Race Report: Mallorca 70.3

It’s hard to know where to start with this blog post… I’m writing this on the runway of Mallorca airport and it’s quite tough to get my thoughts in order, my brain and body are absolutely frazzled! I am also very sad to be leaving. I absolutely love Mallorca. This is where I properly fell in love with cycling and now, 70.3s or half Ironmans as they are also known.

The journey here was stressful. We arrived in Mallorca over 16 hours later than planned after Ryan Air cancelled our flight. Our only alternative was to leave Bristol airport and drive to Birmingham where we caught a flight to Menorca before flying from Menorca to Mallorca. All with our bike boxes in tow! We just made it in time to register and rack our bikes in transition. We had lost a night’s sleep and were stressed out to the max!

Sitting at the buffet at our hotel that night I felt a bit dazed from the sleeplessness and the amazement that we’d made it. I honestly couldn’t give a monkeys how the race went anymore, just glad I was able to start it. David was able to talk me back into focussing on the race however telling me to forget what had happened and now to turn all thoughts to tomorrow morning. Using the frustration at Ryan Air and the extra hundreds of pounds of expense we’d spent in getting here as motivation to push for every second of the race. We could have easily decided to cut our losses and stay at home, it was almost a miracle that we’d managed it. We had to now make all the effort worth it.

The next morning we got into our kit and went down to the breakfast buffet. I had coffee, orange juice, toast and pancakes with banana and chocolate sauce.

We walked to transition to check our stuff and by some miracle we had both managed to pack everything in the right bags the night before! Wetsuits on and to the beach where we met some of West Coast Triathlon before meeting Mark (David’s coach) and his wife Caroline. Caroline reassured us that despite the stress the training and fitness was still there and also reminded us to keep ourselves cool during the run.

Mark and David made their way to the front of the swim start whilst I found the rest of the swimmers in the green swim caps, we were the athletes hoping to swim the 1.2 mile swim in 30-35 minutes. My PB was 35mins and I’d achieved this during the 1st lap of my Ironman Wales swim so I was hopeful of going quicker.

The swim started and despite the fact they sent us off in 6 second gaps I was immediately surrounded and found it hard to get into rhythm with people constantly swimming directly in front, behind and to either side.

When I got to the 1st buoy I was a bit disappointed to see 15 mins, but found some more space and concentrated on my stroke and trying not to sight too often which I was doing on the way out. Unfortunately no feet to draft but I kept going. Pleased, surprised and happy to see 32 mins on watch. I had resigned myself to 35min+ at the first buoy.

Unzipped wetsuit and the zip came straight off the bottom and straight into the sea! I didn’t stop to fish it out. Ran to transition and took my time to make sure I had everything. Big bite of a protein Mars Bar as I was getting my shoes on. I took on a gel as I ran through the extremely long transition with my bike.

I put my head down asap and was straight onto the tri bars. I knew the 1st 15 miles or so were flat and I wanted to take full advantage of every part of the bike course which was extremely busy. I overtook loads spending most of the time out in the overtaking “lane” pulling in occasionally to let the fastest men pass. Not one female overtook me during this flat section and I was enjoying it. My legs were here!

We passed through Pollensa and to the bottom of the climb. I couldn’t believe my average after 15 miles of 21mph. Being light my strength has always been climbing but David has been giving me specific sessions on the Wattbike to work on holding power for sustained periods and blinking heck, it was paying off. Those “power hour” sessions were all worth it!

Now for the climb. It’s a 7km ish gradual climb. Nothing steep. My plan had been to hit this climb as hard as possible and hope to recover but after holding the watts on the way out I wanted to do the same on way back to Alcudia too so I didn’t kill myself on the climb. Just took it fairly easy. My peak heart rate for the whole bike was 168bpm – about threshold. Exactly where I wanted to be.

Towards the top of the climb the first female rider passed me. She had a beautiful black and blue canyon tri bike, one I’ve been eyeing up myself and I commented “nice bike” she replied with her thanks but then bam – her chain came off! Oops I thought. I’d jinxed her. Saw lots with chains off so was careful with the changes into the big ring and backdown to small. Towards the top of the climb this happened a lot as we would start descending before climbing again 2 or 3 times before reaching the left turn at Lluc. By now my average was 16mph. My target was 17mph for the whole bike so I was delighted with this. I knew I’d be able to get backup to 17mph at least. Telling myself positive thoughts “that’s the last time your average is going to be that slow today”

This is where the “fun” starts. The descent. It’s technical, lots of hairpins and I am not a confident descender but after cycling in Mallorca in February and in the Alps in April I had improved and was more confident. That is until the 2nd hairpin when some Spaniard behind me came far too fast into the bend, he was panicking and shouting at me to move as he almost crashed into me. He was apologetic but the damage was done. I was hanging on to my brakes the whole way down after this and everyone was overtaking me. There was not one person around me descending at the same speed as me. Never mind. I was down in one piece.

Through the gorgeous Mallorca villages of Caimari, Moscari and finally my favourite, Campanet where there was also an aid station and I took my first bottle. I was loving life. Flat now all the way home and watching the average slowly creep up. At the next aid station I was going too fast and had a huge wobble as I took a bottle from a small mallorcan child. Oops. Slowed right down to take the next bottle – water to tip over myself as the day started to heat up.

As soon as we started heading East back towards the coast there was a slight headwind which stalled the increase in average but I still tried to hold 19-20 mph and stayed as low as I could on my clip on tri bars. I concentrated on nutrition and drinking enough. I took on 3 Wattnutrion energy balls during the bike, one for each hour. I’d taken 750ml of Torq energy drink with me and took a further 2 500ml of the isotonic Enervit they were handing out on course. Disgusting stuff but it does the job.

During the flat section into the headwind my shoulders were starting to ache not being used to spending so much time on the bars but I forced myself not to sit up. I took great pleasure in overtaking the tri bikes and disk wheels on the flats on my £1500 road Bike! Looking at the men with the £10,000+ top of the range kit sitting up into the wind and realising it doesn’t matter what kit you have if you don’t know how to ride it.

What was frustrating however was the packs of riders flying passed working together and drafting. Mainly men which didn’t really bother me as I’m not racing against the men but sometimes there was a woman hanging on to the back of the pack. Annoying.

Back to Alcudia. 18.3mph average and absolutely chuffed to bits. As we neared transition there was a section where the runners were running towards us on the other side of the road and I really wanted to sit up and slow down to see if I could spot David but I didnt, I kept my head down and pushed right to the dismount line, passing many who chose to do some spectating on the way into t2.

Another long run with the bike so I took on my 1st gel of the run course during this time. Treyners on and away. I started tipping water on myself at the very first aid station and did this every single time thinking of Caroline’s advice from earlier in the day.

Before I’d had a chance to settle into the run properly I heard a familiar voice behind me. David. He told me he was on his last lap and 5th or 6th in his age group. I shouted encouragement at him and told him to keep pushing but inside my head I was thinking “last lap? I haven’t even done half a mile yet!!” Haha. Saw him again at the turn around point. He looked good and I knew he had less than 2 miles to go.

It was great to see Scott and Sian at mile 6. They had missed the start of the race thanks to the flight cancellations so it was so good to see them there!

Overall I’m happy with my run. In hindsight I started too fast and slowed a lot but it’s really hard for me to predict a run these days as my hips and hamstrings are so unpredictable. I’ve run better in training but in training I hadn’t held an 18.3 mph bike before hand and it wasn’t in the Mallorcan sunshine. Delighted with 1.56 half marathon. I’ve only ever run one half marathon faster than this and that was standalone so even though I think I could have done better I cannot complain at all.

Before the race I wanted to go sub 6 hours. The very best case scenario I had predicted was 5.45 I thought so when I saw 5.42 on my watch as I crossed the finish line I was so delighted I broke down into tears. A combination of happiness with my time and relief after the immense stress of the last 48 hours. I’d smashed it! 14th in my age group out of over 60 starters. I am actually holding back tears on the plane typing this! This was my 1st ever 70.3 and I had worked so hard in the lead up.. it was all worth it and I loved every second!

A Marshall came over and asked if I needed assistance! No thanks I replied, I’m just so happy! Haha. I was a wreck. Soon sorted myself out in the food tent. Started with the watermelon and water whilst queuing. The choice was unbelievable with pasta, chips, chicken, all sorts! Absolutely elated and in my element when David came to meet me as I tucked into a plate of crisps and half a pint of lager!! Standard ND!

To top off an already great event David qualified for the 70.3 World Champs by coming 6th in his age group. I am very much looking forward to a trip to Nice and doing some “pro spotting.”! (And supporting David of course!).

We finished off our holiday by taking Scott and Sian on their first bike ride in Mallorca. We took them around the 70.3 route with a very small detour to Sa Calobra 😆 .

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Mallorca and I’m really glad I chose this venue for my first 70.3. I’m really looking forward to some more races at that distance and Mallorca is definitely at the top of that list!

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