Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lanzarote Ironman 2009 - Race Report

12 months have passed and here I am writing my second report after completing IM Lanzarote 2009. The journey began late in September after a Saturday cycle. When I got home, I logged onto the Lanzarote website, more out of curiosity than anything else. Curiosity turned to blind panic when I realised there was only approximately 150 places left to fill. My mind was racing, do I register?, don’t I, have I got the time to train? Do I want to subject myself to that all over again and so soon? Within another 2 mins it was done. I was registered…… What now? Time to get a coach. I had been viewing for a while and decided based on his training philosophy he was the one for me. His training is all about utilising your own body fat store, of which Cian would say I have plenty, and learning how to train at a HR that enables you, over time to utilizse your stored fat cells into energy by training at between 70-80% of your HR max.

I started a maintenance programme to begin with as the race was over 35 weeks away. So the plan was 15 weeks of maintenance/base then onto a peak performance programme for 20 weeks. Well, after 5 weeks on the programme I was getting a lot of problems in my knees and had a few MRIs, not from the training more from issues last season and was found to have patella tendonitis. I’ve had it on and off for years but after the IM in 08 it was always hovering around. Anyway, training on the bike and run stopped for 10 weeks. Swimming was allowed. The next 10 weeks resulted in a lot of accupunture which brought me up to January, 21 weeks to the race. Unfortunately I still wasn’t ready to bike or run and it took anther 2 weeks. By now I was nervous, 19 weeks to prepare for an IM without a good winter base???? Could I do it, would I beat last years time? Would I make a show of myself? I contacted Mark Allen and he said yes, go for it, but be ready to put in the training. I was ready!

I signed up for an 11 session per week programme, 3 swim, 3 bike, 3 run and 2 strength training sessions. A lot, considering work had to fit in here also. Most of my training was spent with Paul and Kevin, mainly Paul. I think the other WTC club guys thought we were too slow as every time we came to a hill we backed off to keep our HR in the right zone. It was frustrating, we could go quicker but in order to maximise your fat metabolism you need to stay in the zone. If you go anerobic for a period of time it takes approx 7 hrs to return to burning you own fat.

The 19 weeks flew, every saturday consisted of a 4-7 hr ride and a 30 min brick for 3 weeks, no brick on the 4th week (that was the recovery week), not really a recovery, you still had 11 sessions, Sundays were 2-3hr runs.

We flew to Lanza the Monday before the race, plenty of time to acclimatise to the heat and the wind. We took it very easy, did exactly what the programme said, 1.5 hr bike 30min run on the Wednesday before the race. Everything after than was less than 30 mins in duration, Tuesday and Thursday were free days. We stayed indoors out of the sun, Didn’t want to risk getting burnt.

Excitement was building, all the talk was what will the wind be like? What direction will it be coming from? How hot would it get? We bumped into Ain-Alar Juhanson, 2005/2006 winner, who said it would be light in the morning and build as the day progressed. Would we be so lucky?

Ain-Alar Juhanson – 2005/2006 IM Lanzarote Champion, 7th in 2009, at the Hagen Daas stand!

Kevin arrived on the Wednesday and was calm and collected and ready for the off. No nerves there at all. I was amazed!

The bikes were racked on the Friday afternoon. What a site, bike porn everywhere, it was fantastic. Of course we had to check out the Pro’s bike’s, bling eveywhere and every type of bike and tri-bars you could think of.

My bike in transition.



New frame, arrived 2 weeks before the race.

 Saturday 23rd May – Race day

The alarm buzzed at 4.30am, up we got and had breakfast. I stuck to the normal cereal and toast. Then off we went, down to transition with the pump, days food, etc. Surprisingly I wasn’t too nervous. Not sure if it was based on experience from last years race. Transition was busy. Stuck to myself, pumped the tyres, loaded the food, and went back to the room and put on my wetsuit.  Time 6.30am: All of us went down to the start. I lost Kevin as he had to get a new band to get into transition. Myself and moley had a quick warm up swim, about 1 min to be precise….. then we joined the crowd in the tunnel. 1350 people packed in like sardines. We positioned ourselves on the left hand side. We knew it would be a bit hairier but hell why not make the day interesting!!!!

The swim: 1.10hr

The whistle blew, we were off, not so much a sprint to the sea, more a gentle shuffle. Then bang….. arms, legs and bodies trashing about. It resembled a tumle dryer on max spin, crazy. I was punched, swam over, under, elbowed, you name it, it happened. The first turn was at 160 metres and it got worse as everyone converged to make the left turn.

The washing machine.

I got a bit of a draft here and there, found myself on my own at times which felt a bit weird. The rest of the swim was uneventful, completed the first lap in 34mins and then off for a second lap. I exited the swim in 1.10hr, happy enough, felt fresh, kept looking for Ro and Siobhan but saw no-one I knew, off came the wetsuit, grabbed my change bag, had a quick pee and into the tent to change. This year I wore a tri top and bike shorts, not bibs. So the transition was quicker. Heard Ro and Shiv scream at me exiting the bike, felt great to see them. Then it got lonely.

The bike: 6.09.57hr

180km, it was going to be a long day. I had my game plan, stay as close as I could to my upper HR range 138-143 for as long as I could manage and try not to go over on the climbs. If I went over, ease off and drop the HR as quick as I could. The first 40km went really well, ate, drank and peddled hard. The first climb was fine, felt strong, stood and climbed the last 200 metres. Expected to see Ro, Shiv and Pauls family but they didn’t get there in time. They got the distance markers wrong on the road. I was using a GPS but it seemed to be out by 10km. Later in the race the road marking read 175km when we had only completed 150km. My GPS was right along! The special needs bags were at the top of climb 3, Haria, 104km. I grabbed it, took out the bars, gels and jam/chees e sandwhich and continued on. No stopping this year. Stuck to my plan for the day, stayed focussed, continued eating and after the last climb, Mirador Del Rio, there was only 70km left. I pushed on hard. Saw Ro, Shiv, and the O’Connors at the 155km point and gave them the “venga, venga venga” salute. All along I expected to see Moley come alongside, give me a nod and push on, but no sign of him. I knew he was cycling well so I had it in my mind to race my own race and if he came along just to let him go, don’t try to stay with him. In the end, he didn’t but it kept me on my toes all the same. I finished the bike in 6.09hrs, 37min quicker than 2008. I was delighted. 

The Run: 4.08.57

Transition was a little slower than I wanted as I went with the compression socks option, mainly as I had been having calf and ankle issues for the last 6 weeks. Other than that, just a quick change into my zoot shorts, and off I went. Again, I had a plan, HR not to go above 143. I was running for about 3 mins before I even got the the run start, Transitions are so long here!!!! Also, I was using my GPS garmin, which has a function called ‘virtual partner’. I had set it at 5.25min/km, in order to run the marathon under 4 hrs. All went well for the first 21km, I kept my pace, HR stayed in range and I was taking on gels and drinking. It was hot though, 28 degs…… Lap 3 started, this was where a piano fell on me last year and I slowed down. No piano this time, however, at the turnaround, 31km I needed to pee, when I got back on the course I just couldn’t run, my hips were aching. I walked for about 5 mins, Moley was in the other direction  and I said to him “the wheels have come off”.  He just shouted, “keep movin” .

First lap of the run…… Still feeling freshish!

 There was a slight decend infront of me and I used it to start running again, slowish and sore but manageable.  I couldn’t take on any more gels, my stomach was cramping, so I stuck to water, coke and orange segments. I got to the end of lap three, my 4 hr marathon was sort of still on track if I could do the last 10.55km in 57mins. On a normal day, this would not be an issue but after 10.5hrs of an IM, I had doubts. The last lap was mentally and physically extremely tough, I had to dig deeper and deeper to keep moving. I walked through the aid stations, even though I knew it would affect my run time. It didn’t matter. With 3 km to go, I knew I wouldn’t break the 4 hrs but that was fine, I knew I was going to finish and be faster than last year. I just wanted to finish so bad. The last 500 metres were so special. Imagine it, people everywhere, who notice you are wearing the three required bands, red, blue and yellow, which show you have completed the required laps, cheering you on, then you go down a tunnel, you see the end, and you so want to finsh strong, you pace picks up, you high five people, see the tape in front of you and hear the announcer call your name, the adrenelin rushing through your veins, every sense is heightned. I took a glance up at the time, 11.46hrs, one whole hour faster than 2008, I felt amazing. I crossed the line, came to an instant stop, my energy tank was on empty. I had my photo taken and shook Kenneth Gasque’s hand, the race director. Pauls mum, sister and brother in law were there and were shouting over to me. Ro videoed me running the last 50metres. It was a great feeling.  Good as last year, I’d say better.

The run to the finish….. check out the compression socks!


The finish…… finally!

Then I headed into the IV tent, got an IV, bowl of soup, sandwich, got a bit emotional!! and while I was there, in walks Moley, finished too, and not too far behind me….. 12.20hrs what an improvement on 2008. We discussed the race, both amazed at how the day panned out. Kevin was still out there but I had passed him (going the oppoite direction) and knew he was running well. I went and have a massage and then went to change clothes and go see Kevin finish.


Kev finished strong, and the smile on his face when he crossed the line was great to see. He let out such a cheer at the end!


20mins later!!!! Shattered!


All in all, it was a fantastic day for the three of us. We all had a great race and were thrilled with our results. Will I do Lanzarote IM again, possibly, but maybe not next year. I’ll see how I feel after IM Florida in November. I started the IM programme in Mid January. This is a summary of my training hours from mid January until race day, 19 weeks in total.

Swim 57hrs – Approx 160km

Bike 134hrs – 3530km

Run 50hrs – 625km

Strength Training 28hrs

Pilates 10hrs.

Total: 279hrs or an average of 14.75hrs/week.

Now for a rest!


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