Ironman Lanzarote 2013 by Jamie Wilson
I first decided to have a crack at Lanza on the back of my best race I’ve ever competed in Challenge Roth 2012. I was looking for another challenge and I knew Lanza was a tough nut to crack and Club mate Andrew Thomas had done it and told of how hard the race was. Again like Roth I was hooked. I booked it soon after. A few weeks later Sky TV aired a highlight programme about that years race I recorded it and watched it over and over again. What struck me was the mass swim start. It looked like a mass brawl in the sea!! “Oh no!” I thought!!
Again, as I did in Roth the previous year I asked Alvin Cooney to coach me again. I knew if I was going to have a chance of going well in the Canaries, I would need his help. We met up and went through various things that he would use to tailor for me a plan to crack Lanza.
I was sent my first training block and I was hit by a first bombshell. I would be training right the way through the coldest winter months. I don’t know why this never occurred to me before. Stupid eh!!?? My plan looked similar to last years one but with one big difference. >Sunday- 6hr Hilly Bike<
This meant me practically living in Wales on Sundays. I bought myself a Bike Sat Nav (which I nearly lashed in many a farmers field due to it sending me on many wild goose chases) and downloaded lots of hilly bike rides.
Bitterly cold rides made me think what the hell am I doing here a lot when I couldn’t feel my fingers.
The bad weather also has an effect on my running. As the weather became really bad I decided to get in a gym and run on a treadmill for a few weeks. I worked out what speeds I needed to set on the machine and tried my best to maintain them. I did this for about 3 weeks. When the weather finally cleared and I ran again on the road, I found I was in my best running form ever. My swimming was ticking along well too. All was going great until I did my right quad muscle! I felt it go during a paced run and I was now only 7 weeks away from race day. I was gutted. I got sports therapy on my injury soon after and it really helped mend it but my confidence was rocked. I knew deep down I could not run at pace again. Every time I ran I was waiting for it to go again. My biking and swims stayed on course and soon I began my taper. Always at the back of my mind I thought my quad would go again….
My wife and kids couldn’t come with me to Lanza which was unfortunate as I’d loved to have crossed the finish line with them (if I made it!!) The good news was my Mum, Dad, Sister and her fiancé were making a holiday out of it. It would be good to see someone out on the run course I thought.
Anyway, I made my way over to Lanzarote on the Thursday before the race. Not ideal but the best I could do with my holidays I had from work. I arrived late Thursday and had a busy day Friday with building my bike and testing it, registering and collecting my race bags, timing chip, swim cap and numbers etc. I wanted everything sorted as soon as possible so I could eat and get to bed at about 7pm. I finished off the day by racking my bike and giving in my transition bags. Back to the hotel for a plate of pasta and I was off to bed.
I woke up and instantly felt nervous. I knew I would feel this way and tried to keep my mind focused. After some light breakfast and a coffee I was off to T1 to inflate my tires and do some final faffing. It was dark and windy at about 5:30am. Lots of people looking cheerful but not me. I was bricking it big time. I headed off to the tent to put my wetsuit on and have a sit down. I had a little lie down on a sun lounger and closed my eyes. It was a weird experience. I tried to clear my mind but the thought of that mass swim start began to overwhelm me. I opened my eyes and this bloke with a bloody big film camera was filming me whilst I was lying there!!! I forced a smile and grumbled something to him as I trundled off to the start line. I was sipping an electrolyte drink to the point were I was peeing like a race horse. I knew the toilets had huge queues so decided to find a space on the beach for a quick tinkle in the sea. It was still dark I thought no one would see me?? I started my business when I heard a huge fart noise from my left?!?!
This bloke decided to do a number 2 right next to me. I burst out laughing as I walked away. Madness I thought….
Still laughing at what I’d just witnessed I headed over to the swim start.
I had decided weeks before that I was going to position myself wide right in an attempt to avoid the ‘washing machine’ so I stood right by the Red Bull inflatable arch and watched as the swim start filled up. It was raining heavily now and the nerves were going into overdrive. I was bricking it big time. ‘Stay right’ I said to myself. Trying to calm myself down. Then i heard a group of drummers in the distance, Samba like. It was brilliant. Made the hairs on my neck stand up!! Announcements were made to us all about how long to the off. 7mins….5mins…..3mins…..1min. Then boom we were off. We walked at first as there was that many swimmers there then we were soon running like hell. I noticed everyone running from my left to my right. Everyone was going right!!! I changed my mind last minute and went left as I entered the water. I couldn’t believe it, I was in clear water…..For about 5 seconds then boom!! First blow to my head. I looked up and couldn’t see a thing. Bang another one to my cheek. Someone tried to grab my ankle and pull me back. A swift kick sorted him out. I ploughed on the best I could to the first turn. I was still getting battered. It was chaos!! I made the turn and tried to go right to get out of the mayhem. Swimmers were crashing in from my right. I was stuck. My mind switched to my only other Ironman experience last year in Roth. I remembered to relax and to keep things ticking over. I kind of got use to the battering. I was giving a bit out too!!
Soon enough I was completing the first lap. On entry for my second lap I made sure I stayed right all the way round. Things were a lot better on the second lap. That was until someone pulled the zip on my suit. It instantly filled with water. I had to stop and try to fix it back up again. Doing this on land is hard enough. Doing it in water with swimmers piling over you is insane!! I managed to zip it up and fix the neck Velcro but I’d lost a lot of time. I started to get a bit agitated at any swimmer coming near me through fear of it happening again. I began to get too involved in the argy bargy of it all. I was losing time and I knew it. I made the last turn for the beach upset with myself. Then someone grabbed my ankle again. This fella got my size 11 in his kipper. I knew this because I felt his goggles on my heel. I eventually got out of the water and legged it to T1. Thankful the swim was over.
It was still raining as I grabbed my bag. I legged it into the change tent which was still in the beach. Ripped off the suit and lashed on my bike gear. Sunscreen was put on my arms and shoulders and off I went to pick up my bike. As I approached my bike, my folks were waiting behind the mesh wire fence. They could see I was fuming. I grabbed my bike and made my way along transition. I got to the mount point and I was off.
It was hammering it down as I left T1. I was cold, wet and unhappy. I started my nutrition plan immediately and tried to refocus my thoughts. ‘The swim is gone now. Nothing you can do about it.’ I thought.
I was keeping everything in check. My HR and nutrition. I soon began to smile. I saw the mountains ahead. ‘This is Ironman Lanzarote! What a sight!!’ I said to myself.
I soon began the long drag up Yaiza. It was the first climb on the bike and made sure I kept everything settled. It was great to be out there in the mountains. I was starting to enjoy the experience. I went up Fire Mountain which resembled something from a Sci-Fi film with its volcanic rocks as far as the eye could see. Then a quick descent into Santa. As I approached the town I hit some pretty big speed bumps. I nearly lost control. I’ll go easy over next ones I thought. On the next climb I got out of the saddle to pump the legs a bit and noticed my front tyre had lost pressure. Great!! It must have been the speed bumps! Rather than change a Tub, I opted to gas it up again. Hoping I had not punctured, I cracked on to a very fast descent. I was really shifting. Buzzing past other cyclist gave me a huge lift. I was making up major time on my poor swim for sure. Then Boooooom!! My front tyre exploded!! Now trying to brake at speed when your front tyre has gone aint for the faint hearted. I very nearly came off. Lucky escape!! I pulled over and began to get all my tyre changing kit out. Suddenly, one of the on course bike mechanics pulled up behind me in a van, they changed my front wheel in seconds and I was away!! Brilliant service!!
The kilometres ticked by until I started to see signs on the road ‘Mirador’ I’ve honestly had sleepless nights about this climb. It was like imagining some old school ground bully, waiting for me outside the school gates! I began to climb it, still keeping my HR as close to L1 as possible. I don’t know why I was worried. Yes it was tough going, but the views were the best I’ve ever seen on a bike. A great reward for a tough climb indeed!
The descent for Mirador was bloody brilliant. Super fast for little effort. This turned out to be my highlight for the day. It was incredible. I loved it. Tucked up on the bars flying down super smooth roads. Unbelievable.
I was coming to the last climb from home now I was feeling really confident on the bike and chomping at the bit to nail a good marathon. After that last climb, another fast descent. 170k done 10k to go. I was approaching the double roundabout outside Tias. I was on the left of the road as I braked to make the turn. I was going in way too fast. I braked hard. All the weight went on the front of the bike as I made the turn onto the roundabout. My back end went……..I totally lost control at about 30kph…….I flew across the road on my left side for about 20 metres. I flipped forwards on to my head and crashed into the gutter on my head landing on the side. I was destroyed. Blood was everywhere. As I lay there on the ground I heard shouting in Spanish. Before I could turn to see who was shouting another cyclist made the same mistake as me. He crashed into my right side.
I jumped up. Had a quick look at my arms and legs. I couldn’t make out where I was injured because of the amount of blood on me. I checked my bike. I had a rear puncture and various damages to the left of the bike. A police officer ran over to me asking me if I needed an ambulance. I told him I was ok. I knew I wasn’t but feared any medic would stop my race. I asked the copper for a bike mechanic to fix my bike. Fair play to him. He understood what I was getting at even though he couldn’t understand me. He knew I wanted to continue. The other cyclist by this time had already got up and continued. I must have cushioned the blow I thought.
Anyway I stood there looking at my arm and legs. I felt my neck get stiffer and stiffer. All I could do was curse my stupidity. I should’ve braked sooner I said out loud!!
As luck would have it, the on course doctor pulled up and gave me first aid. Patching up my arm which had zero skin whilst the bike mechanics who had just arrived mended my bike. After bandaging my arm it was time to do my leg. I had to strip to my skinless ass with the last turkey in the shop hidden by a small towel. At this point I was not bothered about who could see what. I wanted to crack on. ‘Get running, you’ll be sound when you're running’ I thought.
Patched up as good as I could’ve been and my blood splattered bike mended, I cracked on. This time taking it a lot more easy. I soon entered Puerto Del Carmen, I spotted my folks again. They again knew something was up. I peddled the last 1k. Preparing my mind for the marathon.
I dumped my bike with the helper pretty much the same way as I tore off my wetsuit after the swim. I knew my race was falling apart. I grabbed my bag and got to the change tent. I threw my run gear on and bagged my bike gear. A helper applied more sunscreen to my shoulders. She saw my wounds and pleaded with me to go to the medical tent. I told her I would. I knew I wouldn’t.
I began the run more concerned about when I could get my first drink as I’d lost my bottles in my crash and had not drunk for a while. I cracked on to the first aid station and downed water and iso. I had my first gel and apart from the obvious I was feeling ok. I was in pain and was aware that people were pointing to my blooded bare ass but I didn’t care. I was picking off runners left right and centre. I managed my first 21k without too much bother. I then began to feel sick. I’m not sure whether it was the crash, nutrition or dehydration but I was feeling awful. Then it happened, I threw up. The pain from my injuries got a lot worse. My neck stiffened to the point where anyone cheering my name was greeted by a Robocop style turn and grimace. The next 10k hurt. A lot. I was in such a dark place. My sister passed me some flat coca cola which I threw up. I tried a gel, that too made a quick return. I was in a daze. I was running to one lamp post and would walk to the next. Then it would be walk two lamp posts, run one. Things were falling apart big time. I had about 11k to go and I seriously felt like packing in. I looked at the beach and thought about just lying on the beach, I was in a terrible way. It then started to go dark. People on their holidays were eating and drinking. Enjoying themselves. They tried to cheer me on, telling me to run. I had nothing left. Then my Garmin died on me too.
The last 10k were a blur. I can’t really recall much. I remember smelling a strong whiff of garlic from a restaurant somewhere and being sick again.
I cracked on and got to another aid station. They told me I only had 1k to go. I couldn’t even run that last 1k, I was in terrible pain. Then I saw it!! The Mdot above the finish line. I summoned up all the energy I had to run across the finish. Screaming my head off, I crossed the line. I grabbed the finishing tape that they had reserved for the winner and held it aloft. Still screaming my head off. My finish time is irrelevant. Most of you will know it, I know I do. But I’m not bothered about it.
I did it! That was all I was concerned about.
After picking up my treasured medal and finishers shirt, I was whisked off to the medical tent where it transpired that the dressing applied to my bare ass flesh was stuck on!! They had to peel it off!!! OH MY GOD!! The pain was unbearable!! To cap it off they chucked a load of iodine on it!! OUUUUCH!!!!! I was broken.
I met my folks and called home to my wife. All of them think I’m bloody stupid. I probably am. It took a lot out of me. More than I’d ever imagined.
Looking back. I’m glad I’ve done it now. I know now why it’s regarded as one of the toughest Ironman around. Why did I have to make it twice as hard though?
Smash it you say?? It smashed me.