The last day of camp is always a big one. For some, approaching their first season doing Ironman, it’s the first time they’ll have done the distance. I do like to help folk ‘pop’ their century cherry! It’s no mean feat either as they’ve already clocked some of the highest volumes of training and racing throughout the week leading to it.
The Ironman bike course is one of my favourites. It pretty much circumnavigates the whole island. You really feel like you’re on an adventure rather than a race route.
Snaking our way up out of Puerto Del Carmen, the volcanoes of Timanfaya National Park come into view. Most of these were formed between 1730-1736 when the greatest eruptions happened on the island. Almost a quarter of the island was covered in lava. 11 villages and much of the fertile farming ground was lost. Still today the Montanas Del Fuego are active, though more often used to cook dinner for the tourist coaches, which wind their way through the lava tunnels to the top. It reminds me of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
The wind seems to be kind to us today. It’s worrying, the wind is never kind here. When I raced here last year a pounding head wind battered even the hardiest of rider. I wonder if the locals spend as much time talking about the wind, as the Brits do about the weather?!
I’ve chosen to take out the slowest group of riders today. It’s probably the hardest work as they’re the most knackered. Keeping the group together is all the more important. It also gives me a chance to ride with Ali. She started the week saying she might only do the time trial and the hill climb and the big ride at the end. She’s stormed it and has ridden all bar one of the days! I’m very proud of her. She’ll be so strong for the Fred Whitton. Anyway back to the camp.
We’re riding well together with stronger riders taking the front and keeping good check on the weaker ones. We set off a little earlier than the other two groups in the hope that we all time the north of the island together. The wind is coming from the side slightly as we climb Fire Mountain. It’s beautiful here. the burnt earth, still red, as if its just erupted, blown tops with craggy sides jut into the sky. Only the tiny lichen clinging to the tips of the lava let you know that it’s long set. Swirling bubbles of gloopy tar like molten rock surf off into the distance. The odd brave cactus pokes from the cravas. Its as if life will cling on at all costs. We whoosh on downwards, I love this strip of road, the bends are just right, the tarmac so smooth, blue sky, black land, green shoots shock colour into the fields.
We stop for water at La Santa, perfect timing, the croissants have just come out of the oven! Jo’s group are reluctantly leaving. Its reasuring for my group to see them looking knackered too. It’s always hard if you see people dance off into the distance, but good to learn that we all feel it, everyone works their hardest, we just have different levels of hard.
The landscape changes here, we enter the El Jable Desert, it’s barren, long derelict houses sprayed with graffiti. Over the past few years the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status of Lanzarote has been questioned after the former President, Mayor and 20 Politicians and Businessmen we arrested in connection with illegal building permits along Lanzarote’s coastline. There is political graffiti on many of the bridges too. The Island has been saved by the work of local artist and achitect Cesar Manrique 1919-1992. He campagined for the two rise policy which has kept the huge hotels away from the island and preserved its appearance keeping the Spanish and Ottoman inspired aestetic. Many of the round-a-bouts have sculptures of his which move with the winds, yet harmonise with their surroundings.
We roll along towards the sandy dunes of Famara with the Famara Masif jutting up from the sea. Sand covers the road, turning inland the temperature rises, slowly starting the grind upwards towards Haria. The farm land that terraces up the hill sides looks less green than last year. I chat with Helen the camp massage therapist as we climb, pondering the state of local farming. I fear my chewing everyones ears off whilst they’re trying hard to breathe is getting a tad annoying for some!
The wind is blasting us to pieces as we fly down Haria, buffering us back and forth, we get the odd spot of rain. Unusual, it only rains her a couple of times a year. As we pull in I notice the ground is a bit wet. Ha! And so is Jo! Her group managed to catch the one rain cloud and she’s dripping! But for us its cake o’clock. Cheese toasties for Ali and Helen, they assured me that the white sliced bread was the finest they’d had ever!
Up and over Mirador Del Rio, into the whooshing decent back. BANG! The head wind I had feared has arrived. Often the wind comes from the other direction meaning the second half of the course is easier. Not this time. My group are knackered. It’s the 2/3’s point in a ride when you always seem to flag. Luckily for me I’ve come to recognise it more and learn ways of dealing with it, mainly to stick my head down and pedal. I can’t do that now, I don’t think they’d hold my wheel. The road is hot, the wind is hot, like riding in a hair dryer. Water is low and I know the next point is a few miles yet. Helen shares with Andy, Sarah drops a gel, Ali pulls a face at me! I knew that it would be tricky taking the group with my partner in, as you can always have a real melt down that you’d hold off with friends. Sarah and Ali have been a rock for each other. Last year Sarah was here with the massage therapists role and talked into doing an Ironman. She’s shown great strenght on this camp and I have the upmost respect for her.
The road up to the old capital of Teguise is a grind. It goes on and on and on. The complaints are coming, for once I shut up. I fear being too chirpy on this hill might not be encouraging anyone. Fuelled up at the garage we turn left from one head wind into another! HOW!? Its like the wind has got it in for us!
Monumento De Campessino is in sight. Its a becon for me as I know it’s the start of the vinyards. It’s a strange view of the La Geria reigion, thousands of 8′ wide dips in the volcanic lapilli, each with a semi-circular stone wall around it and a small green vine at the bottom.The curved walls help catch the morning dew. It’s now listed as a world heritage site. There’s something very beautiful about the repetition.
At last it’s the top of the last hill, we fly down. Sarah lets out a “WHOOP” as her clock passes 100 miles for the first time! Just 12 more to go and we’re in. They’ve done it!
Yana is there on reception to greet us with a huge smile and another pair of fabulous heels, I’m more impressed she can walk in them than we can ride that far!
And now it’s time for the after camp PARTY! Such a great group of people to meet again this year. I wish them every sucess in the races they’re training for, there’s some real troupers!