Africa – Continent #4
South Africa – Country #5
March 20, 2005
SpecSavers Ironman South Africa
Ironman South Africa race was a day filled with sun, wind, clouds, darkness, rain, lightening, thunder, dehydration, untrained hills, and an unfamiliar bicycle with new bike shoes. Such is the life of triathlete. And nothing in the race compared to the pre-race day rollercoaster. The day before the race I’m in a fight with the race director just trying to secure my spot to get to the starting line. Twenty-four hours later, I’m in a fight with my rebelling body to reach the finish line. Let me tell you my story about overcoming adversary and the determination to finish.
After Hawaii Ironman I lost some motivation about triathlons. I signed up for Laguna Phuket in late November but there was no plan to go back to Ironman OZ and qualify again for Hawaii. I was looking for motivation to continue training and competing in triathlons. About this time at work a highly regarded professor from the London School of Business came and talked to us. His theme included the concept of how a company can be lost if its leaders do not communicate a path forward of its journey. The underlying basic message was you can’t get lost if you don’t where you’re going. With no race plans for the future, no direction or no journey, I couldn’t get lost if I didn’t know where I was going. Now what?
Having experienced an athletic no man’s land in the mid-80’s, before triathloning and after I finished my track career, I competed in a few local running road races. I didn’t set any goals or establish expectation for these races. Not surprising few of these races were fulfilling. Kind of like a drinking light beer when you want a complex blend of sensory overload. Triathloning filled the void. Initially. Between the three disciplines of swimming, biking, and running, plus the quick change artistry required in transition, and all the cool equipment, triathloning provided fulfillment.
Triathloning helped find me direction early on as a destination sport. But the fulfillment waned as the destination race checklist filled up. Then the professor basically suggested get a map and figure out how to define a journey. Race plans matured from individual destinations into a journey of awareness with milestones for a more fulfilling expedition. My initial business background of accounting keyed me in on a destination approach. Race. Record the metrics. Report out on them and compare to other races for place and times. As my business career moved into retail operations I noticed my triathlon focused revealed more focus on the human aspect which made me more aware of the racers and the people that put on the race for our enjoyment. Moving into another business discipline, this time marketing, encouraged me to see the positioning of different races in the US and World and learning to tell stories about the journey to promote the sport.
The journey concept fits for a person’s individual life, family life, work career, and even an alternative wannabe athlete’s life. In sports a final destination is the optimal desire though only if we allow the journey to meander, allow for adjustments of pace, and ensure some spots for a few jump-off points; otherwise we find ourselves lost, though already at the finish line with too much time to spare. Something even a race competitor finds ironic; a twisted piece of logic that the quicker the goals are reached, the less time to enjoy and cherish the accomplishments. This latter observation came from the kids’ enjoyment of wanting to attend new races or re-visit others. And to branch out for me to become a spectator along their journeys’ in sport and life.
When thinking of the possibility of a journey during a run workout I experienced a flash back to my 25th high school reunion in 2002 about a conversation with classmate Chris Huron. His goal was to run in a marathon in each US state. I could do next except with a twist, compete in a triathlon in every state instead of a marathon. My initial challenge was living halfway around the world but the thought was enough to motivate me to set a goal for the journey.
Until my revelation, sports, running, and triathloning were all about outcome for me. Each race was a single destination goal with my motivation to perform well. With age, came more wisdom. My involvement in triathlons started with a simple objective to compete in one. Once accomplished, I wanted to continue to compete. Similar to the feeling in running at track meets in college and their continuation while completing for the UCTC for four years post college graduation. Similar too, competing professionally in a work environment during the day, served well for me in refining competitive skills for weekend track meets. Likewise, the training and racing kept me mentally sharp for the rigorous corporate life of climbing the preverbal ladder. Each complimented the other. A common element missing from both though was a defined journey.
Before the journey I never kept a record of my races but in 2005 created a spreadsheet and listed each completed race on the vertical axis. New races were added on subsequent rows and a column added for each new year. When looking at the chart the more current races were listed nearer the bottom and to the left side. Races in states and countries were tracked too. On a second spreadsheet distances of each triathlon and its separate legs were track to record how miles and kilometers raced over the journey. These metrics allowed me to know status of completing the Tri 50 States Journey to live my dream.
I’m held hostage by my dream, a journey of doing a triathlon race in each of the 50 states. Every morning woke up motived to train and compete. The triathlon journey was a pleasant dream. But once awoke, my dream made me train. Every day was a run and swim or bike and run. Some training days included weights. Once signed up for a race, then specific training for that race started. Never sure if more motivated to do well in the race or more motivated not to bonk and embarrass myself in the results for anyone to read and make judgment. Completing the journey itself was not a big input on my motivation. Going to each state to race would be a matter of signing-up, heading-out, showing-up, and crossing through the finish line. The journey would require time, money, planning, and on-going motivation carry through reaching all the milestones. While always motivated before a race, never figured out if more motivated to train and compete from the fear of totally failing to finish or if motivated to place high.
Reaching the next set of milestones would be slow since we lived half-way around the world from the US. However, with a 14 state head start the journey was definitively doable. Didn’t expect to be lost in the first race after defining the plan. But I did. Something changed. Instead of signing up for a new state in the US to move along on my new journey, I signed up for Ironman South Africa.
Living, working, and traveling internationally became our new normal. Vacationing and racing in unique locations with high caliber athletes in Pro-Am (professional and amateur) races became the new normal too. The reality though this was a deviation of life for us prior to the move to Thailand. The new normal was no different than international business people playing the best golf courses in the world when traveling for work and play. They play 18 holes of golf at places most people only have a chance to see on TV or read about in a golf specialty magazine. Millions of people, if not billions more do not care about golf or know these places exist. We met other people along the way who told us they did hiking, birding, backpacking, sailing, scuba diving, running, and even geocaching activities across the globe. No different than me with triathlons on vacation, my new norm with personal goals to see the states in the US and countries in the world, not collecting checkmarks or paying for bragging rights. I wanted to meet people, experience the cultures, see the sites, enjoy the food, and look for the commonalities and appreciate the differences.
My new normal for training changed too. Started at 5 hours a week running, then added some swimming and biking to expand the hours to 7, then 10, then doubling that. My long runs covered 16 miles in a single outing. Going out for a weekend bike ride meant cycling one-third of my waking hours. I covered distances on my bike that would be considered a day trip for anyone driving a car. And being in the pool for three hours a week, chorine became a more familiar smell than Irish Spring on my body.
We arrived on-time in South Africa some 20+ hours later, unfortunately in the wrong city of Durban due to fog shutting down the Johannesburg (JoBerg) airport for the first time in three years.
Officials would not let any passengers depart the plane in Durban since the immigration office was not open. We sat on the tarmac in the hot and humid weather for two hours. The plane took on fuel. The passengers emptied their bladders. Then we headed for JoBerg. We had been on the same plane for 15 hours. We spent another 12+ hours in JoBerg that included missed connections and watching fully booked jet after jet taking off to PE without us. The airlines brought an empty plane and filled it with the overflow of stranded passengers. We landed in PE after 7pm. We arrived. Unfortunately our luggage did not arrive. We checked into a hotel with only minimal carry-on bag contents. The following day four pieces of luggage arrived on three different airplanes with the bicycle last flight of the day.
Chris went to the airport for each new flight in from JoBerg to collect the luggage. I went to registration to get checked in, pick up race numbers and transition bags. The first flight into PE delivered one of our bags. We met back at the hotel. Then she took another taxi back to the airport. I went back to the Expo to talk with the race director (RD) about the baggage delay. He said no exceptions for a late bike check-in would be granted. The second flight to arrive delivered two more of our bags but not the bike. Met Chris at the hotel and exchanged info. She went back to the airport and learned the third flight delivered nothing for us. The next flight was scheduled to arrive after the transition area for the race closed. She went back one more time to the airport for the next flight.
Back at the Expo, pleaded my case to the RD to allow me to check in my bike after the transition area closed. Stated my bike would for sure be on the next flight in from JoBerg. He shook his head no. He showed no compassion. At this point, I just wanted to compete. I improvised to race in a new country. Switched to newly developed Plan B and begged the local bike dealer at the Expo to rent me a bike. I wasn’t going to get a bike if I didn’t ask. I took the situation as a test in them judging me on how much I wanted to compete in the race. Almost broke into tears during my pleading. My performance was so bad it almost made me laugh. The bike dealer relented. Paid $200 for six + hours of riding time to rent a five year-old steel framed Giant brand road bike complete with a rust encrusted chain, one water bottle cage, worn tires and almost nothing else (no speedometer, no arrow bars, no spare tire repair kit). Plus another $200 spent for new pedals and new bikes shoes of brands with no name recognition. I accepted the situation. The rented bike and new equipment allowed me to rack a bike and be race ready which didn’t look like much of a possibility for most of the day before the race. There was just enough time to get the chain lubed, new pedals screwed in, and a chance to try on the new shoes before picking up my race bags at the hotel and rushing down to get checked-in for T1 & T2 by cut-off time. After racking the rental bike, returned to the hotel to meet Chris and welcomed my $600 piece of bike luggage to PE that was not going to be unpacked until returning home in Bangkok.
Going back and forth between the Registration Expo and hotel was not unpleasant. The road allowed for a great view of the Indian Ocean and the city’s beautiful sandy Hobie Beach front. On the first trip to the Expo watched a road race with hundreds of fast runners, a 10K. Every runner looked fast. Every runner ran in a team uniform. All were high quality runners with excellent form. This was a piece of world class running in Africa with me watching from a front row spot. A TV doesn’t capture the beauty of elite runners’ determination when in a race.
On my last trip of day to check in my rented bike an older, male competitor pedaled past on his bike. Transition bags in his hands which were on the handlebars. The bags swayed towards either side of his front wheel. The last sway went deep and clipped a spoke. The spoke pulled the bag into its grasp. The rider did a header over the bike’s handlebars. He crashed which resulted in a nasty case of road rash on his upper thigh. The next morning in transition his leg was wrapped in gauze. Probably didn’t last past the swim.
On race morning, knowing the day was dedicated to Ironman racing, I repeated my mantra: “This is what I’m doing today. All day.”
Race central was located at the corner of 2nd Street and Humewood Road by Hobie Beach. The transition area took over the beach parking lot. By race end, we would bike by the corner three times and run by it six times. The finish line was located at the edge of Hobie Beach and its parking lot. The swim started at the edge of the Indian Ocean on Hobie Beach within the stunning Nelson Mandela Bay area of PE. The 800+ triathletes queued up on the tan colored sandy beach that stretched for miles. The ocean was flat past the 1-2 foot breakers near the shoreline. The sky was clear blue. There was a wonderful ocean salty air smell, not like what the Gulf of Thailand smelled like. The air smelled more like Sunset Beach in Southern California, my first saltwater beach smell ever. The blue water blended into the blue sky on the far horizon. No land could be seen to the south, east, or north. Local dancers and musicians in culture appropriate (native) clothes revved competitors and spectators up for the start. We lined up on the soft sand behind a SpecSavers logoed ribbon 20 meters from the Indian Ocean for a mass start. The gun went off and we took a few steps and dove into the 21°C clear water for the wetsuit legal swim. Swam 50 meters then smashed head first into a barnacle encrusted metal float tethered to the sea floor. Cut my forehead open with a nasty gash. Wearing an all-black wetsuit and dribbling blood, I became primo great white shark bait. Looked around on my next sighting and concluded there were many other seal-like looking triathletes positioned around me who served as buffer zone. Any of them would be a more convenient breakfast item for a hungry shark. The rest of the swim was uneventful over the two loop course. The water stayed clear the entire swim. We swam in loosely formed packs. We could easily see the course markers amongst small swells. No hand smacking. No face kicks. No pushing. No shoving. We behaved nice with each other throughout the swim course. No shark sightings either.
The transition went smoothly. Shed my wetsuit and Tyr swimsuit. Changed into my race dedicated bike shorts, a Volkswagen Van designed bike jersey, and a brand new pair of bike shoes. The bike course consisted of three loops shaped like a barbell and covered 60 kilometers (37) miles each. We headed out of transition towards the city center of PE but turned left across from the marina onto Heugh Road and kept heading west away from the coastline. A quick look back revealed the beautiful blue Indian Ocean and a string of cyclist chasing me down. We climbed up a hill into town by the bike dealer’s shop who rented me the bike and sold me shoes and pedals less than 24 hours earlier. He was outside his shop watching the race when I pedaled by and waved to him on the second loop. Not sure he recognized one of his newest customers.
The course kept rolling after an initial climb of 15 km out of PE all the way to Beachview. We turned left following the coastline through Seaview and Kini Bay with its beautiful but empty beaches. Enticing and on any other day, I would have stopped and caught a few “rays” if not racing. Today though, the beaches were eye candy for the triathletes. We kept riding on Seaview Drive heading due east towards PE. Two-thirds of the way back, the course took us south again to the coastline on Marine Drive. We rode a few miles along another stretch of beautiful beaches. Then we rode through the campus of the newly formed Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and exited to pass the transition area and complete our first bike lap.
The first lap went fine. The bike was heavy but comfortable. The size fit me fine. Went with the flow of cyclist even without arrow bars. Paced off them instead of an odometer. Kept a legal distance back to ensure no drafting penalties. Used my watch to time nutrition breaks. Exchanged greetings with Chris when heading out on lap 2. Mother Nature challenged us further on the second loop with a strong sun and hotter temperatures. The second lap went by almost like the first lap though I daydreamed of getting a different bike. Decided age groupers, no matter how fast or slow, no matter how strong or out of shape they were, should get the lightest and coolest bike available. Riding on a lighter bike, in a more comfortable aero position would beat this classical, heavy steel framed bicycle anytime. I daydreamed the bike was equipped with light wheels, light pedals, a front mounted water bottle that was popular at the time, and with the coolest paint job an artist could come up with for the imaginary speed monster. The bike looked fast. The bike went fast. My fantasy melted away at the end of the second loop as the heat increased while my sweating subsided.
Saw Chris again near the transition area. For the first time during a race I felt alone when hearing her familiar voice. This was the first race where I knew no one else in the race. Didn’t recognize any one amongst the spectators. Knew no one else in the country or even on the continent. No familiar race announcers. Nothing was recognizable except Chris for thousands of miles in any direction. Strangers in a strange land. An unnerving experience. Seeing her and hearing her voice was assuring and yet unsettling knowing our isolation of being surrounded by unknowns. Waved and smiled to her as a rode by and got my head back into the race at the start of the third lap and final bike lap.
The bike course offered us a challenge with some rough roads on all three loops.
With the start of the final bike lap the winds picked up even more. Clouds were coming in from the horizon. Before my first Ironman a friend said the race doesn’t get started until the 80 mile mark on the bike. If that was the case, then I was left behind during the warm-up period. My race started falling apart on the start of the third lap of the bike, the 75 mile marker. My stomach rejected fluids during the third climb out of the city. With a single water bottle on board, chose to carry a concentrated protein mix. Figured I could chug water and electrolytes at the aid stations to meet those needs. In between aid stations, I would compensate for lack of calories with extra gels then drink protein/carbo mix drink. All went well for two laps until my fluid intake could not keep up with my body needs brought on by my sweating. By the start of lap 3, there wasn’t much fluid left in me to sweat out. By the end of lap 3, my pace was slower than the first two laps. I screwed up. Ended up with too much crud in my stomach that could not get absorbed. The bloating prevented me from drinking enough fluids on the third lap of the bike and set me up for a miserable run.
I passed through transition putting on all new clothes from shoes to hat. Many of the competitors wore the 2005 Ironman South Africa sleeveless bike jersey we received in the swag bag. These were high quality. They looked great. And participants wore them with pride on race day. I wore running clothes: red, white, and blue running trunks. And a plain white, with a small white logo tank top running jersey. I wore a bright red cap with no design. I looked like an American runner, not a triathlete. I was as out of place with my clothes as I was racing in South Africa. I headed north out of T2 for an out and back short course that paralleled the beachfront. The road was closed for vehicles but divided into three sections for the triathlon. Half of the roadway was allocated to bikers and the other half to the runners. The runners’ side further split in half for outbound runners and the other side for returning to race central. At this point of the race, any bikers coming through were starting their third loop of the race. Any bikers starting out on their second lap would not make the bike cut-off time to continue the race for the run leg.
We ran a three loop run section in the shape of a lopsided figure eight. The first section was two miles in distance, flat, and it led us towards the marina then back to race central. The lower or southern part was the longer loop of seven miles. It included a difficult and lonely climb of 800 meters into the NMMU campus. We leveled off then circled with a long, gentle decent until we returned north bound along the beach towards race central.
Spectator support was nothing short of awesome. Chris and I talked on every pass through race central. I started the first short loop of the run nauseated, dehydrated, and just plain worn out. She could see the pain in my face. I could see the worry in hers. Spectators cheered on all the racers. Many called us out by name after comparing our numbers to the race program insert that ran in a local paper. About 200 meters past the race central intersection on the lower loop, a woman and a couple of kids shouted out my name and cheered me on. I perked up and almost as quickly came crashing down. I stopped running and started dry-heaving. I purposely passed up my last two planned feedings on the bike because of nausea. I didn’t take on any fluids during the transition. My stomach shut down. I still had 23 miles, or 37 kilometers as marked on the South Africa course, to reach the finish. I started walking then running again.
This part of the run went well. I made it up the hill then took on water at the aid station. The water came in these self-contained hermetically sealed clear plastic cubic shaped baggies. They held a cup of liquid. I bit off a corner and squeezed the cool water into my mouth. The water tasted great. When it hit my stomach, I was sick again. I passed on everything else at the aid station. I walked a few meters and the water came back up. More dry heaves followed. My stomach now hurt inside from queasiness and outside muscle cramps from the purging. I continued on alternating between walking and running for the rest of the loop. I grabbed some water at aid stations but sprayed it over my head and body instead of drinking. My body hurt. My legs were stiff. The same family cheered me on at the start of the lower loop was still there. They called me out by name and cheered me on again. Just up the road from them, I passed through race central and ran by Chris. We traded a few brief words. I sensed a hint of helplessness for both of us.
The wind increased more on the start of lap 2. Wind socks flapped straight out. A cold front crept towards the coast line. I kept walking and running and not taking on any nutrition at the aid stations. My mind thought yes. My stomach told me no way in hell! I continued on through the short loop and came back by Chris. I stopped. We talked. She took me through a set of medical questions. I failed them all. She coached me into a nutrition plan for the rest of the race. I stopped at the next aid station taking on a gel, some sports drink, and grabbed a couple of water cubes to run with and drink when ready.
Again I went by the cheering family that yelled out my name and told me I was doing great. Maybe the tide had changed as I kept something down now for over a half a mile. As I started up the hill, the fluids started up from my stomach. Everything went. My body kept going through the purging but nothing else came out. My cycle of running and walking changed to walking and dry-heaving. I drank the water from the baggies. It came back up. I avoided aid stations. Lap 2 was a long, slow lap. Nears its end and across the road I heard the now familiar voices of the same family yell out to keep going. I decided on the last lap, after completing the short northern loop, I would stop and talk with them. I wanted to find out who they were. Where they were from. And who specifically they were there for to root for in the race. And I mostly wanted to thank them for their support of me.
On the third lap, darkness set in. Meanwhile, I kept moving forward. I stopped at the next aid station. I ran to the far north-end turnaround and a few meters beyond then dropped to my knees and threw up right in front of a mother with her young son. I looked up pathetically and apologized. She nodded with acceptance then scurried quickly away from the area.
I was tired, hapless, and feeling sorry for myself. I started walking but was over taken by nausea. I stopped and sat down. I lowered my back and head on to the street. I was exhausted. I wanted to fall asleep. Maybe I did for a few minutes. I don’t remember. My body had a strange way of telling me something was not right: puking, chills with heat exhaustion, and cramps when out of electrolytes. Sweat in the eyes was not a good plan to get salt back in my body.
Not sure how much time passed but recouped, walked down the road, and met up again with Chris just past the corner at race central for a tough love discussion. Her voice was reassuring to me. I listened while resting my hands on my knees. After a moment of silence, I asked her without making eye contact, “Am I going to die if I keep on trying to finish?”
She assured me, “No.”
We talked some more. I started down the road to meet up with my other support group. They were gone. Never did discover who they were but I greatly appreciated their support. I hope their main racer did well.
I kept moving. Ran up the hill for the final time then walked at the top but passed on the aid station. And as if the day was not tough enough already; lightening, thunder and rain started with 10 kilometers to go. Then, I went through a transformation. Through all the day’s adverse conditions, I somehow persevered. Felt better with less than an hour of racing left and started running and did whatever it took not to stop until arriving under the finishing banner.
People push themselves to experience absolute maximum physical, emotional, and mental limits in trying to reach their goals with family, careers, and even hobbies. Hayes and Caroline taunted their boundaries when growing. Chris did so constantly when parenting the kids with tough love in learning life skills for the challenges beyond our lifetimes. All of us reached a point along our journeys that test our wills in where we didn’t give up but realized life didn’t revolve around finishing with a PR, making podium, earning a promotion, reach a C Level job, or even fathering the smartest kids in high school. Success took on a different meaning. Success was not the end point but a fluid definition at different milestones in the game of life.
During the last miles of the run I reflected on the polarity of my five senses when racing at Ironman South Africa. My day started with a wonderful fresh smell of salty air when stepping out of the hotel on race morning that gave way to a head jerk smell of ammonia, the ketone byproduct of burning muscle, when staggering about on the run.
I was relaxed during warm-up when on the beach thinking about the race and how I wanted it to unfold in front of me for the day. Unfortunately race-day brought on pains of muscle cramps from shoulders to calves with my quads and stomach feeling the worst.
I recalled how I looked forward to the taste of my early race nutrition, gels and sports drinks, only to have my taste buds rebel at their sweetness as the race kept on going.
Music fueled both participants’ and spectators’ pre-race excitement. Fortunate to hear the local music at the start of the race played live in a place so foreign. Never imaged being anywhere in Africa in my lifetime. But as the race progressed, I heard my own sounds of strain and pain I unfortunately and embarrassing unfurled on my wife, Chris. She was the one person, of anyone, who wanted to help me the most and I rejected the help I needed the most from her. I realized then racing does weird shit to racers, or at least to me, when in distress.
I thought how I enjoyed seeing the sun rise over the Indian Ocean and showing off the beautiful blues of both the water and sky, then despised the setting sun with my disappointment of running in the dark on yet a second consecutive Ironman triathlon. Furthermore, near the end of my race, I looked down at my left wrist covered with five things. First, an orange band served as my race pass. Next, a trio of red, white, and blue bands; each represented a completed lap on the run. And finally, the most painful, my watch with numbers that showed the proof in how slow I went for the day.
At the end of the race all the spectators welcomed us down the chute to the finish line. The Ironman Triathlon is a unique race where the last finisher, was cheered as loud as the first place finisher as was every finisher in between. Is there any other sporting event or anything else where the same can be said for each competitor and participant?
For our day’s effort, we were recognized as Ironman over the sound system. I heard my name. I received my finisher’s medal. A wave of relief came over me at the end of this brutally long race.
Headed straight to the medical tent for an assessment. The doctor looked at me.
“How do you feel? “
“Not bad. Didn’t have any nutrition or fluids that stayed down during the marathon.”
He cut through my post-race adrenalin high answer and hooked me up to an IV bag of saline solution. Never imagined me thinking, “Yes, I will have an IV with my finisher’s medal.”
Chris waited patiently for me to clear the finishing area. She didn’t know about my detour to the medical tent. But when we met up afterwards, she wasn’t surprised. She was grateful a doctored checked me out. Me too.
Chris was the best spouse ever. Told her as such in a hormonal infused voice afterwards and on the verge of almost crying. Actually multiple times. In the post-race situation, this was not acting and I didn’t almost laugh.
Nelson Mandela would have made a great coach if not a triathlete when he once said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
And far too many triathletes fear most the unknowns of what type of race performance they will turn in at an upcoming race than many other unknowns and more important things in life.
As tough as this race turned out, it helped me define my future path. Initially in Thailand I focused too much on my homeland of the US. The Tri 50 State goal was already achieved by two others. Could I generate enough motivation to reach what two other triathletes already achieved? If you struggle sometimes in finding your goals, the answers will reveal themselves to you, if you look for them and if you choose to act on them. They hide in the open among your passions, abilities, career, spouse/sigo, kids, siblings, and your calling. When the journey revealed itself among all seven items….the time arrived to choose the commitment to pursue the milestone on my journey.
While reflecting on what occurred at Ironman South Africa and thinking of possible causes on why things occurred there. Maybe I didn’t set a unique enough goal. While starting the race lost or at least off track from racing in a new state, I re-set my goal to include the world, to embark on the Tri 50 States and World Continent Journey Tour. An adventure of racing in a triathlon in all 50 States, Washington D.C. and on the six continents that held organized races.
Before the race started I faced the uncertainties of getting a bike racked. Faced with further uncertainties of how my back, butt, and feet would work with the new race equipment. The race proved to be the most challenging all day event competed in my life. Ironman South Africa challenged me mentally, physically, and emotionally multiple times throughout the day. Started the triathlon with a disadvantage of not racing with my bike. Tried to get my bike in but once rejection was assured, moved on to explore alternatives and responded by getting the equipment needed to race. Didn’t like it. Didn’t dwell on it. Stayed flexible and found a bike to ride. Raced with what was available.
What I didn’t know then but would appreciate in future years, was this flexibility would help me out at other races along my journey. I know too, raising the girls and seeing what they face almost daily and never backing down, forced me to realize getting a bike, pedals, and shoes were nothing compared to how they improvise through life every day.
What turned out to be ironic was a strange bike with new pedals and shoes were the easiest of my race day challenges to overcome. I pulled with all my inter-strength not to quit. Never thought walking off the course was an option. Quitting would have been harder than anything experienced during the race. Didn’t want to go to Kona even if qualifying here. Knew I wouldn’t quit before the finish but physically this was difficult with what I did to my body. Was this the right thing to do? For me, at this race? Absolutely. Wasn’t going to travel back to this region of the world any time soon. And I wasn’t going to leave, even with heaving, without crossing the finish line.
Results: 309th Overall. 29th in age group