After the wet and miserable streets of London Marathon, I flew out to the second part of my adventure in the warmer climate of the Canary Islands.
The day started early, after months of training I was to face the 2006 Lanzarote Ironman Triathlon. The race consists of a 2.5 mile sea swim from the sandy beach more normally occupied by hundreds of holiday makers, then cycle 112 miles over the whole of this volcanic holiday island before returning to the sea front to run a full 26.2 mile marathon. Any one of these distances is daunting, but to do them one after another is madness.
The previous days had been very windy, which gave warning of a hard days cycling. I had gone to sleep the night before hoping the gale would drop overnight, but woke to the familiar howling through the apartment blocks. Standing on the beach, with a thousand nervous racers, the wind whipped up the dry sand around us, the water seemed calm but I knew the wind would be a real problem once I got on my bike. The sea was warmer than I expected, the clear blue water gave a good view of the sandy sea bottom and the shoals of fish below us.
The gun sounded and suddenly we were in the water and the race was underway. With an hour and a quarter of swimming behind me, I was running across the beach to where my bike was waiting.
I was soon reminded of the wind blowing across the island, it was warm but the organisers said this was the worst wind the race had ever known and I knew it would make the already difficult cycle ride much harder. The ride took us across the island, where the wind tried its best to blow us off the road, but then had to cycle directly into the wind as we crossed the lava fields of the Fire Mountains and then even further up into the mountains at the north of the island. Having cycled over seventy miles, most directly into the strong wind we reached the clouds, some 600m above the sea where we had started our ride. This gave spectacular views across the island and its surrounding sea, but in the heat of the day it was a hard ride.
I had seen few dogs on my journey, those I saw were lying in the shade relaxing, probably wondering what all these mad cyclists were doing out in the mid day sun. The temperature had risen into the 80’s, eating and drinking were the priority on the return down the other side of the island, which was both flatter and had the benefit of a tail wind. It was late into the afternoon when I cycled the 112th mile back to the starting point ready to begin the marathon run.
The sun was still beating down, so a change of clothes and plenty of sun cream was needed for the hours to come. This time the wind was a friend, it helped keep me cool on the run along the sea front, where crowds of people were cheering the athletes on. Some were running, others walking but all with the aim to complete the final marathon. Some bore the scars of cycle crashes, others weak or injured showing just how hard the day had been. At the days end I found many had been beaten by the terrain or the wind and had to give up.
By the time I crossed the finishing line, darkness had fallen but the crowds remained cheering on the remaining competitors. I had completed the 140 mile race in 15 hours and 27 minutes, some time behind the winner but I was an ‘Ironman’.