October 2019 saw three of us, plus supporters, head off to Marrakesh for the inaugural running of the IM Marrakesh 70.3.
We went out on the Thursday to set the bikes up and get used to the area. On Friday we went to registration to get the bags and then go for a cycle.
The registration was same place as T2 and finish. This was a small racing circuit, more thruxton than silverstone. But nice use of the pits and finish was in finish straight.
The lake and T1 was 40ish miles south west of Marrakesh. On the Saturday we were booked on the midday coach to take us and bikes to T1. Booking to be on the coach was handy but it turns out that this was also the morning of the England vs New Zealand semi final. So we found a downtown Irish bar that was showing the game and preyed for no extra time.
The coach to the lake was really useful service as it meant there was no need to hire a car. But the bike transport was a little nerve wracking.
Being on the coach gave us a first chance to see a bit of the cycle route. We were expecting nothing but desert either side of the road. But it was ice, a lot more green and varied than we pictured.
Once at the lake for 1pm we realised just how hot it was going to be for the race and the run in particular ...HOT!!!
At last it was race day and again there were coaches laid on to take competitors and spectators to the start. It was really cold at that 6.30am and bike transition was completely pitch black. But it was amazing how quickly the sun comes up and it all changed.
At 9am we were off and the swim was great. Lovely water temperature and a nice clockwise course.
The low sun made sighting impossible as we turned and headed towards the exit. I just followed those in front.
Then off on the bike. This was a point to point. It was surprising in a number of ways. The asphalt surface was not potholed but just horribly not smooth. The first part was a 10 mile out and back to bump up the total distance. As I headed out I have never seen so many mechanicals walking the bike back to T1, I can only assume as a result of the surface. The next problem with this loop was that in order to prevent cycles from crossing we were sent out on left hand side of the road. There were so many cyclists that had no idea if it was ride left and pass right or vice versa and the road surface didn’t help. I ended up calling out warning and passing people on both sides. Now, i never ever pass people on the cycle but this time I passed so many in the first 10 miles that I wondered what time they seeded themselves as for the swim.
Once off the out and back, the road surface was still awful but the route was really varied and interesting. The overall cycle route had over 3000ft climbing, and all of it was in the first 35 odd miles, but it never felt like it was ever anything more than rolling. It was really enjoyable, plenty of variety passing through farmland and villages. After 35 miles it reached the main road back to Marrakesh. This was 20 miles of smooth road and just gently downhill all the way to T2, a complete joy. The roads were closed in the direction of race but there were plenty of scooters on the road some faster and some slower and some providing the perfect draft.
Once back to T2, and then out onto the run. A dead flat two lap course on either side of a dual carriage. It was hot now, didn’t realise it during the cycle. But it was really really hot. It just made it a long slog. As the run went on they weren’t running on either side of the road they were all running on the same side, but not in each other’s way. But both out and back were running in the shade.
All in all it was a great event. I really enjoyed it. Sure there were teething problems, but for a first running of an event it’s to be expected. The common complaint seemed to be the road surface of the first 30 miles. It took me longer than normal to recover but on reflection one of my favourite races.