Ironman Barcelona is a new race on the Ironman Europe calendar. In it’s 3rd year it has grown to be the biggest Ironman race in Europe; over 3,000 entrants from 73 Countries signed up for the event. After being there I can see why.
It doesn’t seem like 12 months since I was approached by some of the group I coach at Focus on Fitness who were interested in this race. Before too long the crew had built to an impressive 15 in total.
I decided not to take part myself due to the large number competing, 7 for whom it would be their first time doing the distance. My focus was to give my full attention and support to get everyone over the line.
Training went well for everyone all year, I set out a few goals along the way with 2 practice Half Ironman Distance training days built in to the plan. A confidence builder for all but especially for the newbies.
It wasn’t long before race week came along, all 15 athletes arrived in Calella on the Mediterranean Coast, just North of Barcelona. The first part of the race plan was completed! All athletes were at the start line, injury free and ready to race.
The days leading up to the race are always busy, registration to be done, bags to be packed, bikes to be tested, get in a few short sessions to calm the nerves, try to get some rest and good food before race day. I did the rounds to carry out some last minute bike repairs. A small crowd gathered in the hotel room for a quick demonstration on how to change a tube and then it was time to take bikes to transition, now it was getting real!
Race morning is an early start, to get breakfast in, get to transition to put food and drink on the bike, check tyre pressure, get the wet-suit on and a short warm up. The atmosphere at the race start was absolutely incredible. The sun was just coming up , the morning music was calming but was building to the Gladiator theme song as the start time approached, you could feel the tension and excitement in the air. There was a lot of emotion among the competitors and not surprising as 50% of the field were on the start line of their first Ironman race.
The pro men were away first in a mass start followed by the pro women 5 min later. The rolling start for the age group athletes makes for a more relaxed start to the day, 6 athletes across the start line every 4 secs which makes it a lot more comfortable getting into the water. The time had come for the age group athletes to take to the water facing into the 3.8 km swim and the start of a long day that they will never forget. It took over 30 min for all athletes to get into the water and it wasn’t long before the pro athletes were coming back out of the water.
John Paul Williamson was first out of the water not long after the pro’s in a time of 56 min. It wasn’t long before we had cheered all the crew out of transition and out onto the road to start the 180 km bike course up the coast for a 2 lap course with spectacular scenery to enjoy on the ride. 15 started and 15 out of the swim, it was time to get in some food and more importantly some coffee while we waited for the first cyclists to come back on the first loop.
The music was pumping and the atmosphere was electric at the turn around on the bike course as the first of the cyclist’s arrived back to Calella. As the crew started to appear one by one I was counting the numbers until all 15 had completed the first 90 km of the bike route, and all going very well. Sandra Rellis took a wrong turn at the turn around but very quickly she was back on course and smiling as ever as she started lap 2. Stephen Hall had a mechanical problem which resulted with him cycling most of the first loop in the small chain ring and on such a fast course it was a bit of a disaster. Lucky enough I had packed spares and tools in the bag in case of any emergencies on the day. A small temporary repair sorted the problem and got him going again. The high cadence training for the first lap for Stephen will be great benefit for him! It wasn’t long before all 15 were back on the bike and out on the run course and that was a relief.
This is where the race starts and finishes, a 26.2 mile run. This is the most important and the hardest part of an Ironman race for those who are chasing times. A steady start is vital and getting a controlled pace going, working down the 3 lap course. The majority of the run course was lined with supporters cheering on the athletes on each lap. A great support crew had traveled with the Focus on Fitness athletes and all were dotted along the route pushing them all to the finish line.
It wasn’t long before the overall winner Patrick Nilsson crossed the line beating the course record in 7:55, the winning female Astrid Stienen finished in 8:54. The finishing line or the “Magic carpet” was packed to capacity by now as the finishers were starting to stream in. It is an amazing place to be as the night rolls on welcoming home all the athletes after a long day.
David Devine was first home from the group finishing in 9:49 with a solid race and delighted with a sub 10. John Hayden was next and had a great race, first time at Ironman distance finishing in 9:53 (biked a 4.52), a great achievement for the first time. John Paul Williamson was next in 10.26 another amazing time considering it was his first time at Ironman. Siobhan Kennedy finished in 10:53, another fantastic time, taking 2nd in her age group, adding to her collection of Ironman age group prizes. David McConnell finished in 11:17, David had entered Switzerland last year but had a fall off his bike 2 days before the race, and broke his collar bone putting him out of the race. This was a turn around and his 2nd Ironman distance this year to make up for last year. Jim O’Brien was very close and finished with a PB of 11:18 looking strong throughout. David Gaffney another first timer for the long distance finished in 11.20. David was worried about the swim but came out of the water smiling from ear to ear which kicked off a great day. Brian Jacob finished in 11:28 having been sick the week leading into the race, the plan was to start steady and see how he went. He had a good swim and bike but it started to take its toll on the run, he got across the line, he will be back again! Stephen Butler followed closely and finished in 11:33, Stephen found the heat tough going at times on the early part of the run but finished well. Stephen Hall again another first timer finished in a great 12:15, Stephen was also worried about the swim but swam a 1:32 which started him off well for the day. Ann Hennebry stepped up to the long distance for the first time was delighted with her 12:35 and enjoyed every min of the day. Ger Nolan on his 2nd Ironman race crossed the line in 13.03 Ger picked up a bit of an Injury during the day but battled all the way to the finish. Norma Goggin was next in 13:33 and finished strong with a good run all the way to the carpet. Sandra Rellis was next, her first time as well on the long distance finishing in 13:57 with a smile all day and constant words of support for everyone else on the course. Katie Jacob who has had a great year doing a Marathon, half Ironman and full Ironman all in the same year finished in 14:45 and rounded off the the 15 athletes across the line.
The finish line is absolutely amazing especially if you hang around for the last competitors to come across the line. On Monday morning there were a few stiff and sore body’s but all that was left was the prize giving and some post race celebrations. We all went to the prize giving to see Siobhan take to the stage and collect her prize. A lot of work went into getting Siobhan back to full form after a big bike accident in Nice just a little over 2 years ago while taking part in Ironman France. She was back to full form for this event and showed that while stepping up on the podium this weekend. She missed out again on a Kona spot this time, although disappointing it was great to see the rewards of all the hard work over the last 2 years.
This was an amazing weekend and well done to everyone who took part in the race. A big well done to the Focus on Fitness athletes it was a special day and one I will remember for a long time. I was delighted to be part of the preparation in getting 15 people to the start line of such a big event. To see all these people over the finish was such a relief, with some amazing times and personal achievements, it gave me great personal satisfaction. The Irish support was fantastic, especially the Focus on Fitness supporters who traveled over, I think I can speak for everyone in saying it helped everyone over the line.
As the sun went down on a great trip to Catalonia the post race celebrations went on to the early hours finishing off an amazing weekend.
Check out some video and photos below..
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