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Ironman Portugal 2022 Race Report

Created: Friday, 12 January 2024
This was my ninth full IM race, and fifth country to race in. This destination was selected because the visit to Lisbon was amazing a couple years ago, and was eager to return. Plus, the Race description was appealing. 2.4 miles in a barrier protected area of the Atlantic Ocean. 112 miles of biking up a mountain, 1 lap around the Estoril Formula 1 race course, rolling hills along the coastline, then do it again for a second loop. 26.2 mile, 3 loop Run asking the coastline. The short race synopsis was posted earlier, so this is the long version for those interested in the gritty details.

Pre-Race

My wife and I landed in Lisbon the Wednesday before the Saturday race. The pre-arranged shuttle was easy and convenient. It was a 30 minute ride to Cascais. There’s no need for a car if you stay within the city as we did. The city was absolutely amazing! Painted stone streets filled with cafes, restaurants and shops along with beaches and parks. There was plenty to see and do leading up to the race. The Welcome events were canceled. It was a combined race with the 70.3 and 140.6 occurring simultaneously. 5,000 athletes from 101 countries, plus their supporters, made for a very crowded scene.
Check in was easy. I traveled with the Scicon soft case for my bike with no problems. I put my bike together with no missing or broken pieces. *Whew* The athlete briefing was rushed, but I assume I learned of everything essential. Atlantic Ocean was calm but cold, 68°. The practice swim felt fast and more comfortable after 5 mins of swimming. The bike check in was far from the swim exit. The bike out of T1 was immediately up hill. European races require the race bib number to be worn during the bike leg. After making these observations, I was ready to race.
The night before, I prepared my Hammer Nutrition products. Perpetuem for the bike, as well as gels and bars throughout the day. My Zoot wetsuit and Team Zoot race kit were all ready. It was impossible to get a good night’s rest since the streets were loud with folks until the late night. I rested as much as I could. Then it was time to make it happen.

Swim - 2.4 mi, 1:37:05

After eating breakfast, I headed out to place my nutrition on my bike. The Race gave everyone nice sock booties since it’s a long walk back to the swim start. I kept my extra pair of running shoes on for the walk. We watched the 70.3 racers start their swim. It was an hour between Transition closing and the Full swim start. At 8:15, it was time for the full race to begin.
I was given a bronze AWA swim cap. Everyone else wore red, so I really stood out. I lined up with the 1:30 estimated finishers. Everyone wore wetsuits. Once I noticed that I was in the back of the race pack, I moved up a bit. The line moved very quickly. As soon as it was my turn, I realized I forgot to turn on my Garmin!! 😅 I stepped to the side, waiting for the GPS to connect, now I’m ready for real. I ran off the beach and flopped into the cold ocean.
The swim felt great! I was flying. Much faster than my typical open water swims. I generally swim around 2:30/100 yd. I was swimming at 2:04 for the first 750 yds.
Once I got in for straightaway deeper into the ocean, my anxiety level rose. I kept myself calm and relaxed, and settled in at a 2:30 pace for a while.
I was so happy to finally get to the turnaround buoy!!! It’s such a long swim. On the way back, seeing the city’s coastline was very comforting as now there was something to swim towards that I could see. There was no help exiting the water. After being horizontal for a long while then quickly standing, I made sure I emerged slowly, ensuring I have my stable land legs before I started running. I finished with a very strong swim. Typically, I would race 1:45 in an ocean swim with no current. I finished at 1:37.

T1 - 10:37

I knew the run from the swim exit to my bike would be long, so I just enjoyed the trot. It was 0.61 miles! This has to be amongst the longest. It was red carpet all the way, so my feet felt comfortable. Inside the Hippodrome (their stadium), I retrieved my hanging transition bag, stowed away my Zoot wetsuit, and put on my bike gear and bib number belt. I was going to leave my shoes attached to my bike, but I learned that there was a steep climb immediately, so that was not a good idea. Since I am a relatively slow swimmer, just about all the bikes were gone when i arrived. However, the climb up to the mount line was steep and slippery wearing the bike cleats. Time: 10:37

Bike: 112 mi, 6:58:14

The bike continued uphill right from the start. Only a couple miles in, the mountain climb started. 540 feet in 5 miles! On one steep section, my chain dropped and got wedged in pretty good. I unsuccessfully tried fixing while on my bike. I got off, fixed it, then I was good to go for the rest of the day. I lost several minutes there. The steep descent had speed bumps and sharp turns, so I couldn’t completely fly downhill. My initial plan was to bike according to my power meter, but I neglected to get it connected prior to the race.
Right after my legs were toasted, it was time to enjoy the F1 race track in Estoril. It was not what I expected. There were no flat sections. The straightaways were uphill, the descents had sharp turns where I worried about sliding out. I didn’t, but my legs were burnt out even more.
Next was an out and back to Lisbon along the coastline. It was gorgeous. The views were definitely distracting. Beautiful beaches too. But that wind coming off the ocean was strong! It was a constant battle of changing headwinds, crosswinds, and tailwinds. Then I get to do it all again with the same challenges on a second loop. The road obstacles were not marked, but they had volunteers warning us to slow down on the roughest parts. The route was confusing at some points. I never got lost, so it must not have been too bad. There were a few U-turns that I had to slow way down to safely make on my tri bike. I talked to a couple of Americans on the course, that was cool. They were easy to spot from their kits. My Zoot kit had American brand names, so I was identifiable too. There was a section of cobblestones that I was worried I would flat. After the race, I had a big chunk of tire missing!! You can see it in the photos.
At the end of the bike, my body felt really beat up. My quads were burning from the climbs and fighting the wind, and my persistent back issue flared up again. Although this was probably my slowest IM bike split, I was happy with my performance and enjoyed the experience (after it was over!) My Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem and Gel worked out nicely, no issues there.

T2, 6:46

After the dismount line, there was a steep descent. This was dangerous and slippery as I was trying to jog in my bike cleats. I saw some going in their socks. This second transition was a reasonable distance. I racked my bike, grabbed my run gear, stuffed my pockets with Hammer Gel, and I was off to begin a marathon. Time: 6:46.

Run: 26.2 mi, 5:54:59

My plan was to listen to my body. I wasn’t trying to PR or prove anything to anyone, just perform my best. It was another course with gorgeous coastline views. 3 loops. The first loop I felt fairly well, running a slower than normal 10:30/mi pace. The sun felt intense, making the 82°F temperature feel hot. The sun started setting on the second loop, cooling quickly and my back started hurting even more. The exciting crowd support kept me moving. My pace slowed to a jog. The sun had set on the third loop, and my back was really hurting. I decided to listen to my body, and really enjoy this opportunity I’m blessed with. I interacted with the crowd and other racers. Many didn’t speak English, but everyone was super friendly. I saw a couple of Team Zooters, that was cool.
The countdown miles to the finish line was electric! Supporters lined the last 2 miles of the course. I shared my excitement, and the crowd returned with cheers! The red carpet finish line was very bright and loud. The announcers alternated, depending on which language would be spoken. The most rewarding words were yelled, “Completing his ninth Ironman, Derrick Britton, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!”
Big thanks to my wife for being there all along the route and supporting my journey. Also, thanks to my sponsors, Zoot and Hammer Nutrition. This was the first IM race of my last 4 where I didn’t finish in the medic tent! So I’m happy for that. I don’t know where race #10 will be, but I’m not going to push my body too much harder. It can’t take it! Ha. Now, it’s time to enjoy the rest of Portugal with a much deserved vacation.
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