Jason Holmes: Racing Ironman 70.3 Barcelona

This is a great guest blog from coached athlete Jason Holmes. Rob has been coaching Jason for about a year. This story is a great example of an athlete overcoming pain,  injury and self doubt, ignoring the voice in his head that's saying "stop." Nice work, Jason.

I decided this year to enter two 70.3's with a view of completing a full IM in 2017.  Chose Barcelona (like to do an overseas one) and Dublin which is close.  Both because they were flattish (or at least I thought!).  I made the mistake which seems quite common of looking at the full Barcelona IM and seeing a flat course and thinking the 70.3 would be half of it.  Nope!  The 70.3 goes up into the mountain for 1300+ m of climbs and I’m not good on hills.  But after the initial oops I got on with it.


Firstly the Barcelona Ironman events are actually held about 50km above Barcelona in Calella, a pleasant seaside resort.  Took us about 2 hours from the airport to it in the train (two of them – changing in Barcelona).  Flew EasyJet which was great except on way home their terminal can’t handle bike boxes so we had to go elsewhere with it.  Huge airport so lots of walking – leave plenty of time.


Stayed in the Volga Hotel – about 5 minutes from transition – fantastic.  Wasn’t much more to go for the privilege room and as just me and the good lady we went for that.  Big balcony, sun loungers and hot tub.  Well worth it.  Also went Half Board which was a buffet and there was lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and salads and good cooking.  That was also well worth it though I ate far too much on the 3 days leading up to the race.


The event itself was really well organised and ran really well.


Big thing for me was just sticking at it and mentally not giving in.  The Swim looked choppy the 2/3 days before it and on practice we noticed a lot of currents.  On the day it wasn’t choppy but there were a lot of swells and currents.  I just don’t like it like that.  The first 300m to the first turn were a constant battle with my mind “you aren’t enjoying this…you are going to be crap on the bike anyway…give up now, save yourself for 2 weeks (I’m doing a marathon then)”.  I decided to stick it to the first turn and see how it was.  Then decided to stick it down the long straight and eventually I got it done – 47 mins.  Hard work


Bike is my least favourite of the 3.  I have a sore weak lower back which aches after a while of sustained cycling.  Dosed with nurofen I got out of transition and tried to get my legs going – they felt heavy already.  The bike course was 3 hills (big ones!).  A smaller one then a loop over a bigger one then back over the smaller one.  The middle one I was dreading.  I don’t do a lot of training on hills.


Clearly not a flat course!

Clearly not a flat course!

To be honest the first one was agony on my back and I felt I couldn’t go on or I was too slow and would so miss the cut off.  I thought about the people in the hotel we had met who were doing the event and how over dinner we were all going to swap stories and I decided my story wasn’t going to be I didn’t finish it.  if I missed the cut off – fair enough – but not I didn’t finish it because I couldn’t.  there was a water stop at 20km and I got off and stretched my back out.  It seemed to help and I kept going.  The second bigger hill was over relatively quickly.  Was exhilarating coming down it – the brakes were burning through the turns.  Third hill was done as well with a couple more back stretches.


All in all the bike finished strong and I got in to transition with 10 minutes to spare – much to the good lady’s relief.


I like running and the run was flat with 2 loops along the promenade at the beach.  Temp was about 20/21, lots of water stops and I ran and walked it.  Legs were heavy at the start and I walked a little too much but again talked myself into running more and the second 10k felt much better than the first.  Great finish along the red carpet.


Overall I did 7:23 which was slower than I wanted but I was so pleased I finished.  Mentally this was tough for me but I pushed on with the parts I’m not good at / don’t enjoy as much and got it done.  Another t-shirt for the collection!


And Dublin is definitely flat – I rechecked!