Ironman Lanzarote, May 25th 2002…the bike course with 13386 feet of climbing and the breeze…“To dream a dream that some would shun, a dream they say can not be done. Behold this place, this place by nature blessed. Where dreams are dreamed and dreams are won”
- It’s 5:30am, dark, warmish and eerily quiet (though you can sense the tension) as Christina, my brother and I amble towards the transition area, past some of last nights’ revellers who are still looking for the last place open for another drink…Los Latinos would seem to be their destination. Puerto Del Carmen would probably be a quiet and lovely Spanish village but for the fact that so many Brits come here that it has been cultivated to their tastes and that means it borders on tacky, for now. But not all of it. The locals are great. All over this island they support Ironman, it belongs to them. The people are it’s energy. We are the fully charged batteries for now, but which later on will be completely drained…and we still will have miles to go.
Whooooooo! Run splash splash splash run and bump elbows with someone at the end of lap 1…I look right to see my brother hehehe we smile and go back in to repeat all over again. The water is calm, clear and not very deep. It’s not cold nor hot…probably about 70 degrees F…I have no need of a hood with my full wetsuit. Swim’s over and it looks short confirmed by my 1:11:35 split, makes up for the looong one I did in IMCali in 2000! As ever…easy to find MY bag as I head to T1…strategy? no…more truthfully the product of being a poor swimmer ;(
Lanzarote….if you ever need to find somewhere with constant white noise, then this is your Nirvana. Try getting someone to blow in each ear until it deafens you and you’ve got an idea of some of the conditions but that doesn’t include the mountains hehehe. Up and up and into the headwind – that’s the bike course, until you get to the top of the island. Nothing more and not much less. Mirador del Haria. Wind. Headwind. Windmills. I tell you…were they turning? (this is the question ALL IMLanzo vets ask you about race day) were they? I’ve seen propellers go slower. When you’re going 5mph on your 23 sprocket and you’re pulling and pushing on the pedals with every gram of your quads (and mine aren’t exactly small) as you struggle up the last steep part…and then when you get there, almost, you notice that there is still more climbing…just not as steep ;( I’m recharged by the sight of volunteers handing out special needs bags and in a wonderful display of organisation my number is radioed to them and mine is held out for my eagerly grasping hand. Then THE short, steep, hairpin, switchbacks down to Haria….I take it steady here…this could be dangerous..if you let it…each switchback has a rocky outcrop which stops you from seeing round the corner and ‘though I know if you look ahead before you get there you can swing wide…I’m not taking risks here…until we hit the clearer road.
Haria….hehehe those little white buildings hide the climbs that you aren’t expecting to be there…I know they are coming so I [for once!] prepare and change to my small chain ring. On towards the top of the island, you can see the last real climb left…but before you get to it…there is a little sting in the tail…an innocent looking hill at the Tropical Park…well. in my opinion it’s the steepest on the course…it doesn’t make sense..out here with no mountains it doesn’t look that steep. Down to my 23 and I even have to get out of the saddle…
Many people say you have to do this race. They say so for many reasons. I agree. One of my reasons is this: when you reach the top of the island as you wind your way up the last climb the view unfolds like a curtain pulling back over a stage and you catch your breath. Is that real? Am I up here? WOW!! Mirador Del Rio. This is the best view I have ever seen from my bike. And you know what? It gets better round the corner because your reward is coming…you get to turn round and head for home with the wind at your back and
Oh yeah. Big Cookie time.
You know how people say check your bike, blah blah blah…check all bolts are tight blah…well, you BETTER, ‘cos everything will rattle so loud on this course you’ll start to think that you won’t need to disassemble it for the flight home. Trust me. Ask my brother about the strange noise he heard at 45mph coming down from Mirador del Rio…Iain knows this course…he’s been training on it for years and he did the race last year…his first Ironman!! so he looks down to where the noise emanates from and sees his front skewer spinning wildly…and calmly pulls over into the crackling black lava dust at the side of the road to restore normality. My CO2 cartridges are rattling so hard I’m just waiting for an icy blast 😉 well either that or something big, metallic and most likely critical is gonna go dink dink dink down the road soon…
The descent goes on for miles and miles as you sweep back down to sea level. Some call it dangerous, sure it is fast but it’s not very steep and there are some sweeping curves and some places where you hear the black volcanic dust crackle under your tyres, like walking on broken egg shells but if you want to go slower…just use your brakes! I’m lucky that I have done this descent twice…last November, part of my check-out-the-course plan…and I am really glad that I could follow my brother then and make mental notes. Nothing much about the last meandering roads back to the start…a few rollers and climbs but my problem is that my back is sore…whether on my tri bars or sitting up…I realise that putting my tri bars down at the front months ago has moved my drink straw away from me and each time I move for a drink I am stretching my back (well that’s my theory anyway!!)..it is only pain free if I am out of the saddle….so I climb out of the saddle whenever I can. I am slightly disappointed as I expected to make up time going back…to use my strength on the flatter roads…still…this is Ironman and it has gone well so far, so I accept that I will lose time and push on as best I can. Niiiiiiiice tailwind :)) I clock 51.7 mph on a fairly innocuous long downhill….amazed as I watch my speedometer move from 49 to 50 mph and beyond, for the first time ever. Then one final energy sapping out and back to a roundabout and we can return. Warriors, home from the mountains. Safe. I am fairly happy with my bike time though for a while I had thought I was going to go sub 6:30…still, 6:40 is respectable as I trundle into transition as the race clock shows 8:00:00.
It’s lunch time for the holidaymakers. Lanzarote. Yeah, I just freakin cycled round it. Bring on my next challenge.
I jump off my bike. I run/walk/shuffle hmmmm my back is almost locked solid…..cool!….I’m in great shape for the run 😉 I’m thinking of going in for a massage to loosen my back for the run but luckily Terry Jones’ wife (whom I met on a swim course) sees me and says ‘Well done Iain’…I’m too focussed to tell her that I’m Peter. I tell her about my back as she slaps the sun screen on me and directed to the problem area she massages it for me. Ironman brings out angels As she eases away the pain, it’s Scooby snack time….mmmmm what do I feel like this IM in T2….let me see ah yes, my new experimental food is Slim(e) Fast cappuccino nicely chilled in the Tropic’s midday sun. Glug glug glug hehehe meal in a can. ok. Run time. Let’s go ‘Get Some’ as Rrrrrod says. I see Iain coming in from the bike as I go out. I shout to him. It’s disconcerting to see how many people are already on the run course…you get so used to seeing so few on the last miles of the bike.
Lap 1…when it all looks soooooooo straightforward. When running is not a distant memory. When your legs still move voluntarily.
The sun is out and the wind is still blowing (thank goodness) which provides some cooling. From behind my hat and sunglasses I can see my arms glistening with sweat and I guess it’s heating up… I tell myself I don’t feel the heat and think positive…all that training in the Arizona desert paying off. The holidaymakers are settled into the cafes and bars shouting encouragement as they watch the procession of humanity. I get a few encouraging shouts from Scots whom suddenly notice my tartan tri top and realize that they have a countryman actually IN this mad race. They seem fired up by this and each lap their cries grow louder…their familiar Scottish brogue lifts me as I realise I am racing for them…for our country. I cruise through the first lap walking through every other aid station…my pace is steady…lap 2 is the same…but all of a sudden I’m feeling ill and my legs are going… I had thought I could get past the turnaround before I had to walk but I don’t make it…if only I had looked at my split for the first half (2hrs 1min) and focussed on the fact that it is my fastest yet…but the demons have arrived and I withdraw from the battle and I walk and walk and walk….I run for a while then I walk a hill and meet an Australian guy whom I walk and talk with…I am dissociating from the pain and the task in hand has melted in a haze of pain and fatigue…lap 3’s (1hr 24min) split shocks me back to reality and I regroup, telling myself I have only 1hr 27mins to stay under 13 hours. I have to push through the pain, I have to leave the Ozzie, I have to redeem myself. Now I am fighting the demons…telling myself ‘NO. I will not walk. I will not walk..’ Lap 4 is always better than lap 3 and I make the 5k turnaround in good time. I work hard on the last 5k but allow myself to walk the uphills. It feels good to have my 3 magic necklaces…my key to enter the Finish chute…people look at me enviously…they see I have the coveted red one, the last one. One last time past the holidaymakers and up to the marshal with the 2 flags…I know I will be directed left and HOME…I smile…my eyes mist…my pain is ending…I will finish and with time to spare under 13 hours (12:47:25). The toughest Ironman in the world and I feel ok…neither the bike nor the run [split of 4:38:46] has beaten me up too badly but the respect I showed them both was warranted. Maybe next time I will be less cautious….
Ironman Lanzarote – one to do?: Yes oh Y-E-S
After a massage, my brother Iain (who came home only 11 places and 5 mins behind me) and I shuffle back towards our apartment….as I struggle to keep my poor beat-up body moving in a straight line, I reflect on the day’s events and it is almost as if my body itself is speaking as I say ‘Ironman is waaaaaaaay out of my comfort zone’. Maybe so, but I CAN do it.
Peter H M Gauld, IMUSA 99, IMCALI 00 01, Worlds (Denmark) 01, IMLANZO 02