Long Course Weekend Mallorca 2019 race report: coach Mark

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A group of of us decided that we’d enter Long Course Weekend in Mallorca as an end of season race, which would be a nice bookend to the season and also give us an opportunity for a brief holiday as the race was in the UK half term holidays.

Since I raced in the Arctic my body hasn’t allowed me to train as I would have liked, everything has been very slow and most training session have felt really difficult. I’ve done a couple of small races, but mainly for motivation to train and they’ve all been to race with mates, which has been a blast!

The beauty of the Long Course Weekend races is that you can mix and match different distances of the swim, bike and run, so I decided I’d do the Half distances (1.9km swim, 90km bike and half marathon run) as this would provide the perfect motivation to get the body moving and get in a half-decent training block. In fact, I managed to get in a solid 9 weeks of training, which had me arriving on the island knowing that I was in OK shape to get round the half distances and in good enough shape to actually enjoy the event.

Swim: The swim was on Saturday morning and the weather, and sea conditions, were amazing; it was picture perfect. We got down to the beach in plenty of time, so there was no last-minute rushing around. Craig, Charlie and I managed to get in a little practice swim and the water was just how it looked from the beach; crystal clear and warm.

We moved over towards the swim start and positioned ourselves accordingly. I’m not the fastest swimmer out there, but I’m more than happy to have a bit of biff at the start of the swim, so I put myself on the 2nd row with the idea of getting out quick (it was a beach start) and then hoping I’d be able to jump on some feet to get round the 1.9km swim in a reasonable time.

The gun goes and we’re off. I manage to get a decent start, dive in, then the battle commences! There are hands, feet and elbows everywhere, but I’m OK with that, it’s all part of the experience. I take a few shots and give a few (all accidental, of course) and after 5 or 6 minutes it starts to settle down a bit.

I’m starting to find some feet to follow, the pace is hard, but we’re moving well, maybe too well….can I hold this pace?

We make a right-hand turn, swam for another 200m or so and then made another right hand turn and start heading back to the beach. I knew I only had about 800m or so left to swim but was getting really tired.

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My lack of swim fitness was now rearing its ugly head, I needed to find some fast feet to follow and let them drag me home.

I found some feet but it was a battle to stay on them. The guy was just a tiny bit too quick for me and another chap was also trying to get onto these feet (I wasn’t going to let that happen!), it was hard but after a few minutes I could see the sand beneath me and I knew it was almost over.

I stood up, hurdled the water on the way up the beach, hit the sand and sprinted 200m up the beach to the finish line. I looked at the clock on the finish chute and saw 30min-something, I was very happy with that! Job done!

 

  • Time: 30:07
  • Position in Half LCW: 3rd

Bike: We set off early from the villa to drop Craig off at the start, his race was due to start at 8:30am, so I had plenty of time to drive him into Alcudia, watch the start and head back to the villa to watch a bit of the rugby World Cup and have my breakfast.

The weather forecast was excellent again for the todays bike race, with the potential for getting pretty warm later on and with my race due to start at 12:15pm, I was expecting it to get pretty hot around 2pm or 3pm (and it did!).

I lined up in the start area and it was clear that there were a load of serious cyclists racing today, this was going to be fun and I knew it was going to be full gas from the first second. And I was right! The gun went and we were flying out of Alcudia as a huge bunch at 30mph, breaking hard for roundabouts and sprinting out of corners! It was full on!

I knew I had to try to stay with the bunch, so went all out for the first 20 minutes or so, to try to stay in contention. We hit the first hill, which wasn’t much of a hill, it was more of a long drag, but straight away gaps were appearing and I had to work really hard to stay with the group. The group was still big, I couldn’t see the front of the group but I was sure a few people had got away, which was fine by me; I needed to stay with the group and work hard there.

The winds were picking up now and the inevitable happened coming out of a fast roundabout near Santa Margalida; some people slowed too much, some really sprinted out of the roundabout, the cross winds hit and the group exploded! I was in a bad position. The group were moving away and people were spread all across the road, trying to work in ones and twos. I grabbed a British guy and said “Lets work together and get back up the road” and we did just that. For 20 minutes we drilled it, each taking a turn until we bridged back up to a decent sized pack (not the front group, they were long gone). Job done!

The group were now working fairly well, but there were clearly some people in the pack who couldn’t or didn’t want to work. This was frustrating, with a couple of the strong Spanish cyclists making it known they weren’t happy about the lack of cohesion in the group. A few of us were working hard, some were clearly along for the ride.Screen Shot 2019 11 03 at 13.30.55

We were now on the 2nd lap of 2 and it was getting a bit harder now. Tiredness was setting in and the temperatures were rising. The ‘workers’ in the group were still working well, a few people had dropped off the pace, and the ‘shirkers’ were still doing no work.

We got to within 10 miles of the finish and you could see people suddenly moving up towards the front of the bunch. Some of these had done no work at all, so I wasn’t having any of that. I positioned myself in 2nd or 3rd wheel (with my new ride buddy Ray from Torfaen Triathlon Club) and kept myself near the front whilst the others jostled for positions. I knew the course quite well from my previous Mallorca trips, so as we came off the main loop onto the finish leg I again pushed to be right at the front of our group. I knew we had about a mile to go and a few people were hammering it, far too soon in my eyes.

Each time someone pushed to the front I jumped on their wheel. This happened several times, I knew when to go and this wasn’t the time. A few of the Brits in the group were asking where does the sprint start, I now kept silent, I knew as soon as we hit the roundabout with the Burger King on it (yes, great landmark!) it was time to go full gas.

We were down to about 15 riders now, I was exactly where I wanted to be (2nd wheel) and as soon as I hit the Burger King roundabout I went flat out! We had about 50m to go, I think I hear Sarah, my wife, shouting for me, I’m almost level with the lead rider, I can feel another rider on my shoulder, I give it one final dig and lunge for the line.

I finish just in front of my group and am shattered! I’ve never done a bike race before but absolutely loved this! It was so hard at times, but I loved every second of it!

  • Time: 2:37:25 
  • Position in Half LCW: 7th

Run: The run started at 9am, so we got in early to avoid any issues with car parking and get ourselves sorted and warmed up. I had a little 10 minute jog on the beach front and my quads were battered; whilst the rest of my muscles weren’t much better!

 A few more friends and coached athletes were running today, we had Craig & Craig doing the full marathon, and Loz, Lyndsay and myself doing the half marathon. The run was on a flat course winding around Alcudia, so had the potential to be quite fast, but again, the forecast was for a hot day, so fingers crossed it wouldn’t affect us too much.

I position myself on the 2nd row and before we knew it, the gun goes! The pace is on straight away and to be honest, I was feeling pretty crappy from the very first step. I settle into a pace and am running ever so slightly quicker than my goal pace, but stick with it for a few miles to see how it feels. The pace should feel fairly comfortable, but it doesn’t. It’s hard, too hard.

Screen Shot 2019 11 03 at 13.40.32I see our support crew of Sarah, Charlie and Gwenno after a few miles, I gave a wry smile but am hurting inside. We head out to the end of the looped course (it’s 2.5 loops for the half marathon athletes) and run two dead turns, which is energy sapping as you virtually stop at each turn but I get to see who’s in front of me and who’s behind me. Just in front I see Ray from Torfaen Triathlon Club, I know he’s doing the Half Long Course Weekend, so hope I can keep him in my sights.

We head back to downtown Alcudia to start our 2nd lap and I’m hoping to see our support crew, I need a gel, I can feel my energy levels starting the flag, so end up taking some energy drink and half a banana from one of the aid stations.

We wind through the streets of Alcudia, onto the beach front, off the beach front and back out towards the two dead turns. My pace is starting to drop but I’m still on track…….just. We make the dead turns and I can see my ride buddy Ray just in front, maybe 20 seconds ahead of me. I’m working hard now and slowing down but it seems like everyone else is slowing down around us too.

I get to the 10 mile point and start to struggle, my pace is dropping and my effort is through the roof. I go from wanting to catch people in front to just wanting to finish and not drop too many places. This is where mentally you really have to dig in. I break down the final 3 miles into chunks. Run to the aid station, then run to the beach, then run back through the winding streets, etc, etc. I’m hurting. A lot!

I know I’ve got about half a mile to go, I look behind and see another Half Long Course Weekend athlete coming up from behind (we were wearing silver bibs, so quite easy to spot). I can see he’s moving much faster than me, so it’s inevitable he’ll overtake me very soon. I dig in but before I know it he’s on my shoulder and breezing past me. I try to go with him but I’ve got nothing, I’m spent.

I know we have to make one turn, run on sand for about 100m, then turn into the finish chute on the beach. I make the turn, I’m on the sand and I give it everything I’ve got. I turn onto the finish chute and the guy who just passed me is just in front, I sprint with everything I’ve got and pass him as I cross the finish line!

  • Time: 1:33:17
  • Position in Half LCW: 6th

Overall: I really enjoyed Long Course Weekend Mallorca! The concept of Long Course Weekend is great as it affords everyone the opportunity to do some or all of the different distances of swim, bike and run. It’s a shame that this was the final ever Long Course Weekend Mallorca as I’d love to come back fully fit, with the knowledge of how to really race this event. I was extremely pleased to finish 6th overall in the Half Long Course Weekend, as a top-10 result was my goal going into the weekend.

Our friends and athletes also raced really well, with a special shout out to the 2 Craig’s, Lyndsay, Loz and Charlie.

Overall, I had an awesome trip to Mallorca; the weather was great, the racing was superb and the company of friends & family was awesome!