Ironman Lanzarote 2022 – Sarah Spruytenburg

Sarah Spruytenburg

I promised a race report – it’s a long one!

Ironman Lanzarote 2022 – suck it up

I first signed up to do Ironman Lanza in 2020. I heard how epic it was and it is billed as one of the toughest in the world so I thought go on then, I like a challenge…. 2 years later we finally got to go! Despite an initial hiatus from running for 3 months last autumn/Winter due to injury, my build-up to race day had been nicely consistent. I was getting out in all weathers and just getting it done, not necessarily following any particular plan but using my experience to guide the volume & intensity of training. My strategy for the race was to not set any targets for speed or time as this course was a huge unknown for me in terms of the weather conditions. The heat & WIND! are variables I can’t control or replicate in training, so I just had to trust in my commitment to being the best I can be, whatever the day throws at me, and just ‘suck it up!’

Race day eve arrived, bike racked and carb-loading complete then along came a wobble! This was through genuine fear of the bike course. I’d done a brief recce the day before (20k) and the wind battered me, I’ve never experienced anything like it. I had a real concern I might not stay upright. ‘Suck it up, Sarah!! It’s the same for everyone!’ is what I told myself but that didn’t stop the tears.

Race day! It was almost 3 years since I’d experienced an Ironman race day. As the sun rose over the horizon I felt the buzz and excitement which was well and truly in the air (or was that the whiff of the portaloos?). Following the usual ridiculous amount of faffing in transition and casual peeing in my wetsuit on the beach (come on we all do it don’t we??), it was race time!!

After seeing the pros off, before I knew it I was swimming and after a few inevitable knocks to the head, I remembered I have to ‘suck it up. I kept telling myself it’s just the same as a Radley swim session, just without stopping and maybe adding a few waves and stunning views. The swim is a simple 1 loop, but I still got disorientated swimming in a straight line! I measured the swim at over 4k so I think it was long or maybe that was down to my sighting!

T1 – We had sun loungers rather than benches to sit on to change! Knowing what it’s like to sit on the end of one of those and flip it over, I opted for the floor to get ready for the bike. Making sure I had my bum bag of snacks firmly attached around my waist, I was off to face my fears!

Bike – A flat start out of town, I then turned to the first rise up and hit a pothole (probably the only one on the whole course) which dislodged my hydration system from my bike and it scattered in 6 pieces across the road along with half of my precious fluid/energy drink. After a brief meltdown, I retrieved the pieces and reassembled them, grateful that by some miracle I had some fluid left in it. At the top of this first rise I saw my amazing friends for the first time (actually I heard them first!) what a boost and it put the biggest smile on my face.

I could write a few chapters on the bike course. Insanely windy and relentlessly hilly sums it up but that doesn’t do it justice. That bike course is EPIC!! at times you feel you’re on another planet, the vast lava fields through the Timanfaya national park (Fire mountain) are incredible the views from the top of Mirador del Rio are breathtaking, and the tailwinds are soooo much fun!!!!! The cheers from every village we passed through of ‘Chica Chica’, ‘Vamos’, ‘Bravo’!! It will stay with me forever it lifts you up like nothing else. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I clearly threw my toys out of the pram on a number of occasions and at one point I got off my bike and sat on a wall! That was a big ‘suck it up moment’ I nearly shat my pants with those crosswinds and swore like a trooper at the relentless headwinds, oh and the course was long by 2K!! but I am so proud of myself and grateful for the opportunity to experience this. The bike took me 7hrs and 51 minutes I cried when I got off the bike, this was equal parts relief and pure joy. It’s a ride I will remember forever.

T2 – As I got off the bike I could hear in the distance what sounded like an army chanting my name, as I ran through the seemingly endless T2 there were my wonderful friends hanging over the fence along with all the Grimsby tri supporters who didn’t know me at all, all screaming well done at me. I blew them all a kiss, another massive smile moment. I retrieved my run bag, this time I sat on a sun lounger and managed to resist the urge to recline! My transition time will not break any records due to me pulling on odd socks, trying to eat a bag of melted M&M’s, and forgetting to take off my helmet!

The run – 3 laps (24k, 9, 9) the first lap is a long out and back to Arrecife which is beyond the airport into a headwind and exposed to the sun. I instantly regretted declining the offer of more suncream in T2. I kept ticking off the kilometers and enviously eyeing up the lap bands that the faster athletes already had on their wrists. I knew I could do this if I just kept moving. I took every opportunity to pour water over my head and have the kids soak me with water guns. I took ice cubes and shoved them down my trisuit, a couple ended up wedged in my bum which was an odd sensation but distracted me from my throbbing feet for a few minutes. With the out and back course, I knew I would see my OxfordTri club mates on the course at some point and that kept me going. To see them and high-five them was awesome & with chants of ‘suck it up, suck it up’ from our supporters, I kept it going.I ran every step of the marathon apart from the aid stations. My pace was fairly consistent but the second half saw it drop as the sun dropped over the mountains. My watch also ran out of battery with about 10 k to go (I knew how it felt).

After 14 hrs, 4 minutes & 45 seconds I got to run down the finish shoot which was immense. I crossed the line and my knees buckled. At that moment I knew I had given that race everything I had.

I had officially sucked it up!

13 incredible women in my age group and I came 8th which I’m immensely proud of.The support on the course was amazing but by far and away our OxfordTri spectathletes were the greatest, they were unrelenting in their support and made me laugh so many times. Thank you doesn’t come close! You made a huge difference to my day and spending the week with you was the tonic I needed and the icing on the cake.

Is it the toughest Ironman in the world? Who knows! but every race is tough and I daresay every year Lanza Ironman is different due to the weather conditions, tweaks to the course, etc…. There were people that didn’t finish this one despite having done 2 or 3 before, who knows why but sometimes it’s just bad luck! At the end of the day its not about what’s the toughest race, its about remembering why you set yourself the challenge in the first place and how it makes you feel.

P.S. Beers and doughnuts for breakfast are the recovery food of champions

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