Swim – Gravel – Trail
I would normally write a race recap, but this event was more like an adventure – or a fun day out as Frodo called it – rather than a race. It reminded me of the good old days of triathlon. So much so, that at the after party the athletes who had the most misfortune or who went out of their way to help others were rewarded the most with some pretty amazing prizes from the sponsors. Kudos!
When Frodo (or Jan Frodeno #GOAT for anyone not so up to date with all things tri) started posting about this event, I couldn’t have been more excited – sea swim, tough gravel ride and a short mountain run 2k, 90k and 10k respectively. All to take place in Girona (Spain)…where do I sign up!
About The Event
SGRAIL is a point-to-point event from Cadaqués, just south of the French border, to Girona, approx. 100 km along stunning Mediterranean coastline. The event is extremely well organised, with pretty much everything taken care of, from bike transfers, kit and yourself. There is no need to worry about logistics; all you need to do is make sure you put your race kit into the bags provided for each transition and everything is back in Girona along with your bike at the end of the race day at the same place where you dropped off your bags and bike the previous day.
‘Race’ day or better said my Mediterranean adventure.
Swim – 2km in the bay of Cadaqués
I was really looking forward to the sea swim, having grown up on the coast in NZ I do miss the ocean. Anyways I started one row back to the side as I had a feeling it was going to be a rough and fast start. I wasn’t wrong! The swimming standard was definitely higher than normal. Once it settled down, I found a nice rhythm and just enjoyed swimming in the sea.
The swim itself was straight out 900m, across 200m and back in. Nice and easy to navigate. There was a small swell running which always makes the timing of sighting more important. I hate it when you go to sight, and you are in the trough. (Tip 1) Always try and sight at the top of the swell. (Tip 2) when swimming back to shore try and up your swim tempo when you feel the lift of the swell and relax when it passes you. You will be amazed at how much quicker you will swim coming back to shore. It felt like I had a solid swim and came out in 21st in 27.50.
The Gravel – 88 km, 900m vertical.
Through T1 with no dramas; maybe not quite as relaxed as Frodo who stopped for a coffee and a chat with the athletes, but I took a bit of extra time to put on socks (which I never do!) and start the route on my Garmin as the bike course was self-navigate – a nightmare for me as I very rarely follow navigation, let alone on my Garmin. Note to self – learn to use it properly.
The bike started with a decent climb out of Cadaqués. Easy to burn a few matches right at the start, so I was mindful to keep the pace sensible. Once over the top and a nice long decent followed on a sweeping gravel road where you could see straight away who spends too much time sat on a turbo. At this point I was up into the top 10 rolling along nicely with 2 other guys but just before we hit the tarmac section outside of Roses, I felt my rare wheel sliding around more than I would expect…. a dreaded puncture!
I run a tubeless setup so was very unlucky to get a puncture. But that’s gravel riding for you. Annoyingly for me I couldn’t get the valve out of the rim to put a tube in. The next aid station was 8-9 km away… a long walk/run time for me then! After about 5 mins of jogging (and some swearing), I decided to start riding on the flat. The number of athletes that offered to help was well impressive! The spirit of the race really came to light. I finally managed to make it to the aid station, thankfully without my wheel and tyre disintegrating. A big thanks to the mechanic who got me back on the road….it was a 2 pair of plyers mission to get the valve out.
Back on the bike and time to get my head down. Not knowing this at the time I rode through the German Canyon ‘Rad Pack’ guys. They must have been shooting the breeze at the time as they quickly came back past me and started pulling turns on the front. Those boys could ride! I tried my best to hang with them through the flat section until the final aid station where they seemed to be more interested in eating Nutella sandwiches than carrying on. In hindsight I should have stayed and had another sandwich! Instead, I decided to crack on by myself which quickly turned into a nightmare as I got another puncture. Having used my CO2 cartridge already for the first puncture I could only but hope that someone would stop and lend me a pump. What do you know, the Canyon guys showed up again and kindly lent me a spare pump – I mean who races with 2 pumps! I should’ve have just stayed with them.
I managed to get it sorted and finally got going again. The great thing about rolling with the Canyon boys, besides the tow, was that I needn’t worry about navigation which – I was about to find out – I really suck at. My Garmin (or me) seemed to get confused every time I came to a small village. Extremely frustrating to say the least. Good thing there were other riders about who knew where they were going. Thankfully I made it to T2 without any further dramas.
The bike was 4hrs 18 total time (moving time 3.40)
The trail run
Out of T2 I actually felt quite good and was moving along nicely. (for me) The run is up and over a hill above Girona finishing up at La Comunia If you know me and my lower leg injury history, it’s always a bit of a lottery whether I will get through a run with no issues. Well clearly luck wasn’t on my side as I felt my left calf tightening up running up the hill. Time to shift to management mode which means the heal shuffle. Which means unloading the calves as much as possible while no doubt looking like a running duck! On the plus side, once I was over the top I could run down hill with no real issues. What a cracking run course, i really enjoyed that despite nursing the calf.
The run 57.30
Considering the days adventure I had, I will definitely be back. Something tells me this kind of racing will take off in the future. So much fun with no traffic stress on the bike. For those that are looking to take it to the next level of suffering, IM distance gravel will no doubt be coming soon!
A big thanks to Emma, Jan and the team for putting on such a treat of an event.
See you on the trails.