Race Day Part 2

Starting the run, my coach had warned me that my body would feel like it could go fast and go forever, but that I had to ensure I paced myself correctly otherwise I would suffer later. I was very careful and ensured I stuck to the speed she had set for me. I struggled to settle into the run and only around 7km did I finally feel like I had found my rhythm.

And so the run begins

This, unfortunately, was only to last max 2km before it became a struggle again. I used each water stop to sip either a Powerade or some water. My two running buddies would run ahead to the water stop, and then wait there for me, cheering me on every step of the way.

Support runners meeting for the first time
Supporter selfie
Happy vibes

The run route was from our rental house out and back, twice. At this point, the wind had finally settled as well so luckily I didn’t need to battle that too. The supporter numbers just kept growing and growing as well. Cars just kept coming past me and friendly, familiar faces surprised me out the window and shouted and cheered me on. This is what kept me going.

What a background
I can do this

I refused to walk and although my pace was slowing down, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. We had a WhatsApp group going for the whole race where my sister would send updates all the time and my location so that people knew where they could find me. My sister put in there that I was struggling so my coach sent a voice note which my sister played to me through her car speaker. It definitely made me laugh and added an extra bit of energy. The race plan my coach had put in for me, allowed me to walk through the last 3 aid stations, I had hoped not to have to do this but I did in the end as I didn’t want my pace to keep dropping. The few seconds of walking did wonders and helped me keep pushing.

Much needed support at the air station
Support car and runner
Last aid station

The turn around point at the house was amazing, people cheering and shouting and running with me for a short time. The finish though, was more than I could have ever expected.

Run turn around
Thank you everyone

The last kilometre, my whole family were waiting for me and started running next to me, willing me to keep going and make the end. Even our family friend with his shoulder in a sling, ran part of the way. Eventually I rounded the final corner and there I could see everyone else waiting for me, with a congratulations banner which I could run through, only to be told I had to run up the drive way still and there was a finisher’s ribbon, party poppers going off, and loud shouting and cheering from everyone. I had done it!

Celebrations
Best family ever!
We did it!

Mixed emotions went through me but the main feeling was one of accomplishment. I had finally managed to make my dream come true and achieved my goal. I threw my cap down in celebration, gave hugs all around, was handed a bottle of champagne, which I promptly shook, opened and sprayed on everyone around me. I was then handed a trophy and declared a half Ironwoman! What a proud moment.

Pringle Bay Ironlady

I refused to sit down as I wasn’t sure if would be able to stand up after that. I had hoped to complete the race between 6:30 and 7hrs but had finished in 7:18. With the weather and the kayak rescue, I was just ecstatic I had completed it at all and so my time did not matter in the least.

The water that afternoon

The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur. We went to the beach for a refreshing dip in the sea, which was now as flat as a pancake and looked like the morning chaos had never happened. It was pizza for dinner for everyone that stayed and then an early night. The race high stuck with me for the rest of the day and for the rest of the week as well. I had done it, I still cannot believe it.

The next day my sister proudly gave me a t-shirt she had made for me, the best present ever!

Best t-shirt ever

That’s all for now, more to follow soon.

Bye!

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Race Day Part 1

Off went my alarm and it was finally race day. Morning prep went well and then off to the beach it was for a final weather check. The plan was for my brother-in-law, M, to paddle next to me on a kayak and a friend, A, would swim with me. There was definitely some wind and the waves were bigger than the practise swim I had done the weekend before but it all looked doable and we thought we would give it a try. We agreed that if anyone felt uncomfortable or unhappy, we would cut the swim short and head back out.

Ready for the race
What a view to arrive at before the race

Back to the house to put my wetsuit on and then back to the beach. By the time I got there, there were at least 20 people on the beach waiting for me, with posters and banners. I could not believe it. A quick hug to all and then the start whistle went. Straight into the sea I went, not thinking about the cold, the wind or the waves. It wasn’t too hard to get out of the breakers but I did struggle to settle into my stoke. I would manage a few, before needing to lift my head and catch a few more breaths. My chest felt a bit tight and uncomfortable but I kept going. When breathing, if I looked out to my left, I would get a wave in my face, but the right was no better as the wind was coming from there. We just kept swimming though and after a while, noticed that the kayak had dropped back. I could see M was trying to get back on it. We kept swimming for a while and then I decided we would only do 1km total and not 1.9km as it was just a bit uncomfortable in the water and the swell was pushing us out. We turned around and headed back towards M. Once we got to him, it turned out his kayak had filled with water due to the rough sea, and he was unable to keep it steady enough to get back on it. With all his struggling to get back on, he was pretty exhausted by the time we arrived. A and I said that we would just pull the kayak back to shore and M could swim or hang on the side. He didn’t have much energy so he hung on the side. A and I alternated pulling the kayak from the front or pushing and kicking at the back. Slowly but surely we made progress. We never felt unsafe or like we needed help. We had decide that if it was too much, we would just let the kayak go but it was fine to keep towing it back. Eventually my feet touched the sand below and M told me he was fine, I should keep going so off I went.

What a super star

It turned out that those on the shore did not know what had happened as they couldn’t see us properly as the waves were too big. They could just make out A and I, but not see M and they thought something serious had happened. To be on the safe side, they called the NSRI to come and help. They were amazingly supportive and happened to be in the area. They were on the beach within a few minutes and were monitoring us. They made the call that we all looked ok and were making progress to the beach and they didn’t need to go in. Everybody thought I would not continue the race so they were all surprised when I came out the water and ran up the beach. I kept going and ran to the house for T1.

T1

After a quick change, I hopped on my bike and off I went. After about 10min, my sister pulled up next to me and gave me a brief explanation but said that everyone was fine and there were no problems. It was only at this point that I found out that the NSRI had been called. My sister stuck behind me for the rest of the race, stopping every now and again, to get the variety of signs out to shout and cheer me on. She and my friend, L, had stayed up late the night before to make the signs to surprise me with.

The sign makers
Even the babs came out to support

The route I took from Pringle Bay to Gordon’s Bay, goes along Clarence Drive, which is a beautiful coastal route, windy and hilly, but with a stunning view. As the day went on, more and more people I knew started to appear at different points along the race. Friends and family from all over had made it into an outing, to come and support me. It was the most amazing feeling and motivation to come around a corner, and see someone standing there, waiting for me to come past so they could scream and shout. Gordon’s Bay was my turn around point and now my next aim was the point of 45km as that would be my one and only water stop, There my sister was, waiting for me, supported by a dear family friend of ours.

Halfway point on the bike
I can do this!

After a super speedy stop, on and on I went. The toughest part of the race, was the 1km climb in Rooiels, although the hill was very steep, the wind was also directly head on, blowing at 30km per hour, making it an incredibly difficult climb. I had my sister driving behind me and another friend came passed in her car, she noticed how I was struggling and drove about 20m ahead of me. It now felt like I had a magic string, pulling me up while being pushed from the bottom. Finally, I made it up and could enjoy the much needed downhill. Twice during the ride I was almost blown off my bike and the wind gusts went up to 50km per hour.

Downhill, finally!

I had to cycle passed Pringle Bay and on to Betty’s Bay. It would all be flat now and I hoped to make up some time but this was not meant to be. I was hit again by a very strong headwind all the way through Betty’s Bay and slowed down to the tortoise pace, instead of the cheetah I had in mind. At one point, I just wanted to close my eyes and felt like I could fall asleep on my bike. I also needed my sister to come drive next to me and cheer me on. I did have many other people along the course cheering, those with a Landy, climbed on the roof and waited for me there.

What a surprise to see everyone waiting for me

Eventually I was allowed to turn around and now had the wind from behind and it blew me all the way back to Pringle Bay and back to the house for T2. Even more people were here by now as we had opened up the house for the day for drinks and a boerewors roll at any time. Many people used the house as their base for the day and enjoyed the festivities. I dropped my bike and headed out on the run to huge cheers. 2 friends of mine were going to do the run with me and they went full steam ahead.

Finally getting off the bike, what a relief

That’s all for now, more to follow soon.

Bye!

Challenges and Perseverance

Once back in SA, I had 10 days before the first race I has signed up to do, the Port Elizabeth Ironman 70.3 race on 4 April. Once I had recovered from Covid, my boss said that once i was home, I should have a check up just to ensure all was ok. I felt 100% back to normal but decided to go and see someone anyway. I had asked my GP for a recommendation and it turned out it was the top Covid specialist in South Africa and after doing blood tests, he told me that I had mild long Covid. He immediately told me no PE race, and for any further training, I was not allowed to raise my heart rate above 130. I had to go back in a month to do the tests again before he would say if I could do the Durban race or not.

Once again, I was back to very low training. It was painfully slow to have to run and keep my heart rate down. It was more of a wog than a jog, somewhere between walking and jogging. My family could power walk next to me and keep up.

Late evening training sessions do have their perks

It became quite the family affair once I was home. They took it in turns to run with me or cycle, or just watch me swim. I felt so supported. I had my bike trainer set up in my apartment as well and used that so that I could control my heart rate better than on the road as I could not do any inclines, I just couldn’t keep my heart rate down then. Same for running, it all had to be on flat surfaces.

Family supporting vibes
What a supportive family

I had come home with a slight groin injury. My muscle had pulled on day 2 after being released from isolation after being Covid positive. I was just walking down the corridor when I felt my leg go. The Covid doctor said that it was struggling to recover due to my body being at a generally lower threshold due to Covid. I went to see a physio once the doctor had cancelled my PE race as I thought now I might as well use this slow training month, to deal with my leg as well. I found the most incredible physio, N, who saw me twice a week for the rest of my time at home and who worked miracles with soft tissue work and exercises to get my leg back to 100%.

Recovery sessions

After a month, I went back for tests and lucky me, I was finally Covid free, and able to train as hard as I wanted. My coach and I immediately went to 2 training sessions for most days and started trying to build me up as quickly as possible as now I only had 5 full weeks of proper training before my race.

I trained in a variety of different areas, depending on where I was and who I was visiting where. Winter was also slowly creeping in so my outdoor swims were becoming increasingly difficult and I required more motivation. Often though, it would be the trade off, swim in a cold, outdoor pool near to where I was, or drive 30min to an indoor pool. I would usually pick the cold pool instead. My time is precious to me and I try to use it as wisely as possible when home.

Not so inviting
Swimming in all the pools in the area
A cold swim

I also did a few group cycles with my coach who has a number of athletes training for the same event so the last few weekends before our race, we did some long group rides which I really enjoyed. I actually enjoyed all my training and looked forward to it every day. I still feel this way which is pretty amazing, I think. I also did an open water swim or two to prepare.

Training
Early morning sessions

One of the bihg thimngs thatmany people dont spednenough time practising, is the transitions. They are actually regarded as the 4th discipline of triathlon racing, and should be given as much focus and training as the other 3. By practising these, you can give yourself “free” time. People work so hard to shave 4min off their bike time. Here if you practise, you can easily shave off a few minutes as well. I had fun practising mine, with 3 young kids running around and shouting, it was simulating the chaos of race day.

Transition practise
How fast can you get a wet wetsuit off?

Just under 2 weeks before the Durban race, while driving to meet my family for breakfast, I got the very unfortunate email to say that the Durban race had to be postponed. Durban had been ravaged by huge storms, and homes, roads and beaches were washed away, lives were lost, and the race just could not proceed. I was due to go back to work only days after race day and I could not imagine all my training going to waste. By the end of the day, a new plan had been formulated. I would make my own race, with the support of family and friends, we could re-create the event in our neighbourhood and I would be the only participant.

We didn’t have much time, but my sister, F, and I got going straight away. We decided to do it in Pringle Bay, my mom’s home town, as it is at the sea and has all the terrain I need. First things first, the route needed to be plotted. We were ensuring that all the official Ironman 70.3 rules and regulations were being followed. For example, no exterior assistance is allowed. There are set water point and that is the only place you may get sustenance. We mapped these out as well so that it would be clear where my sister would be waiting for me.

The swim route
The bike route
Run route

I also secretly made t-shirts for my family to thank them for all the support. We rented out a big house right on the beach as well in Pringle Bay so that everyone who wanted to be at the start, could stay over and didn’t have to drive there super early. 10 people, friends and family, all wanted to stay there. I slept at my mom’s house so that it would be quiet and I could get a good night’s rest.

View from our rental

The day before, we drove the run route and marked out every 2.5km as that is how frequently they have water stations on the run route. We just hoped that it wouldn’t rain and wash away the chalk marks.

Marking the water stations

That evening, I did all my last minute prep and checked the weather for the 100th time. It was not looking promising. It seemed like the wind would come up during the night and last for most of the day. There had been no wind for the last 4 days and nothing was forecasted for the next 3 days but of course, right in the middle of it, just for my race, it would blow.

Pre race day chills

After a lovely dinner with everyone at the rented house, it was early to bed for many. Many people had wished me well with a few pieces of advise. Two that suck with me were the following. “The wind can only come from one direction at a time.” “Your body is ready now as much as it can be, the race is all mental.”

With those thoughts stuck in my head and all my training I had done, I was ready for my race.

Champion organisers

That’s all for now, more to follow soon.

Bye!

The Journey of a Life Time

Towards the end of last year, a very vague thought, or perhaps more of a dream, slowly started forming more clearly and was soon at the forefront of my mind. I want to do an Ironman 70.3 race. This is a triathlon where the total distance, in miles, measures up to 70.3 miles. Broken down, it is a 1.9km swim, a 90.1km cycle, and then a 21.1km run. I have always been a sporty and active person and at some point in my life I have done all three disciplines but never together. I then made the easy decision that now was a good as time as any to start training and do a race. Best way to start, just pick a race, sign up for it, and you are set. Now you have your goal and can work towards that. I signed up for the Port Elizabeth Ironman 70.3 race on 4 April 2022 and then signed up for the 5 June Durban Ironman 70.3 as well as I though I could just do both.

Caribbean sunset views

My training started on 1 December 2022, while the boat crossed from Europe to the Caribbean. I bought a book online that had a 4 month training programme in it and all I had to do was follow it. The book also tells you everything you need to know about the race, how to prepare for it, what equipment you need, what training to do, how to correct your technique. It really is a complete guide. What makes it complicated for me is the fact that I work on a boat and am limited with time and equipment so I just need to ensure that I train when I can and I improvise with my training when I can. I have my bike on board and have a trainer I can attached it to.

My trusty bike

Then for running and swimming, well it just depends on where the boat is and whether we can get ashore or not. Strength training I can luckily do in my cabin as I don’t need much space or equipment. Time on the other hand is the other tough factor to figure out. When a yacht has guests on board, it is standard to work 13hrs a day, every day. So one has to find time around work and your much needed sleep. The only thing really though is that is just takes dedication and time management. I either get up early, or do it after work, even though I finish around 22:00 or 23:00 or try fit my session in my break during the day.

When we were in port in the Caribbean in early January, I had a deal with a hotel that I was allowed to use their swimming pool twice a week, at 06:00. This meant an early start for me but it was incredible to start swimming while the moon was still shinning and then to watch the sunrise while swimming in this incredible pool with harbour views.

The world slowly waking up
One happy swimmer
Sunrise views

During our winter season in the Caribbean, I was managing rather well to fit it in but then Covid hit end of January and well, I was very sick and took a long time to recover. 2 weeks of being positive and another 3 to get over the lingering symptoms. Once I was better, I still struggled to climb 3 flights of stairs at once and I had been out for more than 4 weeks, I just did not know how to get started again on my training. I spoke to a friend of mine from back home and she recommended a coach to me that she had used for her first Ironman 70.3 race. I contacted her, A, and she was the best decision I ever made. She sets up a weekly plan for her athletes on Training Peaks and then your workouts sync to this app and she can watch and see your progress. She started me off very easy, only a 20min walk or 15min cycle, and very slowly working my way up from there. My heart rate was still shooting up quite high so we had to be extra careful. It was frustrating as I had come so far already and was now being knocked back to even before I had started my training in December.

Training all over the world

After a week or two I could do a little bit more, I just had to take breaks when my heart rate would go up. When we were at anchor for a few days, I was able to swim around the boat as practice. Some of the crew were super supportive and would take turns to swim around with me. Once when we were in port, I swam in the bay and one of the crew came with on a paddle board. I do not like swimming in the ocean on my own, it just freaks me out a bit too much.

Caribbean swim training

Soon enough it was time for my holiday. With my current contract, I work 3 months on and then have 3 months off. For the first part of the holiday, I went to New York City for a 10 day holiday with my sister and some friends. Training did not stop for me during this time. I ensured I got all my training in, no matter what. Luckily the apartment where we stayed had an indoor trainer so I would get up a bit earlier in the morning and use that.

Peleton bike training while watching NYC

For running, well I was now on land so I could do that any time as well. The one morning when I had to run, I left around 07:00 in the morning and it was actually -5 degrees outside. I have never been in such cold temperatures before. It was quite a shock. I had taken my mask with me incase I needed it but ended up running with it the whole time as it actually kept my face warm. By the time I got back, although I had worn tights, my legs were super red and my hands almost frozen but so worth it.

At least my face was warm
That was beyond cold
So privileged to run in NYC

For swimming, I looked up a gym in the area with a pool and asked if I could have a guest pass for 2 days. They were happy to sell that to me and what a gym it turned out to me. Almost like a 5 star hotel gym. In the bathrooms, they have everything you need, from hair ties, to body lotion, hair dryers, nail files, you name it. I was almost expecting them to have workout clothes as well. The gym itself was full of the latest equipment and looked top notch. It had a cafe inside, tables for clients to sit and work, it had it all. If I had not been on holiday, I would have a spent the whole day in there.

What a gym

Too soon the incredible NYC adventure was over but it meant that I got to go home so I wasn’t too sad about that. I had big training and racing plans ahead and could not wait to get started.

That’s all for now, more to follow soon.

Bye!