With two triathlons under my belt since my first one at 70.3 Antwerp in July,
I should have arrived in South Africa relaxed and ready. However, with this my
first “Pro” race – I actually found myself more nervous than the first one.
Starting in the elite field of only 39 athletes, 15 minutes ahead of the 3000
charging age-groupers, there really would be no-where to hide. No toes for this
poor swimmer to hang onto, and no age-group bikers to keep me company.
If I wasn’t nervous enough arriving in South Africa only 72 hours before my race
(the pitfalls of having a day job and limited leave), South African airways failing
to get my beloved Exocet on the plane did not help!! But onward I went.
Thank heavens, my bike arrived in one piece - just in time for standard hotel-room
assembly and a very last minute test ride. But by now I had bigger problems.
African Belly had struck!
Without going into too much detail – hours T-24 to T-12 were pretty much spent on the loo! By Saturday evening, I felt had shaken the bug – but resigned myself to simply starting and gaining experience from the Indian Ocean swim. Race day came, I woke up for a quick check of my resting heart rate – and it was down from 80 the night before to within some sort of normal range. Race is a goer!!
To be honest, after resigning myself to not racing at all within hours of the gun – it was pleasant lining up in front the perfectly still Indian Ocean with absolutely no pressure. I set off on the swim aiming to stick with the group of slower pros, but immediately fell off the pack. Hey Ho – the water was clear and the conditions perfect. It felt strange to be completely alone competing in the worlds largest 70.3 Ironman. I actually thought the swim went OK – but when I exited and looked at my watch, 34 min!! Slow even by my standards, I was looking down the barrel of a long day.
All alone, without another competitor in sight, I set off on the long 45 km uphill to the turnaround point. Making steady progress up the long climb I felt fairly weak, but with no punctures, and no tummy troubles, I thought I owed it to myself and all that have supported me to keep going. And besides, after a couple of kilometres in I realised I was gaining on some of the other girls! So I kept chugging along and to my surprise, even though I felt slow, I started picking off pros in the African heat. I felt better as the race went on and starting the run in 8th, I turned for the final 3 km in 6th place – getting faster and faster with every km. With About 500m to go, in the distance I saw another female! I turned on the gas and sprinted past for a difficult but satisfying 5th place. My 1hr 26 run was slower than usual, but again the fastest run split of the day.
The race prep could not have gone worse, but I was over the moon with the final outcome. I learnt a great deal, especially that triathlons rarely go according to plan and you need to make the best of your hand on the day – and that I need to swim open water lots and often! Top five is an improvement, and after this real adventure, I am confident that I can be on the podium this season. Thanks again Planet X for supporting this unknown wannabe triathlete on her journey.