Last week Arrate and I spent a few days at the VIVA BLUE HOTEL. I’ve talked about this hotel before: situated in Playa de Muro, Majorca, it offers the ideal setting and facilities for sports in general and triathlon in particular, as well as an extensive range of comforts and menus so you can really focus on training and relaxing throughout your stay. I’d like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank everyone at the hotel for the outstanding service they provided and for making us feel even better than we do at home.
Some of the leisure pools
Ready to go running
Although I’m wearing my neoprene suit in the photo, the water temperature in the hotel’s 25 m pool is 28º C, which is ideal for training with or without the suit.
Enjoying the island’s roads
We thoroughly enjoyed the days we spent on Majorca: we had some really good and intense training sessions that gave my confidence a considerable boost for the mid and long distance season that is just around the corner.
Although we hadn’t planned it beforehand, my friend Carlos López mentioned that the Portocolom International Triathlon was taking place on Sunday 12th. I’d heard a lot of good things about this event but I had never taken part in it. There were two distances to choose from: the 55.5 format comprising a 500 m swim, 50 km of non-drafting cycling and a 5 km run; or the 111, which is exactly double those distances. Bearing in mind that I was taking part in the Arenales de Elche Triathlon on 18th, I opted for the shorter distance as a final quality training session on the island and a trial run for the Elche Half Triathlon.
On Saturday afternoon we went to Portocolom to pick up my number and leave my bicycle in the boxes. On Sunday, we got there around an hour and a quarter before the start of my event. I warmed up a bit on foot and spent some time with Arrate while I put on my neoprene suit until it was time to make my way to the call room. The nerves started to set in while I was waiting in the call room, probably because it was my first triathlon of the year and I was a bit worried that in such a short swim (500 m) and with over 300 participants there could be quite a lot of knocks. However, the swim was really comfortable and I came out of the water in 30th position but 1 minute from the race leader.
An added difficulty for me in this race was that I didn’t know any of my rivals as most of them were foreigners. Some of them looked pretty strong, but appearances can sometimes be deceptive and it was hard to tell whether there were participants that were really good on the bikes or running, so my initial reaction was to focus exclusively on my own race.
The 50 km bike race included 15 km of downhill runs with several fairly tough ones that involved reducing gears, another 15 km across well-surfaced flat terrain, the 5 km climb up to Sant Salvador with an approximately 6% gradient, a turnaround at the top before heading back down in the same direction and a final, practically flat 10 km as far as the T2.
After a pretty disappointing changeover I got on my bike and it wasn’t long before I was overtaking other competitors, but of course, we were also joining up with those competing in the 111 distance that had set off quite a bit earlier, which made it even harder for me to judge my real position in the race. At Km 8 I overtook a guy competing in my category and I asked him how many people were ahead, to which he answered “5 or 6”. I carried on and when I caught up with the next competitor, who was also Spanish, I asked him the same question and he said the same thing: “5 or 6”. The next person I met was a Czech rider I think, and so I asked him in English how many people were ahead of us and he said “five or six”. It was really weird and by that time I had no idea what was going on, but I decided not to give it too much thought and just get on with the race. At Km 15 I caught up with the Polish triathlete Kacper Adam who was looking pretty strong. Beside him was one of the organisation motorbikes and a judge so I guessed he was in the lead, which he then confirmed.
I didn’t know that up until two years ago Linden had been a professional cyclist and is now a well-reputed triathlete. Nor did he know that I had a cycling past, which turned that last 20 km into a pretty interesting experience. On the climb up to the pass I decided to go for it and really pushed ahead from the bottom. Kacper got left behind but Linden kept up with me for around 20 or 30 metres. I was convinced he couldn’t last long, but he just kept going; I looked back at every bend and there he was, pedalling away really comfortably and I couldn’t shake him off at any time during the climb.
Anyway, we both reached the T2 together and so it was all down to the last 5 thousand metres, which I’m never too happy about as I often find it hard. We both started off strongly; in fact, Arrate confessed that on seeing Linden run he was convinced he would end up winning. However, I held out well just behind him over the first kilometre and then I opted for a change of pace. Linden stuck behind me for 500 m but eventually he dropped back a bit. I was 3.5 km from the finish line and every time I looked back there he was, just 20 m away so I couldn’t ease up even for a second. In fact at the 2.5 km turn he was so close that I thought he was about to take the lead but I managed to hold on and crossed the finishing line just 10 seconds ahead.
Apart from winning, what I enjoyed most about the race was the fact that I achieved something that I often find hard to do – namely to hang on for the last few metres and not throw in the towel. I am convinced that on that Sunday Jara, my beloved boxer dog who passed away that very evening at the age of 14, was pulling on her lead for the very last time, urging me not to give up.
I would like to end by once again by thanking the Viva Blue for their hospitality during our stay as well as Jaume Vicens and all the team behind the organisation of the Portocolom Triathlon for the chance to experience at first hand this fabulous and extremely well-organised race.