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Sangria, Sun & Slate

After a bit of a wait while she recovered, Caroline has written up her experience in Mallorca and also offers some handy tips on toilet etiquette...

My first half Ironman had been a year in the making. It was all started – like many things that end in pain and discomfort – with one of PJ’s bright ideas. Why don’t we take a party of TTC-ers to Mallorca to do the 70.3? I hear it’s a good one, he said. And that was it. I, and six others plus two relay teams, committed to swimming 1.9k in the Med, taking on a ‘hilly and technically challenging’ 90k and then running 21k in and amongst holiday makers who knew better that to commit their holiday to lycra, sore legs and mild sunburn.

If, like me, you’ve never experienced the Ironman brand in action, you’ve got a treat in store. Yes it’s not cheap and yes absolutely they try to squeeze out as much from you in the expo merchandise shop by printing thousands of t shirts featuring every competitor’s name in the smallest writing known to man (yes, I have one…) but, blimey, do they do know how to put on a show. They say the best memories are experiences and without doubt the Ironman band gets the OSCAR for star performance.

When you register you become the proud owner of a branded backpack, pink swim hat (yes for girls,) three (yes 3) kit bags, a full set of sticky numbers, a wristband you refuse to take off for five days after the event has finished and your race number with your name on it (so when all you want to do is stagger anonymously down the beach thinking thank God nobody knows who I am and someone shouts “come on Caroline, looking strong”. Liar.)

With registration done on the afternoon of the Thursday, Friday was briefing and racking day. The briefing seemed really good at the time, but don’t expect to remember any of it after you leave the marquee. The sudden emergence into sunlight instantly wipes your brain of anything that was said.

Racking. Now that was something else. With 3,500 competitors, transition was an event in itself. As for the bikes of my fellow competitors, they clearly don’t have children, or a mortgage. Squillions of pounds worth of carbon fibre, space age wheels and fascinating hydration systems had taken over a quarter mile chunk of dual carriageway. An awesome sight.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny. Four toilet stops down, I finally got to the beach and the start line. Six people were going to run into the water at once, six seconds apart. It would take less than an hour for all of us to be racing. Sufficiently down the running order, I had the opportunity to enjoy the resident DJ playing the entire rock anthems back catalogue before it was my turn. Shortly after 8.50 I was off.

The sea swim was glorious. I could have happily swum around that course all day bobbing in my wetsuit. But all too soon (well around 39 minutes) it was over and I was on my way to T1. This is where I made the biggest mistake of the day. Physically (and mentally) unable to wee in my wetsuit I dived into the portaloos just outside of transition. Trying to get a soggy tri suit and pull up an uncooperative wetsuit I thought I’d zip up my tri suit once I got into transition but in a hurry to remember everything else I forgot. So a square portion of my back the size of a hand was exposed to the sun (unprotected) for 3.75 hours. Boy did I know about it two days later when I had the mother of all blisters!

Anyway, the bike as it happened was glorious too. What a way to see Mallorca! There was a lot of grunting (mainly from me) on the 20k climb. There was a countdown to the top, which started with 5k to go to the summit and continued in 1k intervals. Elated to have finally made it I was distressed to find they had lied and around another couple of corners we got a final 1k to the summit sign. But after that it really was downhill all the way. The switchbacks on closed roads were fast and the road smooth and speedy. During the briefing we were told there was a stretch of road that wasn’t up to the usual Ironman standard but that UK competitors would feel at home. When we hit that stretch you could see our continental cousins look a little shaky as they freewheeled over the bumps and potholes whilst us Brits just kept peddling bouncing along. This was home turf; this was the familiar feel of the A38 from Tewkesbury to Gloucester.

Into T2 and out the other side, I knew that the water and feed stations were 2.5k apart on the run so the strategy was set to run from one to the other and walk through the length of the station eating and drinking everything they offered. I stuck to the plan like glue. Always took two cups of water. One to drink and the other to throw over my head. It was a strategy adopted by many listening to the squelch of the running shoes alongside me. The run was flat and the loop section along the beach was particularly well supported so you didn’t have much chance to dwell on the various points of pain that developed along the way. Just as I expected it was a war of attrition, which I was not going to lose and two and a half hours later the end point was in sight.

Halle(bloody)lujah! Seven hours and 12 minutes since I set off, that Ironman Mallorca 70.3 finisher’s medal was mine. Oh and I got the t shirt too! It was my first middle distance tri so please don’t use it as a benchmark. If you want to know what it’s really like, ask one of the others. My aim was to get through it in one piece without making a fool of myself. Even now I’m not sure if I achieved that but I had a blast giving it my best shot.

Two of our female members headed over the border to Wales. Becky headed up to Caernarfon to take on the Slateman. Not content with one tri for the weekend, she completed the sprint distance race on the Saturday in 1:53 and followed it by achieving her goal of finishing sub four hours on the Sunday in the Slateman Savage event getting home in 3:58

Meanwhile Jayne took on the Blaenavon Tri having signed up in a moment of weakness as she says 'I was recovering from abdominal surgery in January when I spotted this event. It appealed because it was different: 800m pool swim, 32 mile bike and 9 mile run. Fair enough you might say. However, the bike route climbed 3200 ft in that 32 miles, taking in the infamous Tumble. The run was up (and down) Sugar Loaf 1600 ft of ascent with stretches of 25% gradient. As the organisers said - this is no ordinary pool triathlon! The sun came out to play and conditions were perfect. I loved every minute of it. Y Fenni Tri club were lovely and very helpful. I finished 3rd Female and 1st Female Vet bringing home a huge trophy made of slate.. Now well and truly battered!!

Meanwhile with had a couple of entries in the Blue Seventy Standard Tri at Cirencester with Tom Radley coming home in 2:27 and Mark Stevens in 2:50.

There was still a bit of running going on with TTCers well represented in the Tewkesbury Half. A quick trawl through the results picked a few finishers, there may be more. Alec Vincent led us home, backing up his first Tri the previous week with a 1:32, just missing out on a top forty finish. Chris Redfern followed him home in 1:46 closely followed by Suzie Tharme (1:51), Wayne Meade (1:56), Kate O'Hara (1:58).

Don't forget, I can't keep track of everyone - if you want your moment of glory, big or small, let me know.

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