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Paul Hayward's Mallorca experience
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 25th May 2016


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IRONMAN 70.3 Mallorca 70.3 - it wasn't supposed to be wet and cold!

It is fair to say that the 2016 edition of IRONMAN 70.3 Mallorca was a very challenging one. With jelly fish in the sea and then driving rain and cold condition once on, er, 'dry' land, it probably wasn't what the approaching 4000 entrants had signed up expecting - and well over 800 didn't make it to the finish line.

Paul Hayward was there, and in this final piece from his road to Mallorca he reports on his race which, despite the challenges, reminded him that "No matter who you are, where you are from or what you look like, we were in this together."

(You can revisit the first two parts of Paul's Mallorca blog on these links: Part One | Part Two)

Related Article: IRONMAN 70.3 Mallorca Pro race report


5am on the morning of a race day will tell you a lot of things. Mainly how you are not the only one staring into your porridge with banana pieces and melted chocolate in disbelief that a) it is actually pouring with rain in a raced famed for sun and 35° weather that would make Yorkshire jealous, but more concerning b); race morning has done its normal trick and snuck up on you very quickly. As I looked round my fellow athletes (from all over Europe), for hope, smiles and laughter... everyone seemed nervous, everyone seemed quiet and some even sadly crest fallen.

I guess if it was not bad enough that the “normal” pre-race nerves had kicked in; we appeared to have the worst weather I had ever witnessed in a long time - which is a surprise hailing from the United Kingdom - and personal bests were now out of the window for many and some had to be questioning if they would even finish.

On lining up in the starters’ pen for the "45 minutes plus" speed, I just didn't fancy myself to be any quicker today and I thought if I started near the front of the last group I could work at my own pace, as the rain battered down on us. With my Zone3 Aspire now acting as a full on waterproof coat, a lady with purple hands (due to the cold) said to me "this is my first swim out of a pool, is it yours?".  I wanted to say "no, I've swam in the sea before" but her eyes looked lost and I smiled at her and said "we can do this, we will be out soon". That may have been a fib and more than one hour after all of the waves started, we were off into the sea and the race was on!

Paul Hayward ©FinishPixDespite being frozen, the sea was like a hot bath in comparison to the pen and I soon warmed up enough to start swimming. The Aspire made me feel like I was gliding through the waves and as each stroke happened, I became more and more confident in the sea. I knew from my pre-race swim with Race Force that there were eight buoys to the turn and these came thick and fast. Despite a few athletes utilising breast stroke and the odd sighting issue, my plan appeared to be working and I was feeling okay and the distance was coming down.

On seeing the last buoy and the turn point I felt elated. I was still swimming with the athletes that I had started with and I had not been left on my own like previous years. Clearly this new found feeling or sense of cockiness rubbed karma up a little bit as I got a twinge to my ankle and hand. Or more of a prick like a nettle. I thought I was imaging it until something whipped me across my face with what felt like a bolt of electricity and I felt like I actually jumped out of the water screaming. My head erupted with a headache and the pain was horrendous. With my breathing broken and with fear setting in I literally could not understand what was happening.

I did not know what to do other than try and swim back to shore. As I tried to regain composure and rhythm, the whip came again. I could have cried and at this point I actually asked what had possessed me to give up pub gardens or drinking to undertake this sport. I was not the only one suffering though, as the screams from other athletes were deafening, and I slipped in line with them on the basis of strength of numbers to which a man shouted "bloody jelly fish".

I guess it was karma for avoiding them at the Long Course Weekend or for me thinking this was going to be an easy swim!

Fortunately by the second red buoy back to the beach my pace had returned and I was back to gliding through the sea. I pushed on and began to see the welcome sight of sand getting closer and closer to me. Kate (from Race Force) had taught me to keep swimming until you could not do it anymore and this paid dividends as I went past one or two people treading the water. As I made the beach and transition, the butterflies returned and I knew I had made the cut off. Despite all of my fears and worries, not to mention the Jelly Fish, the swim would not be taking me this year.

Sadly any hope of the rain stopping or pausing was wasted effort and it continued to pelt down on all of us. Unlike many of my colleagues who all went for just tri-suits, I cracked out the faithful inov-8 wind cheater; hoping that it would it would get me through to the point that the rain would end and the sun would come back. Sadly this was not meant to be and as I scaled the mountain 18 miles in on the bike, I passed a lot of cold athletes who looked in a very bad way. Despite the motorbikes passing by you, it was clear if you got a puncture up here it would be horrific (and dangerous) in this weather. Fortunately the trusted Boardman held firm and I made it to the mandatory check point at the top of the mountain in good time.

Paul Hayward ©FinishPix

Having been with Race Force I had the option of seeing the descent of the mountain by car, but truth be told I had wanted to use that time to swim. Brennan Townshend had told me that “it was not that bad, maybe a little hairy without barriers, and I would be okay”. He neglected to mention that the descents were straight into hairpins and with the roads drenched, slow didn't cover how I wanted to be. Despite the lashing rain and beautiful countryside, I was worried again - as the cold wind pelted against me and my arms and face were frozen and it took all my energy to slow down at the beginning of the turns to ensure I did not fly off the mountain!

My "race pace" was out the window and I just used everything I had to get home. On making the bottom of the mountain, and the additional 40 or so miles through idyllic countryside and Spanish scenery I saw the magical sight of a Burger King sign. Sadly this was not a food stop but the marker of the beginning of transition. On racking my bike and swapping a Chia Charge bar for some High5 with a fellow athlete, it was off on the run. Despite the weather and the challenges that had happened - I knew now that I could still make the finish line and the party with Paul Kaye!

Within a mile I came across a man that I had met earlier in the week walking, Simon from Tenby Aces. He looked so sad and in pain. I stopped to tell him to “keep going, he had this”. Simon literally did as he was on his last lap! For the last 4 or 5 miles I got to laugh again as we ran and I remembered just how special Ironman is. No matter who you are, where you are from or what you look like, we were in this together. As he left me and I heard his name called, I had to smile - this chap had been flying earlier in the week and he was home already (sub six he told me later that night), just eight miles left for me to be in the same position.

Unfortunately the wheels came off at about mile-10 and my pace dropped. As I walked through the aid station, drinking coke and eating shot bloks, I looked at my Garmin. It was 3.30pm and the finishing line closed at 5pm. I said to myself I could do this, even if I stumbled, and I picked myself back up for one last charge.

Paul Hayward ©FinishPix

On the way to the turn point and the finish line, you run across the blue pavement on the beach all the way to the finish line. As I stumbled along, my pace getting a little quicker, the cheers started coming in "yes Paul, you are nearly there" and "come on Paul". These people ranged from Spanish locals to finished athletes limping back, but each kind word helped and hearing the noise of the line and seeing Paul Kaye, my face beamed! He smiled and said "here is Paul! Nice name by the way" and I couldn't help but laugh as I high-fived him and ran to my girlfriend beaming.

At the start of this journey I had wanted to do myself justice and after Ironman Wales I wanted to put in a good performance of sub 6:30 and somewhere near six hours. Given the weather, training issues and the jelly fish – I was happy to have made the red carpet and the finish line. On hearing 845 people did not make it, I realised that the time could wait. In the interim I had proven that I could race in horrendous conditions and still do myself proud.

Let us just hope there is some sun for World Triathlon Leeds next month?

Paul Hayward ©FinishPix


Zone 3 and their range can be checked out here: https://racezone3.com/ and for more information on Race Force and the amazing support they offer, check here: http://www.raceforce.co.uk/


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