By the time you read this I will be back in the UK after the long drive from the Costa Blanca but most importantly I have the first race of my season under my belt. I usually kick things off with something shorter like a duathlon, some time trials or fell races but this year I jumped straight in with a middle distance tri, just short of 1/2 ironman distance.
The Triathlon Elche - Arenales 113 was in the right place, about an hour from my Spanish base, at the right time. I'd had a couple of months consistent training under my belt and wanted a hit out.
The race was made up of 1.9km sea swim followed by 86km hilly bike and 21km run with a mix of promenade, road, trail, beach and stairs. Overall a challenging course but nothing epic. The race was round of the Etixx Non-drafting series & a Spanish championship event with a very health prize fund. As such it attracted a strong field of 75 Elites with the undoubted standout favorite Eneko LLanos, 7th place finisher at the IronMan World Championships in Kona last year.
The race started with a 20 minute delay for which I still do not know the reason*. While the water was beautifully clear the navigation buoys were tiny so sighting was a bit tricky. After a measured effort accompanied by some calming self talk I exited the water with a time 4 minutes quicker than any 1.9km I swan last year and a PB for the distance. It was nice to enter a transition still full of bikes with even quite a lot still on the Elite racks.
To the bike! I know what I'm doing here and could write all day about how I approached it but will try to keep it brief. I went from 92nd out of T1 to 6th into T2. Job done. It was a conservative effort (80% of FTP for those who are interested) but very solid and a good marker on what I am capable of at the moment. I dropped a gel & bottle on course, the latter of which I had to turn back for as I wasn't sure when the next aid station was. The upside of this is I got to pass the same guy twice which must have been good for him.
In to the unknown of the run. It has taken me along time to come back from last years ankle injury and training hasn't been the smoothest since so I wasn't sure what to expect. The varying terrain made the run hard but entertaining and there were great crowds on all areas of the course with the a real atmosphere on the 'stairway to heaven'. Which I ran. All of. Every time. Just sayin'. I wasn't in free fall position wise so felt I could hold on for a top twenty and after fighting back for a couple of places in the final kilometers I came in a very sweaty 16th. LLanos won, leading from start to finish, but I was significantly closer to him than last time we raced in Lanzarote.
I'm delighted with my swim, pleased with a solid if unspectacular bike leg and happy with how my ankle held up to mix terrain running after such a serious injury last year.
I'd highly recommend this race for anyone who likes a good middle distance tri. It was a fantastic atmosphere with loads of spectators, a beautiful sea swim, full closed road bike leg and a uniquely challenging run. Organisation was excellent and the post race food was a cut above most races, almost fell race quality!
Next up on the triathlon front is the UK middle distance championships in May but excitingly (for me) I've been given the go ahead by my coach to search out some bike racing as it will complement my training.
Thanks for reading and hope everyone is having a good season of whatever it is you all do.
*It was pretty cool, if a bit confusing, being in a full on foreign event. This was no anglicised IronMan or Challange event and my Spanish isn't great (actually it is embarrassingly poor). I'd already spent quite a lot of time using google translate on portions of the race website and it still isn't entirely clear how my entry came about.
Hi, I'm Ali. I like riding bikes and coaching people to achieve their athletic goals. I've been coaching for more than 10 years now and have never failed to make an athlete faster (I can't quite believe this myself either). I used to race bikes, triathlon and in 2014 I broke 9 vertebrae and my skull. Follow my journey here and on Twitter.