So here it is: my “A” race of 2016. A half-ironman. What am I doing?!
Training has gone well. I’ve stuck to my new TrainingPeaks plan which has been put together by BTS men’s captain Ed Nunn and tweaked for me by Paul. My running, although pretty average among the world of triathlon, is improving. My cycling as ever feels strong. And my open water swimming is, well, still not matching my pool times, but hey ho.
We arrive and Paul and I get settled into a hotel near the race venue, whilst most of our fellow BTSers (competing or spectating) head for Club Pollensa a bit further west. We do a gentle run, and a shortened swim recce, and hire a car to drive around the 90km bike course. An absolute godsend come race day. After a flat 15km warm-up, then comes the main climbing section of the ride: starting with the cat 2 Coll de Femenia (7.6km at 6%), and finishing with the Lluc monastery climb (1.5km at 5%). The rest of the course is flat or gently undulating, apart from a little b*****d of a 10.5% ramp beginning after at a dead turn at the town of Muro… brutal if you’re not expecting it!
We meet up with my cousin Mike 2 nights before the race, beginning the carb-loading with some Italian food. He’s been out here for 3 months working at a tri camp and it’s good to catch up and know that he’ll be there, supporting on race day. He’s a talented cyclist and has dabbled in tri, so not sure why he’s spectating! 🙂
Finally race day arrives. The weather is God-awful: it’s cold, wet and windy. So much for our nice hot race abroad! We make our way to the apartment a couple of our club mates are staying at, to drop off some bags and have a pre-race group photo.
Then comes a 40 minute lesson in how to stand around in a wetsuit on a beach at 6am, getting unnecessarily cold. It’s a rolling start, which makes the usual washing machine start slightly more bearable. My swim feels OK, but not as good as it should be. I somehow avoid the jellyfish which others succumbed to, but hear a girl nearby at the halfway point, screaming her lungs out as though she were being eaten by a shark. I see the safety kayaks nearby and keep my head down, exiting the water in 36:49.
The bike leg is blimmin’ miserable. The only bit I can say I enjoyed ironically was the Muro climb… and only because the locals had come out to cheer people up it, TDF style. I can see my club mate Lynda ahead of me most of the way around, but by the last 20km or so I lose her and try to concentrate on my own race. I finish 90km in 3:10:36, not too bad considering.
I struggle to get my trainers on in T2 due to numb, sodden feet. I take a quick loo stop before heading out on the run. It feels slow from the off, but not horrendous. It’s a 3 lap route, and by lap 2 the stomach cramps have begun and I have to make another emergency loo stop. Despite this, I continue to feel worse, my legs slowing and enjoyment going exponentially down. Seeing Mike each lap helps ease the pain temporarily, as does having Paul cheer me on at the start of the final lap. He has obviously finished, and I am so jealous. I eventually get to the end, somehow without walking, but I am completely broken and on the verge of tears/vomiting everywhere. I attempt a half-hearted sprint across the line, completing the half in 1:56:56. I burst into tears, find some of my club mates and then make a beeline to the portaloos to throw up.
So, all in all I’m reasonably happy, I think. I’ve just nipped under 6 hours which was my goal from Paul. I can’t say I enjoyed the race at all, but I have enjoyed the process getting here: I’ve done my first few months of properly structured training, which I think suits me very well. Would I do one again? Maybe. Would I go longer? Probably not. Time to enjoy a well earned mini rest before the work starts for Euros…