For the last 10 years or so, I’ve been a avid triathlete taking part in various sprint and olympic distance races.
Entering my 45th year, i decided to up my game and look at going longer and taking the dive into Ironman 70.3 and ultimately the full beans Ironman 140.6. So with this in mind, last September I started looking at which races to take part in. The 1st that caught my eye was the Ironman 70.3 race in Mallorca. The reason for this was simple, Ive visited and ridden around the area of the Spanish Island on a number of occasions.
So with a big brave pill i entered my details, handed over my credit card and before i know it, I was registered. So time to start training.
Over the years i’ve never really been coached, just gone to the pool, swam for an hour, ridden with friends and just gone and run. It had done me well before but I started to feel that I needed to up my game. So it was time for a coach and thats where I found Blair and jumped right in.
Training was good and before I know it I was checking in at Luton for the 2 hour flight out to Palma. The race is based in the Northern resort of Alcuida but we decided to base ourselves in Puerto Pollens which in just 10km along the cost.
We arrived in resort on the Tuesday, well before the Saturday race. Quick check in and decided to put my tt bike back together. TT bars attached - Check. Peddles back on cranks - Check, Saddle back to correct height - Check, Pump up my new deep rim Boardman wheels - Oh crap I've dropped the value extender into the carbon wheel rims. Now how the hell do I get it out?! A cold sweat descended on my as i panicked on how I could possibly retrieve the slippery valve extender from inside my wheels! Fear not i thought. Time to go down in to town and find one of the many bike shops to help me out. A quick trip to 2Gocycling and a great local mechanic with a very power full magnet retrieved the errant value extender.
This was one of the reasons why i wanted to be based in Puerto Pollensa. Throughout the year the resort is a Mecca for the cycling folk including a few pro teams in the winter months for training. The bike shops are well stocked for anything you need or have forgotten and well skilled for any mechanic problems that you may incur.
Bike built and on Wednesday morning, it was time to ride some of the 90km bike route. A unique feature of the Ironman Mallorca 70 and 140 races is the bike course takes you into the Serra de Tramontana mountains. The climb up the mountains starts out from old town pollensa and slowly builds up. Nice and easy 1 to 1.9% incline for around 5 kms before you start the real climb. 6%, 7% and up to a maximum 9% with some alp d”heuz style switch backs but in truth it never really feels steep or in fact difficult. In some places you actual decent which allows you to recover before you climb up again.
In all the climb takes you up to Lluc for around 14kms. Ive ridden this route a number of times in the past, but always on a road bike with a normal helmet. This time i wanted to see how it would be on my new Trek Speed concept TT bike and with my Kask Bambino TT helmet. Both worked great. I’d spec’d my Trek with both Ultra DI2 gears and a 11-28 cassette on the rear. Having the electronic satellite changers on allowed me to change gears without having to move my hands onto the TT extensions and have the confidence of an instance change that Di2 gives you. With regards to the Kask Helmet i wanted to make sure i didn't over heat. This wasn't the case. The Kask was great. On the climb I was able to take off the visor and with the help of the 3 magnets, sick it back onto the top of the helmet to allow cool air onto my face. Just be warned, the 1st addition of the Kask Bambino helmet had 3 small agents which didn't hold the visor into place and had a tendency to pop off when you hit a bump in the road. With the new 2nd addition, they enlarged the magnets to allow a stronger connection. The final test of the mountain ride was the decent. Again I've ridden it many times on my road bike but never on a tt bike with deep carbon wheels and carbon brakes. The trek Speed concept worked its magic once again. Braking and turning into the corners was a dream and before long i was down and heading back towards Pollensa.
Thursday came with another ride out on the flatter 2nd part of the bike course, taking in Moscari, Caplet, Muro and then back towards Alcudia via Sa Pobla. This part of the bike course is very flat so very fast. But because of this it can be very windy. This is again where the Trek Speed concept came into its own. Head down, legs turning and a good average speed well over 36 kph without any issue.
After the ride it was time to visit the Ironman Village and complete my registration. The village is located in the port of Alcudia and really easy to find. The Ironman company really do trade on the name and the image of ironman. All around the village is Ironman banners and even the large HGV trucks have Ironman Logo plastered all over them. They good thing is that they have the process of registration down to a well oiled machine and before too long I was all registered, Transition bags collected and Ironman shop visited. The Ironman village has a number of shops from Ironman itself and various triathlon suppliers. It gives you the opportunity to purchase any last minute items you may need for the race.
Friday was very much a rest day but a quick 15 minute run just allowed the legs to turn over. A lot of fellow triathletes call transition the 4th discipline, but it had come apparent to me that for longer distance triathlons, the 4th discipline was really race nutrition. With this in mind, Friday was spent making sure that i stayed hydrated and took on board high carbohydrate food.
Friday afternoon it was back over to Alcudia to rack the bike and put in place the bike and run transition bags. I’d taken a lot of time to make sure that i had everything ready for the race the following day. towels, socks for the run, water proof jacket in the bike bag etc. One thing i do want to bring up about racking your bike, make sure that you follow the rules. Place the required race numbers on your bike and helmet and when you approach the transition area, make sure you have your race belt and helmet on. So many people where not prepared and this did cause a bit of back log getting in. Also make sure you take some time to get familiar with the transition area. Mallorca is one of the largest Ironman 70 triathlons with over 3500 Athletes taking part, this makes for a transition zone of over 500 meters in length with a lot of bike and run bags to try and find!
Race day was here and I woke to the sound of rain! Not just any rain but good old fashioned British rain. It was pouring! Well you can prepare yourself for most things but the weather is just something you cannot control, so I just got on with it. Pre race breakfast was porridge with a banana with a High 5 energy drink. before long i was over in the transition area just making sure that everything was ready, tires all at the right pressure, energy drinks and Gels all on the bike and before i knew it i was down on the beach, wetsuit on and looking out at the continuing rain rain rain! At this point the nervous really started to build up, so i opted for a quick warm up swim beside the start area. This was really wise. My new Huub Archimedes II wetsuit felt great and this really calmed the nerves down.
Like most Ironman events, Mallorca had decided to operate a rolling start depending on your swim time. Its up to the individual triathlete to place themselves into the appropriate ‘pen’ depending on your swim time. This does mean that you didn't get the usually swim mayhem. The only downside was that they would only let between 5 and 10 athletes start every 5 seconds which led to a lot of people getting very cold waiting for the start in the continuing pouring rain. around 40 minutes after the 1st pro athlete had set off, i found myself at the front of the queue. 3,2,1, and i was off. quick run into the sea and i was under way. I wanted to get into my swim stroke and rhythm as quickly as i could and settle down for the outward leg. I felt really good and before long i was approaching the 1st turn buoy. But this is where the weather started to play a big part. The rain was still coming down and out far from the safety of the beach, the wind was stronger and the waves much larger. This did throw me off my stroke but a couple of minutes of breast stroke and i started the turn. But at this point i started to hear some screams from my fellow triathletes! It was like a scene from a horror movie. The screams continued and before i knew it i realised why. Jelly fish everywhere! The bad weather had blown them towards the shore and right into the swim route. I got my head down and tried to swim away from them but to no avail. Two stings on both legs!. Luckily just after the turning at the 2nd buoy and heading back towards the beach, the jelly fish disappeared. The beach came into view and i started to think about my exit and run to T1. I decided to try and stand and run out of the water. Big mistake! The water is clear but I was still way to deep to allow my 6ft 3in frame to touch the bottom! After a quick couple of strokes, my feet touched the sand i was on my way out of the water. One of the features of the Huub Archimedes II wetsuit is the quick release zip. One big tug and the zip breaks away to allow a quick exit from the top of the wetsuit.
The run from the beach to the T1 area is very long but allowed my legs to wake up after the swim and start thinking about the T1 transition. Bike bag found and into the changing tent. Wetsuit off and i quickly drying my legs off to allow a easy process of putting on my compression calf supports. Because of the continuing rain, I put on some arm warmers. But I had a tough time putting on my Garmin heart rate monitor. It felt like forever and I had to actually take my tri suit off to allow myself to complete this task. Note to myself, get a waterproof heart rate monitor! Finally I donned my light weight waterproof jacket. (more on this later). Bike found and then the long run to bike out.
Once on the bike i settled down very quickly to my rhythm. The route takes you out of Alcudia towards Puerto Pollensa and then inland towards old town Pollensa just before the start of the mountain climb. I’ve read a number of reports from previous races and in all cases they warned you about this 1st 20 kms. Not so much because they where difficult but because the tendency to let the adrenaline flow and go way too fast before the mountain climb starts. I’d set myself a target of around 230 watts for power and not to go over 160beats per minute with regards to heart rate. This started well right up to the point 10kms in, that my stages power meter decided to give up the ghost and stop reporting my power output. I still had cadence and heart rate so just decided to ‘power’ on!.
An Area I've always been poor at was hydration. I never tend to drink enough when I'm out on the ride and as I've already mentioned, this is really important when you make the step up to half and full ironman distance. Having researched this subject, i knew i need to keep drinking. I set myself a target of drinking at least one 750 ml bottle per hour ridden and 1 energy gel every 30 minutes. I’ve tried a number of different brands but settled on High5 products, They taste great and I don't have any stomach issues with them. So 1st hour in and i was on target for my nutrition.
Then came the climb. I was really glad I’d ridden the route a couple of days before and just settled in and making sure my heart rate stayed within the correct zone. Last thing i wanted to do was really attack the mountains and have blown legs for the run. Taking part in such a large race does mean that you never are alone. All up the climb i found myself surrounded by follow triathletes. Ironman print your 1st name and nationality flag on your race number. This may sound simple but its great to see just how many different nationalities take part and it does breed a great atmosphere.
Top of the mountain came and I then started the decent with the rain still during down. I’d fitted my Trek Speed concept TT bike with a set of Boardman Air Elite Nine deep rim carbon wheels. Even though I had the specific carbon wheel brake blocks, I found that my brakes just didn't bite for about 5 seconds after pulling on them. This with the wet turns led to a really scary decent. Most corners had a number of crashes and even worse because of the weather, people hadn’t kitted themselves out with specific clothing and where suffering from hyperthermia. I had made the decision to put on a light weight water proof jacket and at this pint i was glad i had. I really did take it easy on the decent and after the race, i compared my previous days time in which i was around 7 minutes slower but i was down safely.
Now for the flatter 2nd part of the bike and this was just great. Head down and just let the TT bike prove its worth and boy did it. Id looked at a number of different bikes before i settled on the Trek Speed concept and I got to thank the great guys from Bridgetown cycles near cannock for their help. The Trek is not just fast but it can be configured to the rider to provide speed and comfort. This was proven by the fact that I just flew. the final 50k was completed at a average speed of well over 37kph. Before long i was approaching T2. One thing i did notice was that my fellow Triathletes where starting to slow down in preparation of the transition. So i kept the speed up and jumped off the bike just in time for the dismount line. Total time for the bike leg was 3hr 6 minutes with an average speed of 29 Kph.
Having such a large transition area did mean that i was able to run out the built of stiffness from the bike leg. Bike was racked, run bag found and with a quick pit stop for a wee i was out onto the run section.
As part of my training plan, Blair had included regular bike to run brick sessions. I hated them but they did teach me a coupe of major lessons.
1: I was started the run way to fast and
2: because i didn't hydrate correctly, my heart rate was high.
Both lead to me hitting a big wall 20 minutes into the run. The run course is 2 1/2 laps, very flat but does have a couple of nasty 180 degree turn around points on its route around the port end of Alcudia and right along the beach front.
Sure enough i started way too fast but I kept my eye on my Garmin 920 and slowed myself down to my target pace of around 5min per km. My pace was really good for the 1st 16km’s, All around the 5min km pace but then it started to get really difficult. The remaining km’s where down to 5:25 min pace. The aid stations are positioned every 2 or so km;s so i made sure that i kept hydrated at every one. Also i took on board some gels. As I've mentioned i used the High5 gels but on the run the aid stations use PowerBar, I find them OK and better than nothing. This is when it got really tough but having the crowd there to cheer you on really helps. Before i knew it i was turning onto the famous Ironman carpet heading towards the finish line.
My goal had been to try and beat 6 hours overall. Approaching the finish line i was with 4 other triathletes. We all crossed the line together. Before I could look up at the score board, my name had disappeared. I had no idea of my time and the other finishers with me had recored times of 6hours 10. I had to wait for my Garmin 620 to update before i could see my time. It felt like forever but eventually it finished and my time was 5 hours 49 minutes. I was really pleased with that.
I was really pleased with my overall time, especially with the nasty weather conditions. There is definitely room for improvement. There is a good 5 minuets to find in T1 and i also think in dry conditions i could go under 3 hours for the bike leg.
Swim - 36:15 (1:50 min/100m)
T1 - 12:51
Bike - 3:06:21 (29.0 kph)
T2 - 5:10
Run - 1:49:03 (5:12 min/km)