Race Reports

H
ere are the race reports, pictures and videos of some races I’ve done so far. There are a few missing (Madrid Marathon 2007, Brussels half marathon 2008 and New York Marathon 2008) probably I’ll write them up if I am able to recover those memories!

 

Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2016

Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote 2015

Ironman 70.3 Barcelona 2015

Ironman Lanzarote 2014

20 Km. Brussels 2013

Ironman World Championship Hawaii 2012

Ironman 70.3 Rapperswil Jona 2012

– Brussels Half Marathon 2011

Ironman World Championship Hawaii 2010

Ironman 70.3 Antwerp 2010

 

Sept. 4th 2016. Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2016

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Qualifying for the 70.3 World Champs was not easy, but the preparation for the race wasn’t a smooth road either. In March 31st 2016 I entered the operating theatre to work on my knee…for the 6th time. I decided to travel to Galicia in Spain to be treated by a great doctor (and friend) Luisa Ibañez. She is a triathlete herself, so nobody better than her to try to fix the unfixable. She did a great job, but my knee is anywhere near being good, so I need to take care of it forever; checking the calendar I did not have many months to prepare the A race of the year, the one I was working so hard to qualify last year.
I started slowly, following the advice of Luisa but also from my trainer, and thing started to come together nicely. My crazy working schedule makes things even more difficult, but with good planning, the right attitude and the support of the family everything is possible.
Australia is far away, and I wasn’t´t sure we´ll have many opportunities to go down under in the future, so we decided as a family to make it count, New Zealand and Australia will become our super annual trip, 3 weeks visiting as much as we could…and we did! It was an amazing experience to visit such incredible places.
Talking about the race…as usual I suffered from weird pains and aches the days before the race. The day before the race I had some temperature that worried more than needed. We spent 5 days in Mooloolaba, the town where the championship was happening. Very touristic place, not super super nice as other places we visited, but hey, is Australia anyway!
Easy access to great pools, smooth roads for cycling and running, decent food. I was ready.
The swim: rolling start, I placed myself in the 35 min. group, and I had a (neoprene) decent swim for the pool work I arrived with. Very clean swim across the ocean, a bit afraid of the sharks of course, but did not encountered many pushy arms and legs. Left the water in 34:19 minutes.
The transition was very very long and included quite an steep hill, took the time to place my new Huub Tri suit in place and here I went.
The bike: the week before the race I faced many many mechanical issues with the gearing, I am sure the bike box was hit badly and that somehow affected the setup. Not many shops were familiar with the SRAM etap, so I wasn’t´t feeling confident about the bike before the start of the race. Not a nice feeling.
The first part was straight into a highway, very fast part of the course, where it was important to keep watts under control, the tough hills will arrive soon…and what a hill!, specially one, 21% degrees…and there it was where my chain went off. I kept my nerves under control and managed to sort it out, but after that a weird noise accompanied me till the end. I was worried something will break, but all worked out fine. I clocked a 2:41:29 bike split which was not very good but not very bad either.
The run: My plan was to push for a 4:30 min/km. pace, and I did managed to achieve that despite the rolling hills of the course.
I managed to eat well, kept my body temperature under control and my head with positive thoughts till the end despite the suffering. Seeing my family (including my step kids) in key points was great, and when I crossed the finish line I was super emotional, I took my country flag and crossed the arrival arch with pride. Final time: 5 hours, 1 minute and 24 seconds…damm it! I missed the 5 hours mark…anyway, super happy with the result after a tough year that ended up nicely after a lot of work!

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Sept. 19th 2015. Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote 2015

 

It was during a friend’s visit to our place in Brussels…half joking, half seriously we talked about racing in Lanzarote to try to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Australia 2016. For an average age grouper like me it is quite tough to qualify for such a race, normally there are 2-3 slots per race in my age group (40-45, the most numerous), that means you need to cross the finish line in 1st, 2nd or 3rd position (of your age group). Lanzarote was scheduled for September 19th, and after Barcelona in May I decided I wanted to give a shot to the qualification (Knowing it will be very difficult but also acknowledging that I had a loot of room for improvement). In July I started working with Jaime Menéndez de Luarca, a top age grouper in Spain (5 times Kona qualifier) that I meant in Hawaii in 2013. Together we analyzed the race and he told me that it will be difficult to qualify but that we should try.
I trained harder than ever before during summer time, different rhythms, bike focused on watts, nutritional changes…
Weeks before the race were completely nuts, I faced huge stress in term of work and travels and attended to a friend’s wedding 7 days before the race. Race week was no different, I flew from Switzerland to Madrid on Thursday 15th (arriving late), then on Friday to Lanzarote (flight at 6 am)…race day on Saturday.
Immediately after landing I mounted the bike and went for a quick testing spin (all things on the bike were ok), headed to the registration area and did the check in (club La Santa); then took the chance to
test neoprene on a short swim, just to move my arms, on the lake were the swim will take place.
Friday afternoon was a mix of relax time, supermarket time and search for a good pasta restaurant.
Saturday morning, race day, we drove the La Santa from our hotel (2 km. away) and found a good parking slot. Then the usual stress in transition due to queuing on the portable loos…we did not know if neoprenes will be allowed since water temperature was quite high, but finally it was a neoprene swim (better for me since I am a bad swimmer).
At the start on the artificial beach I met my two friends, the ones that were also trying to qualify for Australia. We shook hands and committed ourselves to go for it….boom, canyon went off and here we went.
Swim was quite rough for 300 mts, then clear waters ahead allowed me to find a rhythm I was comfortable with…final swimming time 33:04 and feeling good. A bit of a run to the transition area, getting the neoprene off and jumping on the bike (transition time 4:36).
My coach Jaime knows Lanzarote extremely well, and we planned to the detail how to race the bike course with watts by zone. I stacked to the plan ALL THE TIME. Lanzarote bike course is very hilly and windy, and it has the infamous climb of Tabayesco. I have been training and racing in Lanzarote several times and felt not intimidated by the course, I knew what to expect and that help me a lot. I executed the bike quite well, not only eating when planned (this time, and following Jaime’s advice, all my gels were mixed in a water bottle, it worked perfectly) but also hitting the watts. Lanzarote bike courses (full and half ironman are probably amongst the most beautiful in the whole circuit), I enjoyed it a lot…on top of that I was feeling strong and knew that I would be within the top 10 of my age group (despite not having more references than looking around me and seeing not people passing). When I was getting closer to La Santa, in the last roundabout, a car crossed my way and I was forced to do an additional loop in order not to crash, lost 1 minute there…anyway, remained positive and focused on doing a good transition. My wife was there cheering, I saw her surprised face and though “maybe she was not expecting me so early!). My bike time was 2:55:04, super happy with that considering the difficulty of the course.
Did a decent transition (02:04) and headed to the running course with some new gels on my pocket and strong legs. I saw my wife again and she told me “You are 5th!!!!!”, I could not believe it…if I’d push hard I might have a chance to grab the wished slot to Australia. I was very focused during the whole run, suffering but knowing I could manage to pass someone. The course consisted of 3 laps of 7 km, with some hills and a mix of concrete and some sand. Not a beautiful course and quite mental, but that is my strength, mentally tough situations…
I crossed the line in 5 hrs, 10 min and 26 seconds…47 th position overall and 4th in my category…out of the top 3 BUT with a chance of still going to Australia due to the roll down.
After every race, there is a roll down ceremony were the slots to the World Champs are awarded, you need to be there and pay the race fee on the spot, if you do not grab your slot it rolls down to the next racer, so being 4th I had a chance that one of the top 3 guys will not grab it….and it happened!
I could not hold my emotions and cry when receiving my slot. I am going to Australia!!!!
Some disappointment still since my 2 friends did not manage to do so, but I am sure they can try in another race.
Thanks as always to my wife, without her this won’t be possible. Thanks also to Jaime my coach. You (and my hard work) have taken me to another level.

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May 17th 2015. Ironman 70.3 Barcelona 2015

 

We arrived in Palamós (approximately 1 hour away from race venue) on Thursday, I needed a bit o mental piece before the race and did not want to be surrounded by athletes from day 1. I had some good training sessions, one swim in open water where I had the opportunity to get more comfortable with the neoprene (I barely use it outside of competitions), one good ride (where I discovered an issue with the wheels) and a good run. As I said, I noticed something was wrong with the back wheel, last year I installed a power meter and they changed the spokes of the wheel. It turns out that after some time you need to check them and straight them out. I found a local shop and the owner provided me with a super fast (and cheap) service, now all was ok with the bike.
On Saturday morning we drove to Calella (it turns out that the race is called Ironman 70.3 Barcelona but it takes place in Calella, which is one hour away from Barcelona city). It is a summer vacation spot, not too pretty in my opinion…but the surroundings, oh boy…the natural park of Montseny is just amazing (and hilly)!. After the registration and bike check in we took the car and drove the bike course, and right there I started to feel a bit nervous, hilly and technical course. I do most of my training indoors, so I don’t have super good riding skills, I knew I will be penalised in such a course. After recognising the circuit we bought some water and other stuff needed for race morning and went for the mandatory dinner in an Italian restaurant, pasta time!. I also ate my pre-race ice cream and headed to bed, as always race day means an early start.
Sunday 17th, race day. My wife and I walked to the transition area, almost 2 km away from the hotel, it was a good warm-up. One of things I dislike more in race mornings are the queues in the porta-loos, when you need to go you need to go!…anyway, I manage to do my stuff and jumped in my neoprene suit with the help of my wife. The swim start was organised in waves (you position yourself taking into account your expected finish time in the swim), supposedly better for the athletes since you can avoid some hits and panic moments, but less fair for those who like to know which athletes are in front of you in the race. As always, I usually try to save energy during the swim, and this race was no different. I felt I had a good a decent swim, but time told me otherwise (36:49)…later on when I analysed the gps data I realised I swam 250 mts. more because my bad navigation skills in open water!
Transition 1 was a bit tool long, I need to practice more to get out of my neoprene…finally I was on the bike, time to concentrate on the planned watts…but just at the very beginning I faced the first issue, someone crashed with me on the mounting area (just the beginning of the bike course), pushed me and I crashed against the hard concrete, result: some aches and pains and my back bottle holder broken…that means I was losing one of my 3 bottles of hydration, thanks God I did not have any nutrition in there. Races never go as expected, and you always need to adapt to what race day brings you. I stayed positive and focused and started to enjoy the ride. I was feeling good, legs where responding well and watts as planned. We arrived into the hilly part of the course quite quickly and I keep feeling good, I did not push beyond my race plan, you need to think about the run leg.
On the descents I was loosing time, as explained due to my poor bike skills, people I was passing on the hills were now passing me on the descents…improvement area for the future!!
I realised I could break the 3 hours mark in such a hilly course and I was determined to do so, at the end I arrived into transition area in 3 hour and 2 minutes, happy with that. Took some gels and pushed off to the running course…inedibly I realised something was wrong, I was not feeling good at all…in fact I was feeling like sh*t…and it was not because of the usual clunkiness of the legs, it was a lack of energy…I soon realised I did not eat enough during the bike leg, rookie mistake…was so focused on not screwing up in the hills and descents that I forgot to stick to my nutrition plan.
First 5 km of the run were pure punishment, I was determined not to quit, but as soon as I saw my wife I told her I was not feeling good. I recalled the best advice ever from pro athlete and ex-coach Alejandro Santamaria..EAT, EAT, EAT…and that is what I did. I took everything I could, and at some point the engine re-started. From then onwards I just pushed…I crossed the line with a half marathon time of 1:41:16 (flat course), final time: 5:27:09 (rank 69 of my age group, winner of 40-44 age group did 4:35:08). I learned a lot of things in this race, and that is what I take with me back home. Fortunate to be able to race and finish another great race.

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May 17th 2014. Ironman Lanzarote 2014

 

“The toughest Ironman in the world.” This is how Ironman Lanzarote is known. Anyone who has ever raced an endurance event of this caliber would understand the doubts that invade someone’s mind before the event itself takes place. Have I trained enough?, will I be able to face the challenging bike course?, how bad will be the heat during the Marathon…

I was fortunate enough to spend one week training in Lanzarote in April, I swam the circuit, rode 80% of the bike course and walked the marathon course, I think that for this IM is even more crucial to know the terrain. During that week I practiced a brick (long bike followed by quick and tough run) in one of the hottest days I recall…all these rehearsal work prepared me very well for the race.

As it always happen to me, I arrived to the last week of the training program with some physical issues, this time on my knee…didn’t feel any pain during the race (except a very brief and sharp back pain caused by the aero position on the bike).

I stayed in Sands Beach during that week of training in April and during the race week. I cannot speak more good things about this place. Great location, great food, great service and great facilities. If you are planning to go to Lanzarote do not hesitate, it is a great choice.

My wife played a critical role in the preparation of this Ironman (as she always does!), without her understanding and support I won’t be able to do this. This year I also brought my parent with me to the event, first time they witness an Ironman live. I drove the circuit for them to know the island…not sure it was a good idea, they were pretty scared to see how tough this craziness would be…I reassured them that everything will be fine, I guessed it didn’t work.

The day of the race was as memorable as it can get. Woke up at 4:30 to eat and hydrate before the race, all went well till we drove to Playa del Carmen…we were able to find a good parking spot, but needed to walk quite a bit to the race entrance. As soon I say goodbye to my wife I headed to the bike, wanted to get all ready and checked to avoid issue. Immediately after filling my water bottles I sensed the urgency to visit the toilet, and of course the queue was massive…after changing queues a couple of times I finally managed to go, ufff, feeling much better afterwards.

I stressed a bit putting the neoprene on alone, and without much delay I was at the entrance of the swim…3,9 Km. ahead in the cold ocean. It was probably the toughest swim I have ever done, received a lot of punches and kicks, partly because of the starting set up (too narrow), partly because of where I decided to position myself. Anyway, tried to be positive and focused, many others were in the same situation as I was…thought it will get better after the second lap but it didn’t. As Macca says, embrace the suck.

I didn’t have any expectations about time, I wasn’t even going to look at my watch this time…I left the water and I looked to the watch, 1:11:49, I was happy with that. In transition my wife gave me a bottle of water to wash my feet, it came very handy since my feet were full of sand. Put my socks and bike shoes and off I went. Wanted to pace the efforts very well during the ride, being conservative and eating properly to arrive well to the Miradores, key part of the race with steep climbs. I felt great during the whole ride, with fuel in the tank and positive mind. Enjoyed every bit of it…except 4 or 5 km. in Nazaret were the tarmac is absolutely awful. My ride time, 6:39:16…in line with my expectations given the tough course.

The marathon arrived, a hot one. The circuit coasts along the beach line, so there are a lot of spectators cheering and giving support. Actually that is very much appreciated…anyone that has done an Ironman would understand why. After 7 hours and a half, to run 42 km. under the sun is not a very appealing idea…except for the crazies like us.

I was feeling good despite some concerns at the very beginning of the run with my hear rate, it was just too high. Crossed my trainer, Alejandro Santamaria, and asked him what to do…at the end it resulted that my watch was picking some short-circuited signals from other runners. I promised myself to run without a watch next time.

I focused on keeping an affordable pace and never walk, my marathon time?, 3:48:53 for a finish time of 11:58:46. Super glad with the result considering this is Lanzarote.

I want to finish by describing what it ended being the most exciting feeling I could probably ever had in my life. Around 500 mts. Before the finish line, my mother jumped over the protection fence and ran with me for 100 mts., she even hanged a flower collar around my neck, I have never seen my mother so happy (damm, nobody took a picture of that)…and 200 mts. Before the line my wife joined me…you are allowed to cross the finish line with someone in Lanzarote, so this was planned. It was soooo special, I will never forget. You can see the picture gallery below, and one pic captured the moment where I pointed my wife and said “she deserves the aknowledmgments, she is the one”.

Thanks so much to everyone that has supported me to achieved this dream, to my wife, my family, my physio therapist Roselyne, my trainer Alejandro and Sheray and his team from Más Deportes in San Bartolome (the best bike shop and mechanical service of the island, period). This success belong to you.

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May 26th 2013. 20 Km. Brussels

 

I was not planning to race this event, but someone at the office asked me if I’d like to join…I thought it could be a good longish run training for my upcoming Berlin 70.3 Ironman in June, so I said yes.
Woke up on Sunday and the day was rainy and windy, despite that I was feeling like running. Arrived to the meeting point and they told me that they could not manage to change the name of the runner, so I’ll be racing under another’s person name, someone called Alexis Aymeric, bib #31707…I was not happy about that, but at the end of the day it was a charity and training run.
I knew the course because it is almost identical to the Brussels Half marathon which I did in 2 occasions, tough and hilly course, specially when is windy.
I felt well during the race despite the lack of logged miles sue to my early season Achilles tendon injury, I crossed the line in 1:32:58. Happy with the outcome.
Now I am getting ready for Berlin. Really looking forward to that race.

 

October 13th 2012. Ironman World Championship. Kona. Hawaii

 

It was 3:50 am went the alarm went off, time to wake up. The day I had been training for months did finally arrive, probably the most iconic endurance sports event in the world, the Ironman World Championship in Kona (Hawaii).
More than 1800 athletes fighting against the heat, the wind but above all, against ourselves.
I did force myself to eat properly, which at that time of the night is not always easy, the jet lag of helped a bit since my body was not completely adapted to the Hawaiian time (12 hours difference with Brussels). I was a bit scared about how my tummy will behave during the day, I had struggled with my intestines the whole year and facing very acute pains.
On top of my stomach I had an additional source of concern, my right shoulder; a contracture that came up from nowhere 10 days before the race, without an specific reason, but most probably caused by the stress and the constant travelling (carrying luggage, backpacks, etc.). It is weird that I have never arrived to a race free of pain, I think it is always caused by a mix of over training and stress. This time I was very cautious about the over training, so I think it was purely nervous.
Body marking was scheduled at 4:45, so my wife and I drove as close as we could to the race start (and finish line), not easy considering the road closings plus the traffic, nonetheless we did a good job. We took the bike from the trunk, the special need bags (bike and run) and I headed to the “tattoo” area where the marked both arms with the lucky number, 1330.
After that I had access to my bike (that we were obliged to check in the previous day) to prepare all the stuff. Being in that pier, surrounded by the best athletes in the world is quite weird. It is a mix of excitement, respect and panic. People don’t talk much, everybody is focused on checking the thousand details that could throw away all the work you’ve done. Tyres pressure, hydration, food, brakes check, goggles, anti chafing cream…most of us have practiced that ritual many times in training, well, ideally that is what we should have all done…there is always something you panic about in the last second. I panicked about my belly, feeling like paying a visit to the loo 35 minutes before the swim was sub-optimal, but even worse was the queue of people in the same situation.
There are two important decisions you should make for the swim: when are you going to enter in the water (you need to float since your feet cannot reach the sea bottom) and where are you going to place yourself. The front right (closest side to the turning buoy) is where fast swimmers go, the left side is usually less crowed since you need to swim more distance. This year I was not able to swim during training as much as I did in 2010, and despite feeling ok about that I knew I will be slower; I also thought about protecting the shoulder from big fights so my plan was to go to the left and avoid as much contact as I could. It worked, I had a pretty clean swim, what I did notice is that the sea was a bit rougher this time, the swell was bigger. I arrived to the turning point, I checked my watch and I saw 0 minutes on it…I forgot to press the start button when the canyon went off at 7 am, I then pressed it and headed back to the beach. As it happened previously in training my calves cramped, first the left one and then the right one. I cannot explain how difficult it is to manage that while swimming, especially in open water. I’ve tried everything from electrolytes to specific creams, nothing works for me, after a certain time in the water I just face that. I lost time trying to get them back to normal but it worked. To make things worse this year I couldn’t use my compression calf guards in the swim, not sure what they changed the rules. When I got out of the water I saw a big clock marking 1 hour and 19 minutes in the race, indeed 4 minutes slower than my swim in 2010, no stress at all.
I grabbed the hanging shower to get rid of the salt while taking off my swimming suit and headed to the changing tent. I made sure to grab all the food, placed sun cream in my hands to avoid sun burnt like in 2010 and here I went.
Plan was to take it easy during the first hour, hydrating well and not wasting bullets. Staying focused on that section was difficult since this is the only part of the bike course where you see lots of public giving their support. I did see my wife a couple of times, always awesome feeling to see her there screaming love at me. After climbing the infamous Palani Road I headed to the loneliness of the Queen K. Highway and the lava fields. I was feeling good, with good legs and very decent average cadence and speed. I had a goal, never going above 140 beats per minute, conservative as always. It was very, very hot…I was not feeling it that much because of the wind, but paid attention to the other athletes wearing black racing suits…and they were full of salt stains very early in the race (not a very good signal). I made sure to hydrate myself well, poured water over my helmet, chest, arms and legs the whole race (aid stations every 15 km.) to manage temperature, I also took some extra salt. My watch was indicating very good numbers which I attributed to the tail winds, it is true that this year I trained the bike much more and the summer in Lanzarote made me a strong cyclist. I felt ashamed about my bike performance here in 2010 and wanted to change that.
Without even noticing it I arrived to the climb towards Hawi, the most challenging part of the course. I still have nightmares of the ascension in 2010, head and cross winds made that climb very very tough. I knew what to expect, so I kept my head in the box and focused on positive thoughts. I didn’t suffered that much this time, on the contrary, I arrived to the turning point in Hawi (mile 56) feeling quite fresh. You can then grab your special needs bag, mine was containing fresh liquid food. I made sure to indicate to the person holding it how I will grab it, in 2010 I suffered a painful fall here. Everything went well this time, I quickly took what I needed and prepared myself for the descent. All the time you’ve lost in the ascent to Hawi can be recovered on the way down if you are lucky (sometimes the winds change and there is nothing the be gained). Bike handling skills are needed but I practiced on these conditions in Lanzarote this summer. It is very tricky to keep aero position while going fast with gusts winds that can send you to the ground in a heartbeat. I used carbon wheels for the first time here, deep rim on the back wheel but less deep in the front one, they behaved very well.
I knew that back in Queen K. I will find very strong head winds, but man, didn’t not expect that fierce force. I was sure that I will be able to hit a bike split below 6 hours…till arrived to the 80 mile mark, then I knew it won’t be feasible without pushing harder…remember I had a plan (below 140 bpm)?, I followed to it, I kept focused and in the box. Final result? I was very happy with my bike performance, 6 hours 2 minutes, almost 45 minutes faster than 2010 in a very, very hot and windy day.
Arrived in transition and handed my bike to a volunteer. I want to mention that there are 5.000 volunteers in this race, almost 3 per athlete. They provided us incredible support during the whole day, I cannot say how important they are and how well and carefully they do their job. THANKS TO ALL OF YOU.
Again, I took less time to get out of the changing tent despite changing all my clothes (socks, pants, t-shirt…), running a marathon after 112 miles (180 km.) on the bike with that heat and winds is not an easy task.
As soon as I left transition I noticed the heat, it was brutal. I knew what to expect, but this was a bit above my worst case forecast. I made sure to stop at every aid station (placed at every mile) to grab ice, water and coke. Aid stations were the only place where I walked…I don’t walk in marathons, and I was not keen to make an exception here in Kona despite the brutal conditions. My heart rate monitor was indicating that I was below 140 bpms and in line with my target pace. My plan was working thanks to the ice that helped keeping my core temperature under control. I use an special long sleeve t-shirt with ice pockets on the spine and micro-holes, once you wet it you notice a cooling effect, it just works. I also placed lots of ice under my cap all the time, they melted quickly above my whole neck and chest, perfect.
The first part of the marathon takes place in Ali’i Drive, lots of public providing great support. Again I was able to see my wife and I even stopped to kiss her and obliged her to use sun screen, she was red!
The we arrived to the Palani Road climb, let’s say it is a very painful hill…almost 95% of the people just walk here, I didn’t. My wife always pride about the fact that I don’t walk here…she always screams “you are the only one running, GO MY LOVE!!!!”. You know what to expect after that climb…loneliness, pain, more heat…almost no public on the highway, just rolling hills heading to the mythical Energy Lab, the place that defines this race for good or bad.
I got there feeling good, my plan was working and I knew a sub 4 hours marathon was doable. You can never be sure in an Ironman since you can always breakdown and collapse unexpectedly but I was conservative enough during the whole day, making sure to eat and drink well, managing my core temperature, to avoid that.
Suddenly I found myself in the mile 25 of the marathon, it was almost done. My wife was there once again, at Palani Drive, this time I just needed to run downhill and then almost flat for a little more than a mile. At that point you can almost smell the most special finish line in the world, Ali’i Drive, the dream of any triathlete. I enjoyed the last meters of the race, lots of high fives with the public…then the emotions came up, tears in my eyes that I just could not contain. I looked at the sky and thanked God and my family members who passed away: my grandfathers Antonio and Mané, my grandmothers Leles and Conchita, my uncles Toti, Miguel and Lolo…before the race I spoke to them, I told them that this race was dedicated to them. Then I crossed that line and I jumped as high as I could, I was an Ironman again, Kona finisher for the second time. INCREDIBLE. This is the video of my arrival

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The second after crossing I desperately searched for my wife, and here she was, crying of emotion like me. I thanked her for all the incredible support she has provided me along the way. My love, this race is also yours. The I saw my time, 11 hours 35 minutes and 20 seconds. I improved my personal best in more than one hour. I was over the moon, especially considering that I had fuel to push more and I did not. This is not the place to experiment limits, I just wanted to cross that line again.
I am not sure I will be able to come back here again, I really hope so, but it is very difficult to be in the start line in Kona. This is a very special place and a very, very, very special race. I feel blessed for having had the chance to be here twice.
Mahalo Hawaii. Mahalo volunteers. Mahalo family, friends and colleagues. Ironman is an individual sport, but it requires the understanding and support of the people who surrounds you. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

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June 3rd 2012. Ironman 70.3 Rapperswil Jona

 

First of all, what a beautiful place this is!, it was my first time in the beautiful Rapperswil-Jona municipality. As you know I won a slot for the Ironman World Championship  that will take place in Kona (Hawaii) on October 13th and in order to validate that slot I needed to complete a half or a full Ironman before August.

The intention was clearly to finish the event and to enjoy the course, as I said beautiful, never intended to go hard but because of my own demand wanted to do it within a decent time. Bottom line, all those objectives were achieved!
We enjoyed great weather on Saturday, sun was shining throughout the day but it was not crazy hot (humidity was high, but I like that). I managed to go for a short ride on my bike to check everything was ok after the trip (packing and unpacking a triathlon bike can be tricky) and for a short run to wake my legs up before the race. I checked the weather for Sunday morning and all indicated that things were about to change for bad.

Pre-Race

Woke up at 6 to have a warm shower and re-check all the gear for the race. No matter how many races you entered in, you always think that you are forgetting something. Headed for breakfast in the hotel around 6:30, and sat next to Gina Crawford, female pro athlete and 9x Ironman winner, she ended being 3rd in the race!. She also rides a Ceepo bike, nice coincidence!.

We arrived at 7 am to the race’s start line, I did not want to check in my bike the previous day since it was a bit hot, so I needed to do so before 7:30 despite my swimming start being scheduled at 10 am. I checked in seamlessly, prepared the transition cycling and running gear and came out of transition zone to be with my wife and have a hot tea, it was a bit chilly and I didn’t have enough clothing with me (neither much fat in my body to protect me!). I did not covered my stuff with a plastic, sky looked grey but I thought it will hold up, but as soon as I sat down to drink my tea the sky collapsed and started raining cats and dogs. I then ran like crazy to the transition area to cover my stuff and to avoid getting my cycling and running shoes wet. It stopped raining after 30 minutes or so. Before the race started I was feeling very cold, I was actually shivering!. My wife managed to get some Ironman branded plastic covers that we used to cover and warm ourselves.

The Swim

I arrived to the swimming area around 9:30 and put my neoprene on. It was awesome to be able to stay with my wife till the very last minute, she helped me with the anti-chaffing cream, neoprene zip, etc. Weather was grey, but not much wind nor rain. Lake seemed to be calmed enough not to have waves.
Around 9:55 I jumped in the water, the temperature was 17.4 °, a bit cold for me, but manageable. Following Chrissie Wellington advice I peed in my neoprene (sorry to share the details!), but it helped to warm myself a bit.
The canyon went off at 10 am sharp, and from the very beginning I knew it was going to be a rough swim. If there is something I do not like about triathlon is the swimming part (I do like swimming in the pool though). I just cannot get into my swimming form, I start to panic and get hundreds of negatives thoughts, from drowning to quitting. I managed to calm myself a bit, finding my space to avoid kicks, surprisingly I was swimming just by the buoys. After 800 mts. I started to feel a bit better, but never got into my bilateral breathing. The second half of the swim was definitively better.
I got out of the water and my watch marked 34 minutes, I was expecting something worse.

T1

For whatever reason I couldn’t open the back of my neoprene easily, so had a bit of a fight there while running to T1. I also pressed the wrong button on my watch, so missed the T1 measurement. I think one day I will do a race without watch, just based purely on feeling.
I was feeling a bit dizzy, I guess it was because of the unusual breathing, nothing major though.
It was a slow transition (5 minutes), as expected I needed to use the wc facilities. My intestines have given me a very tough 3 months, I have been recently diagnosed with IBS syndrome.

The bike

I picked my bike and run to the starting line with my shoes on. I haven’t ever trained to let my shoes on the bike but I should try one day.
The first 10 km. of the course were flat and fast, a bit crowed, so not easy to get into proper rhythm since the road was not very wide in some areas. Avoiding to get a black card because of drafting (I saw like 3 or 4 guys getting one) was my big focus at that time.
The bike is a 2 lap course with two major climbs, “Witches Hill” and “The Beast”. Witches hill is a steep 14-15% climb, roughly 1-1.5km.  “The beast” is a shorter, steeper climb (up to 22%). It is a fairly lumpy bike course but has some excellent descents where you can take a bit of a breather. As soon I started the first climb I noticed I did lose my 2 rear bottles, the bottle holder somehow de-attached itself from the saddle and the bottles fell out. I tried to keep a positive mind about the issue, knowing that after the climb I will find an ad station with water and energy drinks.
I missed a bit more support from the locals through the race, it was probably because of the weather.
I finished my bike in 2 hours and 54 minutes, not bad considering the climbs (I am not a strong cyclist).

T2

In T2 I was obliged to visit the loo again, my stomach decided not to behave during the race (no major surprise here, I was ready for it).

The Run
As soon as I started running I noticed my legs were good, first 3 km. at 4:45 min./km pace. Then I had an issue with my hydration belt, not sure why but one bottle kept falling out (it never happened before, very weird something similar happened on the bike!). I was determined not to leave any of the 4 bottles behind as I love this belt too much and I cannot find replacements in Europe. It was too bad when I saw the bottle rolling down to a place full of nettles, I got it but it hurt!
I settle down my pace on 4:49/4:50 min./km knowing I would need to climb the famous “Stairway to heaven” twice (a series of about 80 steps in the middle of the town, very original for a race if you ask me).Overall it was a pretty decent run, a bit too exposed to the weather, specially at the end when the wind picked up strongly.

The finish line

I crossed the finish line in 5:20:18, 17 minutes, worse time that my previous half IM, but this time on a tougher course. All in all, I am very happy with the result. Now it is official, next stop Ironman Hawaii!!!!
Loved the course and the chance to be closer to my wife during the whole race, her support is key for me.

I think this is the last year this race will take place, certainly a pity!

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October 2nd 2011. Brussels Half Marathon

 

In February 2011 I went under the knife and had surgery in both knees at the same time. Basically I spent the whole year recovering and it was kind of obvious I’d need to forget about training and racing. After the summer I started to feel better and the motivation started to come back, so decided to train lightly to check how my legs were responding. Despite the pain, which I face now every day, I thought I could squeeze a race in to avoid a lost year. Spoke to a fellow triathlete and invited him to come over and run the Brussels half marathon together (I did this race in 2009 in preparation of the New York Marathon and loved it, 1:34 was my time).
We planned to run together until someone (and obviously will be me) could not follow the other’s pace. We started at a 4:30 pace if I recall well, but after 7 or 8 km I realized I was not in shape enough to follow. I encouraged him to leave me and promised we’ll see each other in the finish line. I enjoyed the race alone, knowing that I won’t beat my time, but trying to score a decent one nonetheless. I finished in 1:37, not bad for a surgery year (my friend did 1:31, very close to sub 1:30. A very good time considering how tough this half is.

 

October 9th 2010. Ironman World Championship. Kona (Hawaii)

 

My wife and I departed from  Brussels on Saturday the 2nd, we’re supposed to arrive in Kona around 20:30 the very same Saturday, and that, considering the time difference, was a very long trip. Made it to the airport without trouble, but hassle started while checking in the bike. We were 4 athletes leaving in the same plane, 3 of us were obliged to pay extra for the bike, but not the other. I didn’t want to screw up the guy who didn’t pay, but I was furious with Continental because of being very unclear about the rules. Didn’t want to start the trip with a bad karma, so decided to pay the 75 Euros they asked me for.

As soon as the plane took off (Brussels – New York), the captain announced that we’ll face a serious delay due to strong head winds, not good news considering that our connection time was already very short (around one hour to clear customs, pick up the bags, re-check them in and go to the gate), we missed the next flight. We were stacked in Newark searching for a solution, again, some other athletes were asked to stay in NY till the day after, we were offered to get in a flight to San Francisco departing that evening, that meant to make it one day later to Kona. On top of the hassle, the company didn’t pay for the hotel, neither for the food…nothing. They claimed that they were not responsible of the delay, the weather was. Again, tried to focus on the important stuff and not to fight and loose important energy I’ll need for the week. Booked a hotel in San Francisco Airport, by the time we got there we were exhausted. Next day (Sunday), we woke up very early to get in the plane to Kona, we got there around 11 am local time (-12 hours versus Brussels time, so that was 11 pm Sunday night for us, more than 36 hours trip).

As soon as we landed we were amazed with the airport, open air…and soon we understood why, it was hot!. Cloudy weather that stayed with us throughout the week, occasional showers during the night. We were wondering if we brought the rainy weather with us from Brussels. I took the bike to a local shop, they mounted and checked it, my bike was ready (or that is what I thought).

I was pretty focused on getting some rest (I usually have a lot of trouble to get decent sleep, even worse when I travel to the US), so decided not to train on Sunday afternoon and get early to bed.

My knee was hurting bad (suffering from a tendinitis for the last 3 weeks or so), thought the warm weather will help, but no miracle happened. The vitamin B injections I had in Brussels before departing didn’t make any effect, I was a bit desperate and scared, after 6 months of efforts the possibility of not finishing the race was a reality in my head.

Monday 4th

Trying to protect my knee decided to skip the run I was supposed to do on Monday, I did not miss the swim though. Headed to the swimming course, downtown Kona, and it was incredible.

It was like swimming in a fish tank, not many people at 6:45 in the morning, great organization and awesome job from some volunteers, marking your hand, picking your bag and taking care of it after you were done. I was surrounded by great athletes who qualified for the freaking Ironman world championship, needed to pinch myself several times to realize I was really there.

We decided to take the afternoon to explore Kona and surrounding and get the fridge full of all the stuff we were going to need. I was amazed by the amount of things we Triathletes carry around, logistics are pretty important before a race like this.

Tuesday 5th

I didn’t get much sleep, woke up at 3:30 am local time, forced myself to stay in bed, and I finally woke up around 5. Was reading cleaning my inbox and reading the newspaper until my wife woke up. I planned for 1 hour and a half of bike in the morning and a 45 minutes run in the afternoon. Took the bike and headed to Queen K. Highway, a big part of the bike course transits to that road. My knee tended to behave worse during the bike that during the run while training, so I was a bit scared before departing. Put all my gear in place (testing all the stuff like in race day) and headed to the road, I actually enjoyed it and didn’t suffer much from the knee. The highway was full of fellow triathletes, great pavement but very abrasive, electric boards on the road warning to drivers “Drive carefully, Triathletes training”, awesome!.

I was not surprised about the weather (hot but manageable, winds were actually ok too), it is true that the day was a bit cloudy, and as I will discover later, when the sun hits you the whole thing changes.

Arrived in the hotel after enjoying the whole session, the only thing I was not happy with was the bike itself, something was wrong, there was a strange noise every 4 turns…very weird. Wanted to sort it out that day, but I also wanted to think about my wife who was there on vacation, so decided not to go to the shop that day. Instead we headed to one of the most beautiful beached in the Big Island were we relaxed for a few hours. I took my running gear with me, the plan was to go for a 45 minutes run in the middle of the day were the sun would be hitting hard. I did go for a run on the highway, and that was very hot, but shortened the session because of knee pain (35 minutes). Not good news, specially because the run was supposed to be better than the bike. My confidence was getting lower and lower every day…

I asked at the hotel about a doctor that could have a look at my knee again, I needed a solution. They suggested me to try with a good acupuncturist they knew, it was the second time I heard that acupuncture could help with my tendinitis so I went for it.

Tuesday was registration day too, all very well organized. Got a big envelope with all different bags (pre-swim bag, bike bag, special needs bags for the bike and the run, run bag, safety pins, chip, etc.). You need to read carefully all the instructions to ensure that you don’t miss important information, and that’s exactly what I did that night.

Wednesday 6th

It was an important day since I needed to train the 3 sports. Woke up at 4:30 am, stayed in bed for a while and around 5:15 jumped out to clear emails and prepare some stuff. I was not adapting well to the time difference, but nothing new here. Around 6:30 I was driving my car to the swimming track, I had a 2.2 Km swim that went pretty well, I was feeling very comfortable with my swimming considering that it was my third serious open swim in the ocean, ever. When I got back I took my bike and went for a 30 minutes ride (supposedly I needed to do one hour, but my knee was not good), this time I decided to cross Alii Drive (a street that crossed Kona, and a very important part of the race, since the initial part of the marathon goes through it, also the end of the race). I visualized myself arriving to the finish line and I almost broke into tears. I wanted to get my bike re-checked, so I went to the shop again and told them that something was wrong, they had a quick look at it and told me that was related to the cadence sensor, they moved it and I felt like an idiot…nonetheless decided to try it a bit outside, and the noise was still there. Went back and told them that it was not fixed, they rode it on the road and agreed with me that something was wrong. A piece of the crank was broken, the chain was also defective. Thanks God I insisted since it could have broke during the race. I left the bike in the shop for a few hours, needed to get back in the evening.

We decided to take the rest of the day to explore a new beach, one that have been named 3 times as the best beach in the world three times, it was gorgeous. We saw 2 sea turtles, not even snorkelling, they were just at the shore lane, pretty amazing. In the evening picked up my bike, after a quick check I felt confident that it was properly fixed.

In the evening we visited the Race Expo, and it was pretty awesome. I met the designer of my bike (Japanese manufacturer Ceepo) but most importantly, get taped by SpiderTech, a company that develops Kinesiology tape that wraps your muscles and is supposed to improve form and reduce pain. I received and incredible massage, not only in the affected area of my legs, but also in my back. Kevin, the CEO and creator of the company, spent almost 30 minutes with me, then he taped me and promised me that I’ll be able to do the race. It was a kind of confidence boost, and I pretty much needed at that time. He asked me to come back on Thursday and Friday to continue with the treatment and get re-taped again. Do you know how much he asked me to pay??, NOTHING. They were taping people for free, is there any better way to promote your company when you believe in what you are doing?.

Thursday 8th

No sport during the day, complete rest. I needed not because I was feeling tired, but because my knee was not getting any better. I admit that I can be very obsessive, so I was using pain relievers, creams, etc.

My wise wife thought about doing an activity to change my ideas, and without knowing very well what we were going to do, we drove the car to the south of the Island searching for a good beach to hung out. We ended in a wonderful bay were we rented a Kayak, the locals promised us amazing snorkel around the Capt. Cook monument, they also mentioned that there were lots of Dolphin in the bay that day. It was actually true, and no time we were surrounding by wild dolphins, it was a magical moment. I asked my wife to jump out of the kayak on order to swim with them, the Kayak flipped over and we were both in the water, we lost one diving mask, no matter, it was incredible. I ended up exercising my arms because of the rowing, nothing tiring though since my wife was also pushing, some cardio exercise without forcing my knee, sounded good to me.

In the evening we planned to attend to the pre-race briefing and gala dinner, passing through the expo to visit my friends of Spider Tech again. When we got to the expo it was already closed, we didn’t know that it closing before that day, I was so upset!!, I missed my massage….

We attended to the gala dinner and was very nice, I don’t usually like to attend to pasta parties previous to any race, but glad we attended to this one. Hawaiian spectacle with native dances, moving videos and nice introduction to amazing age group athletes (like an 80 year old guy that was going to participate for 21st time in a row, isn’t it incredible?). The voice of the Ironman, Mike Reilly, presented the gala…he is the guy who speaks your name and name you are an Ironman when you cross the finish line.

Friday 9th

The day before the race, I was supposed to get a good night of sleep, which of course I didn’t get. Again, I woke up early and headed for a ride in my “renewed” bike, it was a smooth one, no weird noises, technical aspects under control so that was good news, no so much my knee. The damn pain was not disappearing, it was the day before the race!!. I also went for a short run in Ali’i drive. It was a hot day, heavy sweating as expected. Focused on getting re-hydrated and headed to the hotel pool for a short swim, that ended up being like 5 minutes since I started chatting with a great guy who was also participating in the race. He was a 2:17 Marathoner, incredible. He told me that he was pretty strong on the bike too since he lived in a very hilly place in England and used the bike almost every day. I recognize that my swim was much better that his, but that doesn’t count much in an Ironman!.

The rest of the day was quite relaxing. Made it again to the Expo, and this time I did it on time to get the much needed massage, I also got special tape for the race, in both legs and my low back.

I took the afternoon to prepare all the bags and gear for the race. It was also mandatory to check in the bike, run and bike bags too, before 5:30 pm. Special mention to volunteers here, there are around 5.000 for 1.800 participants, amazing. The bike check in was pretty smooth, a volunteer guide you through the whole set up, explaining how everything will work during race day, from the entry to the water to transitions, all very well explained and managed. We saw Chrissie Wellington (female world champion in 2007, 2008 and 2009), she looked fresh, smiley and very fit (actually she ended up not participating in 2010 race, she alleged being sick) and took pictures of other pros, including Craig Alexander (check the picture gallery bellow).

After checking in the bike we went back to the hotel, I cooked pasta with cheese, and as a mandatory ritual we ate ice cream before going to bed. It was around 8 pm when I headed to bed, I set up the alarm at 3:15 am on race morning. I think I felt sleep pretty quickly since my wife entered in the room around 9 and I was sleeping.

Race Day

 

Pre-race

Woke up and cooked a jam and cheese scramble eggs, 2 toasts of Nutella and a banana. I started to hydrate myself with EFS drink (lemon and lime flavour), I honestly think it’s the best performance drink out there. I was nervous, but tried to focus on my list of stuff in order not to forget anything. I started to reply messages and emails people sent during the night, I was overwhelmed with the received support and didn’t want to leave the room without saying thanks, when I looked the watch it was 4:14, I was panicking. Went to the room and woke up my wife, we needed to be at 4:45 in the starting point for body marking. They actually imprint your race numbers with ink in both arms, so they ask you not to put any cream in order to avoid problems with the ink.

We got there in time, I kissed my wife and I went into the whole process of getting marked, checking the bike, fill the drink tanks, warm up for the swim…it was still dark, but in no time the sun started raising. The pros were scheduled to start swimming at 6:30, age groupers like me at 7.

During the briefing of Thursday they asked us to get early in the water and so I did. Imagine to be 15 minutes floating without any support (neither the swimming suit since neoprene is forbidden in this race) in the middle of the ocean surrounded by 1799 participants fighting for a position at the front of an imaginary line guarded by referees on surfboards. It was pretty awful, like every triathlon swim.

The swim and T1

At 7 am sharp the canyon exploded (literally), we all started to swim hard clockwise, the midpoint was situated 1.2 miles away (1.9 km.), and man, that was far…I received several kicks on the face, I was ready to battle so I fought for my own space as well and tried to find my pace quickly. I never looked at the watch, that something I promised myself I wouldn’t do much during the whole day, it was about finishing the Ironman, not about the time. Just after the mid point I vomited, not sure why, continued to be focused and kept pushing. When I ended up the swim (2.4 miles/ 3.8 km.) I saw a big 1 hour 15 minutes mark on the watch, not bad considering all circumstances. I was feeling a bit dizzy while going up the stairs out of the water, a volunteer asked me if I was feeling well, “I think so!” I replied. I think it was caused by the choppy water in some parts, plus the constant fight.  I went straight to Transition 1, another thing I decided to do during the day is to take the right amount of time during transitions and I spent 10 minutes to changes my swimming stuff for the bike gear, assuring to correctly close my shoes (not applying a lot of pressure), putting some cream, placing the watch in place, sunglasses…ready to go!

The bike and T2

We headed to Ali’i drive and then up to Palani, quite an steep street, then I saw my wife with a huge sign with my name and a lovely message, it was wonderful to see her before heading for a long ride in the lava fields with very few spectators.

The first 60 km. were pretty easy, not much wind, roll waves going up and down…it was hot though, but because of the speed you don’t realize much. I decided to participate with a long sleeve white t-shirt (ended up being crucial) specially built to cool down the body, it includes some small pockets on the back to place ice during very hot races. I didn’t place any ice on it during the bike, but ensured to wet up the sleeves and chest in every aid station (one every 10 miles). In those stations you could get water, energy drinks, etc. They were all very well managed, once again, perfect job from volunteers. In this part of the race you cross the lava fields, so the reflected heat is an added pain to the pounding sun and the wind.

I did the whole course with the car with my wife, so I knew were the hard parts were…and they came up around km. 70. The roads heads to the midpoint, situated in a town called Hawi. Have you ever heard of the legendary winds of Kona Ironman?, well, here they were…all of them. I never faced such brutal winds in my life, going up with strong head and lateral winds that slow you down as hell, especially if you get in that part of the course late as I did. The slower you are the more wind you face since it picks up as the day evolves. I thought I will never get to Hawi, was like the never ending story. My drink tanks were almost empty and my food bottles empty…in fact that was one big mistake I made. I over ate, a lot of people told me that it was important to eat all the time, so instead of following my original plan of one food bottle per every 90 minutes I had half a bottle every 30…after having 3 of them I vomited, it was not nice, but I knew it was because of over eating and not because of other gastric related, since that happened I decided to listen to my stomach. The good news is that I was very well hydrated since I stopped to pee two times before the midpoint (as you see I was not so much concerned about the time but about doing a smart race that I could finish).

During an Ironman event, when you get to the midpoint in the bike (and run course), you get what it’s called a “special needs” bag (actually you are responsible of preparing it, only with food and drinks, and check them in the morning of the race). When I arrived to Hawi I got mine, that meant additional EFS drink and food, so stopped to fill the tanks properly. The volunteers, while handing out the bag to me hesitated a bit, left…right, I hesitated too while slowing down, took out the left automatic pedal…wrong!, I ended up falling over my arm, hip and right knee, and that was painful!, nobody can touch you (except paramedics) in order not to be disqualified, so volunteers asked if I was ok but didn’t touched me. Got back on my bike and realized that I had cramps on both calves, tried to focus on the nice downhill part of the course that was awaiting for me and started drinking my fresh EFS drink (I froze the bottles the night before). I gained some time here, but not enough to make up a pretty discreet first half. Winds so strong here that I couldn’t go much on aero position, it was pretty dangerous since the bike was moving violently. After that part, back to Queen K. Highway, and I got hit by the winds again (for being a bit late), that meant to lose precious time that I honestly didn’t plan to.

I finally made it to Kona, and was lucky enough to see my wife again (she was very smart and placed herself in the perfect spots all the time, she was checking the tracking information about my race on her Ipod through a free wifi connection from a near Starbucks). I was really looking forward to leave the bike aside, 112 miles (180 km.) is a very long way, especially considering the heat of the lava fields, the strong winds I faced and because of spending 6 hours and 45 minutes on a saddle of a Triathlon specific bike (which is much more uncomfortable than a road bike). During the last part of the bike I crossed Mirinda Carfrae, she was doing the last part of the Marathon…and she ended up winning the women’s race, and I thought…now I need to run a full marathon under this sun, let’s see how do I do that….

Entered in T2, handed my bike to a volunteer and ran to the changing tent. When I entered there I received a punch straight to my brain, it was hot, smelly, I was feeling a bit light headed…sat down on a chair and started to get my bike clothes out while searching for my running shoes, shocks, pants and t-shirt (the very same model I wore during the bike course).

I spent 15 minutes in T2, a lot of time, but I never stopped doing stuff, either adjusting well my shoes or putting my head into an ice tank. I needed that time to recover a bit before heading to the Marathon course. My knees were actually ok, a bit of pain, but not much. It’s true that before the bike I used an slightly anaesthetic spray, and then a heating cream in T2.

Run

It was 3:27 pm when I started my run, I had one clear objective, not to walk any part of the course. I am one of those who think that Marathons are to run them, not to walk them. What I contemplated was to slow down my pace, and even to stop a bit in some aid stations to get ice on the pockets of my t-shirt and inside my cap.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was unbelievable hot (no surprises here) since the pavement was reflecting all the heat. The beginning of the run goes through Ali’i drive , crossing Kona, so lots of spectators cheering. The people form Spider Tech (and Kevin himself) were cheering people up from a tent. He recognized me and told me “I told you you’d be able to do it!!!”, Kevin it worked, thanks so much for your help!!!. After All’i Drive you head up to the complete solitude…but before there is a hilly street were most people just walked, I didn’t. I saw my wife cheering me up, and that gave me even more energy, she told me “Pablo, you are the only one running here!!…GO, GO, GO!!!”.

There was an aid station every mile of the course, they handed out water, cola, ice, energy drinks, bananas, sponges…I took sponges in almost every one of them, also iced my cap and t-shirt constantly…and I managed to keep my heart rate below 140 bpm the whole race. I ran a very conservative Marathon considering how I well was feeling, but it was my first Ironman and I was scared of collapsing at any given point, so decided not to force at all. Around 6 the sun began to hide, and by that time I was facing the feared Energy lab way…an uphill that a lot of people was scared about. To be honest, it is manageable if you have trained hills, another important factor was how fresh your legs are, and mine (considering my terrible bike portion) were pretty fresh. It’s true that it’s a very psychological tough course since most of it happens in empty roads with very little public.

The night came up when I was leaving the energy lab to go back to Kona, they were the last 12 km. of the race and I thought “Pablo, this is a short workout, keep focused”…and then my right knee started to be very painful. Tried not to panic, and convinced myself that it was going to hold up. The fact that I could end up before the cut off time no matter if I needed to walk reassured me a bit, but nonetheless I wanted to keep running.

Regarding nutrition, I think I had less than one half bottle of my liquid food, then I had several Haribo jelly gummy rings. I managed to keep drinking my EFS liquid until it was finished, then I had some cola, uncountable cups of water, some cups of cola and a few sips of the provided energy drink (which I hated). During the whole run stopped three times to visit the loo, one for big reasons related to the mix floating on my stomach.

Met a couple of guys with a very similar pace, and we did about 5 km. together, we were chatting about life, our work, it was pretty awesome to feel so well at that stage. I felt they were slowing down a bit and I said goodbye (with the promise to see them again in the finish line). The last 5 km. were awesome, I forgot about the pain (despite the fact that it was there) and kept a good pace and form. Saw my wife 2 km. before the finish line and I broke into tears a bit, she was cheering me up the whole day, WOW!.

I honestly think that one of the secrets of the run was to keep my body temperature low, thanks to the ice in the t-shirt pockets and on the cap, also for being able to manage the heart rate.

I was so close that was able to hear Mark Reilly screaming names of people crossing the finish line, I was already seeing the big lights illuminating the arrival area, could smell the crowd…the finish line was there. I “flew” over the last kilometre in Alii drive, I wanted to make sure to cross the finish line alone…and then it happened “Pablo Fuente, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!!” I looked to the sky, thanked God for everything, for the wonderful opportunity of being here, searched for my wife to kiss her, to thank her for all her patience and understanding, I went crazy.

I did it, I was an Ironman, I just couldn’t believe it. An explosion of emotions erupted when I was able to hug and kiss my wife, some volunteers moved me away from the finish line while covering me with a towel. From there I went to pick up my medal, picked up my bike, my bags…what an incredible day, what an incredible experience.

We needed to walk quite a bit to get back to our car, additional pit stop because of stomach issues, nothing worrying. As soon as I got back to the hotel had a warm shower, put some warm clothes since I was feeling cold and headed to a restaurant to have a big burger with fries, also to drink a beer and toast with my wife for OUR achievement. My official times:

Swim: 1:15:19

T1: 10:47

Bike: 6:45:51

T2: 15:05

Run: 4:10:18

Total Time: 12:37:20

Here is the link to the official results: Ironman World Championship. Kona (Hawaii). Pablo Fuente.

I don’t know if I would ever be able to come back here as a participant, probably one day. What is sure is that we’d love to come back to the island to cheer other athletes while they pursue their dream. To give back to the island what it gave us during this magical week.

Mahalo Hawaii!

Gallery of pictures

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Video of the arrival

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Video from NBC footage

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July 25th 2010. Ironman 70.3. Antwerp (Belgium)

 

Here are my thoughts about how the race went. Overall, I enjoyed it like hell. Was a bit scared during the swim and at the beginning of the run, but I am pretty happy with the results considering it was my first triathlon ever!

The Swim (31′ 20″)

My first competitive swim. A bit scared because of the number of people and the color of the water. As soon as I jumped in the lake I realized it was going to be tough, null visibility and a lot of people. Received a couple a kicks in my nose and I started bleeding, tried to remain calmed and do my race, but it was really difficult. I used one of my triathlete friend’s advice “Quiet your mind”. Left the lake after 31 minutes, happy considering the circumstances. Used a bit more than 4 minutes to remove the neoprene, put my bike gear on and leave the Transition 1 Area, not a bad time (but no good either).

The Bike (2 hrs. 42 ‘ 39″)

I departed with my bike through the center of Antwerp. I enjoyed the whole ride a lot and felt that I could have pushed much more, I guess I paid my inexperience. I wanted to arrive with fresh legs to the run, so always controlled the speed, heart rate and cadence. Some guys passed me like rockets…the sound of carbon wheels is amazing…

The Run (1 hr. 41′ 43″)

I made a fairly good transition (2′ 24″) and started the run. Just after leaving my bike I started to have bad cramps on my stomach, I guess my belly didn’t enjoyed the last sips of gel, tried to remain cool and focused, and decided to maintain a quiet pace for the first 10 km. After Km. 12 I started to feel great, and I pushed a bit more. Suddenly I realized that my time could be below 5 hours, I couldn’t believe it. It was too late to make it happen, but I finished supper strong, without any pain and passing dozens of runners. Final time: 5:02:19. I am thrilled!

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I need to thank my wife for her unconditional support during my whole training period, also for buying me the coolest bike on earth. Thanks a lot to my friends Chema and Iciar that came the whole way from Spain to support me during the race, you guys rock!

Now the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii waits for me, it will take place on October the 9th. I am fully immersed in the training, now things are a bit much serious!. I’ll keep you posted.