IM 70.3 Mallorca 2013 – Couch to Finish Line!

MVH-er Alex Wong has not long returned from competing in the half ironman extravaganza that is Mallorca IM 70.3.

Alex provides an insight into what this triathlon meant for a humble triathlete.

It should have been done. Finished. I had reached my destination. Couch and severe obesity to Ironman in three years. I’d splashed, stomped and plodded my way around 140.6 miles in Tenby, got my medal and got the ink. It was time to retire from this mad pursuit and revert to some more sensible priorities. Then the doubts crept in. What if Ironman Wales was a fluke? What if I never achieved anything harder? Before I knew it, I’d signed up for IM Mallorca 70.3, Isle of Man TT Tri and IM Wales again for 2013. When reflecting on these entries, i reached the only logical conclusion which is that I am an idiot.

So, Ironman Mallorca 70.3. Well I’d done some swimming, quite a lot of biking, and very little running in the 7 months leading up to this. Well almost none at all if I’m honest. 27km in 7 months! If I was the sort of person interested in beating my PB then I was about as ill prepared as was possible, but I only really do this for the satisfaction of finishing and maintaining some fitness. I was also a bit curious as to how far ill placed self belief can get you. I didn’t think I could do well, but I believed I could finish.

I was relieved that the swim felt ok. As usual I veered off to the left a bit as I swam but it settled into a steady rhythm soon enough. As I wasn’t feeling confident, I kept looking at all the swimmers in front of me and after a while, nobody was coming past. I started to think I was last and that the cut off might be a problem. I was mighty relieved to get out tof the water at a respectable 43 mins.

The bike was fun. My cousin who was doing his first 70.3 swims faster than me but I thought I might catch him on the bike. He left the water 8 mins in front of me. The first section was along a gorgeous coastal road. At Polenca, the route turns inland and along some dual carriageway which later becomes a country road. It’s at that point you start to notice this huge enormous towering mountain in looming in front of you. OK I might be exaggerating a bit, but it looked pretty formidable. Quite suddenly you hit the climb. I got into the small chainring and second biggest rear cog and started dragging myself up. On the way I was cursing my inability to lose some weight since my initial 3 stone weight loss 3 years ago. (I could do with losing 2 more to get my BMI where it should be). Having one gear in hand was a psychological luxury that I soon lost by about a third of the way up. Half way up, the climb eased and there was even the odd flattish bit to recover. The second half of the climb seemed easier. The view was also spectacular and nearly enough to take your mind off the suffering. When I got to the left turn a the top, I was definitely glad the climbing was over. The descent was hugely fun and technical and I passed a few skinny fast climbers who passed me on the ascent. Weight does have some advantages, particularly when gravity is part of the power bringing you down. The rest of the ride was reasonably flat and fast but by the end I was getting cramp in my thighs. That was annoying and I started shouting at them daring the b*****ds to seize up. Triathlon does have this ability to bring the looney out in most sane people. Fortunately they didn’t seize and I got into transitition now only 3 mins behind my cousin.

Running with legs on the edge of cramp isn’t really fun or in any way enjoyable, but I kind of felt I deserved it for not doing any running training. So I started running with what can only really be described as the shuffle of shame.  It was seriously hot by this time and that feeling of impending cramp just didn’t fade. I also made the mistake of taking a powerbar gel. I didn’t get on with these at all at Wimbleball and their rather unfortunate nausea inducing qualities were soon brought sharply to mind when I had one. All things considered I was amazed to cross the line at all, even if it did take 2hrs 39mins to cover the 13 miles.

So what did I learn. Well Mallorca is a fabulous place to swim, bike or run and I’d certainly recommend the event to anybody considering a 70.3 or a training “holiday”. I also found that self belief can indeed carry you through a degree of lack of fitness, but not putting in the hours makes the day a lot more slow and painful! Oh and also that I really want to go back to Wales to remind myself what real suffering is. As I had already concluded, I am indeed an idiot.

Alex Wong