Challenge Fuertaventura 70.3 Half Ironman 24th April 2015
Back in the cold of January my mate asked me to join him to do a triathlon sprint race (500m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) in the Canary Island of Fuertaventura. I thought that could be fun so signed up. He then got a new job and couldn’t go, but all wasn’t lost as his girlfriend Helen and her brother Tom were there anyway, to look after and help me….mainly around the pubs and bars of Correlajo where we were staying! I arrived the Wednesday before the race and the first thing I did was have a skin full of beer! Next day up early for a run. Then a bike ride. Then the beach. Luckily the previous nights drink induced headache evaporated just before we headed out for some more great food and beer that evening, taking in some live music, another late night.
On Friday the day before the race, we drove an hour south to race HQ to register and rack the bike. After signing on I went to leave my bike overnight in the transition area. But when I arrived I was told I couldn’t use my TT bike. It was a draft legal race so you had to use a road bike, I and several other non-Spanish triathletes were told. I kinda thought they’ll back down given the distance we had all travelled, but an hour later we had three choices. Refund, rent a road bike or switch to the half ironman….1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21km run. It was funny as I always thought it was a long way to go, and a lot of driving, to just do a one hour race. So I thought what the hell, I’ll go for the long race! That evening I just had a glass of red wine.
Race day, up at 5am, met my friends at 5.30 and we drove the hour back to the resort start. It was still dark. Helen and I found some coffee while Tom continued to sleep in the back of the car. After the usual 15 minute queue for the loo it was time to get the wetsuit on and a quick dip before the off. After a final shout from my support team I headed to the start. I wasn’t taking the race too seriously and queued up at the back of about 200 guys in my race wave. One guy was talking about a 15% climb on the bike course, which I hadn’t had time to look at. All I knew, all I focused on, was that after 1,224 metres of climbing the last 20kms was downhill or flat.
Gun went and we all descended into the sea for two laps. After the first lap we got out, ran round the start area and back in again. I was doing ok, but it felt a long way and I’m convinced we did more than 1.9kms! Lap 2 done and a shortish run up to the transition area to get ready for the bike. I put my bike jersey on, armed with bars and gels, had a bit of a rest and headed out on the bike course of 90kms, with Tom’s booming shouts of encouragement in my ears. For the first 20kms I felt good, up and down the little hills, passing loads of people. Then I got passed by some guy I’d passed earlier. Then the little hills turned into longer hills. I managed to keep this guy in sight for quite a while until the monster appeared. Yes it was 15% but that was after a lot of 10%. My legs got heavy, I got tried, I got fed up. I started wondering why I was doing this, why I was here, why I was doing triathlons, generally in a bad place. I went through the motions for 50kms!! Then at a certain point I realised there was 20kms to go. Things became easier. I got happier and found the Tri bars again. I rattled back into transition having spent a torturous 2 hours 50 on the bike, hoping I wasn’t as knackered as I felt.
I didn’t waste any time in transition, had another gel and got on with the run, a half marathon of 21kms. Again cheered on by Tom and Helen the run course featured a long drag to start with, then a long descent to turn and come back. Then a run around the resort, past the finish then do it all again before finishing. It was around midday now and I could feel my arms and shoulders burning, remembering I’d forgotten to put any suntan cream on before the start. Passing two guys almost straight away was a morale booster, including the guy on the bike, and I was surprised how much better I was feeling. My running has improved since I lost a few kilos and I seemed to feel ok.
This was only my second half ironman/half marathon but I’ve realised its a mental battle to keep going at a good pace. You go through bad patches and make yourself promises to get to the next water station or up the next hill before having a rest, only to set a new target when you get there! So there’s no rest. Just keep going until the finish line. Strangely it’s the bit I enjoyed the most. I suffered a lot but with the finish in sight and with the support of my friends I ran a 1 hour 27 half to make up a bit on the poor bike.
Total time was 5 hours and 21 seconds. 4th in category and 61st overall. I was pleased with that although 3rd in category would have got me a podium picture so was slightly gutted! But maybe the best bits were the hot shower I found and the burger and beer with Helen and Tom after, feeling completely shattered but pleased I choose the long one in the end. Still got drunk that evening as well!