Ironman Lanzarote – A Mental Battle
Many people are drawn to Ironman racing for the opportunity to test themselves in what often called “the hardest one day race in the world”. Personally, I find that there are few things in life that are so fulfilling as when you have prepared well, race harder than you think is possible, able to ignore the pain, kick the nuts of the little voice in your head that sais “slow down” on the bike, and “walk” after 30km on the run. To finally reach the finish line completely drained is an amazing feeling.
To get that perfect race you really have to dig deep inside, and in many ways the Ironman is much harder mentally than physically (if you are physically trained for it and can “race” rather than just participate).
My race in Lanzarote was a different kind of battle. Leading up to the event, I had to learn to accept that it was highly unlikely that I would be able to race hard due to the hip injury I have been battling with (last post). It was also a battle during the race; to hold back and ensure that I under no circumstance would take any risk of tearing the injury up again. And a battle afterwards to appreciate the experience – with such a mediocre result compared to what I was preparing for during the winter.
Many of my friends thought that I would not start, but as I had payed everything and was able to do one (…) 2 hours run session in the weeks leading up to the event I thought it will be a good training day. I had also started a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders and collected close to 10,000SEK which I felt I needed to do something for to all whom have contributed.
As always Ironman Lanzarote was extremely well organized in a location that delivers what you would expect going to Hawaii. In my opinion Lanzarote is a much better experience, more beautiful and a harder race than Hawaii and I enjoy this race more than Kona in so many ways.
The week leading up to the race was normal. The airline lost my bike and delivered it one day later, which forced me to sit in the hotel gym on a spin bike instead of riding the course ahead of the event. I decided to try out a new way of tapering – which was train rather hard the whole month leading up to the race (thankfully I have an understanding and open minded coach that approves my bizarre experiments on myself…).
Swim: A lot more crowded than when I last raced Ironman Lanzarote in 1997 when 390 people finished. This year it was close to 1,500. While I was out warming up in the darkness I didn’t notice that everyone was packing themselves in at the start and I had to squeeze myself way back behind a banner behind the AWA athletes and sub 60min. It wasn’t a problem as I was not gunning for any personal best in this race.
First 400m I kept an insane pace around 1:05-1:10/100m and got that feeling of “this is way too fast, I will die today”. After about 500m I could settle in to a 1:20-1:25 pace and stayed way out of everyone’s way as I didn’t want to get pulled in the feet nor swim after people who can’t navigate. It became a long first lap of around 30min and afterwards looking at the data I can see that I swam close to 4,200m due to my wide turn the first lap. Finished the swim in 57:51.
Bike: Out on the bike I took in as much Isostar energy drink that I could before I got to the first climb. Rode conservative keeping 10beats/20watts below my aerobic threshold that Aktivitus has helped me to set. Saved my legs in the climbs and tried to keep a constant load to get ready for “the sprint” home. The sprint is, after the last significant climb Mirador Del Rio, when you usually have the wind in your back and can make up a lot of time if you have strength left on the way back to Playa del Carmen. The wind was however not in the back today – it was from the side and made the ride from Arrieta to Tahiche painfully slow.
Felt the hip injury slightly on the climbs but nothing dramatic. Got of the bike after 5:57:28, the slowest bike time I have ever done in any race.
Run: By riding more conservative than I typically do I was also hoping that I would have fresher legs and be able to run the whole marathon even with the lack of long runs. But that was not the case and I felt as toasted as you typically do after 6 hours with hills, wind and sun. Started the run at an easier 4:45 – 4:50 pace and maintained that rather consistently until 21km where I started to feel the hip injury and reduced the speed to a jog/shuffle. After 26k I started to walk/jog and mentally prepare for the long walk ahead and the fact that I would be passed by many people. Finally made it to the finish line after 4:05:45. My second slowest marathon ever (walked Hawaii 1998 in a whopping 5:40:30 which still is my PW which I hope that I will never break).
- Finished in 11:11 and 9th in my age group. Kind of ironic as I was 9th in my age group last time I raced here 1997 – in the age group 30-34.
- Last year the Kona qualification time in 50 – 54 group was 11:14 but I don’t know if I could have gotten a slot this year as I did not go to the roll down.
My Key Learnings:
- Taper – experimenting with tapering before this race was good and I think I now know how much training and what intensity I need during race week to have fresh legs without feeling swollen and tired.
- The myth “Save your legs for the run” has once again been busted – at least for me. Either you have trained well on the run and can handle it or you haven’t. It’s not about saving the legs for the run. It’s about preparing them to run a decent marathon after 180km on the bike.
Expectations: Managing and setting expectations, appreciate participation as well as victory enables us to enjoy even mediocre races and results. There is no real benefit of mentally beating yourself up before, during or after races and listening to the cliché bullshit like “no balls, no glory”, “go hard or go home”, “harden the fu%€ up” and “no one remembers a looser”. Think big – love the journey, develop an understanding why you want to challenge yourself and you will possibly find a much bigger reward and experiences on a deeper plane.
Venga, venga – apreciar la vida!
// Juan Pelota