visits Lanzarote

Lanzarote isn't just the site of one of the world's toughest Ironman races, it's a unique training paradise, too.

| February 23, 2017 | TRAINING

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon is in Lanzarote this week - this is the first in a series of stories about the island and the race that has made this Canary Island so famous in the triathlon world.

Ironman Lanzarote

In May Ironman Lanzarote will celebrate it's 25th anniversary (it began in 1992), making it one of the oldest Ironman races on the international circuit. Renowned as one of the toughest races on the planet thanks to the challenging bike course and windy conditions (the event them is "normal limits do not apply"), it has become a bucket-list race for triathletes from around the world.

Ironman Lanzarote is the brainchild of a gentleman named Kenneth Gasque, a Dane who lived here on Lanzarote as the director of sports at Club La Santa back in the early 1980s. In 1984 Gasque had heard about the Ironman World Championship and decided he wanted to do it. He called the race office in Honolulu and was told they couldn't send him an entry. He had a colleague who spoke better English than he did make a call for him. Still no joy.

He'd given up on the dream when one of the guests at the resort told him he had an entry form for the Ironman in his suitcase.

Gasque raced in Hawaii in 1985. While he was there he realized how similar the Big Island and Lanzarote was. He decided he would try to put on an Ironman on his new home island. It took him seven years to realize his dream, but in 1992 Lanzarote hosted its first Ironman race. The event has come to define the island in many ways.


Kenneth Gasque

Kenneth Gasque

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

A training paradise

Gasque came to Lanzarote in 1983 to work at Club La Santa. Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, is officially part of Spain, but positioned about 100 km off the coast of Africa. It offers a temperate climate that makes it suitable for year-round training. What makes the Ironman so tough is what makes this a great training venue: incredibly tough cycling that features numerous mountain climbs, long windy stretches along the coasts or in the lava fields on the south part of the island and relentless winds. With numerous pools available at different hotels, along with the ocean, and lots of different running options in the hills or along the coast, Lanzarote has become a favorite training destination for European triathletes, cyclists, swimmers and track athletes.

Sharon Mackinnon competes in one of the weekly half-marathon races put on at Club La Santa.

Sharon Mackinnon competes in one of the weekly half-marathon races put on at Club La Santa.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

Club La Santa

All of that is one draw for triathletes who want to train, but the other big draw for many to the island is Club La Santa. Opened in 1983, it's a training heaven. It's a popular training spot for teams and individual athletes alike thanks to the almost 40 different sports on offer. Three 50 m swimming pools, a fully equipped track, lots of tennis and squash courts are just a few of the facilities at the club. Cycling is a breeze - you can either bring your own bike or rent one from Club La Santa and be out on the road. Every week the club staff (known as the Green Team) put on a variety of events including a triathlon, half-marathon and offer numerous rides. There are numerous training camps, too, making it easy to find training partners and help.

Two-time Ironman world champ Luc van Lierde is one of the regular coaches you'll find here at Club La Santa and many other world-class triathletes make regular training jaunts down here. Earlier this year one of the coaches found himself in the pool alongside Andreas Raelert, Michelle Vesterby, Andreas Dreitz and Javier Gomez. (How's that for a guaranteed way to feel very, very slow!) caught up with Fraser Cartmell while he was down in Lanzarote, too.

When you're not training, La Santa's impressive leisure pool is a great spot to relax, or if you're more of a tourist type, you can check out some of the islands awesome sites, including the volcano at Timanfaya.

For an avid triathlete, though, there really isn't any reason to do anything other than eat, sleep and train. Which is easy to do here in Lanzarote.