As some of you know, I am not a fast swimmer, strong cyclist or efficient runner. In fact I’m kinda 2.05 mins per 100’s maybe a little quicker on a very good day. I can hold 25-27kph over 90k hilly cycle and I can hold 5.10 per km over 10km comfortably. Nothing too impressive. I work for myself and have three kids under 9. Why do Ironman?
Ironman is so commercial and in a lot of respects so unlike very many aspects of triathlon. In my view there’s a basic simplicity to triathlon and not a lot of fuss. Sure there is a lot of faff around triathlon and gadgets and gimmicks but at its core, it is pretty simple. Ironman is about money and an “experience”. Lanzarote is basic enough not too razzamatazz and it’s an honest course.
I flew out Wednesday evening and friends who were doing the race flew Thursday morning. Registration is Thursday in La Santa, which many of you would be familiar with. It is really stunning and impressive. There is one aspect of registration that is always good for a laugh, the weigh in. Every athlete is weighed just prior to registration. If you are in a group your race weight becomes either a cause for celebration or regret. The purpose of the weigh in is quite unclear, this year was apparently for research, last year it was a criterion to pull you from the race if there was a question mark over your continuation. I weighed in ok, those I was racing with, not so good. Perfect sledging material.
Friday is just doing as little as possible, visiting the Expo and racking the bike etc. Ocean Lava a local triathlon coaching group, had provided swim coaching each morning at the swim location for free. It was very promotional but actually worthwhile. Paul from Ocean Lava, explained the course and the tidal movements, simulated a mass swim start and gave some very practical advice (see below).
I did not sleep well, you rarely do. I got about 3-4 hours sleep. I got up about 4.30 and had some breakfast. It went down and stayed down. Dropped the bottles and food to the bike. Did some stretches, donned the wetsuit and headed for the beach. My wife Kiera had flown out the evening before, which I was great for lots of reasons. Went down to the beach and had a little warm up swim and then into the pen to wait. There were 4 of us doing the race of differing swim abilities. I had swum a 1.24 last year and felt that I was capable of 1.20 this year (Lanzarote is quickish swim) therefore we were in slightly different areas. The swim started and it was MMA for about 600 meters, at about 400 meters in, I could not move and popped my head up to hear a woman shouting and two lads hopping the heads off each other (canoes were on their way to intervene) but suffice to say that the swim was chaos and whether it was me in a bad position or group, I did not have a pleasant or good swim. I spoke to several people after including Derek McCabe from Pulse who generally swims about 1hour and he too said it was chaos so I was slightly reassured that it was not solely down to my poor swim skills.
Out of the water for 1.29.
Onto the Bike
Lanzarote is notorious for the bike and the course was changed this year. It was unclear if this was harder or not. It was harder. I thought from last year that it could not be any harder, but it was.
I had felt horrible during the week before the race and I don’t know if I had picked something up or not, but on the day I felt very nauseated. I may have taken on a lot of sea water during the swim/MMA round but from about 11am I felt terrible and was pedalling squares. I had left food at special needs about 109km in. I made there at about 1.30 and ate and had more diluted Coca Cola, which I think helped a good bit. By 3pm I was feeling the best I had felt all day. The constant signs for Puerto de Carmen had tormented me all day. I had never come so close to abandoning a race as I did Lanzarote. The “little black clouds” had harassed me all day.
I got off the bike just before 5pm and started on the run.
8.15 for the bike.
Kiera my wife asked me as I got off the bike how I felt. My reply was: “ok, but I would prefer not to do a marathon”. I felt the best I had felt all day. I think it is critical in an Ironman that at a minimum you come out of transition and run the first 5k. You have to run that element, if you don’t, you fall into walk-run, rather than run-walk.
The marathon was tough but mostly from a nutritional point of view. I was empty and tired. The bike had taken its toll.
Special mention goes out to the hotel that handed out the chicken soup. It could have been drain water with salt and bits of chicken bone, but it got me through. There’s not much to say about the marathon, but it was slow as hell. It’s a flat out and back course, 10k out and back followed by two 5 k jaunts out and back.
5.35 for the run.
All done and dusted for 15.53. A Terrible Time.
I have often said that there is a considerable difference between “racing” Ironman and “participating” in the race. They are worth doing simply for the mental process of completing one. The physicality is achievable for many triathletes. Most triathletes and most Belparkers are faster, fitter and better than me at every aspect of triathlon. I don’t have a lot of time to train but I enjoy the process and run in to an Ironman. There are complexities to competing in Ironman but most of those are mental complexities rather than physical. It is certainly 50:50 between head and legs.
I do enjoy the process of Ironman. I do enjoy the bonkers aspect of it, standing on the line at the swim start is special. So few ever get to do it. If you ever get a chance, grab it, you won’t regret it (everyone around you will though).
Doing the race itself was for me horrific. I had not done enough training, the swim had not gone well and I felt awful for most of the bike. I did not enjoy a lot of the day, but I still look back fondly on the race as a whole. It is a great achievement for anyone to every get across the line in in Ironman and Lanzarote is special for lots of other reasons.
Stay in Los Fariones, it is so convenient and you will meet lots of others. We met Lucy Gossage (the winner), who is genuinely so decent and basically super human (oncologist and champion triathlete).
Paul from Ocean Lava was really sound. One tip that I took away was: use finger drag at the beginning or if you get stressed. It will automatically settle you and correct the mechanics of your stroke. I did find that focusing on this helped a lot in a very chaotic swim.
It has to be hill repeats. Lanza is hilly and windy. I brought my road bike and that was a personal choice. I would think that this year there were more TT bikes than last year but nothing to base that on really.
Figure out your nutrition, but it’s probably more relevant for the bike so you don’t end up hungry on the run. The chicken soup is not enough.
Thanks for reading and special thanks to the family for forgiving me another Ironman and joining in the lunacy. It’s a big sacrifice for them.