Sunday, 25 May 2014

Lanzarote rematch: Success!! Only just...

A week has passed by since my long awaited Lanzarote Ironman rematch, and the dust has just started to settle. I blogged each leg separately, on dailymile, and posted them. I had to have some time to reflect on how the day panned out, and then put into words as detailed and open as I could; I needed to do this, for future reference, and for peace of mind/release from what happened. I've decided to resurrect this here Blog proper, so below is the race reports, now together as one, as logged on dm. 

Ironman Lanzarote 2.55 mi 01:14 29:11 pace
#pec 140 #edim #swimming Alarm call just after 4, and a nice, healthy brekky in, transition prep was a relaxed, but focussed affair, chatting with my mates and just going thru the motions of swim readying. Started toward the back for less stress and to enjoy the moment, Gary R. and I were in good spirits after a late warm-up swim, and joked around about the day to come. Once we got down thrum the funnel to the water, we wished each other luck, and made our way in. I took my time rinsing the goggles and fitting them on while wading in, and began to swim as I was ready. Stopped a couple of times to re-fit the goggs(last minute change to softer gasket), then slowly got into a self-imposed speed limit and rhythm. Some highly irritating fellow competitors' navigation skills annoyed me, but I found myself thinking that they weren't meaning to break my rhythm, and just eased up, got going again as required. A fast, but zig-zagging twonk really tested my patience, constantly veering across me for around 5/600m, as did some feet-clawing drafters, but I stuck to my plan of down-pacing. Nice wee stop at the end of first lap in the shallows(lol) and at the end of second-maybe slight over-hydration. V glad I chose to invest in super-thin sleeveless wetsuit; needs more concentration on technique, but kept me cool. Walked thru T-1 very relaxed and comfy, almost unstressed physically.
Ironman Lanzarote 109.76 mi 07:19 15.0mph pace
#pec 137 #edim #cycling Brace yourselves...
OK, so onto the bike; my seemingly strong point in Triathlon. Race plan by me was already set in my noggin to comfortably spin easy throughout this leg, enjoy it, drink plenty, munch as needed and get thru comfortably. So it began that way. Opened up nicely on the faster, flowing parts, passing plenty on the way, spun the legs as easy as poss into the gruesome wind(and it was gruesome). I clearly remember going thru this write-up en route right up to 50-odd miles, thinking how proud I was that I actually was sticking to my plan of riding at least 20% within myself most of the time.
Started to feel a li'l not quite right soon after, had a pee stop and a chat with another brit doing same, and tried to find my rhythm again. Something wasn't quite right, so I drank, ate a li'l, and tried to shift the events of 2011 outta my head(which had now infiltrated). The next 15 miles were a bit of a blur, and the final push up to and into the special feed station were really nauseous. I grabbed my bag, started to look thru it, and, OH NO.....the same feeling I had 3 yrs ago was on me again.
I remember feeling a sense of panic, of resentment, of...of...sit down, collect myself. Feel strange, lay down....hear voices close by asking me if I want something...feel my eyes close. A dozen thoughts all at once had me shaking them open again and sitting up, answering the concerned aid station guys with a 'I'm fine, fine' before taking some strangely shallow, wheezy breaths and standing up, thinking I need to get going before I get too cold in the stiff breeze, and then......I'm on the floor, on my back, bike on me, people grabbing me straight away and talking at me. Guy asks me if I'm ok, I can't really respond, but mumble about being cold..foil blankets arrive, and everyone struggles to wrap me in the wind, and I'm shivering uncontrollably. Asked if I want to get in the ambulance, and I agree...need to be helped to it as legs are like a baby giraffe on ice. Wrapped in blanket, my drink brought to me, blood sugar tested immediately. Told it's very very low, and given a few chewy sweets, a banana. Blood pressure OK. Asked if I want to quit, get some medication and head back. Refuse, explaining the events in 2011, and that I'm finishing. Referee turns up and tells red cross guy I'm DQ'd..instantly snap into defensive mode and grill him(thru red cross interpreter) as to why; eventually agree I've had no medication and given a form to sign and hand in. Am then told they need to whizz off as been given an emergency shout and I've declined the medication.
Out I get into the wind again, still wet with sweat, and still shivering. I grab a couple of discarded bags and stuff them down the front of my tri-suit(much to the bemusement of volunteers) and grab my bike. Still a li'l tingly thru my limbs, I head gingerly toward the super fast, super tricky descent into Haria, which I manage to wind down thru with aplomb, being waved thru a few times by more careful riders. Crack on up to Mirador del Rio, captivated again by the views, and then on down to Arrietta at a good, fast pace, using the road well, but aware to constantly self-mointor my status, as it's a dangerous place to be switching off. Pass lots of peeps, chat to some, crack on at a decent, but conservative pace, and eventually turn inland and onto the shallow climb to Nazaret, right into the howling gale. Follow a Spaniard who's struggling up, and decide to just sit back a bit from him to try and avoid a big hit from the wind. SHIT....I can feel myself shaking out of li'l micro's happening again. I know it. I get to the aid station and get off straight away, and sit down, against a wall...aware constantly of voices offering me 'agua, cola, redbull' of which I take some water, pop an electrolyte tab into it, and have a sip of cola. Then I hear voices again, offering eyes open...I've dropped off briefly, raise my glasses and look at a girl, and politely decline...this repeats 2/3 times, each time i put my glasses back over my eyes to knowingly prevent them seeing me nod off...I'm scared they'll call an ambulance and I'll be dragged off...I just need time, I tell myself...then the thoughts flash thru: telling Fletch I've got no new medal to show him, seeing the faces of my pals as I appear in transition with no medal and a bad look on my face, explaining to everyone why I've failed again. Fletch and medal, blog, friends' comforting words....... 

"Lee, are you OK"? Michelle rides past and her words wake me up...I think I shook my head, tried to speak but I don't know for sure...Mind clears very quickly, and I start to process the situation. Drink...think, calm, think...I get on my bike and my head clears a li'l...I can feel my heart racing at the thought of failing, and start spinning off along the horrible surface at this point of the route. I pass people again, and start to feel heavy legged, but better in my head...I start to think about arriving at T2, this is good, I tell myself...and as the KMs tick by, I wander between arriving and moving on, and arriving and stopping...I'm just not thinking straight. I'm unsure if I can do the run...again the thoughts of the consequences race thru...and suddenly I'm at the final turn into town, having seemingly flashed down the fast, flowing long descent on auto pilot. 
I'm convincing myself I can't do the run, I'm just not in any safe state to do another 5/6/7 hrs of work....I'm getting off at T2, and done. I'm deffo done.....Applause. Cheers. Smiling people direct me to a halt, and thru to more smiling people taking my bike...I ask where to go, not sure what's happening, and then I'm in the change tent via the toilet, talking to a nice lady about this ridiculous sport we do. We're both happy in our convo, and I explain all about 2011...and then I'm out the entrance...wobbling off in my running shoes. What the hell just happened??? More applause and cheers...I'm ON THE RUN. Holy shit... 
(total of 1hr30mins off the bike, in la la land))
Ironman Lanzarote 26.28 mi 05:51 13:20 pace
#pec 137 #edim #running right, here instalment
So, I find myself in fresh run shorts(sensibly changed on auto pilot), calf guards, and my run shoes, on the Lanzarote run all honesty, it was a bit surreal; I simply didn't know how I got there. "I'm running...I said I was going to stop".."my head feels ok, my legs are a bit stiff" "no, hang on...I need a banana"...but off I went..kind of in a lollioping, jogging, li'l dream world that didn't hurt too much, or make much sense either. Music.....Colours and shapes of people wishing well blurred past, the sea to my right filling my peripheral, the silhouettes of competitors on the other side of the road, and I remember looking at their wristbands(for laps) and thinking that there's no way I was gonna make it around 3 laps..I wished I was one of them. I just kept going tho, not really sure what I was doing it for. 
Feed station came, banana in, coke in, water in....a familiar voice pipes up to my left, and my mate Kev is in my vision(I didn't hear/process what he said, but was told after it was "Cava for breakfast", a thing we'd joked about for post race). I am half running half walking, then I see a familiar sight-Gaz boi, in our OLT team colours, walking up a slight incline toward me. I'm aware of stopping running, and talk with him, trying to explain a few things..I feel embarrassed, anxious, and worried he's OK all at the same time. Off he goes, on I look and try to progress, still thinking I'm not gonna be finishing but still moving forward. Struggling to breathe, and can't run because of this; short, sharp breaths that I can't control. Next thing I'm aware of is Peter, calling at me, but I'm past him before I can react or process what he's saying. I think I kinda waved an arm in response to a typical Pete quote of warrior proportions, and walk on...I can see in the distance the turn around area, way beyond the airport, and my heart sinks..."I've gotta do this AGAIN"? "AND another smaller loop? Michelle passes me, says something, I stop and we kind of hug, but I really am not in a good place, and just kind of react as best I can. The next 2hours are like a record stuck on a loop; feel weird, water and banana, walk/jog, coke, walk/jog, banana and water...feel weird, and so on. I constantly want to sit down and cry. 
The light starts to fade, and I've been trying, but failing to calculate the time remaining, and my projected finish time, but think I'm ok to sneak inside the cut off...I've been walking, jogging, thanking people screaming encouragement at me from the roadside, from inside restaurants, from fellow competitors. Always checking their bands when my eyes are able to focus properly. Always wishing I was in possession of another, and on my way home. Massive lows come and go, where I think again of the talks I'll have to have with the kids, colleagues, my friends at transition, the blog I'll have to write conceding defeat. Time after time I consider just laying down closing my eyes and waiting...I pass people slumped at the side of the road..each one making me want to do the same, and simultaneously making me thankful I'm still upright. Bananas and water...coke...wobble. Repeat. Cold. Eyes wobbly. 
It's dark now, the wind is fierce in some places, the route is lonely. Very lonely. No one will see me if I sit down at the side. I can't stop. I'll be left here. There goes Hollie again(I'm sure I saw her before). And Michelle(did I say hello again?). I'm in total dreamland, my legs ache on and off, and I still can't accurately process my finish time. Ian goes by on his bike and asks if I'm ok...I shake my head and mumble about ambulances. Plod on, totally dejected.
Final turn around did I get here? I really have 2 bands on my arm? Kev, Gaz...asking me if I'm ok.."no"...will I make it they say "yeah"..." I can't not make it, can I"
The last loop was the best, and most conscious. I owe a great deal to a Dutch guy named Marcel. We spoke; about life, love, Ironman, work, kids.....He stopped to cuddle his toddler at the side of the road, and I waited for him. We walked together lots. His stride was longer than mine by a fair way(and mine is big). I ran a li'l, feeling guilty, and that I need to, but he caught up a couple of times as I wobbled a bit and spoke with myself, away with the fairies, making my peace with the events of the day. We walked together for 2miles, and came to the final few hundred metres. We saw a guy in front, jogging, but slower than our walk. I explained I needed to run in, and we shook hands. I ran thru the crowd, and everyone was screaming, cheering, high fiving me. 
I paused a li'l, as I caught another straggler, and allowed myself my own moment crossing the line. The lovely Kenneth Gasquet(race director) shook my hand, patted me on the back, and I wobbled away, medal around my neck. I think I heard my name announced.
I couldn't, and still can't, process how on Earth I got there. I really can't. Even now, 4days later, it feels like a dream; a surreal, otherworldly place I existed in. I was in the absolute depths of personal failure and despair. Minutes rolled by without me even realising or knowing what I'd done. And yet here I was with a medal. One that eluded me in 2011, and I was convinced had done the same in 2014. But I had it around my neck. 

I still don't think It's really sunk in what I went thru. I've spoke to people about the 'dark places' in races, but this was something else...I don't claim to know completely why we as humans do these things to ourselves, or how we find it within ourselves to find that....*something* that allows us to continue to follow our own personal dreams. I always have, and will, applaud anyone who dares to walk where those angels fear to tread. Or to quote: 
"it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat"
My place will never be with those cold, timid souls.
Heartfelt thanks to those back at home who were anxiously following my progress, and the support I've been afforded. It's incredibly humbling. I'm just an idiot who tries hard to blag his way thru some tough times. Sometimes I get it right, often I get it wrong. This is how I am.
Like I said, the dust has now settled...I said after the race that no more would I put myself up against the full IM distance, and that I'd enjoy some 70.3 racing(where I feel at home and happy to redline for the duration), and shorter. 
But here's the thing: Lanzarote. It takes a hold of you, and pulls you toward it, like a big, volcanic, hard as nails opponent throwing down the gauntlet. I can't shift it outta my head. I know people who will race next year. I want to be there; to support, and holiday. But I know, I just know I can't think of going there on race week and not be a part of what is just a phenomenal behemoth of Triathlon. I will assess things over the next few weeks, and really dig deep into my soul for answers on what to do. Financially it'll eat me as much as anything else too. But that's just a small part of the
I have some exciting racing ahead, to keep me busy, hard working, and happy. Moving beyond those.....
Watch. This. Space. 
Leeky out xXx


  1. Brilliant and an emotional account. You are awesome well done. Quite a few lessons learnt. Here's to the rest of this season and let's see what happens next year

  2. Great job, real achievement mate. Oh, and welcome to the world of blogging (on 'wordpress' myself, but hey, what the hell...)

  3. Loved reading this - now want to go back and read th reports from the others! You are a total inspiration

  4. Great achievement, Lee - very inspiring. Will be keeping an eye out for reports next week. Best of luck, hope you achieve your goals, and be safe.