16th Overall, 3rd in Age Group (35-39), first Brit !
Headed out to Lanzarote the Monday before the race with John and Jo who were racing also together with a mass of supporters – my mum, sister and nephew as well as Jo’s mum, sister and brother. My usual preparations started on the Tuesday with swimming the course and doing 2-3 hours of biking each day. As I tried out each discipline I was getting quietly optimistic about the race as I was feeling strong in each. My training this year has been going awesomely well and I felt I’d absorbed a tonne more training than through any other winter. This was the first time I was tapering and it was really exciting to see what I could do.
I’d decided on my race plan and I think the only person I’d told was my mum. I was going to follow the approach for Longest Day for much the same reasons. I wanted to test out my cycling and whether the volume was paying off. Thus I would take the swim steady and then race the bike like there was no run and just see what would happen on the bike.
Thursday morning a spanner was put in the works when I found my wetsuit had been stolen from our balcony. A made to measure Snugg – very gutting and not ideal a couple of days before the event. After breakfast Jo and I headed to the swim course so i could see if it was feasible to swim without one (I doubted it). On the way there we bumped into Barry and Julie from Tri Sport Epping – we’d kept bumping into them (at the airport, then in our hotel) so perhaps is was fate. I told them what had happened and Barry pointed at Julie and said I could use her wetsuit. Now, she must be a foot shorter than me so I was slightly skeptical but he went on to say it was his old wetsuit. It fit more or less perfectly !! Just had to remember it zipped the opposite way and the legs weren’t cut short like mine so it was trickier to get off.
Up at 4am for banana mashed with peanut butter and mixed with cheese. It does help settle the nerves as I so enjoy it. Transition the usual buzz as everyone quietly checks their bike in the dark and puts on wetsuits.
This race is a beach start and the pen is quite narrow. I placed myself right at the front of the agegroupers to the right hand side to try and get clear water as soon as possible ahead of the the first turn (to the left).
The gun went followed by the rush down the beach, through the surf, dive in – going well. Water filling my goggles, thats a first, now can’t sight, need to clear them. Stop, quickly clear them, swim again. They start to fill again, need to stop do it properly, roll onto my back, clear them, look back to see this mass of swim caps coming towards and think I better get going as I don’t want to get caught in that. My goggles are now OK and I’m soon at the first turn. I feel I’m swimming smoothly and can see other swimmers to my left and none to my right. I’m passing people left right and centre, not needing to lift my head to sight, concentrating on long clean strokes. Coming back at the end of the first lap I’ve now got lovely clear water, can focus on my pace and line. You have to run out up the beach between laps. As ever my quad feels almost cramp like as I sprint up the beach. I note this but am not too concerned as it always seems to be the case. Just think take it easy coming out of the second lap. First lap in 27:55… it’s going well. By about halfway through the second lap I”m amongst one or two swimmers the same pace and swim together into the finish. My mind walks through T1 and the first few miles on the bike. I’m getting focussed on pushing hard on the bike early on, really hard. The reason for this is I’ve found on my long rides I’ve come stronger later on. I don’t want to be strong at mile 120 on the bike since I won’t be cycling (if u see what I mean) so I felt the best way to get that feeling quickly is to push like a made man.
My quad feels ok so I spring up the beach. I’m well up the field (28:22 2nd lap and 38th out of the swim) and am the only one on the carpet – the crowd support is support. “Looking good”, “fantastic swimming”. T1 goes relatively well other than really struggling to get the wetsuit over my heels. The lady putting on suncream says “keep calm, it won’t come off quicker if u get angry at it” – just the right thing to say.
Out onto the bike and it feels awesome – down the sea front I am already passing loads of cyclists. As the first 40k unfolds I cannot believe it, never had this on the bike – I felt I was just cutting straight through the field. I passed pros on the bike !! That just doesn’t happen and no one was catching me. I was passing what looked like strong cyclists on the flat, powering a bigger gear than they were able – this just doesn’t happen. I got to fire mountain and my chain comes off – that shouldn’t happen. I stayed calm, stopped put it back on and then got back into my rhythm. Coming down Fire mountain I was in my top gear, on the tri bars absolutely flying – passed a couple of age groupers and a pro – I was doing about 44mph ! Stayed down on the tri bars through all the sweeping curves and when I looked back had completely dropped them all – this was just going so well.
Now I could sense I was well up the field – the gaps between riders were big. Often I couldn’t see riders ahead or behind. Everyone once in a while I’d catch a set of riders and go past and the odd rider would pass me. There were sections where there’d be pacing with a group – it felt like description of Kona races where u pace each other – ie – keep about 15m behind a rider, as they tire u go through and they drop 15m behind to get paced. It’s unspoken but this happened several times. Heading up Mirador del Haria and Mirador del Rio I dropped the guys that had been pacing with me. My average speed was just below 21mph – this was going great, my target was 20mph and that was based on being below it at this point. At the del Rio feedstation I managed to grab energy drink and powerbars. All set for the return I shot down the hill, hit a massive pothole as I rejoined the main road. It was so hard I slowed down to give my bike a once over and it also stopped my bike computer from working.
The ride back in was into a head wind so was tougher than we’d expected but I still felt strong and continued pushing. The last few kms are downhill or with the wind. I was able to switch my focus to T2 and the run now. What would I feel like on the run ? Excited thoughts were creeping in that I could be strong based on how training has gone.
By the time I was entering T2 I’d moved up into the top 20. I saw no other athletes in T2, the crowd was great, I felt like I was right at the cutting edge of this race. My 5:22:45 bike split meant the support crew almost missed me as it was minutes ahead of what I’d said was my fastest target split! I was buzzing.
T2 was super fast – 2:04 and this included stopping as I ran out to sort out the tongues.
Running the first lap was awesome as the crowd knew I was one of the leaders and gave great support. I decided to set my pace based on feel so didn’t plan to check my watch till the end of each of the 4 laps. The first lap felt so comfortable but I seriously held myself back – I think all my previous Ironman races (other than Longest Day) my pace has had a sudden drop at 10 miles and I didn’t want this happening again.
I was looking forward to seeing Jo and John and gauging how they were doing. As I ran out I expected to see John coming in on the bike. I reckoned i’d be about 5 minutes ahead after the swim and we’d be similar on the bike. I didn’t see him till about 3/4 through the first lap which I hoped was a reflection of how well my bike had gone rather than his. Jo cheered me on as she came in and I finished my first lap.
My tummy wasn’t feeling great so I decided I should stop to pee and then skip several feed stations to let it settle. The stop allowed Jo to get ahead of me on the course. I saw here at the turnaround and now had a focus – try and catch her. My tummy had settled and I felt I was cruising and in control. Could I make inroads on Jo – could I hell. I had quickly got within about 50m of her but couldn’t close that gap. She was clearly flying.
Into my third lap and mine and Jo’s family were screaming me on – u can catch her. Julie was giving shouts further down, then there were Peter’s family, an american lady that had noted Jo and I were from the same club. A load of londoners in the a bar at the far end. All these various people we’d met in the week running up – it was great.
By the turnaround I’d caught Jo and gone by. Now I was focusing on the dream sub 10 hour race at Lanzarote. If I managed a 3rd lap the same speed as the 2nd I would have about 65 minutes for the last. This kept me pushing to the end of that lap. Then I thought – keep that pace for half a lap more and you’ll have 40 minutes for just over 5km. As I Jo and I passed on my way out on the 4th she shouted at me — can’t remember the precise words but it was more or less push this last lap. Just the right thing to say – I conciously pushed and I felt great, felt stronger than at any other point on the run. Coming back towards the finish I just thought “enjoy this” – I soaked up the atmosphere already knowing I’d nailed a awesome time – exceeding my hopes.
Hit the line shaking my fists in 9::46:28.
Not only had I had a blistering bike but I’d backed it up with a very very consistent run: 3:20:34 (the 4 laps were: 47:48, 50:45, 51:00, 51:03). I was 16th overall – I was stunned, couldn’t quite believe it. 3rd in my age group. The other great thing was that finally my swim was my worst discipline (38th) and my bike best (26th)… now there’s a turnaround !