No training at all yesterday (Friday) – went down to Puerto del Carmen to rack our bikes and dump our bike and run bags (you get 3 big plastic bags at registration – warm up / bike / run) on your numbered hooks. Let half the air out of your tyres so they don’t explode in the afternoon sun (!) and then head back to La Santa.
Dinner was a late one (10:30) to make sure I still had some of the energy from it to use in the morning and then it was try to sleep as best you can before getting up at 4am for a 4:30 departure. Two energy bars and some water for breakfast on the 30 minute coach ride down to Carmen.
The transition area is huge, even in the dark and the atmosphere is odd – no nerves as you really don’t want to waste any energy – more quiet anticipation of the mammoth day ahead. Tyres pumped up, pain killers dropped in my run belt, last minute adjustments made, then on with the tri-suit, wetsuit, timing chip, swallow a gel and then a short hop down to the beach with hat and goggles.
Imagine the scene – a small section of beach as dawn is breaking with 1500 racers herded together, a few pockets of chatter, the one minute warning announced, a big cheer - then the gun goes off and it’s a run across the sand and into the sea.
Then the fun starts – it was a full-on melee – people swimming over each other, faces being punched and kicked, arms, legs and bodies everywhere, no room to swim properly at all – and it was like that for the first 1k. A quick 20 metre jog out of the water and into lap 2, much more room this time but still more contact than I was expecting.
3.8k swim time: 1 hour 21 mins.
T1 was a huge tent with an inch of water on the floor by the time I got there, picked up my bike bag, and off with the wetsuit asap, find the suntan lotion man then up the beach to find my bike – then a 500m jog to the bike start!
Now the long hard part – focus on my legs, don’t push to hard – no burn in the thighs allowed – there’s 180k in front of me with a lot of long steep climbs, heat and wind. Hmmm … feeling good – nice to stretch my legs, out of the saddle to build up a bit of speed then settle into a rhythm. Wow, first climb comes early, wasn’t expecting that. OK push on – distance check: 30k – bit puffed already. Trying to remember to take a gel every 30 minutes – out here they only give you 15-20 minutes of energy, but my drinks are carb loaded – trying to remember the math!
Things level out a bit – down into aero to keep the wind down and pedal nice and steady. I noticed during training in Lanzarote that a decent aero position gave me an extra 10 rpms cadence so I try to spend as much time down there as I can. Second climb now – Teguise, deceptive as it doesn’t look steep but the gradient increases as you go and the wind is strong and coming in from 11 o’clock. Great support in the town – everyone is out cheering. Push through the town, past La Santa and on to Famara beach – Ozzie support here as it’s the place to surf – whoops, sand on the road.
Then the third ascent – it’s a big one up to Haria. At the top is the special feed station exactly on 100k but what a climb to get there. Turn after turn after turn disappoints with yet another ascent. It goes on for 20k, and the last section is so steep I’m in 1st gear and out of the saddle – and it gets worse – I can now see the wind farm – it’s there for a reason – it’s very windy up here!
Turn the corner and blam, it hits you full in the face. By this time I’m swearing at the hills, daring another one to come: ‘Come on, is that all you’ve got – bring it f**k you and all your brothers!’ I’m now so high I’m in the clouds and then – there it is – the special feed station. I pick up my bag I packed last night and swapped my bottles, ate my crisps (gotta have something that’s not sweet today!) ate my power bar and sat down for 5 minutes. Coz now comes a technical fast descent of a dozen switchbacks – no rest on this downhill.
Hmmm … didn’t expect to brake that hard though, very steep indeed, zig-zagging down, hairpins galore (a racer went off here a few years ago and broke his back, then came back the year after and did the race in a wheelchair!) Special feed bags and bottles all over the road – seriously, you’ve got to be stupid not to stop at Haria, even for 30 seconds, you need all of your concentration for the descent. Ahh – the bottom, whew! That was tough – oh … straight into the next ascent up to Mirador del Rio – a third as high again as the climb I’ve just done – and I’m tired.
Up and up again – I’m not enjoying this now, very very tough, out of the saddle again, 11kph, k after k. Back and shoulders on fire, can’t even think about my legs – come on – push harder, keep turning, turning, turning.
I’m now seeing racers off their bikes and pushing them – that’s not for me – I don’t care how much it hurts – and I’m going slow enough as it is! Then here I am – Mirador del Rio – highest point on the island – I wish I could enjoy the spectacular view!
Now comes a k of the roughest part of the course – fast downhill and pretty straight so speed picks up fast – but … it’s a boneshaker and the road is littered with bottles, and if you lose them here it’s approx. 30k to the next feed station. So I spend more time looking at my bottles than the road. This is the downhill section where you have to push hard – the wind is (kinda) behind you too but you can lose lots of time if you just freewheel – as tempting as it is after 130k.
It’s a great view ahead – long straight road all downhill – just a couple of roundabouts to negotiate – but there are police are on all intersections (having been drafted in from the other islands for the race) and stop all traffic if cyclists are coming.
Now it’s the last serious climb back into Teguise from the other direction – wind is now head on, but through the narrow streets and another descent. Only 40k to go but it’s all into the wind and the road is undulating and I’m thinking ‘I’ve had enough of this’. My back, arms and shoulders are aching like crazy, my thighs are tired, I can feel the beginnings of cramp in my left calf – and the ‘saddle-effect’ is way beyond uncomfortable.
I stop and get off at the final feed station – take water and half a banana and stretch out as much as I can for five minutes. I then realise just how tired I feel, so back on the bike, clip in and off into the wind again.
Then I see a sign for Puerto del Carmen – not too far now then, past the hospital (thought about turning in!) then down to the seafront and the crowds. Wow! People again, it’s been a pretty lonely ride – even with other races around you, everyone’s too tired and focused to be chatty. Just a few words exchanged on the way around – mainly about the ‘official’ k markers being up to 13k out!
Stop at the line and off the bike – thank f**k for that! Time check – it’s 16:15 – only 15 minutes outside my prediction, not bad. A quick kiss and photo stop with my girlfriend then a 500m walk/jog to pick up my run bag.
180k bike time: 7 hours 40 minutes.
Into the tent to change, two women slap more sunscreen on me, a couple of mouthfuls of water, a two minute chat with a mate then into my stride. Ooooh, now that feels OK, I wasn’t expecting that – hey … I can run! A gentle slope upwards through the crowds – there’s a lot of support here and the names are printed on your numbers so loads of people are shouting your name. The crowd thins as you approach the airport – and I have to run past the turn point for laps 2 and 3 as lap 1 is 20k.
On we go … hmmm … it’s warm – 32 degrees. I take a gel and water at the 1st aid station and walk whilst I’m drinking. Then back to what is rapidly becoming ‘The Lanzarote Ironman Shuffle’! Turn point 1 – yeah, still a long way to go but it feels good.
It’s a long way back to the finish where the next turn point is but I’m finally here – pick up my yellow band and off into lap 2 – knowing it’s half the distance of lap 1. More fabulous support and a stop at every aid station, putting sponges of iced water under my suit and topping 2 cups of iced water over my head every time (careful not to get you shoes wet). My gel belt is getting lighter now – I’m really getting through them, but the heat is energy sapping so I have to keep topped up.
Turn point 2 and back to the finish again – another turn and pick up my red band. That’s it – no more bands – just one more lap and in. I’m really slowing now – the sun’s setting and at least it’s getting cooler. Back to the airport and the final turn point – that’s it, on my way home now – come on, try and run. I’ve stopped at every feed station on the run but I just can’t take any more gels / energy drinks / banana / orange segments – even water on the last lap. I’m trying to work out how my stomach is feeling but it’s difficult – all I know is I don’t want any more sweet stuff in it and I know I’ve got enough energy left to get me over the line.
Hmmm … the last 5k seems a long way (took me over 40 minutes!) Support is waning but there’s still a lot of people out and plenty of encouragement. And then there it is – the finish line, I’m running now (!), loads of cheering and over the line – and stop. Feels odd stopping, I’ve been racing since 7am and it’s now 21:50.
A medal is hung around my neck and Kenneth, the organiser shakes my hand (as he does with every racer that comes in before midnight).
That’s it – very very hard but I did it. Not sunk in yet as I walk almost aimlessly down the road and away from the crowds. I keep feeling like breaking into a jog – and have to tell myself it’s over now. My mindset all day was to just keep on going, snap out of it! Off to the massage tent …
42k run time: 5 hours 24 minutes.
Total race time: 14 hours and 52 minutes.
So what was the cost?
Apart from the 400 euro entry fee and around half that again on gels / carb / electrolyte powders, a skinny carbon pump, a top or two - I calculated I got through over 10,000 calories and lost 2 kilos. After the massage I could hardly stand or drink anything other than water so it was suggested I go to the IV tent and am put on a drip for 20 minutes – perfect, I’m as right as rain – I’d recommend it to anyone after a race like that.
Did it hurt? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Not really, it was too long and tough for that. Would I do it again? Well on the day registration opened for 2011 I signed up ☺
Now I have something to do again for the next 12 months!