Wheely bad luck for Christina in Lanzarote

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Despite seeing streams of rival cyclists stream past her, Christina Mackenzie sat patiently and calmly at the side of the road under the increasing heat of the Lanzarote sun.

A burst rear tyre is a minor set back, having the wrong valves on the spares so they don’t fit the wheels is a bigger worry.

But having been assured mechanical help was only five minutes away the Stornoway Ironwoman was calm as she ensured she remained hydrated and relaxed until help arrived and enabled her to get back on her bike.

Five minutes came and passed and quickly she realised help wasn’t coming. In the end Christina lost almost an hour of time in the Club La Santa IRONMAN Lanzarote before she was able to rejoin the race.

By now she was by some distance propping up the rear but history has proved Mackenzie is not an athlete who accepts defeat or allows circumstances to dent her determination as she ate up the miles on what was her only remaining tyre tube before completing the marathon and finishing strongly.

Reflecting on an eventful day at the event, Christina told the Gazette: “It started really well as I got over a few days before hand so I had plenty time to register, take in the briefing and do some training in the sunny weather.

“It was all going to plan and it was nice to get out in those temperatures before the event.

“The 4am start for the event. The night before all our bikes are left parked up but we were advised to deflate the tyres as the heat can affect the pressure in them.

“The morning of the event the tyres were pumped up by mechanics but not being there I didn’t see what pressure they were filling them too.”

The Lanzarote Ironman began with a 3.8Km swim at Playa Grande, Puerto del Carmen, the main tourist resort of the island.

Christina has often admitted the swim is her least favourite discipline in an Ironman and Triathlon event but she swam well.

“ I placed in the region I expected to be after 1:25,” she said.

“I ran into transition on the bike, feeling good and strong and just 2K in there was a big bang and the back tyre had punctured.

“I had two spare tubes and cannisters to do a quick repair. I took it all apart but when I went to put the new tube in I found the valve wouldn’t fit in the wheel.

“I was using new wheels with deep set rims which required a longer valve extension. The one I had on the tube didn’t fit the wheel as I thought it’d all be the same size.”

She continued: “I was there by the side of the road watching all the cyclists passing me by. I waved over a policeman who was marshalling and he radioed over to request a mechanic come to help.

“I was told it would only be five minutes so I tried to keep hydrated and moving.

“At that point I was calm but after 20 minutes I was really panicking. I tired to force a repair but by doing so the valve fell into the wheel. I couldn’t get it out without tools. I tried everything but nothing was working.

“Another policeman appeared with some pliers and he managed to take the valve off the original tube and onto a new tube. We put it into the rim and into the tyre but the tube was nicked so when we pumped it up it exploded again.

“By this point 45 or 50 minutes had ticked by so I was then resigned to the fact I might not get back on the bike at all which was so disappointing. Travelling all that way just to do 2k. By that point every other ride had long passed me but I had one tube and one cannister left. A random cyclist was riding by and he managed to help me fit the last tube and pump it up. It inflated, I didn’t even know what pressure it was but I knew if anything happened I had no spares or cannisters so I set off.”

Each section of an endurance event has a timed cut-off point where, if an athlete doesn’t not reach a certain point within a specified time period they are removed from the race.

This was an increasing concern for Christina especially with the race organisers almost riding on her back wheel for a stretch.

“I got my head down and went for it. I caught up with the sweep car which was behind a woman struggling towards the first 100K in the north of the island,” she said. “The sweep car takes people off the course if they don’t make a certain point so having them behind me heaped the pressure on.

“I caught up with another guy and the sweep car appeared again so the pressure kept on for around 35K if I didn’t look strong enough or fast enough they would take me out of the race.

“I caught up with a bunch of riders and managed to overtake them and with that left the car behind at last. I made the 100K cut-off in plenty time but I hadn’t checked the pressure in my back tyre because I really didn’t want to know.

“It was a nice course but tough and I couldn’t enjoy it with the thought I could be out of the race at any minute. Thankfully I made it through the ride with my average pace up, and my heart rate steady ahead of the marathon to come.

“I was delighted to get to the end and for the first time in my entire life I was delighted to get off the bike and leave it behind.”

As she dropped the bike and prepared to finish the event with a marathon in searing 28 degree heat which saw her reliant on her own determination rather than mechanics - something she admits was a relief.

“The run went well and I managed to catch four of the guys I was training with which was a morale boost,” she said.

“Everything shouting and screaming at me to stop but I did quite well.

“I had targeted around 13 hours so over in all it was around 13hrs 10 which I’m happy with as I didn’t push the bike too much knowing I had lost so much time and wasn’t chasing any age group wins or anything. It was a bit relaxed after I shook off the sweep car.

“Completion can be more important than time in an event like this due to all the elements involved.

“It was good to get over the finish line and thankfully injury free too.”