ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championship, Ibiza, Spain. 11th May 2003 (Swim 4km, Bike 120km, Run 30km)
I was probably in the best shape of my life for this race (yes, at 42 years old!), having trained hard all winter and having not long returned from 4 weeks hard training in the Arizonan-Sonoran desert. My brother Iain and I flew in to race for Team GB having competed in Ibiza in the try-out race there 7 months earlier. We liked the venue, the people and the tranquil surroundings before the clubbers descend en masse (don’t forget to check out Ibiza Aeropuerto’s fabulous Spanish arches if you look up high when in the arrivals hall).
We knew which hotel we wanted to stay in and were hoping for a good race. What transpired for me was another serious meltdown in the heat (though it was only 22 deg C in the shade) during the run. The good part was my friend Rebecca was flying in from Tucson to race for Team USA and one of the page peeps, Wayne from Dallas to race for Team Canada.
The swim was an interesting start by jumping into the harbour…if you were a good swimmer and dived in you were ok…if you were an ok swimmer and jumped in – you had to get moving forward pronto otherwise the next competitors in your age group jumped in on top of you…I swam an impressive 1:18:21 and was thinking that it was going to be a good day…off round the bike course with the little skinny dudes passing me on the climb…only for me to blow past them on the descent and flats (can’t beat power!). A steady 3:45 bike which was almost the same time as previously, seemed to indicate I was going well. I seem to remember catching Iain at the end of lap 1 of the bike but I didn’t pull much further ahead of him.
The run was uncomfortable. There was no wind. The sun was very strong and even though the air temp in the shade was 22 deg C – I was overheating. Iain flew past me early on the run and I was trying to get fluids down but even before I’d completed 10km I was back in the land of retching. It got worse and worse. A girl from Team USA offered me something to calm my stomach down but I know it’s my body and it’s not happy and there’s no cure. I’d dropped my salt tabs but I don’t think they were of any use. I’d put Ribena in my Fuel Belt bottles in a futile attempt to carry something drinkable on the run…the warm sickly sweet liquid went down and came straight back up. I don’t EVER think about not finishing and I’m racing for Team GB so I can only do my best to get to the Finish line as fast as my body will let me.
There were lots of Brits racing – a few friends of mine and also a lot of Scots whom we didn’t know (some of the girls were particularly frosty when Iain and I said hello to them after the race..) who had brought their own Piper. Something positive happens – Rebecca cruises past me – obviously when yer from the desert, this is only warm. I remember trying not to walk where the crowds were gathered, watching the event. On lap 3 when I reached Ibiza town I had stopped running as I was retching, so was walking…but then I couldn’t even walk without retching – eventually I stopped at an aid station, retching so badly as there was by now nothing left in my stomach. I couldn’t move. Stuck on one of those plastic garden chairs, a red variant for Coca Cola sponsorship, with my head between my legs trying to empty my stomach itself onto the asphalt…it took me a good few minutes to regroup physically, mentally – I’m a little concerned – about 7km to go and there is obviously no fluid left in my stomach and I’m seriously dehydrated. However, I’m wearing Great Britain on my chest – so I get up and start moving forwards again. It takes me ages to reach the last turn round and jog/walk back towards the Finish where Ian Pettitt hands me my Union Flag for the Finish chute. I’ve done my best but a 3:38:30 run and 8:42:34 overall time is 21 mins slower than 7 months ago.
I don’t feel well AT all. I’m badly dehydrated. My stomach is in a bad way. I need to sit down but that compresses my stomach and makes me feel worse, so I walk about on legs that are unwilling to hold me up. I find Iain, lying on a sun bed, an unhealthy grey-white colour, periodically leaning over the side to be sick. He looks bad. He says he didn’t drink for the last 20km on the run, to avoid being sick. We seem to have the same problem with getting ill, though Iain seems to have it more acutely. A girl is concerned about the state he’s in and gets some medical staff to come out from the med tent. They eagerly take Iain inside and hook him up to an IV. I eagerly replace him on the sun bed he was occupying and try to feign a healthy state of resting and recovering…
We eventually struggle back to our hotel room with all our gear and collapse on the beds. You know that coma feeling when yer sucked into a sleep almost immediately. Peace and solitude is disturbed by a fracas at the door – I answer and in bundle the forces Brits, Mike and Jason complete with bottle of vodka – suggesting it’s time to PARTY! Iain and I say we’ll be out after a power coma. We all head off to the no alcohol award ceremony and leave early – next stop a cafe in town by the harbour for cerveza – lucky for us Pacha is just round the corner from our hotel and our race wristbands gain us free entry to the night club. Hard core – Iain, Rebecca, Mike, Jason, Wayne and I have more recovery beers and make the occasional fleeting shaky dance floor appearance.