Ironman abroad but at home
If you want to combine a nice challenging Ironman Triathlon Race with the spirit of vacation but still having the being home feel – then Ironman Mallorca is the best option for an average Riyadh Triathlete expat. Nearly 80 percent of all participants in Mallorca are either British or German. No wonder the island of Mallorca is a favorite touristic spot for both: Germans and British for their summer holidays. In 2016 Ironman Mallorca took place for the 3rd time on 24th of September. For me it was perfect because we had a long weekend due to Saudi National Day.
It should have been my 2nd Ironman Race in 2016 after Frankfurt in July. But after terrible accident I had to cancel my planned personal best time in Frankfurt and I wasn’t sure if I can get recovered from my collar bone injury until Ironman Mallorca even. Despite of having a break of any kind of sport activity in June and July I believed my body would heal and I could catch up with all training that I assumed to have in for having a descent finish. From previous Ironman races I knew how to quickly getting back into shape, balancing the progress to prevent injury but also keeping an eye on the healing bone.
Knowing there will be an open water ocean swim and considering swim my worst discipline plus constraints because of my damaged shoulder I tried to put more effort in swim preparation. I ended up with a weekly mileage of around 8 Km in the pool. The longest shot was for about 5 kilometers. Similar I did my training with the bike. Mallorca is quite hilly and has an ascent of about 1500m in total. Therefore I trained in Dirab and made as well long shots with a day mileage of up to 200 km. Weekly mileage for 3 weeks in a row: 300 km. Plus I trained with our best bikers in town: Irish Powerman Gareth Gallagher, Swedish Kona hope Kris, 3 x Ironman Finisher Katharina, and Wheelers Chairman Clemens. So I could steal some tips and mental support. For Running I didn’t put that much effort in. I had max only 60-70 km on the weekly clock. The muscles and the limited time were the constraint here. In total I focused on long shots. No sprints, no intervals, pure mileage here. Even with running hero Majed I had only a coffee for psychologic preparation. So I felt ready for my third Ironman. I knew: When I enter the water I will finish the race and get the medal. I aimed to finish in around 14 hours considering all constraints that I faced.
Arrival and rental Bike
I arrived 2 nights before the race at Palma Airport and I had pre-arranged a personal driver that should bring me to a bike rental place (Palma on bike). There I ordered a Carbon race bike since Riyadh Airport still were not able to transport my bike, a shipping were too complicated and anyways I wanted to return via Algiers (Algeria) to get a country point. So I thought overall racing an Ironman on a descent Road bike should be ok. I made the fitting just as a quick 5 minutes job (saddle height, breaks, gears) and fixed extra TT Handle bars. So it was sorted. My hostel was only 500 meters away from the Expo Area so I could walk to Start, Finish, and registration. Basically that’s the good point in Mallorca that a lot of accommodations are close to the race area. Furthermore lots of them have a connected restaurant in pedestrian area with sea / harbor view. Perfect for the after race party / drink.
The day before – Business as usual
The day before the race is business as usual: Easy peasy swim together with a Triathlon buddy from Germany in the clear water of the lagoon of Alcudia. Surprisingly I had a great swim. No pain. We tried both: Swimming with and without wetsuit. Afterwards I had my traditional Pizza-before-the-Race for lunch plus a glas of red wine. Per coincidence I had a glas of red wine before Ironman 70.3 Bahrain 2015 and Ironman 70.3 Busselton in Australia 2016. In both cases I had fast races the following day and was very happy about my overall result. So I believed in the power of pizza and wine. Never change a running system. Strangely in the evening before the race management announced no wetsuit competition. Usually the announcement takes place on race morning 1 hour before the start.. Nevertheless I was prepared for all. Early bed time, lots of water, and alarm clock set for 5 am. Excitement? Yes. Ok. A bit. Nothing major. Not like before other races. I didn’t expect a personal best time – too much limiting factors were in place. But I also knew I will finish. Period! The question was only in what conditions I will manage the pass the finish line. Lack of training, training in a rush and still not yet 100% recovered. But at least the head was fresh and ready for action.
Ready steady go and swim
I had the best sleep ever before any triathlon: Deep and long. I was quite relaxed. I knew what’s coming now: Preparation of Bike with bottles and final check of transition bags with running shoes, gels, sun glasses etc. Then the surprise: Wetsuit allowed. For me as injured bad swimmer it was great. So: Quickly back to hotel and getting ready. Wetsuit on, warm up, stretching, waiting. Finally the start. It was in waves. Bad swimmers start at the end of the field. The top crowd at beginning. That should reduce anxiety for beginners and makes it smoother. It was straight 1.2 km out and turn towards the land again and having an Australian Exit at km 2.4. Meaning: You have to run out of the water and run into the water again. Luckily I didn’t have any pain and could do my steady pace. Typically I lose the direction but this time it was quite ok. Extra turns as usual. I idn’t get cramps like in my previous ironman races. So I could swim without any interruption. I ended up with 1.36 hour. In the field it was still a bad time. But for me only 6 minutes slower than my best time. Surprise. That gave me encouragement for the bike.
Bike – Raining Ironman
My plan was to have an average pace of 30 Kilometers / hour during the bumpy and hilly roads on the first half to save energy for the big hill at km 105. It has an ascent for around 10 kilometers and a curvy downhill. After up and down at 120 Kilometers I planned to speed up and to see how much reserves I still have left since I couldn’t really train hill training before and was still a bit afraid of going downhill. Even riding on this road bike and not my own TT Baby I made good progress and everything was according to plan (Drinking every 10km, a Carbo gel every 20km, taking minerals at each aid station etc.). I passed all people in front of me because my swim time was that bad. Then I entered the hill and was surprise about the climb. It was ok. So my training was enough apparently. But I also saw the dark clouds coming up and suddenly it went dark. A thunderstorm came over us with heavy rain. I was not looking forward to the downhill if the rain sustained. Luckily when I reached the top the rain stopped. All people I passed uphill got me when it went down. I was so afraid of falling again, also having a bike that I am not used to. However the curves were really narrow. I saw behind the little walls of the curves. It went straight down 400-500 meters. If you don’t get the curve, you will get the dead. For sure. The pace went down to 5 Kilometers per hour. That was my average speed sometimes. I hoped to speed up between 120 and 180 km to clock sub 6 hours. But reaching the valley the rain started again. I was meanwhile 45 minutes behind schedule. Wet all over. The socks, shoes – all drained by water. Luckily it wasn’t that cold. But the rain and the water on the streets cost an average pace of 4 – 6 km / hour. The roads made people fall since it was very slippery. Meanwhile the sight was just about 30 meters. So I had to slow down again. At the end of the 180 km I still felt fresh. 6.27 Hours.
Dark Man running
Somehow I dreamed to make personal best still (sub 12). After bike I had only 8.10 hours. If I could run far below 4 hours then I could make it. Even feeling not that well prepared for the final Marathon – the temperature was just around 20 ish degrees and the rain stopped in meantime. So I started off quite nice. Unluckily my watch didn’t show me any pace anymore. Maybe it is not water proof anymore, or the battery died. However I couldn’t control my pace. Stupidly I had to ask other people about the pace they have to get a kind of clue about mine. Somehow I got tired and didn’t have my pacemaker watch with me so I made a just- run- through- Marathon out of it. But also being happy that I reached this far. At the end I could finish in 4.12 having 10 kilometers an hour. With a proper watch could have made maybe sub 4 hours. End result 12.29. Personal best times in transition. Aside of no injuries and shoulder pain free after the race – a positive result.
After an Ironman is before an Ironman
After having some days of break I start preparation for Challenge Wanaka in February 2017: More speed work, more intervals. I believe I can make it in below 12 hours even it’s a hard race since the water is choppy, hilly bike leg and the marathon is more a trail run. But people say the landscape and views are stunning. That could balance out the harsh conditions.
by Thomas Brackmann