Lee Pegram IRONMAN LANZAROTE 2013, 18th May 2013
Fri 07 Jun 2013
IRONMAN LANZAROTE 2013, 18th May 2013
And so for the third installment of my Ironman journey and the continuing theme of pain!
Even before undertaking Ironman Zurich last summer this event had been scheduled in my ever expanding sports diary. It has an iconic reputation on the WTC (Ironman brand) circuit, for potentially being their hardest event (and at least equal to Hawaii where the world championships are held each year). I was keen to experience this for myself.
2012 passed with frustratingly poor health and December saw the first of a series winter colds (similar to everyone else really). My target was to start structured training in December, to allow a reasonable six month run-in to the event. Inevitably this did not go to plan despite all good intentions. Of all the disciplines running was my most consistent, which really reflects the weather conditions and the cycle opportunities we were all experiencing. I was becoming closer friends with the turbo but it was never a relationship that was going to flourish.
In contrast to previous years, I had very few training events booked in nor participated in, with with the exception of the very cold training weekend in Stroud. So onwards to the event I rolled, with my best block weekend consisting: a 1hr swim, 106 mile solo ride and an 18 mile steady run. I was actually rather pleased to have pulled something meaningful together as I came very close to withdrawing on more than one occasion. Just as significant, I had also started to show some genuine stability in health which appeared to be down to consuming industrial quantities of Dioralyte!
I was joined for this event again by Greg (who also did Bolton in 2011). We had a relaxed flight and journey to our apartment in Puerto del Carmen arriving on the evening of Wednesday 15th May. We settled in, unpacked and purchased necessary rations before investigating the shop/sea front and discovering just how close we were to the main event transition and hub on the Eastern side of Puerto del Carmen along the shore line.
Thursday morning started with a sea swim taking in one loop of the two lap course. The sea was 'fresh' but very clear and it was wonderful to swim amongst schools of fish that did not seem the least bit bothered - they had clearly seen it all before! Greg completed the circuit in around 40mins and I followed a couple of mins behind. I was actually very pleased with this time as it was my first open water swim for eight months. It was a fine circuit and confidence rose having been around it. It was also striking looking at the sea front just how much of an international event this was - with 45 nations being represented in the race and a significant contingent (about 30%) being from the UK and Ireland.
Having returned to the apartment and changed it was now time to head to Club La Santa on the North of the Island for formal registration and the mandatory pre-race briefing. I had an amazing idea that it would be great fun and very efficient to hire a couple of scooters to achieve the circa 50kM round trip. Oh dear - there was clearly a good reason why I had never rode a motorbike or scooter before in any form. It was neither enjoyable nor fun and I actually felt a lot more exposed than on my road bike! With the purpose of the trip complete I was egar to return the bloody thing directly and probably to Greg's relief that I hadn't taken him out at some point on route. Any further recce of the bike course would now have to wait until race day...
Into the late afternoon we built the bikes up, having obtained a replacement skewer for Greg's rear wheel, which had snapped during bike transportation, and followed through with an hours spin up the nearest incline to Tias. This completed a productive day of preparation and blew the last remaining travel cobwebs out of our systems.
Friday was a calmer day with the primary objective being bike racking and bike/run bag drop. This was a painless exercise as the single transition area (albeit half on the beach and half on the road above) was on the seafront. The day was further complimented with another early swim, Greg doing a complete lap and me happy to refrain to a shorter wetsuit-less stretch in an attempt to avoid too much neck rash irritation. A simple but plentiful supper was consumed in the evening before final preparations and early to bed.
Saturday 18th May 2013 - RACE DAY
My alarms were set for 04.30, albeit I was wide awake long before that. The race morning ritual had begun starting with porridge. Greg arose slightly later and all was calm except the weather. To date the weather had followed a rough format of cloudy first thing followed by increasing wind and then prolonged sun - all rather pleasant really. This day the clouds were just that little bit darker and the wind that little bit stronger. We departed with timing precision - really no value getting there too early to just get worked up. We arrived in transition at around 06.20 for the 07.00 start at which point Greg had realised that he had left his swimming hat and goggles back in the apartment. There was just about enough time to return but that extra stress was not needed! Fortunately I had brought along my spare goggles and Greg obtained a spare hat from the transition team - some good fortune. With no further messing we checked our bikes and loaded the final drinks, zipped up and went for a quick dip before exiting back on to the beach and joining the starting shoot. We had not really discussed positioning but both seemed content to join near the back in the drizzling rain - yes, for the first time in 22 years it was actually raining on race day in Lanzarote.
SWIM: 2.4M, 01:19:41
The pistol went off at 07.00 and we marched forward with 'Chariots of Fire' being played on the public address system - just in case you weren't feeling emotional enough at that point. We shook hands not really expecting to see each other again until crossing on the run and begun our swims. 1800 athletes entering the water in migrating wildebeest formation is never going to be a gentle start but very soon it settled and what a good decision it turned out to be placing ourselves further back. To actually be the person passing others (and not being swum over) was great as we traversed the anticlockwise course catching glimpses of a rainbow in the distance when sighting.
During 2012 there had regrettably been some tragic accidents at the start of some Ironman events. I don't believe these were attributed directly to swim incompetence's but WTC had added further support in the form of a huge number of canoes, boats and a helicopter - it looked like a scene out of Chopper Squad!
The Australian exit passed without incident and so did the second lap. It never fails to surprise me how quickly time passes during the swim on race day. We exited the water and marched through the showers on the beach to remove as much salt water as possible and along to the beach positioned T1 tent we trotted.
As expected transition was heaving as I hopped around too find a space, only to unexpectedly sit next to Greg. Being a stronger swimmer, I assumed that Greg would have been a few minutes down the road by now so it was nice to see him. I had amended my approach for this event and actually had my cycling shorts on beneath my wetsuit which duly saved time. As I went for my number belt and NRCC jersey the suncream police arrived. I politely stood still for application and was told in no uncertain terms to carry on getting changed and they would work around me - they were good at this and having being applied with half of Ambre Solaire's daily factory output I marched up the sand bank, dipped my feet in the water bucket at the top, found my bike, put on shoes and off into the drizzle I went.
BIKE: 112M, 07:47:57
This was an amazing one lap course where you were offered long stretches of closed road and Police priority elsewhere. However, the course was challenging in many ways. Firstly the road was wet and with so little rain on the island I feared for oil deposits on the road particularly on the roundabouts and bends. I controlled my pace accordingly and within a short period of the time the rain and clouds dissipated and the sun broke through. The first section was rolling put torable with the first lump over Yaiza and an appreciated decent in to El Golfo with its dramatic Lava fields on the Western side of the island. Fuelling was going OK and I appeared to be in a similar group of riders as we alternatively leap frogged each other whilst respecting the 10m rule. Surprisingly I caught Greg again. It was as we entered the second stage things turned nasty. Heading across the Fire Mountains and towards Tinajo the consistent 25mph+ head wind became immensely sapping. Three percent gradients felt like eight and you just could not get any protection from it. I ploughed on but it was taking its toll, as we ascended Teguise, and the highest point of Los Nieves (a 600m climb into the headwind). A great descent on switchbacks around Mirador del Haria gave some relief and a bit of fun as I goaded Greg for descending like Bradley in the wet - it clearly had the desired effect as he passed me once again for what I thought would be the last time. As we ascended back up Mirador del Rio I entered a very dark place. This occurrence is not unusual within an Ironman at some point, I just had not expected it at 75M in to the ride. Several times I gave very serious thought to bailing out; cursing missed training opportunities and every other conceivable reason as to why so many riders seemed to be going past me. Underneath I was really praying it would just pass with time...as I attempted yet another gel in the ever increasing heat.
The decent from Mirador del Rio to Arreita should have been more enjoyable - I just don't recall it being so! Finally on to the last significant climb I rode - at least the wind was now from behind. Surprisingly I leapfrogged Greg again but this was due to him having a brake issue which had probably haunted him for some time. He duly passed again once it was sorted. This last section seemed to go on for ever until you finally realise that you are descending back to Puerto del Carmen where the relief of the marathon awaited...
It is worth noting the brilliant mechanical support that was provided across the complete bike course. They were strategically placed at rough road sections and appeared to be ever present elsewhere passing at regular intervals in support vehicles - there would have been no opportunity to have a 'mechanical' on this course.
Relieved to say goodbye to the bike, just walking to the tent was an issue to begin with but oh how good it felt to put on fresh padded socks and soft trainers! The suncream squad once again gave completely covered us and with turning my number belt back to the front and loading further supplies of gels I approached the run (well we'll call it a run for now). Poor Greg still had not managed to fully shake me off as we met in transition once again and it looked as though he would have to put up with my wittering on the run - at least to begin with.
RUN: 26.2M, 05:40:05
Running together was actually a great boost for me and something I never planned or expected. Due to family school/work commitments we were in Lanzarote without personal support and whilst the support from both locals and the many holiday makers was amazing, the run is often when you lean on your loved ones the most. Greg was doing an excellent job of controlling our early pace and thus preventing early burn out. We agreed our strategy and pretty much stuck to it throughout. This was to walk through all aid stations and walk the inclines. Now for those of you that know the stretch along Eastern Puerto del Carmen and Playa Hondo you probably won't recall too many devastating inclines but we made the most of them regardless and psychologically you actually looked forward to them.
The course was a long out and back single loop followed by two shorter loops all along the coast line. The sun was now dominant and the wind actually quite welcoming until we reached the beach section beside the airport - I think its commonly referred to as 'pebble-dashing' as we got sand blasted on to our suncream layer. Oh well that was the least of our worries. The first loop actually passed without too many problems and I was feeling surprisingly good for this stage in the day as we collected our first wrist bands. We pushed on and very little changed over the remainder of the run. Our pace remained controlled and consistent even if a little slow. Side-line support was unyielding and in one instance a little peculiar as one (not unattractive) Spanish female was insistent on giving each passing runner a big hug and a kiss. All very nice and appreciated but this truly needs to be seen in context. At this point we had been going for 14hrs+ and had a body cocktail covering of sea salt, sweat, suncream, sand, gels, Red Bull, Powerade, citric juice plus a few unmentionables - you get the picture. We could only conclude that there was some underlying fetish going on but at least it took some of the pain away for a while as we chuckled along!
Eventually we made our final approach to the finish, still together. The inevitable argument took place, each of us telling the other to lead over the line and despite a crafty move by Greg to push me ahead I managed to hold my position and we went through side by side. Another great day's eventing came to a close.
Post completion and medal receiving we made full use of the massage tent, then suddenly became very cold as the late evening air cooled and so did our bodies. At this point I duly undertook a transformation to Robocop as I donned bizarre compression garments and a rather fetching foil blanket beneath my top layers - I started to warm a little. We collected all our transition bags, bikes and embarked upon the 15 come 30min walk back home encouraging the remaining people on the course as they passed. Now if ever there was a good example of where an Ironman event puts you directly afterwards this is it - we arrived back at the apartment and started to feel a little hungry. Alpen (other muesli brands are available) was poured along with what we thought was fresh milk - it clearly wasn't. We started to eat looked at each other acknowledging that the milk was on the turn...then duly carried on regardless before heading to our beds!
1767 athletes started the event and 1647 finished. The dropout rate at around 7% was similar to other years for the same event albeit many regular competitors said the conditions were harder. My overall time was 15:11:06, which placed me 1340 overall and 309/337 within my age group. Greg posted the same time.
Ironman Lanzarote is a fearsome event but very special. The complete Island appears to embrace and support it and equally, it appears to attract very competent top end athletes. There were not too many 'have-a-goers' there! My time reflects my training and preparation with plenty of room for realistic improvement - as we all recognise there is no hiding place in long distance endurance events! However, I am genuinely pleased to have completed it and receive the medal - a point reinforced when speaking to some of the guys that hadn't managed to complete the event at the airport - they looked broken men (rather than just men unable to move properly). Maybe one day I will return and deliver that bike section properly...