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Ironman Mallorca: Race Report

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Race done, great feeling and happy about the result. Not 100 % what I wanted but with this sport it is quite the norm that something happens. Ironman Mallorca was my main race for the season and it was important that it went reasonably well, at least for the sake my head. Especially that I had the unfortunate incident (small surgery) last year which prevented me traveling to Barcelona to do the full distance there.

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Pre Race
At 6.00 AM I jumped on a bus from our resort and started the journey towards transition. The bus was filled with quiet people, until the dutch arrived. Fortunately the ride took less than 10 minutes and then we went to make sure everything was OK with the bike. I heard only one tire burst during my time in transition so all in all  it went well for the whole group of 2600 participants.

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After fixing the bike and waking up the Garmin it was time to check that my transition bags were in order and drop the sunscreen bottle to the bike bag.

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Then it was the long walk (really quite long) towards the swim start.

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At 6.45 I met with my crazy support group to whom I gave my backpack – meantime they were doing pull ups on the rings near the beach – and headed to the athlete area were I left my street clothes bag.

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When the sun started to rise I did some dynamic stretches and movements to get ready and went to the sea to warm up. The water was warm and there were virtually no swell. I was surprised that the beach was so shallow and I actually had to walk quite a bit before it was possible to swim. I was out of the water a couple of minutes before the call to the start line came.

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First pro men, then pro women and the it was getting closer. I positioned myself to the left side of the pack on the beach and maybe 1/3 of the way from the back. With the sound of AC/DC we went to the water.

Swim 1.17.09

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The swim was the biggest unknown to me. I was confident that I could do it no matter what, but the time was the question mark. My goal of the race was to finish and I just started swimming with a comfortable pace. The first 50 meters were OK and then the congestion hit. Nothing surprising, just a lot of people trying to move forward. The bumping and shoving lasted for a couple of minutes and then it got easier. After a while the pace slowed again and I was trying to find a better place to go. I have never had any problems with congested swims and happily that was the case now. It is not fun but I just let the arms and legs smack and try to go forward.

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Now I realised that I had swam through the whole pack diagonally. Meaning I started from the left side and now I was on the right side. Actually this was quite good because know I was inside the buoy line and there was a lot more space. I looked at the kayakers and saw that they did not prevent people swimming inside the buoys. Now, it has to be noted that the line was straight and we were heading towards the first turnaround marker, which I naturally passed from the correct side. So I was swimming a little bit over distance (not cutting any corners) but this gave me a lot more space.

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After the first corner of the swim I was feeling good and actually started to enjoy the day. Sun was coming up, I could see the bottom of the ocean and we were swimming without wetsuits in the beautiful Mediterranean. The first loop was 2.3 km and it was over a little bit sooner that I would have guessed. Shallow beach again so we had to get up quite far from the beach and I almost got a cramp to my right hamstring. Short run on the beach and then again to the sea. Second lap was 1.5 km and it still felt good. I did not want to look at my watch at any time during the swim, I just focused keeping my hands moving and tried to breath as easily as possible. When on the last straight I was thinking:”OK, this feels quite good and it did not take me 2 hours. Actually I think that this is considerably less than 90 minutes. Again, the run in the shallow water, high 5 to my support group and a quick glance to the watch. 1.17, yes. Looking good!

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T1 6:33
Nutrition: 1 IsoGel (90 kcal)

The transition was quite far and the whole transition area was massively long. Easy jog to the bag and to the change tent. Race belt on, shoes on, add sunscreen, put on helmet and get the first gel in. Hand over the T1 bag with your swimming goggles and cap and then jog to your bike with bike shoes on. It was actually forbidden to run with you bike shoes in your hands, so the option was to put them on on the tent or they had to be on the bike and you were obliged to do a jumping start. I hadn’t practised the fast way so I just jogged with my shoes on, both ways.

Bike 6:03:44

TSS 270-290, NP 189 W. VI 1.13, IF 0.70.

Nutrition: 18 IsoGels (1640 kcal), 1 bottle of PowerBar Perform (250 kcal), 7 bottles of water and 6 salt sticks
Total: 1900 kcal and 7 litres of water.

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A very safe mount to bike and then towards Arta. There were a lot of people but it was not overcrowded. I got my bike up to speed and settled in my aero position. Immediately I noticed that my Garmin was not showing anything else but speed and distance, my power and cadence come from my power meter. Shit, thankfully I had the space and time to search my power meter again. It found it but lost it immediately. Fine let’s go without, at least for a while.

Bike Map and file

The first 30 kms the road surface was great and it was either flat or slight uphill. My only disappointment about the race was the behaviour of some of the participants during the bike. Swim was great and people were supportive and polite on the run, but the bike was different. The rules were clear: stay on the right, pass on the left and never cross the centre line. Some of the racers did not follow these rules at all. They were passing from everywhere and crossing the centre line all the time. I saw a couple of really close calls, but happily no one crashed. This was not a surprise to me but talking with some of my friends who have raced these races longer, it seems that the culture is changing regarding the bike. Somewhat sad and unsafe.

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After the first turnaround at Arta was the first aid station. I was stunned to see how many people stopped here. I just grabbed my water bottle at speed and continued my ride. This actually thinned the herd a lot and the way back from Arta was a lot more mellow. After Arta we turned towards inland and I was guessing that this part was not as easy as it seems on the course profile. The road surface was worse, small hills almost constantly and a narrower road. My position felt good and I was on my aerobats all the time except when the speed dropped under 20 on some of those small hills. My neck was starting to hurt a bit but everything else was more than good. I was passing a lot of people on the flatlands, it is quite funny how people stop to pedal even on a iron distance race when the gradient goes down even slightly. The best idea is to try to maintain a steady effort/power and keep that up as long as your gears let you. My energy was stored in two bottles on my bike. I squeezed 20 gels in two bottles so I was golden with those. No need to rip the gels open during the ride or anything like that.

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After three hours I was at the front of our resort with a average speed of 33 km/h. 10 km flatland and then the hill to Lluc. My neck was hurting quite a bit and I was looking forward to the hill to get out of the position and rest my neck a bit. At this point I had emptied my first gel bottle and I had space on my bike for two fresh bottles of water. This was sorely needed on the uphill. I knew that the uphill would be hard for me. I am quite heavy for a triathlete and the first part of the hill is always very hot when it is sunny – which it surely was. I started to climb the hill very gently, with 200 to 220 watts on the meter. The effort felt easy but my body was warming up. Drink water and pour some of it on you. At first there was a lot of people passing by me but after the halfway that stopped and I started to pass people. I kept the same effort all the way and some of the people faded during the hill.
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I actually saw a couple of people on the side of road and one man rolling down the hill with full race kit on. It is easy to get carried away in these things and it tends to bite you back. After the uphill it was time for some descending. It is a beautiful road with some twisty turns. The downhill was familiar to me and I actually enjoyed coming down it.
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Yes, my support crew got a little distracted – it is a long day! The most annoying part for me was the flatland or slight downhill after the hill. The road surface was horrible and riding on it was not nice. Fortunately no problems or crashes, an aid station and the the last 35 km of the bike. My neck was tired and I had to break the aero position a couple of times but I was again passing people and feeling good.
T2: 9:10
Nutrition: 1 IsoGel (90 kcal)
Transition was calm now, bike on the rack, get your bag and change. Sunscreen from the volunteers. Quick break to the bathroom and off you go!

Run 4:53:40
Nutrition: 18 aid stations and on average on every station: 1/2 cup of water, 1 cup of PowerBar Perform and the occasional sip of Coke or Red Bull. Total: 1000 kcal and 4-4.5 litres of water (incl. PowerBar, Coke and RB)

When I took my first strides and started running I was confident that I was going to get to the finish line. The bike was a little bit easier (because of the traffic) than expected and I rode very much in control. Running felt really good and I had to slow myself down a bit to keep the planned 5.30 per/km pace. I am not claiming that I was confident of making a great marathon time, I just knew that I was going to get to the finish no matter what.

4 aid stations per loop and 4 and a half loops to cover. On every aid station a sip of water and pour the rest on my head, 1 cup (2 dl) of sports drink, then a handful of wet sponges and squeeze those on head, neck and back.

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After the first loop (9k) feeling good and actually somewhat bored. I had time and energy to think about how the Finisherpix photos were doing their job. In no surprise it was not going to be this easy the whole way.

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The first 15k was easy and I was focusing on getting water and energy in. When the second loop was coming to a close I started to feel hotter – the weather was nice and sunny, anywhere from 25 to 30 C. I knew I was getting in as much liquids I could and kept on jogging my easy pace.

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After a little bit over 2 laps I felt that my body was heating up. When this feeling comes it comes quickly for me and there is quite little you can do when it happens. I ran a bit over 20 km without stopping – walking the aid stations as planned – but now I had to start walking more after every aid station. I was not feeling horrible or tired per se, just very hot. From 20 k to 30 k was then jogging/walking and during this time my thighs started to feel the impact of running on concrete and asphalt.

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My support crew was having fun! I believe they were the loudest group on the scene and they actually got people thanking them after the race for great support. Thanks Daniela, Sanna and Tiina!

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When the last full lap started (9k) my energy levels were OK and my hot feeling was easier, now it was really annoying that my thighs were hurting a lot and that made running very hard. Walking was easy, no problems but I would have liked to jog. If you would have put a gun on my head I could have ran, but I was not that motivated. I continued the jog/walk shuffle, quads felt like there were million needles stuck to them when running, but when walking they were completely fine.

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Thankfully the distance was almost covered and I managed to run the last 1.5 k. I like to think that my last 100 meters was so fast that you could not get a clear picture 🙂

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When on the finish I was happy and satisfied. Total time 12 hours 30 minutes and 16 seconds. Almost an hour more than on the ideal day, walking on the marathon added an hour to the time. But for my first full distance race it was a good performance on a hard course on a hot day. Physically I was feeling quite good. Better than on some of my half distance races. This was due to the walking, I had more time to drink (and digest it) and my energy levels were not so low what it could have been on the finish.

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Happy after the race! The take home for me was that Ironman is most definitely doable and I actually finished it with quite a low training volume as Sanna the previous year. Now, after a week of the race there are a couple of things I could have done better:

  • More water on the bike, might have helped the run – I was not able to drink more on the run
  • More running volume. On average I ran 1 to 2 times a week, this is low and I knew it coming to the race
  • More training in the heat, we had a great Summer here in Finland, it might have helped to do more longer runs in the heat

All in all, I want to do another Ironman race in the future. Probably not next year because I want to be a lot faster when going again. Time for some shorter races and stand alone running and cycling!

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I have to end the post with a picture of my unbelievably great support group! Thanks girls!



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