My trip to Madrid was a blast. The city was beautiful with amazing architecture that obviously made it through WWI and II without being destroyed and has been restored meticulously. We stayed right across the street from the royal palace and gardens. The little bit of time we spent exploring the city just made me really want to go back on a "real" vacation. Not only did I love the city, but I have a great travel companion, Jenna, and really enjoyed spending time with the rest of the US contingent.
The race site was in a park in downtown Madrid; it was so rural considering its in the middle of the city. There were a few women of the night working in the park as Jenna and I saw on Thursday night during our jog but they were gone by race day. I loved the race course; the bike was challenging with a decent hill on each of the 8 laps, and the run was flat and shaded. The only bummer was that the water temperature was just under the cutoff so it was a wetsuit swim. This makes the swim much more intense as the differentiation between the slower and faster swimmers is less pronounced.
I had some nerves and only sleep a few hours the night before the race. The race didn't start as planned. I had a good swim and then right before the first buoy I was dunked by another competitor just as I was taking a breath. As a result, I started hyperventilating and stopped dead in the water trying to regain my composure. Even though I only stopped for @ 10 seconds, a sea of other swimmers swept past me. When I finally started to swim again...tentatively, I had lost the front pack and to fight my way back the rest of the first lap and second lap. Unfortunately, I didn't make up all the time I lost and started the bike in no-man's land. I biked hard to catch the front pack and after 2.5 laps finally caught the group and was able to relax and recover a bit. By that time there had already been a breakaway of 4 from the front pack so I was upset that missed the opportunity to be among those girls. I rode with the pack and during the last lap launched a small breakaway to get into transition with a small lead over the rest of the pack. I headed out of transition ahead of most of the pack and felt good right away on the run. For once, my turnover felt great and everything flowed. I felt great until the last 3K on the run and then my legs started to cramp and even my arms were cramping. I backed off a bit since the main goal was simply to finish in the top 20. I finished in 17th and was the first American finisher. I was very happy with my finish especially considering how the day started on the swim. And I know that with some nutrition adjustments I can stop cramps in the future. The only bummer is that Jenna took a spill on the bike at the bottom of the hill when she was going balls to the wall to catch the front pack. But on the plus side, we all had a great time at the post-race party.