Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Half Challenge Barcelona - Finisher

We started the day with the alarm clock going off at 5am.  My wife and I had our daughters sleep at my in-law's hotel room so we could leave early in the morning.  After a quick breakfast at the hotel,  my very pregnant wife and I walked the 400 meters to the bike area.  I had already left the bike on the bike park the previous evening, so all I had to do was put my bags in the transition tent, and tape my gels to the bike!
As you can imagine, I was very nervous leading up to the race, but I surprisingly got calmer as the start time approached.  I placed my bags in the tent and headed to my bike to put my gels on the bike, and I noticed I had two gels less than what I needed. I headed back to the hotel while my wife waited for me at a bench by the transition tent. I got the gels, ran back, and I still had time to hang for a while with Sonia as my wave was about the 6th to go out.

At about 7:50am I got in the water for a quick out and back swim to feel the water temperature and to loosen the muscles a little bit. The sea was flat as a pool, and the water was perfectly clear and I could see the bottom of the sea till about 60m out.  As I was swimming on my way out I banged head first with another guy on his way back in! "Damn this is a bad way to start the day" were my thoughts at that time. Anyway, I shook it off and got back to shore to stretch a bit more and be with Sonia.

As my start time approached I kissed Sonia goodbye, kissed her BIG tummy, and headed out to the start area with the rest of my age group.  As I mentioned before, I was surprisingly calm at this time! I really was expecting to be shitting my pants right before I got in the water (literally), but I suppose I had done all I could up to that point and now I only had to try and complete the distance.

At 8:20 the gun went off and we hit the water! I started on the right hand side, towards the middle of the pack, and got in the water with everyone around me. To my surprise there were no kicks, punches or elbows! 
I got to the first buoy easily enough and then made the right turn for the long stretch to the end. This is where things got a bit crazy! I was with a group of guys on the buoy, and as I made the first 200m swim away from the buoy I became isolated and noticed no one near me! I stopped for a second and looked around me to see I was heading towards the beach and was not following the swim line, like everyone else. 

I got back to the line and headed towards the turn buoy after the 500m stretch and made a left. and then another left for the 750m segment. The same thing happened here and I also started veering to the right away from the beach and as I made the correction to come back to the swim line, I (literally) got swum over by the wave after mine! It's a bit frustrating, I know, but my plan was to take my time on the swim and just do the distance as I am aware of the fact that I am a crap swimmer and it is the one point need to trow money at with some lessons when I get to Cape Town.

I make the last left turn towards the shore and this felt like and eternity as there was a current which took us sideways and I could see the sea floor and how quick I was moving to the left of where I needed to go.  I finally make it to shore and try to keep my composure and not stumble as I get of out the water!

 OFFICIAL SWIM TIME: 48m:14s (my goal was 55mins) 

Transition 1
I get out of the water as quick as I can and I head out up the tent to get my my wetsuit off, place it in the bag, and head out with my bike gear. 

OFFICIAL T1 TIME: 4m:36s (goal was 3mins)

As I head out of transition I followed about three guys on their bikes through the streets of Calella, but as we hit the N-II I got off the saddle and just took off.  The bike course was awesome as it was flat with some rolling hills. 

I was feeling well on the bike and I passed lots of people. The conditions were great as there was no wind and the roads were closed and wide enough for everyone to feel comfortable.  I felt great on the E118.  On the first 1/4 of the course I noticed my saddle was moving and I thought about stopping at the bike support tent to get them to tighten it a bit, but I was able to manage with it like that.  Im sure this happened because I stopped by my LBS to setup my XLab Turbo wing on friday before the race and the mechanic had issues installing it. He must have loosened the saddle to get the bolts on, and either forgot to tighten them back on, or didn't do it hard enough! 

I had my watch going off every 15 mins for my nutrition plan but, for some reason, it didn't go off (time to get the 910XT).  Since it was a two loop course, I timed my gels and saltstick pills with landmarks, so every time I hit a turnaround point I would have a gel, half way through I would have a salt stick, another gel at the turnaround at the other end, so on and so forth. I decided to have my energy drink randomly and not synchronize my every movement. I did, however, run out of my drink and on my way back from the second lap I had to grab a bottle of water from the aid stations.

I managed to keep a good pace of 32.4Km/h for it to be my first HIM.  I was able to avoid being passed  by anybody else, apart from Stanyslav Kyrilov who was the 2nd pro overall.

Saying there was massive drafting on the bike is an understatement!! Unbelievable the pelotons I saw and passed on the bike! I did, however, see and hear the refs on the bikes whistling at people and giving them warnings, but, if anything,  the only negative thing with this course was the sheer amount of riders on the course, which obviously caused the pelotons, otherwise it was perfect.

Towards the end of the bike I was feeling my quadriceps tightening up and I was afraid it would get worse with cramps.  Hopefully the 4 salt stick tablets I had tacken during the bike session would do their job and stop my cramping on the run!

I hadn't seen my wife or daughters all through the race but it was my fault as I told Sonia I would be passing in fron of our hotel at each of the two laps, and that was not the case. I only passed in fron of our hotel as I was going back to T2 and I saw Sonia, my girls and my in-laws from a distance.  As soon as they saw me they starting yelling "GO DADDY, GO DADDY" and that put a massive smile on my face as I waved and yelled back at them. 

OFFICIAL BIKE TIME: 2h:37m:21s (my goal as 2h:30m)

Transition 2
As I approached the dismount line I see my good friend Jordi Casas yelling "Come on Miguel, Come on!!".  I was so happy to see him and I definitely noticed the burst of adrenaline I got from seeing him.  As I pass Jordi and approach the dismount line, I started to undo my shoes and swung my right leg around the bike to get off the bike whilst it was still in movement. There were a few of us arriving at the same time so it was a bit of chaos, but no accidents getting off the bikes or entering the bike park.

I ran up to my position and racked the bike and ran inside to the transition tent to grab my bag and change to do my running. I tried putting my socks on as quick as possible but the quicker you try to put them on, the more your toes get stuck on the socks. Anyway, finally got the socks on, shoes on, cap and glasses to hit the road.

OFFICIAL T2 TIME: 1m:50s (my goal was 1 minute)

I get out of the transition tent and as I headed out of the town of Calella I saw Jordi again yelling for me! I gave him a high five as I ran past him and I was feeling good for the run.  I looked at my watch a few times and I was running 4:30 and 4:35/Km, which was not sustainable for much longer.  My legs were surprisingly well after the bike, and I was not cramping which was great news at this point in the race.  
I eventually slowed down and maintained low 5min/Km pace for pretty much the rest of the run.  I was passed by a few guys but I was not too worried about that if I'm honest with you.  As I mentioned on my previous post, my main goal was to finish this race and set it up as a time to beat for my future HIM distance races.

A few kms after the run started I felt my arm sleeve was hurting me a bit so I removed them and placed them on my back pocket for the rest of the run.

My legs were fine, but I could feel the cramps wanting to come in slowly towards the second lap of the run.  I wanted to take some more salt tablets but I had left my saltstick on my bike, and even if I had brought it with me to the run I only had 2 more tablets as it only carries 6 in total, and I had 4 on the bike.  Well, 2 tablets would have been better than no tablets, but I had man up and put up with the pain!

I got my sports drink and my water at every station, but I made an effort to not stop or walk at any point during the run.  I did miss having my own sports drink on the run, but my drink bottle belt was too big to wear during the race, so I suppose a 4 bottle Fuel Belt is in order for the next race. 

As I got to the red carpet at the turnaround point to start my second lap, I see my wife, my daughters and my in-laws! They were all screaming and yelling for me "GO DADDY, GO DADDY" and that just made me push harder for the last 10.5Kms.  

The second lap was just dealing with the pain and trying not to walk, really.  It was as much mental as physical as my body wanted to stop but my mind kept pushing and saying "just a few more Kms, just a few more Kms".  I had a few guys on sight every few hundred meters, and I would try to catch them to motivate myself, and it worked.  I would pass the guy with the green suit, then go for the one with the black one, etc etc. Im sure I was also the target of a few people behind me, but I was not too worried about that this time around. 

As I got to Calella and I had the red carpet in sight I had a final burst of energy which pushed me all the way home.  As soon as I got to the grandstand area I saw my father in law holding Alexia up in his arms and I grabbed her as I ran past him to cross the line with her in my arms.  I did it, I finished a half Ironman race.
OFFICIAL RUN TIME: 1h:50m:11s (Goal was 2 hours)

OVERAL TIME: 5h:15m:46s
131/228 in Age Group
610/1360  Overall

My forerunner has been acting up and does not let me see the overal time in between sports, so I could only see my swim time during swimming, bike time during my bike, and my run time during my run. I was only able to see my overal elapsed time when I crossed the line and I hit the stop button, and I was so happy to have beaten the 6h mark

I never would have imagined I would complete a half ironman distance race back in March 2010 when I decided to sign up for a local triathlon to lose some weight.  It is a great feeling of accomplishment after all the hard work and training endured mainly in the past year.  

Everyone who I speak to who is involved in triathlon agrees with me that this is an extremely addictive sport which leaves you hungry for more every time you finish a race.  It is all about new challenges, new goals to either beat your previous times, or to move up to longer distances.  So far, this has been the longest distance I have ever competed in, and I already have my goal set for the future, but that's for another post. For now, I want to enjoy the cramps I've been feeling for the past few days and pig out on some good old Spanish food.  Soon enough I'll be back to training for my next HIM in October, where, surely, a new personal best will be set in South Africa!

Lessons learned from my first half Ironman distance race
  1. Must improve my swim time. No surprise here, but my time really is embarrassing
  2. Always tighten ALL bolts before race, even if pros have looked at it before race
  3. Get the Gorilla Cage for my XLab Turbo Wing as I needed more drink
  4. Must start running without socks to see how I get along
  5. Carry additional salt stick on number belt for run next time
  6. Get 4 water bottles fuel belt to have own sports drink on run
  7. Definitely set myself tougher and more realistic goals for the future
******** QUESTIONS ******** 
  1. What was the toughest part you had to overcome when completing your longest distance race? Was it the mental or the physical side of the challenge?
  2. Did you have any mishaps during your HIM/IM races? What happened?
  3. What is your weakest discipline? Have you been able to improve it substantially since you started tri'ing?
  4. Your one piece of advice to me would be______?


  1. Love it! Triathlons are truly addicting and for me it's a mix between setting PR times AND distances.

    I do love that you listed things you took away from the race - always good to learn and take those with you.

    As far as your questions...
    1. The toughest challenge for me so far at any race is ignoring how much my body screams to just take a rest. I know my body can handle it, but my mind wants a rest so badly. As long as I can focus on something else, I'm good.
    2. My mishaps always end up being nutrition. I rock the first half or three-quarters and then blow up. Haven't quite gotten it right yet.
    3. My weakest discipline has always been the bike. I've improved, but it has a long way to come.
    4. You've already harped on my advice - swimming. Aside from that, you're doing amazing! 5:15 is a hugely respectable time! My advice might be to come train with me, but that could be more for personal reasons. haha

    Awesome report!

  2. Mi más SINCERA ENHORABUENA Miguel!!!!! muchass felicidades!!!! has terminado en un tiempazooo!! siéntete muy contento y orgulloso, lo has hecho fenomenal!! a mi también me sucede algo parecido, cuando llega el momento por alguna razón me entra mucha tranquilidad.
    El triatlón es totalmente adictivo! me encanta!!! por cierto, qué salt stick usas? se disuelven en agua o se tragan directamente?
    Nuevamente muchas felicidades!!

  3. Muchas felicidades Miguel! Un excelente debut!!! Enhorabuena.
    Espero coincidir contigo pronto en otra prueba :-)
    Miguel Ángel

  4. Que orgulho amigo!!!!bj Carla

  5. First and foremost, tremendous job!!! No worries about your swim time, you just need to spend more time in the water. I think #7 ("Definitely set myself tougher and more realistic goals for the future") was spot on. Live and learn.

    ******** QUESTIONS ********
    1) What was the toughest part you had to overcome when completing your longest distance race? Was it the mental or the physical side of the challenge? For me it was pacing on the bike so that it left me fresh enough on the I guess a bit of both.
    2) Did you have any mishaps during your HIM/IM races? What happened? Nothing really all that substantial, lost some gels out of my jersey, but I had extra just in case.
    3)What is your weakest discipline? Have you been able to improve it substantially since you started tri'ing? My swim is and will always be the toughest part for me. I have improved greatly, but I just don't have the time to really improve it significantly.
    Your one piece of advice to me would be______? For every "long" race have three "goals": #1 should be to finish the race, #2 should be a realistic, attainable goal, and #3 shoudl be your "everything went perfect" goal. For my IM I was on pace to get close to my "everything went perfect" goal before the wheels came off on the run. No worries, I still had my other goal which I just narrowly missed.

    Good luck on your next race and keep up the good work!!!

  6. Hola Miguel,

    primero de todo, FELICIDADES!!!

    el otro día fui a ver el Half de Calella para ver a mis compañeros de equipo del Gavà Triatló y a tomar nota por si me decido a hacerlo el año que viene ;). Sigo el blog y por casualidad te vi....así que te te hice alguna foto, sobre todo cuando te pasaste de frenada en la rotodan ;P. Dime tu correo y te las paso.

    por cierto, he visto que trabajaste en la american school. Conoces a Domingo Borraz y a Teo Polanco?. Son amigos míos del Football. Domingo fue compañero de equipo muchos años y gran amigo mío, y Teo fue entrenador mio también.

    Un saludo!


    1. Hola Javier,

      Madre mia, como es el mundo! Claro que conozco a Domingo. Lo teniamos de entrenador de Flag en la American cuando yo estaba ahi. Veo que me has encontrado en Facebook. Te envio un msg por facebook con mi email, y muchas gracias de antemoano! :)

  7. Enhorabuena Miguel!! Ser finisher es todo un éxito y hacerlo como tu lo has hecho es impresionante.
    Muy solido en la bici y aguantando las molestias en la media, para acabar con un tiempazo!!
    Sobre la natación, yo estoy peor que tu. Pues yo ya estoy recibiendo clases y gracias a ello he mejorado mucho, pero aun así voy fatal.
    Por cierto, yo también uso capsulas de sales y llevaba un tiempo dándole vueltas para ver como las llevaba en la bici y no conocía el saltstick :) Me has dado una gran alegría con este descubrimiento.

    Un abrazo!!