I entered Lanzarote quite literally on the closing date, around 3 weeks before the race. I hadn’t planned to race an Ironman until Ironman UK in July and I’m not sure exactly what spurred me on to enter. I just ‘got an itch’ for an Ironman. Given I’m racing this year ‘just because’ there seemed no reason not to.
I hadn’t exactly had an auspicious start to the season but I’m older, wiser and less proud these days. I’m happy to turn up to races without my A game and see what happens. And in some ways, starting an Ironman as a last minute decision certainly takes the pressure off. There’s no time to overthink. In my book, racing just because you want to, is racing for the right reason. The only thing putting me off was ‘that swim start’. Pros start knee height in the water at the same time as 2000 age groupers standing on a slope about 10m behind. Don’t look back – it’s terrifying.
I’ve had some fun days racing Ironman but this was right up there with the best. I even enjoyed the swim, which is something that never happens. I knew as soon as I got on the bike that it was going to be a fun ride. If your legs turn up, the Ironman Lanzarote bike course (and the new one is even tougher than the old) is epic. Racing through the lava fields is something special. I was actually crying with joy when I climbed up through the crowds in Teguise. I knew I was catching Michelle on the hills up to Mirador; I could see the swarm of motorbikes waiting to film ‘the pass’. But there was a bit of me that didn’t want to. Had I played my cards too early? Surely I couldn’t feel this good all day. Even now, on the plane home, I have butterflies remembering the ride. The wind. The climbs. The crowds. The camera-crews. The helicopter swarming overhead as I rode back into town. The police-escort for the last mile. Shivers. Down. Spine.
An ironman marathon is never easy. But this was as good as it gets. The race hadn’t panned out as I’d expected – I’d anticipated having to run my socks off to get onto the podium. As it was I didn’t have to do anything too special. Just keep the gap to Michelle the same and not mess up. I’m not saying it was easy. It definitely wasn’t. But as much as anything it was keeping myself in the zone, not doing anything stupid and looking after myself as much as possible in terms of nutrition, pacing, cooling etc. There was so much support out there. I wanted to acknowledge it much more than I did. But I know that’s when I make mistakes. So I just kept focusing on looking ahead through my sunglasses under my visor, allowing myself some internal smiles and making that finish line without making mistakes. It was only once I’d passed the ‘1km to the finish’ sign that I let myself relax and visibly enjoy the crowds. Someone once told me to ‘race with joy’. Race with joy is what I did on Saturday. ‘Rocking up’ to an Ironman just because you can puts you in a good headspace. And that is just as important as physical preparation.
Congratulations to everyone who finished, especially the 67 women. And particularly to Michelle, who is one of the classiest competitors out there and perhaps the only person who can outclass me in podium dancing; to Simone who had the most extra-ordinary race as an age-grouper; and to Nikki who gritted it out on a tough day. Thank you to the volunteers, to everyone watching and of course to my parents. And thank you to the patients I see at work who remind me to seize the moment and follow my heart. Life is short and we only get one shot.