October 14, 2012 by gsterb
My wife and I spent a week on holiday in Puerto Pollensa in Majorca a couple of weeks ago. Ahead of the holiday I was really keen to find some swim coaching and also hire a bike, as I had read that Majorca and in particular the local areas around Puerto Pollensa are a ‘biking heaven’, being used and ridden on much of the year by triathletes and professional cycle teams.
I checked the weather and knew the weather would be better than in the UK, so it seemed sensible to take my triathlon gear with me as hand luggage. My wife thought this notion a little strange as other holidays we had been on were pretty booze and fun filled affairs, when the last thing I would or could have contemplated was serious exercise or physical exertion in the heat and sun
So last Sunday we got on the plane and duly arrived on Majorca, in Palma. We picked up the hire car, tried and failed to get out of the carpark, but eventually escaped and set out heading for PP. The sun was out, the sky was blue and we were on holiday and pretty pleased with life. Our excitement continued as our friend’s apartment where we would be shacked up for the week was gorgeous and ideally situated, a stones throw away from the beach and in the middle of the esplanade, close to shops, restaurants and we were sure, some decent holiday drinking holes. Things were looking up and we were in a far off place, on holiday! 🙂
Before leaving I had searched the internet trying to get myself some swim coaching, to complement and propel myself forward after my first dalliances with open water swimming and the couple of Triathlons completed this year. I found a great website (www.mallorcaman.co.uk), run by a lovely chap called Nick Kinsey.
After looking at Nick’s website, it was apparent this guy really is ‘THE REAL DEAL’, having completed some 20+ London Marathons and multiple Ironman / Half Ironman and similar events for the past 20 years or so.I thought that if ever I could link up with a key expert, a man who had been through the pain barrier, pushed himself to the limits and beyond, then this was the guy I needed and wanted to speak to. I know that I possibly was not Nick’s usual client and forwarded a link to this blog and detailed my year so far.
I know that Nick was a top guy, after he took the time to reply to my enquiry and offer some time in the water for some swim coaching. Ahead of the holiday I had found an expert to look me over, give me some coaching, some tips and hopefully to set me on the straight and narrow to become a better swimmer. We scheduled to meet on Tuesday, giving me a day and a half to settle into the holiday regime.
In the meantime we exchanged emails about the possibility of going biking, into the mountains and seeing the majestic Majorca from a road bike. Nick told me he has 6 bikes he used with clients, offering a well looked after carbon bike at a very reasonable rate (for as little or as long as you needed it), as well as the offer for some guiding and cycle company.
I have read about renting a bike and heading off into the bright blue yonder, with only a map and a vague dream…..only to end up in the wrong place, or with lorries whizzing past you. I felt that’s Nick’s proposal to guide me through the unknown countryside and also have a riding chum for the day sounded like a great idea. I thought his local knowledge would be really useful and hopefully make for a great days riding together.
Back to the water. I duly turned up with my tri bag, with my wetsuit, goggles, hat and everything I thought I needed to get into the Mediterranean sea at 0800hrs, as the sun broke free for the day. Nick and I got into his small rib and headed towards the headland, away from the tourists and boats, heading for the clear turquoise waters of the bay. I got into the sea and bobbed around like a floaty wild thing. I was really uncomfortable and felt a little unsafe as I appeared to be and felt like I was ‘on top’ of the water, rather than actually ‘in’ the water.
Nick explained the need to swim vertically and to rotate onto my side, place my head ‘on the pillow’ (my arm/shoulder) whilst rotated and to slow down my stroke, pretty much along the lines of Total Immersion. I had read the book and was now in the water practicing in a wetsuit and feeling like I really could not swim.
After about 10 mins, I took the wettie off and tried out in my swimmers. This made life much easier and for a fraction of a minute I was the perfect swimmer, with almost perfect form – but how hard was it to keep up the good work and positioning!!!!! Nick continued to direct good form, I tried my best to achieve what was asked for and just loved it out in the clear blue, salty water with the sun rising over head. It was hard work and my small brain possibly did not take every instruction in at the time, but I felt, at the end of the session that I had swum well and I had taken in Nick’s guiding words. They were in my mind and swim psyche somewhere! We both got out of the water a little cold and headed to the Illa D’or hotel for a well earned coffee. Here we chatted about swimming, triathlon, wives, bikes and politely and quietly critiqued swimmers who had similar bad habits to me. I might not have the best stroke or swim action but at least I thought I knew what I and others were doing wrong – just needed to practice to put things right.
Nick had offered to rent me a bike and also spend some time riding with me through the local mountains. On Monday I had visited a local bike shop and asked “how far is Lluc from Puerto Pollensa?” The guy in the shop looked me up and down, smiling with a smug face detailed that it was about 25 miles away and that “it’s a proper mountain you know, like you see the pros biking up on the television !!” I thought his rather patronising comments were funny and heightened my desire to ride up the mountain and flick a metaphorical ‘Finger’ up to those doubters and wankers who ‘think’ they are cyclists, because they are skin and bone and look OK in a pair of bib shorts…….as opposed to me who does neither particularly well!!
Nick and I agreed to meet up on Wednesday morning. I have to admit that I slept badly on Tuesday night, slightly concerned I might have bitten off more than I could chew with this potentially epic ride, with possibly the fittest and most accomplished man I have met. I got up early and got into my biking gear and took my helmet and supplies for the day. I walked to Nick’s apartment and fitted myself to his Focus Cayo, which looked like a great bike. Soon after this we headed off, through the quiet streets before the masses had raised their weary heads from their pillows. The bike felt good, the sun was just rising, but the air was warm. I was excited to be ‘biking’ in Majorca!!
We swiftly left the town and headed onto some back roads. The scenery was fantastic, with sandy coloured Fincas (little houses with land) appearing with their animals grazing in their fields. It truly was the perfect picture of the type of lifestyle I would wish to buy myself given the money and the need not to work again, too hard for others! We pedalled on and I felt good on the new stead. It was a full out and out racing bike, not my usual ‘sportif geometry’ I was used to on my C’dale Synapse, but I rather liked the feel. We continued until we came to a main road. We turned left onto the main Acudia road and cycled for about 2-3 km and turned right heading to Campenet where we had the first real hill of the day. Nick suggested that if it did not feel good after this, then we could continue on a different route and avoid the stiffer climb later in the day – this really was not an option in my mind and I pedalled well and got up the hill, which was quite comparable to my local hills at home. I had passed the first test! 🙂
We continued and Nick (now my cycling tour guide) gave me a run down on the locale, the contents of fields and pointed out landmarks and places of interest. These remarks were a blessed relief and useful to take my mind off the biking and soon he impressed even more. We had passed groves of olive trees, walnut and almond trees, then he pulled over and swung onto a branch grabbing a couple of fresh figs. He broke them in half and shared the sweet and fantastic fruit with me. I put it in my mouth and seriously have never tasted anything so good and sweet. Nick pulled another form the tree. He told me he had been brought along the same road a few years ago by a biking friend who told him there is no need to bring supplies when everything you will ever need is all around you and at hand. So the day so far had lived up to and beyond my expectations, made better by eating second old fruit straight from the tree!
And so the climbing started. I had read articles on the web detailing ‘stiff climbs’, ‘hair pin bends’, ‘switchbacks’, ‘stunning scenery’ and knew today I would have all of that and possibly more. We swept through Caimari and went past a sign detailing we were now approaching the mountains…”Sierra de Tramuntana Mountains” and with that I sat back and started to pedal. The road got steeper and we rode around three hair pin. I told Nick I was feeling a bit tired and how far were we from the top. I heard form just behind my head “We’re about a third of the way up”, so impressed with my achievement so far I continued to pedal.
What Nick failed to tell me was that he had told an ‘untruth’. We were about 1/9th of the way to the top, but I had no idea about this at the time, fortunately! The pedalling continued and Nick was a great help giving advice on getting up the hill and how I should ride it.
He suggested that instead of grinding up the hill, to try to pedal light and give some umph around the hairpins and then back off the power and almost give ‘restful’ pedalling until the next switchback. It really was hard work, but the scenery and experience truly marvellous. This was riding the mountains and was a brilliant experience.
We got up to the top of Coll de sa Batalla at 574m and then got to the Monastary at Lluc. There were still a couple of stiff climbs to go, but after this there was a 13km downhill run, which meant that I got the chance to look round, pedal hard and fast and admire this great world go by me in a flash. I had had a great day on the road and had amazed myself.
I truly never thought I would get to the top and continue for a 44mile ride whilst on holiday, with a good portion of the ride pedalling up hill. I cam away with new respect for hills, but also with new skillets to get up them and maybe more importantly, a new mindset that said ‘I can and I will’.
I have been home for a week now and have been out on my bike a couple if times. My local ‘killer hills’ now seem a little more tame than they did a month ago and I am able to get up and over them with less effort than before. I think the holiday lifted my fitness level up a couple of levels. Now I have the off season to plan ahead, work hard and get fitter for 2013.
Happy and motivated, I feel that maybe now ‘the start of my journey’ has ended and the rest of my journey continues ahead of me……..how very exciting! 🙂