Ironman done (well!)...

Ironman done (well!)...

It's done - we more than survived - all three of us completed the race in great times and raised a chunk of money for charity too...

Here's a brief rundown of events:

The week before

I arrived in Lanzarote on Monday 14th (before the race on Saturday) with my great friend (and world-expert in customer service excellence) Geoffrey Dowell. For the next few days Geoff would be my personal coach - driving me around the Island and its courses, eating the same healthy meals - avoiding alcohol - and even getting up at 4:00 am to have race-day breakfast.

Geoff would be joined later by the logistics team - namely my wife Juliet (in charge of restaurants and medication), David Wigley (photography and logistics), Karen Wigley (having a good time) and various relatives of Mark and Nathan (general cheering and hugging - especially Mark's mad mum).

The first thing to hit us on arrival was the heat - over 40 degrees. The local schools were on ‘amber alert', banning sports - tourists on local islands had died - there was not a breath of wind - and all training during the week became a suffer-fest...

I had a strict timetable of things to do and not do during this final week of tapering. Mainly, I had to watch the weight (because of reduce exercise), drive the bike course, ride the run course, swim some of the swim course, and do a tiny amount of running i.e. 30 minutes and no more.

Geoff was great in helping me avoid pizza, beer and chips - so water and grilled fish it was - at least until carbo-loading the few days before.

We drove the bike course which was fun - but it took four hours! How long would riding it take?

The practice swim was interesting and various lessons were learnt. Namely:

  • To put the wetsuit on the right way round (zip at back) - kindly pointed out to me by an alpha-male German competitor
  • To (try to) swim in a straight line - without the black lines of the swimming pool it's harder than you think.
  • To remember the Vaseline - else very sore bits appear very quickly in the salty water

Food and nutrition

Eating was a challenge - trying not to over-indulge. Staying off the alcohol was also tuff in the heat. But the real test was what to eat in the days before and on race morning. I'd talked in previous blogs about the challenges of fuelling for such a long day. And the key to this begins the evening before the race.

The last two meals are supposed to be carb-based - low fibre, low fat, low protein. So on the evening before we stayed in the hotel and had the buffet on offer. I was reasonably happy with my chips and lambs stew (with added salt), followed by ice cream (with sprinkles). That was until two pro competitors staying in the hotel got their dinners.

Independently, they both ate...melon! Just melon! And then grabbed scores of white bread rolls to take back to their rooms!

I spent the rest of the evening stressing that I'd bunged up my tubes with the wrong stuff and that I'd pay for it during the day on Saturday.

Breakfast was a similar affair. All the guidance said to eat at least two to three hours before the race - so I did. Geoff and I got up at 4 am and had breakfast - the pros weren't there! I decided to have sugar puffs but got confused about the milk part (being mainly fat and protein), so I added orange juice instead (curious taste). Followed by bananas on toast, and strong coffee (to help things move along!).

The Race itself...

The race itself was exciting and more enjoyable than I'd imagined. Arriving at the beach at 5:30 am in the dark to make final preparations (inflate tyres, check bags, get into wetsuit (right way around) was eerie. No tiredness, just adrenaline and excitement.

Mark and I lined up somewhere mid-pack on the swim start - we couldn't find Nathan. The countdown began and the music switched to ‘Eye of the Tiger'! Then the hooter sounded and 1700 testosterone-fuelled athletes (?) charged into the sea. It's impossible to make out any individual during the swim - so it's the last I saw of Mark for seven hours or so.

As a side note, the oldest entrant was born in 1937 - and he made it in just over 16 hours!

Despite best efforts I swam in non-straight lines - often having to make sharp turns to get back into the throng. The first lap was slow as a result (I estimate I added 500m to the lap), but I made up for it a little in the second loop by mixing it up with the crowd - you had to fight a bit and a few feet and arms hit me quite hard - but at least I wasn't wasting time swimming extra distance - and I got some tows off faster swimmers.

Swim split: 1h18m - poor...

The transition to the bike was a completely new experience. A not insignificant run to the changing tent - removing the wetsuit - putting on bike gear, sun cream and then another run to find the bike. Despite knowing where it was, I still managed to run past it by 50m and then had to scramble back against the crowd to finally reach it. I could see my support team through the security fence and they gave me a status update - Mark's swim time: 1:07 (wow!); Nathan: not seen (yet!).

I had a strict plan for the bike. I would ride to my heart rate zones and reserve energy for the run. And that's what I did. I had almost no energy issues and no lows to deal with. Some of the sections were superb - 70+ kph down smooth roads for kilometres at a time. And compared to living in Bath, the hill climbs, even if 2600m total, were relatively easy.

But the ride wasn't completely without issue! I managed to wipe someone out of the race. It wasn't my fault, but it did provide a wake-up call and I did feel sorry for the guy.

I was riding up a hill when my chain came off. I instantly slowed down and tried to unclip from the pedals before I crashed into the lava filled side and ended my own race. Then thud! Into the back of me came another rider who fell to the ground badly. I couldn't see exactly what happened, but I did see him writhing on the floor holding his ankle. It wasn't pretty - probably broken.

I went over and asked if he was OK - he confirmed not. For a moment I did not know what to do: stay or go (‘The Clash' came to mind). But I figured it was his fault (he shouldn't have been so close - especially in a non-drafting race) and there was nothing I could do to help. So after a few minutes, I returned to my bike, fixed the chain, checked to see he hadn't buckled my wheel, tried to clean off all the oil from the hands and set tentatively off. Poor bloke...

With 50 Km to go, I was only five hours into the ride. A shock because I was expecting eight hours total. And with most of the hills behind me my average would be well over 25 kph. I might even complete it in seven hours - making up for the poor swim. I can't remember when, but I caught up with Mark and we rode together for a while - then we seemed to separate again. Nice, I thought - if I could come in ahead of Mark (and assumedly Nathan) on the bike - then at least I would have one notch to my belt before they hauled me in on the run.

Bike split: 6h49m - amazing!

I started the run super excited and enjoyed being slathered in sun cream by two ladies at once. I was so excited in fact that I started the run with my helmet on - but quickly realised and returned to place it in the transition bag. But still too excited, as I still started the run wearing my bike gloves, carrying my puncture repair kit and CO2 gas. Fortunately, I saw the posse early on and was able to stop for an early rest and dispose of the excess baggage.

As with the bike, I had a strategy for the run: control the pace, eat and drink throughout - and hope the previously sprained ankle did not let me down (see earlier blogs on my winjuries). About 5Km in, the ankle really started to hurt - so out came the diclofenac - maximum dose. So long as I could manage the pain and stick to the pace of 5:45/Km I'd be OK. But never having run a marathon before I had no idea what would happen post half-marathon distance. I was sure there'd be a wall to hit, and I was waiting...

But the wall never came. The pain got worse, but the pace remained in control. I knew I'd be damaging the ankle, but now there was an extra prize at stake. An unplanned one. I could actually beat Mark and Nathan. Every time I passed them on one of the loops they both appeared to be losing time. A truly unexpected turn of events.

I guess it's one of those things - that people have good and bad days - and the two youngsters were suffering a bit on the run (I'll leave it them to provide their own accounts of what hit them). To be honest I didn't really care at that point - I was simply doubly motivated to keep up my steady pace - and If I did, then I'd ‘win' (even though it wasn't a race between us, I was happy to take a little pride for coming in ahead of the youngsters J).

What's amazing is the amount of support you receive from friends and non-friends alike. As your name is written on your race belt - lots of people shout your name from all directions. Which reminds me of Mark's mum - who, despite advice to the contrary, insisted on sweaty hugs each time I passed her. Great support!

Run split: 4h02m - stunning

So, all done. I got the medal, photos, cheers and adoration. I then got changed, collected my bike and returned to the stand to await the arrival of Mark and Nathan. It was a superb day with great atmosphere and wonderful support.

A beer that evening was very welcome! But as the adrenalin, caffeine and sugars began to drain from the body - I suddenly felt very like hitting the bed hard. I lay most of the night buzzing around in a half-sleep.

We all woke with a smile, I'm sure...

Predicted Results

  Age Group Swim T1 Bike T2 Run Total Gap Finish Time
Mark 25-29 1:10 :10 7:30 :10 4:00 13:00 +0:00 20h00
Nathan 35-39 1:30 :15 7:45 :15 3:40 13:35 +0:25 20h25
Brett 45-49 1:15 :10 7:45 :10 4:40 14:00 +1:00 21h00

Actual Results

  Age Group Swim T1 Bike T2 Run Total Gap Finish Time
Mark 25-29 1:07 :12 6:58 :09 4:44 13:10 +0:00 20h10
Nathan 35-39 1:20 :15 7:20 :13 4:56 14:05 +0:55 21h05
Brett 45-49 1:18 :09 6:49 :07 4:02 12:26 -0:44 19h26

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