Thursday, 10 May 2012

Lanzarote Summary

It feels like we were there longer than a week, but Lotte and I are now back in England. All things considered, things probably could not have gone better. I can't speak for Lotte, but I certainly leave Lanzarote more motivated and fitter than when I arrived (I've even got a tan).

I think its easy when you set aside a block of time for serious training to have unrealistic expectations of what you might achieve. Perhaps I would have trained longer and harder had I not had such a debilitating gastric issues in the preceding days before flying out, but as a result I arrived only wanting to get back into training. Therefore, what I considered we achieved over the past week exceeded my expectations. Either way, the outcome has left me pondering this statement:

Not wanting to get into a deep philosophical discussion of what that might entail just now, instead, I’ll talk through our week. We arrived on Thursday morning, and instead of renting the bikes from Friday-Monday leaving two days to relax after, we rented them from Saturday-Tuesday giving me and extra day to build my strength for the days ahead. 

The long drag up Fire Mountain
On Friday, even though I certainly didn't feel my best on waking, we set off on a gentle 4 mile run in the morning to Puerto Calero and back along some undulating trails. It was great to be out training again, and it was a great way to get some of the cobwebs out of my system. More literally, Lotte and I also ensured we did our POWERbreathe training, choosing to do the 30 breaths after our run, to work the already part-fatigued inspiratory muscles. Not only does this add an aspect of specificity to the training, but it is also a good way to get it out of the way. I tend to do most of my training in one big block in each day, so putting at least part of the POWERbreathe practice actually into that training block seems to lessen the logistics of performing the twice daily regimen.

View of Puerto del Carmen Harbour on an early morning run
On Saturday, Lotte and I slept through and wandered over to the breakfast buffet in a leisurely fashion. We then set out for a 50 mile route of the Ocean Lava bike course and ran for 30 mins off the bike. This was my first experience of cycling in Lanzarote, and it took some getting used to. I haven't been cycling that much of late, coming off a run focus, and I knew my cycling legs would take a while to return. The ocean lava course is pretty cruel, but great fun.  I slowly began to get my bearings on the island and lets just say I also began to understand when the wind was going to be helpful, and when the wind was not going to be helpful. Despite my short-lived illness, I also found that I was relatively rested, and perhaps a little over enthusiastic. After a loop of El Golfo as we climbed up into Las Brenas, I pulled away from Lotte, building to threshold and enjoy the silent smooth roads. Then out of Las Brenas, having enjoyed the last little surge I did the same again, this time climbing out of the saddle and pushing on. We re-grouped at the bottom of the next sweeping descent and then turned left up the climb at Fermes. I only had to look ahead to see a small car at a funny angle to know it wasn't going to be pretty. It was most of what I had to hold on to Lotte's wheel for the short but steep climb to the top. Lotte aptly described that climb in a tweet later that evening "#Fermesisabitch". Im inclined to agree (excuse the pun).

View from the top of the "#Fermesisabitch" climb
On Sunday we were to bike the Ironman course, which to be honest I found a bit of a struggle. It was a hot day, and I think by the time we reached the top of Tabayesco, the heat was starting to tell. Not even an arid cheese and ham sandwich (hey Spain, ever heard of BUTTER?!) was enough to bring me back. I stayed alive on some caffeinated gels up to Mirador del Rio, but  really blew up on the way back along the LZ1. Even though the wind was behind us, as we moved along at the same speed as the wind, it was as though there was no breeze at all, and I just felt like I was cooking in my helmet. It was over soon enough, and 100 miles with 2000m + of elevation the bag. Even knowing what I know of coping with adversity, this was a great reminder of how easily, when you’re tired you can still lose focus and drift into a more negative mindset. I’m happy to say I took this reflection with me over the rest of the week, and made an effort to actively re-enforce my positive emotions as I trained – I felt much better for it!

Lotte coasting down to Famara
On Monday I had convinced Lotte to take the morning off, to give us some time to recover, and to head out for a late-afternoon ride. Now knowing the island a little better I selected a route that I felt would be about as easy (wind assisted) as we could get. After a little splashing around in the sea in the morning, we got on the bikes and  head off up the donkey track and then over Fire Mountain, getting some of the uphill work out the way. Dropped down through Mancha Blanca, Tinajo and into La Santa before a short climb (wind assisted) up to Soo. Dropped down again into Famara, then another (wind assisted) (do you see where I'm going with this?) climb up to Teguise, before coasting back (mostly downhill, wind assisted) home. Despite plotting as favourable route as possible this still gave us another 50 miles and nigh on 1000m ascent. Beacuse it was later in the afternoon, it was also a little windier, which Lotte was quick to point out! Regardless 200 miles and 4000m+ asc in three days and we were beginning to see what resembled some decent training. 

Panorama view from Mirador del Rio
 On Tuesday we forewent out buffet breakfast in the morning in favour of heading out early. We had got some supplies from the supermarket and had those before getting out the door before 8am. As we set out on sore bums, it was abundantly clear, that it wasn't just tired legs that might slow us down, but a strong wind. Lotte's sister had recommend we see Orzola right at the other end of the island. We plotted a relatively direct route there, but it was hard going. I’m not sure if the 40 min slog into a buffeting wind from Arrieta detracted from the initial impressions of Orzola, or whether a favourable view was soured by the unsuspecting climb out of there, but needless to say I won't be in any major rush to go back. Having taken on another gel, Lotte and I commenced the (in)famous Tabayesco TT. We managed it comfortably in 40 mins. I held back most of the way and enjoyed the climb. It wasn't nearly as steep as I had remembered from descending some of that section on Sunday. I think it was Lotte's time to be wiped, as after a bite to eat she seemed to struggle a little as we made our way back. Instead of a direct route home however we had added in a loop down from Teguise to Tahiche, through San Bartoleme to and back up to Tinajo to make up some distance. This did NOT go well. The wind seemed to have picked u even more  and those of you that know, this loop heads north.  No hashtag that can be repeated could describe how Lotte suggested she felt. Soon enough the miles ticked away and we were coasting back across from Mancha Blanca towards PdC, on what I think must be one of my favourite stretches of road on the island. 

It'd be wrong not to eat some Paella...
Lotte and I managed our POWERbreathe training every morning and evening, and having performed the twice daily breaths before, and also having only ‘dabbled’ before, it is also clear that the rapid progression comes from the regularity of practice. No surprises there then. This time, I have opted to also perform half of my daily practice standing up, without the inspiratory muscles supported. Although these attempts seem significantly harder initially, and some adjustment of the level is required for the standing, I hope that the hard work will pay dividends. For now, I look forward to building on the both the momentum and hard work (21 hours of cycling in 4 days) established out here in Lanzarote. 


  1. Good work mate. Love the photos. Miss cycling round that place - my favourite IM course.

  2. Biking the Ironman course in Lanzarote was indeed an achievement. And apart from that enjoyment, you also got the chance to experience exploring the beauty of the said Spanish island.