It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything on our blog, not through lack of content to write, more lack of time to actually sit down and get stuff down on the page. At the moment however we’re on the plane flying back to the UK from Mallorca where we have just spent a week. So it’s a bit of an opportune time to start writing.
I just want to get something clear before you start reading, we don’t do traditional family holidays.
This is the forth year in a row we’ve headed to North East Coast of Mallorca in May. The area is a mecca for endurance athletes with more road bikes out on the roads than cars. I addition there is a great selection of running, hiking and mountain biking trails and the sea is a perfect temperature for open water swimming. After a long winter back home in Scotland its great to get away for some blue skies and sunshine.
This year out Mallorca trip was slightly different to previous years in that Mrs B now has the cycling bug and Harrison has now turned 2 and is super active. Juliewas able to take advantage of this to get her first taste of cycling on the island getting out a couple times; taking in her first Col as she rode up the Col de Creueta on the route out of Puerto Pollenca towards Cap Formentor.
Most mornings we were down at the beach before 7am taking turns to get a swim done in the clear calm dawn conditions of the Mediterranean while Harrison played in surf, usually looking for starfish. In the days building up to the race there were hundreds of athletes along the beach in their wet suits getting their early morning swim workouts in. It really is a fantastic way to start the day. We’d then head back to the hotel for the impressive breakfast, before heading to the kids pool for Harrison to play. Usually one of us would then head out for a run or cycle before lunch.
The focus in my training so far this year was building up to this week and Ironman 70.3 Mallorca (70.3 miles covered over – 1.2 Swim, 56 Bike and 21.1 Run). As you may have read on here this race last year was my first adventure into Ironman racing and it completely got me hooked. The event itself is the biggest Ironman 70.3 race in the world with nearly 4000 athletes taking part, starting and finishing in Alcudia in the north east of the island. This area of Alcudia and event makes for a great ‘racecation’. It’s set up for families, and we certainly embraced it. The hotels in the area are all athlete friendly with bike rooms and mechanics on site. They cater perfectly for the little ones with kids clubs and great facilities around the hotel for keep kids entertained. The Hotel pirate ship and play park was where we spent most of our time. This was also our first holiday where we got to experience the kids mini-disco in the evening, nothing short of hilarious watching H interact with all the europeans. Being a wee blondie he fitted in perfectly with all the Scandinavian kids in our hotel.
On the Friday night before the race Ironman put on their Ironkids rase. This would be Harrisons second Ironkids after doing it Florida. It’s awesome to see all the kids out on the beach in the sun enjoying the event, we got into the spirit with our Team Brems T-Shirts. He smashed it of course (We’re biased yes!), he had to do a 250M loop on the beach before getting to run up their own ‘Ironkids’ finish chute with all the music and crowds like the main event. Julie did this with him and he pretty much manage to run the majority of the course with only a brief ‘mummy up’ before running the finish. Once over the finish line he was super excited to get another medal, but probably more interested in his miniature bottle of water and cookie.
I had been down to rack my bike in transition on the friday afternoon, this was apparently the biggest transition area ever. With the estimate total cost of all the bike approaching $10MM. It was a pretty impressive sight. I also had check in my run gear and helmet etc for the bike ride.
Once this was done it was a case of getting back to the pre race food fest. Getting loaded with carbohydrate to some seems like heaven but it is actually quite tough. With the recommended amount being 8-10 grams of carbohydrate for every kilo of body weight for the two days prior to an endurance event. If you imagine a standard slice of bread has about 14 grams of carbohydrate, its quite a lot of eating. I’ve had a few attempts at this now and have found that heavy foods can upset your stomach. Last thing you want of race day is stomach issues. For me haribo is the winner. Standard bag of is 80grams of pure carbohydrate, next to no fat or fibre to cause stomach problems, and they taste good. i always have a bag handy now in the build up to a race.
SWIM – 1900m
The swim was an out and back loop in the bay of Alcudia starting from the beach, as you can imagine with 4000 athletes to get into the water the sea could become pretty busy. To try and combat this we were set off as 6 athletes every 6 seconds based upon what you felt your predicated swim time would be. I’ve said before on here that I come from non-swimming back ground (only learning to swim ‘properly’ a couple years ago) and have always seen this as my weakest leg of the triathlon. Through winter I had worked hard at this and swim more each week compared to last season i have noticed a marked improvement, this was all in the pool however, open water is tougher all together. No black lines on the pool floor to follow, other swimmers in your face, kicking you in the ribs, having to deal with the chop of the sea and the low early morning sun.
Last year I was 35 minutes for the swim, which at the time was way better than I expected. This time I put myself in the 32:30 min group, hoping to hang onto the draft of another swimmers feet (honestly it makes a huge difference). In typical Ironman style the atmosphere was amazing before the swim start, the beach was packed of spectators, music was blasting out, all building up to the 7:55 start. It was probably 20 minutes after the start before my group entered the water. The plan was to start steady and build into the swim, aiming to catch quicker swimmers feet and stay with them. After the first couple hundred meters this was panning out just as I hoped. Then I was struggling to swim at the pace of the group and had to pass and swam through a few swimmers into clearer water. At this point I could feel a slight chop to water, and had to concentrate on timing my sighting so as I could see the markers. After the half way turn point I had planned to try and pick up the pace back to the beach. This wasn’t happening as I was being held up by loads on swimmers who had now broken into breaststroke or just stopping for breaks. It felt like I was just weaving in and out of people getting the occasional kick in the ribs from a breaststroker.
I got out the water at the beach and hit my Garmin, 33 minutes, delighted, a PB for me on this distance of a swim leg. We had to run up the beach and out onto the main strip of Alcudia for the transition area. This was quite a run to get to our transitions bags, where we stripped of the wetsuit, grabbed the bike helmet and shoes then ran to our bikes.
BIKE – 90KM
This bike course is awesome, its got something for everyone, if you are ever across in Mallorca cycling its well worth adding it to your routes. Initially you head north out of the town to Puerto Pollenca before turning west inland. You have about 20KM of flat or slightly inclined riding on silky smooth tarmac before the main climb, Col de Fermina, 10KM at an average of 7% up to the monastery at Lluc. There are no severe ramps on the climb it just winds gradually up the mountainside. For a bigger athlete like myself there is no point trying to attack this climb to gain time on the field, that’s not where my strength lies, i would just burn too many match and suffer later on in the race. It’s a case of selecting the right gear and tap away at the pedals trying to conserve energy, taking on fluids so there is plenty on power saved for later on.
Once I got onto the decent I knew I could begin to make up time, being used to fast descents on the hills back home in Scotland I felt pretty confident, and with the roads being closed to traffic that I could have a go at gaining pace. The descent was great, its pretty technical with many switchbacks, with the key being to try and hold as much speed into the corner as possible so as not to burn energy pushing hard on the exit. The second half on the bike course took us through a couple towns where their were spectors out cheering. Before moving out onto long straight perfect roads. This is when getting as aero dynamic on the bike really makes a difference. I’ve spent a lot of time on the aero bars while on the turbo trainer over the winter so am pretty comfortable in the position this resulted in making really good gains on this section while not killing the legs before the run, once I got back into town my average speed was up above 33 KMH. Getting to the transition area in 2:42, another PB for the race distance. I got through transition fairly smoothly, with a quick bathroom break and headed out onto the run course.
RUN – 21.1KM
As last year the run was 3 laps, but a slightly different route this time around also included a few deadman turn, where you have to turn immediately back on your self and head in the opposite direction, these are horrible and take so much out of your already tired legs. The course had us still finishing on the beach on the magic carpet under the M-Dot Ironman logo.
After my run performance in Ironman Florida in November where my body slowly deteriorated throughout the marathon I was eager to put in a better performance in this event. I have spent a lot of time researching Ironman running techniques and quizzing experienced marathon runners back home as to how to approach training and in particular pacing. Everyone has spoken about achieving a negative split in the run, where the second half of the run is quicker than the first. I had looked back at my times from my four event last year and everyone I was slowing doing all the way to the finish line, barely holding on in the case of Chattanooga and Florida. The other issue I had in Florida is that my blisters got so bad during the run that my trainer was completely blood soaked by the end, I did not want to repeat this again.
Taking this on board, I had covered more distance in training than the previous year leading into Mallorca. I just hadn’t done as much ‘long runs’ choosing to run more regularly, and working specifically at pacing. We have a really good running group at work and get out a few lunch times a week. With each run being planned at a specific pace, usually for 30-40 min runs, distance varying on the pace we are holding. I definitely felt stronger for it.
The previous year I had run 1:54, this year I hoped to beat it. When I got off the bike I knew I had worked hard on the second half of the bike leg and could feel my quads burning as I started the run. I was able to hold a steady pace for the first few KMs to allow the discomfort to disappear. The temperature was now increasing, and on each lap you could feel the air getting hotter. There was aid station set up every 3 KMs I was now dousing myself with a bottle of water at every opportunity. The crowds lined pretty much the entire route adding to the atmosphere. At around the half waypoint my friend Steve passed me, this gave me a lift as I knew he is a very strong runner and he didn’t completely disappear into the distance like he had done in Chattanooga. With 4KM to go I was able to slightly lift the pace, before doing so again with 1KM to go. Getting up the magic carpet with the sounds of euro pop filling the air in 1:51, 3 minutes quicker than the year before and still felt like i had some in the tank.
Finish time 5:17.
Pretty satisfied with how the race went, I’ve definitely improved as an endurance athlete from last year. Experience of races and a better understand of my body and how it react to training is a major learning. There is still tons of time to gain however; my swim is still improving, still getting stronger on the bike as my weight comes down (4 KGs lighter than last years races) and I’m just beginning to understand how running works, so excited to see where I can take that to.
More importantly however it was a fantastic family trip, as a lot of you will have seen from out instagram page, full of activities and laughs. I just won’t mention locking myself and Julie on our balcony one night!!!
Plenty to work on for the rest of the year, but only 48 days until my next race at Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh. Better get back to work.