This race is known on the circuit as one of the biggest ‘beginner’ half Ironman events around and I was more than a little overwhelmed at the number of competitors (c. 3800) and the size of the bike transition area (a premiership sized football pitch) …. even Sue Heppell would find it hard to get a T1 time of under 5 minutes, surely? The sea was a balmy 20 degrees, the sun a slightly frazzling 32 degrees but to make it feel a little more like home there was a good headwind on the bike route out!
Six competitors were released into the sea at five second intervals from the pens, using barrier flags and a beeping clock – it felt a little like being on Gladiators! The sea swim was lovely, no incidents to speak of apart from one man doing a 90 degree turn across the path of myself and two other swimmers, we briefly stopped and looked at one another as if asking where the heck he was off to before ploughing on! I felt great after the swim, I felt I could have done another lap, which means: a) I could have swum harder b) I paced myself perfectly for my first endurance event or c) I was ridiculously thinking about whether I could complete a full Ironman before I’d even completed my first half Ironman!! Swim done in 39m 38s.
The long run out of the water to get my blue bike bag (very interesting to experience the clean transition ethos of Ironman events) and into the modesty tent to get my wetsuit off – yes it’s quite a strict setup, despite the tent ends being open to view! Then off to find my bike amongst the thousands. Fortunately, I was on the first row and my bike was very conveniently placed directly opposite two huge orange generators on the beach, perfect landmarks to prevent me from running around transition screaming ‘Where’s my bike’ … I did that at the Brownlee Tri, it’s a tad embarrassing! K The bike route was amazing, I loved the hill, it was the perfect gradient to not wreck you but give you a long, winding challenge. Kid goats, yes really, lined the roads as did the spectators and they all cheered or bleated us on! The descent from the hill was in one word sublime! The hairpin bends were amazing and the road surface was perfect, not a single pothole! I maybe could have taken the descent a little faster, but I didn’t want to get wiped out by any of the fast (i.e. crazy) cyclists flying past me. I saw loads of people with punctures or broken bikes and I wanted to make sure I finished the event! Once down I tried to notch up the pace and managed to maintain a respectable 21-22 mph on the flat, hot plains. I cruised past many competitors on their TT bikes in the last 20km, which was rather enjoyable (smug smile!) and showed how effective my cadence and high gear training had been. The 56 miles flew by and I didn’t feel like I’d done that distance as I cruised back into Alcudia. I felt great having thoroughly enjoyed the bike section in 3h 40m 26s.
So, began the 3-lap half marathon! My legs felt great, no real sign of the dreaded jelly legs and I did my first mile in 9:30 pace. Thousands of spectators lined the run route and cheered us on. Three aid stations broke up the lap and my strategy was to run between each station and walk through whilst sipping drinks and refuelling. Everything was going to plan till I had an energy gel at the start of the second lap. The combination of this gel and isotonic drinks from the bike aid stations I think proved too much for my stomach and I was completely bent over double with crippling stomach cramps. I jogged and walked the next lap trying desperately to spur myself on with the thought of all the people who had sponsored me. There’s no way I wasn’t going to finish but I wanted to try and run the route rather than walk it. Desperately racking my brains for a solution, I ate a banana at the next aid station and fortunately this immediately cleared up the cramps (trapped wind – embarrassing!) My stomach was ok-ish now but my legs were starting to cease up from the walking. I managed to push on and complete the third and final lap! Coloured hairbands are placed on your arm at the end of each lap (red, yellow and blue) to ensure that you complete all three laps and I have never been so relieved to receive a blue hairband in my life. The final straight is reached, along the legendary Ironman carpet, up to the finishing arch and suddenly all pain is forgotten and you are sprinting like Chrissie Wellington (well in my head!) towards the finish line and your medal! Run (jog/trudge) done in 2h 32m 03s.
The atmosphere was amazing, the competitors and spectators supportive and friendly, whilst the organisation was truly second to none! I’d recommend the event to anyone wanting to do a half Ironman. I can’t wait to do my next one … after a little rest first! 😉