Lesson 1- South Africa is hot.
I was here 13 years ago to the day with Ireland youths and remember playing in the heat. I was like Steve Staunton walking out in the Giant Stadium against Italy with my pale glowing face. I can definitely say that it took until the day before the race for my legs to feel normal running & biking. I felt they weren’t my own all week. I even picked up a blister from the sheer heat from the roads while out running. The place we were staying at was perfect. IM SA put me in touch with a wonderful couple – Darryl and Lianne. We got on great and had some great laughs through the week. Darryl was doing the race so there was no guess work about anything. He was brilliant to have (as was Lianne who is a chef!!!) and pointed me in the right direction. We were given the use of a car and even had the pleasure of experiencing a Braai! Big big thank you…
Race Build up
To be honest I was never as nervous before a race as this one. Not because I raced pro category. That didn’t bother me at all. I was excited about that. But I didn’t want to race bad and let the people down that have made sacrifices for me being here. I even felt lazy this week. This was because of the heat, I had to take a day off training because it wasn’t worth driving myself into the ground. You’re better off going into a race undertrained than overtrained. The other thing was that there is not one bit of flat ground here, so every run and ride included hills from the off! In an ideal world I would have needed to be out here at least 2 weeks prior to the race in order to acclimatize like the rest of the guys. I cut it fine in the end. Some / most are out here longer than 2 weeks. But I’m burning the candle at both ends so that doesn’t apply to me.
THE RACE – SA 70.3
The swim scared me. I was in the ocean twice and the swell was huge! I didn’t swim the other days because it was too dangerous (and I was lazy). They even spoke about cutting the swim to 600m at the race briefing. Another Galway? Surely not! Better pack my rain jacket in my t1 bag! Yeah right…
Race morning- Conditions were perfect so it was the full 1900m. I planned to draft behind the “slower ” females but this proved difficult. I had zero speed to the first buoy and was at the back, the very back: last, until my feet touched the sand. Not to panic I knew my strongest leg was next and all going well I could maybe bridge the gap. I ran up to my lonely Trek Speed concept in Transition 1.
BOOM! Flat tire in T1. Spies tell me Vanhonacker was lookin shifty around my bike… just saying… Well – my grandparents would turn in their graves with the language that came from my mouth. I put on a display that John McEnroe wouldn’t touch at centre court at Wimbledon. What to do? No way was I packing in was the first thought. Granted my race was over because seconds count when your racing a top field. I did say I was here to learn a few lessons. Welcome to lesson number 1. Having being on the course during the week I knew it was super smooth so I had taken a chance and didn’t have a spare. Toss of a coin – etc etc, YOU LOSE!
So I didn’t know what to do until a spectator shouted that the support vehicle was down the road. I ran down as quick as I could and got a tire. Problem was I also got a fella not in quite as much of a rush as I was. He couldn’t help me (outside help during a race is against the rules and disqualification is the result) so I had to do it myself. He couldn’t find a bloody thing. At this stage I had a crowd around me willing me on and helping me. “Turn it this way, turn it that way, rip the tire off”. His pump was like one you use to pump up child’s paddle pool. I looked at him and said “seriously, this is your fuckin pump?” I know I know… I should’ve had my own… 🙁
Eventually I got it changed and was on my way. 10k moderate effort to the high then I let go. I pushed the hardest gear I had. I was nervous about the new tire because there was no glue on it. Going around corners I was praying for the tire not to come off the wheel. My legs were there! I biked aggressive and hard, always watching my power meter and heart rate. Conditions were overcast and humidity was at 90% plus. I didn’t feel this on the bike but the run was a different ball game. I biked up the field smoothly and picked off all the pro woman minus the leader and a few men. The way out was very tough, very long hard drags. On the way back it was fast. I was bricking it on the descents as I reached crazy speeds. Sitting on the top tube bent over, I asked myself “are you nuts???” then my alter ego kicked in and I felt like Cancellara, for 3 seconds.
I gingerly started off wondering did I go too hard but I was running fine and within myself after 1k. I knew I was way down but because it was a 2 lap affair on an out and back course I would see where I was. 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 12th, 16th!! I was doing my Maths and I knew that my puncture cost me around 17ish minutes. I would have been in the thick of the racing around 4th – 7th. I don’t want to dwell on what could have been but knowing this is reassuring that all my hard work is paying off. There was one mother of a hill. I did do the Castlewellen 10 miler at Christmas, so this was a sinch I told myself! 😉 My blister was to give me big trouble in the closing kilometers. I lost time because of it but it wasn’t to matter as noone was around me and my place was safe. I actually made up 2 places on the run. The heat got to me towards the end but I ran strong.
So I got what I came for. Some new lessons learned to bring into more important races.The support has been fantastic. Thank you.
Onwards and hopefully upwards.
You can read about my next venture to Abu dhabi with Ironmen Owen Martin and Liam Dolan in March where we will swim 4km, bike 200km and run 20km.