In 2013 I decided that I would like to have a crack at Long distance racing and that year I travelled to Lanzarote for a long distance training camp. Over the last five years I have been back most years to train and holiday on the island with the Ironman listed as one of the toughest on the Ironman circuit. Sea swim with a traditional beach mass start,
bike ride taking in nearly all climbs on the island from North to South and a promenade run past the airport and back into Puerto del Carmen. It became the A race for 2018 and with three others Mark Kilner, Eddie Howarth and Chris Wray we had decided to complete the challenge and raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Research.
IM Lanzarote is a difficult race to get prepared for with its early start for triathlon around the end of May. The swim sessions are all pool with little chance to practice in open water, bike sessions are long garage sets or cold rides dodging rain and snow or both! Running this year has been particularly tough after starting back in October still with a pain around the groin and hip and the winter being so long with heavy snow/ice always seeming to be an issue. I was lucky enough to be working with Chris Creaghan at Clinic 360 to resolve the tightness and functional issue I was having. Filming and reviewing my run style showed a number of issues that using strength and stretching exercises I am starting to resolve the issues that have built up over a number of years.
The training needed a kickstart and as in 2013 I was booked to go to Lanzarote for a training camp to get some bike miles in and this time on my TT bike that I would ride the IM course on. All previous camps have been based out of Puerto Del Carmen on the South of the island but Sands Beach
Resort in Costa Teguise is a hotel that specialises in active holidays, with a daily Ironman finisher t-shirt competition at breakfast and a 25m heated pool its a perfect base to ride the island. Each day on this camp was testing as the group was strong across all the disciplines. On the third day we set out after a birthday 35×50 swim set to complete the IM course with a short brick run off, a really solid day of training and I learned a lot about riding the island for that amount of time and how relentless the wind can be. The camp was a key block in training and I would recommend anyone to get out in February or March for a winter camp.
The shift pattern I work dictates my training pattern because of the blocks of nights and 12hr shift length so training is loaded in a ten day break I get every cycle. These are great for long distance triathlon when completing big weeks but it does mean that my recovery weeks are often when I’m on a set of four nights. Staying healthy while overloading is a balancing act and this seemed harder with cold weather that hung around for an eternity this year. At the start of March I picked up a chesty cough that held on for some time having to manage this without thinking your losing fitness every minute your not out there training is always hard! I missed a full week of training which amounted to around 4-5 sessions. In a 20 week training block for an Ironman missing a few sessions isn’t going to affect things a great deal but its really important to recover before starting training again.
The other long distance events I have completed have been no earlier than July so its always been possible to get some practice races in to fine tune the race day for the big one. Other than a visit to a rainy Saddleworth Sprint at the end of April I wasn’t able to fit a race in. This led to me getting a little anxious about the swim at Lanzarote. I made the mistake of reading some blogs from previous years and then as the race came closer the event videos started filtering onto Facebook from the previous year.
The Lanzarote swim is well known to be a washing machine with the event using the mass start from the beach for the 2000 participants with a funneled start line around 25-50m wide. I arrived in Lanzarote on the Tuesday with plan to swim the course with Swim Lanzarote and Paul Hounam on the Wednesday to get rid of the raceday nerves. Paul provided some great instruction before entering the water, from position before the start, currents and course sight points. We were split into groups of like ability and given a guide. The swim with this group on Wednesday and Thursday was invaluable on raceday and I’d recommended anyone to joining Paul’s group if your racing Lanzarote or on a camp.
The build up to the race had been quite relaxed, mainly because of the banter with the rest of The Macmillan group. There wasn’t much time for race day nerves as most of my
time was spent cropping and photo shopping various heads onto the groups bodies and responding to the next line of banter.
#Teamwilson had arrived on the Thursday evening so all was set for the 4.45am wake up call for Ironman Lanzarote 2018!!
We had stayed in Los Mojones which is around a 25 minute walk to the start but was perfect to walk off those pre race nerves and let the breakfast coffee settle. At the race start I felt controlled and relaxed getting to the swim start early helped as I entered the pen and was able to have a little warm up swim then back into the pen before it all got serious. I seeded myself around the 60 minute marker on the right hand side of the pen aiming for around a 1.02 swim if all went to plan. 7am and it was off!!
The swim started really relaxed with everyone giving each other lots of room…..BOLL*$KS!! From the start it was carnage I sighted the first turn bouy early and made a move to aim in its direction, not possible. The swim pack for the first part moved like a shoal of fish there was so much traffic. I’ve done quite a fair few open water swims in the past but never lost goggles during the swim, four times I had the goggles knocked down my face pushing them back up into place mid fight. The first lap took me 32 minutes second lap with a much tighter line around the buoys 32 minutes so outside the target time but having experinced the swim I’d find it hard to shave anymore time off without going to alligator wrestling instead of strength sessions.
The bike course for Lanzarote had always been a single lap of the Island until this year when Spanish law has changed and bike races need closed roads. This meant that the course included another 300m of climbing a total of 2500m over the course and an out and back section to Famara. The wind can make riding on the Island really difficult as I’ve experience in previous trips but raceday seemed to be kind and I was happy to top out halfway through the course in around 3hrs as planned. Dropping down the steepest of the climbs from Haria and towards Mirador I moved the bike into the small chainring. Nothing happened. The front derailer had sheared. I stopped at a mechanic and he gave me the thumbs down for any spares, so I decided to change gear with my fingers! The chain jumped across but I forgot to stop pedaling and caught my fingers in the chainrings… ouch. I was happy that I didn’t have to climb Mirador in the big ring as this would have changed any plans on running well off the bike. The breaking of the front derailer kept my mind occupied and I was able to shift using my foot for the remaining part of the bike leg and didn’t lose any time. The two additions to the bike section a climb up the LZ404 and the out and back are not welcome. The climb up the LZ404 into a headwind at 140k was awful and I was glad to get this over with, but then stright after your dropping down towards Famara beach and it felt as though we were nearly on the beach before being told to turn around. I made my way across the lava field before dropping down the donkey trail and back to Carmen for the start of the run. I felt I had got my nutrition right up to this point feeling strong enough to still push home. I had run two bottles with Mountain Fuel Raw Energy and picked a further bottle up at the special needs at the top of Haria. The Mountain fuel raw worked perfectly and is ideal for use in longer event and warm climates worth checking out.
On the Lanzarote training camp in the March we had talked about running off the bike and what we all targetted. We had decided that a 3.0something run was a great standard to aim for. My plan was run the first half marathon in 1.35 and try and hold this into the second part of the run. Running 4.35k’s off the bike after seeing family and friends is hard to control and the first few k’s were a little too quick but I soon settled as I went out to Playa Honda past the airport. The weather wasn’t too warm and I felt comfortable. I was running the aid stations but picking up water and ice as I past and gels stuffed into my Raceskin trisuit for later. The hard part of the run for me is when you arrive back into Puerta Del Carmen after the first lap and it feels to get quite lumpy. I was happy to hit the first half in 1.35 but the little inclines
were taking there toll slowing my pace in town. #Teamwilson were there at the end of each lap for high 5’s
and they always provide me with such a lift when racing. The two shorter loops left were good psychologically a massive bonus but coming back into Carmen and the lumps made
me suffer. I ran on slowing through aid stations now but still getting back up to pace, I knew I was into the last kilometer and really started to enjoy the run in! I finished in 10hrs 30 running a 3hr16 marathon, a PB off the bike for me! Qualifying for Kona wasn’t really on my agenda for now and its a bloody good job as the last slot was taken in 9hrs35 a staggering time and well out of reach for me at this time.
Lanzarote labels itself as the toughest and I can vouch for it definitely being the hardest I have taken part in. The experience though is right up there. Completing the race along with Mark Kilner, Eddie Howarth and Chris Wray was fantastic. Chris a first time Ironman finishing in 14hrs and waiting for him to cross the finish line was a highlight, although he says he hates everything about Lanzarote now! Its definitely a race for the bucket list but I think people are mad that keep coming back.
Massive thanks to Raceskin for designing the Macmillan racesuit and tech t-shirts we got loads of support along the course and lots of admiring looks at how good we looked in it.
Thanks to Mountain Fuel for the nutrition advise prior to race and the fantastic products you produce.
Thanks to all Syngenta colleagues who have helped through swapping and changing shifts or through sponsorship for this great cause. Thanks Syngenta my employer for the continued support and the charity donation towards the Macmillan cause much appreciated.
A 3.16 off the bike when in October I was struggling to run 5k without having a reaction is a great performance by Chris at Clinic 360 and Simon Ward my coach. Chris gave me the movement patterns and strength work I needed and Simon adapted the training runs so not to aggravate the injury but keep me running throughout winter.
Thanks to Simon again for getting me through 3 Ironmans to date, Wales, Hawaii and Lanzarote. Not a bad list and some fantastic experiences. Thanks for all the advice and coaching its been a fantastic journey up till now.
Thanks to Mark Kilner for getting me involved with the Macmillan team for Lanzarote. We all had a blast completing this challenge together. All the family support from Chris and Mark really helped and we all had a fantastic time.
Always last but definitely the most important thanks goes to #Teamwilson. Tired, grumpy and moody Ironmen don’t make the best company all the time but I’ve got all Summer now to make amends for a lost Spring, love you all x
Roll on Portugal 70.3 ;-))