Sophie’s Race Report – Mallorca Ironman 70.3 – 16th October 2021
I have lots of amazing memories of Mallorca so this was always going to be a special 70.3. I had been talking about the island ever since I had met Rich in Singapore. So I knew this was going to be a memorable race somehow.
We came to Mallorca in our campervan with plenty of time to prepare, especially with a technical, hilly bike course ahead of us. We managed 3 bike recces before race day which was both positive and negative. It was definitely helpful to know the course (even if some sections were changed 3 days before unbeknown to us). However, it also made me very nervous about the technical switchbacky descent on my TT bike. I couldn’t wait for that to be over on race day so I could enjoy the rest.
Race day morning and we had a full parental cheer squad. We said our goodbyes on the beach and headed to our pen for the swim start. As the full Ironman was happening on the same day, the swim course was already full of swimmers before we set off. The sky was beautiful, the water was calm and Rich and I were excited to race our last triathlon of the year. They started us off 10 at a time every 5 seconds and the water was BUSY. There is a video of me doing a very dainty dance into the water. I hadn’t practised my swim entry, clearly! As we hit the first buoy, there were full ironman swimmers turning to do their second lap. The congestion meant a lot of concentration was needed but this distracted me from looking for jellyfish and any open water anxiety. I just swam, tried to avoid flinging arms and getting kicked and hit too much. I found feet to draft and made my way round the course, hopeful that this might be my fastest yet. It was! I came out of the water and my watch said 15 minutes. Rapid! Actually, someone had whacked my Garmin and managed to press the stop button halfway through the swim. My actual time was 30.36 but still a PB for a half ironman. I am determined to get sub 30 mins soon.
The transition is the longest in the world but I was having a great time. There were crowds either side cheering and I had plenty of time to undo my wetsuit, take a gel and think about what was to come next. The parents were cheering us at T1 and wetsuit swiftly off, no mishaps, I was out on the bike. I LOVED the first section and found myself flying along the flat in TT, overtaking one after the other after the other. This is the part of triathlon where I feel in my element. I kept praying for no mechanicals after 2 bad punctures on the previous recce of the course. None occurred! I made it to the big ascent and worked my way up the climb at a good power. I overtook at least 5 women and was overtaken by 1. I was happy with my efforts since I don’t consider myself a climber. However, now it was time to put my brave girl pants on and tackle the crazy descent. I halved the time it took to descend in practise and definitely had at least 20 heart in mouth moments. I knew I lost time here and a number of the women I had overtaken on the flat now flew past me down the descent. I told myself to keep going, get it over with, and I would catch them again on the flats back to T2. I was SO HAPPY to make it to the bottom and put my head down to catch up. I found myself flying past everyone again and worked my way back up the field. However, I also noticed the course looked different and suddenly panicked 60km in that I had missed the turning for the 70.3 and full Ironman course. “You are such a plonker!” I thought to myself as I seriously thought I was now on the Full course and had ruined all chances of doing well. I lost speed and power as I debated what to do. At this stage, a guy in orange cycled up next to me. He had NOT been happy earlier in the race after I chicked him. Some men realllllllly hate being overtaken by a girl on a bike. This guy was one of them. I smiled and asked nicely, “Do you know if we are still on the 70.3 course or if is this is the full course?.” He looked straight ahead, totally blanked me, and moved on. RUDE! I slowed down and tried my luck with the next guy. This one was friendly and told me that I was still on the 70.3 course. I WAS SO GRATEFUL. I had lost a bit of time with my unnecessary concern so powered on back to T2. Yes I did overtake man in orange again and he was NOT happy about it. I powered off so he had no chance of catching and I never saw him again. It was a stunning bike course and there was no drama other than a drafting pack of around 6-10 riders cycling wheel to wheel that kept blocking me in. I told them they were cheating, I saw others talk to them too but unfortunately I didn’t see any drafting marshalls to stop them. I think they were friends on the full ironman course that had agreed to share the work. It’s unfortunate but I am learning more and more that some people are willing to cheat as long as they don’t get caught.
I was pleased with my bike time considering the course and wondered whether my run legs would appear. I set off along beautiful Alcudia beach with the sun shining and palm trees swaying. I was genuinely enjoying every minute of the race. Sometimes I get caught up in the stress if things are going wrong and sometimes I get caught up in the seriousness of wanting to do well. At Mallorca, I pushed hard but I also remembered to enjoy myself. I had both sets of parents cheering me on at different points on the course, plus all the friendly spectators cheering my name too. The atmosphere and crowds definitely helped during the hard moments. The first 5 kilometres my watch told me I was flying (for me!). I was hitting 4.20 – 4.30 pace and overtaking people when I am used to being chased down. If I could maintain this, I could do really well. However, my run deteriorated in the heat and I started to slow during the middle section of the run. My heart rate data was also crazily low. It turned out that it had malfunctioned and wasn’t reading correctly. Turnaround points showed me who was chasing me down and I think the heat and the mountain climb had affected others’ legs too. I managed to hold off a lot of competitors but was also overtaken by a couple of the crazy fast runners that I look to and dream of reaching their speeds. At 16km I was very much ready for the race to be done and the run began to drag a bit. I grit my teeth and pushed as hard as I could for the final 3km. “Dig deep, push back, dig deep, push back” I pretty much repeated to myself for 15 minutes before I sensed the finish line and heard the crowds.
The red carpet was an incredible experience. Knowing that Rich and my parents would be there to see me finish, the crowds in the stand cheering, the commentator on the microphone shouting my name, made every second of pain worthwhile. I took my medal, downed a can of coke, greeted my cheer squad then ran to lie down in the ocean and cool off. I was relieved to be reunited with Rich as we hadn’t seen each other on course. We both felt we had finished the season on a high and I was delighted to find out later that I had made 3rd on my AG podium. I hadn’t been sure whether my cycling descent and run had let me down but I was happy. I had loved ones supporting me and I gave it my all on the day and that is all you can ask for.