I have been racing Ironman 70.3 Mallorca since 2013, I had 4 finishes and a very frustrating DNS in 2017. I probably wouldn't have came back if I had finished last year but I couldn't leave this race on a negative note, I had to do it again. As I am familiar with race logistics and I knew the course very well, I was only focused on performing well on race day.
My training had been going very well the last few months leading to the race. I was very consistent and had absolutely no issues at all, I felt I was in the best shape of my life. Unlike in the previous years where my goal was to get to the finish line in one piece, I had some performance targets this time. On the swim, I had not been training that much this year but I thought a sub 36 minute swim was a realistic goal based on my times in the pool. On the bike, my plan was to average 190W-200W NP which would take me to T2 in around 2h50-2h55, based on Bestbikesplit. On the run, my goal was to average a 4'15"/km and run a 1h30 half marathon. While the swim and the bike were definitely within reach, the run was ambitious even though I ran off bike at that pace during training. But, on a perfect day, it would work.
The water temperature on race day was 17°C, so wetsuits were allowed. The swim course in Mallorca is very simple, always keep the buoys on your right. At the start of the race, I set myself at the beginning of the 35 minutes wave. In the previous years, I used to start on the left side to avoid contact with other swimmers then swim towards the buoys after a few hundred meters. While it allowed me to swim without being kicked, it was definitely a bad tactic as I was always swimming alone, zigzagging and ending up with much more than 1900 meters. My best swim here was 37'34''. This time I decided to start on the right side and focus on two things: sighting and drafting. I swam the first 2-300 meters a bit hard to catch the swimmers that had started in front of me and had about the same pace as me. Then I settled into a nice and relaxed rhythm. I was lifting my head every 3-4 strokes to make sure I was swimming straight lines between the buoys. I stayed as much as possible behind other swimmers. When I came close to the beach, I started kicking to reactivate my legs. I got out of the water feeling really good. I passed the timing mat and had a look at my watch, it showed 33'27". I really couldn't believe it and for a second I thought I had started my watch late which didn't make sense of course. And then I said to myself: OK, this was a good swim, now focus on the transition and get to the bike as fast as you can.
The transition area in Mallorca is probably one of the longest transitions in the Ironman 70.3 circuit. I spent 5'13" in T1. Not too bad but it could be improved with more practice.
The weather on race day was hot and windy. On the bike course, the wind was rather favorable especially on the second half, but there were still some sections with a strong headwind. At the exit of T1, I was feeling really good and I quickly started executing my plan which was to push the planned watts, stay in the aero position as much as I can and get my nutrition right. On the first 10km flat section from Port d'Alcudia to Pollença, I averaged 206W NP and 37km/h, it felt comfortable. From Pollença, the road starts to rise gently for about 11km at 1% gradient. I pushed a few more watts on this section and averaged 31km/h. Up to this point, I was executing the plan without really thinking. I was focused on putting the right effort, I was looking at my power numbers but they were not holding me back. I was just pushing what felt like a sustainable effort. At the start of the climb of Coll de Femenia, I was still feeling good but as the gradient went up, I started thinking about saving my legs for second half of the bike course and eventually the run. I decided to climb at a comfortable effort. I averaged 215W NP. When I looked at my power numbers after the race, I must admit that I was a bit disappointed as I could definitely have pushed harder. Anyway, it is not a big deal since I was still feeling good at the top of the climb and going harder would have saved just few minutes. The descent in Mallorca 70.3 is very technical and my only concern was to get to the bottom safely. The remaining part of the course is almost flat with some short hills here and there. I pushed a comfortable 187W NP and averaged 33.8 km/h. Based on my training and on how I felt on race day, I thought I could have pushed more watts but I kept thinking about saving my legs for the run. Again, it wouldn't have made a huge difference on my final bike split, maybe just few minutes faster. I reached T2 in 3h00. A bit slower than my target time but I was feeling great off the bike.
I spent 5'22" in T2. I really don't know what I was doing in the transition area for more than five minutes. I need to practice my bike to run transition and get it much faster.
When I started the run, the temperature was around 27°C. I ran the first 2.5 kilometer at my goal pace (4'17"/km), which is a pace I have been running off the bike in my training. But, on this very hot day, I wasn't sure I could maintain it for the whole half marathon. After the first aid station, I decided to slow down a little bit and pick up the pace on the second part of the run if I am able to do it. My main focus was to stay hydrated, take my gels on time and cool down my body at each aid station. I was averaging between 4'20"/km and 4'50"/km, with some walks at the aid stations. At the 16th kilometer, I tried to pick up pace but it was really too hot for me. So I just kept running at a comfortable pace. I finished the half-marathon in 1h38'24". With the heat of the day, I am pretty happy with my run. I crossed the finish line in 5h22'40". That's a new PB!
After the race, I was happy with my performance but, at the same time, I had some regrets as I thought I could have gone a bit faster on the bike. It took me a day or two to put everything into perspective and realize that I actually had a great race. I improved my PB by 1h01 which is a huge achievement. I had my best swim, bike and run splits ever in a 70.3 race. I have done all this at a relatively comfortable pace, which is very promising ! In my first Ironman 70.3 Mallorca in 2013, only nine athletes in my age group managed to be slower than me. I was passed by almost everyone on the bike course. In my AG, my bike split was ranked 379 out of 380. I had some slight improvements the following three years but I was still in the back of the pack. This year, I had a great swim, I was passing other athletes on the bike, and I felt like I was passing everyone on the run (run split ranked 79/401 in my AG and 341/2893 overall). This is a huge accomplishment and I believe I still have a big room for improvement. The work I have been doing the last two years with my coach Chris is paying off and I need to keep working hard to get to the next level.
Here are few things that went well and others that need to be improved:
(+) The swim: Focusing on sighting and drafting was definitely the right thing to do on the swim. Despite a limited training time, I was able to have my best swim performance over a 70.3 race.
(+) Aero position on the bike: Except on the climbs, I was able to stay in the aero position for a very long time without any problem. I still have to work on my position and get it more aerodynamic though.
(+) Nutrition: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!". I have been following the same nutrition plan for many years and it works great. My energy level was good from start to finish.
(+/-) Pacing on the bike: I use a power meter to pace myself on the bike. My power plan is generated with Bestbikesplit. I display my power targets on my Garmin and I just follow the plan during the race. This helped me to race within my abilities and get off the bike with fresh legs. But at some point during the race, I felt like the power numbers were holding me back and that I could have pushed harder without impacting my run. The power meter is a great tool for training, but during the race, I felt like I was a slave of the numbers. I really need to rethink my approach of pacing on the bike. It will take some time but I need to figure out how to pace myself by feel.
(-) Transitions: I spend too much time in transitions. I need to practice it more to get faster.
(-) The racing mindset: At the start of the race, I was very confident that I will have great day. I trusted the training I have been doing the last few months, my bike and run have improved a lot compared to the previous years. I was ready to have a great performance and get the best out of myself. I was in a race mode from the beginning until I hit the climb. Then I started (over)thinking about saving my legs for the run. From there, my mindset shifted from racing to just finishing. I think it was a mistake, there was no reason that I wouldn't be able to handle the pace and still have a good run. I believe this kind of thinking comes from my previous performances where my main concern was to finish in one piece. I need to get rid of these thoughts and have the racing mindset from start to finish.
Thanks for reading! ;-)