A different kinda of triathlon where egos and pbs were thrown out the window and replaced with coffee, donuts and beer.
Sgrail - Swim, Gravel, Trail. Sgrail - in its second year of running, and quickly becoming the not to miss event of the year!
A 1.5km ocean swim off the beach on the stunning coastal town of Cadaques, in the Cap de Creus National Park, on the Costa Brava. Onto a 92.6km A to B bike ride, on gravel taking in two epically stunning climbs in the National Park before making it back to the outskirts of Girona. To finish with a 10km trail run up and over Sant Miquel to the finish.
The theme was a fun day's adventure. The first across the line, the winner, would actually be the loser and with other prizes for the most coffee drunk, best dress, fail of the day, and fair play of the day - it was bound to be a classic. To be honest the most stressful part of the days leading into the race was working out what to wear! My race kit would be far too serious. Yet I was far from cool enough to get away with the Hawaiian style shirts. And because I am pretty hopeless at making even the smallest and insignificant decision in these situations - I packed two outfits in both T1 and T2... so that I could make the decision on how I felt on the spot. (Or alternatively, dither for either long in Transition whilst still not being able to decide)
We were bused out to Cadaques from Girona, to be greeted by a stunning sunrise over the ocean, along with free coffee, donuts and then the healthier breakfast option of oats and muesli. Did I mention there were donuts and coffee?
A mass beach start is always fun (not), especially when the beach has stones and pebbles to contend with. It was also pretty choppy in the ocean so that mixed in with the fact that all male triathletes (sorry guys) seem to want to swim in the same 1m square section of water, when we have the whole Mediterranean to spread out in.
On exiting the swim, my first thought was where's the next donut and is there a coffee? Entering T1, I saw Jan Frodeno already dressed and heading out, rather disappointed that my swim in Kona hadn't miraculously made me a front pack (and male front pack) swimmer.
I changed into outfit #1, only to then see Emma Frodeno come in and put on the Ryzon shirt, (that was my option 2, but didn't think I was cool enough to wear), and so changed my mind and went like a sheep and followed the crowd, making the slightly hip and cool decision (I thought) to tie the shirt in a knot around me middle as was the cool thing to do ... back in the 80s and 90s? (remember I'm 42 and it used to be cool - maybe. I'm not so sure anymore) As I headed out to my bike, a coffee was brought and delivered to me... and I thought this race was the best, what amazing service.
After making a rookie error of getting onto my bike whilst still in T1 and not over the mountline (good job no rules, although who knows in Triathlon these days ;-), I finally with the slowest T1 I've ever had (but almost the most enjoyable one), headed out onto the bike.
We immediately hit the first climb. Another new thing about this race. I had not recce'd the course and so had no idea on how steep this climb was, nor how long it went on for, convincing myself that I hadn't got over excited in the first 2km in an attempt to catch up with the Jan frodeno and Sebi Keinle group. (*Dibs may disagree on seeing my HR and power data ;-) But catch them I did, slight pat on the back and silent high five to me, only to be spectacularly dropped on the first gravel descent. Climb #2 and we are back on with the group. This climb, much longer and with a higher elevation gain but knew I had to stay with the group so not left flying solo and in no mans land on the 70km flatter section that was to follow. It was awesome, and the views were stunning - and convinced myself that as I had time to look around and admire the view - then I wasn't going too hard. After all, I wasn't racing and this was just fun. Oh and where was the next coffee and donut stop?
I ended up "dropping" Sebi Kienle on the last few km's of the climb, making this sound much more dramatic and impressive than it actually was, as he was riding up with only one leg pedalling and also pushing a fellow athlete up a 9% grade whilst also drinking coffee and eating donuts. Jan, I'd also already "dropped" as he felt a better relationship move would be to wait for his wife to catch up with him. ;-)
As we arrived at the second aid station, now a small group of 4 of us. One very serious athlete in his full tri suit and not a glimmer of a smile. One younger guy, semi serious but wearing a baggy t.shirt - gravelling dude. One Italian dude who was muchos funus to ride with and me, wearing a far to big, Ryzon, Hawaiianish shirt, tied up around my waist (because that's cool), but subsequently made it like a parachute which wasn't amazing when the three much larger boys put me on the front to pull them! As I'm pretty sure they weren't getting any drag benefits sitting behind me.
94km later and some sneaky leg snapping hills in the last 5km I arrived at T2. Greeted by huge crowds lining the transition. The roar was unbelievable, just the noise levels deafening. Well there were about a handful of spectators and the event team, but they did make a lot of noise, mainly asking what I wanted to drink again. Coffee - yes go on then. Also a donut in there as of course I'd taken the race very seriously and wasn't really following a nutrition plan - except nutella sandwiches and donuts!
Another full outfit change - yes I once again had two options - just in case, as well as wiping the remnants of the said donut from my face (so I didn't spoil the pictures - all for the gram ) and I headed out of transition in the wrong direction (rookie error again). Within the first 500m I wished I'd carried on in the wrong direction as the run course quickly went vertical. With it, all the fun of the bike ride and previous elements of the race, quickly drained from me and fell down the gradient behind, landing with a huge thud at the bottom never to be seen again.
In all honesty the first 4km of this 'run' was brutal. There was very little running, more a lot of walking and hiking and contemplating my life choices. Finally after feeling like I walked up Everest, I popped out of the single track vertical rocky path to be greeted by amazing views of Girona and the surroundings, being able to see all the way out to the coast and where the event had started. I lie, as I didnt' take in this view at all, as I was more interested in the beer that was handed to me by my friends, and camped out as a cheer squad at the top of the climb! Impressed that I down half a beer (I actually think it was barely 1/3rd) I headed on my merry way descending to the finish, only to find out later that Emma Frodeno had downed two beers at the top! (a true aussie) I say descended to the finish, that was until 2km to go, when you could smell the donuts and more beer and hear the loud speakers, that they took us off to the left (yes that was not the way to the finish I had in my head) and up another climb just for good measure.
As a final parting word from the event organiser, we had to climb about 50 steps (in reality about 10) to get to the finish line. Not only this I was greeted with a barrage of abuse (all granted) for being the first female across the line and rather too close to the front of the race (in position, not time) than I should have been for a Pro! (also go back to the first part of this novel about the winner actually being the loser) and yes that was me! But what did I care at this point as I was greeted with my medal, which was a mug on a ribbon now hanging around me neck, which soon got filled with beer and I couldn't think of a happier way to finish a race. Apart from the pulled pork burrito that was quickly scoffed just after - that was pretty good too.
But what an absolute buzz of a day. I had so much fun (excluding the run, oh and maybe excluding the swim) so in reality I had so much fun on the bike! ha ha!
But in seriousness - this event is awesome. The best vibe and energy, with good people, and a fantastic event team behind it. Donuts, coffee and beer - seriously what more could you want. It truly shows what you can do with events. It was awesome to race in my backyard and showcase the stunning training grounds that I am lucky to play in a lot of the year. See you in 2023...?