Starting the journey...
As I threw open the doors of my Mallorca apartment, I was greeted with people counting out salt tablets, strapping things to bikes and scribbling down elevation climbs on their top tubes; this isn’t going to be the pleasurable ride I incorrectly envisaged.
Rewind seven months and I had received a phone call from Laurence Plant, chiropractor, Ironman Athlete and Owner of Henley Practice. Laurence had called to canvas for a group of us to enter the Mallorca 312. “Sounds fun, a sportive around Mallorca in the April sun”, “book me in and I’ll book a flight”. It didn’t register that the event was named after the distance you were required to cover, with a strict cut off of 14hours – 312KM (200miles).
The Henley on Thames tribe travelling across for the event would consist of Sophie Whitworth, GB Olympic distance gold medallist, Ironman champion (multiple Kona qualifications), Lauren Williams – Reading hospital Consultant anaesthetist and accomplished athlete across triathlon (also a Kona qualifier) and cycling extraordinaire. With our Technical Director – Mike Whitworth, “king of the swim lanes”, previously an accomplished triathlete.
As for me, founder of Meglio, turning to sport and triathlon in 2011, participating in Ironman, whilst staying true to my love of 10K and half marathons. This would be my first ‘timed event’ since I was struck down with a bizarre immunity illness in 2014 and adopting a 100% plant-based, vegan diet almost a year ago (to combat the illness).
The Henley squad had all been over for several days, acclimatising, tinkering with their bikes and generally studying all things Mallorca prior to my arrival. In my usual fashion, I arrived with 15 hours until the start of the event, with a Bonza Bike box filled with: my bike, a days kit and enough packets of brown rice and lentils to see me through the next 48 hours.
Whitworth quickly took on his role of Technical Director, berating me for the state of tyres, lack of pedal tools and absence of the springs required for the wheels – “oh those springy things, actually do something” I quipped in my defence. With bike built (minus the springy things) I turned to throwing brown rice and lentils down me at a rate of knots, as it is revealed that not only are we cycling for 200 miles, we are climbing over 5,000 meters, which seemed a lot, however, I would only appreciate the scale of this task 96miles into the race.
The morning of the race - the chaps interested being at the ‘pointy end of the race (Plant, S.Whitworth and Williams)’, left the apartment to get to the start line at 4am. Mike and I decided to leave at a more leisurely time of 6am, for a 7am race start. In a mix up over locking up and keys, the electronic gate had accidentally closed on Mike and I. We didn’t have the key to open it. Therefore, in all our kit Mike and I scaled the 10ft fence, with our bikes, to get out of the apartment. I still think that was Mr. Plant trying to keep us off the start line.
Have you ever seen 8,000 bikes on a start line? Wow what a spectacle! 7am arrived and we were off – I had a game plan and I intended to stick to it; stay alive, don’t fall off and roll in by 13hours 50mins. Up to this point, the furthest I had cycled in a few years was the century mark (100 miles). In fact, the furthest I have ever cycled was 120miles during an Ironman race, so who knew how the body would cope. Surely you can’t cycle 200miles, living on just plants?
The key dominator for all five of us, is health and wellbeing (physical and emotional). It is central to all of our daily lives. With busy, pressurised work and family lives, the five of us always take time to participate in sports or health in some manner. I believe your physical health is woven into the fabric of your mental and emotional health and I have also extended this principle to everyone at Meglio, who have the opportunity to practice pilates during work hours, under the watchful eye of the talented instructor, Silva. Here at Meglio, we are all excited about the arrival of the new office running machine, to train for the next Meglio team event.
My training had largely consisted of the 20mile bike commute from home to the office, which I increased the intensity of by purchasing a fixed wheel specialise (with front and rear brakes) to get the most out of the daily 20miles. On top of that, I am committed to cycling every Sunday with the crew around the Shires for 3 to 4 hours. My wife is also a sports enthusiast, therefore we flip-flop who gets out on the bike or for a run, balancing the needs of our wonderful 16month old daughter.
Back in the saddle...
Back to the race and there were plenty of food and water stops during the event; which I appreciated with the Mallorca sun blasting out and temperatures eclipsing 26 degrees. After several hours in the saddle, the mountains would not stop coming and the Garmin was registering endless climbs in the region of 600 or 700meters. As I cycled through a bunch of people I was surprised to hear my name being called– it was Sophie, and shortly after we bumped into Lauren at a food station. This would quickly become a common theme, bumping into Lauren and Sophie at food stops (when I was pulling into a food station they were leaving). I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, as we train together at the same pace so we should be around the same pace. However, in a sea of thousands and thousands of people it still a pleasant surprise for me. The last time I would see of Sophie and Lauren would be at a food station at around the 6 hour mark. Around 100miles into the race, which had felt like all uphill, the cramp in every part of my legs was like no other pain I had ever felt. Fortunately, as I pulled into the food station, Sophie was about to fly out and I mentioned the cramp I was experiencing to her – she shoved a fist full of salt tablets in my hand and along with Lauren, continued to set off at a leg busting speed – unbelievable ladies!
Where was Mr Plant at this point? Well, he had set off as if the 200 miles were simply a 10mile TT down the Marlow A404, i.e fast! I later found out that he was pulling into the food stations, not even dismounting and the marshalls were refilling his water bottles, and refuelling his pockets, before he and his merry bunch of hero riders departed.
My stops were a more leisurely affair, pulling up a chair, gorging on bananas, nuts and the meridian peanut bars that I had loaded into every available pocket. There were sarnies up for grabs, but no option for plant eaters, who are highly allergic to yeast! Oh yeah, that immunity illness has in part been resolved by my friends at York Test Laboratories, who diagnosed me with a number of food intolerances, which opened my mind to exploring a whole food plant-based diet, “let food be thy medicine”.
Running on empty...
With fresh instructions to take a salt tablet every hour and copious amounts of water and cola, I started to enjoy(ish) the second 100 miles. I’d discovered that the method of getting through, was to hang onto a pack of riders, as long as possible before your legs and lungs exploded. At that point, you drop off the pack and pull yourself to the next food station, where you refuel and repeat...sounds like fun hey.
The beauty of the Mallorca 312 is that they have three distances, 312km, 225km and 167km and Mike Whitworth was planning to tackle the 225. However, at the start line with a glint in his eye, he hinted that he may have the full 312 in his mind if he feels ok at the ‘turn point’. Turning 60 last year and ‘king of the swim lanes’ I had a hunch he may go for broke!
Hanging onto packs, endless climbs and hitting new areas of the pain locker I had ever experienced, I rolled over the line in 12hours 38minutes, well within the 13hour 50 target I had set myself. I was greeted by Laurence who powered through in an unmanageable 10hours 52, with girls working hard and as a unit to finish in 12 hours 05, which would put them in an amazing 19th & 20th place for the entire female field (at least I can say that I was beaten by ‘fast’ ladies..)
Where was Mike? With the sun going down and the clock ticking, our thoughts turned to the hope of his welfare. He is a strong athlete, but the full 312 is a big ask. With the clock hitting 14 hours and full darkness setting in, Mike rolled over the line. Did you Mike, did you go for it? He didn’t need to answer, his eyes said it all – he'd gone for broke and completed the full distance Mallorca 312! That night our apartment would house a group of five riders who all conquered the Mallorca 312! Sensational achievement!
An amazing event, all for just 70 Euros; 312KM and 5000 meters of climbing, all on closed roads. We even received a beautifully crafted Gobike cycling jersey for free.
See you next year Mallorca 312!
Finish Times - 312KM
Sophie – 12 Hours 06 Minutes
Lauren – 12 Hours 04 Minutes
Laurence – 10 Hours 52 Minutes
Barry -12 Hours 38 Minutes
Mike – 14 Hours 02 Minutes
When: 28th April 2018
Where: Playa de Muro, Mallorca