Well wasn’t that fun? Firstly I’d like to say thank you and well done to everyone I spoke to over the course of race week, it was awesome meeting so many people from social media who’d been through this journey (some for the first time) and had come together to put themselves through this race. It really did feel like a shared experience.
With the 8am start time it was a very relaxed morning, without the need to get up at silly o’clock. I was fast asleep by half nine on Friday night and slept really well. Christine and Kelsey as ever were up with me and caught me up after I left earlier than them to prep my bike. Had a few nice chats with my transition neighbours and some of the lads from the hotel and when Christine and Kelsey finally arrived we made our way down to the swim start.
There was a great atmosphere on the beach, there were probably as many people, if not more, than there are for the Lanzarote start. The only issue with the rolling start was that it took forever to get into the water and I was having to constantly demist my goggles and wet my eyes to ensure a seal. I needn’t have worried, everything was fine by the time I got to the start gate and hurtled into the water.
It was, without a doubt, the best open water swim I’ve ever had. I managed to stay relaxed, almost Zen-like, even when people were zig-zagging across me (sight people, sight!) and reached the first turn buoy in what seemed like no time at all. I was passing people in white caps (the wave in front of me) all the way, and as I turned to return to the beach, I could see hundreds and hundreds of people behind me as I turned my head to breathe. I remember thinking “this is not normal for me, what’s happening?”. As ever, the finish just seemed to get further and further away, but as I ran up the beach (with some green caps, TWO waves in front of me!) I stopped my watch reading 39 minutes. For 1.2 miles. Almost 2km. 39 fucking minutes! I was ecstatic! I’d hoped for a sub40, but I never actually thought I’d do it! I felt great running up the beach and through the chute to T1. I remember seeing Kelsey, and then spotted Christine at the side of the walkway, but I just couldn’t get to her, was a real tough task to get across to grab her for a smooch. I managed it though. I had to, smooches are my power-ups!
Up to transition, grabbed my bag, got out of my wetsuit and put my helmet on. Now the transition in Mallorca is big. I mean BIG! And my bike was all the way down the bottom near where the bike exit was. You can stuff running all that way in cleats, so I re-hung my bag and ran down to my bike barefoot with my shoes in my hand and put them on when I got to it. Still felt good. Found out afterwards that my T1 time was less than 8 minutes. Another first!
As ever, my bike is my strength, my race plan was the usual “survive the swim, destroy the bike, hang on for grim death on the run”, but even I couldn’t believe how many people I passed all the way past Pollensa to the foot of the climb. That’s when things started to slow down. I’m a big unit, I’m not built for climbing, but I can tap out a rhythm and I’d always got a gear or two in reserve, which I was pleased with considering I was running a 52/36-28/11. I was still going past people. Naturally I was being smoked on the climb by skinny lads on road bikes with compact chainrings on, but I certainly put some time back into them on the descent. Gravity loves weight. According to the stats, I went past 600 people on the bike. And bearing in mind I had a few racing snakes go past me, I reckon you can probably add another 200 to my total victims!
I have to say, the bike route on this race, especially the climb, is spectacular. The views are just to die for. It’s not too taxing a climb and it’s made all the more easier with the views that are afforded to you going up. You’ve not a lot of time to look at anything coming down, however, you’re having to concentrate far too hard for sightseeing. There were ambulances all over the course and I saw several nasty accidents and one or two seriously mangled bikes. I must admit, there were two or three occasions where I thought I’d overcooked some of the corners and was looking for escape routes (hopefully not down the side of the mountain!) but thankfully my brakes were well effective and I managed to slow enough to make the turns!
I’m gonna have a moan now though with respect to that. Some of the bike handling/race etiquette I saw out on the course was well below par, and not what I would expect from anyone, much less triathletes. Which part of “ride on the right” don’t you understand? The times I was baulked and forced to slow down because people were riding on the left hand of the lane. It really started to irritate me. The race referee even told one girl off in front of me for it, she was arguing against him, he rode off and she continued to ride in front of me with nothing to her right. Just move. Undertaking you could have led to a DQ for me, so I wasn’t prepared to do it, but you forced me to slow down for a long time before you had the thought to move back to the side where you should have been.
All that aside, the ride was over far too quickly, and I was still flying past people all the way from Muro back to Alcúdia, screaming at Christine, Kelsey and Daniel who were by the side of the road and flying into T2.
Now here’s another thing. My T2 times for middle and long distance are usually ridiculously long. At least 12 to 15 minutes. Here? Six minutes. 6. Seis. Sechs. Szesc. The difference between previous races and this one? Socks. I’d trained to go sockless on the run here and it made all the difference to transition times. I didn’t have to dry my feet off and get socks on and struggle to get them comfortable, it was just a case of taking my bike shoes off, trotting through transition with them in my hand, chucking them in my bag, pulling on a pre-talced pair of tri-shoes on and running out of transition. Granted my toes were a bit sore (they still are), but it was far better than hot foot and purgatorial pain on the balls of my feet. Winner.
So, six minutes before I was trotting out of transition and straight into the first portaloo, busting for a piss.
Bad choice. Awful choice. Why did I pick that bog? Why the issue? There was an enormous pile of shit sitting right on the seat. I’ve seen some turds in my life but nothing had prepared me for this stinking monster (what did you eat???) sitting right there, staring at me. I tried to avoid eye contact while I had a piss. I thought it might want a fight, or maybe stab me. I don’t know why I warned the girl who was diving in there after me. Maybe I didn’t want her thinking I was responsible!
So off I went on the run. Only to be hit immediately with cramp in my left hamstring. It was murder. Then my right hamstring. I stopped twice to try and stretch out and realised I was done. There was no way I was finishing this, I could barely walk, but I told my legs to shut the fuck up and let me get on with it. When I get back onto the front road, Christine was there again and I told her I was done and I wasn’t going to finish. She told me not to be daft and to stretch out and get going. Funny thing is, I barely had a twinge after that.
The run was alternatively soul destroying and uplifting. The long run out to the Repsol station was only 2km, but seemed endless. Then you were turning back on yourself, over the humpback bridge and onto the blue path all the way to the finish chute. Which, excruciatingly, you had to pass twice before you actually got to get to run down it. And by ‘eck it were hot!
I would’ve been a lot quicker if I hadn’t had to stop for a smooch every time I saw Christine, but I ended up 25 minutes slower than I did at the Sheffield Half Marathon last month! Ironically, Kelsey reckoned that people looked more broken on the run than she’d seen in both Bolton AND Lanzarote. I certainly felt broken, and was very thankful for seeing everyone several times every lap, and before I’d even had a chance to get a second wind and into a rhythm ( I blame Richard Walker for high-fiving me every lap!) the finish chute was on my right and I was buzzing as much as I’ve done in every triathlon finish I’ve ever done.
I had the usual finish line euphoria. I learned my lesson after Bolton in 2017 and was scanning the crowd like crazy looking for everyone, and all of a sudden there they were. I wish I could have a photo of their faces when they saw me and my face when I saw them, because that there was the epitome of excitement, relief and happiness all rolled into one. What an awesome feeling. Another smooch and lots of hugs and I was crossing the line and high-fiving Paul Kaye and wandering through the tent looking for beer. The beer was great but let’s not mention the food that was on offer. Out to the expo and there everyone was with more cold beer for me. They know me so well! All the grief we go through, all the friction it causes with training and early morning alarms and all the other stuff that compromises relationships and family time all boils down to that one moment in time where everything seems worth it. That magic carpet feeling is like no other.
As I stripped my tri-suit top half off (thanks Michael Banks, epic kit) I realised how devastatingly sunburned I was. Three days later I’m still as sore as fuck! But it was a small sacrifice for how great I felt. Kelsey and Daniel went off to find something to eat, while me and Christine wandered back down the blue path to give some support to some more finishers. We saw lots of people from the Facebook group, René in particular, and clapped everyone home. We were tracking Liz King and were very vocal in our support as she passed us. I’m not sure she even realised who we were, but we were well chuffed that she finished inside the cut off. A massive achievement after recent knee surgery.
We ended up finding Kelsey and Daniel in a bar near our hotel and had a few more beers before going back to transition to retrieve my bags and bike. Before that though we had a chat with the St. Helens and Wigan tri girls at the next table, one of whom I asked if it was her I’d called “Big ‘un from Wigan” as we were heading towards Muro. She nearly fell off her chair laughing, they’d just been talking about me. We all ended up having a good giggle and going over the race again.
Sunday morning, as expected, I was completed broken. And not just me. Christine and Kelsey were both hobbling, Daniel was more burned than I was, but we ended up in the restaurant for breakfast laughing at and with everyone else who was hobbling about like they’d shit themselves.
Usual tale was I was hating every minute of the race, especially the run, but the next day we were already talking about my A-race for next year. The girls have already got it nailed down to two – either Finland or Switzerland. As much as I love Alcúdia, we much prefer Can Pastilla/Arenal, and the logistics of staying there and racing on the other side of the island are a bit off putting, and to be honest, we’d rather go somewhere that’s not so much of a tourist resort.
I’ve got to say though, as a destination race for anyone, or for your first middle distance outside the UK, Mallorca 70.3 is difficult to beat. Beautiful swim, spectacular bike and the support on the run is amazing. The atmosphere at the finish was extraordinary. Get it done!