Bilbao Triathlon 

22 May

It’s been a long 8 months since Ironman Wales and though I’ve been silent, I haven’t been entirely idle!

With Dai having qualified for Ironman 70.3 World Champs in Chattanooga this year, it’s his turn to take priority & despite having loved every minute of the ironman race day, I loathed an awful lot of the training so going long was off the agenda.

70.3 is a distance that suits me, I’m such a diabolical swimmer that I need a longer bike and run so that I can make up my losses compared to other people!

I couldn’t decide on which race to enter & had whittled it down to a short list of 3, including Bilbao Half Distance Triathlon. At exactly the right moment UKTriChat launched a competition to win entry & accommodation for Bilbao. I duly entered and thought: “if I win, it’s meant to be”!

So – in the interest of full disclosure, yes, I won. Yes, I went as a guest of the Bilbao Triathlon organisers & was therefore somewhat predisposed to view it in a positive light, however they asked nothing of me (like a glowing review) in return! 

Training went pretty well. I’ve been more stressed than usual lately & not sleeping all that well but other than that I managed to get it all done.

Van loaded, we were off and ready to race.

A short flight later we arrived in Bilbao. Causing much consternation at the airport taxi rank as the drivers debated what sort of vehicle they could get my bike in, we were spotted by Eneko from the event organisers. He was there to greet the pros but made me feel like one too!

Bilbao is lush. Can’t recommend it highly enough. Clean, feels very safe, attractive with super friendly people. And the food…..OMG the food is awesome. I was a little distraught by having to hold back in the pre race days!

Registration was a slick, simple affair. Fantastic goody bag with both a bike jersey and a run top to take home. A winning combo in my book!

Then the race briefing. This is the only area where I came a cropper! Approximately 4 sentences were in English and the only Spanish I managed to decipher were “rapido” and “technico”. The descent I gathered would need some care and attention. To be fair to the organisers in a field of 1200 odd people there were (I think)  5 English speakers total! The triathlon officials in transition & Eneko spoke perfect English and were very happy to help at every point. Post briefing and transition was all laid out.

Time to get an early night and put the game face on!

Saturday morning racking. I went early. You can see for yourself this is not the Spanish way! 

I wondered if anyone else was coming! Interesting little Spanish specific, rule on racking – no swim cap, no entry to transition! Quick dash back to the hotel and all was well. Lucky I racked early after all!

As I did the wetsuit dance by the side of the river awaiting my start time, we got to watch the Olympic distance racers set off. 

That’s when the panic started to set in! There’d been an awful lot of rain in Bilbao lately and the river was cold. Not Brit cold but certainly Spanish cold and they were fishing out people left, right & centre! My confidence faltered a little. 

No time for that, jump in, let’s go!

All the ladies set off together. All 34 of us! The great thing about this swim is the support. Normally you don’t get much of that in a swim, but I could see Dai & Will most of the time and I could hear them shouting for me. It did make me feel more comfortable. That said, I had a shocker of a swim. I don’t know if it was the cold water, never having swum in a river before, the first open water swim of the year or what, but I was slow. Dead slow, actually dead last lady, which I realised when I noticed I had my own personal paddle board escort 🙄.

11.5 mins down on what I’d normally expect! That’s massive & I was disappointed. Bugger all I could do except ride my bike like I stole it! 

The bike leg was superb. The course is spectacular. Spanking fast for the most part with one pretty whopping climb that you do twice. Magical views on the climb made it pass pretty quickly. 

This was the best organised road closure method I’ve ever seen. At all times we were kept safely in a wide lane to ourselves whilst the volunteers and police moved the traffic around us. Not one irate driver & actually loads of kids hanging out of car windows to cheer us on. Loved loved loved it! 

T2, daps on, oh crap I feel like I’m gonna die! The first 3 miles of the half marathon I was fairly convinced I wouldn’t finish. I’ve never felt so horrid on a run. That swim took a lot more out of me than I realised. I saw Dai and Will at about mile 4, “how’re you feeling” dai asked, “well I was suicidal but now I’m a bit better”. I realise that sounds a tad over dramatic but anyone who’s hit the wall/bonked knows! 

Anyway my mood and pace both picked up, the relentlessly enthusiastic supporters on the run course lifted me & I finished strongly. Having got out the water in 34th. I finished in a less abysmal 22nd! Not too shabby an improvement. Just need to fix that tricksy swim!

All done, a much tougher race than it looks on paper but I loved every minute of my trip to Bilbao & will certainly go back. It’s also made me want to explore the Basque region more. Great food, great wine, great people, oh and great cycling. What’s not to like? 

Massive thanks to Eneka, the team @BilbaoTriathlon and of course UKTriChat, just a brilliant experience from start to finish.
Keep trucking 

V 😊

2 Responses to “Bilbao Triathlon ”

  1. wolfytwex May 22, 2017 at 8:58 pm #

    The race sounds awesome and you look so chilled and happy on those pictures! It’s great!

    • Vickie Woodsford May 22, 2017 at 9:07 pm #

      Thanks. I always try and enjoy racing. Need to remember sometimes that it’s a hobby and not let it become a chore!

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