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A cautionary tale from Ironman Lanzarote

A cautionary tale from Ironman Lanzarote

Letter from Coventry Tri Member Joe Reynolds: Written to the British Triathlon Federation and published in Tri 220 Magazine


I want as many people as possible to realise that the cover from the BTF is sometimes less than that of the race organisers and that using a BTF card abroad can leave people at a dis- advantage.

On Saturday 17th May this year I took part in the Iron Man Lanzarote race. Unfortunately I got into difficulty on the second lap of the swim and had to be withdrawn from the competition as I had taken water into my lungs, probably as a result of being 'swam over'.
This resulted in me being admitted to the Lanzarote Hospital where I spent the next three days, the first night in Intensive Care. The care I received there was excellent and the prompt action of the marshals and medics on the course probably saved my life and I am grateful to the organisation.

My problems arose later. I was informed at the reception of the hospital that the Hospital Fees would be paid by 'Iron Man'. On the third day of my stay a member of the hospital staff informed me that this was not the case and that responsibility was with my Federation. After telephoning my Federation (British Triathlon Federation) they informed me that responsibility was with the Iron Man organisation. I telephoned the Race Organisers and a was told that as I was a member of the BTF, and therefore had not taken out a day licence, that responsibility lay with my Federation (BTF). This was later confirmed by e-mail that had I purchased a 'Day Licence' the Race Organisers' Insurance would be responsible but as I had a licence from my own Federation that the Federation's insurance should cover me. The hospital I was taken to was a private hospital and would not accept the E111 card.

On being discharged from the hospital I paid my own bill in full (€3561.20) as my travel insurance did not cover 'extreme sports'. After talking to a number of my colleagues most of them were unaware that they would require specific race insurance and all of them believed that they were covered by their race licence. I am fortunate in that the sum involved is not so high that I will endure serious financial hardship but it could have been a lot higher had I had an accident on the bike course requiring surgery and a longer stay in the hospital.

A lot of triathletes in the UK enjoy competing Iron Man races abroad but most of those that I have spoken to were unaware of the implications should something go wrong. The point of this letter is to make other triathletes aware of the situation when racing abroad as I do not feel that the race organisers or the BTF have made this clear. I would advise any athlete competing in Iron Man races abroad to forget about their BTF licence and buy a Day Licence from the organisers regardless. Very few of us read the 'small print' or the 'terms and conditions' when we sign up for races, and I accept that it was my responsibility to have done so, but when we enter a race we enter to finish and think that it can't happen to us. It does however raise the question as to whether there is any value in an 'age-grouper' triathlete buying a BTF licence. There were twelve other patients in the hospital who also had no insurance.

This was not my first Iron Man competition, I have finished four races over the distance including Lanzarote in 2011 and I have been racing triathlon for over twenty years, not only in the UK but all over Europe and also in the USA (A Day Licence is compulsory in the USA). The response of the BTF is that their race insurance covers me for £25.00 per night not including the first night. I have filled in the forms and am awaiting the result. I do not intend to resign or leave the BTF, it was not their fault, I just feel that the issue should be given more publicity.

Would you like a big woody for your 50th birthday?

Would you like a big woody for your 50th birthday?

It was not a question that I had anticipated from my dearly beloved, but who was I to turn up such an offer? A half day of vigorous pounding leaving me breathless and excited was not to be overlooked. Neither was the opportunity for shameless double entendre.

In my eagerness I had made my entry quite early (end of double entendre before it gets out of hand) and hadn't anticipated that my aged excuse of a body would try to completely conk out before I had reached my half century. Abdominal pain, internal examinations and colonoscopies were not in my training plan so I did what I could and crossed my fingers.

Another oversight was not reading the course details before signing over my cash. When I first looked at the course profile, I thought I had downloaded the ECG of a tachycardic pensioner.

After arriving at our nearby campsite prior to race day I left the children with my long suffering and understanding wife, the goodly Alice, and went to register and look at the race venue.

You could tell we were in the Welsh borders - even the swim was hilly. The transition to T1 was somewhat underplayed as "a gentle ramble that you may wish to slip some comfy footwear on for". Turns out it was a 700metre 8% climb on loose sharp shale. If you look at the picture above, you will note the swim (obviously in the wet stuff in the lower section of the photo) and the transition zone (at the top of the cliff at the end of the lake toward the top of the photo).

The race organiser was either a comedian or a sadist or most likely both. This was confirmed when I recce'd the bike course. The usual bike course has a 2 mile climb half way round but the road was closed because of a landslide! Just to ensure we didn't miss out the diversion included an extra short climb and a 2 1/4 mile climb that made Kidds Hill look like a hill for kids. Whilst it was brutal it was undeniably beautiful.

I didn't bother looking at the run course as it had taken me nearly 2 hours to drive the 56 miles (the long course did 2 laps) hoping that it couldn't be more challenging than the bike course (I think you can guess the reality).

Back at the registration tent, I saw Rupert, Claire and Tim who were doing the Little Woody - probably the most testing half ironman in the UK. They were looking very cheerful. I guessed they hadn't looked at the bike course yet.

I went to bed dreaming of small chainrings and big sprockets.

Race morning dawned,  well it didn't as it was still dark as I downed a peanut bagel and some lukewarm tea from the flask of tea I had made the night before. My present from Alice was a new Castelli trisuit. Ignoring all wise advice to never try anything new I decided that I should take it for a test run today.

Arriving back at the national dive centre, with first light breaking over the still lake, everything seemed tranquil as I looked down from the viewing platform to the waters far below.

The full distance racers were due to start first and we made our way down to the pontoon for race briefing. The briefing was brief but the start time came and went as the big yellow marker bouys hadn't been put out. I began to get quite nervous as all those round me were talking about their enduroman successes and there was a European deca-Ironman champion there. I started to feel as if I was in the wrong place. Sensing (smelling) the building tension amongst the waiting racers the race referee told us there would be a canoe in each corner of the lake and we had to swim round those 4 times.

Then off we traipsed before plunging into the crystal clear waters. I hadn't really appreciated that an 80m deep quarry lake would be quite that cold but my retracting testicles and hyperventilation were confirmation that it was indeed rather chilly. Over the top of the sound of gasping triathletes I heard a hooter just before being dealt a blow to the temple and losing my goggles. My ensuing fury meant that I made an unusually aggressive start and raised my core temperature to a degree where my shivering was almost controllable. It was a ridiculous amount of time before we even saw the canoes for the corners so I assumed that I was swimming rather slowly. However I was enjoying the swim now and the water was so clear you could see way down the dive lines when you went past them. It felt like you were swimming in the sky - a very odd sensation. As the laps went by I caught a number of people and when I got out of the water I was in 5th place in 1:23! That isn't my best time for 3.8km but it was an excellent time for the 5k that was measured by Garmin. Alice was waiting to cheer me on and decided to run up the path to transition with me which was a real boost.

At T1 my intestinal complaint made itself known so I took a rather long 6 minutes before I exited the loo and made my way onto the open road. By this time the little woody competitors had caught us up as they only had 2 laps of the lake. My nutrition strategy  (eat something, drink something and repeat regularly) went out of the window after the first mile when the drinking straw from my bar mounted system bounced out leaving me with a full bottle but no way of getting  at it. Being in full race mode I didn't even think of stopping to find it. This mistake found me out later as my newly quintagerian (ie 50 year old) body discovered that 800 ml of liquid is not enough for long distance triathlon.

The bike course really was breathtaking in both senses of the word. After a rollercoaster ride along the A48 the course turns inland and uphill into the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley (so called because you ask yourself why you are cycling up such a ridiculous hill). The wandering cattle served as a useful distraction from the pain as the narrow winding roads took us through glorious green scenery.

Onto the second lap of the bike course and it began to get a bit lonely and I was beginning to get a bit thirsty. I had finished my frame mounted bottle and all my gels and trying to see where the feed zone was as I hadn't seen it on the first lap. As I hurtled down a steep section I saw 2 shadowy figures lurking in the dense shrubbery. I realised too late that they were the feed station and not an amorous couple and shot past. Of course I hadn't learnt from my first "why not stop and go back incident" and carried on to finish the bike section. Into T2, where the organisers had someone ready to take your bike and hand you your run kit. . You then got to sit down in a chair in a marquee to prepare for the run. Daniel and Daisy (my children) joined me in the marquee and gave me a big hug which they soon regretted on discovering how covered in gel, snot and sweat I was.

Just a long gentle jog to go and off I went through the camping field (you can camp next to registration for free). I saw a portaloo and my stomach rejoiced at the sight. As I approached I tore down most of my trisuit at the thought of some gastric relief. But it wasn't to be. To my horror I found it was a portashower and having a poo in there may have led to a DQ at the least. By now I was too far gone to prevent the inevitable and just made it to the thorny, nettly undergrowth in time.

After crossing the adjacent field we turned left and began to climb….. and climb….and climb. Surely this must end soon…. at least the scenery is nice….maybe I can walk when I reach the next tree….please stop going up. Eventually I reached the turn after 2.5k of uphill hobbling where 2 jovial marshalls were handing out jelly beans and pretzels and some water at last. Downhill was pleasantly fast and I could really appreciate the views and how far we had come up. Lap 2 followed a similar pattern - visit the woods to lighten load, see how far I could run before I walked, stop for refreshments at the turn and tumble down the hill. Laps 3 and 4 were a bit hazy as dehydration started to take its toll. I saw Claire and Tim finish their races and my family were at the finish cheering me on to the next lap.

I spent a lot of time walking by now and the time I spent in the bushes or refuelling was escalating. As I was deciding where I should start walking on lap 5 there were only the long course athletes on the trail each in various states of decrepitude.  As the distance wore us all down the camaraderie increased with words of encouragement, offers of food and high 5's keeping us going.

By lap 6 I was thinking that even if I walked the whole thing I was going to finish even if it meant coming last. Now I was struggling going downhill and I was employing a run 20 steps walk 10 strategy. Even with the finish in sight I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other and I had to make a gargantuan effort to keep up with Daniel and Daisy as they crossed the finish line with me.

The organisers congratulated me on finishing and presented me with a large birthday cake that Daisy shared with other athletes and spectators alike.

What a lovely birthday.

For those interested in the times:

Little Woody

Rupert 5:31:48 (48:18 inc T1, 2:51:56, 1:46:45 inc T2) 27th overall

Claire Cresswell  6:54:14 (48:09, 3:30:50, 2:22:09)

Tim Cresswell  6:58:29 (48:40, 3:33:39: 2:23:12)

Big Woody

Loz 10:05:51 (1:28:45, 5:10:16. 3:21:45) 1st vet 1st over 50 2nd overall

Grateful thanks to my lovely wife and family for supporting me and following me across England and Wales so that I could celebrate my birthday in style.

Picture of Rupert at the finish - this would make a good caption competition!

http://www.charleswhittonphotography.com/wdc-2381209

Tim Cresswell looking much fresher

http://www.charleswhittonphotography.com/wdc-2381612

not sure if this is Claire but if it is she is showing those guys a hard time

http://www.charleswhittonphotography.com/wdc-2380900

3 places off Kona Slot at Tenby 2014

3 places off Kona Slot at Tenby 2014

1,850 competitors crossed the starting line following a glorious sunrise in Tenby for the start of Ironman Wales 2014. Choppy sea resulted in 56 athletes not completing the swim.

Sadly, mechanical problems caused MSTC's own Michael John to stop within a few miles from the end of the cycle. Despite unseasonably warm dry conditions for the cycle and run, finish times were slower than usual. At the awards ceremony it was commented that the swim had exhausted many athletes and there was double the usual IM DNF rate at around 12%. 

Tenby 2014-swim

 

I attended the awards ceremony, having got an Age-Group-Finish PB of 7th. Kona slots rolled down to 4th in the 50-54 category……almost something to brag about. However, one felt a bit inadequate because almost everyone else there had a massive IM podium-finish trophy. The 30-year old German Age-Grouper sat next to me had come 10th overall (having beaten half the professionals)…….his Tenby run was 40 mins quicker than mine but his standalone marathon PB is only a minute quicker than mine (what am I doing wrong?).

Tenby is arguably the most scenic/enjoyable/intimate/friendly/challenging IM in the world. The cycle in Pembrokeshire National Park is beautiful, technical and hilly…….. including a "heartbreak" section with big crowds (like Challenge Roth). The run is 4 x 10.5k through the town with massive support from passionate drinkers from the many pubs, bars and hotels on the route.

Tenby 2014-bike

 

It's a relatively hassle-free race with registration, briefing, transition, start, finish and hotels all within a 1km radius. Great to be able to pop back to hotel for a shower after the finish before collecting the bike and bags.

Tenby has the longest IM transition times with its 1km (mostly uphill) dash to T1 from the beach. Total transition times being 10:12 for the 50-54 age-group winner, compared to my 19:29……..9:17 difference !!!!

Name

Country

Div Rank

Gender Rank

Overall Rank

Swim

Bike

Run

Finish

Points

Zarro, Dario

CHE

1

34

34

00:58:32

05:42:12

03:47:02

10:38:57

5000

Mueller, Gerhard

AUT

2

74

75

01:22:14

05:54:44

03:35:07

11:07:16

4660

Johnsen, Alfred

NOR

3

95

96

01:15:43

05:52:53

03:57:19

11:18:07

4530

Openshaw, Peter

GBR

4

116

118

01:07:23

06:07:22

04:01:44

11:28:44

4402

Bibby, Carl

GBR

5

127

131

01:10:18

06:20:25

03:44:42

11:32:38

4355

Willis, John

GBR

6

176

183

01:11:31

06:15:32

04:05:37

11:48:29

4165

Graham, James

GBR

7

207

216

01:27:02

06:10:20

03:59:22

11:56:13

4072

All Athletes (139 Athletes)
Originally from Ironman Wales Tenby 2014 Results.

 

Dart 10K 2014

Dart 10K 2014

I should start by saying that the Outdoor Swimming Society doesn't market the Dart 10k as a race and I'm sure this fact really adds to the festival atmosphere of the event. That said; A measured course, Timing chips and 4 waves of differing ability (Leisurely, Medium, Fast and Elite) have all the elements necessary for good competition. Add to that the fast flowing tidal waters of the river make for a potentially fast time.

It is run from Totnes to Dittisham through the very picturesque rolling Devon countryside making it one of those must do events amongst distance swimmers. I entered back in February amid the scramble for places, 800 slots selling out in 45 minutes!

Having completed the swim in 2012, I had a good idea of what to expect, but 2 years is a long time to remember the geography required for good navigation. So the day before race day I dragged my family on to the Totness - Dartmouth ferry, packed with lots of other swimmers nervously clutching maps and route info, for a recce of the course. Taking the slow ferry down the river made me realise that both ignorance can be bliss and 10k is a long way. But it did help to locate where the feed stations should be, having missed one last time round I didn't want to make the same mistake twice, nor did I want to repeat my wasted effort of swimming up dead end creeks. With registration also available the day before all was set for a relaxed evening and smooth morning.

So to race morning, up early, big bowl of porridge with honey, check my bag for wetsuit, tri suit to go under for added  warmth (11 degrees C last time!), hat, goggles, gels, water, bananas, glide,  warm clothes for the other end and I was all set. I blagged a lift from the B&B with some fellow swimmers I'd reconnected with from last time so Jo and the kids could make their way to the finish in their own time.

Down at race HQ, all we had to do was collect timing chips and be ready for our wave briefing. I had chosen to go in the most popular Medium wave, but it really makes little difference as everyone follows the same path and crosses the timing mats immediately before entry into the river. Though my plan to be at the front of the wave to minimise overtaking was scuppered by chatting too much and I soon found myself at the very back. Good job the river is wide!

Water clarity at the start was never going to be good with the brackish run off from Dartmoor but at least it was a warmish 17 degrees C. No time for my usual warm up routine, straight into a steady stroke. The first stretch of the river is fairly straight with one important instruction to keep to the right so as to avoid oncoming traffic of the boat variety. I set a course to the centre of the river and set about over hauling those ahead. It didn't feel too long before I could see the first feed station. I swam up to the platform and braced myself against the flow. Fished out a gel from up my wet suit sleeve and took on some water (bottled). I took a sneaky look at my watch as I pushed off, I was 54 minutes in. This got my brain working as I tried to predict my finish time. First feed station was published as being at 4k.  It took me a while, but  calculated this to be 13.30 minutes per Kilometre, 135 minutes for 10k or 2hrs 15. Not possible. I soon realised the feed station was in the same place as last time and that was said to be at 3k and there was no way I was swimming that fast, flow assisted or otherwise. I promised myself no more time check till the finish.

The next two kilometres see the river flow through quite wide meanders, requiring good sighting and positioning to get the best route. This is also one of the most beautiful sections with steep wooded sides to the valley. After this the river opens out into the most exposed section where it is up to 1km wide. This presents a few new challenges, for the first time it becomes quite possible to swim up a creek if you're not careful, also some sections of the river are very shallow and the amount of silt churned up can create a total brown out. I touched the bottom a few times with my hands and had to modify my pull stroke to pass closer to my body. And lastly wind blowing against the flow created quite a big chop. Waves of 12 to 18 inches making for interesting experiences, on more than one occasion I found my upper body completely out of the water as I crashed through. This did test my bilateral breathing as you couldn't rely on getting a clear breath in. At about this point the first of the Fast and Elite wave swimmers started to pass me.

I found the second feed station and took the opportunity to take on my second gel and a few glugs of water. Not wanting to hang around too long I pushed the empty wrapper back up my sleeve and kicked on. It is amazing what a 30 second breather and a burst of sugar and caffeine will do. I was feeling in good shape. True to my promise, no clock watching but I knew I still had between 2 and 3 km's to go.

The route takes a final right hand turn, through 90 degrees with about 500 metres to the village of Dittisham. On seeing what I thought was the turn point ahead I decided to push hard for the finish and maximise my chances of a PB. You guessed it, it turned out to be another creek. I have to admit to a moment of panic, not knowing how much further it was and suffering self-inflicted oxygen debt. A little self-reasoning and I realised I couldn't be much more than 500 metres short. One stretch of the reservoir loop. No problem.

At the real turn you find yourself swimming past the moored pleasure boats and get a real sense of the 'run in', spectators line the shore for the first time and you can see the marquees and catering stalls on the Ham. I even spotted my daughter and gave her a big wave, must be something about my style as she had already picked me out.

It was fantastic to be greeted at the finish by my family, my 74 year old Dad even ran back to the car to pick a pair of flip flops for me to ease the stony walk up to the field. Hot tea in a commemorative mug, medal and event photos were waiting.  It was a great village fate like atmosphere with local produce stalls, Ukulele band, art exhibitions, Lamb roast, burgers, cheese and cakes of all shapes and sizes. Just what you need to refuel for the five hour drive home. As to my time,  I clocked a PB of 2 hours 34 minutes and 19 seconds. A big thanks to everyone who gave me a confidence boost when my training plan was knock off course on Lindfield High Street. You really can do quite a bit more than you think.

Tri-Edmonton 2014 - The rally in the valley

Tri-Edmonton 2014 - The rally in the valley

Barry Davids, Paul Newsome and myself travelled to Edmonton, Canada to race in the World Triathlon Championships, Olympic Distance. The town was awash with flags, and everywhere was the official race slogan...it's going to be epic. Barry travelled via Icelandic Air, he wanted a close up view of some ash clouds. I took out a second mortgage and took advantage of the Team GB official travel package, Paul got his mum to drive most of the way.

We were all together by Saturday, in preparation for our race on Monday 1st September, Labor Day! And it was! The event was the Grand Final of the World Triathlon Series, and the Brownlees, Gomez, Mola, Jorgansen, Stimpson and all, had travelled to Edmonton. Barry met Jorgensen and Groff in our hotel lift...so he says, where's the selfie Barry?  If there is such a thing as a triathlon festival this was it, with races for almost a week. There were various Aquathon Worlds, Sprint Worlds, Junior Worlds, Para Worlds, Olympic Worlds, Relay Worlds, u23 Worlds and Corporate Triathlons.

Barry immersed himself in the whole event, watching most of the races and every time I saw him he had made another lot of friends. We were spoilt, with free transport, free access to pools and gyms and free maple syrup. The logistics were amazing, and sometimes mind bogglingly complex. There were ankle timing chips, bike timing chips, black body numbers, green wetsuit numbers, bag drop numbers, registrations, penalty boxes and briefings to attend to. With bikes having to be in place Sunday, and kept under guard. Paul took his hotel blanket to keep his bike warm. Edmonton had cleaned the swim lake, emptying it, lining it and then chlorinating it! I am not joking.  It was very strange swimming in a lake that smelt like a swimming pool, but it did make drafting easier.

Edmonton2014-legendsWatching the Elite Men on Sunday was awesome. It was like Niagara Falls at the start, with only the occasional arm or leg visible amongst all the froth. It was a brilliant race by Alistair, and amazing to get some close up views and pictures. I can honestly say that the Elites hurt just as much as you when racing. We were relieved when race day arrived, and eager to emulate the dive start off the blue carpet. At least we kept our goggles on Alistair!

The bike route was glorious, fast but with enough hills and fast bends to test our bike handling skills. I loved being in a wave just made up of my age group...just a bit of a shame I watched most of them disappear at the start! Barry's had an unbelievable swim, 25.05, extraordinary with one arm. Paul had a simply brilliant ride, the fastest time I have very seen by a club member in an Olympic, 1.00.09, wow ( he did have a nice warm bike). I had an unbelievable slow swim and run,  managing 49th in my wave of 90. The run was flat, fast but a very long 10km.

Official times were:

Paul, 25.55 swim, 2.42 T1, 1.00.09bike, 2.19 T2, 43.25 run, 2.14.17 total time, 43rd
Martin 27.08 swim, 3.04 T1, 1.02.43bike, 2.56 T2, 47.38 run, 2.23.30 total time, 49th
Barry 25.05swim, 3.07 T1, 1.06.12, bike, 2.52 T2, 46.32 run, 2.23.49 total time, 51st


We all received the coolest medal ever, on the reverse was embossed ...It was epic. It was.