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EVESHAM’S Michelle Parsons was in record-breaking form in Saturday’s 21st staging of the Lanzarote Ironman Triathlon - an event which has become recognised as the toughest Ironman Triathlon in the world - as competitors battle against not only the 140.6 miles of total distance but also the well known winds and heat and mountains.
This year’s event was no different as 1,553 competitors from all over the world toed the start line at 7am on the beach at Puerto del Carmen on the island of Lanzarote, all trying to produce their best performance of the season in an attempt to qualify for the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii in October each year.
Parsons, racing for Team Tri UK, had decided the race would be a good test of her early season fitness and managed to get a last minute entry in the women’s field.
It would be her second time racing in the Ironman in Lanzarote and she was joined by fellow Worcester Tri member Andy Day, making his debut in Lanzarote following on from his very successful double Ironman race on the island earlier in the year.
Neither Day or Parsons are particularly strong swimmers and both use their undoubted strengths on the bike and run sections to recoup time lost on the 2.4-mile swim.
The two-lap swim is usually a fairly rude awakening for the 1,553 swimmers all trying to find space to swim and this year was no different with the aided dimension of a choppy sea to add to the washing machine effect.
Parsons finally exited the swim in 1 hour, 19 minutes and 57 seconds, putting her in 72nd position in the female race, almost 30 minutes behind the leader Michelle Vesterby from Denmark.
Day managed 1.30.46, putting him in 1,226th place overall in the men’s race.
On to the bike course and Parsons knew the hardest part of the 112 miles was also exactly halfway through where the two biggest climbs of the course are taken in quick succession.
Once these were negotiated Parsons knew her cycling ability would carry her back from the far side of island back to the race centre in Puerto Del Carmen in good style and she proved that by increasing her pace over the second half of the ride, finishing it in 6 hours, 2 minutes and 9 seconds.
This was the 11th quickest female bike split of the day and although it had not reduced her gap to the overall leader, it had moved her up dramatically in the female field from 72nd to 16th overall and more importantly second place in her age group category.
Vesterby was still leading the race and in fact had extended her lead to almost 15 minutes before starting the final marathon run to finish the race.
Day was ploughing his way through the field as well and record a similar negative split bike time of 5.52.40, almost catching up with his Worcester Tri Club team-mate, starting the run just 4 minutes behind her.
The 26.2-mile run which completes the triathlon is run over three laps alongside the sea front on an out and back course in the warmest part of the day.
Parsons once again showed her amazing strength of endurance by running an incredible 3 hours, 31 minutes and 15 seconds for the marathon after all that had gone before.
That time had taken her past the leader in her age group category and also up to 12th place overall. Her overall time was 11 hours, 4 minutes and 50 seconds.
This time was 25 minutes quicker than she recorded three years ago and smashed the existing age group record by over 35 minutes.
Having won her age group, she automatically earnt a place at the Ironman World Championships, which on this occasion she declined as she has other races already scheduled for that part of the season.
The Danish athlete Vesterby won the female race by over 8 minutes from second placed Bella Bayliss from Great Britain in a terrific time of 9.58.07.
As a professional triathlete, that should give Vesterby sufficient points to qualify for the World Championships. Parsons was the second placed GB female athlete to cross the line.
Meanwhile, Day was trying his best to catch up with Parsons but without success. Day recorded an equally impressive 3.41.19 marathon split time but overall his 11.18.23 left him trailing Parsons to the finish.
He had, however, moved himself up to 330th overall in the men’s race and placed 69th in possibly the most populated age group category of 40-44.
The pair can now look forward to a recovery period before racing starts in earnest for the rest of the season in June.
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