Unlike the name suggests Ironman Barcelona actually starts and finishes in the coastal town of Calella and stealing a glance at the horizon whilst enjoying the fast bike course is as close as you’ll get to the Catalan capital. This is by no means a negative thing. The host town makes for a great holiday especially for those staying a few extra days on the sunbeds to lick their wounds post-race. It is still an Ironman though. I guess Ironman Calella doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Both Rick Stenton and Steve Grocock found themselves joining IM veteran Steve Clark in this end of season race. It made sense! Clarky had raced this the previous year as a Professional and despite blowing up suffering with race fatigue (as a result of too many hard races) its potential for a decent finishing time was evident. This was unfinished business for Steve C. Having someone knowing the lay of the land, bike recces and where to buy the best coffee & ice-creams made for a lot less worrying for the Ironman virgin Stenton.
Being much later in the season also allowed training to be that little more relaxed than usual. Injuries for Rick and work disruptions for Steve G meant training started as a slow burner in the summer but allowed enough time to find some kind of form during those last couple of months.
The clincher of course with this race was a holiday in sunny Spain for the families or ‘Support crew’ as they’re known for the day. There are worse places to watch a potential 15.5 hr race! *Note to anyone thinking of doing this race,…..the lack of daylight means the usual 17 hours for completing an IM is reduced to 15.5hrs*
Arriving on the Thursday afternoon the town was sunny and vibrant. Our hotel, The Maritim, in particular (Nirvana also used our hotel) was a tri festival. Trying to resist the English breakfasts and desserts was a task in itself; I think we all caved in at some point. Beer supping being another temptation that somehow managed to find its way into one of the trio’s pre-race diet!!
A dip in the sea that night did nothing for confidence. This was a surfer’s paradise, the waves were horrendous. You couldn’t stop laughing as you struggled to get out of the water. The bike recce however lived up to the hype and the smooth, flat roads had you grinning from ear to ear in expectance. The run course recce was avoided as the four + laps on the day would be quite sufficient, thank you.
Race day finally arrived and fortunately the sea had calmed somewhat. The weather in Calella is a bit hit and miss at this time of year and we were all praying for a dry race but not too hot. In general we were very lucky. At times it was very hot but the run course gave several opportunities for shade. Also, due to a later start (08:45) it meant a lot of people were still running in the cooler darkness.
The rolling swim start worked well and being of a similar standard all 3 Squadders and OTCF boys were still ‘high fiving’ and back slapping as the klaxon sounded. There was still a bit of argy-bargy in the first 800m but nothing like the 2800 people mass start at some events.
With a sub hour swim being the target for all 3 guys the 2.4 mile (one lap) splash went to plan. Steve G’s 57min, Steve C’s 58min and Rick’s 59 mins meant all 3 Squadders were running across the sand and then clocking each other in T1 whilst dancing out of their wetsuits.
The first 3k of the course is quite technical as it winds its way through the narrow streets. The organisers sensibly chose not to award drafting penalties within this grace period. Not the best of starts on this nippy bike course for Grocock as his slender lead on the charging Clark had disappeared within the first 400m as speed bumps throughout the town saw two inexcusable stops to retrieve his un-tethered water bottles from the pavement. A few brief words were exchanged as the concerned Clark assumed his mate was already out of the game with a puncture.
The 112 mile bike course is 2.5 laps upon smooth tarmac that rolls along the coast road and apart from the odd bump here and there, it’s invariably flat. Now the laps do mean the 2600 competitors do have trouble with congestion especially on the last half lap. This course has always had its derogators as drafting and policing it has always been a problem. It didn’t help when the organisers allowed an extra 300 athletes this year as a new proposed course should have alleviated the congestion problem. When permission wasn’t granted for the new course they had to revert back to the original and were left with a bigger monster than the previous year?!
As Rick hadn’t done this distance previous and ‘going long’ was a new experience he set himself a target of 20 mph average. This he exceeded and quite comfortably so as he found himself just outside the 5 hour mark with an average of 21.5 mph.
Grocock seemed to be one of many to find himself falling foul of the 9 metre (20 secs overtaking) rule. A 5 minute visit to the penalty box to join lots of other bewildered cyclists protesting their innocence wasn’t part of the plan!
An average bike time for the two Steve’s of over 24 mph was still quicker than expected and was looking to set Coach Clark up nicely for his potential holy grail of a sub 9 hour Ironman. Yep, that’s right folks despite blowing up the previous year Clarky still expected to go over half an hour faster this year??
The run was simple, more or less 4 x 10K runs with a bit more ta’boot. The first lap wasn’t too bad as the sun remained behind the clouds, not knowing the course also helped Stenno and Stevie G. You would think Clarky would have been sick of this beach run by now but running less than 06:30 min/mile pace for the first 3 mile the man was on a mission. It wasn’t until mile 11 that Steve exceeded 7min/mile pace. A confident nod to wife Em at halfway meant the sub 9 hr dream was still on and barring a disaster could become a reality.
Both Stevie G and Rick weren’t particularly enjoying this final discipline with the same gusto as their Lincsquad team mate. Stuffing themselves with gels and gorging at breakfast had quite rightly provided the much needed energy,… but at a cost! Within 4 miles Steve G found himself in a port-a-loo as stomach cramps had made running almost impossible. Rick also sought out the same during T2.
Nevertheless and despite a bout of hot weather for a lap or two the Linconshire trinity weren’t going to be denied. With two such strong disciplines already banked, Rick’s target of sub 12hr was never in doubt. This comfort blanket even allowed the odd, let’s say, amble through the Aid stations. A first Ironman time for Rick of 10:52 was more than he could ever have hoped for especially with such little run training.
Stevie G, never admitted to having a pre-race goal other than a modest sub 10hrs. Not thinking he was in particularly great shape he wouldn’t even commit to trying to beat his previous best time of 9:49! Steve G’s marathon time of 3:45 actually helped him to cross the finish line in 9:34 smashing his previous best from Roth by 15 mins.
Well, …did Clarky finally realise his dream of a sub 9 hour Ironman???……….. A little wobble by his standards on the last lap saw his marathon pace drop to a tortoise-like speed of 8 minute miles finishing the marathon in 3 hrs 12 mins. (Incidentally, T2 time was cobbled together with the run times in the official results).
With a time of 8 hours and 57 minutes Clarky saw himself joining the higher echelons of our sport and become the first Lincsquadder to do such. Well done that man.
As is customary with Ironman events the post-race party the following day doubles up as an award ceremony for the Pros and age groupers. There is also the allocation of the coveted slots for the World Champs held in Kona, Hawaii.
Our group was to head down on the promise of free beer and paella but mainly to see Messingham boy Alex Bradley receive his second placed age group trophy and fingers crossed for his possible Kona slot. Some of you may know Alex with him being local and remember him as a young Lincsquadder before popping off to Oxford University. For this reason I thought I’d include a link to his blog if anyone wants to hear how this talented youngster came so close, yet so far! I think you’ll find after reading you’ll agree that it’s not a matter of if but when he qualifies.
https://alextbradley.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/ironman-barcelona-report/ (you will have to copy/paste this URL)
Now just to explain briefly how the World champs qualification works. The popularity or amount of entrants of the age groups normally governs the amount of Kona slots allocated.
Alex, despite coming second in his age group cruelly missed out on a Kona spot due to the reduced numbers in his category, only one slot was awarded! Both Steve C and Steve G finished 9th in their age groups but again, due to the amount of entrants in each category Steve G’s age group of 45-49 yr olds was the most populated and offered 2 more slots than his OTCF RT team mate.
So just when the satisfied Lincsquad Ironmen thought that all race performance boxes had been well and truly ticked it was then announced that Steve G had qualified for Kona!! Still in shock, Steve was whisked away to find himself signing on the dotted line for next year’s event on the Big Island.
Well done to all three guys, there was a lot of ‘stepping up to the plate’ in this event for many reasons. Some of which would not have been possible without the support and love of their families. Emily Clark, Sue Stenton, Angie Grocock and Aiden Grocock you were all fantastic and without you, such goals wouldn’t have been achieved. To have genuine happy faces encouraging you along the way gives you more purpose and truly lifts you that little bit more.
Further thanks go to other members making up the Lincsquad posse in Stenno’s Dad and Step Mum, Alex & Pauline Bradley, Dawn Evitt, Rich Powell and his Mum. Not forgetting those picking up the pieces back home by helping Child, dog, horse and house sitting, you know who you are., thank you.