Ironman 70.3 Mallorca & Qualification for the 70.3 World Champs - M.T. Keane

2 CommentsSunday, 17 May 2015  |  Admin

Ironman 70.3 Mallorca 2015 - Marie Triona Keane

Thursday 7th MayIronman 70.3 Mallorca
The breakfast buffet was teeming with people wearing compression socks and Ironman t-shirts. At least, several trips back to my table, plate laden with food, were unremarkable. Everyone had  a similar appetite.

This was my first Ironman brand race & already it felt different, even before I’d left the hotel. It was clear that many of these people had raced Ironman before & are proudly sporting the brand on amazingly tanned & impossibly fit looking physiques.

I was a little anxious as I made my way through registration later.  Was I really ready to race against these people? Rain soaked excursions on the bike, battling to build up any kind of significant speed seemed a far cry from the training they seemed to have been doing, the lines of their trisuits etched deeply by tan.

Friday 8th May
Breakfast eaten & on the bike by 9am. I felt good, very rested & excited to get out on the bike at last. The roads are amazing in Mallorca. It’s a real treat to head out on the smooth surface, sun pleasantly warming bare arms. I only had a rough idea of where I was going, planning to cover the last 25km or so of the bike route. I followed other cyclists, sometimes retracing my route when I realised they were out on the road for the day rather than doing a race recce.

Ironman EntourageBy lunch time my “entourage” had arrived! Gary, Seán, Siobhán & Johnny were tired after an early start but eager to get out into the sunshine & to see the race setup. They too marvelled at the athletes, all looking race ready & perfectly accustomed to the heat as we sheltered under the shade, anxious not to overdo the sun so early on the trip.

Race-briefing, a quick dip (a sigh of relief to find my wetsuit still fitted me after the winter!) followed by transition set up & finally a quick drive around the bike route with Gary took up the rest of the afternoon.

Meeting Doug, Sharon & Mossy from Midland Tri, on Thursday, I had begun to wonder if I had underestimated the climb on the course. Talk of changing cranksets  in favour of more climbing gears worried me slightly. I hadn’t considered this. I was no expert in this area but I knew from riding my bike that I probably didn't have the optimum gearing setup for a serious climb. No point wondering and worrying about it now, I’d have to manage with what I had.Ready to go Ironman Mallorca 2015

Whatever concerns I had about the ascent, the descent filled me with dread. I knew there’d be hairpin bends. I’d been warned by Aileen, after her amazing performance here last year. I’d put them to the back of my mind until I’d arrived in Mallorca but as we hit the top of the climb, my knuckles turned white as I clenched the car seat. It would be easier on the bike I tried to console myself. I’d crawl down it, I could even get off & walk (as I’ve done in the past!) if I really, really needed too. I’d feel different during the race I repeated to myself as I lay awake most of the night contemplating it. When I  got through the bike course tomorrow I would be proud of myself, for overcoming my fear.

Saturday 9th May - Race Day
Standing on the beach among the 3,500 athletes, prepped & ready to go, I settled on a plan for the bike. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy….” I sang in my head. Whenever I felt nervous during the bike route,  I’d sing it & remind myself of how lucky I was to be here, racing in Mallorca, racing in May. Both last May & the previous May, I was in an air-cast boot, struggling with stress fractures, facing rehab & little racing for the summers ahead. I was very grateful to be here.

“Eye of the Tiger….” blared out as the gun sounded. I swam as hard as I could all the way around the 1.9km course. I’d started in the 3rd row from the front, not wanting to obstruct the faster swimmers but as it strung out quite quickly  I realised that I would find it difficult to find feet to draft off unless I could somehow catch the group steadily increasing the gap in front of me. I worked really hard to try & mt on the runcatch them until about 300m from the swim exit. Finally I managed to reach the feet of the last girl in a group the strung out in a line but I was pretty exhausted by then & struggled to stay with her. Running up the beach I smiled broadly as I looked at my watch & saw 30mins on the screen (official time with beach run included 31.51 ). A good start for me. I knew some of the girls would have finished the swim in 23-24 minutes but I was pleased with my effort.

For the first time ever I took a  wrong turn in transition & took a minute to find my bearings & locate my bike.  I was happy to see my tyres were still intact. We’d been  warned not to put too much air in the tyres due to the heat. I needn’t have worried as I had trouble with my valve extender & wasn’t able to pump the back wheel since I’d sent it off from Cork.

It took me a long time to get going. My legs didn’t feel good as they had the previous day.  I decided that maybe I’d feel better on the climb & spun out my legs in preparation on the flat opening 20km section. Hitting the climb I got into my easiest gear & turned my legs at a slow steady cadence. The views were beautiful, the sun warm on my back. The powermeter I’d planned on following wasn't  working, only showing power intermittently, so I kept my breathing slow & steady, unsure as to how I’d feel after all the climbing. Eventually my legs came to, about 3km from the top of the climb after the false top where I’d pushed a bigger gear on the steep downhill section in order to let the momentum carry me most of the way up the next ascent. I pushed hard up that last section to the top, finally feeling more like myself on the bike,  knowing that my legs would have time to recover on the descent.

I’d decided to put on cycling gloves in transition, conscious that, between the nerves & the heat, I'd find it hard to keep a good grip on the brakes on the 9km descent. Great decision! I actually managed to enjoy the next 14 minutes  until I reached the town of Caimari & knew that the hairpins were behind me. I took my time (singing both silently & aloud) as both girls & fellas raced by, undeterred by the sharp bends, flying out of sight within seconds. The closest I’ve come to a hairpin bend in a race before is during The Lost Sheep 2 years ago & I think there are only a few  bends there if I remember correctly so there’s no way I was going to risk an accident here.

The rest of the bike course was pretty uneventful apart from a police man running after a dog, crossing the road in front of me on the final flat stretch into Port d’Alcudia. I knew it had taken me longer than I’d hoped though (2.58.01) but I was back in transition in one piece & it hadn't been as traumatic as I had imagined so I looked forward to the run with caution.

21km is a long way to run when it’s more or less  the farthest you’ve ever run. I concentrated on making it from aid station to aid station on the 2.5 lap course, looking forward to squeezing the ice cold sponges over my head & gulping a cup of water each time. It was probably no more than 29degrees but it felt very hot. The bike course had felt somewhat lonely to me. After the descent, I’d been by myself for almost 35km until more men started to pass me in the last 10km. The run was completely the opposite which was fantastic. It was hard but the people around me & the brilliant support everywhere helped. Two girls passed me early in the run, both with a high cadence- tap, tap tapping. I couldn't go with them, just managing to get one foot in  front of the other but feeling buoyed by the fact that I was mostly passing people. With 5km to go I saw one of those girls who had passed me on the run, at a turn around point & realised that I was getting closer to her again. I focused on keeping up my effort & eventually I passed her with about 2km to go. She wasn’t in my age group but it felt good to gain a place in the overall race, so late in the race. 1.40.01-very satisfying with the run prep I’ve done.

I had no idea where I had come in my age group when I finished. I hadn’t thought about it during the race. There was too much else to think about. Just finishing the race had been really tough. Ironman 70.3 Mallorca was my third middle distance race. I’ve barely been able to walk, once I’ve crossed the line in each case, exhausted & emotional. Gary found me as I lay on the massage table in the recovery tent, holding ice to my shoulder, unable to raise my arm, my quads cramping, & tears crept down my cheeks.

The atmosphere at the awards ceremony & World Championship slot allocation later was buoyant. 2nd in my age group, I had earned a slot in Austria on 30th August.  It was amazing to have Siobhán, Séan, Johnny & Gary there to share the whole fantastic weekend. Gary & Johnny got more race experience than they bargained for, having to race back the beach to the hotel to get my passport so that I could accept my slot. Thank ye!
There were lots of Irish competing in Mallorca & racing exceptionally, some whom I met & many I didn’t meet. A huge congrats to Carolyn who raced brilliantly to overall  Age-Group 2nd, a fabulous performance.

Thanks to the #1 Support Crew ( Gary, Seán, Siobhán & Johnny), Shipmytribike for an excellent service, Karen at The Maple Clinic for keeping me loosened up, John McCarthy (McCarthy Cycles Cork) for getting my tt bike race ready, Seamus at for enabling me to keep my running legs going even when I couldn't run, for all the support & Mark (Sports Med Ireland) for getting me to the start line. Looking forward to the summer ahead!

Time with friends and cycling with Gary

Enjoying the sunshine and cycling post race.


Thursday, 21 May 2015  |  23:46

Great blog Maire-Triona, really enjoyed reading it !! Looking forward to the next one.

Saturday, 30 May 2015  |  21:26

Well done Máire-Tríona on the race, just finishing sounds like a serious achievement nevermind coming 2nd in your age group. Really well written article too !

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