70.3 MALLORCA RACE REPORT – J HOTCHKISS
The season proper (post the San Juan 70.3 test race) kicked off for me at the 2nd 70.3 Majorca and I was not only looking forward to the race, but just to get some warm sun on my back. My girlfriend Jen had also travelled out with me (and organised travel/accommodation for us) so short though the trip was, it was exciting to be heading to the beautiful port of Alcudia for the race.
I knew the course from a previous training trip back in 2008 and was looking forward to a hard fought race in a big and strong men’s pro filed that included the current Ironman distance WR holder, Michael Raelert. Everything leading up to the race had gone well (ignoring the previous weeks food poisoning) and my coach and I were very happy with where we were at physically. The mysterious leg shut down of San Juan had been resolved and power on the bike was returning. It was time to see exactly what I could do.
The swim was reasonably un-eventful, with me sitting towards the back of the second pack. I’m swimming averagely at the moment and there’s more to come, but I felt comfortable all the way and possibly on reflection should have pushed a little harder to at least try to be further up the bunch.
We exited the water and made our way from the golden beach to the 2nd longest transition area I’ve ever raced in (Galway 70.3 being the longest). I’d made the choice to put my helmet in the Bike transition bag and not leave it at my bike (unlike ALL the other Pro’s) and was able to use the 500m run from tent to bike to don my helmet and simply grab my bike and go… 15s advantage to me right there!!!
Out onto the bike course and the first 15km we had to cover was flat and fast before we hit the major mountain of the course up to the St Luc Monastery. I was feeling great sitting on the watts we’d targeted for the ride and once my breathing and stomach settled down after the swim, I got two Powerbar gels inside me well before we hit the foot of the mountain. A group of about 8 of us were together when this happened, but very quickly this broke apart. The upper limit for my watts meant that I dropped off the back of the front 4 guys but my legs felt good, so I decided to adapt the plan a little and allow a slightly harder effort on the way up hoping that I’d recover sufficiently on the long technical descent. I still ended up climbing entirely on my own, but caught and passed 3 other guys on the way up. About 45mins of solid climbing later and I took the left turn to begin the descent.
One of the great things about Majorca, is that the road are all perfect. The surface is immaculate and you never have to worry about pot-holes or loose gravel; nice to know as you’re going round the endless switch backs down the mountainside. The views are stunning if you can take your eyes off the road for a second, or more importantly the edge of the corners and what you CAN’T see over the edge!!! This section of the race was the killer for me however. I’m not too bad at descending…I thought, but 2 of the guys I’d passed on the way UP the mountain, caught me back and despite my best efforts to follow their routes around the corners, they steadily pulled away and by the time I’d got to the base of the mountain, they’d put another 90s into me. I’d probably lost over 3minutes to them (and the leaders) on the way down!!! Not good! But thankfully, the point of leg failure in San Juan came and went without all power disappearing and I was once again back sat at race pace watts and feeling fine. The rest of the ride was largely flat and fast, but it took me till 75km to catch back to anyone and by the end of the 91km I’d only gained back about 5 places. I was happy though as I was right at the point where I wasn’t sure if I’d ridden too hard or not… the run would tell, but I knew at least I’d been able to ask the question.
Jumping off the VO2 Victory TT as I headed into T2 and the legs felt pretty average, but not shocking and certainly not dead. I had plenty of time to “gently” ease them in between my bike and the T2 change tent that’s for sure! Trainers on, I grabbed my visor and two PowerBar gels and headed out onto the flat but now pretty HOT run course; Time to see how the great recent training form could translate into a tired half marathon.
One of the great things about this race is that it’s so popular with British athletes and the crowd support on the 3 lap course was awesome! Jen had found a great sport where she could walk a short 200m between the road and the path of two parts of each lap of the run course, meaning she could see me loads and give great updates and support too… much needed as the mercury started to hit the 30 degree mark.
I’d started the run as planned -nice and steady. The plan was 5k like this, then raise it slightly for the next 10k, then look to increase and hang on as much as possible for the last 6km. The guys I’d left T2 running side by side with were now no longer within earshot which always helps you relax that little bit more. Focussing on the technical pointers my coach Tom has been helping me with, I felt pretty good as I headed out towards the turn around point at about 4km. This out and back section was a great chance to gauge my position, but I was slightly confused to only pass by the bikes leading 2nd and 3rd place males… then it sunk in –WOW Raelert was clearly MILES (literally) in front of everyone!!!
One of my pre-race goals was to finish 1st Brit and I could see that Mark Threlfall was having a great race and currently running in 4th place, about 6minutes in front. I’d have to work HARD to achieve that target, but I was still feeling pretty good and focussing on my lean and depth as I ran was giving me a pace that was slowly reeling guys in front in. Passing Jen at about 6km, she said I was in 17th. Clearly a lot of guys were having great days! Out onto the 2nd lap and the heat was starting to hit home to lots of us, but my pace was holding, just, and I was gaining on guys in front. Mark was now just over 2minutes in front and I’d passed a couple more guys by the end of 14km and was hanging onto 1h15min pace. The last lap however and the pain started to tell. I was holding my form together, but just couldn’t quite hold the same pace. I caught and passed 2 more guys, but then with only a km to go, I was caught napping myself and passed before I could respond and try to go with him. Mentally I gave it a shot at catching him back, but the legs wouldn’t respond. However, this is a good sign as the mental side of things last year was something I’d realised had begun to weaken, so I was pleased to see some fight returning when things got tough.
The last turn and a short run along the beach, beside all the bars and cafes with willing supporters tucking into full English breakfasts and early lunch Paellas took us up and over a short foot bridge and down the packed finishing shoot. I crossed the line, totally spent and a full 20 minutes behind Raelert… but more importantly less than 8 minutes down on 2nd place. Raelert aside, it had been a close race in the top 20 and I was delighted to have been able to execute a solid race. Though not the result I was looking for, it was a race I’m happy with. The plan was followed, the body held strong and there’s a lot more fitness and strength to come. I’m excited about racing again, which is a good sign and the improvements made with my “team” so far can only continue to bring increasingly positive results.
A huge thanks as always to those who help and support me so much: Jen for being amazing both at organising me and cheering for me. VO2 Performance Bikes, Powerbar, CompresSport, Greepers, Tom from T2 Coaching, the guys at “The Athletic Edge” and Luke my manager.