Lanzarote IM – May 20th 2017
Race reporter: Chris J
Hey It’s Lanza…
Lanzarote is renowned for its 3 H’s: Hills, Heat and Headwinds. For the Ironman, with over 2500m of elevation on the course, the Hills are always going to be there, so it’s then just the lottery of what combination of wind and heat this island is going to give you….Although this time around the forecast was remarkably benign: 25kmh with 35kmh gusts (a very calm Lanza day!) and 24C for race day. It was almost due to be a “normal” IM…
Ironman Day starts early. Breakfast about 3 hours before the 07:00 start…well actually about 4 hours before the start as it turns out because your phone thinks you’re in Spain and not the (Spanish) Canary Islands which are on British Time (true in so many ways, none of them good). Then down to the quiet tension of transition as everyone adds nutrition to bikes, pumps tyres and makes final checks. Into the wetsuit for a pre-dawn warm up in the sea then time to line up for the start.
The Swim is one of the few mass starts left in Ironman races now with the gun going and 1600 competitors piling into the sea creating a 400m long tuna broil as the last competitors enter the water just as the pros are turning the first buoy. Sighting is virtually impossible on the first 900m out leg as you’re swimming straight into the rising sun, relying instead on the pack in front of you to be going the right way and concentrating on the mass of bodies around you. The home leg is easier with landmarks to lead you near enough to then sight the turn buoy for the beach and Australian exit…then back in for a second lap. Somehow no less furious than the first as the stretched out field just compressed itself closer to the racing line. This time around the tide had created a rip current just by one of the buoys about 700m from home, slowing things down, and was strong enough that some of the back of the field were pushed onto the shore about 200m off the course. Lanza had found a new way to be punishing with nearly 100 DNF’s before the end of the swim!
The Bike Course is the highlight of the Lanzarote Ironman: 180k through lava fields and over hills with incredible sea views, plus the full mix of flat time trialling, climbing and descents to test your abilities. The forecast had been right the wind was mild making the 5k, 5% climb up Fire Mountain “easy” and likewise the long 10k faux flat drag from Famara (80k) on the coast to Teguise (90k) easier than expected. However the forecast had missed on the wind direction, usually the one constant on the island. Normally the bike is “done” at the top of Mirador del Rio (115k) with a beautiful descent and 30k of tailwind along the highway before a final short kicker and the home leg. Not this time…coming down from Mirador there were sections you were pedalling to go downhill! and then the long highway was just baked in the midday sun dragging along in cross/headwind at 25kmh rather than cruising at the usual 40+. However overall back into T2 pretty much as expected and felt hydrated, fuelled and in good shape for the marathon.
I was wrong…Puerto del Carmen’s microclimate is always sunnier and hotter than the rest of the island and on race day it was even more so…over 32C in the shade (not the 24C forecast) and a lot more for the runners as the white pavement reflects the heat straight back at you. 8k in and despite running really conservatively and lots of water into my cap/over my back I was dizzy and blinking to keep my eyes open. OK. Run/walk time…”that’ll sort this, and if you do have to see the medics get to Arrecife” (with the changed course 8k is a no-man’s land half way between two towns). Made it to Arrecife (15k). “Just get back to Carmen (30k) at least”. At 18k run/walk became walk. Drinking water, taking ice, taking sponges…anything at the aid stations to try and cool down. Then finally feeling the benefit and as the heat started to ease from the day was able to run again. At 30k saw my friend, another Chris, who’d passed me was about 2k ahead and starting the final lap and thought I’ll try and catch him and help him home as I could see he was suffering too. About 4k from home we were alongside but he didn’t want company preferring to focus inwards to get himself to the line.
Crossing the line was a strange feeling. Satisfied I’d finished despite staring at a DNF for most of the marathon but so frustrated that I’d just not been able to run in the heat.
…but “Hey It’s Lanza” (and it’ll get you one way or another!)
P.S. Chris is now trying to tempt me into the “Brutal” extreme IM…I mean how hot can it be in North Wales in September? 😉