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Coaches Blog

IRONMAN Lanzarote: Athlete Race Recap

First, I want to thank all my family and friends for putting up with me and my passion/craziness for wanting to race long-distance triathlons. To my wife, who asks/reminds me what workouts I have for the day. And to my coach, Maria from Team MPI, for putting me through the paces and preparing me to tackle the most brutal IM on the current circuit.


Preparation for this event was nothing like I had done before. Without getting into specific details, it was a challenge. I changed my nutrition to get off supplements. My weight management was outstanding and consistent. Trainer sessions were intensely hot as I turned my garage into a sauna for hours and hours of climbing.


Travel

We started the journey the Monday before the Saturday race. Stopped over in London for a night's rest and then finished the trip, landing in Lanzarote on Wed. Maria and her husband Gary met us there and had already checked into our VRBO. Gary picked us up at the airport and went to athlete check-in. All was good, easy, and just seeing the landscape in person was awe-inspiring. It really is as barren as the photos.

Thursday was bike shake-out day. The bike made the trip in the Scicon bag. I sure miss Tri-Bike Transport operating in Europe. Gary and Maria took me to a section of the course near town. Let's just say the wind is like nothing I had ever felt before. In the first 2 min of the test ride, I was being blown around, and on a small descent, I hit nearly 35mph and felt like I had a wheel wobble.


Since they were behind me, I stopped, and we checked it out. It looked ok, and I resumed the ride. But damn, did it have me on edge. They were guarding me from behind for most of the ride, and I didn't notice them pass me twice on the road. I was so focused on dealing with the wind and finding a way to get comfortable in aero. I finally got into a rhythm and saw a car ahead in my path. I didn't recognize it was them until I was much closer, and they waved me down to shut it down.


Friday was a shake-out swim in the early morning. Maria and I walked down to the beach. The water was fine with temperatures in the mid-60s; the water was clear, but every so often, you would see lava rock jetting out. I had to make sure I didn't run into them. Just a quick out/back, and we were done.


Pre-Race now began. Other than the 3 pm bike check-in, the plan was for me to stay off my legs, hydrate, eat and relax. I did all this the best I could. Towards the end of the day, we decided to go out for a bit and for them to do a wine tasting. I was going stir-crazy laying around and wanted to get out. I stretch all the time, lying and sitting on the couch at home by pulling my heel to my bottom and repeating on the other side.


As we were about to leave, I went to do that and got the biggest Charlie Horse cramp I had ever felt in my right hamstring. It took close to a minute to let go. Boy, did that freeze me in place! I could hardly function. It was so weird, and I still don't know why that happened. We went out, and all felt fine.


Race Morning

Got up early and did my usual long ride/race routine. I didn't need to get to transition too early as all I had to do was put my custom blend Infinit bottles on my bike, air up the tires, and put on my wetsuit. We got down there, and it was very well lit. No flashlight was needed. I finished up with about 45 min to spare. I had my banana and drink and chatted with my support crew. But to get out of transition, I would have to go all the way to the other end to get out and then back, so I just stayed in there next to the fence with them.


Swim

The swim was self-seeding. I put myself in the 80 min slot and on the right as the first turn buoy was to the left. The normal 2-loop course was changed to 1 big loop. While I thought this was a bonus of no Australian exit, I would soon find some challenges. The first outgoing and last incoming buoy were spire-looking red ones. The 4 turn buoys were spire-looking yellow ones. What was missing was intermediate buoys. Thinking back now, I believe it's because they usually set up as 2 laps, not one; thus didn't have enough to adequately mark the long straights.

To top it off, my AG had orange/reddish swim caps, and the tiny red (faded) markers they did have were lost in the bobbing heads. While I usually swim on course consistently, I was off twice in my sighting. It was really annoying me. Besides that, the swim was pretty easy as there were no huge breakers, but there was an undercurrent.


T1

As I came to T1 and saw many bikes were already gone, I knew I had lots of ground to make up. The transition is set up very differently than other Ironman races I've done. You get your bag, and there was a changing tent, but some athletes were running back to re-rack their own bags vs. the usual process of dropping them off at the other end of the changing area. Nothing was mentioned in the guide or briefing on this. Since I didn't change my kit, I just stripped off my wetsuit next to the bags, got my bike gear out, shoved my swim gear in, racked it, and moved on.


Bike

My favorite part. I knew I had ground to make up, so here we go. The bike mount was a good distance. And, of course, uphill. They did have a carpet down the center of the road, so you were not running barefooted on the pavement. I mounted the bike and got going. It was a good section of support on the way out of town. The roads were lined full of supporters.


Near the end of town, there was a roundabout (now known as a turn circle) to go north and out of town. As soon as you started north, you could feel the crosswind. But I knew the wind was low and wouldn't pick up until later in the day. I was feeling good at this point. Then we turned onto a path. I wouldn't call it a road as we know it, but two small electric cars could fit. And some steep incline rollers started. Both sides of the road were lined with lava rock fairly close to the edge. So best not to run off the road.


I increased my power to move past a group and felt my leg again. The same one that had the cramp in it. It was a soreness pain. Lots went through my head at this moment. Do I keep pushing power, and maybe it will go away? Or maybe I push too hard, and it seizes up again. Or maybe I push now and pay for it later on the run. Several minutes went by, and I settled on managing it by pushing but not too hard so that I could finish this race. A DNF was not an option to consider, and traveling this far with a support crew and people tracking me, I couldn't do that to them. I would have to just settle on not meeting my own goal I had set.


From here on, I began to use all of my gears on every climb. And this course is not short on climbs. Any flat or false flat was a welcome feeling for me. I recovered quickly, got my nutrition, and got ready for the next climb. In comparison, the southern part of the course heading southward was not bad. We had a tailwind, but the wind had not picked up yet. As we turned around and headed back northward, the wind was starting to pick up but overall was not bad yet, even though it was a direct headwind. I found a gear I liked and spun through it.


Aid Stations were interesting. Normally they are fairly long--long enough to discard unwanted bottles/trash, grab something, use it, discard it and even grab something else and time to discard that as well. Let's just say that these aid stations were about ½ the normal length.


As we climbed and climbed before the Haria descent with hairpin turns, one Italian rider spoke to me as we were out climbing others. Though I couldn't fully understand him, I am pretty sure it was cussing the damn wind and climbs. All I did in return was point to the side of the road to my right. There was nothing there, but if you looked far enough down, you could see dots that were likely houses. All he did was shake his head.


The descent was scary. Not only were we dealing with the wind, but we were also hitting close to 40mph without pedaling. I felt the wheel wobble again, so I kept tapping the brakes to keep the speed around 30 mph, which felt more comfortable to me. May others were diving bombing this section. They were nuts. If they were to crash, it was a long way down should they go over the guard rail. After the long descent back to sea level, guess what……we have to climb the Mirado Del Rio again. This is the last major climb where you are at the highest elevation. From there, you can see the other islands! It twists and turns up. Both sides are lined by stacked lava rock. Again, barely wide enough for two small cars to pass each other.

For me, I found this climb easier than the previous ones. Maybe it was the view, but when we returned and took some photos the next day, my whole support crew was astounded! As you hit the top, you turn south, and it's a long descent southward. This was at least on a normal-sized road, but again, I kept the speed around 30 mph the best I could. Several times my pedals went to sleep as I didn't have to pedal too much. We then hit a long stretch of flat/false flat where I was able to pick off a few people, but that was more for pride than time gain.


All those people that dive-bombed me on the hairpin turns I drew them back in and dropped them and never saw them again. One last turn north for an out and back. The crosswind was horrible. In the Timanfaya National Park, where the volcano erupted, you can see the lava flows, and it's nothing but barren earth. It's mentally taxing. There is nothing to look at but jagged lava, and it's right there--inches from the side of the road. Then we turned around and headed back to town. This was a welcome feeling. I knew if I could get to the run, I could finish. I managed my power to not get a cramp on the bike or the inability to ride.


T2

Coming to T2, you can see people again. It was the same path as it was for the exit. I stretched a bit and kept a good cadence to avoid a cramp dismounting when I swung my leg over. I slowed down and dismounted. I swung my leg over but lowered my bike lower than usual to avoid straining my leg. It worried me all day, but I had made it to the run. I navigated transition pretty quickly. I did the same as I did in T1. I stayed near the rack. Popped on my socks and shoes, put on my hat and sunglasses, and slid on my nutrition and race belt. Racked my bag with my bike gear and moved on.


Run

As I began the run, it was a bit confusing. There were runners on the right and left. We were dodging each other. Maybe this was because a large portion of the athletes were from the UK, and we know they use the other side of the road. Either way, it was not marked, and we played dodge with each other. This was the same all over the course. Even the long first leg past the airport and to Arrecife, where the turn-around is located.


As I was completing my first lap to get my first armband, my coach asked me how I was doing. Besides being wholly ticked off at the performance today, my leg was hurting pretty bad from the back of my knee to the bottom of my rear. The following two legs of the course were the short ones. Just 5k/3miles out and 5k/3miles back 2 more times.


My plan was to get my special needs after the first loop. An interesting note here. There were no special needs bags. You had to put your race number on a bottle or bar and stack it on a table. There they would sort them in order later, but I found that odd. Well, someone must have either grabbed the wrong one or liked how I wrapped my bottle with an extra Infinit pouch, and gel rubber banded all together but was it not there when I needed it. My only wish is that it had served them well and helped them finish. But for me, I had to use my backup supplies. This consisted of the 4 gels in my belt, one energy bar, and 6 salt tabs. I just kept moving but didn't tell my coach when she asked me again if I was ok. I just told her everything was tasting bad, which it was. There was nothing she could do about it, so there was no use in mentioning it.

I would not take any outside help even if offered. And that brings up an odd point. A hotel along the course had set up a large table with cups and a pot of soup. There were no IM volunteers, nor were they listed in the guide. So I never took anything from there. The aid stations on the run only had 226ers hydro citrus and gel, orange wedges, banana pieces, coke, and water. No salty anything. It's a good thing I had my own tabs.


As I was out on my last loop, it was getting dark. Finishing in the light was not going to happen.


As I got to about 100 yards from the end, the chaos of athletes on the left and right of the path was super annoying. I was coming to the finish, and as I swerved around someone to miss running into them, I stepped on an uneven crack in a manhole cover. My left ankle rolled over, and I heard the crowd gasp. But I thankfully have strong and flexible ankles. I hopped for a stride to catch my balance and resumed my stride.


The next volunteer saw that I had all my lap bands on my wrist and waved me towards the finish chute. It was extremely short in comparison to all my others. As I finished, I threw my hands up and then stopped my watch. They didn't give you the medal or anything. Instead, they funneled you to the next tent, where you stood to collect a bag that had your finisher shirt and medal inside it.

The day was done. Not what I had planned, trained, or hoped for, but sometimes you have to adjust and take what you can get. I can say that I was cold all day, especially in the climbs. But being cold and dealing with a UV of 11 are two different things. I am sporting a good burn on my arms that does not hurt. Imagine the difference between white milk and chocolate milk. That is the difference where my kit was at.


Jokingly, my wife is calling me holy as I have a cross tanned onto my chest where my kit zips up and my heart rate strap sat. And this was with sunblock before the race and in T2 where they slap it on it as you go through. There is also a nice line on my lower back, like someone drew on me with a sharpie. I guess the kit can only stop so much UV. I had never had that before.


This race was super tough, and I would do it again.


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