Saturday saw the 22nd running of the Lanzarote Ironman Triathlon event on the windswept island off the eastern coast of North Africa. The event has built a reputation of being the toughest Ironman Triathlon in the World with the competitors having to battle against not only the 140.6 miles of total distance but also the strong winds, heat and mountains. This year the start of the race was greeted by a downpour of rain but as the race progressed the sun came out and baked the athletes on the bike and run courses.
Michelle Parsons, racing for Team Tri UK, had again decided that the race would be a good test of her early season fitness and she was looking to improve on her performance from 2012 if the weather conditions were similar. She was joined by fellow Worcester Tri members Andy Day and Neil Wicks, with Neil making his debut in Lanzarote following on from his very successful Iron distanced race in the UK in 2012.
The triathlon starts at 7am on the beach at Puerto Del Carmen with a two lap swim covering the 2.4 mile distance in the Atlantic Ocean. The swim usually serves as a rude awakening for the 1,500 swimmers all trying to get their day off to a good start but for Michelle it was a difficult swim suffering in the ‘washing machine’ effect that it caused by so many swimmers starting at the same time.
Neil was first of the three to exit the swim in 1 hour 3 minutes and 18 seconds. Surprisingly Andy was next out in 1.21.53, almost ten minutes quicker than in 2012 and trailing both of them and none too happy with the rough treatment she received in the swim was Michelle in 1.24.32. That put her put her in 107th position in the female race almost 30 minutes behind the leader in her age group and fellow Brit athlete Melissa Dowell.
Out on the bike course the weather was improving and temperatures warming up. The hardest part of the 112 miles route was almost exactly half way through where the two biggest climbs of the course are taken in quick succession. Once negotiated the athletes can enjoy a long time trial back to Puerto Del Carmen often with a slight following wind. Neil had maintained his lead over the other two Worcester Tri members by recording an impressive 6 hours 8 minutes and 17 seconds for the bike section. The winds were reportedly stronger than in 2012 so he had done well to get so close to the 6 hour mark. Andy by contrast had punctured early on in the ride and struggled to repair the tyre well enough to get much pressure back into it and so rode the majority of the 112 miles with a soft tyre. Michelle had overtaken Andy whilst he was fixing his puncture and went on to record another great bike split time of 6.12.22, ten minutes slower than last year primarily due to the winds but also with half an eye on the marathon run to come. This was one of the quickest female bike splits of the day and had moved her up into second in her age category and 26th in the female race. She had overtaken something like 840 competitors during the bike getting her up 591st in the overall mens’ and womens’ race with the marathon to come. Andy was not far behind Michelle at the end of the bike leg recording 6.17.56 including the puncture fixing time.
The 26.2 mile run which completes the triathlon is run over three laps alongside the sea front on an out and back course. Michelle once again showed her amazing strength of endurance by running an incredible 3 hours 29 minutes and 18 seconds for the marathon. During the run she caught and passed the leader in her age group and ran herself up to 12th position overall in the women’s race. She overtook another 285 competitors to finish 306th overall (male and female race). Her overall finishing time was 11 hours 18 minutes and 54 seconds. Only slightly slower than in 2012 but given the conditions and her start to the day it was another superb performance. Michelle was again the second placed GB female athlete to cross the line (including the pros and age group athletes).
Meanwhile Andy Day was trying his best to catch up with Michelle and Neil Wicks. Day recorded an equally impressive 3.33.30 marathon split time but overall his 11.22.45 left him trailing Michelle to the finish. He had however moved himself up to 352nd overall in the Mens race and placed 72nd in possibly the most age group category of 40-44. Neil found the run very tough going after a strong start. Nutritional problems caused him a great deal of discomfort in the latter part of the marathon but he kept going finishing in a still respectable time of 12.09.36. Not the time he was hoping for but stronger for the experience.
The trio can now look forward to a recovery period before racing starts in earnest for the rest of the season in June.