When you think of Barcelona, generally the first things that come to mind are sunshine, sangria and fiesta. Pen, Clare and I were not quite so lucky when we embarked on this Olympic distance triathlon on Sunday the 6th October. No Sangria – not sure our stomachs could tolerate it that early in the morning. No sun – in fact torrential rain, strong winds, thunder & lightning seemed to be the agenda of the day. And it was definitely no fiesta waiting for the race to start in these extreme climatic conditions. Luckily Clare and I were sat next to Javier Gomez in the hotel lobby which made up for it slightly!
The rain started to ease up so we eventually made our way to the race. Having seen a lot of people leave, as they deemed it too dangerous, we started to get the pre-race jitters and wondered whether this was actually a good idea. After some encouraging words from a fellow competitor, any doubts were soon forgotten and Clare and I were ready and raring to go. Although the same couldn’t be said for Pen as we still hadn’t managed to locate her, so we just assumed she’d opted to stay in bed as the conditions had been so awful in the morning.
After a casual stroll towards the start line, we wondered if we should do a warm up swim to acclimatise. The gathering of pink hats on the beach soon made us forget that idea and instead we made a mad dash towards the start line. With barely enough time to get Clare’s wetsuit zipped up, we finally found Pen waiting alone at the start wondering whether we’d decided to chicken out too. Pen had opted to stay in the town centre, which was great for sightseeing, but not so good the morning of the race as needless to say she had to cycle 5kms in the storm and driving rain and was soaked to the skin before she’d even got to the start. Seconds later, the klaxon sounded and we were off running towards the sea.
It was still fairly unsettled when we started the 1.5km swim, so the choppy waters made it challenging to swim in a straight line. I was first out the water, having been spurred on by a strange encounter with a jelly fish and finished my swim in 27mins. Hallucinations during the swim seemed to be a regular occurrence for us, as Pen was convinced she was swimming next to a seal. This also seems to have an accelerating affect as she knocked off over 2 minutes of her previous swim in the Chantilly triathlon. Clare finished her swim without any strange encounters and was very happy when it was over.
It was a long run to the transition area and when we eventually got there it was still waterlogged from the torrential downpours we’d witnessed earlier. We were all rather glad that we’d decided earlier to suspend our shoes and socks in plastic bags from the bike racks as they were dry.
Despite the rather awful start, God turned out to be a triathlete that day and conditions improved for rest of the course. With drafting permitted, this 40km cycle course was fast and flat, weaving in and around the city centre. The 4 laps were a little dull, but the encouragement from the crowds made up for it. It may be useful to note that the fast lane seemed to be on the left as both Pen and I had near misses from a group of drafting Spaniards.
The run always seems to be the most challenging part of the race, and it certainly seemed that way for this course. The temperature had now risen to 27oc making hard to stay focused especially as we saw competitors who were on their last few km’s running in the opposite direction to us. Needless to say that none of us broke any records with our run times. Once we finally were on the home straight, the encouragement from the crowds (and the prospect of decent finisher photos) drove us to break into a sprint towards the finish line.
Impressive performances all round and well done to Clare who, despite her foot injury, battled through and finished with a respectable time. Pen smashed her Chantilly time by 30 minutes finishing just under 3hrs (2h57mins) and I set myself a high benchmark for next season at 2h42mins.
Despite this being a bit late in the season, we would all highly recommend the Olympic distance triathlon for newbies like Clare and I, or those more experienced athletes looking to clock up a pretty decent time. The race was well organised and there is a great atmosphere as the locals line the streets cheering you on.
Bike Hire: Terra Diversions – good prices and bikes and great service http://www.terradiversions.com/esp/
Hotel: Princess Hotel Barcelona – right next to the triathlon http://www.hotelbarcelonaprincess.com/