  I read an IRONMAN first timer has a perspective that often fades as you morph into a so called ‘mid-packer’.  Having completed a 12hr 37min IM distance in August 2014 (Shadowman: Athlone) the magnitude of completing another long distance triathlon was certainly not lost on me. I can confirm the accompanying ‘Fear’ offers nothing short of ‘Real’, ‘Pure’, ‘Motivation’.

The Finish!!!: At around 7:20pm Sunday evening 04 October (after 10hrs 33mins) the iconic words of “You Are An IRONMAN” were bestowed on me as I ran, skipped and jumped down the red carpet to the finish line.  Thirty minutes later JP who had battled with two cracked ribs from a bike fall 6 weeks earlier and an inflamed strapped up knee rocked in confidentially; at 11hrs 09mins; clearly an IRONMAN.

 For now my immediate challenge is to avoid the malady that is known as “Post-IRONMAN Blues”.  I am soothing my disrupted brain neurotransmitters with the enticing prospect of completing Dublin City Marathon in less than 3 weeks time after that it will probably be counselling that’s needed!

Derek IM

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