Ironman is incredible because it’s mostly a bunch of normal people doing something normal people wouldn’t normally do. If you are reading this thinking “I want to do this!” Then do it. Have the courage to start.
I have the medal, and trust I learned some lessons! The months of training, the new friendships and some new lifestyle choices have made it all so worthwhile. Made it memorable. The race is a celebration of your health, a chance to appreciate the investment of your time, mind and body you paid with to get there. This is my experience of race day and why I think you should register for this event, kids 😉
Standing on the beach at 06:30 waiting for our wave to start the race we’ve all been training for, the race our friends and family have sacrificed so much for and listened to us talk about non-stop for a year. The sun rises and reveals a spectacular morning. None of this helps with the anxiety, nerves and tension I’m dealing with though. It’s as much fear as I’ve dealt with in my life, no exaggeration! My brother and I did our warm up swims without each other, probably better because he runs in like Jodie Swallow and i like to wade in like a granny. Also probably better because there were a lot of rocks in the shallow water of the swim warm-up area. Anyway, we were separated so I was standing there alone. I gulped down 2 non-caffeinated Hi5 gels to pass time. We sing the national anthem and watch the pro athletes set off. I’m going to vomit. With a few moments to spare the announcer tells us to turn to the man on your right, “Tell him he is going to be an ironman!” he hails. I turn to the right and standing next to me is protea fast bowler Andre Nel. I finished East London 70.3 followed by him right behind me in 2014, went to watch him speak at a training talk and now here he was sharing a “you’re going to be an ironman!” moment with me. Stoked but still vomitty. I told him I was scared and immediately felt like a chop but he just reassured me that I had done the training and that I should just do my best and I would be fine. It was a great bit of encouragement. The cannon went off and that was the end of the nerves. Straight into the water. I get those arms rolling over. Thrust the hips, pull the arms back in an S shape, repeat, breathe, repeat. I can hear the helicopter over head. I can hear the crowd screaming on the pier. I can hear my breathing calm as I start…. What, what, what is this? A wall of swimmers in front of me have come to a complete stop at the first buoy – my first thought is shark. It’s a bizarre one but obviously the shark warning on Friday was on my mind. Yeah, they saw a shark in the bay on Friday. I’ve heard about this though, I remember, sometimes groups bunch at a turn. About 500 floating people start chanting “SWIM SWIM SWIM” – the bunch stretches out and we’re off again, this time on the 1.6km back straight. It’s a Midmar. The buoy is the size of a small townhouse but you can’t see it because of the swells. At race briefing though you have been told to swim with markers, for this part of the race it’s a crane. I get to halfway and I’m feeling good, just over 40 minutes. I make the left turn, make the short 100m to the next point and turn left again. 1.5km stretch. It’s the second Midmar stretch on the swim route. I’m feeling so calm, it’s amazing. Now doing the work makes it seem doable. My tongue is feeling funny and now some over-40 age-group athletes (who started 10 minutes after my wave) have caught up to me. I’m focused on the Radisson Blu hotel though, it’s the next marker. Finally get to the last buoy! Home stretch, look at my watch, just passed 1 hour 30 minutes. Beautiful!Transition! 10 minutes.
Now. I would like to apologise to the young volunteers who worked in the transition tents. I transitioned on the grass, it was calm and cool. When i walked into the tent there were naked middle aged men everywhere. Totally felt tears well up inside me. Got out the other end, got Sun Protection lotion smeared on by the kind, surgical-glove-protected youngsters and then clip clop clip clop i was running to my bike! Let’s be clear about something. My tongue felt like a lizard, i did not recognize the dried out salty thing that was where my tongue used to be. I drank my first bottle within 5km to sort it out. Then I looked up. This ride route is no joke. I pushed through the first 45km in a slow but steady 26km/h. I hit a massive bump in the road. Heard my tools, bomb mechanism, bombs and spare tyre landing on the road. In an absolute inexplicable moment of madness/stupidity i make the split second decision to leave them behind. Amateur. I turn the corner after the long down hill and climb for all I’m worth. I get to the top and it’s tough folks, the wind starts pushing you back. The next 45km my average pace drops to 20km/h. I’m getting nervous – for a guy who averages around 28-30km/h I’m not adapting well. I decide to up the tempo but after 135km I realise i did the last 45km at 20km/h as well. Panic. I have to actually start doing maths on whether I’m going to make the cut off. Riding into pumping wind I dig into my secret stash. Cindy, my girlfriend, got important people in my life to write me little notes to read along the way. They were just what I needed, inspiration from the people who had made all the time sacrifices while I prepared for this race. I finish the bike leg, It’s been 10 hours. I rack my bike, get a 5 minute leg massage and head out on the run. The first kilometre felt like 15 minutes, but it was only 8. I just about kept that pace for the marathon. I ate everything i saw – potatoes, marmite sarmies, orange quarters and even a piece of boerie from a bystander. I saw my brother 🙂 I felt instantly more energetic. Then i noticed he was limping! He had run into the ocean warm up area before the race, hit the rocks and sprained his ankle. It was a mess. He swam with it, taped it up for the cycle and was determined to walk the marathon and get his third finishers medal. Albeit a 15 hour finish for a 12 hour ironman.
Anyway, he finished and I still had 14km to run in 2 hours. But trust me, after 15 hours, 14km is quite a thing. The crowd carries you home. PE crowd is unbelievable. I also saw my friend Chris Davidson finishing which motivated me. To be honest i don’t remember a whole bunch other than I was so happy to be under the stars, running down the home stretch. I was ready to pass out. I was thinking about how many people it took to get me here. My mom for watching my daughter Emily on Sunday mornings so i could go cycle. Cindy for riding the MTB with me on my runs, and being so chilled about all the training. My brother for entering and taking me down to PE, for letting me use his Cervello, for letting me use his spinning bike and for always giving me advice. My riding buddies Mike & Matty Wentzel, Matty Gidlow for setting up my training DIY triathlon. Chris Trehearn for letting me use his wetsuit, Anthony for letting me use his aero bars, Mark Mcardle for epic bike maintanance, my boss who never moaned when i needed extra 15 minutes at the pool during lunch or left at 16:00 to go run. New Balance for my running shoes. And finally to my daughter Emily who made every second easy for me – everything i do, i do to be better, and I can’t rest unless i’ve done my best. Done. After crossing the line We collect our Swim, Bike, Run transition bags and head off to the bikes to take them up to bike migration who truck the bike’s home. Nick offers to push mine because i’m basically a corpse. He says “what’s going on here dude? Your break is touching your wheel.” But i didn’t care. I don’t care 🙂 I got the medal. It was a great day, and night, and experience and if you’re positive you will love every minute of this race. My big lesson was DON’T BE AN AMATEUR. Hit a bump? Check your bike. Tools fall out? Go back and get them. DON’T BE AN AMATEUR. And then eat WEAR YOUR MEDAL AND EAT ALL OF THE BREAKFAST AFTER YOUR BIG SLEEP!!! Everyone is limping on the Monday, It’s so funny 🙂 Anyway, It’s time to announce the blog’s name will be changing to the next challenge. Road To Comrades 🙂 Who’s in? Event photos & video from Ironman.com