Some of you may or may not know that this darn Ironman has been a long time coming. Originally signed up to Ironman Emilia-Romagne in 2020! It was cancelled due to Covid – in 2021 COVID restrictions stopped me from doing it again and in 2022 I arrived in Italy – was ready to go – but a force of nature (a rather large storm) stopped me from doing it…. Yet again.
I was starting to think someone up there really didn’t want me to get one done.
I was about to pack it all in and call it a day but my amazing friends and family who know me well said “Oh for heaven’s sake go and find another one and get it over and done with”….so I did and signed up to Ironman Lanzarote as it was the next one I could find in the calendar that wasn’t on the other side of the world.
I was completely naive as to how much this was classed as being one of the toughest out there and as more and more of my fellow team mates kept reminding me of this – I had a slight panic and thought – eek…I really need to up my training.
So I doubled my distances gradually – built in the intensity and – which surprised me the most took away technology!
What I mean by this is I stopped critiquing every run I did because it was 2 minutes slower than the run before or I didn’t bother recording some of my longer runs and bikes on my Garmin watch and just ran and biked while listening to my body instead of being dictated by a screen.
I even had a fellow triathlete (not at TTG) ask me how the hell I am going to be ready as according to Strava my longest run thus far had only been 14 miles!
So because it wasn’t on Strava I hadn’t done it!
What I am saying is – that sadly I think Strava and Apps like this can cause unhealthy obsession and comparison.
I appreciate this sounds a bit dinosaur but for me – I truly felt this worked above and beyond I ever thought it would. So for some people, I would recommend ditching the watches and listening to your body instead for a bit.
So a long – dark – intense, and quite frankly, a rather boring winter of training later (without the exception of our club sessions that for sure kept me sane and happy!) – I am boarding the flight to Lanzarote with my incredible support crew of Mum, Dad and the one I can’t live without – the one you all know as Luke!
After a very smooth flight with the bike and bags arriving all in one piece, we arrived and settled into our super apartment – tucked away on a quiet street yet only 70m from the finish line and transition, so we really lucked out there! We had a quick bite to eat and I hit the sack as the adrenaline was starting to pump already!
Next day – off we go to register at the famous Club La Santa (about 30 mins from Puerto del Carmen) – which I have always wanted to go to. It was so cool!
So much so that Luke and I may treat ourselves to a “sporty” week there in the future. It’s the kind of place you walk into and already feel like you have lost 3 stone and can run a marathon straight off. Great vibes and stunning facilities making anyone and everyone feel like a pro!
Anyway – registration was easy peasy and I was set to go.
Back in Puerto del Carmen we go and get my bike looked at by the mechanics to make sure I have put it together properly after the flight etc and then I take it for a quick spin – just to make sure!
All happy so I entered the transition to rack my bike and place my transition bags on my pegs.
Again this was all very easy peasy and stress-free.
(I have to say that the support, organisation, people, management and all the above was absolutely exceptional throughout)
So that’s it – no going back now – it’s happening – I’m going to be doing it so I now need to get off my feet, eat a tonne of food and be in bed by 8 pm….so that’s what I did.
4.45am alarm goes off and I am surprisingly chilled and feel OK. To the point where I thought – why don’t I seem to care as much as I should be!? I have been more nervous running a parkrun than how I feel right now! It was most odd for me, but I accepted it and got on with eating my peanut butter bagel, cereal and tea!
Oh and continuously downing litres of water.
The parentals and Luke had made a bleary appearance yet were rallying around me, being positive and ensuring I had everything I needed and more – they were just incredible.
I packed my final nutrition bits ‘n’ bobs into my now new and swanky Ironman Lanzarote backpack (that yes you will see me using – alot!) and off I go – back into transition to do final prep.
Once finished and heading back to meet up with my support crew, I had to have one last nervous loo stop and it was here I was very heartened to be approached by the amazing Lydia and Tom from Passionfit who recognised the TTG kit!
They were awesome and gave me great advice of which was similar to that we use a lot here at the club, along the lines of ‘don’t be s**t!’
It made me smile and was so pleased to hear that at the end of the day Lydia ended up winning – yet again! She really is a machine.
I am ready – I am pumped, I have Mac by my side – ate my last energy gummy (I ate one of THESE every couple of hours and swear by them) – this is it – lets go!
Mum and Luke are now on the other side of the fence and this is when the nerves kicked in – I felt very alone to be honest and all those thoughts of “why am I doing this?” and “what is this all for?” start to trickle in.
But you didn’t have too long to ponder as before you know it they are shouting at you to get into your time pens!
After the obligatory good luck kiss from Luke and Mother (Dad still mooching his way to the start line) I stopped being ridiculous and headed down the beach like a lamb to slaughter……
I mooched into the sub 80 mins pen as I had decided that this race was going to be about completion – that’s it. No matter how long or how I did it – I was going to finish it.
Here I met a gorgeous lady from Japan, Eiko, who was an AWA and an old timer to Ironman but a first timer to Lanzarote. She was a bundle of joy that distracted me from my thoughts and I was very grateful to her. We found another couple of the few and far between women who were doing it that day and we became a little possy of nervous giggles and laughs!
This was short lived though as I then bumped into a very nervous Irishman who, despite having done Lanzarote 5 times, still had great joy in telling me it’s going to hurt like hell – it’s horrendous – count your blessings, the DNF rate is high – especially for first timers etc etc – so I didn’t hang around with him for much longer.
Next thing – HOOONNKKKKK – and off we go…slowly and surely we are ushered into filters and each line of athletes are set off every 6 secs.
I start smiling and think to myself – well it’s going to be a long day but for sure I am going to make damn sure I enjoy it.
My smile got even bigger when I saw my Mum, knee deep in the water making sure she gets the best shot and she is screaming from the top of her lungs – GO KATIE GO!!!
After quite a casual entry the swim was mostly very pleasant indeed – the clear waters allowed for some rather cool viewings of sea slugs, octopuses, bright blue fishys – it was fab!
It was a very simple rectangular course that you did twice with an Aussie exit.
First lap was great – I was barely touched by another athlete and was very happy. Was in a great rhythm and even started singing songs in my head to kill time as at one point I got a bit bored!
After the first lap and coming out onto the beach to see Mum there again – now nearly waist deep insistent she gets ahead of the professional photographer…..still screaming at me!
It was great.
I jog calmly out of the water trying to look like I was supposed to be there – up and over a few 100mts to then get back in for the second lap which is sadly where things went a little awry.
I was klonked – hit – kicked – smashed and swum over by a large group of Top Athletes that were coming to lap me. It wasn’t fun and ruined my groove completely. The long back straight felt even longer and it knocked my confidence a wee bit.
To make things worse, as I was coming in for home, I started to feel quite sick and my tongue was numb from the salt and I wasn’t in a great place at all. So I took it really steady coming out of the water and gently walked up the beach, feigning a very fake smile so as to not make Mum worry.
Again, my horrid state changed dramatically for the better as I heard a woman calling my name and it was Eiko who was just behind me coming out of the water where we then had a good chit chat, had a photo opportunity, walked up the beach to the showers, shared a glass of water and hit transition.
(Apologies for the copyright but I have ordered about EUR 300 of photos so I don’t feel too guilty)
Swim time: 01:16
I grabbed my Bike Bag – found a spot next to a Brazilian guy who was so cheery he made me laugh, where I stripped my wetsuit and put on my battle gear for the bike course. I also had a hidden pot of fruit pastille type gummies in the bag knowing my mouth would be tasting rank after the swim. They were like nectar and I devoured about 5 of them! One of the best ideas I have had TBH!
Walking through the changing tent – the amazing Marshalls grabbed your bag to hang back up for you – attacked you from all angles with gallons of suncream and showered you in coke, water, gels and bananas. (I didn’t really fancy leaving – it was all far too civilised in there)
A fair few people really were taking the opportunity to have a full blown picnic!
Out of the tent and nibbling on another energy gel and sipping a cup of water – I trotted up to my bike which was a good ⅓ of a mile from the tent and then on up to the mount line.
I mounted my steed and set off to a roaring crowd of supporters who rang bells, screamed at you and made you feel like a hero.
One thing that my grumpy Irish man told me at the swim start which did stick with me and I am grateful for was, “The first 15 km are straight up a road called the Donkey Track – it is a nasty first climb so don’t show off and race off – just take your time”
He was not wrong and I am proud of myself for listening to him as for sure it saved me for the rest of the ride I believe. It was a rude awakening for what I was in for!
Leaving town – Luke was right there shouting support (or abuse) which was a wonderful way to start the ride. I had a moment of reflection and thought these people are here for me and I am not going to let them down!
To be blunt – it was a brutal ride…..brutal. Hot, hilly and windy. We were blessed with the kinder side of all these weather fronts thank goodness – but my god it still hurt.
Climbing for between 5 and 10 km straight, time after time, and not getting any faster than 5mph at points was sole destroying, boring and relentless.
The aid stations always showed up when I needed them the most and I was strict and routine about when I drank – which was pretty much all the time, and when I had a gel, banana or fruit bar. These are all I ate throughout the day.
Despite everyone telling me that the climb to Mirador was the worst – I have to disagree. It was the climb up to Haria that destroyed me. It was painful, steep and long. I very nearly gave up at the top of this hill and at the time I couldn’t have given 2 monkeys if I finished or not. I was in a dark place.
Then, thankfully, the Mirador climb cheered me up as the views, my goodness were INSANE and for sure distracted you as you climbed yet again up another blinkin volcano!
Sadly, again, this was short lived and I went into an even darker place when I hit what was called the “Road of pain” ((Brilliant!)) It lives up to its name.
It is about a 30 km straightish road that is ‘false flat’ (about 1-3% incline) into a direct headwind – oh and the road surface is pretty rubbish too.
I was completely on my own for most of this stretch which did worry me at one point, as I thought I may have gone wrong but then in the distance you started to have glimpses of blurry mirages in the shape of cyclists! I was OK.
Anyway I am rambling on now but all in all the bike was not fun…..I was very very happy to be getting off it after it’s 180km of torment!
The last 10km was a very cool, flat or downhill segment that allowed you to get ready, mentally for the run.
The very last 2km were back through the hustle and bustle of things and a little boost for me was seeing all the pro’s finish and hearing that crowd! That will be me soon!
Back into transition and getting off the bike was like a comedy sketch. Annoyingly captured beautifully by my mother but for now I will leave this to your imagination and let’s just say it involved a lot of wobbling and grunts of pain!
I had been very pleased with myself in not stopping AT ALL throughout the day. I learnt to take onboard my nutrition and take bottles from the marshalls without having to stop and between you and me – I even learnt how to carry out calls of nature on board also.
Why couldn’t you have just stopped at the many loos available to you Katie? I hear you say – and I will tell you!
The main reason I didn’t want to stop is because I knew that if I did – I would not get back on. I had to force myself to stay on that bike.
So there we are – the bike is done! WHoooppppp!!! Now just the marathon to go, so I racked my bike, stumbled down to my Run Bag – grabbed it – dove into the changing tent where my Angels from above worshipped me again by applying yet more suncream and shoving more coke, water and bananas down my throat.
I really was very grateful to them.
My bag was taken from me and I was pointed in the direction of RUN OUT and out of nowhere my legs sprang into life and I was off!
Oh – here she is again – Mother dearest still killing herself with screams of support and catching every possible moment on camera! I can always hear her before seeing her!
Bike Time: 08:18
Let’s do this – I am so nearly there.
3 laps consisting of 1 big half-marathon loop, followed by two smaller 10km laps. It was all the way along the coast which was fab as you had support pretty much the whole time and you never felt alone. Aid stations every 1,5km which was a god send as the ice was most welcome at this time of the day as were the smiley, happy marshalls chucking it at you.
I have to say that I felt pretty good considering what I just went through on that bike!
My legs felt strong, so much so that I had to really make myself chill out, not get cocky and stick around the 10min/miles to begin with so as not to get carried away and blow up.
I stuck to this plan and it worked. I weirdly felt better and better throughout the run and the emotions started to kick in as I was starting to really visualise that finish line.
There was Luke at the far end of the course – my dear Father in the middle of the course and my Mother towards the end so I was never without a loved one and knowing I was seeing each one of them soon enough kept me moving forward.
However – I thought it was too good to be true and it all started to go very very wrong in the last 10km. It was almost like a switch went off – my body said, enough now. You are done.
After telling my Father the wheels have come off and having to bring myself to a walk (which I hadn’t had to do up until then) I had that pang of – oh my god, am I actually going to be able to do this?
The dark thoughts returned as I still had 5km left to go. This was going to be the longest 5km of my life!
My dear Dad had been fabulous every time I saw him – thumping his chest with pride shouting “you’ve got this” and “you are a macchhiinnneeee”
On this occasion I was looking for sympathy and someone to tell me it was OK to stop if I wanted to but nope – he just said – “you’re legs look fine – the wheels are definitely still there so crack on!”
So I cracked on and shuffled closer to home.
As you start heading towards the finish line you very much enter the ‘strip’ of Puerto del Carmen where you have an abundance of people, whether supporting athletes, attending hen do’s or stag do’s, enjoying a family holiday to those who just live there. It is heaving!
Strangers screaming your name, Spanish ladies shouting “señora increíble”, drunk Irishmen telling you “You’re fecking amazin!” You get it all.
But ultimately – it got me down that long awaited red carpet and under the iconic Ironman Arch finish line.
There it was in all its glory – loud pumping music – admiring supporters – the sound of emotional relatives – the finisher cheering you on over the tannoy making you feel like you are the only person in the world at that one time. The sensation and feeling is something I cannot explain in words.
They had a FIRST TIMER bell that if you were doing your first Ironman – you were to ring. So I did – loudly!!! Last 10m and boom – done!
KATIE WEEKS – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! ((That will forever live in my head.))
I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, vomit, jump, collapse or anything – so I just breathed and soaked it all in….
This quite simply would not have happened without the support, understanding and patience of my incredible friends and family. They made me what I am today and I could not be anything without each and every one of them.
And of course – it goes without saying that TTG for sure has put that extra cherry on the cake for me. Being regularly surrounded by supportive, inspiring and all in all incredible people really has got me over that finish line. I would like to think I have made some lifelong friends at the club and I am very lucky to have them in my life.
Thank you to you all.
I appreciate this was a long read and I am very grateful you made it this far but without wanting to sound corny – JUST GO AND DO IT! Anything really is possible.