John Connellan – IM Lanzarote Race Report

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Lanzarote Race Report 2017

Time Time Time and Pie Bald Ponies

October/November 2016 myself and John Neville (Nev) decided that as we were getting no younger that we should treat ourselves to a few days off from work and family and go to Lanzarote for the third week of May 2017. This would take in the Ironman race. We agreed, sure we’d give it a go.


Suffice to say I have no real sporting background. I’m an ex-smoker and only ever really played the usual school sports. Nev has a slightly different background having been a very successful mountain climber (all seven major peaks and the first Irish person to solo climb Mount McKinley) and decent distance runner. Nev had 4 Iron distance races behind him. I had one. We had both done IM Wales in 2013. That was Nev’s second Triathlon, he had learnt to swim in the January/February of that year. We both completed Wales in about 15 hours 45 mins, so not quick.

Time Time Time and Piebald ponies…….

We both run our own businesses and both have young families with the usual demands. Time is the one thing no one has in abundance particularly when doing long distance. Everyone training for long distance always wants more time.
We both knew that we would not have a particularly competitive race but we hoped. You always hope that your training will deliver. I did two swim sessions a week. I am not a strong swimmer (2.00 avg min per 100) but knew that Lanzarote was all about the bike. I cycle everyday in and out to work, about 20k total. I did one gym session per week and ran about twice per week. I tried to get in a decent cycle each week and sometimes that happened sometimes it didn’t. My longest cycle was about 4 weeks before the race was 150km. I would think that my average longish cycle was probably no more than maybe 60-70km with 1000m of climbing. I always tried to ensure that there was climbing in every cycle but I definitely was training at the lightest end of the Ironman spectrum.

In the 12 weeks prior to the race, I started strength and conditioning with Aorta Fitness( Jason Pettigrew) off Baggot Street. I had trained with him for Wales. He has about 20 Iron distance races under his belt and is just worth listening to. He is also a very decent lad. Strength and Conditioning is definitely the cheats guide for Iron distance.

I also did some Pilates with Physio Extra in the weeks before. I think it certainly helped a lot with flexibility and I used a lot of the stretches and movements in the days leading into the race. I certainly felt comfortable on the bike ( I was on it for ages and ages) and similarly the run and I do attribute it to the Pilates.

The Race

I travelled Wednesday evening and Nev arrived Thursday morning. We stayed in Los Fariones apartments. The wind was blowing a gale on the Thursday Friday and everyone was quite nervous.

We had hired a car for next to nothing and drove over to La Santa, race registration. It is thing of great beauty and magic. The facilities are amazing but it is remote.

Saturday morning the wind was still and the conditions were as good as anyone could have hoped, or at least we thought so.

We placed ourselves toward the rear of the herd. It’s a two lap swim and when the hooter went, we eased ourselves into the water at a pace that would be kept for the day. Lap one for me was 43mins, which I was perfectly happy with. Lap two was 45 mins, which was fine. I could have done better but I was not tired and felt absolutely fine getting out of the water. It was an interactive enough swim but I would attribute that to swim ability and everyone at that level simply not being that good at sighting. T1 was very busy and it was hard to actually find space to change.

Anyway, out onto the bike for a long day. The bike course in Lanzarote is notorious. There are very few short sharp hills, none really. Everything is really just long and draggy. The wind was ok-ish. Kind of into your face or your side. Never behind you. We were told that once you get to Mirador del Rio in the north of the island, the wind will be at your back and it’s a ok spin back in for the run. Alas for us that did not happen. It made the last 50-60k difficult. It was warm about 27 degrees and no wind assist made the end of the bike very tiring.

I got off the bike and my legs were toast. I had spent 8 hours on the bike, about 7 hours 30 cycling. I was ok with that as a time as it is a ridiculously tough bike, laughable at times.

The run is pretty much flat. It changed this year to a 15k out and back and then a short 6km turn around. I was hungry starting the run which I knew was trouble. The bike had taken too much out of me and I had simply not eaten enough during the day. It was still about 27 degrees. The feed stations were well spread and supplied.

I took on what I could and ran when I could. However it was a 5 hour 30 marathon. Nev ran a 5 hour 8 min marathon which was not too shabby for the conditions.

I think most people can do an Iron distance race. If you want to be competitive Iron distance racing is supremely tough. If you just want to do one, they are very do-able. Without doing Nev a complete disservice, we are really two piebald ponies; not very good at any discipline but with an ability to keep going (slowly). We have both done IM Wales (and it is a race worth doing for lots of reasons) but I think we both agree Lanzarote was probably 1 ½ times Wales.

As tough as it was, we will probably both do it again.

Top tips 

Do strength & conditioning and pilates.

Stay in Los Fariones and hire a small car (to get over to La Santa)

Do hill repeats and focus on the bike 

Probably bring road bike rather than TT unless you are very good on a TT (my upper body was tired just fighting the cross winds) 

Give it a go, it makes winter very short


Thanks for reading.

John Connellan

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