Ironman 70.3 Cascais, Portugal-24 October 2021 Vacation time in Portugal and Spain 21-30 October 2021

Preparation, travel and initial thoughts:

Well, it has been practically 2 years since we originally signed up for Marbella, Spain 70.3 and then changed to Cascais, Portugal 70.3 and finally after the delay caused by Covid we got to race our first Ironman 70.3 for quite some time.

It had been a very up and down preparation for this race partly due to the restrictions on movement and travel and use of certain sports facilities (in particular affecting swim training) caused by Covid but also, the effect it had on our mental health. The latter making it difficult to stick to a good training regime, especially as you were never quite sure when or if your race would go ahead. Also, we started to take a greater interest in trail running which in particular I really enjoy and so concentration on specific triathlon training, in particular the bike, was a little side-tracked and as a consequence neither Julio or I were adequately prepared in terms of the cycle leg for this particular race. The bike leg was cited as rolling, however, as most of the climbing was front-ended and included about an 8km climb this would as we found out during the race have an effect on our legs later on for the run.

We set off from home the morning of Thursday 21 October to drive to Cascais, Portugal, doing the trip of about 600 kms in one day. We arrived mid-afternoon and checked into our very nice compact studio room in Parede, about 5kms outside Cascais itself. As it transpired this was a good area with shops and restaurants within easy walking distance and in particular, what turned out to be our favourite restaurant, Pasion Mexicana. Great Mexican food and even better margaritas – which we had to wait till after the race to sample, but worth the wait!

That afternoon we travelled into Cascais to check out the Ironman village and logistics and luckily were able to register (having originally booked to register the next morning). The next day Friday we spent locally getting our stuff ready for the race and generally relaxing after the long drive the day before. Saturday, we took the train into Cascais to double check logistics for the next day, such as where we were going to park, etc, and also got to watch a little of the full distance Ironman that was taking place that day. I made a pasta dinner and we went to bed early as we planned to wake up around 4.30am and drive with good time into Cascais.

Everything went smoothly and we arrived at our planned parking and walked the 15 minutes to the transition area to check in the bikes and bags. The organisation was very good and we were ready with lots of time to spare so went back to the car for a little rest as at that time in the morning it was also quite chilly. Walked back with plenty of time to check in our street wear bags and go to the swim start where we waited in the designated time of finishing pens. Julio was quite calm (I think), but I was extremely nervous before the swim start. Julio and I wished each other luck and off we went to the start line.

Janice’s race summary:

As previously stated, I was very nervous at the start, however, I managed my nerves and did an ok time coming out of the water around 44 minutes. I managed a fairly good transition, given there was about 600+ metres between the swim exit and T1. The bike leg, although fairly hard at the start was through some beautiful countryside and hills and I really enjoyed it. The weather was perfect and I felt fairly comfortable during most of the bike except towards the very end where my quads started to cramp which did not bode well for the run. I completed in a time of around 3.36 which was ok given the course but I was hoping to go a little faster around 3.15-3.30 at the most. The T2 transition was good but my run started very badly with both quads immediately cramping causing me to have to stop and walk alternately to try and ease them and then started to run a bit. It was then a case of managing my legs by alternating running and then walking as soon as I felt any cramp in order not to completely cease up so I could finish the race. At one point my right hamstring also went into cramp but luckily after stopping and letting it ease off this did not happen again. Having said that I enjoyed the run as I met and talked to some other competitors along the way and it was a nice run course with aid stations every 2.5km which gave me something to aim for😊. On the last run lap, I actually increased my pace and even caught and overtook some people who previously went ahead of me and I finished fairly strongly. I saw Julio a couple of times on the run and as he was behind me, I knew he was having some issues as his run is normally faster than mine. It was great going through the finish to get my medal and then I went to watch for Julio to come in and enjoyed the atmosphere at the finish line.

Julio’s race summary:

Though not a fast swimmer, I did not do too bad during the swim part of the race; I came out feeling good and ready to get on my bike after having to run over 600 meters to T1. My transition was determined by this long route to where the bikes had been racked but I figured I would make it up once I got riding the 90km course. The route was actually beautiful taking us riders up the mountain and through a natural reserve with plenty of twists and plenty of shade from the tall pine trees. Once back through the town of Cascais, we were made to do a loop (the Marginal Loop) that took us back again along the coast line before going into T2 in Cascais. By now I just had about some 15 to 20 kms to T2 and I was very tired. I could not really make a quick dismount as usual – as soon as I tried to raise my right leg over the saddle I had to quickly recover and stop at the dismount line astride of my bike, I would have crashed if I tried to make a quick dismount so I just stopped and managed to get off the bike and head to my rack number, racked the bike and quickly put on running shoes, took helmet off, grabbed my cap and ran towards the entrance to the run course.

My bike fitness was poor as I found out as soon as I started my run – both of my quads went into spasm and though I tried running, I ended up walking the first 10 kilometres of my 21-km course. I figured, just get on with it and perhaps my legs would allow me to eventually run, so I just went along entertaining myself by looking at the different real estate: very big nice houses with beautiful landscaped lawns and gardens; the gorgeous colour of the sea at that time, a clean and clear blue with the surface of the undulating water forming into waves crashing on the shore; I was looking out to see if I could see surfers riding these waves but the seas were gentle and tamed that day, and of course, I spent some of this walking time meeting runners coming in the opposite direction and trying to sort out who among them was doing well and who was not.

By now I understood that any chance of a good finish place for me was not in the books. I knew that Janice was ahead of me and this totally confirmed the reality of it all since I am always the faster runner of the two of us. The fact that I made 2nd on the podium of my Age Group was a huge surprise to me. I was actually grateful to having had the presence of mind not to have stopped the several times it crossed my mind. Ironman 70.3 Cascais in Portugal was a humbling experience that taught me that I must train better for my next race.

After the race and beyond:

After collecting our street clothes, bikes and bags from the transition area we walked back to the car to load everything and change into some warm dry clothes before going back to get something to eat and watch the award ceremony. At that time, we did not realise that we were both on the podium, only finding out later when we had a coffee in a hotel near to where the ceremony was to take place and went onto the internet to look at the results. However, we had planned to watch the ceremony given it was at 8.30pm and we were going to be around having dinner before going back to our hotel. We ended up having a pizza and beer as neither of us felt like eating anything complicated. I just needed something bland to settle my stomach after having eaten some gels on the bike and run which I don’t actually like or get on with very well. The ceremony went well and quite quickly which is always good if you are tired and getting a bit chilly as for us old folks, we are always last on the podium. Both Julio and I were second in our category and it was a nice finish to a good race to receive a trophy along with our finish medal.

Would I recommend Cascais? Most definitely. The sea swim is in a fairly protected bay area so was calm (not sure if that is always the case but luckily was on the day of our race). The bike leg is not super easy but it is a beautiful course through some lovely countryside initially and then going up and down the coast road made for a nice ending to the bike leg. The run course was also nice along the coast and mostly flat with just a few bumps! The town of Cascais is lovely with lots of places to eat and although busy (cars are a bit manic) was not too big to be intimidating to get around. This year was the first time they held a full ironman the day before the 70.3 which went very well and I think would be a nice course to do for anyone wanting to try the full distance as well.

Following the race, the next day we took the train into Lisbon and enjoyed the day looking around the city. However, I think we were both a little tired to fully enjoy the experience as much as we might have. We had a lovely lunch in a typical local restaurant, basically seafood and rice, which was the only dish they served and very tasty. As we were tired we travelled back to our digs late afternoon and that evening went back to our Mexican restaurant where we were able to enjoy a great dinner and a lovely margarita (or two…..!).

The next day we set off for a few days travelling around the North of Portugal. We had no particular agenda but stopped in Sintra, a lovely historic town near Cascais, on the way to Obidos, which is a lovely white walled village near the coast and well worth a visit. We enjoyed walking around the walled city of Obidos, had lunch and then checked into a little hotel in the middle of the town. That evening we ate at a restaurant across the road from our hotel called Al Caide, and had a wonderful meal with wine from the local area.

The next day we travelled to the Douro valley in Portugal. This is the wine producing area and very picturesque to travel around. We arrived early afternoon at Quinta Da Pacheca, a really nice winery which had an attached hotel. We booked for a one-night stay which included a wine tasting and breakfast the next day. It was a lovely place and we went for a walk in the vineyards before the wine tasting and after the tasting enjoyed a glass of wine on the terrace before changing for dinner. This was our chance to glam up a bit and we both dressed for dinner as this was to be our delayed anniversary celebration as we did not celebrate on 30 September. We had a fantastic dinner, the food and wine was great and it was a nice dual celebration, anniversary and 70.3 race together.

The next day we drove to Salamanca, but we took the scenic route through the sierras of both Portugal and then Spain. The drive was long but extremely pretty and we stopped for a picnic lunch on route.

Salamanca is an imposing city to drive into but surprisingly easy to navigate, at least on the outskirts and we found a hotel in an ideal spot just near to the Roman bridge into the city but outside the city and it had a car park we could safely put the car in. We got settled into the hotel and then went into the city at night for dinner. It was gorgeous and well worth going into in the evening to see all the monuments lit up. We had a nice dinner outside (next to a heater as the weather is definitely changing) and then walked back to the hotel after a gelato from a little Italian place where we planed to have lunch before leaving tomorrow as they make their own pasta. The next morning, we enjoyed walking around the city and visited the cathedral and I then went on my own, whilst Julio enjoyed a coffee, up to the towers to look at the views into the cathedral and over the city. Absolutely stunning city. As planned, we had a pasta lunch before leaving for the last leg of our journey to Toledo.

Arrived in Toledo in the pouring rain late afternoon around 6pm. As we did not fancy driving around searching for a hotel, we basically pulled up to the first convenient one and checked in. They had underground parking for the car which as we found out was super tight and involved some very careful and strategic manoeuvring on Julio’s part to get it in and then the next day get it out. I almost had kittens! It was pointless trying to go into town that evening for dinner as the rain was torrential so we had a quiet dinner in the hotel and an early night. The next morning it was still raining hard, but the hotel lent us a brolly and we braved the weather to go into the old part of the city and wandered around for about 1.5 hours before heading back to the hotel. This was not the day to really enjoy such a lovely place and I will definitely be back as it is a beautiful city and deserves a proper visit. We left Toledo around 12 pm and drove home in almost constant and sometimes torrential rain, arriving around 5pm. It was good to get home and unpack and settle down. We had plans to start some works we need to finish around the place before picking up the two boys (our dogs) on Thursday, but unfortunately it didn’t stop raining for two days. Oh well a good excuse to sit in front of the fire, read a good book, and relax a bit more!

Until the next race/trip 😊