Having just returned from my first race of the year in Mallorca, I have discovered two things!
1) You can always make mistakes regardless of how many triathlons you have done.
2) I do still burn like crazy in the sun!
The flight out and the pre-race stuff was simple enough. I did Mallorca last year as a warm up race for the upcoming Ironman and fell in love with the race. It is just fantastic, and with 3500 people on the startline, you are guaranteed to bump into at least one person you know. Flew in on the Thursday and headed for the fantastic villa that a relative of a friend owns. It really is the perfect pre-race base just a short ride out of town, but away from the noise and buzz of things, which allows you to relax and get yourself ready.
Registration was a simple affair, and after a bit of a test ride on the course with the bike to make sure nothing fell off, it was racked and Friday night was upon us. A big spaghetti bolognese and an early night saw everyone up at 6am and ready to get it on!
Having shepherded a nervous girlfriend into the 8am women’s start (she would some six and a bit hours later be a half Ironman!), I set about getting ready for my swim in the 35 – 39 age group.
I was stood by the start banner waiting to be invited in, but no sooner had my age group been called in, I found myself 10 rows back and unable to get any further forward. I found myself getting worked up looking around, but I couldn’t get anywhere due to the volume of bodies, so gave up pushing and settled for my fate.
The gun went, and predictably the champion swimmers in front of me were not as champion as they thought. With a bit of a strop on, I started the arduous task of climbing, pushing and kicking my way over the people in front. The first 800m was probably one of the most violent swims I have ever done. Why people can’t be more sensible in seeding themselves is beyond me. It does nobody any favours. Finally in clear water after the second turn I got into a rhythm and started to pick off more of the silver hats, mixed with a number of gold ones from the wave ahead, and even some pink ones from the women’s wave. Coming out in 27 minutes I had undoubtedly worked harder than I wanted to, but I was up the front where it mattered.
Onto the bike and I had my wattage targets dialled in. Problem was that 240 – 260w on the flat first 15k just felt too easy. I decided in the end to just go for it and put the hammer down. There was drafting aplenty, but when you cram that many riders into that small a space it is going to happen. Some of it was blatant, but others it was just a case of you overtake one person and you immediately are behind someone else. I got in a good pace line and we were all working together to the hill where things blew up a bit. It was like the M25 in rush hour going up the 20km climb, but I sat in and tapped out a 300 – 330w tempo.
Up and over the top and then the fun started. The downhill is absolutely awesome fun, with fast switchbacks and long sweeping corners. Some overcooked things, and one guy went over the edge, but I got down safe and sound and put the hammer down for the return home. All the watt bike sessions over the winter months were paying off and I felt strong from the start to the finish. Dismounted in 2h37, and felt good to go.
Then the run happened. I knew I had not been drinking well on the bike as I had not felt the need for the toilet. This, coupled with some new gels I was taking gave me a bit of an upset stomach that turned into a bit of a vomit session by 10km of the run. By this point the soaring temperature and the lack of hydration had got to me, and I was reduced to walking the aid stations and trying to run the rest.
Targetting a sub 5 hours finish, I got to the 18km mark with a race time of 4h45. Ordinarily 3km in 15 mins would have been childs play, but this was the end of a half marathon, dehydrated with temperatures up into the mid 30’s.
I tried to get my legs moving, but although I held a decent pace for the end, came in in 5:03. Never mind, I won’t lose any sleep over it, and I will be back next year to correct things.
Despite all my experience, I didn’t hydrate properly, and I tried new gels on race day. This is what did for me. On the positiveside of things, I know that going into the build for IM Germany my basic fitness is there, and I just need to add some volume.
Another race, another lesson, another medal. Onwards.