Bestfest swim week in Mallorca: 3.8km iron-distance race report

March 15, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

As places to train go, the BEST swim centre in Colonia Sant Jordi, Mallorca, is pretty much every swimmer’s dream. Not only does it centre around a 10-lane 50m outdoor pool, but the centre is founded and run by two Olympic swimmers – James Parrack and Matthew O’Connor – so expert knowledge abounds. Plus not only that, but the town is on a peninsula with a selection of beaches and coves around it, making it ideal for open-water swimming.

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It’s no surprise then, that the centre makes the perfect location for a swim festival. Every year swimmers congregate for Bestfest, seven days of open-water swimming, pool coaching and fun with fellow athletes from all over the world – and when 220 were invited out to experience the new 1.9km and 3.8km tri-distance swims, it was too good an opportunity to miss!

We arrive in the town partway through the week and many of the athletes have already taken part in distances ranging from a 1.5k to 4.5k sea swim. One race – the 5k – had to be cancelled due to choppy waters, but with a whole week and plenty of events to pick from, nobody seems too concerned about that!

Swim skills and Team GB

I’ve got two days before my race, so I take part in a couple of pool and open-water training sessions with some of the centre’s resident coaches. We work on drills, pacing, sighting, dolphin dives, turning round a buoy and how to run in shallow water – basically everything we might need for the upcoming races!

My race is on the Friday, but on the Thursday I’m lucky enough to be there to watch the week’s longest races – the 7k and 10k ‘Colonia Classics’. There’s a strong field too, with the GB Open-water swimming squad in attendance, as well as several other elites from around the world. Rio-bound Jack Burnell is there being filmed for the BBC Olympics coverage and is a strong favourite. In the end the three-lap course is pretty tight and there’s a run to the finish between the top three athletes with GB’s Caleb Hughes just edging the win from his team-mate by 00:00:02 – nail-biting stuff!

Taking on 3.8km

Friday comes around all too quickly – and my race with it! Regular 220 readers will know that I’ve only learn to swim in the last couple of years. I absolutely love the open water though and have been working hard to improve my skills, so have opted for the full 3.8km rather than the 1.9km. My previous longest was the 1.9km swim at Hever Castle’s Gauntlet last year, so this marks quite a step up.

Luckily though, the conditions don’t look too choppy today. Talk of the waves earlier in the week have made me a bit nervous, but although there’s some breeze, the sea looks relatively calm. Come 3pm and I’m hiding in the shade of a beachfront café on the pretty Cala Galiota beach, zipping myself into my wetsuit. Most of the field are in skins, but I’m taking all the help I can get for this one!

I’ve made some great friends already on the trip and my new buddies from the Myrtleville Swimmers in Ireland are also competing (and acting as my support crew/photographers!), so we walk to the start together. By now we’ve found out that the sea is in fact ‘a bit lumpy’ further out, so the course has been modified and is now four smaller 950m laps of a triangular route, rather than two big 1.9km ones.