Mallorca 70.3 Race Report – Eoin O’Reilly

Mallorca 70.3 was my first ever IM event back in 2015. The plan was always to go back but plans change. First the French air traffic controllers went on strike and then Covid hit. Finally we got word the 2022 version would go ahead – surely the worst was behind …not quite. As triathletes we like lists. Here’s a list of what happened before the race even started:

  1. ShipMyTri go out of business – damn need to find an alternative (to late) or rent a bike (take option 2 – reserve a nice fancy Pinarello)
  2. Hotel collapses (seriously, it did) find new accommodation, turns out to be much nicer thankfully
  3. Find out rental location is actually 20kms away from Alcudia and I’ve no car…ok attempt number 2 to rent a bike, Triple checking the location this time
  4. Flights booked for the wrong date, week after the race…ah FFS – I’m an idiot. Ok, check everything and change flights…spoiler this might be a recurring theme
  5. Get sick 2 weeks out from the race and can’t do any real training
  6. Turn up at airport – both bags pulled by security. 1 for bike tool and the 2nd to check for explosives! Get bags and wander about for a bit, find a nice quiet spot and read before heading to gate, only 40mins before boarding …
  7. Flight delayed for over 2 hours…I may never fly Ryanair again, at least not to Mallorca

I eventually got to Mallorca but unlike Caroline (advanced party) I didn’t get a whole coach to myself, just a regular taxi but it got me to the airport and with only a complementary mint for supper it was off to bed. 

Thankfully the next day went to plan. Registration was easy, expo much smaller than last time – cost savings by IM? Unlikely. Bike rental location was the other side of transition fence, things a looking up! Bike was practically brand-new, first-time riding with disc brakes and I am a fan. Head back to hotel for a change and head out for a short spin and brick run to make sure everything still works (including me) it does so all good.

Back to the hotel again and put on all the stickers (bags, bike and helmet), pack the bags – unpack all the bags and check I have everything and pack them again. Off down to rack bike and bags, collect timing chip and into the sea for a gentle swim. Nothing to hard – just making sure the waters not freezing and shark infested. All boxes ticked so must be time for food. Actually, managed to squeeze in 2 dinners, need to be well fed for tomorrow. 

 Race morning is always a mix of terror and excitement. There were quite a few athletes in the hotel, so breakfast started very early. Having ate all I should (note should rather than could – buffets can be dangerous) it was time to head to transition again to deposit street ware bag and fill up the water bottles). Bike was still in the same spot – plenty of other rentals so landmarks used to find it. Put on some more sun cream and head to the beach. Minor panic as zip on tri-suit comes off but managed to fix it. Now it’s just time to wait. Waiting is the hardest part, your (well my) mind starts to churn, the voices start – good and bad, and I start to analyse everything. I don’t remember being this nervous before. I’ve done a few IM events, so I know I’m capable.

Swim always makes me nervous, but I remember back to what Rich said all the way back in 2015 – “Swim like a boat” basically the wet suit will keep your legs up so your arms are your oars. It works, over 10 years doing tri’s and still one of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given. The full is off first but they seem to be delayed. Seems an age before they get released into the water. Now it’s our turn. Lots of hugs, high-fives and last-minute chats and I’m the sole TriTanium member in the 45min pen. Trying to find my happy place. Not really working but then AC/DC starts, and everything comes into focus. Time to race – well, time to start the journey to the finish line. Nowhere near the level to race an IM.

The swim is pretty straightforward – swim out to the big red buoy, turn right- swim 200mtrs to the next red buoy, turn right, swim to home. Simples – I like simples. The problem is the other 200 odd people in my wave seem to have identified me as some lucky charm they they have to grab, poke, kick or in some way have contact with. Triathlon swimming is definitely a contact spot. Head down a swim for the first 300mtrs to try find some space. It does start to thin out, but I still seem to be a magnet for those who can’t can’t swim straight. This combined with my swim hat coming off slows me down but no issues. First buoy – turning (queue more punching, kicking etc) sight next buoy and swim. Still a few bodies around but I’m moving well (in my mind at least). Next buoy comes into focus so brace for more contact. Sure enough I wasn’t disappointed.

Turn for home and head up to sigh – damn there’s a lot of buoys…they seem to be moving… Ah jaysus the buoys are the same colour as the majority of the swim caps – aim for the big ones. Again, with the more straight line challenged swimmers – ignore and keep going – give them a bit of space. Coming upon people walking now but mu plan is to swim until my hands are touching the bottom and I stick to this. Means I pass a few more. Final stand and the legs still work – had been a few phantom cramps during the swim but thankfully nothing now it’s coming to an end. Up and walking, start peeling the wet-suit down and I see Caroline and Emma. TriTanium in effect. Great support cheers us all into T1 and I manage to get the wet suit off, bike gear on and not fall over (a major bonus for me). Grab bike and off onto the bike course.

The first 5km I’m remembering how everything works. The new bike feeling helps. Watching the heart rate and the speed while being mindful of the other athletes. Mallorca is the biggest half in the world with nearly 3.5K athletes so it’s always crowded. Coming out of a long swim you can be a bit disorientated so I’m always wary in the early stages of the bike. All going to plan so far, no issues. Taking on fuel and tipping along. First 15-20km are more or less flat. Fast too so you can’t help but feel good. The road eventually starts to rise, it’s gentle at first and I know the sign saying 7km to the summit is a lie, so I just concentrate on keeping the HR in check and fuelling properly. The climb is long but manageable so it’s a case of find a gear that works and settle in. No need to be a hero. The scenery is amazing and the atmosphere is great, plenty of chats to be had. Again, really happy with the bike and the disc brakes really come to the fore in the decent. I’m keeping my eyes open and again I have Rich’s voice in my head – pick your line, commit to the corner, keep the inside peddle up – really helps when you can break it down. I’m certainly not flying down the other side but still moving well. It’s not long before we reach the bottom. I know there is one more climb to come but the majority of the hard work is done.

Still not at half way though so it’s not all sweetness and light, Off the hill and with the speed increase the wind becomes more noticeable. It seems to be blowing in all directions at once. Just make up your mind, at the moment it’s just annoying and doesn’t appear to have a major impact on speed but that will change. After some twisty and bumpy minor roads, we come onto a nice stretch of dual carriageway. It’s at this point the guy in the sandals passes me, Sandals – for over 90km, it does make it a little harder I reckon. The wind is playing tricks again, feels like a headwind but moving at 38kph so somethings not right. The motorbike marshals are very evident on this stretch so I’m mindful of gaps to other athletes and do my best to keep my pace steady. The last short, sharp hill comes upon us. There is plenty of warning – a sign and a marshal pointing upwards, but you come from a fast section – turn hard left and then up! It’s down the gears and push to the top. Once that’s over you’re rolling again.

The last surprise (or so I thought) was an out and back section just before heading back into Alcudia. Three lanes of cones, traffic on the inside lane so we should stay in the middle, seems easy but again due to the volume of athletes and the fact people are moving at different speeds it gets confusing – waving marshals and motorbikes not heling. The wind has picked up and there’s a rise in the road so not really liking this bit. It looks much nicer on the other side. Eventually make it to the turn around to settle into the downhill only to find the winds a headwind…again, how is that possible Anyway, can’t change it so just keep going. Back to the roundabout and into the town, just under a km to go…why can’t I see transition? Why are they sending us down this way and oh that’s definitely a headwind now – long straight down the main street into the strongest wind yet. It’s really taking the buzz away. Probably the hardest km of the day and that really shouldn’t be the case. Finally into T2, rack the bike, throw on the runners and out for the final part.

I knew within a few meters that while swim and bike went to plan the run was going to ruin any idea I had of being under 6hr30. My legs weren’t sore, I wasn’t cramping but there was no way I was able to run. Even the slow pace wasn’t sustainable. I resorted to setting and resetting targets – run for 5mins, run for 2km, run between aid stations – no way I’m running over that bloody wooden bridge though! 3 laps – break them down and just keep moving. Lapped courses are great like that. This one had a long stretch down that same road we came up on the bike and everyone agreed that was the toughest part, it just seemed to stretch on forever.

The support is amazing both from the side-lines and from other athletes. You find a way to keep going. Towards the end of lap 3 I really started to fade – I had long since missed my target time and any idea of running a constant pace was about as realistic as a lotto win. I was just concentrating on moving. Finally into the home stretch along the beachfront. Making sure to that all the staff and the few supporters I’d interacted with for the duration. As always the red carpet provides (temporary) miracle cure and it’s across the line to finish my 8th 70.3. Bike and run went to plan but run failed me – but as Meatloaf wisely said 2 out of 3 ain’t bad! 

We had 5 TriTanium members in Mallorca – all finished, all with different stories to tell. The fact is with the training anyone can do an IM 70.3. The challenge will often be what happens in the race rather than the distances involved. You could lose your goggles or get battered in the swim, bike mechanicals or accidents can happen, you might forget how to run or suffer badly due to the weather. The mental side of triathlon is probably the most important and the hardest to work on.

That said, the experience is amazing. It’s a fantastic sport we are involved in – all shapes, sizes and abilities doing exactly the same distances – always looking out for and supporting fellow athletes. I’d encourage everyone to try at least one triathlon – you never know you might like it and end up going back to the same places all over again. Like Mallorca in 2023. I have a bone to pick with that run course!! 

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