by Daren Elliott aka ‘Dazza’

“Why I entered Lanzarote Ironman 2012”

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“Why I entered Lanzarote Ironman 2012”

I’ve lived and dreamed of doing the Lanzarote Ironman for years.. I originally entered this race back in 2008 but never made it to the start line due to injury. My plan in 2011 was to enter for the 2013 Lanzarote Ironman and for it to be my first ever full Ironman race. Renovating our amazing villa and building the business was my top priority so I spent 8 months working full time on the villa, which was due to be completed by March 2012. In this time my training reduced to a minimum…  doing a swim, bike or run after 10 hours of building work in 30degree heat was NOT on the plan..

In January 2012, earlier than schedule and to an ‘unfinished’ villa we had our first ever Triathlon Camp! We had the great pleasure of accommodating Tamsin Lewis, Eimear Mullen, Lucy Gossage and Liam Dolan for 2 weeks of intense training – how could we possibly say no??? With no pool to use and some of the bedrooms unfinished we had to put across a professional image and still continue with the building work… NO PRESSURE!!!

Leaving the builders to it – I was encouraged by the ‘Pro’s’ to join them in their training… my first day out on the bike with Tamsin ‘hurt’ to say the least! “I’ll go easy” she said – hmmmmmm??? Day 2 and with Lucy, Eimear and Liam arriving the pressure was really on.

Continuing with half day work, half day training – the next 2 weeks was really HARD work… these guys are some of the strongest Triathletes in the world, so trying to keep up was impossible. Maybe I should’ve made them build a wall before we started training to make it fair!!?? Hee hee..

The Training Camp was very successful – everyone achieved what they came to do and had a great time doing it. We loved it, and I got my training bug back.. Fantastic!!

 

Our next camp came the following week from a last minute booking and still well before Tri-Sports Lanzarote was officially open. This camp I was coaching for the week so was out training every day with Daryll, Mark and Bradley. Daryll was mega strong on the bike so the week was not as easy as I thought it would be.. at least he didn’t swim and run so these were much easier sessions. We still did a full-on training week and clocked up another 26 hours I wasn’t expecting to do, and we all had an amazing week at the Villa…. but the opening date of the villa was looming so as soon as they left – back to full time building the business for me!!

My training took a back seat for a while – apart from a 2-week holiday from our good friends SyTri (Shrewsbury Tri-Club) where I joined in for some of their training… yeah, thanks Sam for the super hard rides and fast runs… almost killed me!!

 

So – finally after months of hard work, stress and long days our ‘Villa Paraiso’ was complete and ready for our first ‘official’ training camp – a “small” group of 14 triathletes organized by ‘Triathlon Coaching UK’.. yes thanks Matt – throw us straight in at the deep end! Oh and Eimear Mullen came back to join in the fun too… so 15 altogether!

All of this group were super fit and had a very hardcore scheduled week of training ahead of them – a mix of Olympic, 70.3 and full Ironman distance. So obviously now with no building work to do all my efforts could go into training, so that’s exactly what I did! I soon realized what the last 8 months had taken out of me as they all smashed me up the hills and I found my new place in the group… at the back! And on the last night of the week, as we all celebrated a very successful and enjoyable training camp… I almost fell asleep in my beer!!

We then immediately had another full-on training week with an ‘Ironlady’ Alena Stevens and Daryll (the hardcore biker) came back… Ready for a break and feeling like I could sleep for a week, I ended up training with them most of the week. Aya had planned to do Ironman Lanzarote 2012 and this was her pre-Ironman training week, so I helped her out by showing her the swim, bike and run routes as well as offering general local advice…. Both her and Daryll couldn’t understand why I wasn’t doing the race myself! I certainly knew the routes like the back of my hand… and with all the training I’d done.. if I now followed a strict training schedule and tapered properly I COULD DO IT!!! But I still wasn’t convinced… I thought I should do at least a year of good quality ‘Ironman’ training and enter the 2013 one instead…

Then something happened that changed everything… my 32-year old cousin died suddenly and left us all in shock… I couldn’t attend her funeral as we already had a camp booked so felt that I needed to pay my respects in another way. I decided that life was too short and you should not put things off until tomorrow – so I decided to enter Lanzarote Ironman 2012… as a Canarian resident we can enter right up until the last entry day which is exactly what I did… I wanted to do the race in memory of my cousin so spent race day with a photo of Nicola with me all day and we did the race together! Bet she thought I was MAD…..

I had 1 more camp booked before the Lanzarote Ironman athletes turned up at the Villa.. a lovely couple, Irena and Shaun, came over in April so after I spent the week training and helping them to achieve their week’s goals I could finally rest and ‘taper’. With 5 weeks to go before the big race I slept… and I slept… and I slept!!! In fact – I pretty much slept right up until 2 weeks before the race when Adam “Maxi” Maxwell turned up. Adam was our first EVER booking – made over a year previously he had booked his 3-week training camp around the Ironman – 2 weeks previous to taper and learn the routes, and 1 week after to relax and recouperate with his lovely wife, Linda. He was a strong Scotsman who had trained for over a year for the race, so starting to train with him prior to the race after my rest was hard. But showing him parts of the course and having a strong force next to me was exactly what I needed to get me ready for my big race..

 

Race Week: A busy week at the Villa with Daniel Halksworth (now the Ironman UK Champion) doing his first ever full distance IM had a lot of pressure as an up-and-coming Pro and member of Team TBB, there was Maxi, myself and another guy Stephen – over from Kuwait and serving for the British Army – all doing our first ever full Ironman distance, and we had Adam and Jo – a couple over on a training week adding a bit of fun to the mix! And Daryll came back for a weekend to watch me do my first IM race.

Taper week began in the most horrendous weather ever – over 40c heat and the local ‘Calima’ had hit hard… the warm winds from theSaharadesert making it hot, humid, sandy and VERY uncomfortable! The best place was in the pool – or in our lovely warm clear Atlantic Ocean – so most mornings at the crack of dawn that’s exactly where we went, to practice our ‘Ironman’ swim starts… and get very embarrassingly ‘dropped’ in the first 5m by Dan Halksworth (but he was a Commonwealth Swim Champion and expected to be out of the water FIRST on the race…. so what did we expect??) During the week we managed a few short bikes and runs, but to be honest it was just too hot to do anything so the best plan was to keep out of the heat and stay inside as much as possible. Wednesday soon came around and we headed off to Club La Santa to register – it all seemed very real now as we got our numbers and race packs and headed back to the Villa out of the heat to rest..

Friday we went down to Transition to rack the bikes then head straight home for rest and we tucked into a fantastic feed laid on by Debs – our Tri-Sports Lanzarote special pre-race secret menu (only to be shared by fellow TSL athletes)!! Debs had looked after us all amazingly – the week up to the race I did nothing in the Villa – if I wasn’t training or helping other people, I was sleeping so left all the running of the villa, shopping, food prep, cooking and cleaning up to her… what would I do without her, eh???

I remember that night so well – sitting around the dinner table having eaten, everything done, all ready and doing the biggest  race of my life in the morning.. oh S**t – are we ready for this Nicola?? Can we do this?

 

Race Day: Up at 3:45, sitting having breakfast and the nerves are kicking in but what a buzz!! The Villa atmosphere was great – glad I was surrounded by 3 other guys in the exact same position as me… first BIG one… but we even had time for a few jokes! The transition area was amazing – a buzz of nervous energy and athletes madly pumping up tyres and adding food and drink to their bikes…. ready for that brutal bike course awaiting us!! At least I had the bonus of knowing exactly what was ahead of us – I wondered how many of these athletes had NO IDEA… After my usual ‘numerous’ stops to those oh-so-lovely portaloos we headed off down the beach to the swim start…

At 6:20am I’m sitting on the beach with my wife, Debs, thinking how tired I feel and ‘What am I doing here?’ and then remembered I am doing it again next year too!!! I’d lost all the other guys – so went for a quick swim warm-up by myself and as I came out – saw Dan lining up along the front with Phil Graves, Stephen Bayliss, Bert Jammer – wished him luck and thought its time to head back – I’ve seen how mad this start is, and being at the front is NOT where I wanted to be… I wandered back through the crowds of wetsuit-clad triathletes from all over the world, looking into their eyes, seeing the nervous fear and giving the ‘good-luck’ nod. I stumbled across Maxi and though ‘Yeah, someone to start with.. great, then saw my mum so gave her a big kiss with 1 minute to go… I’ll keep over to the right hand side, out of the way and stay safe. The atmosphere was electrifying, the hairs on the back on my neck were standing up, I felt like a sheep herded into a pen then….  BOOM!!! The gun goes off and its like a mass surge towards the sea, I keep right over so that I don’t get washed in, as I enter the sea Debs is standing waist deep in water taking photos so I go over give her a kiss, my heart racing and she wishes me luck… I’m gonna need it – here goes!!

I found myself being pushed way out by the pack, way off the first buoy – it felt like the longest 200m of my life! The first loop was hard – it felt so much longer than 1.9km as I was stuck on the outside of the pack.. the second loop I managed to get onto a better swim course but had to fight to keep the course, I felt myself getting squeezed into the buoys or getting stuck behind much slower swimmers. I decided the swim was about survival and to conserve energy for what lay ahead… the hardest part of the swim was trying to deal with the amount of diesel in the water – from all the boats chugging around. My throat and mouth felt on fire and how I didn’t throw up I don’t know!! I ask myself – is that really necessary for one of the hardest Ironman Races to start the race feeling like you’re being poisoned!!???

So – I survived the swim, and the run up through transition was amazing – all my friends and family screaming me on. The first 20mins of the bike I just sipped water – I couldn’t stomach anything else after all that diesel (its worse than Jagermeister!!!)

The first 40kms of the bike felt like the whole field was overtaking me and my legs felt like steel… so I ate to fuel up and enjoyed the ride. I caught up with Maxi at the top of Timanfaya and had a brief chat, got stared at by amarshallon a motorbike so slowly picked up the pace and headed off into the distance. After 90km I thought I could speed it up and make up a few places but the legs were tired and in the back of my mind knew I still had a marathon to run so decided to take it easy, dig deep and push it up Mirador Del Rio – one of the most amazing climbs on the course! I knew that the next leg was where I could take a few places back – the descent down from Mirador and all the way back to Puerto del Carmen. With my local knowledge and having done this route hundreds of times (and being a bit of a mad descender)… I started to overtake everyone – even 2 policemen on motorbikes!!! I got a very strange look from them – but what they were doing driving down the middle of the road during a race I don’t know???? I was on my way home… only a few small hills and the rest was plain sailing. These hills proved to be like mountains… I hit the wall and all I could do was beg for mercy.. so I took it easy, ate for some power and by the time I got 30km from home I got my strength back. I could push hard all the way home and was feeling good.. great in fact.. I was flying!!!

Descending down into Puerto Del Carmen I let the bike take itself… I’ve done that route so many times – a fun and fast road, but a dangerous one if you don’t know it! Suddenly one of the marshalling cars pulled out in front of me ahead… I was going far to fast to stop and I knew I was going to hit him… luckily the guy in the back of the car saw me and knew I was headed straight for them at speed… and he must’ve got the driver to pull of the road quickly…. Phewwwwwww… that was close! You don’t want to know what expletives came out of my mouth as I flew past him…

I arrived in transition 2 with 7:30 on the clock… a good time considering how Id felt. And thought that my usual 5ish hour 70.3 races would’ve been long over by now!! I ran over to my running bag hanging on the stand and heard a little voice I recognized well… my mum was waiting for me. I shouted over to her “What do I have to do now mum??” “Just a marathon son, just a marathon – off you go!!” was her reply – cheers mum!! With a quick kiss I was on my way, through the sun cream tent and off into the masses of cheering supporters… lots of my friends and family were on the route shouting me along the way. The first loop was long and hot – in Lanzarote now they do an 18km first loop with 2 smaller loops after.. I was feeling good so set a steady pace and dug in…. then I got the most amazing stomach cramps ever – I’ve done ten 70.3 races and never felt pain like this.. I didn’t know what it was… I sat on a wall in Matagorda trying to stretch it out – people started to look at me with that ‘oh no, he’s not gonna make it – poor guy!’ look…but not me! I knew there was an aid station ahead so I did the ‘Ironman shuffle’ there coz I thought I might’ve needed the toilet and knew there was a portaloo there. OMG!!! It was about 140degrees inside and smelt like, well a portaloo!! I sat for as long as I could, heart racing and sweating… and nothing!!! So I had to get some fresh air and carry on…. I’d just have to dig deep and shuffle all the way home..

With lots of determination, deep breathing and lots and lots of friends and family along the way I kept going. The stomach cramps soon became leg cramps but with less than 5km to go I knew I was gonna make it…. ‘WE’ were gonna make it – I still had the photo of Nicola on my back and with her help I’d made it… God Bless Her! I was on the home straight… I saw Debs one last time, as she ran off to be at the finishing line for me…. And my mum, dad, sister and friends were all screaming madly at me.. I knew it was getting close to my 12-hour goal so picked the pace up a bit and headed to the finish..

11:59 – I made it!!!! I ran straight over the Finishing line into Deb’s arms… my wonderful wife and no.1 supporter.. I couldn’t have done it without her. All my friends were there shouting at me… “DAZ. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!” Oh yeah!

Daryll headed off and met me at the beach with a pint of Speckled Hen… good man! WHAT A DAY…. I stood in the sea, drinking my Speckled Hen reflecting on what an absolutely amazing experience, made really special by the support of all my family and friends… I would seriously recommend it to anyone!!

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