Mallorca: Memorable Moments and Final Thoughts

Memorable Moments

Throughout the week, there were many amusing and worthwhile moments.

  • Foolishly walking 2 miles in the midday sun on the first day to an Indian restaurant…which was closed.
  • Having a 3 course meal at the cafe where every course was a surprise to us!
  • Jav and his ‘Terminator’ pose for pics.
  • Monjur, Abu Thamim and Cap Formentor
  • Paying restaurant bills in 1 cent coins.
  • Monjur towing the group home at the end of nearly all the rides when we were all on our last legs. This was after he claimed to have bonked multiple times on the ride (allegedly).
  • Jav’s sprint finish onto the summit of the highest climb on the island.
  • Monjur waking up in the middle of the night to have a gel because he was…bonking.
  • Abu Thamim leading us out onto the wrong side of the road.
  • Abu Thamim’s masterclass in climbing on Sa Calobra.
  • Abu Thamim destroying the group on a ‘recovery’ ride.
  • Me pedalling home one legged.
  • Waiting for hours in vain for a halal kebab shop to open.
  • Seeing the local muslim community and praying jummah.

Final Thoughts

Apart from my mechanical near the end of the ride on the last day, the trip was a success overall. Everyone enjoyed themselves, the scenery and weather was amazing throughout. We met quite a few people from the UK too. The local people were also very friendly and welcoming. Although not immediately obvious, there is also a significant community of muslims on the island. There was a good turnout at the masjid we attended for jummah in Sa Pobla, mashAllah. I would strongly recommend Mallorca for cycling. Credit to Abu Thamim for organising pretty much everything, from booking flights and accommodation to planning the routes and giving mid ride massages.

Mallorca Training Camp: Eastern Tramuntana

room-breakfast
Breakfast in the room.

Billed as our ‘Go hard and go home’ ride. The ride was going to be our longest and hilliest of the week. We set off extra early so had breakfast in our rooms as the hotel restaurant hadn’t opened yet.

The forecast told us to expect wind throughout the day and rain later on. We all packed extra layers in preparation.

As expected the sky was dull and grey which was a big change to what we were blessed with in the previous days. The wind also picked up, however Abu Thamim and Monjur took it upon themselves to shelter the rest of us.

The grim conditions failed to dampen the group’s spirits and we took it in turns to stage ‘breakaways’ on the first climb, Col de Orient. Abu Thamim in particular was guilty of some questionable antics on the bike.

We experienced some light rain which didn’t last very long, however we had to contend with a block headwind on the wide open roads. Once again Abu Thamim and Monjur admirably shared the workload for the group between themselves.

Our second significant climb of the day was Coll de Soller. The ascent involved countless switchbacks, probably the most of all the climbs we had completed so far. The descent followed a similar pattern; with the constant switchbacks never allowing one to get into a rhythm.

puig-major-ascent
Ascending Puig Major.

We regrouped at the bottom and then continued north towards Soller where the third and biggest climb of the island awaited us, Puig Major. The climb was gruelling and lonely as we had all split up. I found that the kilometre markers on the side of the road made it easier mentally to focus and break down the climb into manageable chunks. As we got higher the sudden drop in temperature was noticeable. After what seemed like an eternity, the distinctive tunnel and viewing point marking the end of the climb came into view. I joined Abu Thamim and Monjur who had been there a while, we then decided to head back down to keep warm and give Jav some company.

puig-major-top
Puig Major conquered!

At the top we bumped into some cyclists (also from London!) who took a group picture for us. It was a massive relief to know that all the major climbing for the day had been accomplished. The rest of the ride now consisted of mostly descending and a few gentle rolling hills.

Soon we were in familiar territory, passing through roads we had rode on earlier in the week on way to and from Sa Calobra. Feeling the cold and wind, we stopped for a hot drink at the coffee shop at the top of Coll de Sa Battala.

Having refueled and warmed up we then continued our ride. Minutes into the ride, disaster struck in the form of my crank arm giving way. We tried several fixes but to no avail. I was told I would have to ride one legged for the remainder of the journey. I was extremely fortunate that most of the remaining route was descending. Nonetheless there were one or two gentle inclines which almost made me want to stop and give up. I was painfully slow on the flat sections and owe a huge thanks to my comrades Abu Thamim, Jav and Monjur for pootling along whilst I was aimlessly spinning on one leg. The end of the ride for me was far from the grandstand exciting finish I was expecting however it was still satisfying to complete the ride considering I could’ve easily been stranded out in the middle of nowhere.

Mallorca Training Camp: Cap de Formentor

This ride was an easier outing after doing a significant amount of climbing the previous day. We set out with the aim of extending the route on the way back depending on how we felt later on in the ride.

formentor-1-vp
First view point of Cap de Formentor route.

The route began very flat as we cruised alongside the coastline heading towards the north of the island. The first climb was mostly in shade and led us to a stunning view point where we regrouped and took pictures. From here the route was rolling and we all settled into our own rhythm. The sunny, clear blue skies and the Balearic sea provided a stunning backdrop throughout. We were heading to the northernmost point of the island where there was a lighthouse amongst the cliffs.

formentor-cheesecake
Well earned treats from the lighthouse coffee shop.

We reached the top of the lighthouse to discover that there was a production crew filming scenes for a film. We also found a small coffee shop, we settled here for a short while tucking into the treats on offer.

formentor-top-group
At the lighthouse. The group, from right to left; Jav, Abu Thamim, Monjur and me.

 
 

We then headed back the way we came. At the first viewing point we bumped into quite a few cyclists including some from England. Monjur then decided to split off from the main group to do reps of the climb. The three of us then set off to Sa Pobla, a small town around 20KM from our hotel with the intention of finding a masjid to perform jummu’ah (Friday prayers).

We arrived in Sa Pobla and spotted a sister who gave us directions towards the town square. As we headed in this direction, we spotted what seemed like a grocery shop. It turned out the shop was in fact a halal butchers owned by a very helpful Arab brother. With a combination of broken Arabic and sign language, we managed to get directions to a local masjid. The masjid looked quite unassuming from outside, however inside it was very spacious and also had a separate floor for sisters.

Mallorca Training Camp: Coll de Sa Battala & Sa Calobra

The third day was a big day for us as we were going climb Sa Calobra, a 10 KM climb with an average gradient of 7.2%. Before we even reached this climb we had to tackle Coll de Sa Battala, an 8KM climb with an average gradient of 5%. The climbs we did yesterday were no match for these. We all had set personal targets for ourselves on Sa Calobra which was the main source of motivation.

Coll de Sa Battala was a gradual but testing climb. Conveniently there was a petrol station and coffee shop located at the top which was popular with cyclists. We regrouped here and continued through the rolling terrain. Sa Calobra is a ‘down and up’ climb, to climb it one has to ascend down it to the port of Sa Calobra which is a dead end. The only way from here is to turn around and ascend the mountain.

Refuelling before the big climb!
Refuelling before the big climb!

We reached the top of Sa Calobra, fuelled ourselves and began the descent. The descent was exhilarating, however the hairpin bends were quite daunting to take on at speed. We reached the bottom where we saw other cyclists. After a short break we turned around and began climbing. Abu Thamim and Monjur were out of sight almost immediately whilst me and Jav were bringing up the rear. Soon we had all settled into our own rhythm and separated from each other.

I found Sa Calobra very challenging especially in afternoon sun, however I managed to make it to the top and rewarded myself with coffee and cake.

We spent some time at the top recovering before we set off for home. The day finished on a high with us making it back to the hotel minutes before sunset.

Mallorca Training Camp: Ermita de Betlem & Ermita Bonany

Our first official ride involved two significant climbs; Ermita de Betlem near the town of Arta and Ermita Bonany near the town of Petra. As we went through the town of Arta, the narrow alleyway like roads and historic building structures emanated a strong sense of history and heritage. (clips of Arta coming soon)

monjur-betlem
Viewing point at Ermita de Betlem

On the outskirts of Arta, we passed an undulating area of greenery and Abu Thamim informed us that the first climb, Ermita de Betlem was approaching. With this announcement, the group splintered with each of us climbing at our own pace. The gradient rose gradually throughout. After seven hairpin bends, the flat section of the finish was finally in sight. At the top we were rewarded with a magnificent view of the bays of Alcudia and Pollenca, the Serra Tramuntana mountains and Cap de Formentor.

VIRB Picture
The ‘Titanic’

We then headed back the way we came. Our route took us through Arta again and then south towards Petra, the location of the last climb of the day; Ermita Bonany. Along the way we had a few toilet and refuelling stops. As we neared the second climb, Monjur decided to showcase his latest party trick, aptly named ‘The Titanic’.

 

Overlooking Petra from Bonany.
Overlooking Petra from Bonany.

The second climb had a similar pattern to the first, we all went at our own pace and regrouped at the top. Compared to Betlem, the climb was sheltered from the sun by surrounding trees, however it did feel slightly steeper especially nearer the top, possibly due to fewer switchbacks and the legs feeling the mileage we had covered so far. Upon reaching the top we were met by an imposing church and a superb view of Petra and its surrounding areas.

Smashfest Training Camp: Cycling in Mallorca

It all began in March last year when someone suggested we go abroad for a cycling trip. I decided to go because I hadn’t done something like it before and also saw it as a good opportunity to bond with individuals in the group.

Our group consisted of four people (including myself). Abu Thamim, who conquered Stelvio earlier this year, planned and organised everything for this trip. Javed, based in Birmingham brought a wealth of experience and a steely mental resolve. The final addition to the group was Monjur who is more known by his reputation for randomly attempting cycling activities extreme in nature.

It was decided early on that we’ll be heading to the Spanish island of Mallorca as it is a well known and popular destination for road cyclists, amatuer and pros alike.

As I began reading about Mallorca and the popular cycling routes, I realised that most of the routes will involve a significant amount of climbing. The climbs were long in length and the gradients were testing. A lot featured hairpin bends; something that is alien in England (especially in the South!). Not having the opportunity to test myself on similar climbs beforehand made me feel apprehensive. All sorts of thoughts ran through my mind; would I be able to make it up Sa Calobra without stopping? Will I be reduced to the walk of shame on Puig Major?

Virgin Money London Marathon 2015

It has been five months since I successfully completed my first marathon.

I learnt some valuable lessons along the way which I feel may benefit others in preparing for their first marathon. My time was 4:33:51.

In the lead up to the marathon, I read that it helps having several times to aim for so that you don’t get too demoralised if things don’t go according to plan on the day and gives you an incentive to keep going. I set myself gold (sub 4), silver (sub 4:15) and bronze (sub 4:30) finish times.

I started with a sub 4 hour pacer and found the pace quite comfortable. My struggles began from the 25k mark and from here I was forced into a very slow jog. At some point I started suffering from my right hamstring tightening which forced me into a walk. By now, I felt that even a sub 5 hour was off the cards! However I managed to get some treatment for the cramp at one of the medic stations and I was able to resume my very slow jog.

I was disappointed with my time but I knew where I went wrong in my preparation so I don’t have too many complaints.

Mistakes/Where I went wrong

  • Long run pace
    I ran my long runs too fast in training. I realised this when I had to abort the longest training run (a 22 miler/35km) 3-4 weeks before the marathon. I just couldn’t continue past the 25km mark. I tried in vain to run 35km the following Sunday but had to give up at a similar point.
  • Fuel and hydration
    I didn’t have a consistent breakfast before my long runs – it varied between weeks and on race day I found that I couldn’t finish my breakfast. I relied on High 5 ISO gels during my long runs but had them on a adhoc basis.
  • Misjudging the weather conditions
    On race day, the grey overcast conditions fooled me into wearing a base layer beneath my t-shirt and so in the middle of the run, I had to stop to get rid of it and in turn I lost the sub 4 hour pacer (not that it made a massive difference but would’ve saved me a minute or two).

What I should have done

  • Long run pace
    I should’ve paid more attention to the pace by limiting how much of the long run I did at marathon pace or faster. All of my training runs were done at marathon pace or faster.
  • Fuel and hydration
    After much trial and error, I now know what works for me in a pre run breakfast and what doesn’t. However I neglected this aspect until I started struggling with the long runs. After doing one run with hydration bladder pack in which I struggled (one of the early signs I was doing the long runs too fast) due to the extra weight, I stopped taking the bladder and just relied on having gels on an adhoc basis. Looking back now, I should’ve persevered with the bladder as I think the hamstring tightness/cramp during the marathon was probably down to not hydrating properly.
  • Weather conditions
    A base layer was evidently OTT, at most I should’ve worn some arm warmers which I would’ve been able to remove without having to stop.

Final Thoughts

Although it was a learning process of sorts, I thoroughly enjoyed the London Marathon. The atmosphere was brilliant. Whenever I slowed down, spectators would cheer me on and encourage me to continue. I think I would’ve taken significantly longer to get around the course if it wasn’t for the crowds and their support. I have entered the ballot for the London marathon next year and hope to do it again!

London Marathon Training – Week 3

I am currently on week 3 of a 16 week intermediate marathon training plan.

I haven’t deviated from the plan so far. Here are some of the things I’ve found useful so far:

  • Custom workouts on my Garmin 310XT watch. The feedback is extremely useful for the dreaded tempo sessions. The countdown beeps and pace alerts save me the hassle of constantly looking at the watch. I’ll also be using them for the speed sessions.
  • When its miserable and cold outside, the last thing I want to do is go out for a run. I’ve found that focusing on my reasons for running the London marathon help me overcome the laziness. I am running for Ummah Welfare Trust to raise funds for those affected by the siege and conflict in Gaza. Just thinking about what they have to go through on a daily basis is motivation enough to go out there regardless of the weather.

London Marathon

Having unsuccessfully applied to run the Virgin Money London Marathon via the ballot entry system I was given a second chance yesterday. I was informed by a friend who knew a local charity, Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT) were looking to fill their spot for one runner. A few emails and a meeting later I was officially confirmed to take part.

When I found out a few months ago that I wasn’t initially selected to take part in the marathon, I signed up to run a half marathon in March instead. My training has been on and off for it but getting into the ‘big one’ has lifted my spirits which makes me feel a lot more motivated to train and prepare well. Raising money for a good cause will make it a truly humbling experience.

For the half marathon I was following this training plan. The furthest I ran prior to training was a 10K with some work colleagues last year. Most training plans I came across tended to have words like ‘tempo’, ‘interval’, ‘steady’ etc. I didn’t have the faintest idea what any of these terms meant in the running context. The training plan I chose worked well for me because it didn’t go into too much detail I was able to tweak it to suit me and as I progressed, I eased myself into the world of ‘tempo’, ‘steady’, ‘interval’ and ‘threshold’ runs.

Now that I have to prepare for a full marathon, I decided to follow this training plan. This includes a half marathon, four weeks before the full one which is perfect for me as the one I signed up to fits the timeframe. This is a 16 week plan, which means I can’t afford to miss any weeks as there are exactly 16 weeks from Monday until the marathon.

Hello world!

Having delayed this for a long, long time, I have finally got around to setting up my own blog!

I’ve recently discovered that I enjoy writing and hopefully this blog will serve as an outlet for all those ground breaking thoughts, ideas, crazy outdoor adventures and reflections I’m itching to write about.