The fiercest race in the friendliest city! Lives up to its tag line in every since of the word. The racing was insane, the course was honest and the conditions were trying!
The wall of names!
We had the pleasure of watching the women’s race on the Saturday in full sun and a stiff wind most of the morning. The reports from the bike course were coming in and they were exactly as I expected, rough roads, long climbs and WINDY on the way out, with a tail wind home! I enjoyed sticking close to the swim start, T1 and our hotel for most of the day, cheering on everyone, in particular those wearing the green & gold of Australia! The conditions on Marine Drive (the run course) were perfect, it got hotter throughout the day topping out about 24/25 degrees!
At around 14:30 (2:30pm) it was mens turn to rack our bikes and hang our bags, with split transitions it takes a little more thinking and coordination than normal! T1 was about 500m from my hotel door . Here I was required to rack my bike and hang my T1 transition bag. T2 was just hanging a transition bag. What is a transition bag? Well it’s a bag you put everything you need for the next leg of the triathlon. Unlike normal, we were not allowed anything on the ground next to our bikes in transition and with 3km separating the transition areas the bags are necessary! So what did I put in each bag;
T1 bag (swim to bike) compulsory was your helmet, beyond that I had a wind vest, arm warmers, socks, towel, crampfix and a spare gel!
T2 bag (bike to run) compulsory was your race belt with number and running shoes, I also had another pair of socks, towel, crampfix and packet of shot blocks!
More of the cool transition features as my race unfolds! I was up early, as I was lucky enough to have one of the first waves after the pro’s, meaning I got away at 7:38am or just after allowing for the rolling start! Yes we had age group wave starts, but within each wave was a rolling start with 10 athletes allowed to start every 15 seconds – self seeding again (never works)! I had a quick breakfast at the hotel of porridge, eggs and a small coffee, actually shared with Alistair Brownlee! Before heading down to transition to set up my bike ready for the day. I then headed back to our hotel, as it was directly across from the swim start and got suited up in my tri-suit and wet suit, before I headed over to the swim start!
From watching the women’s race the day before I knew I wanted to start on the right hand side and head straight toward the furthest red buoy, I’m still not sure why everyone wanted to swim over to the first yellow buoy and then follow the line of 5 buoys out to sea, it seemed to add a little extra distance. The conditions were a little rough, rolling but bearable and only required a slight adjustment of high elbows to hold good form! I felt as though I got through the swim really well, passing a few people and not many passing me! I swam right through to the beach allowing my hand to touch the sand before I stood up!
Out of the water and running up the beach, cap and goggles immediately in the sleeve of my wetsuit and I stripped it down to my waist before the timing arch (mat) clocking a 30:14 on my watch. A little disappointed in missing my target of sub 30. I moved on quickly to navigating the soft sand up to the paved access road leading to transition were the wetsuit strippers (volunteers) were waiting almost too eagerly to help us out of our wetsuits! Their enthusiasm was infectious, sliding my wetsuit past my bum, I sat on the ground and two amazing volunteers pulled my wetsuit quickly off! Back on my feet and off to grab my transition bag! I sat on a chair in the change area opened the bag and grabbed out my helmet, straight on my head, reaching back in to find the crampfix, cracking the lid only to find another sealed lid (rookie error), I pushed my thumb through the seal and took a swig, only to cough most of it out over the poor volunteering helping me! Lots of apologies I gulped a second mouthful and threw it back into the bag. Up and heading to my bike, throwing my gear bag at another superstar volunteer!
I grabbed my bike and ran to the mount line, jumping onto the bike slick and smooth, I peddled out of the saddle up the little rise, hearing my amazing supportive wife, Mel, in the crowd, I then started putting my shoes on, necessary before the next 10km of steady uphill! This course started with 10km of gentle steady uphill, before some awesome decent’s! I watch my power numbers closely bouncing from 220 up-to 260 Watts for most of the first climb. It felt like a bit of a procession of athletes passing me, but I stuck to my numbers! The wind was noticeable but not too strong, I rode to my numbers as much as possible, some of the descents were a struggle and I had to roll through them just battling the wind and road surface! Just before the turnaround there was another long steady climb, again I watch my power number and felt solid at the turnaround, hoping for the tail wind to help me home!
After the turnaround, we had to climb again almost straight away! Climbing up along the coast line another athlete and I had spotted a massive (some 50 odd) dolphins playing in the sire close to the rocky shore! An amazingly beautiful coast line beaming with sea life! The ride back includes some amazing coast line, think great ocean road but more visible from the road and hence more breathtaking! I punched along the coast road conscience on my power numbers but enjoying the process and starting to mentally prepare for the run!
As I rolled into T2 I had 2 athletes ride up past me and thank me for towing them for the last hour on the bike. Puzzled it took me a bit to figure out what they meant, they had sat my wheel, lazy bastards! 1 even wished me luck for the run, hoping I still had a good run after doing all that work on the bike, I mean seriously?!? WTF?!?!? Very disappointing, the race referee had reiterated in our brief:
“DRAFTING IS A CHOICE, chose wisely”. This is a world champs, surely we have all competed enough not to be cheating! Train hard and have the confidence to ride the bike course on your own!
My run was the highlight of my race! Again I was looking at my numbers on the bike and whilst happy most were on target, my overall bike time was slower than I expected. But my legs felt good, so all I could do was attack the run and try to set it up early. My first kilometer out of transition was a perfect 4:15min/km pace. I actually started getting a couple of little cramps in the hamstrings and had to adjust my technique at the first little uphill turnaround to try to release the cramping. It works and I was able to settle into my target pace of 4:30min/km for the next few kilometers. I ran through 10km in 45 minutes and was stoked, it was at this point I dared to dream a sub 1:40 half marathon (off the bike) may have been achievable! I started slowing a little gradually and I think my worst split was number 17, where I drifted out to 5 min pace. I was drinking coke by this stage at every aid station and had my last shot blocks and gave everything I had over the last couple of kilometer. I crossed the line in a personal best 70.3 race time of 4:47:44, nearly 5 minutes quicker than I have race before. Perhaps even better than my over all PB, was my run split of 1:37:16 which is nearly 9 minutes quicker than my previous best half marathon (off the bike)!
So with the race run let’s have a quick look at what I ate during the race. On the bike I had 1 packet of cliff shot blocks, 1 mocha coffee cliff gel, 1 lemon & lime winners gel & 1 vanilla endura gel. I drank 1 full bidon of orange hydralyte and 1 full bidon of tropical endura!
On the run I ate 1 packet of shot blocks and drank water to 7km then mouthfuls of Coke at every aid station through to the finish! As I approached the finish line I was spent, the legs were on the verge of cramping again and I had very little left to give. I scanned the crowd looking for Mel, but missing her. There is no words to describe the noise and feeling as you reach that famous Black & Red Ironman finishing carpet. The atmosphere was electric and one that will live with me forever!
After crossing the finish line and finding my support crew, I headed for a massage, got my medal engraved and decided to get changed. While I was discussing conditions and racing with another athlete, I spotted Ironman royalty approaching the recovery area, Mark Allen & Dave Scott, the Iron Wars! I stopped getting changed had a photo and a chat with both the legends and stood in awe of my day!
Am I entirely happy with how I raced, if I’m truthful, probably not, but that’s because I am my own harshest critic. At the end of the day I raced my fasted 70.3 half Ironman race ever and really, you gotta be satisfied with that. Am I grateful that I got to race at a World Championship, ABSOLUTELY. There are very few things in life that have made my happier or prouder than donning the green and gold kit and giving my all over the beautiful course that Ironman Africa created here in Port Elizabeth for the World Champs! A few fun / interesting facts:
- There were 104 countries and territories represented at the 70.3 World Champs in Port Elizabeth. Making it the biggest world championships in history!
- A total of 4,500 athletes from all over the world raced.
- The bike course elevation gain was about 200m more than reported and suggested in the athlete guide
- I saw a pod of dolphins (too many to count) as I climbed one of the hills near the turnaround west of Seaview township!
- My swim split was 30:07, bike was 2:33:06, run was 1:37:16, with a total time of 4:47:44.
- My gender ranking was 865th, my age group rank was 137th!
For those particularly interested here’s a few links to some of my data:
No race report is complete without me giving a few thank you’s, this race wasn’t possible without a lot of people’s support during my journey. Firstly to my rock and my life long partner, my travel partner, my wife Mel, I am forever grateful for every experience we get to share! To my parents, Robynne & Maurice, my in-laws, Carol & Graham, who stepped up and took over the running of our household & kids for the two weeks we were away! Truly without you 4 amazing people this trip wouldn’t have been possible! To my club mates from Starfish, Head Coach Ben, it is an honor and pleasure to coach and train alongside all of you! There are so many more people whom I need to thank, it would be remiss to name everyone (for fear I’d miss someone)! From parkrunners to gym goers, to each and every person I’ve trained with, THANK YOU! My race day was my very small way of paying tribute to our interactions!
After my race Mel & I got to relax, unwind and recovery along the Garden Route, a beautiful part of the world, from coast lines to tree tops! The perfect place to recover and reset before returning home to our enormously missed kids and family!
If you’re not active at the moment & need some inspiration, follow me on Strava, Instagram and like my facebook page and let’s get back out there swim, bike or running. Make sure you subscribe so you never miss a blog post from me! The biggest regret we can have in life is to not TRI!
Till next time build consistency, keep smiling and live to Tri!