The island of Lanzarote is renowned for it’s unrelenting winds, high hills and hot temperatures. It is a haven for triathletes who want to embark upon some warm weather training, accompanied with blue seas, smooth roads and miles of running trails. The full distance IRONMAN that takes place each May is noted as one of the most difficult in the world, which means that it attracts a strong calibre of athlete, and those who want a challenge like no other.
So when I heard they were introducing a 70.3 distance – 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run I was really keen to take part. I took the plunge and entered, deciding that it was the ideal way to end the racing season, and a perfect opportunity to get together with my club mates away from the cold and rain of the British autumn weather.
So, on Saturday 10th November 2012 I found myself down at the Club La Santa resort, Lanzarote lining up to race. With an 8.05am start time (8am for the pros) it didn’t require an obscenely early alarm clock either, and by the time we arrived it was already starting to get light. We headed down to the swim start down by the lagoon it was instantly striking how many people there were taking part, with one big mass start of over 700 age groupers. It was advised that the faster swimmers who were anticipating a 30 minute or less swim place themselves further forward so to get a clear start so to break out the packs.
The swim was what can only be described as absolute madness. It was incredibly busy, with many swimming completely off course, and a number of these deciding to walk through the shallow banks of the lagoon. I never got into my swimming stride, and it became clear that to get ahead was more about positioning yourself correctly and defending the space around you. I finished the swim feeling pretty battered, although was undeterred and pleased to be able to escape up to my bike.
The route up to transition was about 200m in length and involved a run up from the lagoon to the stadium. An ample number of volunteers were ready and happy to assist where needed, and it was very easy to find my bike and leave onto the bike course.
The bike course started out with a gentle climb up to the village of Soo. It was quite cool in the morning sun, and the winds seemed to be relatively tame at this stage, which meant it was quite easy to get into a good rhythm. I had to consistently remind myself of the importance of pacing myself well, with the understanding that I had a long day ahead of me. The road up to Teguise village, the first long climb, was pretty brutal, despite not being a particularly steep section, it hurt nonetheless as the strong headwind really hit hard. Weaving through Teguise there was plenty of support and it was a welcome relief from the surrounding winds.
Onwards from Teguise was the long road out to the ‘highlight’ of the bike course – the Tabayseco climb. This section involved over 500 metres of climbing over about 7km which means that is was a particularly challenging section of the course. Reaching the base of the climb was pretty daunting. Looking up and seeing the distant outline of a café at the very top, and making out the faint markers of the many switchbacks leading up towards the peak laid reminder of what was to come. I made the decision to select an easy gear with high cadence, pushing on through and actually ended up really enjoying it. The majority of it was sheltered from the wind, although it was steep in places, most of it was simply made up of a slow and steady ascent.
The route back to Club La Santa was relatively fast from there onwards, with a satisfying descent back down the other side of the mountain and back onwards to Teguise, back through Famara and Soo. I decided to spin my legs out for the final hill down to La Santa, taking in a gel and some electrolyte to prepare myself for the half marathon run.
Arriving in T2 we were advised to rack our bikes one after the other, and I was able to see that a good number of bikes had made it back already, My legs felt strong and comfortable, and I was able to move through transition quickly to start out on the run.
The run is not a particularly difficult route, moving along a coastal road from Club La Santa out right towards the end of La Santa village and back again. However, the small inclines both on the journey out and back meant that it was by no means a flat course and the unrelenting winds meant that there was a considerable headwind (I never remember feeling any tailwinds!) in many places.
Feed stations were well stocked with plenty of coke, Power Bar energy drink, bananas, gels, sponges and water. Volunteers were friendly and attentive, and clear in their guidance. After an injury prone and inconsistent running season I found that I was running heavy, and could not maintain the pace of a lot of people around me. Despite this, my nutrition (of a bag of crisps, coke and water) worked well and I felt strong, even if not as quick as I had hoped.
The finish was great, and I enjoyed running through the official IRONMAN finisher banner. It was really good to see the Race Director, Kenneth Gasque there on the finishing line, and he took the time to shake the hands of finishers and congratulate us on our achievement.
I finished in 6 hours 2 minutes, which was slightly over my target time of 5 hours 45, but still gave me 4th place in my age category and 27th overall (including the pros).
I would certainly recommend IRONMAN 70.3 Lanzarote to anyone looking for their next 70.3 challenge. It is a well organised, fantastically located and challenging event. The swim portion could do with some amendments, so that it becomes less of a scramble, but the bike and run sections were thoroughly enjoyable. Roll on 2013!
For more information about the IRONMAN 70.3 Lanzarote event, and to see a full range of results and photographs then please visit, www.ironman703lanzarote.com