Lanzarote Ironman Race Report, by Andy Smith

 
 

It’s 4.30 am on the morning of the 22nd May and my alarm has just woken me from a fairly decent sleep, my first thought is “do I really have to do this today?” I am entered in the 2010 Lanzarote Ironman, the fourth Ironman (2 of them have already been here and I should know better) of my triathlon career and ever since I entered it I have been saying my last!

Anyway up for a good breakfast this morning then a quick wash before putting my race gear on followed by some civvies to keep me warm then it’s off to walk down to the race start. I am feeling quite nervous this morning so it’s quite nice, I haven’t felt like this for ages before a triathlon and that’s why I don’t compete as much now. There is nothing better than the feeling of nervous energy flowing through your body to get you going on a race morning. The transition is full of all sorts of people today from the very nervous first timers through to the pro’s who have done it all before but still get the jitters like everyone else, will the elements and the island be kind to us all today? Only time will tell, and in a race like the Ironman you certainly have plenty of that! I get my bike sorted then it’s off to check Alison is ok with her prep; I bump into Anna (Hatton) on the way and have a quick chat about the day and how she is feeling. It’s then time to get into the wetsuit and really start to focus on the day ahead, we all make our way onto the beach and hang our warm up bags with the bike bags then head towards the ocean for our warm up.

One of the things I love about Ironman is the early starts; your dipping your toes in the water and it’s still dark although when your head goes into the cool water you still have pretty good vision. A quick swim about then it’s off to the start pen with the rest of the 1400 or so competitors that will hope to achieve their goals today whatever they may be. Everybody is having a chat and seemingly feeling good but I doubt if that’s the real story, it’s just a case of trying to remain calm under the pressure of the situation.

7.00am the hooter sounds and we all dash towards the water, everybody wants to be in there own space and swimming well but with the large numbers it’s all a bit of a bun fight this morning! I am getting stressed out by people stopping to sight in front of me and others who seem to be zig zagging there way round the swim course, just remain calm and do your own thing I keep telling myself. It stays like this for around the first half of the first lap, so I have not been swimming that well for about half a mile now, which worries me a little. The rest of the lap goes ok and I’m swimming quite nicely with a relaxed long stroke and feeling much better remembering everything I have been told by various members of the fast lane (thanks folks I owe you all!) it’s out onto the beach and a quick check of the watch tells me I’m doing fine, 33 minutes for the first lap so maybe I wasn’t doing so bad after all. I run round the turn and soak up the cheers of the crowd maybe a bit to much because I sprint back towards the water and dive straight in, I start swimming again but need to take it easy as I’m a bit out of breath!! Once I get going again it feels good to be catching and passing people and keeping to the marker buoys ensuring a don’t swim any further than I need to, I ease back a little towards the end of the swim and then I’m out of the water and onto the beach removing the wetsuit as I’m running. The suit comes off easily under the showers and I’m on the way to transform into a cyclist.

I find my bag then head into the tent and find a bucket to wash my feet in before putting my socks and shoes on, a quick application of suncream by one of the helpers and I’m on my way out to find my bike, putting my shades and helmet on as I go. My food for the day goes in the pockets then it’s off out on the bike for a spin round the island for a while. We have a brief run along the sea front at Puerto del Carmen to get ourselves sorted then it’s out onto the roads proper for the next 112 miles, the road goes out of the town and up onto the undulating bypass where everyone gets in an aero tuck and starts spinning the miles away. We head down to Puerto Calero before starting the first climbing of the day up to Yaiza, everyone is taking it quite easy up here and I meet up with Mark from NYP tri for a chat about the day ahead, he tells me that the road to the fire mountains has been re surfaced and is now like glass I sure hope he’s telling the truth. Anyway onwards and upwards towards the first feed station where I take a fresh bottle and a banana then it’s head down and round towards El Golfo where I see the leaders heading the other way towards the fire mountains, a quick loop round the lava and another feed before re tracing our tracks towards Yaiza. I get chatting to a bloke who has done about a 10 hour Ironman here before but is just out to finish and enjoy the day today; I leave him up a small climb but will no doubt be seeing him again. Mark was right about the fire mountain road and it makes it so much easier although it is still a very tough unrelenting climb made a little more difficult with car and bike traffic on the road, but then it’s a fast decent before a windy but quick ride into Mancha Blanca for another feed station and lots of support. It’s all downhill now through Casas de Guiguan, Tajaste and Tinago before we reach La Santa, but my legs are starting to feel a little sore and I’m a bit worried that I have gone too fast too early. I sit up and try and take on some food and drink at La Santa, it’s a long steady climb now all the way up to Mirador del Haria and luckily I manage to stop for a pee before Soo which makes me feel much better when I get back on the bike although I’m still struggling. The climb up through Teguise is a horrible long drag and I’m really suffering but so are most others and the support up here is fantastic and makes you dig just that little bit deeper to get to the top before you head out towards the second big climb of the day. The 10-hour guy comes past and gives me some encouragement; he is probably just getting going now after all the 100-mile training rides he says he has been doing since February this year. I have only done one so it’s out with the wine gums to try and find something to give me a boost and keep the peddles turning, I take it fairly easy and have a chat to a few guy’s on the slopes up to Las Nieves but then on the long last drag to the top I crack big style, my vision starts to get hazy and I’m weaving about unable to push the gear I get off the bike at the special feed station and sit in the kerb. Is this the end? I’m shot to bits and can’t see a way of finishing but I know in my head you don’t just stop, I get my emergency gel out and have that with some water before getting back on the bike and wobbling down the tricky decent to Haria. When the road goes up again I’m happy to find my legs working again and I’m now making steady progress towards the final major climb at Mirador de Rio, I catch Eric Blakey and have a quick chat about how the day is going then let him go as he’s going a little quicker on the flats. Up one of the little steeper bit on the road someone is blasting ‘I will survive’ out of a megaphone which makes me chuckle, then it’s the final push to the summit whilst looking at the fantastic view over to Graciosa. A quick stop at the feed station to stock up then it’s the fantastic decent all the way to Arrieta where I make the most of my new found strength by passing cars, motorbikes and other competitors at about 50/60 mph sometimes one the wrong side of the road round blind bends!! A long drag now greets us all and I keep having to eat and drink to keep myself from blowing up again along the road to Tahiche, then it’s up to Teguise again and onto the new part of the bike course with a nice climb and a bit of a head wind. I stop to give a guy one of my spare tubes up here but luckily he is happy to wait for someone to give him a CO2 canister so I can get one my way again, I meet Mark again just before the village and he’s in much the same boat as me and hanging on a bit. The last part of the course are a little undulating before a fantastic decent down a narrow twisty road where I remove my brain again and enjoy myself, then it’s back along the bypass and into Puerto del Carmen to get ready for the run.

I jump off the bike and run into the transition were one of the volunteers takes my bike off me before I go in search of my run bag, which I am sure some one has moved as it takes a while to find it! Off with the helmet, shades and bike shoes and on with a hat, racing flats and lots more suncream. I pick up a bottle of water on the way out and get into steady run, the atmosphere now is just fantastic with people lining the run route from the start/finish for about the first half mile of the course and it makes me grin like a loon and help forget that my body is screaming at me to stop this madness. We all have our names on our numbers too so they can shout our names which makes a whole load of difference today, I’m going quite well and run through the first 2 feed stations taking on water and fruit on the run although I stop and walk through the next one just to make sure I’m fuelling up properly. Out onto the new part of the course which runs past the airport so we have the distraction of watching the planes come in and take off, I can see runners all the way into the distance and it seems like the turn is a long way away and then it happens, I start feeling sick and slowing down. I can see the next feed station but I’m reduced to walking now as my stomach feels like it’s turning inside out, I get to the feed station and take on water and fruit but I’m still walking out the other side and need to sit down. I feel terrible and for the second time my race is over, 2 girls from the feed station come over then some medics from across the path want to check I’m ok, they ask if I need to go to the hospital which I think shakes me up a bit, do I really look as bad as I feel? One of the girls insists I have Cola and a gel and before I know it I’m up and walking again, then running!!! I make the turn and head back, I’m feeling great now, I run back through the aid station and thank them all whilst grabbing a coke, water and gel this will be my new fuelling strategy for the rest of the race. I tend not to use gels or energy drinks on the run as they upset my stomach but today I seem to be getting away with it, so it’s a case of carry on running between the aid stations then walk so I can refuel properly and it all goes to plan pretty much for the rest of the day. The second and third laps seem much shorter as we don’t go all the way out to Playa Honda and I manage to see Anna and Alison and shout some encouragement to them. I catch up with Mark too and he is struggling a bit now, I offer some encouragement as he stopped to check I was ok earlier but he says he’s fine and he will be right behind me!! I’m mentally ticking off the last lap now and only stop at the second to last aid station for some cola. I run through the last one getting a bit of water and orange then it’s time to pick up the tempo for my finish, I’m somehow flying along now and passing people on the same lap as me, the encouragement of the crowd is willing me to push on and I sprint across the line with my arms aloft, the clock says 12.43.46 not my fastest time for the distance but I had a fantastic experience on this special island.

Everybody that was involved in this race made it a special day for me, especially all the people who came out to cheer us all on it was really nice to see and hear so many British people both supporting and helping out on the aid stations so well done to you all for that. The only problem is I enjoyed it so much I want to do another one and I’m sure I said I wouldn’t!

 

   




 

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