My first half iron distance race in 6 years. I entered 7 months ago in March, and was pretty excited, pinning it as an A race for the year, the Ironman Wales entry being a fairly last minute impulsive thing. Ironman Mallorca is located on the north east corner of the island, while this is opposite on the south west, an area I know much better as my aunt and uncle have a place here.
Based on my Ironman Mallorca time, and my peers’ finishing times at other 70.3 races, I set myself a goal of sub 6 hours. As the race drew closer, and my running has quite obviously been suffering lately, this seemed less likely. But with a 7:20 bike in Mallorca last year, I thought I should easily be able to do this bike in less than half that time. Especially compared to the recent Pembrokeshire climbs at Ironman Wales, where I’d achieved a PB for the course. Also, unlike last year where I hired a bike, this year I would be bringing my snazzy new one with me.
And there brought an added new discipline to the swim, bike, run, transition combo. Packing the bike. I had worried about it before. But in a pretty hypothetical way. I kept meaning to do it, but kept putting it off. So, due to fly on Thursday at the crack of dawn, I set to it on Tuesday evening. Step 1: Remove the seat post. This should be easy peasy, adjusting a seat height is straightforward. Right? I had a bike fit when I bought this bike in spring, and haven’t actually tried to adjust the seat height. Turns out, I hadn’t the foggiest. After accidentally removing (and replacing) the saddle and fiddling for a good while, I found a concealed screw under a rubber sleeve at the base. Rejoice! But I then spent ages loosening the screw and the post wouldn’t budge. Then heard something drop down inside the frame. Great! It turned out I just needed a bit of brute force to get the post out, upturned the bike, retrieved the parts I’d lost inside, and step 1 was done. Only took an hour. And I’d missed running club. Step 2: Pedals off. Step 3: Wheels off. Step 4: Handlebars off. Step 5: Pack the box. All in all it took about 2.5 hours. I added my Ironman Mallorca and Ironman Wales stickers to the box, plus a few paisley cat stickers I had lying about for good measure.
And discipline, what are we up to now, 6? Reassembling the bike the other end. Smoother than dismantling but not without hiccup. After careful consideration, I managed to put the front forks on backwards until my aunt pointed out the front wheel didn’t look like it fitted. Easily fixed but on my recce/tinker ride, turned out I had them on wonky so to ride on my aerobars, meant I’d be facing right to keep my wheel straight. Fairly major, but again, easily fixed.
Onto the logistics of going to Peguera and back once for registration, once for the briefing, and once for bike racking, and then I just had to get carb loading (ha!) ready for the race.
Race day was here!
The swim was rather choppy. I was quite excited about this. I’m a reasonably strong swimmer, and knew it would freak other people out. The swim start was in waves, with the pro men going off at 9:00, followed by pro women, age group men 18-39, age group men 40+, then age group women at 9:20. I wondered if a female only start would be more or less vicious, and thought probably moreso. But as it turned out, it was a small field compared to Ironman, and as usual a small percentage were female so there weren’t too many people to share the sea with. It was so choppy, we had to wade/lollop out to sea (in the style of those lemurs who run up on their back legs) for several minutes before we could start swimming, just as we’d watched the pros and men do. Then, with the swell, sighting was really difficult and the field got spread out wide.
I knew with the wave setup, and my weak cycling, I would be in for a lonely bike leg. I did manage to catch a few vet men. I saw one man doing an odd backwards butterfly with a terrified look on his face coming up to the back straight, and I shouted “well done, you’re half way”. He rolled over and seemed pleasantly surprised exclaiming “OH! Danke!” then started swimming properly again.
The rolling waves tripped me as I tried to exit the water, and I twisted my ankle. I was aware it could cause me trouble later, even if the current adrenaline made it barely noticeable.
I think I placed reasonably well in the swim. I was 326/652 overall and 41/115 women. But time was definitely added due to the conditions. In Wales my lap times were 35 mins and 32 mins, and here my one lap took over 37 minutes.
I had planned to wear my two piece under my wetsuit and save time in transition, but on race morning, it was a bit nippy and I changed my mind, favouring nice dry kit to change into with the cost of a slightly longer transition. Not the worst though. 505/652 for my T1 time (which included pushing the bike up a steep slope to the mount line).
I hadn’t expected this to be as hard as it was. With Ironman Wales under my belt, I thought I had those hills down! Also, in my two Iron distance races, I’ve started to suffer with neck/back/shoulder pain and fatigue around half way, so thought racing half the distance would eliminate that rate limiting factor. Not so. The course starts with the climb. And much earlier on, the issues cropped up. Along with the familiar crunch in my left knee. But I had a nice new problem of a tightening left hip flexor and left lower back pain. What was this all about?
The course “only has one 5% climb”. Hahaha. It’s two laps and the profile looks like this.
Here’s the comparison to Ironman Wales and Ironman Mallorca. With 3107ft total ascent, that’s more than half of IM Mallorca at 5620ft (which is really just one 10km climb and the rest predominantly flat), and not all that far off half of the Wales course at 6889ft.
The first climb continues for a reasonable distance to a dead turn. Heading up, it seemed like there was a dense concentration of cyclists coming back down, and I felt like I was out on my own right at the back. Once I turned though, I could see there were plenty behind me still coming up (even if some of those were the pro men on their second lap on their way to lapping me, having had a 20 minute head start!).
Still, I was struggling and getting into a dark place. I had to have a word with myself. “Shut up. Look at the scenery; smell the flowers; listen to the birdsong and the shouts of animo animo/vamos campeona; feel the sun beating down on your skin and the refreshing breeze as you cut through the air; taste that sickly sweet ‘cola’. Ignore the pain and the self doubt, because who cares? This. Is. Fun.
I finished the bike in almost exactly 3:40, exactly half the time I rode my IM Mallorca bike leg. I’d hoped for somewhere around 3:20-3:30, but I had completely underestimated the course. My bike time ranked 579/652 overall and 89/115 women, dropping my ranking at that point from 326 after the swim, to 369 after T1, down to 551 after the bike. From here though, things could only get better!
My running is supposed to be my forté, but I’ve really struggled lately, with missing mojo, and I think just over racing and fatigue. My half marathon PB is 1:28:32, and I’d registered for this race aiming to run around a 1:45, but having recently done 1:44 at the Cardiff half, I knew that wasn’t happening. Nevertheless, I felt quite strong and set out at a steady pace, gaining positions all the way. I felt like I was storming along, though my watch was saying otherwise. It was also really hot, and I was sticking wet sponges wherever there was space and pouring water over my head at every opportunity. I also got my mum to buy me a callippo ice lolly on the 3rd lap. Other people have gels, it’s basically the equivalent but frozen and much nicer, so why not. I walked up the hill to eat it, but overtook every single person on the way back down who’d gone past me walking, so I think it was totally worth it.
As I was coming up to the lap point, I saw a man stumbling and swerving ahead of me, side to side like ping pong off the barriers in the style of Alistair Brownlee in Hyde Park 2010. I tried to hold him up and guide him in a straight line to the finish a la Alistair and Jonny in Mexico 2016, but he was too delirious to understand I was trying to help. When I turned for my last lap, and he was to go down the finish chute, he collapsed. I saw a couple of his team mates just last the finish gantry and shouted that he’d collapsed. I later saw a video posted on the event Facebook page, showing they’d helped him over the line and he collapsed again under the gantry, held up by them until the medics could stretcher him off.
On I went, taking care to hydrate without turning my stomach to a sloshing uncomfortable state. And I continued to gain places to the end working my way up from 551st to 468th, and then somehow losing 1 place in the last 100metres. I finished with a sprint, pipping a Spanish man to the line, and felt a little guilty, but he did embrace me and chat after he crossed the line so it was ok.
I completed the run in a tiny bit over 2 hours, 336/652 overall, 55/115 women.
This meant a finish time of 6:28:03.
6/9 F 25-29.
On top of these figures were another 113 on the DNS list (signed up but didn’t turn up and race on the day), 11 DQ (disqualified), and 37 DNF (started but didn’t finish).
As a nice touch, our medals were engraved with name and finish time just after the finish.
I can’t say I’m not disappointed with my time, but it was to be expected. And the race was beautiful and highly recommended. I would say I earned my stripes!
Now, just the Abingdon Marathon next week, and Athens Marathon in 4 weeks to complete my season, before a well earned rest.