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Race report: Ironman Mallorca

Our race series reports for 2023 are back!

Dean Skipper recently raced at Ironman Mallorca, so grab a cuppa and enjoy this fab race report!

Mallorca, Mallorca ………….Mallorca?

I returned to Majorca in 2023 full of optimism after a DNS in my 2018 entry due to injury/illness and taking part in 2022 with knee surgery required, little training and me having to walk the half marathon. I flew from Stansted on the Thursday with my best friend Darren and had booked the BQ Delfin in Puerto Alcudia. I had booked half board and found the food, cleanliness, staff and the room excellent. Knowing the area it’s located about 300 meters from the Transition area so wanted something with very little walking with my equipment after the race had finished. The transfer from Palma airport took about 45 minutes and we arrived at the hotel around Noon with our rooms not ready until 3pm. The weather was cloudy. We decided to take a walk to the expo and get registered and passed the huge transition area with the red carpet already down. I can only describe the transition as a race in itself due to the huge distance and if all the bikes were lined up easily the bikes would be a mile long. Registration was very quick and easy (I was number 1248). It was time to visit the expo to buy my yearly Ironman trucker baseball cap. The prices this year in the expo had increased by at least 20%. This year I decided not to buy the M-DOT t-shirt showing my name because I never really wear them. The rest of the day was spent just chilling. Day 2 - Woke up to cloud again and the plan today was to go to the briefing and meet Sarah Robson. On the way there Darren asked me how many people I thought was doing this for the first time. I guessed at 25% which he thought was very high. We then decided to go to the local beach club for a coffee and saw Sarah and Mark Robson with their Mersey Tri team mates, Mark who had unfortunately broke his wrist was unable to do the event but he had a lovely pair of ROKA cycling glasses that he had got for entering in advance for 2024. We then went to the briefing held by Paul Kaye in which he asked how many people doing a 70.3 for the first time. To my amazement I reckon easily 70% of people put their hands up, even Paul was surprised. I returned to the hotel to go for a 20 minute easy run. This was followed by a 30 minute easy bike ride. Those who know about the ‘Boardman’ I recently tried to bring it back to life, had a respray, sprayer lost parts which many were discontinued and when I threatened him legal action these parts turned up. So i ended up getting a new bike fit the week before so had little time on it. (Not the first time I had done this and still didn’t learn my lesson from Outlaw Half 2018). This is when everything started to go wrong. While on the bike I could hear rubbing coming from the back brakes/wheel. So it was straight into the a local bike shop (there’s loads). He informed me the bike breaks were misaligned which had happened in transit. The guy fixed it and only charged me 10 Euros. Back to the hotel, got my Ironman blue and red bags and then to racking, racking the bike at around 6pm. I’m one of the naughty ones that likes to rack my bike as late as possible rather than let it bake in the Sun all day. However, the Friday afternoon was cloudy with a few showers. I racked my bike and made note of the location by a red flag on a local building and next to one of the speakers. It was then off for a light swim before dinner and bed. Day 3 – THE DAY EVERYTHING WENT WRONG. Woke around 5am with excitement, straight down for breakfast, carb drink and some electrolytes. Transition opens at 6am with the race starting at 7.40am. As I walked into transition I went to the red flag and speaker and my bike wasn’t there, I paced up and down for 10 minutes slowly looking for it. Darren was 10 yards away from me on the other side of the fence. He said it had to be there somewhere. I then looked closely and the exact location was around the 1400 to 1450 bike numbers. I’d had racked my bike the day before most likely at 1428 rather than 1248. When I got 1248 this position in transition had to be the worst. I was one of the first bikes coming in to T1 and positioned near all the bags which meant a good 500 meters to leave T1 and then 500 meters back to re-rack before the run. Then I realised I’d left my nutrition at the hotel so Darren had to run back to get them. In that time I decided to put my heart rate monitor on and in the process of unzipping my tri suit the zip was now in my hand broken. Panic started to set in. I went to one of the Transition referees who suggested getting some safety pins, but where could I get safety pins from at 7am? I was still waiting for Darren to return. When he did I told him what had happened and the only other option was to do the event in my Havering Tri cycling kit, Darren raced backed to the hotel to get this. He returned and it was kit on, wet suit on and head to the race start. THE RACE This was due to start at 7.40 am with pens clearly advertised on your predicted swimming times, this started at 25 minutes and went down in 5 minute decrements. I decided to position myself at the back of the sub 35 minutes to try and get a tow round of someone, ambitious for me but my guess was everyone else had done the same.. The countdown then started and the horn went for the start of the race with AC/DC Thunderstruck being played. I reckon it was aound 25-30 minutes before I started. THE SWIM The bay of Alcudia waters are usually very calm but there was a slight wind and the waters were slightly choppier than the previous year. I ran into the water and rather than start too fast I wanted to get in a rhythm very early. The further out I got the more up and down in the sea it was. I’d hoped to get on someone’s toes but every time I did I ended up going around them. It seemed so many swimmers were even more ambitious than me. At the turnaround it just became a huge fight getting around the two buoys (the course is a ‘N’ shape). On the way back it seemed quicker probably due to the jelly fish present and then with 100 meters to go disaster truck, those who know my dental history it happened again, my denture plate disappeared out of my mouth to the bottom of the sea. At this point it was only 5ft deep so I spent 30 seconds trying to see if I could see it at the bottom but no luck and then cramp struck in the back of both hamstrings. I’d rather swallow it like I did back in October at Harrow Lodge …… those who know…….know. I looked at my watch on exiting the swim and knew I had got a PB of about 40 seconds but I’d rather have my teeth back. T-2 Enter T2, got bag, wetsuit off and shoes and helmet on when disaster struck again the helmet clip became loose and I spent what seemed likes ages trying to rethread it. When I succeeded, I grabbed the bike and then run 500 meters in cycles shoes to leave transition. THE BIKE This can only be described as glorious, Starts off with about 10 miles fast and flat passing Polencia, I tried to get in a rhythm early and hit my wattage. This was only the third time I’d been on the Boardman since the respray and new bike fit and wondered how long I could stay aero for. I found the position comfortable and stayed aero along the coast with the sidewinds. I found that I was overtaking everyone up to the start of the hill, The climb is around 8.5 miles long, nothing really steep but just continuous. I had done no hill work or strength work so the plan was get to the top, most were overtaking me. There is also a false summit, when you think you’re near the top but you're not. You descend for half a mile and then climb again for about a mile only when you reach the Repsol garage you're done. I’ve also never been good at descending so again I took my time going down and lucky I did, as at every hairpin bend there seemed to be riders sitting on the verges with their bikes broken in half, most looked to be Spanish. I’d also remembered a certain bend where my brakes locked in 2022 so I made sure I was careful. Once you’ve descended its flat all the way back with a couple of punchy climbs not longer than 100 metres long. 99% of the surface is great with the odd dirt track where it’s a job to keep on to your bottles. In 2022 I remembered from 38 miles onwards was a nice tail wind and my plan was to hit that and increase me power. It was only a few miles before that turnaround point I’d realised it was going to be a strong headwind. Being aero had the benefits as in the final part I was overtaking other riders who were either on road bikes or sitting up on TT bikes, before I knew it I was back at T2 with a 12 minute improvement on 2022. THE RUN My strongest discipline, my running had improved the weeks up to the race and coming off the bike I knew the pace I wanted to hold for how long as I could. I started the run and felt comfortable and ticked off the first mile and then all of sudden I started to get stomach cramps. At mile 2 I went to the toilet which at that point seemed to help. But when I started to run again i had pain in my lower back and also rubbing from my cycling bib on my nether regions after the race were very sore (note editor has edited this bit! ). The lack of TT bike riding had caught me out and I knew it wasn’t going to be my day and very early downed tools and just made sure I got to the finish. The run course is 3 flat laps and on completion of the first and second lap you pass the red carpet leading to the finishing line. The nutrition on the run seems to be spaced out good and the run along the beach is fantastic. Eventually I made it to the finish line with a time of 6:07:15. It wasn’t what I was expecting but thinking positively I was in one piece with no injuries. The finish line is fantastic in which I recall Paul Kaye saying ‘Mr Skipper from our friends at Havering Tri’. I collected my medal, and then enjoyed a San Miguel with Paella and cake courtesy of Ironman. The finishers T-Shirt from 2022 was very nice but this years shirt lacked quality and didn’t even have 2023 on it. I met Darren at the finish and collected my bike and bags, on the way back to the hotel I said to Darren F*** Mallorca, I hate the climb, I’m never coming back again, Mallorca can do one. Les had then messaged me saying he was entering Mallorca next year, not even that could persuade me. I had beer and food at the hotel, followed by a shower. Then a song came on my speaker I liked to which my response was ‘Darren, I’m coming back next year’, followed by a phone call to Mrs Skipper and a bribe to pay for her 50th in Ibiza with her friends and letting me come back (she agreed it was a good deal). Sunday morning 10am first in the queue and I entered for 2024 and picked up my Free ROKA sunglasses. It may be Mallorca 2 v 0 Dean Skipper but I’ll be back and keep coming back until I have my day on this course and I find my teeth.

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