Ironman Lanzarote 2013 Race Report

Ironman Lanzarote 2013 Race Report

Many people consider this an iconic race, with its own special challenges and history. Certainly it is one of the tougher races on the official ironman circuit due to heat, winds and hills. Maybe it is difficult for Brits to get ready to race in the heat so early in the season, having trained in the cold. Lanzarote is a cycling and triathlon paradise so some serious competitors spend time training and acclimatising on the island for weeks before the race. 

Having said that, Lanzarote ironman is great fun and suitable for all abilities. You can take it slowly because there is plenty of time to finish. At the race briefing there were  plenty of people doing their first ironman and one person was doing their first triathlon! 

They let finishers go across the line with their kids, which a lot of races do not allow. It was all pretty friendly and laid back. Despite stern warnings at the race briefing, I did not see anybody get a penalty.



This was tricky, as UK open water swims had barely started due to terrible weather this year. Got head-butted during the pre-dawn warm-up. Glad the goggles did not break but got a grazed nasal bridge..

A mass start from the beach, dashing across a few metres of sand before wading into the surf at dawn. Seeded myself about 100th out of 1,800. Then got overtaken by about a thousand swimmers in the first 20 minutes. It is a 2 lap anticlockwise course with massive congestion especially on the left side because of a left turn at the first buoy that is only about 150 metres from the start. I was literally on the marker rope on the left and mostly had to pull myself along the rope for the first half-mile as proper swimming was not really possible. Lots of people went under the rope to get clear water to the left and I don't think any of them got penalised for cheating. Next time I would either set off far to the right or swim to the left of the rope (putting hat with race number showing on right, so the marshals in boats on left can't see who I am). 

A little disappointed with 1:16 swim but it was not an unpleasant experience despite the turmoil. Nice warm water with plenty of fish visible and I avoided any significant contacts.



The cycle started with an hour of drizzle and apparently it has never previously rained at lanazarote ironman in its history of over 20 years. Just like being back home, so no problem for me.

There is hardly any traffic on the island and much of the bike course is closed road. A single 112 mile loop around the island with a great mix of long straight bits to "go aero" as well as hill climbs and some technical descents. Good surface except for a couple of miles on a dreadful road reminiscent of Paris-Rubaix.

Plenty of drink stations in sensible places, so you only need one bottle on the bike at a time. Grab a water bottle first and gulp down half then pour rest over yourself to cool down. Grab a bottle of energy drink to put in bottle cage that will sustain fluid intake until the next drink station.

Some very windy bits mean that discs are discouraged. I used Zipp 303 and Zipp 808, 11-27 cassette and 42/55 q-rings. Had no problems with the high winds or climbing the steep hills with this set up.

My usual slow swim put me near the back of the field, so I enjoyed overtaking nearly 700 cyclists. The first half was slower than planned at only around 18mph. I really got pedalling over the second half of the course and managed an average of 19mph overall for the 112 miles in a pleasing sub-6 time of 5:53.



Feeling confident following 2:56 London Marathon a month previously. Left T2 with 7:20 on the clock. Needed a 3:15 marathon to secure an Ironman PB.

Mostly flat coastal tarmac run with nice views. Set off doing 7:15 minute miles and overtook maybe 200 runners in first half-marathon. Weather got roasting hot after a while and I hit the wall at mile 18 then trudged home doing 12:00 minutes per mile. Saw all those PB hopes and Kona aspirations slip away. Finished run in 3:54 and was surprised it wasn't a lot slower having been overtaken by a couple of hundred runners in the last few miles. Nevertheless, it was absolutely awesome to finish an exhilarating race.

At Lanzarote they seem to let everyone run into the finish banner (not just the winner). Grabbed banner triumphantly and raised it above my head with a big grin like Chrissie Wellington. Then got photo taken shaking hands with the race director (who presented my medal). Nice touch, being treated much the same as the race winner.

James Graham

  • 01:16:03 swim, 1039th overall, 72nd in age group
  • 05:48 T1, 171st
  • 05:53:44 cycle, 287th overall, 13th in age group
  • 04:39 T2, 389th
  • 03:54:08 run, 283rd overall, 16th in age group
  • 11:14:20 finish time, 273rd overall, 16th in age group 50-54



Next day, I attended my first Kona slot roll-down ceremony. It was good seeing Bart from Holland punch the air and praise the heavens, as the last of the 3 slots in our age group rolled down to him. I had chatted to Bart as we checked tyre pressures on adjacent  bike racks just before the race start. Bart had come 5th in age group compared to my 16th. Not so close as to be annoying, but close enough to give me hope for next time. I had finished just under 30 minutes slower than Bart. Bart had qualified for Kona via Lanzarote a few years previously and he had advised me before this race that "it is all about the marathon". It's easy to ask advice but harder to act on it. 

Many thanks to Helen, Gemma, Angus, Monty and all at MSTC for your continued support.