Ocean Lava, half distance triathlon15 Sep 2012
This is a small, low-key race: there were 120 athletes, 12 of whom were women. There's no hype, no fancy expo, just one world class, challenging course and a warm, friendly atmosphere.
At the race briefing, held on a beach, organizer Kenneth Gasque (who also organizes Ironman Lanzarote) gave an overview of the course and some rules. I was stood at the edge, and whispered a question to his wife, Annelis, about the start. Annelis assured me the whole group should hear my question, but as I shyly baulked at the idea of calling out to Kenneth, and his loudspeaker, Annelis wrapped her arms around me, waited till the end and did the shouting for me, "this woman has a good question". It's easier to speak in public when you're being hugged. It's easier to do a half-ironman, on your own, when the race organizers treat you, a stranger, like a long lost friend.
It's a two lap swim, with a beach start at Puerto del Carmen. The ocean was calm, and the course is clearly markedâ€¦ with boats at the turns.
[caption id="attachment_726" align="alignnone" width="440" caption="Sven Grossenbacher 2012"][/caption]
Notable thoughts on my swim experience:
* Suzanne Vega's 'Undertow' is not a helpful song to get stuck in your head during an ocean swim.
* Scuba divers, looking up, waving, are amongst the many sights from below the water's surface that freak me out.
* A sports psychologist would have a field day with me and open water swims.
* Concentrating on technique details helps.
Nothing spectacular time wise, but it actually felt like my best swim in a while. Albeit, my 2nd last one involved a traumatic rescue situation.
On the ascent out of town, I had the irritating sound of a motorbike right behind me, clearly struggling to drive slowly behind as I churned my way uphill. I pulled in, thinking maybe he didn't want to crowd me on the narrow road. When he stopped too, I turned and realized I had a race marshall accompanying me. At first I associated the noisy shadow with my first ironman in Switzerland, where a motorbike marshall broke the news that I was too slow to be allowed to finish the race. But hereâ€¦ I'd only just started, surely not?!
I realized that I was simply the last athlete, and this must be a safety measure. I had nearly four hours to go on the bike, so I'd better not let this irritate me. After I dithered slightly at the first junction, he decided perhaps I could do with some navigation assistance, smiled and shouted 'follow me', briefly taking the lead at each roundabout. I decided it was in fact pretty darn cool to have a personal escort.
Lanzarote landscape is amazing, in an other worldly beautifully ugly kinda way. This bike course takes you through the some of the best spots on the island - Fire Mountain, Timanfaya and El Golfo, one of my favorite stretches to cycle in the whole wide world.
I wondered what the etiquette for peeing on the bike is when you have a marshall motorbike tail... oh well. As I started the infamous Femes climb, I glanced up to the full mountain, waiting to see the part where I might have to walk, as I'd been warned. It didn't happen, the road flattened out just as I was getting out of my saddle, hurrah! My motorbike guy had a harder time, stalling trying to maintain his crawl behind, bless him.
As we passed through the rugged Timanfaya park, he rode alongside me a while, checking if I needed any drinks, assuring me that "It gets more like easyâ€¦ soon". He needn't have worried, I love these roads.
It is a tough 70.3 bike course. As well as the physical demands of the terrain, the wind here keeps you mentally on your toes, knowing, and sometimes feeling, it could knock you sideways if you're not careful. I was pleased with my bike handling and my steady performance.
In the descent back to Puerto del Carmen, I almost didn't want to overtake the two straggling men, assuming I'd lose my comrade. I hammered past them, for the little victory, and was delighted that I kept my guy too. I was still the last *female* athlete, after all. Into the busy town, and he shouted me farewell with a 'Vamos Chica!' and I was on my own again, for the run.
The run out along the promenade was against a strong head wind, as is Lanzarote's wont. There's plenty of visual distractions with the tourists drinking at the promenade bars on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.
I felt like I was running really well, keeping on target to hit my first sub two hour half marathon. The head-wind on the 2nd and 3rd loops felt like hitting a huge hill, and I wasn't quite strong enough to push up it, knocking my pace back 15-20sec/km slower and even settling to walk momentarily to regroup. That weakness cost me my goal, but I was happy with the performance and processes otherwise.
I have shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears on this island. Everyone who trains and races here knows it's tough, and we wouldn't have it any other way. If you haven't trained here, it's so worth the brutally educating and grounding experience. If you haven't raced here, I highly recommend dipping your toe in, with Ocean Lava.