Ironman Lanzarote 2011 Report

Most of this written on the plane on the way home, edits done over the following two weeks, mostly due to laziness, mostly as I didn’t want to think about the race and its implications. i’ll post up the post race bit over the next few days, as well as changes, ideas and what I’d adopt differently


Its two days now since the race and time to put my ideas about the race week down. Sitting on the flight home after an epic check in experience where apparently having one to many CO2 cans in your bag, or something that looks like one, will cause the end of the world in the eyes of a single employee of SwissAir. Last weeks IM Talk in my ears is more of a white noise than an actual piece of entertainment.

Lead in Week:

The lead in taper to the race was less horrendous than expected. Brain had not taken the usual dump it has done in past events, saying that most had been either short intense events or events like the 3 Peaks where I’ve been working hard until the last possible moment.

Russ had given me a pretty good lead in and I felt great. The travelling over on the Monday did not wear me down as expected. Arriving into the same time-zone during the day, but increasing the temperature by 10 degrees or so can only be described as easy. Bit more hydration, bit slower walking, but arriving building bikes and going to bed straight way was perfect.

Most mornings were spent down at the swim site. Crystal clear water, temperatures the same as the pool in the University pool, swimming with fish made it a pleasure to swim. The IM loop took us down the beach against the tide, then a quick return back to the beach.

long day in the saddle, up over Femes by mistake at the end, on Tuesday was offset by an easy Wednesday and then a similar Thursday. Quick meet up with Russ in the morning, good to meet the coach face to face, went over some race ideas and talked about what was going on with others. Renting a car to head over to CLS to register allowed us to drive the course for Mike to see and get an idea of the course. Driving the ratty road at Nazerat made the decision that any fluid/tubs/teeth that you wanted to keep on your bike needed to be on secure and having an aid station before Nazerat is a stupid place for one. The food at CLS was excellent, although at this point I was wondering if I could actually eat my own body weight in food. Rolling into bed after registering the race was starting to get a bit more real, but at the same time I think I was less nervous now than I was over a month earlier when I was wondering if I’d done enough training/thinking/preparing.

Friday left me with two things to do; spin the bike and legs, pack transition bags and drop them off. A quick spin in the morning sorted out a minor shifting issue for the 53/11 and a quick jog to the 1km turn point on the run sorted out my brain for the fact that my left calf was not screwed…I was paranoid…surprising ehy? Nice dinner that was the same as normal, in bed by 9pm and out cold by 9:15pm. Who says you can’t sleep before an Ironman?

Race Day:

Pre-Race Prep:

Woke up at 5am sharp feeling great. Little to no nerves over breakfast and found it easy enough to eat and start getting some fluid back in. Having bags in T1 and T2 made it a lot easier to just wake up and get on with things. No thinking about if I’d forgotten something as if it wasn’t down there, it wasn’t going in. Nice place to be as it just made the morning swing on by. Wandering about T2 looking for a porta-potty not already full left me beside the pro bikes getting to leave a nice little surprise for Mike and then Natasha Badman.

Squeezed into the wetsuit beside Jo Carritt and wandered down to flush the suit and flush the bladder. Quick chunk of water into the suit and walk straight over the the swim start with 1400 odd other penguins looking forward to getting going.

Swim: 3.8km, 1hour 13mins

First IM swim start and it felt no different than any other swim start. Usual nervous chatter, usual smell of urine, usual bubbles in my stomach just wanting to get it going. Think we were about 2/3 down the pack on the right side, but even as we were walking into the water we were passing those who wanted to move further back in the pack. START AT THE BACK if you want to swim at the back. Honestly I was expecting the swim to the first buoy to be harder and more physical. I moved into the middle of the pack and got pulled to the first buoy and got no impacts, didn’t have to sight and didn’t have to breaststroke as people panicked realising they were in the wrong place.

I placed into a nice bunch of about 20 swimmers on the left side near enough to the front to be able to pull off or bridge, but not having to put any effort in for the whole swim to the long turn point. The turn came very fast and the water had brightened up for the return leg. A bit of sighting to make the quickest line and we were down to a group of about 10 people 2 of which I swam the entire 3.8km with. Exiting the water with the guy in the Orca suit, no idea who you were dude but we swam well as a team, a quick nod and we hit the second lap together each taking turns to bridge and draft off each other to jump up a few bunches. The second lap required some sighting, some work and mostly just a case of pacing it so my shoulder stayed ok. The last 500m of the swim was the only part that I remember working. Not pushing hard but getting myself away from a pack so as to have a clear exit up to transition….comparatively clear.

T1: to long

Manic. Body parts out every where. People getting sick in the corner. Gels being crammed in. Lots of sun cream being smeared on. I took my time, put what I needed where I wanted it and just jogged up to my bike. Socks and shoes on, walk the section to the timing mat, push past the people waiting to mount, quick CX mount and on my way.

Bike: 180.6km, 6hours 38mins

Clip clip, drink drink. Cyclocross makes getting on your bike much much easier for triathlon. Iced water bottle on the bars had just melted and cold fresh water into my mouth was a great feeling as I rolled through the strip drinking an ice cold drink instead of others sticky warm drinks. Letting my ego stay a few km behind me at this stage I just let everyone ride past me. People riding up the first climbs in 53/17 and already sucking in air like it was going out of fashion. Heart rate below 140bpm, power below 190W never working just hydrating and taking on some food.

Hitting the highway descent down to El Golfo was the first time I tried to open my legs up a bit. Bring it up to 220W for a few mins and then ramp back down again. Easy places gained but nothing out of the tank. Looking at people descending on the brakes rather than tucked made me wonder how they were going to get on on the descent off Haria and Mirador del Rio. This was also about the point where things started to go wrong. Wind resulted in me working a little on some of the rolling sections to keep pace which resulted in me missing a feed target or two as I had to watch out for people who couldn’t ride their bikes. By the time I left he El Golfo loop I was finding it hard to put solids in. What went in, went out. Luckily for me nothing came up with it, it just popped out everytime it got about half way down my oesophagus. No idea what caused this but it was going to be a major issue later in the race.

This resulted in having to switch to a fluid and gel based stratagy a lot earlier than expected. I know I can do this from past races, but it was not on the plan, I was a little freaked out so backed down more on the bike. This resulted in lost time, lost energy, and loss of sanity somewhat. By the time I hit CLS it had dawned on me that I’d blown the bike portion. There was no way I was going to hit targets, I’d need to just ride to the best of my ability and try to offset the run later in the day. IT was a pretty depressing moment and the only thing that kept me going was knowing that I was going to complete my first Ironman no matter if it took me 12 or 17 hours. This was never an option. If you decide to stop, you may as well just give up on everything. Commit to Sparkle Motion.

Climb up to Soo then down into Famara was as fun as I remember it. At this point no one was coming past me, I was working my way through the field and realised that others were having a much worse day than me. Climbing up to Teguise felt easy until we turned at the roundabout and I realised just how strong a tail wind we had as my front nearly washed out with the wind.. Teguies to Haria was fun in the strangest of senses, just spinning and getting on with climbing, not worrying about the fact that I still couldn’t eat. Grabbing course nutrition made it a little easier to keep the fluid down and I was pretty certain that I was hydrated again. The climb up to Haria was great fun, riding away from people I’d been with for most of the day as they over cooked on the earlier slopes. Just riding. Not pushing. Never riding over the 300W cap for the hills.

At the top of Haria I took my special needs bag, pulled over, dismounted and changed my bottles to Torq and dug around. Found the cashews that Pauline had given me, ate them all…they stayed down…hmm…ate the chocolate biscuits…hmm they stayed down too….ate two Torq bars and a Mule bar…awesome…they are in! Drank a bottle and ditched it. Then started the descent. Turns out my body was ok to resume buisness. Descending into Tabayasco down the hairpins was great…bar nearly washing on one corner and holding a two wheel skid (cyclocross I love you) there were no major issues. Pulled the numbers up to 250W and decided this was being held come hell or high water. The short climbs up to Mirabor were no issue even though it had started to hot up.

Mirabor climb is beautiful. Just a pleasnt place to be, even more so as you ride past groups of people. Descending Mirabor was a joy, except for the pothole I hit where I am convinced I snapped my forks, and rolling down all the way pushing 70kph for most of it had me hitting the highway feeling strong and confident and ready to finally open up. Rode the highway low and fast, just like a TT, knowing that I could at least enjoy this section. Eased off on the climb back to Teguise as the wind was insane on the hill and then turned onto the Nazerat road. Nearly lost both tubs here but made it through with no issues unlike several others I passed. Left then down down down and up the final climb above PDC.

The last section was an amazing descent. Down the donkey track as fast as you can only touching the brakes on one section. Hoping this was actually a closed section of road as I just railed every corner as hard as possible and pushed out to the fastest speed I got all day. Spinning the legs down the final section talking to myself, knowing that I felt good, not ideal, but the marathon was going to be a breeze.

T2: 11mins …WTF Greg…WTF

Mentally preparing myself over the last few km of the bike I knew what was going to happen and what I needed to do. I needed to get some food in, I needed to get some suncream on, I needed to get more food in. The lack of food on the bike had effected the bike and I needed it effect as little of the run as possible. This resulted in a stupidly long T2. Sadly this was needed, sadly it was not enough.

Run: 42.2km, 4hours 39mins

So my first ever marathon. After a 3.8km swim and a 180km bike. Some would say foolhardy, some would say stupid, some said brave. I mostly said ‘Mih’. I’ve always believed if you ignore something enough it cannot possible be as bad as you expect. Splitting the brain from the body allows us to push harder, albiet not fast in my case, but you can always step past what others think is possible for you. Fuck them.

Lap one out to the airport the plan had been to run easy and run smooth. Walked the aid stations to take on some water and ice in the pants, soothing, just kept pushing out 5:15min/km pace on the running all the way out to the turn. A head wind all the way out was punishing and with no one to draft behind, bar the people I was passing, I was having to run that bit harder than I wanted to be running at. Still pushed 50mins for the first 10km, bang on target, bang on schedule.

After the turn we’d talked about how I’d probably start to over heat. As much ice as possible into pockets and pants, several cups of water and sponges over my head and by half way back I’d already dried out. Little to no shelter resulted in a gradual burning heat that went away every aid station. At the turn point for the second and third lap it all went wrong. Pace dropped down, running became shorter, slower, much much slower. Finally playing catchup with fuel had ended. No amount of coke, gels, juice, or anything else would a dig me out of this, but fuel needed to keep coming in to make sure it didn’t get any worse.

The turn for the second shorter lap came and went after a far to long period. Running up thorough the strand in Peurto del Carmen it was impossible to stop….mostly. Running back out was a world of pain both physically and mentally not only did I know that I’d blown my aim time, but I’d also probably blown the second goal of 12 hours. Passing Russ without him seeing me on the way back I was happy not to be looking at him or anyone else I knew at this point. Proper deep pit at this point. Caffeine caffeine caffeine you little wonder drug. First caffeinated gel went in followed by two mouthfuls of coke at each aid station. Pace was still declining but mental state was rising a bit. I spotted Pauline at this point and then I knew that I needed to keep moving at her pace or faster to avoid being chicked…again.

Turing for the last lap resulted in mental calculations knowing that 12:30 was possible and sub 13 a given unless something went well. More caffeine, more caffeine, more Coke. Realised why I hate drinking lots of cold drinks as my teeth were on edge. All I wanted was a mint or something not sweet. Salty pretzles at one aid station filled this void as I reached the turn at 12:17 realising that there was no way I was going to run the last 6km in 13mins…even on a good day.

The wheels had come off, but it was agreed that sub 13 was not going out of my reach. 2 hours off what was expected on a good day, 1 hour of what I expected as a minimum. Stepping it up, ‘running’ out of the aid stations had 5:45min/km never feeling so fast. As the last km came to sight it was a given that this was going to happen. Smiles out legs felt fresh run home and just run.

Finish: 12hours 50mins 12 seconds

As I stood waiting to have my finishers shot taken, some British lad decided to take his time making an Atalas pose, I realised I’d done what I set out to. Sitting in the seat after the finish line looking at my medal I had one to add to the 70.3 medal but it needed a friend. A much longer friend too.

Post Race:

I was tired the next day, and the next few days, but nowhere near as sore as I’d expected. Went for a swim the day after, took the week off after it, haven’t touched the bike, but did a 30km run week at altitude last week so it can’t be too bad.

Depression. That’s I know at the moment. I’ve not come to terms with such a massive failure at a goal that had been sitting over me for months. Its just been a cluster – f**K of events and this was possibly the cherry on top. BUT….I did my first IM. I cannot take that away from myself. It was nowhere as hard as I’d thought, possibly as I wasn’t going hard enough. It was a great experience and I enjoyed the day in an odd kind of way. Quite a bit actually.



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