The Club La Santa Effect – part of Club La Santa Lives with Chris Wild
So, how does a heavy metal loving, vegetarian archaeologist from Lancashire England end up with the ridiculous idea of completing IRONMAN Lanzarote at home?
We caught up with Chris Wild, a 14 time Club La Santa IRONMAN Lanzarote finisher, to find out more about his love affair with Lanzarote, and the legendary training facilities at Club La Santa. And, indeed we had to learn the answer… So, how did ‘a heavy metal loving, vegetarian archaeologist from Lancashire’ get on, completing an IRONMAN at home?
‘It’s ‘the Club la Santa effect!’
A trip to La Santa Sport, as it was then known, was my first foreign holiday, as a teenager in 1984. The place had barely opened back then, but in many respects, it has changed very little since. Given the appalling reputation of timeshare sales at this time, they were very well priced, and I can still remember being told that we’d be coming back the next year. Even as a sport-mad teenager I had no idea on the impact this place would have on my life.
Roll forward 12 years of Club la Santa trip later and, as with many visitors to Club la Santa, particularly young adults, the weekly mini triathlon became my introduction to the sport.
By 2004 I had finally conquered the sub-1hr mini triathlon. I’d even done a few at home. I still didn’t like swimming or running particularly, but I knew I wasn’t good enough to be a cyclist, so being OK at 3 would suffice.
Another of many standout memories of how Club La Santa has changed my life is an innocuous conversation with Phil Price. He was the ‘Plus Instructor’ at CLS at the time, and former National Welsh Triathlon coach. During a ride from Playa Blanca to Femes, he told me that he was going to run the first in-house triathlon camp the following year. I’d heard about the camps run by legend of the sport Robin Brew, but had been far too unsure of my ability to even contemplate the brochure, but this sounded safe. “OK, sign me up” I replied.
The camp was amazing; I’ve been every year since, and now help out on the coaching side of things too. I’d had a growing goal that maybe; just maybe, I could complete an IRONMAN by the time I hit 40. Not a bad mid-life crisis. But, we were now way ahead of that comfortably distant schedule, and before I knew it, I’d completed my (first) IRONMAN. It was May 2006. Box ticked. Move on.
But we all know Lanzarote isn’t like that! The place, the people, the sense of family; it gets inside you. I’d exceeded my wildest expectations in tough conditions (even by Lanzarote standards), but I knew I needed more; I could go faster. I did, and so the addiction began…
With Lanzarote, the more you race it, the more people you get to know, and the more fun and special it becomes. This place is definitely my spiritual home, and the IRONMAN is our Christmas!
I was out in Lanzarote in February and early March this year, for, as ever, the Long Distance Triathlon camp at Club la Santa. On March 14th, I was out cycling unaware that lockdown was only hours away, but already 100% sure that we would not be racing this year. So, I started plotting, while out on my bike, how I could do a solo version. My ideas included; leaving strategically placed feed stations around the bike course, and using our rental apartment as a makeshift transition etc. When I left, on almost the last Ryaniar flight out of Lanzarote, the following Friday; I knew ‘Plan B’ had gone too.
Plan C had to be hatched!
I’d once seen a video of some guy swim training in a paddling pool, with stretch cords around his feet. I thought that would save me a lot of travelling, and some money on gym membership, so I decided to set the same up for myself! My ‘home pool’ has always been really cold, and really hard work to swim in, especially in gloves when it’s particularly cold. I’d pretty much chalked it up to a failed experiment, but useful for an occasional session. Until lockdown. I knew I could use this for the ‘swim’ part of my virtual IRONMAN.
I often train virtually in Lanzarote, on favourite routes. The landscapes aren’t that accurate, but I can always recognise the roads in the bend, and the adjacent volcanoes, cliffs, and villages. So, I could do the actual IRONMAN Lanzarote course on the turbo! I needed to be able to use my gateway as an aid station on the run, so a mix of 6.5k and 2.1k was the order of the day. I packed race bags as normal, laid all my morning kit out as normal, and prepared all my race nutrition.
At approximately 8:30am I started the race clock. The countdown timer for IRONMAN Lanzarote (via Lancashire) 2020 had begun. I even pictured Kenneth Gasque with his air horn!
I wanted to use my ‘IRONMAN’ as a vehicle, to spread a positive message that we, humans, are adaptive. We can and will find a way to overcome difficulties.
That, I think, is a big part of the mental aspect of racing IRONMAN, but it applies to life more generally too at the moment. I also hoped to raise some money for the heroes who have been putting themselves in harm’s way for us.
It always staggers me how generous people are in times of crisis. At the time of writing, my fundraising total is over £2,000! I set a target of a single pound for every mile; that would be worthwhile, and would do a little bit of good somewhere. I secretly hoped that I might get £500, knowing how much love and support there is in my network of friends. I nearly cried when we hit £1,000 when I was still cycling – IRONMAN racing always exposes your emotions.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me, or anyone else’s cause to raise money in these dark times.
Stay safe, stay positive, and try to stay healthy.
Until next time Chris Wild, (AKA Iron Hippy; AKA the Iron Cowboy (not the real one, he’s American – I don’t choose these nicknames!)
You can find Chris’s blog series in full on the BRAND NEW Club La Santa UK website, HERE. Learn more about how his experiences at Club La Santa and the Club La Santa IRONMAN Lanzarote have changed his life… and of course to find out more about his Virtual IRONMAN Lanzarote experience!