Ironman Cascais 2023 race report

Torre Mar Cascais apartment rooftop poolThe full distance triathlon race of Ironman Cascais in Portugal was the next race after qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Ironman 70.3 Zell am See. Almost 7 weeks in between both races was a good period to focus on the race in Cascais. Due to the poor weather back home, a returning injury in my knee and busy with construction work of my house, I was happy to travel to Portugal and get ready for Ironman Cascais. Three weeks before the race I drove the 2300 kilometers to Portugal, with overnight stops in France and Spain. Since I’m taking so much gear and extra spares with me, driving is way more convenient than flying. I had booked an apartment just outside the busy city center of Cascais. A spacious ground floor apartment, nearby supermarkt and shops, free parking and a rooftop pool. Ideally to relax after a day training and watching the sunset!

Ironman Cascais 2023 - race gearThe weather in Portugal was great. Sunny, warm and not a lot of wind. Perfect conditions to train and prepare for the upcoming race. I’ve been enjoying riding the bike route on my new Ku Cycle TF1, with the some long or steep climbing sections and the long false-flat section to Lisbon and back. Running along the coastline to the beach of Praia do Guincho in the heat of the Portugal sun. Swimming in the bay with sometimes many small and big jellyfish was a bit more challenging!

Ironman Cascais 2023 - bike check-in transitionAfter all a good first two weeks up to the race week. Then the weather changed. Big storms, lot of rain, and a huge drop of temperature. Not the best week before a race and not the best forecast for the race! Training reduced a lot and not that much cycling in order not to risk any accidents or other issues. Unfortunately, my back was getting sore and stiff (probably the very hard mattress of the bed) and even a massage at a local physiotherapist didn’t resolve this.

On the Wednesday before the race, I registered and picked up all the race gear (start number, stickers, backpack, etc). Friday was the race briefing and bike checkin. The weather was still pretty crap and the organization had changed the swim route. The direction wasn’t towards Estoril but further outwards. I’ve understood this was because of the swell direction and the risk of having swimmers being pushed towards the rocks at the beach.

Race Day


Ironman Cascais 2023 - swim start raceIn the early morning, I prepared my bike and setup the bike/run bags. Luckily it was dry and the wind appeared to be a lot less. Before the start of the full distance Ironman, the pro’s and the middle distance Ironman 70.3 athletes started their race. The pro’s started at neap tide and once the full distance athletes were in the water, the tide had changed to a pretty strong current. Not ideal, especially not with the large waves further outwards.

Ironman Cascais 2023 - swim exit raceAfter the first buoy, I was suddenly trapped in a small group of breaststroke swimmers. My breathing went sky-high and I had to escape to the side to get control of myself. Luckily this didn’t take long and I continued freestyle swimming, a bit further away from the mass of the other swimmers, battling through the waves.

You couldn’t clearly see the buoys anymore and several athletes were zigzagging through the water. Since the swim route was changed lastminute, I hadn’t trained the sighting with the new layout of the buoys. Looking back to the swim track from my Garmin Fenix watch, I did actually pretty good on keeping the most efficient route! My swim time was 1h12m31s. Ranked 64th out of the 186 AG athletes.


Ironman Cascais 2023 - bike 1st loopOut of the water, I ran the 600m long route to the transition area, overtaking quite a few athletes again. The Ku Cycle feels higher than my old Cervelo P3 bike so no flying mount. Just run barefoot and after crossing the bike mount line, get on the bike with clipped-in shoes and ride away. On the bike, I immediately noticed my power was nowhere. Nowhere compared to the first two weeks riding the same route several times. Was it the challenging swim, my food or “just not the legs”? Anyway, it wasn’t the best feeling and I was struggling keeping my pace.

The bike route was changed a bit compared to 2022, and this extra section going up a steep back-and-forth climb with sharp turns wasn’t very safe. Slow riders climbing up while high-speed riders are racing on the opposite lane down.

Ironman Cascais 2023 - bike 2nd loop Ku Cycle aeroUnfortunately, a terrible accident happened and two climbing riders were taken out by a rider coming down… The ambulance struggled to get to the accident since both lanes were in use; either by fast riders coming down or by slow riders climbing up… Pretty bad route layout! I hope they’ll change it for next year’s race.

Besides this change, no major other route changes with 2022 were made and I tried to ride a decent speed. This was quite difficult due to the knee injury and painful back which meant riding in aero position wasn’t very comfortable. The first 90 kilometer bike loop was sort of ok with an average of 34.3 km/h (few km/h slower than expected) but the second 90 kilometer bike loop was even slower with only 32.3 km/h. Of course, this has costed me quite a few valuable minutes. I was fighting until the end and I was happy to come back into the transition zone after 5h25m27s. The bike section ranked me at 33 / 186.


Ironman Cascais 2023 - runThen the run… Having a knee injury and painful back was apparently not enough for today! The first run loop of approx. 14 kilometers went ok but my stomach started to play up, a lot of painful cramping, and shortly into the second loop I had to go to the toilet. Luckily there were several toilets at every aid station. In the remainder of the second loop I had to stop 12 more times due to stomach cramps. This was horrible.

I stopped taking my own nutrition from NutrID and switched to drinking some cola and eating banana parts from the aid stations. The third and last loop was slightly better with only 6 stops or slow-downs due to the cramping but I managed to squeeze out a ‘sprint’ in the last few kilometers. Man, I was happy this was over! The run time for the marathon was 3h54m17s, which ranked me 52 / 186.

Many people would have been happy with a marathon run time of under 4 hours, but this wasn’t what I’ve trained for. I was certainly hoping for a time around 3.5 hours.

Ironman Cascais 2023 - run finishFinish

I was really glad the race was over. The injuries and stomach issues didn’t make the race very enjoyable. I managed to finish in a total time of 10h45m09s. I finished as number 41 in my AG. I wasn’t expecting any top-10 finish but I was certainly hoping to have finished closer to the 10-hours time. Without the injuries and stomach issue, I’m pretty sure that would have been possible! Maybe next time, whenever that may be!

Ironman Cascais 2022

Ironman Cascais 2022 - bike on Estoril race circuitIronman Cascais in 2023 was my second full distance triathlon. The year before (2022), after having been recovered from breaking my shoulder and ramping up the training in order to be able to compete, I finished Ironman Cascais as well.

Although my training was ramped up (too) quickly, I had a knee injury (same knee as in 2023) which made the cycling and running completely horrible. My bike time in 2022 was slightly better but that was because of the changed route in 2023 and I managed to push hard on the first loop in 2022. The second loop in 2022 I was barely able to cycle and thought about quitting so many times. My average bike speed for both races were around 33.5 km/h tho! The run in 2022 was more speed-walking and the marathon took me over 6 hours to complete… Total finish time in 2022 was 12h46m (ranked 127 / 218).

And now?

Will there be another full distance triathlon? Yes, probably but not sure when and where yet! My focus for 2024 is the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Taupo, New Zealand, in December 2024. I’ll be competing in a few half distance races in late summer/autumn but the full program will be published soon 🙂

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