Monday, May 19, 2014

Ironman lanzarote

Talk about a long day at the ironman office... This race was brutal.  I was very nervous about this race after all it is the toughest Ironman. I had never even set foot in Lanazrote before and just rocking up without having trained in this climate was always going to be a challenge. 

I arrived on the Monday giving me time to acclimatise which in hindsight was a bloody brilliant idea. it was good to meet up with old friends and racing buddies and although we did chill out there was a serious side.  We tested out bikes and there was few problems which were dealt with so they wouldn't muck up the race.  We swam in the clear gorgeous sea and ran in the heat. I had slight panic with my bike, gashed tyres and ended up having to buy new tyres.  I wasn't taking any risks on this race. 

With over 2400 competitors the start of the sea swim was  going to be a frenzy.  They did have allocated swim times so I started right at the back. I met a lady who within 5mins was hugging me tightly, I am not sure for whose benefit.  I love how a race like ironman brings this out in people.... United and drawn together as you stand at the beginning of a long day.  I decided to get to the right of the swimmers which meant that if needed I go  out to avoid the chaos I could.  This didn't go to plan and I got hemmed in by the ropes.  This caused a great deal of anxiety and coupled with the fact there was plenty of jellyfish around I wasn't breathing properly.  Now some of you might know that feeling when your not breathing properly and you get a build up of Carbon dioxide in your chest causing a tightness that harbours your breathing.  I wasn't having an asthma attack but I couldn't breathe freely at all. Luckily as I was hemmed in at the ropes I could hold on to them and try to regulate my breathing.  It wasn't really working and as I watched all the swimmers draw away from me taking away the option of drafting. The tightness wasn't going and I stopped about 12 times on the first lap. As you work your way back round the ropes aren't there any more and I had to stop and rest on canoe. There was no way I was going to give in so it was a working progress of stop start.  Just as I got to the beach  and the end of the first lap I got lapped by the pro's. They came from nowhere and engulfed me!!!  I ran along the beach determined that my second lap would be better.  I started burping and the tightness in my chest disappeared and as I entered the sea for the second time, I was in a much better place. My swimmimg became effortless and I started overtaking swimmers and working my way through the pack.  My second lap was a lot quicker than the first.  I am not sure how to explain the feeling of panic and the fear of being that vulnerable in the open water and the inner strength and determination that you must find to continue. I wasn't going out in the swim and all the months of training, the sacrifices and the hard work that you put in plays on your mind. I was out on dry land and safe, the time was disappointing but I still had work to do.

Due to the swim being longer than expected I missed riding with the pack.  I think this would have helped my ride.  Time to play catch up. As usual I had stomach distension, something I suffer from with every open water swim. I couldn't get down on the aero bars due to the infamous hard swollen belly and as you learn from experience I had my windzee tablets ready in my T1 bag. I knew that within 20 to 40 mins, I would start farting and my stomach would go down.  It took at least 20 miles for me to get into the bike ride.  At one point here is a cross over and I could see the masses on their ride, a good 45 mins in front of me.  There was nothing I could do apart from dig in and keep spinning.  The wind was HORRFIC, it was relentless. Headwind or crosswind, no reprieve, I was so glad I decided with the training wheels. The wind saps you... You know it's hot but you don't really feel it. I didn't have my speed up on garmin that would depress me.  I often looked ahead and saw that the people in front were going just as slow as me.  I did overtake quite a few people and made an effort to talk to everyone that I passed.  The good side of the bike is the views. The volcanic landscape is breathtaking in a weird and abstract way.  The landscape changes so dramatically from black rock to picturesque villages. The views from the climbs helped to take away the pain as you gaze into the clear blue seas. The locals and the spectators are supportive but really show their appreciation for the women competitors.  As I rode through villages men took off their hats and bowed shouting "bravo" the local policemen who were on every roundabout and junction applauded.  Some of the guys I befriended on route were put out that they had no support.  Ironman is always a good way to make friends.  Every little encounter gives you strength and breaks up the monotony of a long painful ride. The hills were daunting and you could see them stretch out for miles ahead of you.  I knew that I had no choice so I just stuck in there and kept spinning. At about 70 to 80 miles most of the hard climbing was complete and with everyup there is a down.  There  was some incredible descents around very tight bends and I can only imagine what that would be like if I was riding in the masses.  As there was plenty of  space I could take advantage of the open road and my descents were fast.  I watched my average speed of 12 mph increase after every long descent. I had my eye on the time and the cut offs. I was 30 miles from home.  I spent these 30 miles with a couple of English men and we joined together feeling elated that we were early there.  I got filmed at one point, the Ironman media motorbike filming me for about 10 mins.  Now lanzarote bike course can leave you feel very isolated but the mechanic vans and doctors car pass quite regularly shouting support and ensuring that you are ok. Most of the roads were smooth but there was one town where the road surface was awful. There was parts of bikes, gas canisters, pumps. That was a bumpy horrible ride.  As I passed a feed station I saw a cyclist propped up against the wall and  it took me a while to realise it was Lee.  I shouted to see if he was ok and then spent the next half hour beating myself up that I didn't stop. 
My nutrition was pants. I had made my home made energy bars but with the heat it was a disaster. I relied upon trek bars, bananas and the manuka honey seed bars.  This didn't help my stomach and I was so glad that in my special needs bag I hand Canadian potatoes and salted peanuts.  The bottom of my feet really hurt and I later found out that the metal at the bottom of my bike shoe was slowly melting my feet.  Luckily I had special insoles that took the brunt of it.  When I reached the dismount line I was avery happy bunny.  I knew from this pointi had made the cut of points and I was going to make it.  As I came off the bike my feet were so painful I could hardly walk.  The racking that I had got my bike from was gone.  It was now a hospital tent and caused me a great deal of confusion. A Marshall took my bike and I walked down the long long transition to the run bags.  I had to take my bike shoes off and it was very painful walking.  In transition I completely changed and as I changed my socks I could see that I was missing so much skin off the bottom of my feet.  

I had every good intention to run the marathon and from my last ironman distance this was my strongpoint but races are always so unpredictable and to be quite honest I felt like shit.  Every time I ran I was fighting nausea.  Marathon takes a long time to walk so I ran 100 steps and walked 25. Sometimes I ran more than 100 and tried to beat it each time or until nausea got the better of me. It was so hot... No wind to cool you down.  I never walked more that 25 steps. I picked objects to run to and then would reward myself with a short  walk. Never has a marathon been such an unpleasant experience.  As the miles went by he walking increased and the running became a distance memory. I went into proper stomp mode and I was walking quicker than I could run.  So many  people commented on my power walking and how jealous they were. You can not believe how disappointed I was with myself that I couldn't run and how I was punishing myself that I was cheating the ironman but to complete was the goal. At every timing mat I could sense that my friends and family would be tracking me and how relieved they would feel knowing I was getting closer.  I had dedicated every mile to someone but I couldn't remember who and why and when.  

As I neared the finish line after the third loop I was met with one of the green team.  She kept telling me to run and that I was close... In my head I was screaming at her to shut the fuck up if I could run I would be running and if she wanted to be covered in projectile puke she was more than welcome. The last 100m was downhill and I started to run I wanted to cross that line and hold that ironman banner above my head.  As I'm sat in plane writing this feeling very emotional.  I might need to stop. 

15.47.48 not as quick as I liked and things went wrong in that race but I finished the toughest Ironman. Mental strength and determination kept me going.  I had been worried about my fitness but that wasn't an issue on the day, stomach distension, nutrition and the heat were all factors hat need to be considered.   Swallowing large amounts of sea water was my biggest enemy and suffered for 3 days after the race. Would I do it again..... HELL YER....... I already want to enter Lanzarote again.  

Big thank you to team kraken.... Knowing you had buddies out there made a huge difference especially when you were just there together with no support. We did it guys..... It was tough but we all left an ironman and completed where others failed.   I was so glad that they all made it.  Thank you to all the people who tracked us at home, messages of support wre overwhelming. 

Prepare for the video it's going to be AWESUME :-) 


Lena said...

Awesome read Michelle. You overcame adversity and didn't let the beast beat you. . You are an Ironman and are sporting an amazing tattoo to show the world.
I hope you do get to do it again.

Holgs said...

Great report and a fantastic achievement Michelle. Very well done.

Anthony Clarke said...

Geez girl you are solid, outstanding. I cannot even begin to imagine where you guys get your determination, strength or courage from. I'll try to remember your words on Sunday.