Sunday, 3 June 2012

Ironman Lanzarote 2012

Saturday May 19th 2012. 7am.

So, my A+ race for 2012, and the reason I actually started all this triathlon stuff.

The Cuthbert crew arrived into Lanza early on the Sunday before race day, with a view to getting sufficiently acclimatised, and to get some invaluable practice on the swim route that would be used on race day.

On arrival, the weather forecasts had turned out to be very accurate, and from the Sunday we arrived, through to race day, the temperature was on average 38 degrees. Too hot to race!!

My plan had a 60 min easy run scheduled for that first day in Lanza, and the heat nearly persuaded me to shelve it. But it was an opportunity to try out the planned attire for the run in some very hot conditions, and also a chance to actually run out on the course itself. Turned out to be a useful session, and the white, long sleeve 'SUB' compression top worked well, wicking a lot of moisture away.

The next morning, a trip to the airport to pick up Mum, Dad, Barbara, Sue & Dave, and our holiday/support crew was all in place.

The period from Monday thru to Friday was, as planned, all about swimming the race lap. I did it every day, except Friday, which was just a 20 minute easy paddle half way round, with newly acquired friends, Phil, Ivan & Gordon. Only point to note from this day was the jellyfish sting I got on the right ankle.


I had driven up to La Santa on the Thursday, (with Phil, Gordon and Ivan) to register, and attend the race briefing, and after being entertained by Kenneth Gasque (race director), we all decided not to hang about, so after a brief whizz round the expo to buy a little extra nutrition, we all returned to PdC to continue with race day prep.

That (Thursday) night, all the family went out for a meal, but I stayed at the villa to keep relaxed.

So, to the Friday, and one job was a final 5 minute bike check/ride, to ensure gears, brakes etc were all good to go, (which, as I was to find out, was not as good, or attentive a check as it should have been!).

All ready to rack

I had a plan drawn up for this race day eve, and was determined to stick to it. So at 5pm, I had my usual pre race meal of pasta, chicken breast with a little pesto, and fresh, multi-grain bread.


Whilst racking up, I managed to find a Lanza 'vet', and fellow AJ Coaching team member. I took the opportunity to pick up some useful 'local knowledge' about this beast of a race. This year was Candice's 5th Lanza on the spin, and she nailed it this year again with a 11.5 hour finish! Inspirational racing Candice! One day I will catch you...

GO Team AJC!!
Again, on this pre-race evening, everyone left the villa to go for a nice meal at the harbour, and I went to bed at 7.45pm.
I was tired, but didn't fall asleep until about 9.30pm, with the alarm set for 4.45am.

Race Day.
I beat the alarm by about 30 mins, so a good sleep was had, considering the excitement/edgyness which was building to a crescendo quite nicely.
I had the 'regulation' coffee & porridge, and then re-checked the warm-up bag was complete. I had a special needs bag for the bike, but left it in the villa.
Luckily, it was never needed!
My 'IronWife' Ange then drove me down, and dropped me off outside Hotel Fariones, about a 2 minute walk from transition. Hugs were exchanged, and I set off for the 7am swim start.
I bumped into Phil and the Mersey Tri lads (Andy, Steve, and Paddy), and we all had a chat before splitting and heading to the beach.

The atmosphere in the waiting pen was actually quite relaxed, and after some geeing up from the multi-linguistic PA, the horn went off at 7.02am (on my watch anyways.)
As usual I waited, and walked in slowly, probably in the latter third of the 1600 or so racers. I was expecting a little bit of a bumpy start, and started to the right, so it wasn't that bad. I was soon sighting the first buoy, and the 45 degree left turn, so I started angling in for the turn. Needless to say it got a little more bumpy here, but no major hits were taken. On having made the turn I was breathing predominantly to the right, so looking out to sea, but I had a peek to the left, and found I was about only 8 feet or so off the line of buoys. Not planned, a little crowded, but I was managing to maintain a good rhythm, so I stuck where I was. Only trouble was changing the feet I was drafting off, as we were all trying to do the same thing.
On turning after the second buoy, I did have a small leak into the goggles, so took 20 seconds or so to fix it. I didn't have to re-do this again.

The second lap was fairly similar to the first, just less crowded on re-entering the water.
And the splits told me that both laps were actually very similar, with just 5 seconds between the first lap of 37.37, and the second of 37.32.
So, very much a case of goal achieved here, as I started up the beach for the T1 tent, with an official swim split of 1.15.09. Bang on plan!

All happy after a solid swim.

T1 was regulation, just slower than it should have been! AND I left my wetsuit on the floor...never to be found again. The run up the slope to the bike, and bike exit all went fine. No dramas.
Fuel on board at the start of the bike was - x 6 powerbars, x 6 Gu gels (choc, espresso, & choc & raspberry-caffeine). Fluids were just the aero bottle filled with water only, as I would pick up x3 bottles at the first aid station. I had been training for 2 months on the powerbar energy drink that was being given out, so  it was good to leave T1 quite 'light'.
On pulling away from the start/finish line, I just heard Ange and the crew cheer me out, and very kindly, someone snapped this.

ready to bike!!!

The plan was to use HR first, then 'feel' to gauge the bike effort, just as per Tenby, which had worked very well. The early, very fast drag down towards El Golfo was a pleasure, and I suspect it was 30+ mph all the way down there, with a very comfortable L3 HR.
The first of the work came dropping into Famara as a headwind pinned us back.
Just before this drop into the windsurfer's paradise though, was when the bike problem started. 
Whilst going through a village, and dropping off one of the half a dozen or so quite big speed bumps, I immediately heard a loud hissing type sound from the front end. Puncture! was my first thought, and I then waited for the loss of pressure. I waited 30 seconds or so, but kept going. Still no flat. Then I realised that it was the front brake rubbing quite substantially on the front rim. Still not having stopped, I slowed a little, and managed to manhandle the front calliper to prevent the rubbing. 

This was a temporary fix, as I would find out later, and on the long drag up from Famara, it started to rub again, seemingly after I stood out of the saddle to give the backside a 20 second rest.
Again, another 'on the move' adjustment to the calliper seemed to remedy the issue.

So, to the meat and drink of this amazing bike course, starting with the climb up to, & through Teguise. At this point the wind was at its worse, but all opinions of the day, seem to agree that the wind had been 'favourable'.
My brake was behaving at this point thankfully.
The belters that are the climbs out of Teguise, and the then on up through Haria, and onto the Mirador, really are a cyclists dream, and you certainly feel like you have worked!

Even though I had ridden 95% of the course last year, a wrong turn then had led me to miss the very final climb to the summit at Mirador. 
This is almost certainly one of the most breathtaking views in Ironman Cycling, and the drop off the other side, all the way down to Arrieta, is almost certainly one of the fastest (if you want it to be!).

Belter of a climb!

The next point worth mentioning, is a lesson learnt for a novice traveller/racer like me. 
On re-assembling the bike after dismantling it to fly over to Lanza, I did not re-tighten the aero bar clamp enough. 
This, then turned out to be the reason the front brake was jamming on. This happened first, when I had gone over the speed ramps, and 'landed' on the other side of it, and the impact had caused the aero bars to drop very slightly, but enough to pull on the internally routed brake cable, hence causing the brake to engage.

I took me 3 incidents to work this out (durrrr!), and after the 3rd occasion on the 'cobbled' 2 mile road near Nazaret, I actually had to stop, as the bars had dropped substantially, and the brake was pretty much locked on, due to the horrendous road surface and constant heavy vibration. 

When I stopped here, it was to actually try and break/snap my front cable with a piece of 'moonrock', such was my frustration. 
I couldn't break the cable, so in my frustration I had inadvertently pulled up on the aero bars, and................ voila!!

Problem solved.
Lesson learnt.
Time lost, estimated 10 minutes.

This resolution actually gave me a new lease of life, and the last 60 mins or so flew by, with the last 20k being one of the most enjoyable finishes to an Ironman bike section...very technical and very fast.

Nailing it!
The plan to duplicate the Tenby bike effort had worked well, and spookily enough the difference in the Lanza/Tenby bike splits was just 53 seconds!!
The official Lanza bike split was 6.50.16, with an ave speed of 16.35mph.
I suspect it would have been closer to a 6.40 without the schoolboy error I made!!
Next time eh?

The finish of the bike and T2 would be just fine right? Not quite.
On rolling up to the start/finish dismount line, it was very crowded, with about 6 or so of us all squeezing through, I looked down for a milli-second to assess the shoes, and the next thing I heard was 3 loud pings, and the realisaton that my front wheel had collided with the rear-mech/cassette on the bike directly in front of me, and 3 spokes had snapped!

This caused a major buckle on my front, so much so, the wheel would not spin, so this  forced me to 'wheelie' the bike up through T2.

The T2 tent was uneventful, with helpful volunteers, and me ensuring I was encased in my long sleeve, white compression top, shades & cap, to combat the very hot conditions.

My transition times, one day, will improve.

So, out onto the run, and the down point of the race for me (well, part of it was).

The first, longer, 20k ish lap was a very steady effort, with a tried and tested (at Tenby) method of walking the aid stations, to ensure any nutrition was taken on board properly. An addition here was the sponges. I grabbed 4 at the first opportunity, jammed them up on my shoulders, and replaced/recharged them at every chance.

During that first 20k or so, (looking back on it), I think I may have just drunk a little too much water, as from this point on was when it got hotter/tougher, my stomach did feel a tad unsettled. Not to the point of needing a toilet visit, but it made me feel a litttle 'dodgy'.

The support I had out on the run course from Ange, Jacob, Charlie, Mum, Dad, Barbara, Sue & Dave was awesome, and the mad waving of the Welsh flags was a sight to see! 

It was around this stage of the run, the mental battle, (which, to this point I had won) ramped up.

The bad 'voice' then showed his trump hand, and on the turn back out of the start/finish line I walked a little.

It was now a game of walk a little, the run a little. 
NOT part of my plan.

grinding it, not nailing it!
On reaching the last turn around point, I resumed control in the mind games, and decided that enough was enough, and it was time to find out if it was, per chance, the legs that had failed.

As expected 'AJ Coached' legs rarely fail, and I 'sailed' through the last 3 miles or so, with plenty left in the legs to milk up the loud support approaching the finish chute.

What a way to finish!!

As planned, I picked up J&C about 200 yds out, and we all went triumphantly down that chute to the waiting Kenneth.

The marathon split was, a frankly, disappointing 4.36.48, with the highlights only at the front, and back end of this run effort.

Official finish time - 13.01.01. Hmmmm.

I also bumped into the Activity Wales chaps, Matt and Stephen, (thanks for the chat up out of Famara guys!), and a certain Oliver Simon, at the finish too, and much backslapping ensued, with a great pic to remind me.

Ironmen all!

So, the medal, t-shirt and time splits print out all safely picked up, it was back up to our villa for a chill, courtesy of Mum & Sue, whilst Ange & Dave did the horrible job of dragging the (broken) bike all the way back down the strip to the car!! THANKS Mrs C.!!!

To conclude, this race is actually the beast that it is made out to be, and I would whole heartedly recommend it to any one that races Ironman. 
I will be going back, that is for sure.
However, I will never lose sight of the fact that my ability to actually compete in these unbelievable race experiences is down to a couple of very important factors.

One is the completion of the training, which I am proud to receive in the form of a structured, yet achievable plan, as designed by my amazing, supportive fellow 'Jack', and Ironman vet coach Adrian Jones (who, previously has qualified for Kona in Lanzarote!). 
AD -  you da guvner!

Another is having our business, with a strong team of employees, and a couple of amazing manager/supervisors, which enables my training to be as flexible as I like.

Also, my little men Charlie & Jacob, (who I am constantly assured will be Ironmen one day soon), for the drive and inspiration they give me to do my best.
And most importantly, to have the absolutely unquestioning support and love from my wife, who has seen me through, on the long journey's to Ironman glory at Wales, and now Lanzarote.
Team Cuthbert.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff - congrats! So would you put Wales or Lanza at the top of the difficulty and best experience list?