It’s been a long time since I last updated this blog, (which is a pretty familiar sentence this past year), but no excuses, had a lot on my plate that has nothing to do with training or racing, so spending extra energy writing a blog has simply not been a priority. But I have been training and racing, and I (right now at least) have the urge to write about it, so lend me your ears and I’ll drop down a few notes of what I’ve been up to.
Marbella 70.3 Half Ironman 2019
This was the big date in April for me and what I was concentrating on these last few months, a very “early in the season” race in Spain. I had originally signed up for this race without looking at the course, and it was only afterwards I discovered that it was my nightmare bike – up a mountain, down a mountain, turn around and go back the same way (I’m too big to be much good at climbing and too chicken to be much good at descent). That being the case I had kept participation in the race a closely guarded secret, as I had no idea if I would be in good enough shape to participate. The only person who knew about it was Andrew, my pal and training partner in Spain who was a newbie to triathlon! It was the fact he was determined not only to do the race, but to do his absolute best that in the end made my mind up for me, and so we headed 600km down the coast to the beautiful resort of Marbella a few days before the race.
The race itself had been put in doubt as the hastily announced Spanish elections were going to be on the same day, but a compromise of switching raceday to the Saturday was reached to enable it to go ahead , meaning the pre race procedures, registration, bike check etc all switched to the Friday. I very handily managed to lose the race timing chip within minutes of receiving it, so then spent an hour or so trying to find it before being told to turn up an hour early on race morning to receive a replacement one then.
The sun rises late on the Costa del Sol, so we were all in the starting bays before it began to get fully light. Was a fantastic atmosphere, the naturally relaxed and happy Spanish locals spreading the feeling of bonhomie amongst a large segment of less relaxed Brits. Was a rolling start which suits a slow swimmer like me, with an simple one lap course to navigate. I put myself in the 45 minute block and entered the water about 5 minutes after the starting cannon. It was cold but not terrible with a bit of chop causing me to slap down onto the surface of the water a few times. My swim training had been very limited and my two attempts at open water swimming the previous weeks a total disaster due to freezing water and tidal seas, so I was pretty apprehensive diving in, but all in all was a relaxed and stress free swim(yay again for rolling starts!), with me coming out the water in 42 minutes.
Just gonna day one thing . When your number is 1874, don’t confuse it with 1784, and start panicking when you think someone’s taken your stuff and moved your bag. It may cause you severe embarrassment when you realise your mistake, waste an extra 5 minutes moving to your actual bag, and confuse you so much you forget to switch your watch over from swim to bike.
As mentioned earlier the bike course was basically up over a mountain and back again, however the first 8km was through to the outskirts of town, and was really enjoyable. But then after a roundabout, we turned onto the climb, and life became a little more challenging. I knew I would suffer but I thought whatever happened I could just keep going, confident my basic fitness would bring me through within the cut off.
To be honest the first half wasn’t so bad, I had energy and the sun hadn’t fully heated up so I felt reasonably ok. I was happy to reach the top of the mountain, and enjoyed what seemed a much shorter spin down the other side. But then things changed… after the turn around it was a bloody nightmare, the road just seemed to keep rising and rising and at times the wind in my face and sun on my back seemed to make it almost impossible. Strangely enough though, I didn’t get any negative vibes which meant I still enjoyed the ride, even if it was hurting. I knew I was a long long way back, but as I had decided this race was just a “training session with aid stations” I didn’t mind, I knew if I could finish the bike within the cutoff I could almost walk the run and still not get a DNF. Was such a liberating feeling to not be chastising myself for being slow, sadly it’s taken me over 15 years of racing to get to this point.
Once I reached the top of the mountain it was literally all down hill to the town. The cross winds were viscous in places and I felt sorry for anyone with deep rims, certainly scared the bejeezus out of me to be buffeted about while speeding at 50km+ down a twisting mountain road overlooking a huge drop. But all eventually navigated and I was happy to get back to rack my bike and prepare for the run
Nothing much to report other than I got to use the rather interesting open air ports-pee stations!
I really had no idea how I’d feel on the run. My last triathlon had been at the Korean full IM back last September, and I had totally bonked half way through the run (was my worst ever run EVER). But this time I thought I’d just jog along until I couldn’t jog any longer, and see what happened. Apart from a few km on a harbour wall, the run course basically went along the beachside and was busy on one side with people enjoying the bars and restaurants and on the other enjoying the sand and sea. The sun was at full heat, so I set myself to run between aid stations then walk through and alternate between water, coke and sports drink. It was a two loop course, and lots of people cheering and watching (and lots of lovely ladies in bikinis and short shorts to provide eye candy distraction for me too). After getting over my initial tiredness off the bike, it actually felt pretty ok, so I just kept running and after I got past the first loop I realised I could probably keep running to the end, as long as I stayed properly hydrated and didn’t try anything too fast or too fancy!
And that’s just what I did, keeping my pace much the same throughout, I managed to pass a bunch of others who were suffering much more than me, and I sprinted the last few hundred meters through the finishers shoot to hear a wonderfully Spanish pronunciation of my name proclaiming “Recherrd Bezooos, you are an Ironman”
I can honestly say I was happy with my race even if It was my worst position in many years. There’s no doubting I was shit – I could find many reason , the Europeans are stronger than their Asian counterparts who I normally race against, also the bike course couldn’t have been more unsuitable for me.. but I went there knowing I wouldn’t be at my best so early in the season and accepted it, which meant I enjoyed the experience and could feel like I’d had a fantastic training day in a fantastic part of the world!
I didn’t actually intend this to be one a full blown race report, but it seemed it kinda turned out that way, although somewhat lacking in race details (the race was 4 weeks ago so many details faded in my middle aged memory). I can most definitely say that after Marbella 70.3 I feel very positive about this whole racing lark, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to enjoy a race even when super slow, as long as you mentally accept “where you’re at”. And I also managed to get my confidence back enough that I want to take a whole new look at the challenges I set myself and instead of taking short term rushed goals, take a long measured approach that allows maximum chance of success and most importantly, maximum enjoyment along the way.