Ironman Lanzarote Course Guide


Ironman Lanzarote; one of the toughest and the oldest MDots on the race calendar remains popular due in part to its iconic mountainous lava fields and windy conditions, providing a stern early season test. Typically situated within the Whit school holidays (this year it’s on the 23rd May) athletes can combine the race with a family holiday. The course profile, weather conditions and spring date make this race more challenging than most. Knowing what to expect from Lanza come race week will help you to prepare specifically for this race. Below is my guide to IM Lanzarote:

Firstly, whilst Ironman Lanzarote is based at Puerto Del Carmen, race registration and briefing are held at Club La Santa on the other side of the island. I would suggest you combine registration and briefing to save both time and money. It is easy to travel over by taxi or possibly hire a car if you are looking to do a little sight seeing after the race.

Swim Key Points and Preparation:

1. Dry land mass start.

2. Ocean swim.

3. 2 laps with Aussie exit and short beach run.

Prior to the race you could perform a pool swim session that involves 30 seconds of poolside jogging or jumping jacks straight into 3-5 minutes (300m) of hard swimming before settling in to a more comfortable Ironman pace for 10 minutes (600m). Repeat this 3 times with a full 3 minutes recovery to prepare yourself for the elevated heart rate and effort level of the IM Lanzarote swim start.

Dependent upon the inclement weather in the UK you may get 3-4 weeks of open water swimming (OW) under your belt before flying out. Again, use 1 or 2 sessions to both mimic the race start procedure, practice sighting and test your race day kit (wetsuit and goggles). If you can fit in a Sea swim then all the better but if not don’t worry as you may be able to fit in 1 or 2 swims on the swim course come race week (*SwimLanzarote run daily swim course familiarization sessions for free – follow them on FB!). If possible swim the course (or part of) early in the morning so that you can gauge where the Sun will be and the strength and direction of the current. Look for sighting landmarks too. The first turn buoy is approximately 160m from the shoreline. If you attempt to avoid the melee on the right side you will end up swimming a lot further (speaking from experience) as both the widening mass of swimmers and possibly the current will push you wider. A better option may be to hug the buoys and guide-ropes on the left (it is possible to swim on the opposite side of these ropes and buoys so long as you return to the right side for the turning buoy at 160m).

Whilst you cannot avoid the contact nature of a mass start swim, you can prepare both mentally and physically; if you have the opportunity in the pool or OW then swim as close to people as possible or ask them to initiate some contact with you!

Practice removing and replacing your goggles whilst treading water. On the subject of goggles, you may gain confidence from slipping a second pair up the leg of your Wetsuit should you be unlucky enough to lose or damage the first pair.

Bike Key Points and Preparation:


2. Windy!

3. Warm and overcast to hot and humid.

4. Rough road surface.

Way in advance of race day you need to think about your equipment choices and training . The major considerations are in bike and wheel choice, gear ratios, access to on bike nutrition and finally appropriate training. Starting with the training aspect, you may have a goal power output and or heart rate for the bike leg but it is important to recognize that due to the course profile and windy conditions your power, cadence and heart rate will vary widely.

Sessions in the UK should incorporate long hilly rides, cadence drills (possibly ranging from 60-110 rpm) and accumulating more and more time in your ‘aero’ position. It will be crucial to hold the aero position for as much of the duration as possible to combat the effect of the wind. The climbs are long and steady (not like those in the UK), therefore sessions on the turbo trainer to mimic this will be important too. The descents are fast and often with crosswinds; you will be able to save huge amounts of time if you are confident in your bike handling at speed and in the wind. Simply get out there and practice this beforehand!

It goes without saying that you should practice your nutrition strategy on training rides prior to race day but it is also crucial to look at how and where you store your nutrition as it is often difficult to remove your hand from the bars to drink or eat (due to the winds). A front mounted drinks bottle is probably essential. Ensure you stick to your nutrition strategy, which should include a little more fluid than usual due to the heat. If you can test it beforehand you may like to consider electrolyte supplementation.

You will be on the bike longer than most other IM races so bike choice and set-up are crucial. TT bikes are typically faster but for this race a road bike (with TT bars) may be easier to handle and more comfortable for climbing. Ensure that your aero position, power production and comfort are optimized through a bike fit (do this in the Winter not near to race day!). If you have the luxury of choosing between wheels then a shallow front wheel will both improve your confidence and stability in the crosswinds. A rear disc wheel or deep section wheel can still be utilized as it makes very little difference to bike handling (I rode a Zipp 404 / rear disc combination).

Finally, the combination of course profile and wind direction will mean that you may benefit from a wide range of gears; small ones to help on the inclines with headwind and large ones to ensure you can maintain speed with tailwinds. For most the simplest thing is to change rear cassette and leave the front chainrings although both can be swapped (note: ask for advice from your local bike shop).

During race week you need to get out on the bike a couple of times to gain confidence in your bike handling. You will get a feel both for the wind and the rough surface of the roads. I would suggest riding out of town up the Donkey track (a single track back road which you will use on your way out and back into town on race day).

Run Key Points and Preparation:

1. Hot

2. Undulating (it certainly isn’t flat)

3. 3 out and back loops with good crowd support!

The run section of Ironman Lanzarote is the most straight forward but a combination of short rolling hills and building heat in the afternoon will keep you honest. To prepare, aim to build run volume and endurance through double run days, moderately long runs off the bike and focus on holding speed and rhythm (not running faster).

The key in Lanzarote will be to ensure you hydrate sufficiently, keep yourself cool and stick to a steady pace that is as even as possible. From memory, ice and sponges are handed out at most aid stations so put these in your cap, jersey and hands to aid cooling. Walking through the aid stations is probably your safest option to ensure you can grab sufficient fluid, nutrition and cooling aids. If you intend to run the aid stations then practice this at home utilizing the run/walk strategy for some of your longer runs sessions (a ratio of 14:1 is common). During your walk breaks keep cadence high and get your nutrition in. It’s more of a speed walk than a dawdle! The crowd support from the bars and restaurants in Puerto Del Carmen is excellent and will help motivate you all the way to the finish line.

Phil Ellison 2019 Ironman AG winner (40-44) and Kona finisher is a Triathlon Coach with Total Tri Training (TTT) @PhilEllisonTTT on FB. TTT offer bespoke, personalized coaching packages for all levels and race formats. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON PHIL

For the ultimate in specific preparation consider booking a place. There is also a training weekend in the north-west of England planned for athletes focusing on Ironman Lanzarote, Ironman UK or other long course races in the first half of the year. This is on May 2nd For more details check out