Mallorca 70.3 Ironman – 7 May 2016 – Mallorca, Spain
by Chris Jamieson
“The Rain in Spain falls mainly on the Triathlete”
Training in Mallorca is fantastic: warm weather, calm clear water, great cycling roads and arriving a few days before the race to recce the course that is exactly what I enjoyed. Race day was forecast to have “some rain” but be mild at 18C…so I decided not to put racing slicks on the bike and figured a bit of extra caution would be required for the bike descent through the hairpin section but otherwise this looked relatively straightforward.
But Mother Nature has not been kind to the start of the Expatries Long Distance Season this year. The large club turnout for Aix 70.3 the previous weekend suffered a cancelled swim and very cold windy conditions. Now she turned her attention to Mallorca 70.3…
Breakfast at 5am and it was torrential rain and there was already standing water on the last 3k of the bike leg that ran past my hotel to transition but the latest forecast did still say it would lighten by 11am. A soggy final bike check (revising down the tyre pressures to match the wetter conditions) then it was into the wetsuit and down to the beach for a warm up swim before going to watch the pros start at 7:45. The gun went and they were off! Hopping steps through the shallow until it was deep enough for them to dive in and get going.
Now it was our turn. Ironman had introduced a rolling start so you found the pen for your expected swim time and as it was called forward you were funnelled into starting lines with about 10 athletes then going every 5 seconds and your time starting as you crossed the mat. However to get the 3500 competitors (the world’s largest 70.3 race) into the water still takes a long time so I finally hit the water at about 8:45. Into space…It was strange, compared to wave starts where the tuna boil trashing and bumping takes 200-400m to settle down, here you were looking around for bodies to try and draft on so it felt much more like an open water training swim. Sighting was a bit trickier than the practise as the small intermediate buoys were harder to spot with the heavy rain clouds and a bit of swell that had come with the rainstorm. Then out by the 900m turn I thought someone behind had scratched my foot but then I felt the tingle and saw a small jellyfish in the water below me so realised what it was but no major drama (I was much luckier than some who got stung in the face). Back to the beach and out of the water for the run to T1.
Grab the Bike Bag. Race belt on. Sunglasses on. Wetsuit off and into the bag and run the rest of the 650m T1 (Mallorca 70.3 also claims the world’s longest transition) to the bike and out on the road.
It was really raining now (the forecast about lightening up lied) but the first 25k are flat/false flat so time to get down on the aero bars and try and warm up the leg muscles. Then it was onto the hill, Col de Femenia 7.6k averaging 6%, nothing brutal but good pacing required not to burn through the stores before the second half of the race. It was also getting colder as I climbed past some of those people who can swim 😉 dropping to 8C at the top.
8C is perfect for cycling but not when you are expecting 15-18C and just wearing a wet trisuit so the decent was cold. With so much rain and water on the road it was much slower coming down than expected but on the plus side everyone I saw was respecting the conditions. I did see a few spills but they were all on innocent looking corners in the later stages as the surface water just kept building. Then the last 40k is pretty flat so back down on the bars to try and claw back some time.
Through T2 “just” 400m long this time and out onto the flat 2.5 loop run course. Although about 2k of the lap felt more like a cross country race as you splashed through ankle deep water.
I run without socks and felt some rubbing in unusual spots on my feet. I put it down to everything being soaked and resigned myself to the blisters (later I discovered it was those jellyfish stings blistering). There was great support along the course particularly along the beachfront leg so it was then just a case of grinding out the run in the conditions to the finish line.
As a friend of mine who was racing commented it was not a day for heroics or times, getting to the finish line safely was the goal and I was very happy to see everyone I knew racing made it home ok. So Mallorca 70.3 goal achieved.
Mother Nature can be cruel…of course it was clear blue sky’s the morning after the race as I left but c’est la vie. Roll on Luxembourg 70.3 in June, when hopefully she’ll be in a kinder mood!