Whilst I live in the UK, I have been very fortunate to spend quite a bit of time around the Marbella area over the past ten years and when I first heard of this event I signed up on the first day registration opened. I've raced many Ironman 70.3 and Ironman events but this time they were coming to party in my second home and I could barely wait the year before race day. I am sometimes wary of inaugural events but I could see the potential that this one had to be special, and it didn't dissapoint.
I arrived in Spain on Wednesday to finalise my preparations and have a relaxing taper which meant my first taste of the event wasn't until Saturday. As we rocked up Saturday lunchtime I was little anxious that we had been told nothing about parking but my fears were allayed as soon as we were off the motorway and entered puerto banus, a massive field of manned parking and only a couple of euros all day, about 5-10 minute walk from the event HQ. Registration was a smooth process, with a very clearly marked line for those already with home nation licences or all-world-athlete status. We were quickly and very efficiently processed and then headed to bike racking, not even a 1 minute walk. On that note a big benefit of this event was having only one transition place. Not many athletes enjoy spending the day before race day dragging themselves, their bags and bikes across a field in hot weather to rack at T1. The race guide stipulated that as usual athletes were to rack according to their race number. I was supposed to wait until mid afternoon but Ironman did the right thing here and let athletes rack when they were ready. Home to get off my feet as soon as possible.
On to race day. As soon as were at the venue, the air of Ironman was there, still dark, a little chilly but triathletes moving around anxiously like strangers in the night doing their final preparations, getting into the zone, all with the encouraging and powerful words of Ironman's Paul Kaye watching on. The swim start was well organised, athletes self seeding. Perhaps some may complain that they weren't offered a practice swim on Friday or Saturday, but, we were allowed into the sea on race day for a warm up if desired. It was a rolling start which Ironman nailed in my opinion. Three marshalls about 10 metres from the sea, letting three athletes out at a time based on a sound system, about 3 second intervals I think. This was a smart move, the timing was perfect and it prevented any ensuing chaos. It also added to the atmosphere.
I'm a strong swimmer and being swum over, kicked in the face etc doesn't really bother me. However, I foolishly thought the Med would be nice and calm. It was warm, but let me tell you, I felt like I was in a washing machine. I wasn't frightened, although I hear some were, but the rollers were giants. I was like a beach whale being picked up and flung back down again the other side. By two minutes in I had had my quota on sea water and was gagging very badly. I had memorised the swim course but that went by the way side and all I could do was try and keep on track with other bright hats. At one point I swam butterfly because it was easier to counteract the waves. I couldn't have done too badly because I was out in 25 minutes, but I would imagine some truly hated it. Thankfully Ironman had plenty of clean water for mouthwashing when out of the sea.
T1 was uneventful, although I didn't put my bike shoes on until I got to my bike. I had already spotted the ramp up out of T1 and having relatively new cleats I couldn't chance running on them. My chances of not being on my backside when running on wet carpet were very slim.
Bike course was beautiful but brutal. I'm not from around a hilly area so I was always going to struggle going up 1400 metres. I therefore played Steddy Eddy on the first climb, high cadence and sat it out patiently. Feed stations were more than sufficient, although I would have liked some gels rather than just bars and bananas but that's just a personal preference. The middle part of the bike provided some fantastic speed and views before a long drag up the second climb. The course had been described as technical but if you are confident descending, like I am, then it is nothing to worry about. The roads are plenty wide enough to take the courses. The whole route was closed road and the police did a fantastic marshalling job. The last 20 km were very fast, I got to 48.3 mph which did require some concentration in the wind and especially around those not quite so confident. I rode my road bike with tri bars attached. I had been tempted in the days before the race to leave the bars off but I am very glad I didn't as I descend well and this allowed me to make up the time descending that I had lost ascending. I would however recommend a road bike rather than full on TT.
T2 was also uneventul and straight forward. It would have been nice if there were some toilets nearer transition but I soon found 1km further along. The run was flat and I guess this was a strategic decision given the brutality of the bike but it still didn't feel too easy. It was a two loop job and the run out to the promenade one way was exceptionally windy. The opposite direction it was a bit more sheltered. There was plenty of support along the run and the paths were plenty wide enough for an out and back route without running into oncomers. Feed stations were again sufficient, especially as in the majority they were fluids. On a 70.3 I am perfectly happy with no solids and coke serves me well. One of the nice things about the run was that the finish line could be heard or seen most of the during it which definitely spurred me along.
The organisation at the finish line was well done and finisher t-shirt was pretty neat, and a move away from white at last that Ironman seemed to have favoured in recent years. The food queue was pretty big but I am never very patient after these events as I keen to begin recovery so I skipped that and opted for recovery shake at home twenty minutes away. Collecting bags and bikes etc was all OK, although I found it strange why my timing chip wasn't taken off me until I went out of the bike exit. Perhaps I am just a creature of habit. One thing that did annoy me though were the bundles of spectators crowding the exit of the race. I get that people want to see their athletes, but as an athlete myself, I am tired and grumpy and don't understand why people can't wait twenty more seconds up the road away from the bag collection rather than make me fight my sweaty self through.
All in all this was a tops event and I'll be back. One sad thing though was that I heard today that an athlete suffered a cardiac arrest in the sea and passed away today. I only know their first name as Sharon. My thoughts go out to her family and friends. RIP. Its a very stark reminder that we should never ever take finish lines for granted or moan about being a bit tired.
Posted on 30.04.18