Race Report – Challenge Paguera-Mallorca
On the morning of the 14th October 2016, I was a patient in the Oncology Unit, University Hospital Limerick to take on my third hit of chemotherapy for Breast Cancer.
On the morning of the 14th October 2017, I was a triathlete, on the beach of Paguera Mallorca, with Geraldine Kyne & Margaret Hogan a long side me, to take on the Half Ironman Distance Triathlon.
What a year to get there!!
I registered for Challenge Paguera-Mallorca on the 31st December 2016 (thanks to Geraldine’s encouragement and a wee bit of coaxing) It was, at that stage, over two weeks since my sixth and final hit of chemo, and over five months post surgery…now was the perfect time to set a goal. Out with the old year, and in with the new…2017 was going to be the year to build back up my strength, endurance and enjoy what I do most….training.
I eventually got the go ahead from my medical team in UHL that I could start back running in late August, and return to both swimming & cycling in October. However, I had to start back slowly… very, very, slowly. It wasn’t going to be the 15 – 20 hours per week training that I was accustomed to pre diagnosis. I was to keep it to a low number of hours per week, and at a very low intensity. I started off at 6 hours per week, adding an extra hour every 3 weeks. As much as I was itching to meet up with club members and resume training at full throttle, I had to be smart and progress at a snail’s pace. I really had no idea how I was going to achieve my ultimate goal and be able to train well again. I tried to source a specialist or at least someone to advise me how to approach my new training regime, I had no luck. All I could remember from my medical team in UHL was take it slowly… listen to my body, most importantly, my affected arm.
During the almost four months of chemotherapy I would walk on my bad days, run, hike and swim on my good days. With a few short, slow cycles the odd weekend. During mid January 2017 I started slowly back into training, I was now aiming towards Mallorca Half Ironman. The first week of February I started cross fit, attending classes twice a week. It was necessary to explain what I could and could not do. Both Chloe and Gina, have being working with me to regain slowly the strength back into my arms. It has been very slow, but I have progressed from 5kg to 12.5kg, and delighted. My swim sessions started off at 30 lengths/750 mtrs twice a week, adding 100mtrs every week. My first swim of 30 lengths took me over 30mins, it was so slow, but it was heaven to be back in the water. My ultimate aim was 2500 mtrs, 100 lengths of Nenagh Pool….which I eventually reached on 23rd May. My running was very slow, not that I was ever fast…but I was happy once upon a time to be able to run/race at a 7mm pace. My aim here was to complete one of the clubs 5km run series in less than an 8mm pace. I was absolutely thrilled to achieve this on 3rd May, completing a 5km run in 23:53. As for the bike, this has been the slowest to gain progress, as it requires a lot more hours. However, I am working on this..…with an aim to joining the racing group of Nenagh CC someday…..some year J J
So over nine months after registering for Challenge Paguera-Mallorca, Geraldine, Margaret and myself departed Cork airport on Friday 13th for Mallorca. After landing at Palma airport, and meeting up with Clonmel Triathlon Club & their supporters, it was a bus transfer to Paguera. We checked into our apartment and headed off to collect our bikes. We had decided earlier in the year to hire our bikes. We couldn’t fault the bikes, they were perfect for us. I do believe Margaret saying that the rented bike was better than her own back home. We did a 6km trial run on bike…all good. It was then go get bite to eat (with a beer) and pick up our numbers etc at registration.
So, to put it briefly, we got our bags ready for transition and dropped them down into female tent on Friday night. Back to apartment, relaxed, glass of vino, bed.
Up at 7am next morning and after breakfast we were on our way to the start line via transition area for one last check on our bags. The main street of Paguera was quiet. No traffic permitted, as this was part of the run route.
The morning temperature was 22 degrees. It was going to be a hot day. We headed down to start line on the beach. The water was balmy. (For those of you reading this report, and new to triathlons, a half IM distance swim is 1.9km/1.2mls) Male pros were first to start, followed two minutes later by the female pros. In the proceeding four minute intervals, the age category groups ran into the water on the blow of the whistle to start their challenge. We had been told in race briefing the day before, that pros were not allowed to wear wet suits, whereas the rest of us, had to. Water was way too warm for wetsuits. Geraldine’s swim didn’t go great for her, her wetsuit opened during the swim and her new goggles leaked, not the most enjoyable swim for her. Margaret was happy with hers, and I with mine. On approach to the beach at end of swim, a thought went through my head’ how was I going to put on socks over sandy feet…feet could get uncomfortable’. I was delighted to see that organisers had a shower going full flow just at edge of beach to wash sand off ourselves…perfect!
Geraldine and Margaret were just about ready to head out on bikes, when I was entering the tent after the swim. Geraldine’s eyes were swollen and sore, a result of leaking goggles. I of course broke all transition time records….not. After about 7 minutes I was out to get bike and head out of transition. The challenge here was to run with bike up a ramp to the mount area. I settled into the cycle comfortably, drinking, and eating a little. Mallorca is a cyclist’s haven, great weather, roads in prestige condition. After 5km into cycle the gradual climb of 15kms began. A Bollinbrook style climb, long and steady. At about 1km from turnaround point, I met Geraldine, with Margaret only metres behind, on their descent. It was a quick ‘hi ya’, and they were gone. The cycle consisted of two loops of a 45km route. Thankfully all roads were closed, and well marshalled. Of all the disciplines I was in fear of, it was the cycle (no surprise). I feared cycling a hired bike, a technical course, descents and cycling on right side of road. On the second time round on loop, it was Margaret I met first, with Geraldine just behind, on the descent…the chain on Geraldine’s bike was giving her trouble. The three of us completed our cycle within minutes of one another. This was my favourite segment.
Down the ridiculous steep ramp with bike, into transition, rake bike and into tent to change into running gear. No transition time record. After a fabulous swim, and thoroughly enjoyable cycle, all I had to do was run 21km/13mls and I will have finished my third half Ironman. I had estimated that run should only take me about 2 hours to complete. But OMG, that time was well and truly re-calculated after 2kms into run…the heat was cruel. I knew it was hot….but I never realised how high the temperatures were until I started run. What run…it was a shuffle, walk, crawl. This was the toughest part of the triathlon for me. It’s ridiculous what goes through your head…I at one stage was going to get a rabbit or hare, put my timing chip onto its legs, and let it finish the run for me….but how was I going to explain fast times at end of triathlon??? The heat was hurting!!
The run consisted of 4 x 5km loops, with remaining distance at end to finish line. The course had a few little pulls, which proved more difficult in high temperatures. Mentally I found the 2kms along the beach front the hardest. It was unfair to pass all those on beach sunbathing, while others were sitting outside restaurants & pubs socialising and relaxing. All I could do was keep going, whether I jogged, shuffled or walked, I was going to finish it. And so I did. After a time of 6:53:58 I crossed the finish line, totally exhausted, but delighted. Geraldine and Margaret finished just behind me.
The three of us met in the refreshments area after event. A fantastic spread was laid out for all triathletes. All we wanted was something salty…the usual. Challenge Paguera-Mallorca was my third half IM, it was Geraldine’s second and Margaret’s first. I remember completing my first half IM, I was on a high and chuffed with myself. You would think Margaret would feel the same, after achieving a great time for someone who was last on a bike back in July for the Sligo Olympic triathlon, never mind swimming or running…….Margaret was more excited after she telephoned home to learn that the Burgess Camoige team she plays on, had won the county final same day. Well done girls!!
My approach to this triathlon was ‘a weekend away with friends, and sure do a triathlon on Saturday for something to do’. I wasn’t racing it, I wasn’t trying to beat my previous times, I was there to do what I love so much, live life, as a triathlete. I wanted to prove to myself that life does go on after cancer. I now hope to do Ironman Barcelona in 2019….in 2018 I will complete the Camino de Santiago by hiking it, with a rucksack on my back, covering a marathon distance a day.
I’d like to say a big thanks to my family, friends, the members of Nenagh Triathlon Club, Nenagh Cycling Club and Crossfit…..you have all being such a great support over last year and half, checking in on me, helping me regain strength, keeping me up to date and accompanying me on the very slow runs, hikes and walks. I truly appreciate it. And thanks to Clonmel Triathlon Club & their supporters, who looked after us in Mallorca…ye are a fabulous group, a pleasure to have gotten to know.