By Lee O’Sullivan and David Sampayo
The build up to our Half Iron distance triathlon was soon upon us and all the winter training was hopefully going to pay off for a great race for the start of the season, and our very first half iron triathlon in sunnier climates. Booked 6 months previously, we planned out our trip. We’d booked Ryanair flights well in advance and achieved pretty reasonable flights at around £150 return per person including luggage which I thought was reasonable for a 4 hr flight. We also pre-booked our double room at the Hotel of the La Playitas resort which was to be our base and the resort holding the Challenge Family operated triathlon.
We arrived at the resort around midday after a 30 minute taxi ride from the airport as we were being too lazy and in holiday mode to worry about the free bus service that Challenge had laid on to take competitors from the airport to the resort. First impressions were positive and that remained for the rest of our stay - check in was easy and well organised, and before we knew it we were in our room unpacking our well thought out triathlon kit that was to be required.
Within half an hour we went to collect our pre-booked road bikes from the Pro bike shop situated in the resort, again a smooth system and before we know it Dave and I were having a gentle ride to the next town to get used to the bikes and ensure set up was correct for the race day in 2 days’ time. Dave was so pleased with his £25 per day hire bike he could not believe it was better than his own bike he left at home. I agreed with him….. how his mind would change on race day! Two happy customers, bike kitted out and ready to explore the facilities Las Playitas had on offer.
We decided to eat in the buffet restaurant where everybody else was also dining and for 17 euros per head it seemed a no brainer - and so it was to be for the pretty much the rest of our 5 day stay at the resort. The selection of food was impressive and we could not fault it. Healthy, colourful and fresh food from all kinds of culinary delights - we were pretty impressed. The breakfast was exactly the same ranging from fresh fruit to full English and American style breakfasts, and this was included in the bed and breakfast deal we’d booked at around £55 per person per night including room so again well worth the money.
We had everything we could ask for in the resort; a 50m Olympic swimming pool, great restaurants, private beach in a secluded bay, gym, bike shop - the lot, so next morning we decided to get our wetsuits on and test the Atlantic conditions with a gentle swim in the water we would be racing in on Saturday. A little bit fresh but not shockingly cold, we set off for a gentle lap in the clear relatively warm waters. All going well and luckily enough just on the home stretch we have company from Free Willy… I nearly had a heart attack and I’ve never seen Dave swim so fast! We got out and with a few other swimmers we tried to take in the shock that an orca whale had decided to keep us company in the bay! A few photos later and it was gone, so now time for a gentle run along the dedicated pathways out of the resort to test the run route we’d be taking the following day.
Evening before race day - Transition was now open so we racked our bikes and dropped off our swim to run and bike to run bags, then after this we had the race briefing which we found completely odd as all the information we’d really needed prior to racking was presented now (too late!), but anyway race briefing done and helpful, and a free dinner was included tonight in our race entrance fee so another plus.
Race day – An 8.00 am swim start meant no need for a stupid o’clock alarm call, but for breakfast the restaurant was open from 5.00 a.m. to allow all competitors plenty of time to fuel up and digest. Before we know it we are on the beach chatting to Pro and elite athletes in a pretty relaxed atmosphere and I was surprised the race only had around 200 participants so the swim was to be a sensible one without the mad rush that you get at larger events. Our swim times were personal bests (we weren’t to know that until after the race) but it didn’t feel like it as when we entered T1 there was probably a maximum of 10 bikes left and that’s when you think crikey, these guys are quick!
Bike underway, and during the first 10km I thought this isn’t too bad, and then we started to enter the climbing section which pretty much carried on for the rest of the 90km bike ride and was much tougher than I envisaged - I don’t think I really got over the 4.5km climb of 15% gradient of El Cordone Mountain! This was to be the destiny of poor Dave… his lovely hired bike decided to fail when the gears broke, leaving him with only the big cog to use! I didn’t know about his failure but at this climb I was constantly looking for a few more lower gears in my bike that weren’t there, so that was Dave’s race over! He unfortunately had to walk up El Cordone which resulted him in not reaching the 45km time check, and had to retire as a result.
I carried on, and next thing I know I am coming into T2 and there is Dave cheering me on - I can’t write what I said but it was along the lines of ‘what are you doing there’?! I carried on with just my 21km run of 2 laps of the course to go and I got through it with the support and encouragement from the limited spectators (as I said, only 200 athletes were racing) but the race stewards at the water and feed stations and junctions were absolutely brilliant - especially when I later heard they do it all for a free t-shirt! Over the line I come in 7 hours 14 mins approx. 1 hour slower than I expected, but I hadn’t expected such a tough course, so if you do decide to take on Challenge Fuerteventura ask yourself why it’s mainly a race full of elite and pro racers!
Post-race it was time for relaxing and the free after race meal and drinks went down a treat, the infinity pool with pool side bar was calling and the sun was shining in 25 degree heat. The only issue now was to console Dave and see what the bike shop had to say about the failure and Dave having to retire and not complete the race which he’d used hard earned money and time training for. We approached the Sports Director and to be fair he was reasonable and apologised and as he said these things happen and it could’ve happened to anyone on any bike, whether hired or shipped across. He was only able to reimburse Dave the 3 days bike hire, but we’re hoping we can enter again next year so that – 1) for Dave to conquer the course, 2) for me to improve my time and 3) to use the excellent facilities once again at La Playitas.
To find out more about Challenge Fuerteventura visit www.challengefuerteventura.com, and visit www.challenge-family.com to learn more about Challenge Family’s other events!