Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Lanzarote race report...

Standing on the start line of the Lanzarote Ironman on Saturday morning I was comfortably the best prepared I have ever been for any race. In the 20 weeks leading up to the event I had trained nearly 400 hours compared to 325 for the previous to years, 226 of those hours had been spent on the bike and most importantly nearly 100 hours had been achieved on the Ironman course itself. It wasn't only my training volume which gave me confidence, I'd also pb'd in swim, bike and run throughout the early part of 2009, hadn't missed a day of training through injury or ilness and had averaged 30 minutes more sleep per night over the entire five months. Race week went just as well with H and I settled into the peaceful surroundings of Famara bungalows well away from all the Ironman hype in Club La Santa and 'Brits Abroad' in Puerto Del Carmen.

As the gun went at 7am there was a somewhat mad dash down to the sea as everyone jostled for position. Having placed myself to the front right of the swim start I managed to avoid much of the early aggro and quickly settled into a nice rhythm, breathing comfortably to both sides and concentrating on strong powerful strokes and a reasonably fast cadence. Now, I always seem to have a few 'moments' in my first triathlon of the season and this was no different... about 500 metres into the swim I got what I thought was seaweed tangled round the front of my face, unfortunately as I grabbed it and chucked it away and my goggles went with it I realised it was actually part of my goggle strap! A few frantic moments later I fortunately managed retrieved my somewhat important eye wear and settled back into the swim. Exiting the water at the end of lap one I felt that despite the 20 second self imposed time penalty I was having a good first leg... looking down to see 29:30 and two minutes behind target I had to remind myself of the common inaccuracy of triathlon swim courses and that it was no doubt long and therefore the same for everyone. What felt like a great second lap convinced me that I was having a good swim and I'd also managed to overtake several male and female pro's, so even though I hit T1 four minutes behind schedule (59:38) I was sure it was a little long*.

A smooth and efficient T1 of 4:30 saw me out onto the bike in around 80th position overall and confident of a great 112 miles in the saddle. Having gone off way to hard in Germany last year I was determined to pace the bike well and despite the occasional pro flying past me and making me feel somewhat slow I stuck to my guns and got my heart rate down into the 140s as soon as possible. Feeling really strong on the climb up Mirador Del Rio four hours into the ride I knew my early caution was paying off and cruising past eventual ladies winner Bella Bayliss at around five hours in things were looking good. Arriving in T2 after 5:41 in the saddle I was pretty happy with my time, but extremely happy at having paced it so well and therefore given myself the best chance of maximising what should be (but never has been in Ironman) my best of the three disciplines.

A respectable T2 of 3:30 and I was starting the run with 6:48:59 on the clock and, convinced the swim was around three minutes long, just under a minute behind schedule...

As I set off on the first of four 10.5k laps my mate Steven who was spectating shouted that I was 22nd in my age group, knowing that there were only ten slots I decided to approach the run fairly aggressively and set about running people down. Just over 49 minutes later I picked up my first coloured band (to help athletes and officials keep track of laps) and although this was around 3.16 pace, the heat was starting to kick in, the course was hillier than I had expected and I was having to work harder than I would have liked for that run speed. Partway into lap two and my legs emptied, my head started to go and I was stopping at every aid station desperate not only to cool down but also to re-fuel. At 56 minutes lap two was seven minutes slower, my heart rate was dropping and negative thoughts were taking over my mind... could I keep lap three under an hour? could I even keep running for lap four? Surely Hawaii is out of the window? It's at this point in an Ironman when you are faced with a choice, give in to the negative energy or fight it with every bit of energy you have. Fortunately for H and I we have the most amazing set of friends and family who not only support us 100% through all the highs and lows of training but also arrive en masse come Ironman race day and give us all the positive energy we need from the moment the flag drops to the moment we cross the finish line... Starting lap three about as low as I have been in a race I soon ran past mum, Ray and the KJs, then moments later Steven and his lot, then our mate Boothy from Team MK, then Ozzer and EK... all their shouts combined with seeing H, BenG, Sam, Gabriel, Jo, Steve , Al, etc etc etc giving it absolutely everything in the same race on the same course as me and it was time to take control. Things clearly weren't working and my sub ten goal clearly wasn't going to happen... two things needed to be done - change goal and then change strategy. Looking at my watch a sub-10.30 was definitely on the cards and pulling into the next aid station I hit the coke hard to see if caffeine could do the trick. Within moments my whole mood had changed and by the time I picked up my third coloured band and took off on my final 10k I was focused on breaking 10.25, 26 minutes later turning for home with 9.55 on the clock, 5.25k to go and feeling stronger by the minute I was for the first time ever in an Ironman actually racing the final section of the run. Picking people off one by one and imagining each of them to be in the final Hawaii slot my Kona dream was back at the front of my mind and convincing myself that 10.19 might do it I pushed again and again... over the final hill grabbing the 'The Religion' (our Leeds United flag of St. George - which has crossed every one of my Ironman finish lines and will be with me one day in Kona) I crossed the finish line in 10:20:00, 93rd overall and 25th in my age category.

Ironman Lanzarote is without a doubt the best Ironman event I have done, the organisation was amazing and the atmosphere second to none - these guys really know how to put on an event! What they can't do is a Hawaii roll-down and over a shambolic two hours on Sunday names the Kona slots were awarded... it wasn't clear exactly who was and wasn't there but I think it went to 12th in my cat (35-39 men) and a time of 10.03, leaving me 13 places and more importantly 17 minutes short. I KNOW I can run a 3.15 marathon on the right day though which in this case would have left me 60 seconds out (perhaps it's a good thing I didn't run well!) but what the tells me is that I AM a strong enough athlete to achieve my dream on July the 12th in Zurich.

I'll save race reflections for another day but I'm really pleased with how things went and absolutely could not have gone a minute harder on the day. There are so many positives to take from Saturday and with the correct strategy over the next six and a bit weeks I know I can take advantage of the faster bike course to break 9.30 and claim my slot.

For now... thanks to absolutely everyone, a more positive and supportive group of friends, family, fellow athletes and blog readers simply doesn't exist. I couldn't do it without you guys and nor would I want to.

The journey continues....


*A little analysis compared to last years swim times, based on the 25, 50 & 75% swims, showed this year to be an average of 5.7% slower equating my 59:38 to a somewhat closer to target 56:25 - still not sure I swam as well as I could have though.


Anonymous said...

Congrats. You are both, as ever, inspirations. Will be looking forward to racing you at the Vit this year Tom, rather than cheering you on.
Rich (redraj from tritalk and - now, thanks to you, though somewhat reluctantly - twitter)

Spanker said...

So I look at your posted photo and think 'How DOES he race in those flip-flops?'
Mate, congratulations. Cracking effort, and the way you dug deep & turned yourself around and picked em off speaks volumes for your tenacity. You guys never ceaze to amaze me, and I hope you feel rightly elated.
(PS: One tip - if you dropped that dead-weight called the Leeds United flag, I reckon you'd whip around the course in eight hours flat) CONGRATULATIONS mate, with love from LA

Debra said...

Awesome Tom, remember what Tony H always used to say "can't do" and quitting aren't in the vocabulary. You are so going to go To Kona and hopefully this year, just make sure you recover well in the meantime

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Tom! What is it about that 3rd lap of a IM marathon?! Only 20mins from the times you've done on the 'easy' courses looks like an excellent result to me and it augers well for IMCH. It will be good to see you out on course there. Have a great recvery! Emma xxx

keep on running said...

Congrats Tom and Helen on your races,
Every time I read your posts I feel a little more inspired. Your positive thinking is infectious!
Bodes well for IMCH.

Khara Mills said...

Wow! I almost don't know what to say. Huge congratulations on a great race and for keeping your head so strong when you needed to. Here's to a speedy recovery and some more great weeks of training in prep for IMCH. Things are looking very good indeed Mr T
Khara :-)

Anonymous said...

Great to meet and chat with you after the race Tom, sorry thngs didn´t work out this tie but I am sure you´ll be in Kona before too long and remember you are the F****** B*******!

Jevon said...

Well done mate. You know what I think but I'll say it again: stonking race and excellent time. Soon.

RobQ said...

great stuff guys - awesome effort, not only in the race, but also in the 50+(!) weeks leading up to it. Very inspirational! Keep the fire burning until July, take your well deserved slots at Kona and then get your a**es to Epic Camp!!!
No easy way, right?

Ben G said...

Great race report Tom, even better sharing the day with you. A great performance mate, you tamed the Island from Hell!!!!

Anonymous said...

Well done to both of you, you know its coming..and soon, in the meanwhile a little comp down the triangle, loser gets the ice creams !!! ;-)

Tom said...


Thanks mate, bring on the Vit ;)




I've decided to change 'can' to 'am', I AM going to Kona - just not sure when ;)


You're dead right about that pesky third lap, maybe an IMCH relay is in order?


thanks, yours is too ;)


It's ALL about recovery ;)


I'm guessing that's Steve, Al or Tim? ;)


As always ;)


Desperate to see you at EPIC in NZ, not sure it will happen but fingers crossed...


I think 'nearly tamed' would be a better description ;)


A week on Wednesday, I'll be the one going sub-30... a double choc magnum will be fine thanks ;)


Thanks ;)