Jan Harvey – Ironman LanzaroteJune 1st, 2023 by paulhart
Ironman Lanzarote 20th May 2023
This one was on my bucket list, billed as the hardest one in the world, after a great season time trialling 2022 and settling into Paul’s November winter training block a return to a third Ironman was on my mind, completely inspired by my lovely friend Paula who was fighting stage 4 terminal cancer and kept telling us “Girls! Get Your Shit Done” as it could happen to any of us, life is so precious and we have to grab it with both hands and have a go. I have one leg an inch longer than the other and a scoliosis so would my body allow it…? After years of achilles and feet issues, running was a problem so Ironman was like russian roulette for me.
I had a lovely training holiday with my girls to Club La Santa in January, I had my 54th birthday then hit the button with 12 weeks to DDay. Paul posted all my sessions, I ticked them off week by week, the weekends were getting longer and longer, 4km swims twice a week, two hour runs and some monstrous bike sessions which I absolutely loved, 5 hour rides with a two hour run. All good, nutrition, hydration, electrolytes, kit all dialled in and no issues or injuries, absolutely amazing! I was feeling super confident and ready.
Then 4 weeks out and on the eve of my last BIG weekend, my knees hurt out of the blue and I had to stop, I thought I had a stress fracture in my patella. So the inner chimp was telling me…So I got some physio and thankfully it was just super tight quads and we started my taper early. I had lots of rest which was absolute gold! With this amount of training 54 year old knees do ache and thankfully it wasn’t game over.
Our flights were literally in and out around the race so no wiggle time, we arrived at Lanzarote late on the Thursday evening, my apple tag said Candy the Canyon TT was at Gatwick but then she miraculously appeared on the heavy luggage carousel! Off to the hotel, exhausted as it was late then put her together in the room, usual rear mech gone into crash mode fun but I managed to reset it thanks to multiple times of banging the rear mech and Erik at Richardsons taught me what to do. I prepared all my food for the journey and pre-race, things that work for me with a high GI, so bagels with jam and peanut butter, marmite white rolls so I had plenty to eat. Off to bed then up very early for the busy day before race day.
A quick early spin 30 mins and I got lost, legs full of energy from the taper and I had gone 5km too far and just made it back in time for the coach at 8:30am to register at Club La Santa, I felt sick with nerves but super excited, inner chimp fighting to get out of his cage! Everyone on the coach looked like they were about to vomit haha.. Back to Puerto on the coach and dumped 2 miles away from the hotel so a hot walk, numbers on everything and bags packed, bike and kit all ready for racking. I banned Rob from the room, hit the aircon, shut the curtains, earplugs in and had several hours great sleep.
We then had to walk all the way back, another 2 miles at 5pm with the bikes… then back again. After lots of my usual pre race white rolls, crisps and cookies I went to bed at 7:30 and slept instantly, alarm went off at 4am. We must have walked 10km… not ideal before the race.
Raceday! Now for the fun part! A small breakfast of porridge and golden syrup, soaked the night before, banana and an electrolyte drink then off to the start. Another long walk back to the start but me and my pal were chitchatting all the way and it felt like minutes, a quick pinch of my tyres, drinks and gels on the bike and wetsuit on.
I put myself in the middle of the 60-70 minutes swim pen, downed a hydrogel, I was squashed in by all these huge men and the only female I could see, the men seemed so tall and serious, I would usually talk rubbish with a female but instead no one made eye contact and it was all very serious!
Then the gun went and the pros were off, I couldn’t see a thing but felt the surge forwards and then we were running and wading into the shallow sea, I started swimming as it’s faster when it’s shallow and just picked off one buoy at a time. Just 2 minutes all in chunks to keep my head calm and in the now. The water was deep blue and I was overwhelmed with gratitude to have made it and be ok. I thought of Paula. I saw glittery little blue fish deep down and a ray, the sun was coming up and it was stunning. The first lap flew by, long calm strokes to avoid a kick in the face and I was running up the beach, Garmin said 30.51 and I thought I had read it wrong, but no time to dwell on it with the Australian exit – run up the beach, over the mat then a dive back in. Great fun, I loved this bit! This lap was rougher, I got punched in the right eye, kicked in the hip and ribs but still all good and was 11th lady out of the water in 1:05:03.
Wetsuit came off nicely, helmet, race belt and shoes on then a long run out of transition and off I went. Paul had told me to follow the plan, keep my heart rate mostly in zone 2 (target heart rate for the bike leg was set at 143), stay aero, accept the head wind sections, do not fight the wind and be patient. This was horrible. Haha… I’m used to average speeds in time trials around 23-24mph so to think of a bike leg 7-8 hours was not what I was hoping for. But I focused on eating and drinking, buzzer set on my watch to remind me and the ride felt easy, despite over 8800 feet of climbing, relentless head and cross winds, wheel wobbles, the views are spectacular especially from the north of the island overlooking La Graciosa, I got off my bike at the top, calmly filled my bottles and had bananas from the aid station and took my time, this enabled me to keep going with no kid stops, I had two comfort breaks.
Still more climbing in the way back which I thought would be much easier, the course is relentless, downhill into the wind is as hard as going up, then downhill fast on to the hideous infamous rough donkey track for the last 10km back in to Puerto Del Carmen. There were bottles, food and tools everywhere, it was like a minefield and fast men overtaking too close for comfort, it made me nervous having stacked it at a TT last year…
But my plan was executed to the dot and average heart rate 143bpm! – exactly the target. I saw some crashes, apparently one poor man had an open fracture, a couple of guys were sitting on the side of the road head in hands.. I overtook lots of people that had whizzed by early on. Paul said “this is a bike course designed to trick athletes into riding too hard with the hills and wind” and he was so right, as usual!!
Back into T2, Garmin said 182.2km, off the bike, legs absolutely dead from all the climbing but feeling happy to have got back safely. I tried to run with the bike but couldn’t, my legs felt awful. Thousands of people were clapping and cheering, I took my shoes off and then was able to run, huge cheers and go on Jan came at me! The joys of our names on a race number, it makes a huge difference having people cheer for you when it’s hurting.. I was told to sit down in T2 and my red bag was passed to me, this Angel of a lady then came and massaged sun cream into my neck, shoulders and arms, I could have just stayed there but quickly out on my sun cap, trainers, grabbed my gels and off I went. The health and safety was incredible, there were so many marshals and volunteers supporting us.
Back up that hill again! Out of T2 nearly fell down a hole going over the timing mat, but managed to stay up then headed out for lap 1, 13.1 miles out to the other side of Arrecife airport uphill and into a headwind… yikes…
It was absolutely awful…. I could see the pros heading towards the finish line in their last mile, like racehorses, all their loop bands on their wrist and I hadn’t even got one. It’s soul destroying. But I thought of Paula and kept going. My heart rate was higher because of the heat so I quickly accepted it and slowed down, I had to walk for a bit, my feet were sore, it was hot, I felt sick from all the sugary gels every 30 minutes and my head was in a dark place. So I just aimed to get to each aid station, chucked water and ice on my head, chest, back, if felt good but it caused monstrous blisters later on from wet feet!! (Lesson learned)
But later on when I had all my bands on, the last rider before the cut off was coming in, there was a police motorbike convoy and the sweeper cars, all bibbing and sirens on, the crowd were cheering him in. My heart went out to him, it would be a close call to finish for him..
Athletes were collapsing, Sam Laidlow who won Kona last year was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, his arms were all floppy and he was flat out on the ground. Athletes were sitting on the side of the road, some laid out flat, I saw a man crying, one vomiting, another had torn his calf… I pulled my cap down and didn’t look, I suddenly got to the turn, 6.5 miles or so, and it got a little easier. The wind was behind, the stinky aroma of beer and cigarettes and burning food was coming from the beachside bars and restaurants which was gross. But there were lots of people cheering and waving.
I started to feel much better then my Garmin watch died at 10 miles.
But I know my body thanks to all my training, running by feel felt amazing. We are too reliant on data sometimes… I ran between the aid stations and walked through them, had a drink, gel, Coca Cola and suddenly I had my blue band, lap 1 down. Just two 10km loops to go. I can do this I thought. Back up the hill and into the wind again! I saw dear Rob, he could see I had picked up and said I was going between 1st 2nd and 3rd all day and was currently 3rd but the ladies in front were really slowing down. I said I didn’t want to know and just wanted to finish. I had nearly caught them up at the end of the second loop, pink band on, back up the hill! I passed Rob again and he said, right Jan, they are just over there at the aid station. Game on.
Paul said to save myself for the last 10km of the run, and yet again he was right. To have a surge of energy after 12 hours of swim bike run and at my age haha, I never thought it possible yet there it was. I zoomed past them, had half a gross caffeine gel at an aid station then got about 3 minutes ahead of no 1, I felt amazing and approached the roundabout, did the last turn then face planted on the pavement, I don’t know what happened but I got up and a marshall grabbed me and stopped me to check me over.
I thought I had fractured my cheek and possibly cracked some teeth but after a medic check they let me go, knee pouring blood and left eye so swollen it was touching my sunglasses. It was like an egg. It hurt like hell but I couldn’t see either of them behind. 3 miles to go, back up the hill, feeling sick and all hunched over I saw Rob and he ran with me all the way to the finish line, I had to walk a little and then I was on the red carpet and up the finish chute! And then she came by and pipped me to the post but I got my medal! I never expected to have a race at the end of an Ironman and I was so happy to have finished without any broken bones. We had a hug and I went straight to the medical tent and they checked me over, put ice on my eye and knee and let me go.
The mind is very powerful, it can tell you all sorts of rubbish. Paul has always said believe and you can. And he is always right � I said I am never doing this again on my training peaks feedback that night. I want to go back next year and get my 4 hour marathon…. It was 4:20 with a tumble.
I won a slot to the Ironman World championship in Kona, Hawaii but it is too far, too expensive and too much for my body and mind in one year. And for my mum and Rob, they worry as my hobby is a crazy and sometimes dangerous one, but the best!! Hearing my name called out was amazing, keeping quiet and not going up to get the slot was hard but I have my trophy, medal and memories that will stay with me forever.
But I also want to go back as it made me feel so alive…!!