Lanzarote Supporting

TLanzaroteSupporting.jpghe photo was taken seconds after the gun at Ironman Lanzarote. It shows the first age groupers hitting the water and you can just see the legs of the pros. The pros may start 10m or so ahead on the beach but the lack of a run up to the water more or less negates this advantage. Having raced this twice and supported twice I can tell you that the swim start looks far more intimidating watching than participating.

I thoroughly enjoyed the build up to this race. I had all the fun of the buzz and having friends around, LOTS of friends around but without the impending nerves. I trained hard with Russ each day and had long relaxed meals with all the guys out to race. I had four athletes racing and it was great to get to spend some time with them ahead of the race and be hands on in helping with their final preparations. We also had virtually everyone from the camp back  for the race. There we loads of Tri Londoners racing and several come over to support.

The day before the race I made myself scarce with Russ and Tomas by riding the Ocean Lava bike course. There’d been a lot of talk about how hard Russ and I ride and that Tomas was being gutsy to come with us. Now… I can ride hard and I do but this reputation I appear to get about being a scary person to ride with I believe is unfounded. I don’t mind waiting for people at the top of climbs or turn back for them and very rarely do I chose to just try and drop someone … if I do they probably deserve it ;o) (eg if they push the pace early on and fade later). Anyway … Tomas plucked up the courage to come and Russ and I both felt some pressure to perform. This was especially the case as Tomas had showed us his power files the night before. He was fairly new to power so we introduced him to some tools and analysed the data. Based on this I thought there was a chance he’d be dropping us on the climbs. He sensibly sat on our wheels early for the ride. Many riders make the mistake of feeling obliged to do some time on the front even when they’re with stronger riders – they then pop later. Tomas didn’t and he didn’t … he stuck with us the whole way and recorded best ever CP15 wattage as he hung on to Russ’s wheel up fire mountain as he tried to catch me (in vane) on fire mountain ! We had a fun race up Femes … I got a jump mid climb, allowing me to ease off ahead of the steep bit, Russ got on my wheel just before the final bend before I hammered, getting best ever CP1 to get to the top first. Two coffees were earnt. This is a great route and a definite addition to the EverydayTraining Camp schedule.

The night before the race I slept worse than I would have if I’d be racing. I had pre race nerves… I think they were sympathetic for Jo as I so wanted her to do well. I’d seen the work and dedication she’d put in and so wanted her to get some real payment for the commitment. Race morning we headed down to the beach and the tension was huge and again I felt so nervous. Unlike two years ago I was able to get in to the water and get an awesome view of the start and the swim turnaround. It was awesome to see Rachel right near the front halfway through the swim. Then I spotted Jo coming through in well under 30 minutes – she was going great.

Next I moved to the bike exit. This course has a slight rise straight out of transition. If you’re going to do a running mount you really need to know what you’re doing and if you’re going to have your shoes on the pedals you need to get over this rise before putting your feet in. It amazed me how many people didn’t do this and virtually came to a stand still. I can’t believe we didn’t see any crashes.

Rachel came through with a solid lead and not too long after Jo came through – clearly a great swim from her, she was 3rd or 4th Pro on the bike and in amongst it. This was great, she was in the race. We stayed and cheered everyone out. The final person we saw was Helen, who, when I gave her a big cheer gave a massive wave as she cruised up the narrow road… I was a little concerned that she’d come a cropper !

Back to the hotel for a relaxed breakfast. Some of our support crew went out – Farouk and Ali in a car whilst Naomi and Tomas headed out on bikes. I was very impressed as I know how tiring this is and I was resting up for the long haul that is supporting on the marathon. Russell, Andy and I ended up being a hub for pushing out information to Twitter. Athlete tracker was down so we ended up relaying info from our “spotters’ out on course. Russ and I had discussed during the camp how coverage could be so much better – GPS units on racers or more regular timing mats. We felt the technology was there for some great live tracking. Now I felt perhaps they should just get what they have working before any of this. It seemed quite remarkable that a couple of guys with mobiles and a minimal hotel WiFi was able to get more info out than the WTC. In fact, Russell edited and posted up a uTube of the swim start. If you watch it make sure you focus on the marshalls during the slow – mo bit … they really do scarper.

The morning seemed windy but overcast however once we headed out to the run the skies cleared and the sun came out. It seems always the case with this race that come the run it’s hot.

We were out ready for all the leaders coming in. There were a lot of pretty impressive age groupers coming in off the bike but once running you could almost always pick the pros just by the way they ran. They seemed to come out of transition with fast cadence and looking to be running freely. The majority of age groupers seemed to come out looking tired and laboured.

I had six separate age groups I was trying to track for Kona slots. Russ and Andy were excellent assistants in this task. M35-39 was a main one and I’d counted well over 20 before our first guy came in. I’d decided that the main bit of info was really the gap between them and the slots. I decided to measure to 8th as I felt reasonably sure there’d be at least that many slots (there ended up 12!). Brett came in 16 minutes down on that 8th place and I must admit at that stage I was not optimistic for his chances. He’s a reasonably big guy, very strong cyclist and many would be lulled in to thinking he wouldn’t be able to run. I’d seen him on camp and he is deceptively quick. This is probably a sign of his efficiency. He looks to be only jogging but he cranked out a 3:15 marathon on a tough day to finish 12th for the last slot. Knowing how strong his biking is you can see how expertly he’d judged his day – his 5:30 bike split looks relatively slow compared to the top guys but loads faded. He ran a 3:15 ranking his run ahead of his bike but it was almost certainly his conservative bike split that allowed for this run and the result he wanted. I am really impressed.

Another age group we were tracking was F45-49 where EverydayTraining athlete and camper Mel was racing. Having trained with her on the camp I was stunned she had not yet qualified. Mel really doesn’t seem to have a weakness. She was second lady out of the swim in 53 minutes. She had a solid bike leading her age group. Then a lady came in with her number obscured. BOY this annoys me and these people should be penalised. Much of it is clearly intentional and it’s just not sporting. We guessed she wasn’t F45-49 but it proved incorrect. As such we had Mel 45 minutes ahead of second place. This was big enough that I had my doubts we’d missed someone so I didn’t tell her this just encouraged her to hold it together. As Mel approached the end of her second lap she asked about a girl with a pony tail. We looked closely and saw no one in her age group. Coming back through she was certain of number 131 chasing her down. We studied everyone coming through again and saw no one… we started to wonder what she’d been smoking ! Luckily we were right and she ended up winning by over 30 minutes. Well deserved. I can’t wait to see how she goes in Kona.

We watched Rachel come through running to a 3:02 marathon and the win. It was a fantastic performance to watch. She looked so strong.

Jo headed out on the run a little down on the other pros but within reach if a solid marathon was run. A 3:15 or under, which she is capable of, was required. She set off looking great. This is where it’s frustrating as a spectator. The first lap is nearly 19km and you’ve no idea whats going on. When Jo returned she was clearly suffering a lot. My support change to being encouraging and supportive rather than screaming you can still catch them. She was suffering and I just wanted to try and give some comfort. Jo toughed it out and finished.

Another annoying thing we saw a lot of was pacing. One lady in particular was pacing so consistently that initially we thought she’d forgotten to put her number on. It was only when we saw run to one side of the finish shoot we realised. Absolutely terrible. They really need to hand out penalties for this – if every athlete had a pacer it would be mayhem.

As we waited for my final athlete to come through the finish shoot I started to appreciate how horrible if must be for family and friends when something happens to an athlete out on the course to really slow their progress. Paul had been going absolutely fantastically in his first Ironman. I was so proud of him, he’d come so far. From the last time I saw him I’d reckoned an hour to the finish but it was closer to 1h45. His knee had gone and he’d had to walk the final 8km … but walk he did and got to the finish line.

All round we had some great performances from EverydayTraining athletes and campers

Mel and Brett qualified for Kona. Lotte, Sergio, Paul and Jon completed their first Ironman. Sergio ran a truly impressive 3:32 proving you can pace a first Ironman excellently. He managed this despite the fact that, apparently, everytime we cheered him we had massive ice creams in hand…. I promise Sergio this was purely a coincidence and not intentional. Paul T race really well getting a Lanza PB by over an hour and really giving him confidence that Kona is within his grasp. Matt got under 12 hours by running the final 5km in under 25 minutes. I’d be interested to know how many in the field ran the last 5k at that speed or faster but I bet it wasn’t many.

Supporting was so much fun I’m already hoping / planning to do it next time. We all went back for the final finishers and cheered them in at 16:59:06 – always great to end an Ironman that close but with no-one left on the course.

The next night we went out to celebrate Kevins 50th birthday (which was a week or so a go) – he’d celebrated well the day before with a 3:37 marathon ! We had a few drinks at the hotel, then to a bar where we did a pop quiz – bizarre yet strangely fun then on to dancing till the early hours. It was a great party and it was about 3am when I got to bed. It was a rather surprised and impressed Russ that greeted me when I got up for our 7am swim ! I was definitely still drunk as I walked down and whilst swimming the first part I wondered as to the wisdom of it especially as I felt I could fall asleep and did close my eyes once or twice. It did eventually wake me up but I’ll admit I didn’t stretch to two laps. It did mean though that we’d swum every morning other than race morning and on only two occasions only did one lap.

What a great couple of weeks. So good I feel like I’ve got post Ironman blues despite not racing.

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