Last week I expressed some self doubt and anxiety ahead of Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote. It's rare for me to enter a race at last minute and even rarer to be on the start line feeling unprepared. However, your fitness has peaks and troughs throughout the year, so it's unrealistic to expect to be in great shape for every race. Once I reminded myself of this and accepted it, I started to feel a little better. Friday was the usual pre-race training routine with a light swim, bike and run, before going through the normal race registration process. The crew here at Sands Beach were great, transporting us and our bikes to and from the race site, which helped alleviate pre-race stress.
On Saturday I got up at 5am and walked to the restaurant for the athlete's breakfast that the resort organised for us. Stepping out the door, I was surprised by how windy it was already. If it was blowing like this already, how bad would it in a few hours time? A few coffees and some cereal later, we got on the coach and drove across the island. Pre-race routines done, I laid down and closed my eyes, trying to get in the right head space for the race. This would definitely be one of the toughest races I'd done, so going in with the right attitude was paramount.
With the water at a bubbling 23 degrees, I knew it would be an uncomfortably warm swim. Lining up on the start line were a host of top swimmers, male and female. Finding the right place to start wasn't easy, but I knew who to be looking out for. With a relatively small pro field, the start was quite civilised and I was soon on the right feet. Navigating the course was simple, although there were a few occasions where the pace seemed to surge and I had to work hard to stay close to those ahead of me. Even following feet, my perceived effort was quite high, which gave me confidence that the swim was going well. A group of 5 of 6 of us exited the water together, coming out in 25:13. My legs felt terrible running to T1, but I was quick through the change tent and was soon running out with the bike towards the mount line.
Whilst wheeling my bike out, my shoes (which were attached to the pedals and not secured horizontally with elastic bands) hit something which caused the back end of the bike to kick up, the rear wheel landing heavily. As I was running quickly I thought nothing of it, arrived at the mount line and jumped on, pedalled, and... nothing happened. I looked down and saw that the chain had dropped. I jumped off and grabbed at the chain trying to put it back on the chainring. It was stuck pretty good and took a bit of work, but thankfully I got it back on. This probably cost me somewhere between 40-60 seconds and was far from the ideal start. Lesson – affix shoes horizontally with elastic bands. Noted.
Having been on the island for over 2 weeks I was familiar with the course, which is always an advantage. The wind was already quite strong and it was coming from a different direction to what I'd recently experienced. We seemed to have a headwind for the first 25 miles all the way to Tabayesco, which was the first time that I caught up with some athletes ahead of me. After taking the first 4 miles of the climb comfortably hard, I increased the effort for the final 2 miles and managed to break away from 3 riders I'd caught. Until this point I'd ridden exactly to plan and had been pleased with my power numbers, which gave me confidence. For the final 25 miles I rode with the tailwind back to La Santa.
This was a very lonely ride, but somehow given the challenging nature of the course and the landscape in Lanzarote, it almost seems appropriate that you should be on your own out there. I got back to T2 with a 2:36:25 bike split.
After successful trials in training, I'd decided to run in the Adidas Energy Boost without socks. This saved me some time in transition and I headed out on the run course. Immediately I was aware of how hot is was. With no shade on the run and along the coast, we were exposed to the wind over the 3 lap course, which was with us for 2 miles and against us for the other 2. My pre-race fears were materialising – the first lap was quite awful. The pace felt as if I was barely jogging, but I wasn't able to pick up the speed and move through the gears. It's exactly how I'd been feeling over the last 2 weeks, like I was stuck in 2nd gear.
I rode it out and walked through a couple of aid stations, making sure I got in plenty of fluids and calories. The 2nd lap went by in almost the exact same time, but fortunately I managed to pick it up on the final lap and claw back some time. I finished with a 1:22:17 run for a 10th place finish in 4:28:28.
Whilst the performance was a long way from my best, I was actually quite pleased given how I felt going in. There are some positives to take out of the race, such as setting a new swim PB for the distance and negative splitting the run, which is the first time I've done that in a long distance race. The run also turned out to be a PB for the distance, which – considering how I felt – is quite surprising. It gives me hope of being able to run a lot faster when everything comes together. Plus of course, it's always nice to get to go on stage!
The first few days post-race were focussed on recovering, incorporating some shorter and less intense sessions. In the last few days I've been getting back at it, getting in a decent ride yesterday in some seriously windy conditions. This morning was the first 2 hour run I've done since Copenhagen, which was a welcome shock to the system. I'm starting to ramp things up in the pool as well, getting in some consistent sessions and setting some good (by my standards) times. With just over 5 weeks until Ironman Arizona, I'm now in the final – and most important – phase of training. I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there's still a lot of hard training to be done before I get there.