This was supposed to be really really brief. I failed. Sorry.
The Week Before
I wanted to try the Mallorca 70.3 again as last year was a bit… bumpy. It’s also a great excuse for a holiday in what I think is a very underrated place. Not sure why but some people seem to look down their nose at Mallorca as a holiday destination. I can only assume they’ve only seen down town Magaluf rather than the spectacular mountains, coastline and crystal clear seas.
Anyway, this year there was a lot less faffing pre race and zero nerves. I knew what I was doing I guess. In the week leading up to the race I swam in the sea every day which was useful. On the Thursday I went for a quick ride down the coast with Amy and James to check my rear skewer had stopped slipping under power and causing the rear wheel to rub on the frame (thanks Loz for the loan of the turbo skewer which sorted it!).
During the week I also did a couple of trips up the big hill in the car, first to let Amy and Loz ride the descent and then next time round so that Andrew and I could ride it. The descent seemed easier this year than last year which was reassuring as last year was on a stable cyclocross bike, this year on a TT bike. I was amazed at how well the Magura hydraulic brakes scrub off speed and how easy they are to modulate. Confidence inspiring. Heck of an adrenaline rush though, flying down that hill. Garmin data shows an average of 40kph for 13 minutes. Strava reckons the quickest are doing it at 60kph average which strikes me as utterly psychotic.
Driving back from the descent attempt with Andrew we drove the whole course (something I’d managed to avoid with Amy/Lozza). Going past the scene of my crash felt very odd. I could pinpoint the exact location and I swore I could still see the marks on the road. My mouth went dry, my heart started racing and I was bloody glad to turn off that bit of road. Perhaps I wasn’t quite as comfortable as I thought. The next 20km of driving I spoke about the blustery conditions with Andrew as we watched the palm trees blow from side to side. Lunch, briefing and an iced coffee with friends was a welcome distraction in the afternoon.
Anyway, the rest of the week was filled with messing around on the beach, splashing in the sea with the kids, eating too much and coffee with friends before packing bags with Andrew and Loz and then bag drop and bike racking.
For the first time ever I slept completely soundly the night before and my body clock woke me up exactly a minute before my alarm went off. Skillz. Tried to consume some cereal, gave up and had a brioche and a tea instead. Our apartment was on the beachfront between the swim start and transition so at about 6.30am Andrew (who was staying with us) and I went down to stick our nutrition and bottles on our bikes. By 6:45 we were back in the apartment for another cuppa and try for some more food.About 8am it was time to put wetsuits on and walk the few hundred yards to the swimstart. My very fetching orange swimhat on, I went for a warm up in the sea to get over that “cold water in odd places” sensation, then it was time to line up in the start pen.
Some Ellie Goulding at high volumes over the PA and it was ready to go. Starter pistol went bang exactly on time and we walked/jogged in to the water. Within about 10 seconds I was in to a nice rhythm in the relatively calm water. For the first time in a race I managed to do the whole damn thing front crawl and had no need to catch my breath. It felt easy and comfortable. Nothing really to note other than I was astonished at how quick the quickest swimmers in the next start wave were as they passed me. The rest of the swim was sent looking at fish below me and the occasional swim hat on the sea floor. I exited the water according to my Casio in about 38 minutes I think. The official times reckons 40 mins but I have a suspicion the timing mat was at the start of T1, a good few hundred meters from the edge of the sea. I walked that bit whereas others charged round. Ah well. All in all though, I’d describe the swim as ‘blissful’. It really was very enjoyable. A big difference to last year where I was just glad to get out.
Some chap was telling anyone who would listen that the swim was “quite salty”. Yeah, it’s the sea dude. I assume he was talking about the sea anyway.
Last year the start waves were much much bigger and I was in a much earlier wave. A bit crowded for the first part of the ride. This year though there were fewer people around once I got to the bike course which was nice.
The run up to Port de Pollença is pancake flat along the coast but a bit blustery. Still, it’s smooth and chance to have some drink and a bite to eat. Turn left towards proper Pollença and start to up the pace a bit to 30kph or so. The fast riders from the waves behind were thundering past but I was overtaking a decent selection. Through the first aid station, collect some water and half a banana and carry on. At this point I remembered that it’s not that easy to peel a banana when on the aerobars at speed, so I sort of made a little tear in the side and mashed it into my face. Attractive.
The first part of the climb (only about a 3% gradient) seemed to confuse a few people who must have seen the ‘climb ahead’ road signs and immediately switched in to a lower gear. It was easy enough to cruise along it at a decent speed though. I’m in the zone now and quite happy, but then get a weird piercing sensation in my left quad. That’s not good. Doesn’t feel muscular though, feels like a burning hot needle. Slow down enough to look down and I can see a tiny little black thing poking out. Oh good, my first ever bee sting (managed 35 years without a bee or wasp sting… good timing). Turns out they’re quite bloody painful aren’t they?
Get to the climb proper and settle in trying to ignore the fact my leg is on fire. My TT bike seems a lot easier to climb on than my old bike. Or I’m fitter. Probably the bike. Here I start passing quite a lot of people but also sometimes end up stuck in a queue. There wasn’t really room to go three abreast and with the line of traffic ahead it’d mean a mammoth effort for me to pass the required ‘train’ and keep out of the way of the fast boys coming past. Easier to take it a bit easier than I wanted to and think of all the energy I was saving.
At this point I was starting to get quite unpleasant stomach cramps which didn’t really help with the whole nutrition thing which went to hell in a handbasket. Got to the water station on the climb, jettisoned my bottles and then look up to see the volunteers just standing around. One guy shouts to me “Sorry, no agua”. Errr, you what? I stop, unclip and he tells me he’s just sorting it. He dives into the back of the van, gets a couple of empty bottles. Goes back in the van, grabs some water, decants it, presses the lid on and hands it over. He offers me another bottle but I decline, this one will do fine for the descent. I ride along and take a few sips, then pop it in the horizontal cage on my aerobars. At which point, the lid he’d gently pressed on stopped being a lid and the precious agua just ended up wetting the front of my bike and the tarmac. DAMMIT! Oh well, no liquid for a while. Somewhere around here I passed Lu Telford who seemed very cheery despite the climb and the now climbing heat. Get to the top of the hill eventually and feel fresh. Felt much easier than last year and looking at the Garmin data afterwards tells me I was 5 mins quicker too (on roughly an hours worth of climbing). I’ll take that.
The descent was fine for me personally although I passed 8 people in various states of ouch by the side of the road. At one point towards the end I heard the unmistakable sound of rubber just starting to break into a skid and something moving out of the corner of my eye. Quarter a second later, George from the USA slid past the front of my bike as I was slowing down. Mostly on his arse with the bike following. He stood up, shouted he was ok and we all carried on (including George who I saw at the finish). Good on you George, but FYI, your bike doesn’t have ABS.
The next part of the ride goes over some really terrible road surface, much worse than last year. Ended up having to stick to the aerobars as I was getting whitefinger through the basebar. When the pros got there first thing, and the first few waves it must have looked like a normal road with some really crappy potholes etc. By the time I got there, it looked like someone had taken the returned Wiggle orders for a day and just dropped them from an helicopter. All along the road were bottles, multitools, saddlebags, tubes, CO2 carts, folded up tyres, Speedfils, Garmins and all manner of nutrition that’d been shaken from previous bikes.
Past the Wiggle Wastelands the road becomes flatter and smoother. Up the ridiculously steep but short hill in Muro and snigger to myself as one guy neglects to change gear (he was still in the big ring), stops dead and falls off sideways.
Final stretch now, all completely flat and smooth. I get comfy on the aerobars and plug away into the relatively strong headwind. There’s nobody coming past me now and I’m picking off people with ease as they’re all mostly sitting up doing their best parachute impression. I know I’m coming up on my crash spot from last year and I tell myself not to be a chicken. The temptation is to sit up and cruise but I persuaded myself to keep tucked down and push the pace up a bit. i.e, show it who is boss and that I’m not afraid.
Come round the corner before the long straight and I see blue lights a long way ahead. Couple of minutes later I arrive at the scene of last years accident and there’s an ambulance parked up, I kid you not, about 5 meters from where I stood bleeding last year trying to repair my bike. There’s a woman being loaded on a stretcher with what looks like a head injury. Two male riders stand and watch. I can only assume it was another almost identical collision as there’s literally nothing to hit at that spot. It’s flat, straight and sighted. Weird. Well, that didn’t do my inner demons any favours and I’m not going to lie, they won and I backed off a bit. The few slight downhill sections around Sa Pobla were taken with more caution than required and every time the speed started to creep up there was a comforting scrub of speed from the brakes.
Final run into Alcudia and I spot a rider ahead who I think might be Lozza. Yep, get a bit closer and it is. Gunned it off the last roundabout before transition and caught Loz up so I can let her know where I am and we can both have a bit of company for the run.
Ride over in 3:27. Not dreadful given the headwind but I was secretly hoping for a lot faster. Probably lost a couple of minutes down to waiting at the aid station and me generally being a bit of a wuss on the sweepers, but not what I was aiming for still. Some work to be done then! On the plus side, I felt great coming off the bike, bags of energy and felt like I could do it all over again.
Some guy asked a volunteer for a tissue to blow his nose with. Official picks up (I don’t know why!) a pair of used bibshorts off the floor and offers them as a tissue. Guy declines.
I pee in the weird open air urinals next to the spectators (how very Euro) and overhear someone shriek in a Geordie accent: “Holy crap, not sure my pee should look that radioactive!”. It smelt like bleach.
I left T2 looking for Loz and saw her about 200m ahead. The stomach cramps I had on the bike turned into a horrendous side stitch / trapped wind feeling which with hindsight was probably trapped wind. What I probably needed was a massive fart but I didn’t think of it at the time. A few km of painful jogging and it sort of loosened up a bit and I started to run a bit better. Andy Lavelle then came steaming past on his final lap with a cheery hello. I eventually caught Lozza up at the harbour. We ran/walked/talked together for about a lap and a half which made my day. We saw Jo and Tarsh at various points who were both going a fair bit quicker than us. Doesn’t matter, it’s not a race is it? Ah damn, it is. We start pushing each other to go a bit quicker and especially when we saw various supporters. It was great to see the wife and kids so often due to the layout of the run course and the location of our apartment. By the 2nd lap, they were on the beach side of the apartment with the (rather nice) bikini clad American & German girls from the apartment downstairs. That made that part of the run go a bit better. We also saw Anne, Helen and Rae at various points around the course. It’s obvious, but it does need saying, it really does lift the spirits when someone you know is shouting encouragement, so thank you all so much.
After another pee stop (I’d drunk a LOT) I somehow managed to lose Loz so ran off on my own on the third and final lap. I caught a very friendly Californian fellow who had almost literally stuck a pin in a map to choose this race. The hill on the bike had surprised the heck out of him and he was in a world of hurt. I kept him running for a little bit but eventually he slowed down. On the last bit with about 3km to go, I was following a girl who was looking a bit unsteady on her feet. As I approached she sort of stopped on the spot, whirled round and clattered into a big wheelie bin. I managed to catch her as she fell. A man rushed over who turned out to be her husband and between us we lifted her out of the blazing sun (it was about 35deg by this point). I ran into the restaurant to get some water/ice and ask them to phone an ambulance (yeah, ok, so I technically left the course, DQ me). She was asking what her time was and appeared lucid but her eyes were tracking all over the place. I spent a couple of minutes waiting there until he said he was ok on his own and I started the last 3k. Having had a little break the final run was actually really easy and were the fastest km splits of the race. Ooops. Got cheered on by the bikini clad girls from downstairs on the last run past, turned right and into the finish chute.
Run time: 2:46. Bit of a shambles really and nothing I can really put my finger on as to why.
One of the reasons for doing this race was that it’s 8 weeks before Challenge Roth, my first iron distance so it was a bit of a practice really.
1) My nutrition in general sucked and it was mostly my fault. I had 2 half bananas on the bike, loads of water but no electrolytes. I had a mix of water and coke on the run and one revolting gel. It was way, way off. Could ‘get by’ for a 70.3 but that’d end my race in Roth.
2) Just bloody run. I dilly-dallied far too much on the run section.
3) Carry an antihistamine on the bike just in case. My left leg was like a balloon by the end.
It was supposed to give me confidence before Roth but in some ways it’s done the opposite. The reality of just how damn far a full is (particularly the run) is far too apparent. Also, with the cut off at Roth being 15 hours, I’ve realised there’s no real wiggle room for me.
I’ll probably be back in Mallorca the same time next year, but more than likely just to watch, and to get some good quality cycling, eating and drinking done….