Jason Walkley: IRONMAN Barcelona 2016 Race Report

IRONMAN Barcelona was Jason Walkley's final triathlon of 2016 and his A race for the season. Earlier in the year Jason raced IRONMAN UK, which was an excellent marker at the mid season point and showed that Jason was in a good place to build and taper for IRONMAN Barcelona. 

Jason training in the Algarve, Portugal
I ran a 3:22 marathon at Bolton that day and I felt I was getting back to some kind of run form that had kind of escaped me for a couple of years and I was hoping to carry this on for Barcelona.

So, this is how my day unfolded in Calella……

The swim start was a nice late one at 0820, this meant my alarm went off at 0530, a normal day for me.

Breakfast was as follows:

Bowl of Muesli

2 slices of toast with Jam

Serving of high 5 Xtreme

Vit C & Zinc Supplement

The swim start was great, I seeded myself into the 50 minute swimmers, with the idea of getting a good draft off the super fast swimmers and as I lose their feet hopefully I would then pinball back through as the faster guys pass me. Initially we were all lined up in the start pen and as the female pros were about to start the inflatable arch deflated across the beach and blocked our entry into the sea….. great.

Luckily they managed to re-inflate it before the female pros set off.

IRONMAN have initiated a swim start program to reduce the anxiety and panic of the swim start, using a rolling start format would ensure we all found our own spot of clear water.

This worked well. They set us off in groups of 6 every 4 seconds. I was in the 3rd group to start.

I swam the opening 2200m fairly well, my gps showed I was swimming fairly straight too. Then turning to head back to the swim exit, I found I had drifted off due to the headwind and I couldn’t see any buoys or any other swimmers, I had to stop and have a look around. I still couldn’t see anything, so I looked for transition in the distance and decided If I swim towards that I would eventually be able to find my way back onto the course. I saw the safety canoes and headed towards them. I exited the water in 1:04. I thought that was a good swim considering I had swam off course for a while, I actually ended up swimming 230m further so clocked just over 4k. This meant I averaged 1:36 per 100m.

Transition was easy and issue free.

Onto the bike, as I was running out with my bike to the mount line I tried to to turn my Garmin Edge 520 on….. Nothing….. tried again and nothing. I mounted the bike and off I went. No Garmin working for the bike…. great. It was a good job I had worked on my bike in training without looking at the Garmin to dial in my perceived effort to power effort feelings.

All I had was Distance/Time/Speed on my 920xt which was on my wrist so pretty useless as I couldn’t read it whilst in the aero position.

There was a tailwind heading out and it was super quick.

I hit the 54km turn point in 1:19. Best of all there was hardly any drafting problems that I had seen on videos of the previous years races here.

Turning at the 54km point I immediately hit the head wind and my god was it strong. I had averaged over 40kph on the way out and now I was down at 32kph.

I was entirely on my own too, I couldn’t see any rider in front of me for pretty much the next 30km. I was conscious of working too hard on this part and said to myself that this would be the point of the course which would make or break the race.

I started seeing guys who had pushed too hard into the headwind as I reached the final 6km of the lap which was the ‘hilly’ part of the course. I stormed past them and felt pretty good.

90km turn point at 2:26

This would be a 5:52 if I did exactly the same on the second lap. So as long as I didn't lose 8 minutes I would bag a sub 5 hour ride. Perfect.

I decided to make use of the tailwind and try and gain a couple of minutes for the return leg into the headwind.

The Boardman that Jason rode in IRONMAN
 Barcelona, supplied by Birdgtown Cycles
I felt good as I turned right to the ride up the ‘dog leg’ on the course, this was an 8km drag up to Argentinos, half way up I heard a noise coming from my front wheel, initially I thought it was my brake pads rubbing as the noise was intermittent, so pulling my brakes on and off followed by leaning down and pulling the callipers apart did nothing….. Then as I went around a roundabout my front wheel went from under me. I managed to to stay upright and immediately knew it was a puncture.

I stopped and lent the bike against a sign post so I didnt lose any of my fluid by laying the bike down. Taking my front wheel and stripping the inner tube out I noticed I had picked up a drawing pin……. a drawing pin on a dual carriageway…… I thought how unlucky was that….

I took my time to replace the tube, as I also noticed that my first inner tube I took out of my spares bag didnt have a long enough valve on it, luckily the second tube I took out did! I use CO2 in a race situation and these can be easily messed up so I ensured everything was set before inflating the tyre. It is always a good feeling when the CO2 runs out and the tyre has inflated and stays inflated.

Wheel back on to the bike and a quick look at the watch, approximately 8 minutes to do that change. F*ck that has probably scuppered my sub 5 attempt surely.

I set off and rode the climb up to the turn point fairly hard, not wanting to drop further behind my target.

Coming back down the climb was all about being aero as possible so I was fully tucked in sat on the top tube like the TDF Pros. Pretty scary at times but I was hitting 60kph.

Back onto the out and back main course I worked hard to the 144km turn point.

Head wind all the way home, work on aero and smooth power generation.

I seemed to by flying, the head wind was there but I felt more comfortable in it than the previous lap. I knew I would have to average 36kph for as much of it as possible,

I found myself in a pace line of about 10 riders, including 2 or 3 female pros. I knew this could help me conserve energy, but only if they were going fast enough. I made my way to the front and decided to lead for a while to suss out the ability of everyone. The group broke up to about 5 or 6 of us. Maintaining the 12m draft zone was easy as the cones had been set out at that distance for a fair bit of the way back in. The Referees seemed happy with that so that's what we stuck with.

20km to go and with me leading the pack for most of it I decided to try and break the pack, A German guy came with me and rode up level with me inviting me to work with him to get a sub 5……. I said ok and he took the lead, I used this as an opportunity to relax and take on some extra fuel from one the final feed stations on the bike as I had ran out of nutrition myself.

After 2km I decided to take the lead from the German guy, Jan was his name and he had some wild facial hair and ponytail going on. I took the lead and after 3 or 4 km I turned to see where Jan was and he was out the saddle shouting over to me that I should leave him as I was riding too strong for him. I wasn’t even pushing that hard, so I hammered it knowing there was a chance of breaking 5 hours still.

Entering town and 3km to go, but 3km of technical, twisting narrow, rough roads with speed bumps and one dead turn….. 4:51 at this point…..I had 9 minutes to navigate this tricky part. This is going to be close.

I took a few risks by really throwing the bike into corners and jumping out of the saddle to get back up to speed quickly.

Jumping off the bike and into T2 a quick look at my split on the watch 4:57!!!!!! Brilliant. How I had done that including an 8 minute stop, I must have rode a hard 2nd 90km.

Nutrition on the bike:

1 x 750ml bottle with 4 scoops of High 5 Energy Source

1 x 750ml bottle with 20 scoops of High 5 Energy Source +

1 x High 5 Zero tablet

1 x Salt Tablet

5 Litres of water

1 x Powerbar Energy Gel

Onto the marathon.

Plan was to head out fast to shake the legs off and wake them up to run.

6:40 was my first mile, 6:50 second and 7 for the third.

I then clicked into cruise control at 7:20’s for pretty much the rest of the run. 

The run was a 1 mile run to the finish chute then 3 laps of 13.5km

With 1 lap to go Alex shouted at me that Coach Phil had said 'smash it'

Here goes nothing.

I started to increase the effort with 10km to go and I worked very hard over that final 45 mins. Looking at my splits over that final 10km doesn't show much of a gain in speed, effort was very high compared to the previous 30km though so it shows to me that had I decided to try a tick the miles off and not increase the effort I would have slowed a fair bit. So an increase in effort just to maintain pace was the outcome, but that shows that I had strength in depth to be able to hold that increase in effort together. 

I crossed the line and didn't know what time I had done, where I was as a position or anything.

Nutrition on the run:

2 x 500ml Water at every feed station, few gulps and pour the rest on my head/body

1 x powerbar energy gel at every other feed station (Approx every 4.5km/20mins)

2 x Salt tablets

The volunteers caught me as my legs gave a proper impression of Shaking Stevens and I was carted off to the recovery tent.

I looked at my watch and saw 9:23.

Job done.

Realistically I had come here to do 5 things:

Sub 9:30

Sub 5 bike

Sub 3:15 marathon

Top 30 AG

Top 100 overall

So to achieve all 5 what can I say.

Well chuffed and a fitting end to a season of hard work.

Thank you for all the support of the TTH sponsors

@btownbikes for the brilliant Boardman bike

@HUUBDesign for the Archimedes 2 wetsuit

@High5nutrition for all the nutritional products

@championsys_uk for all the team kit and race kit

@Bosworthclinic for all the Nutrional, Physio, S&C & Sports Psychology support, without it I wouldn't be racing at this level

And most importantly to Alex and Josh who have stood by me whilst I have been out training and have been there for me without question.