Enduroman Festival of Triathlon 2011

I arrived in Lanzarote with the intention of completing the single Ironman distance event but at 8am on the 5th Feb I was about to embark on what I considered not to be a race but a big adventure.

This adventure started in August 2010 when I helped out at another Enduroman event, during that weekend I met some incredible athletes, and support crews that were there solely for the purpose of achieving their GOAL of becoming Double and Triple Enduroman finishers. I was mesmerised by the stories that were being told. In particular, one of someone I had the pleasure to race with during my time on Lanzarote, John, who completed his first Triathlon at Ironman Roth that year and three weeks later he was completing the double, Lanzarote was going to be the first time he had swum in the sea!

Then of the Triple Enduroman winner Paul Thompson who won at Lanzarote he only started in Triathlon six years ago. It was during this weekend that I knew I wanted to complete a Double Enduroman. I completed my first triathlon in July at Chichester that year so it gave me 10 months to prepare. The hard work began.

Having arrived on Lanzarote and met by my mum. I soon began to understand the enormity of the task my dad was trying to achieve, four races of different distances on the same day. The local government only gave my dad permission to stage the event in December so he had 8 weeks to put together and attract entrants that would live up to the spirit of previous Enduroman events.

I’ve seen my dad under pressure before but this was something quite different. During race week I became involved in various aspects of the event, I put together the athlete’s race bags, numbered swim hats, stayed up until 3am writing out the Race brief and also did the bike check in the day before the race.

My mum was having great pleasure introducing me to athletes whom she had met at previous events, I think her line went something like this “this is my son, he’s only doing the single! During these encounters the general consensus was “I should man-up and do the double” or “it’s the first double on Lanzarote why aren’t you doing it?

On the Thursday evening two days before the race my dad come home and told me after I finished the single he wanted me to help out at a marshal point, I replied “how can I if I do the double!” He wasn’t surprised at all, we had a brief conversation and that was me entered into the double!

On Friday morning I had to go to the Doctors and get a medical certificate, Friday afternoon all the double athletes had to have a blood test. It was during the blood test that another athlete said jokingly to me “you do realize we are in the presence of Legends?” It wasn’t until then I realized what I was about to undertake. I was standing next to the Hungarian Ferenc Szonyi who was the Double Deca champion of 2009 and the Frenchman Guy Rossi who has completed over 57 double Ironman’s and aged 64.

Race Day morning I was up at 5.am, and had a bowl of porridge, dad had only got in at 2am from finalising event details and he was already at the race centre, I thought to myself then that no matter how bad the race got I needed to finish this race.

Event kit bags were placed and wetsuit was put on. The race was due to start at 8.am, 8 laps of 950mts. The sea was really choppy and I knew of all three disciplines this was going to be the hardest for me, Double athletes were allowed to place two water bottles on the race boat, so my plan was on each lap to have a drink and check my time, with the first lap taking it easy to give me a base measure.

Having completed what I thought was half way I stopped had a gel and asked the official how many laps I had left, he told me 5, this threw me and I questioned him but he was adamant. I began to get annoyed and frustrated as I swam off and had to tell myself to relax. I finished the swim in 3hrs 6mins and I knew I had done an extra lap, as this was nearly 25 mins longer than the time I had done in training, going into the transition I saw my dad he was beaming with pride I told him about the extra lap and his reply was “better to have done more than less!”

The bike was 8 laps of 45km, again the plan was to take it easy on the first lap to give myself a base measure, I knew if I could maintain this time for the duration I was conserving enough energy for the run. My average speed for the first lap was approx 16 mph, so for the duration of the bike I tried to maintain this speed.

I made a conscious effort to eat and drink as much as I could on the bike, each lap I consumed 1 litre of water and 500ml of energy drink, I ate a whole variety of foods and didn’t feel hungry at any stage of the bike. Coming back into race centre on each lap was a nice break from the loneliness of the bike; I remember looking forward to seeing the supporters.

My mum was doing a great job of helping me out and also doing a variety of other jobs for my dad, she didn’t sleep for 45 hours that weekend! Riding throughout the night was a totally new experience for me, the best advice I received was to have more front lights than you think you need, this advice was true, I had 4 lights on my bike and I was confident that I could maintain the same speed as I was doing throughout the day.

The bike went really well, and before I knew I was coming into the transition area having been out on the road for 15 hours 31mins although this time doesn’t reflect the 16 mph speed I maintained on the bike, you have to take into account the time it takes on each lap to re-fuel and go to the toilet!!

I started the run at approximately 3 am, this wasn’t an unusual time for me to be running as in training that was the time I was getting up to run to work. All I had now was 32 laps which in my head sounded better than 52 miles. If I concentrated on completing one lap at a time I knew I could eventually get to the finish line.

The run was where I made my only real mistake of the entire race, feeling good I pushed the pace too fast at the start, I ran the entire first marathon and think I did it in 5 hours I then paid for it. Although you would think that you would see your fellow competitors fairly often, this wasn’t the case, it was a lonely time out there with everyone battling their own demons.

At one stage I remember asking my dad if many people had pulled out because I hadn’t seen anyone, he explained that because everyone was maintaining the same speed I wouldn’t, if I started to see people I knew I was slowing down. The sun seemed to come up really quickly; this rejuvenated everyone and was a surreal experience.

The next marathon resulted in a run / walk strategy and I tried to stay disciplined to maintain momentum. With 4 laps to go I met up with The English guy John, he was walking so I decided to walk with him, although reflecting now this may have been a mistake at the time it was great to have a chat with someone and share each others experiences of the race. I walked with him for 3 laps and finally I got told I only had one lap to go.

Nutritional wise throughout the run I must have consumed at least 3 packets of salt and vinegar crisps, countless peach halves, and I think a total of 6 Jels when I was feeling really low. I crossed the finish line in 30 hours 46 mins. Receiving the finishing medal from my dad will stick in my mind forever although I do recall thinking he looked absolutely knackered.

With rumours that next year maybe the last year on Lanzarote for the Ironman I’m sure this event will attract more and more athletes.

So what next? Having completed this year’s Goal 4 months early I’ve decided to do the Triple in June, this will be a different beast altogether. If anyone is interested in taking part in an ultra triathlon you will experience nothing like any of the big events you go to. It’s my dad’s aim to make it very personal and he and Steve will do anything to ensure you finish, last year Steve even lent his bike to someone!!

Chris