Pescara is located in the Abruzzo province 200 miles due east of Rome on Italy’s Adriatic coast. I was staying with friends who have a house, about 1 hours drive, near the spa village of Caramanico adjacent to the Maiella Nation Park (approx 40% of Abruzzo is covered with national parks). This is my third visit to the region, it’s really unspoilt and not commercialised, apart from the coast.
Really relaxed lead up to race day, light training, beautiful walks, great food and a drop of wine! Even witnessed, out of my bedroom window, deer being chased by what I think were local wolves or even a bear! I also saw wild boar and mountain hares. The weather was changeable from hot and blue skies to thunder and downpours!
Race day! Leaden skies and rain greet us on arriving in Pescara, warm but everything got soaked. Last minute preparation and fuel onto the bike, I was ready to go.
Quick warm up swim, in the choppy sea. Sea temperature was 22.5 degrees, race organisers announced it was officially a wetsuit swim for the age groupers and non-wetsuit for the pros. Whilst we were caged the weather took a turn for the worst: black skies gathered out at sea, lightning flickered and the wind increased.
The start was at noon on the beach, a rolling start with athletes grading themselves based on ability to complete their swim. I decided to be bullish and start near the front. Men and lady pros were sent off, then it was our turn, entering the water 5 at a time, in 5 second intervals. Sea entry was shallow for approx 50m, we then had to swim between two buoys through a gap in the artificial reef, the seas became mountainous!
Rounded the first buoy and out on the downward leg of the swim, it soon became apparent that this was not going to be easy. Safety guys on jet skis and canoes were beginning to get a bit freaked out and I saw a number of swimmers being dragged out and put on stretchers. Anyway, I did not panic, felt confident and trusted my ability, but kept a close watch on what was happening around me.
About 1500m into the swim, a race official on a jet ski came over to me and with his forearms crossed, signalled the swim was cancelled. Swimmers were being ferried back to shore in boats, I kept swimming with an Italian guy, so that we could safely navigate the final stretch together. Down through the reef for a second time, the current became so strong it locked you in the water. After about 5 minutes of going nowhere, I decided bugger this and swam like mad and broke through the under current.
Back in T1, it was a scrum and was told that the race would continue as a duathlon. So staggered out of my wetsuit, on with my bike gear, we again set off on a rolling start, 5 riders every 5 seconds.
I was riding my TT Planet X Stealth for the first time in a race and had really no idea how it would go. The ride was hot, humid, rain free, first 60 km lumpy climbing 870m through vineyards and the Appenines as the backdrop, the last 30m was flat and really enjoyed getting as slippery as possible, feeling good speed back to T2.
Into transition, quick change and then a run of about 2km from transition to where the run loops through the town started. We had to go over the spectacular cycle and pedestrian bridge over the river to get there.
I’m not going to lie, the first 7km felt like an eternity, I felt rubbish with a pain in the back of my knee, which I now think was caused by being thrown around in the sea and spraining my LCL. Anyhow, saw my friends shouting at me, lifted the spirits and got into my run rhythm, focussed on my training, lifted my knees, engaged the glutes, ignored the heavens that had just opened and really enjoyed my run.
Ironman then added 1 hour to everyone’s time to cover the swim and T1. This was rather unfair on me as I had completed the swim, compared with probably 90% of the other athletes, especially my age group, who had not and were therefore much fresher than me.
Despite this year’s conditions, this race should be considered next year, flights were cheap. I love Italy! A bottle of Moretti beer tasted very sweet! Ordinary people, extraordinary goals!