ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET,….GO

By Norman Warwick

Even Ironman was helpless last year, when the island of Lanzarote, and the rest of the world was brought to a standstill by Covid. However on Saturday 3rd July 2021 the 29th annual event of the island´s biggest sporting spectacle took place.

Knowing the starting and finishing lines would be packed solid by around a thousand athletes as well as medical staff, officials, stewards, press and spectators, we thought we´d set off early before the roads were closed, as the running and cycling formats of the triathlon are held mostly on the roads of the island. This years ´route brought the cyclists very close to our local town of Playa Blanca and we managed to park the car off-road, and stroll across the by then closed LZ2 ´motorway, plonk our chairs in the central area and wait for the cyclists to arrive. By the time they reached us they would have completed an ´three point eight kilometre swim in the ocean and already have cycled a further forty kilometres or so to here, where we were sitting beside the tight U-turn that would take them back uphill to continue to Uga and on to even steep and tortuous roads.

We saw around a thousand tri-athletes, from more than fifty countries spread across fiver continents, come hurtling down towards us over a period of a couple of hours, and we were positioned  just at the point riders applied their brakes to take the U-turn. There were perhaps fifty spectators gathered in this area and a handful of stewards in high-vis jackets with a police car and an ambulance parked nearby.

The stewarding and policing were of the light touch we have become used to here on Lanzarote. We were miles away from the nearest bars or restaurants and whilst there was no shade there was a gentle cooling breeze for which we were as very grateful as, no doubt, were the athletes. It was all advantageous for good spectating, though, as the cyclists flashed by us, slowed, turned and went into the lower gears required for the uphill climb as they came past us again in the other direction thirty seconds later.

I was amazed by the variety of bikes (if it is ok to call them that at this level of elite sport). Of course, most were designed to look and behave like sleek, aero-dynamic machines, but some were on pencil thin tyres whilst others were on the squatter, wider, deeper-tread varieties. Some frames seemed Herculean, if I can make that reference to the bikes of my youth, and some looked somehow skinny and surely too weak to carry an athlete over such gruelling distances at such speeds.

Occasionally riders would reach us in a cluster all battling for position at the bend, but it really seemed as if each individual competitor was being given a personal round of applause of encouragement as recognition for their efforts. Those riders who were challenging for finishing times that would see them selected for subsequent events around the world kept their heads down and their eyes on the road, ignoring us they prepared for the 100 kilometres still to come. Others, less ambitious perhaps, applauded us back or urged us to even more fervent support, some even engaging in a little banter with recognised friends in the small crowd.

We had been made aware of this  by the preceding press coverage of Lancelot Digital and Lanzarote Information that the usual figure eight route would, for the first time in the event´s history .come to the finishing line in Plaza de las Nations of Avenida de Los Pocillos in Puerto Del Carmen. This decision had been taken to comply with covid restrictions, but Fabio Eligio Cabrera, head of Sports Club Santa and director of this event, had told the press that he was certain that when athletes arrived on the home straight there would be thousands of people lining the street to cheer them home.

He also informed us that another change to this year´s event was that finishing times would be taken into consideration as offering points for those athletes also taking part in the Long-distance Military World Championships, for which there were soldiers participating here from fifteen countries.

Every year the Ironman Lanzarote is the first of a series of these events held throughout Europe, and as always the 2021 event will be employed as a qualifier for the Hawaii World Championship by granting forty qualification places across the different age groups of the event.

Actually, my editor at Lanzarote Information, for which I write a weekly Lanzarote Information arts column, has for many been heavily involved with Ironman in one way or another. After seeing their first race in 2002 he and his wife Julie became part of the live broadcast team with Power FM for a few years, then they worked with the official broadcaster Ironman Live for three years. Since then they have helped with the general organisation and both have been part of the huge volunteer teams, in water and on land. In 2014, ´Miguel´ and Julie even competed, and with some amazing training from their coach, Bella Bayliss, did themselves proud, and apparently both have a small tattoo as a memory. In empathy with those who still compete each year, Miguel and Julie are well aware of what effect weather conditions can have on the sportsmen and women. Based on what they had told me, I looked up into an already hot and high sun and held my finger into the wind the way that I´m sure the weather forecasters do, and concluded that, as Miguel had predicted, today  was very hot and quite windy.

all cycling photographs
(c) Dutton The Button

´That will have made for a choppy swim´, I informed those around me, who wouldn´t know I was simply repeating what I had read in a communication from Miguel. ´This will a really tough first 90KM on the bike, and will be followed by a searing marathon. Lanzarote has a reputation for being the world’s toughest Ironman, and I think there will be a high attrition rate today. And now back to Huw Edwards in the BBC newsroom´.

For us, though, this was strictly a spectator sport. From our roadside chairs we noted the vast array of different helmets, some of which were very like one of those Dan Dare of the Eagle Comic illustrations, some of which were of the long sloping back at the neck variety which always somehow seem a bit sinister. The clothing was all varying colours, representing teams or countries in some ways all the competitors had a clearly visible number on their shirts, so it was in some ways like looking at a blurred abstract collage, he said trying to sneak in an artistic reference to justify the inclusion of this sports event on these pages. In fact let me take that a stage further. In a recent feature entitled Geology And Art about artist Ildefonso Aguiler, we reported on how he speaks to and listens to the landscapes and hears a seemingly sci-fi soundboard as he does so. It was kind of like that here, too. Some bikes sound as if they zipped past, wheels whirred round and there was a bop and a clunk at the gear change. It was a bit like the description Tom Paxton offered in The Marvellous Toy. The folk singer also used to sing of being Bound For The Mountains And The Sea. So here we go, already heading for a suggested soundtrack to IronMan Lanzarote 2021

suggested soundtrack IRONMAN LANZAROTE 2021

a sidetracks & detours suggested compilation

Laura Marling

SWIM

Into The Ocean by Blue October

Swimming Lesson by Florence And The Machine

Nightswimming by REM

Stop Swimming by Porcupine Tree

You Crawled Out Of The Ocean by Laura Marling

Vampire Weekend

CYCLE

Obvious Bicycle by Vampire Weekend

Nine Million Bycycles by Katie Melua

My White Bicycle by Tomorrow

Bycycle Song by the red Hot Chilli Peppers

I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose by Bombay Bicycle Club

Run DMC

RUN

The Runner by John Stewart

Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen

Keep on Running by The Spencer Davis group

I Ran So Far Away by A Flock Of Seagulls

Tougher Than Leather by Run DMC

AND ENJOY THE VIEW

Land Of The Sea And Sun by Harry Belafonte

Everlasting Sea by Donovan

Volcano (album) by Jimmy Buffet

Keeper Of The Mountains by The Flatlanders

Dance of The Mountain King´s Daughter by Edvard Greig

all titles above available at various sources on line

ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET,….GO

By Norman Warwick

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