The Ironman Lanzarote 2011 Course

With training tapered off to rest muscles, nerves are on edge and tendons are twitching as there’s just one week to go before athletes line up at Playa Grande in Puerto del Carmen to kick off one of the world’s most gruelling triathlon races with the swim course.

Now in its 20th year, Ironman Lanzarote 2011 was sold out in just two months of registration opening when the lists were closed at 1450 registered participants, leaving 75 slots open for pro athletes. In total, more than 1500 athletes will compete.

Topping the nationalities participating is Spain with 32% of the field, followed closely by the UK with 26%. The rest of the field is made up of mainly Europeans but there are representatives from 40 different countries, from Argentina to Venezuela, making up the International starting line.

The race begins at 7am with the swim section which comprises a distance of 3.8 kilometres over two loops of 1.9 kilometres each. Anyone still in the water at 09.20am will end their Ironman challenge at that point. Although anyone who has witnessed the lemming-like run into the water at the start of an Ironman competition may think it looks like a free-for-all, in fact the athletes are grouped into three sections – pro athletes, those whose swim time is expected to be under 65 minutes, and everyone else.

Emerging from the sea and shedding wetsuits, athletes then run to the bike area for the start of what is arguably the most gruelling leg of the competition – a 180.2 kilometres of cycling. Involving over 2551 metres of climbing, including the long slog to Los Nieves and the Mirador del Harí­a from which the views are so stunning. Not that the athletes will be hanging around to take any snapshots, hurtling instead on the short downward before climbing again to Mirador del Rio before the worst of the thigh crunching is complete.

The cut off time for the cycle section is 6.30pm and anyone still in the saddle after that will have to pedal off into the distance, their challenge ended.

The final and most exciting section of the race is the 42.2 kilometres marathon run which consists of three laps – the first is 18.66 kilometres followed by two laps each of 11.80 kilometres. The distance is run along the Puerto del Carmen seafront of Avenida de Las Playas to Playa Honda with the second and third laps looping at Matagorda and the route is traditionally lined with thousands of spectators urging the athletes on to achieve new personal best times.

Athletes have until midnight to complete the final leg of the triathlon before time will be called on their efforts.

The leaders and podium places are expected to complete the course in a time of under 10 hours and the records being chased are a final time of 08:35:40 for men, held by Thomas Hellriegel of Germany and 09:24:39 for women held by Paula Newby-Fraser of Zimbabwe.