It all started a few years ago with open water swimming. A few Robben Island crossings under the belt and I asked myself “What next?”. So I bought some running shoes and ran a half marathon. Great – “What now?” So I bought a bike and did the Argus. Happy that I had reached the end of the “What the..?” questions, I went to PE to watch Ironman. And my world fell silent. My definition of “triathlete” changed forever. They were there – the lean, mean, colour-coordinated racing machines! But so were hundreds of others. The people like me. And they were doing it. The support, the vibe, the dedication, determination – everything visible. The switch inside me went on.
And so I started the metamorphosis. I bought a wetsuit (sacrilege for an open water swimmer), I got tri bars and entered my first triathlon. And fell in love. At the beginning of this year I found myself at the start of 70.3. I had a wonderful race and my only disappointment is that it was over too soon! So when the Iron-distance triathlon was announced for Cape Town, I did not even hesitate. I compete to train, I don’t train to compete. This event was the perfect goal on which to plan an enormous block of base training. Although a bit early in my triathlon career, my coach Ian Waddell agreed that it could be done. Ian has been very much part of my journey as he has planned very individualised programs for me, working very holistically and challenging every muscle fibre! For six months I trained and loved it. I had the support of Leo, my boyfriend (now husband) and close friends Herda and Adrian. Triathlon is a team sport: 1 athlete = many supporters. So when, two weeks from race day, the event was cancelled, I was (like everyone else) stranded. When beginning with the training, it was all about the training. But as I trained, I got stronger, fitter, more confident and more comfortable with my now good friend, fatigue. And so the race took more importance and my goals came into focus. It had become all about the race.
Why had I entered? What did I want from the event? The medal? The recognition? The t-shirt? The tattoo? I just wanted to do it. I wanted to put my training to the test. I wanted the cherry on the top. I wanted to validate the sacrifice – mine and that of those closest to me. The event was cancelled but the route was there for the doing. So armed with my “A-Team” I got going. 152 lengths at SACS High school pool (I chose a pool swim so that I could get going at 5am and the sea aspect of the swim was not the issue for me); 180km bike – out along the Atlantic Seaboard, two loops around Cape Point and back along the Atlantic Seaboard (Suikerbossie at 160km is rather special!); 44km run (yes our measurements were a bit off!) – from Greenpoint, through the Waterfront, up through town and straight up Kloof Nek (another special part of the day!), down Camps Bay Drive, out along the coast with the turnaround at the Twelve Apostle’s Hotel, another loop into the Waterfront with the final loop back along the Promenade.
Coach, boyfriend, best friend, an uber-ironman, many friends and fifteen and a half hours later, I crossed my finish line.
What I missed in race vibe and spectator support I gained in the closeness of great friends. Adrian (uber-ironman) was by my side from beginning to end. To draw off his confidence, experience and patience all day was an experience gained. To have my seconds (they should be called “firsts”) – Leo and Herda – follow me around the Peninsula with drinks, food, support and entertainment was an experience gained. For Adrian to have “raced” for fifteen and half hours off his pace is a truly remarkable feat and just highlights the true essence friendship, the same for Herda and Leo. The amount of time they spent in the car chasing me, they could have had a leisurely drive to Jo’burg!
The day was amazing – many highs and many lows, but always fantastic. The fact that it was shared so closely with so many others – the people who have been next to me through my training – adds something special. Through this experience I have learnt a few things: Triathlon is a team sport; the events are magic but the training is better; we play in the most amazing training ground – use it; share your journey – people are interested; enjoy the lows – they will pass, as do the highs; know why you do it.
I will always be training, it has become part of me. My next big one will be Ironman 2013. I look forward to the next eighteen months of planning, training, strengthening and putting what I’ve learnt over the last six months into practice.
Try it, do it, love it!
(Article originally published in 2012 Ironman 70.3 Mag by Electric Ink Media – thanks Paul Ingpen)