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Who would have thought after accepting an invitation to join Dean on the IRONMAN Lanzarote adventure would lead Neil on such an amazing journey and all because of the love and support of his lovely fiance - Carly!
Neil Running Strong

The race itself was the the culmination of six months hard training which took me to Lanzarote several times introduced me to a new training camp and with that some great coaches and new friends.

There are many reasons I managed to complete the race itself one being my determination another being great advice from many sources to mention a few, Dean Ratcliffe my coach and mentor who's advice to me is priceless, Richard Hobson and Declan Doyle from the long distance camp who's knowledge of ironman is endless and was passed on willingly, the coaches at Tritrainingharder in Portugal whose in depth analysis and tailored training helped immensely, advice from fellow club members who are all very willing and eager to pass on and share advice and tips to help but most of all I need to thank my fiancée Carly whose understanding and acceptance of my training schedule and the fact that she supports me so much means everything.

To race day itself.....

Waking at 3.45am was no shock to me and being very relaxed it didn't surprise me to be the first one at breakfast. Having sat and eaten breakfast with Dean and discussed a few race tactics I got ready and made my way to transition to sort my bike and nutrition out and then wait for the swim start. All was good at this point. I had a little warm up in the sea the stood exactly where I had discussed and waited patiently. Still at this point I wasn't a bit nervous as during my training I had completed the swim course and bike course and ran various parts of the marathon course so I knew what was ahead.
What I did have in the back of my mind was a sense of apprehension of how daunting the start may be and how right I was. Despite being where I should be at the start,when the hooter sounded and 1600 people made a mad dash for the water I was right about the start.
It was like nothing I had experienced before. I was pushed pulled slapped bashed and more for most of the first lap and just tried to hold my own and with a calmer second lap I exited the water with 1:04 on the clock which wasn't to shabby. A 6 min transition followed with quite a lot of faffing which by the look of all the other people round me in the change tent seemed quite normal!!!!

And so to the bike leg..

As soon as I got on the bike I felt that I did not have a great ride in my legs. The climb out of puerto del carmen seemed very laboured and it took me some while to get into my stride. As I was riding to power and had no time restraints on my race it was easy to just get my head down and concentrate on keeping my power average at a good level and also to concentrate on my nutrition. Having to stop twice during the bike for a wee wasn't ideal but it was a necessary evil and as I wasn't chasing a time it didn't matter. On the bike course especially during the later stages I remember valuable advice given to me whilst training in Lanzarote by Declan Doyle whose words of wisdom I remembered and I didn't push to hard near the finish. Finishing the bike leg in 6:14 wasn't to bad and so to the run..

After and agonizingly slow final transition ( 9 mins!! ) I started my first ever marathon.
As soon as I started running I knew I had done the right thing not to push the bike to hard and also that my nutrition plan was had worked because I felt great. Starting a little bit too fast I had to take my foot off the gas and get to my pace. I settled into a nice steady pace (5min/km) and started to eat into the 42 kilometers. Out to Arrecife for the first part of the big lap and true to Declan's word I was passing people who were walking and had over done it on the bike. Running steadily except for walking a few aid stations so I could actually drink some water I made it to the first turn ( 15 km ) still feeling ok. Now was the big push back home to get the first lap of 30km done and make a huge dent into the marathon. Still holding fairly good pace I made it back to the start to start the final short ( 12kms ish) lap.
I was still feeling good and started to take on board what Stuart Clark had told me about his marathon in Louisville. He advised me about taking Coca Cola from 30+km and it worked really well. Considering I had not been able to complete a good marathon training plan due to being to busy  with work ( my longest run in preparation being a half marathon ) I was still feeling and running strong. Out to the final turn point I had completed 36km and that's when i really had to dig deep. That final part of the marathon was by far the hardest part of the day and also by a country mile the hardest  I had ever had to work. I dug deep and although my pace did drop significantly I managed to run the whole marathon and finished with just a little spring in my step. Seeing the finishing arch was a sight I will never forget. Finishing in 11hrs 16mins I was over the moon just to complete my first Ironman and what an Ironman to do as well.

One of the other things that made my day so enjoyable was having the support of my fiancée Carly. Seeing her before the swim, at both transitions and seeing and hearing her support several times during the run gave me such a boost and being able to share what was an amazing experience I was having with her made it much more special. Usually she just sees me leave the house and then return being either soaking wet or sweaty with a pile of washing and for her to actually see why I do all the training was really important to me and can't thank her enough.

I enjoyed my day immensely and needless to say I think I have found my favourite event.
I cant wait to do my next ironman and will definitely be back to Lanzarote next year to do this one again!!

Once again I would like to give special thanks to Dean for putting up with me on the long distance training camp in march and also for the extra weeks training we did together last week which was invaluable.
Return May 22, 2017

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