“The water in Mallorca…”: Long Course Weekend Mallorca 2018

A spot of late autumn sunshine; an end of season jolly with my triathlon buddies; a chance to cross another Long Course Weekend (LCW) off my ever-expanding “epic events to do” list. These were my first thoughts when someone suggested doing Long Course Weekend Mallorca.

The format’s a blast, a swim, a sportive, and a run without the pressure of competition. An iron-distance triathlon the casual way, swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles, but instead of doing one immediately after the other, you do them on consecutive days, leaving plenty of time in between to relax, eat pizza, and consume a few boozy beverages.

Oh, and if you finish all three events in the given time, they give you a special fourth medal, at a special ceremony. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Now imagine it in torrential rain and high winds…

We landed (that’s my good buddy L and I) in Mallorca on the Thursday evening. It was still warm, t-shirt and sunglasses weather, as we waited for the airport bus to Port D’Alcudia (€9 one way; approx. 80 minutes) on the opposite side of the island. The journey was uneventful and we were soon checked in to one of the event’s recommended hotels, the Zafiro Tropic, minutes from all the race action on the nearby beach and in the surrounding streets.

The hotel was good, clean with excellent facilities, including a massive bike shed for the many cyclists who flock to the island’s roads. It was also end-of-season empty, which appealed massively to my aversion to large groups of people. I would not want to be there in peak season!

We dined in the restaurant, it was late and we needed food more than we needed to explore our environs. The buffet wasn’t especially cheap, so we waded in and ate as many courses as we could stuff down ourselves. My favourite dessert was the “black jungle cake”, presumably a slightly skew-whiff translation of black forest gateaux.

I slept badly, harassed by a buzzing mosquito which would unfortunately feast on the only bit of my body exposed to the room, my face…the bastard.

Friday was registration day. We emerged late from the hotel, both making the most of not having to rise early for our usual hideous commutes into work. The sun was shining, the beach was all white sand, flat sea, palm trees, and mountainous backdrop. It was lovely.Port D Alcudia 2

The expo and registration area was just along the beach, and as it was much smaller than Tenby, we were registered and fully expo’ed out in minutes. Unusually we didn’t even buy any merch.

We breakfasted in the sunshine at a café on the beach, it was very relaxing.

Later, we chilled out by the pool, chasing the sun because the shade was just a little bit too nippy. J, our super supporter (formerly competing but hindered by recent knee surgery), arrived mid-afternoon, and we headed to the beach for a swim, to test out the water conditions for the next day’s first event. The sea was warm, probably 20 degrees, and shallow, but smelled a teensy bit sewage-y (considering I regularly swim in the Solent, that’s not a criticism, merely an observation).Swim recce

Back at the hotel, a lady brought L’s rental bike; we tested it, stored it, perved over a few of the other bikes already stored in the shed, and then walked into Alcudia to dine amidst its old, stone-paved streets. Our LCW wristbands got us a free drink and 10% off in a lovely Italian restaurant called Sa Placa, where we ate tasty pizzas at an outdoor table. It was just warm enough to make it an exceptionally pleasant way of preparing for three days of triathlon action.Sa PLaca

Swim day

It was overcast when I awoke the next morning. My room had a small kitchen, so I microwaved some porridge, drank some coffee and wandered down to meet the others.

The sun was just rising above the treeline as we hit the beach. The air was cool, but not chilly. I’d brought my Orca long-course trisuit in case it was deemed a non-wetsuit swim, but it was still in that small range when it’s an individual’s choice, so wetsuit it would be.Swim day

There wasn’t a huge field of people, so popping our bags in “wardrobe” and having a last minute toilet stop didn’t cause any undue queuing trauma.

It would be a beach start, a two lap course, heading straight out to sea, then following an anti-clockwise direction across the bay before heading back in for an Australian exit and a second lap.

There was rousing music, a countdown, some green and white streamers were released, and we were off.

L and I hung back behind the keen beans and strolled casually into the sea until it was deep enough for a dolphin dive. Keeping the buoys on my left, I swam out to the right to avoid the mass of people jostling for position. The buoys passed by unexpectedly quickly and I was soon at number five, taking the left-hand turning across to number six, from where I would turn back to shore. The sea was calm until the turning point, where there was a cheeky bit of chop, followed by some rolling waves caused by the safety boats heading back for shore. I attempted to surf the roll. I must have managed to gain some advantage from my efforts as I emerged from my first lap at about 34 minutes, a couple of minutes quicker than my usual pace.

I clocked J, chief supporter, who took some pics as I emerged from the sea but then promptly started filming the woman in front of me. Apparently she was very attractive!Australian exit

I passed said lady and waded back out for another go. I was really enjoying myself. All that vigorous breathing on the swim tends to make me super high.

The field was smaller now as some folk were only swimming 1900 metres and so finished after lap one. I was warm in my wetsuit, but not enough to overheat. I was mainly feeling it in my knees. What kind of weirdo gets warm knees?LCW swim

I had the sea practically to myself, but obviously that didn’t stop the usual happening. Two blokes, one on either side, started swimming a pincer movement to cut me off as they (a) failed to sight and so had no clue where they were going, and (b) only breathed to one side and therefore didn’t know I was there. I pulled back, swam to my right, and watched as they crashed into each other instead of me. She shoots, she scores! I should surely get extra points for that, shouldn’t I?

There was far less chop at the far end of this lap, and I was soon back around buoy six and heading down the long stretch towards the beach, where I swam until my fingers grazed the sand, then struggled to stand, before running in an ungainly style we’ve decided to call a wadele (a mix between a wade and a waddle) towards the finish arch: 1:14:24 (a pb; 128th/250 entrants; 34th/97 ladies).Swim finish

I grabbed water, breadsticks, and a beer (there was a stand with beer on tap, hurray to that), before spotting a man with a plate of cake. “Over there”, he said, in response to my enquiring glance, “in the VIP tent”.

The VIP tent, a special place only for full LCW athletes, was filled to the brim with doughnuts and cake. Apparently there was soup too, but I didn’t really notice that.

I gathered a plateful of doughnuts and went back outside to find L. I hovered by the finish line, and having retrieved my gear from “wardrobe” decided to quickly change. Half way into my bra they obviously announced L finishing. Very proud of our swimming achievements we scoffed doughnuts, drank some coke to counteract the effects of the slightly fruity-smelling sea water and then down came the rain.Medal doughnuts beer

After much-needed hot showers back at the hotel, it was my turn to collect my rental bike. I’d gone for something slightly pricier than L, who’d decided that as she was doing the half-distance bike (about 56 miles), due to an “under-rehabilitated” back, she didn’t need something too swish. As I was doing the full, I figured I might as well spend what it would have cost me to bring my own bike over (about £80 for 2/3 days hire). I’d rented an Argon 18 from Bimont, one of the race sponsors. It was full carbon and had electronic gears and all sorts of fancy kit. We worked out it was probably worth three times what my own bike cost. Bimont also provided my choice of cleats and a female-specific saddle. I was immediately confident bike day wasn’t going to be as bad as I’d previously thought.Argon 18

And then the rain got much worse.

In what can only be described as a biblical rainstorm, L and I hopped in a taxi with her bike and headed back to her rental shop in Alcudia. Her stem was too long and the existing saddle just wasn’t going to cut it for 56 miles, or perhaps it was and that was the problem. Her rental shop stayed open past its regular closing time to sort her bike out and the owner, Pedro, was super nice and drove us back to the hotel afterwards. Whilst there, I also made a very sensible purchase of a pair of neoprene overshoes. I had no excuse for not going cycling in the rain now.

We lunched, we napped, then we faced the elements to try for another discount dinner, this time at the port. It was only a 10-minute walk but by the time we got there, stumbled around looking for the restaurant, discovered it was closed for the season, and found ourselves an alternative, we were piss-wet through.

We ate watching the palm trees blowing about in the wind with the rain falling sideways past the street lights. The LCW organisers posted on Facebook that they would make a decision about whether bike day would actually go ahead early the next morning. A small part of me hoped it would be cancelled, or at least shortened. Who needs a special fourth medal anyway?

To be continued…

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