Sunday, 14 April 2013

What I learned in Mallorca

I've just come back from Mallorca where I spent 5 days self coaching myself through a training camp style scenario to prepare for my first half ironman in THREE weeks and SIX days. As a novice I learned a lot out there, so if any of these tips can be use to you, or someone as crazy as me, then share the wisdom. Or the obvious!

For those doing Mallorca 70.3

  • There are geek pics of the bike route here and a small bit of video (best watched with the volume down, sorry!)
  • The ascent really didn't feel that awful. It's 7.7km of a 5.5% climb. I climbed Cragg Vale a few days before and it didn't feel that much different. [Postcript: apparently analysing statistics, Cragg Vale is way gentler, though same length and my local climb (front door to Saddleworth Moors) is steeper though a tad shorter.] Having said that, it will be hot. I think that the climb won't get people who have trained on hills. But the heat will. My approach was to stay calm, steady, even heart rate and not ever stop. This meant I never topped 10km/h (bear in mind I am a total novice). 
  • The descent is awful not that awful. I am worse at descents than climbing and I once pulled a finger knuckle from gripping the brakes so hard! The descent is fairly open when steep or flatter as a hairpin, the hairpin is a natural chicane. That said, a chicane feels a little technical for someone new like me, and if the roads are shared to traffic, you'd need to bear that in mind. 
  • The heat. It was only 21c on one of my passings of the hill, the heat totally saps your energy if you don't have fuel ready in time for it. 
  • The bike course is very flat and fast at the beginning meaning you have enough time to recover from the swim, get the salt out of your mouth, eat a cheeseburger if you wish and be ready for the hill. The course is then fast and flat again after the descent so technically if you prefer not to fuel on a descent, you can do so after. 
  • There is shade on the climb and descent of the bike course from roadside trees. There are some exposed places too. The start of the ride is most exposed. 
  • There are cross and head winds in Mallorca. I felt them: once on the climb (embrace them as something to cool you down), on the long straight back to the finish (shout at it) and in the reeds back to the finish (shout again). The cross winds did move me about a bit (I'm about 52kg and on a standard bike). 
  • There are quite a lot of bugs near Alcudia, as there's nearby swamp land. Get used to running and biking through bugs! They are small enough to inhale and worth wearing glasses for. When they were really bad I put my head down and let them bounce of my helmet like gunfire! One bug exploded across my glasses. A bug in the face at 40kph hurts!
  • On the run, the section along the beach is hot and full of glare. The sand is white, and the path is white. Consider sun glasses and a visor. The path on this section is a little rough and it's possible to stumble on tired legs and eyes.
  • The sea swim should be calm in the morning. One afternoon when there was a lot of wind, it was really choppy and so I swam into the waves out and with them back. Otherwise it's calm, clear, you can see seaweed, small to medium sized fish. There are baby rays and hermit crabs but I reckon they will move out for the race! The sun is in front of you for the swim out and in your eye line. The shore curves, on the short edge of the rectangle so be wary of curving if you use it alone to navigate. 
For general tri / bike fun in Mallorca:
  • Learn to handle a hairpain with traffic - it's a fright to come up across a coach on the same side of the road as you!
  • If it's been a while since hot weather training, don't get wind or sun burnt then jump into the sea - it stings!
  • Brace yourself for cross winds getting even worse when being overtaken by a big truck - my bike practically flew. 
  • Navigating is easy in Mallorca as the roads are very well signposted. I used other people's map my ride routes and a road map, then jotted towns or route numbers on a sticky label which was posted on my handlebars. 
For total newbies:
  • Mallorca is a great place to build your cycling skill. It has some great roads, with specialist cycle lanes, slip roads and very well sign posted traffic junctions. Generally traffic is sympathetic to cyclists especially solo meek ones! 
  • I hired from Max Huerzler who had me at hello with their Swiss efficiency. I loved my bike. It made my Decathlon £299 special feel £2.99. I was able to trust the brakes, tyres and pedals so much more. It did cost me a pretty penny to hire but the peace of mind I got from knowing it had just been looked over by experts was priceless. 
  • I need to practice my handling so much more to be able to emergency fuel on the climbs and descents. I'll be doing this on the track from now on. On the flats in Mallorca, I decreased speed and focussed on three separate movements: remove fuel, consume fuel, return fuel. 
  • You can never do enough brick sessions. I'm considering a few stretches before my run as my calf muscles burned after a few rides. 
  • My wetsuit removal sucks and takes four minutes! I need to come up with a quick system! 
  • My pedal / cleat arrangement is as loose as possible. This really helped me gain confidence and use them for the first time! I also unclipped very early at junctions and when really nervous, spun the pedal so I knew I couldn't accidentally clip in. I had one big fall and it was mostly because I forgot that turning right was turning right! 
If there's anything else people want to ask, let me know. I'm going to do a blog post on DIY training camps and training alongside a family holiday too. And of course some Mallorcan bike rambles and photos. 

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