My debut Ironman 70.3 South Africa
As the sun steadily climbed over the horizon, a flat ocean was revealed. Some significant heat and the possibility of wind was forecast, but the sheer magnitude of 3200 athletes on the beach rendered all this minor details. I was also feeling on top of the world as I just received news that my 2:28 olympic distance debut the week before meant qualification for South African triathlon champs in March.
By start time, the sea was becoming somewhat wrinkly. The arrival of a few massive cargo ships at the nearby harbor left us riding seesaw in their wake. The openwater experience I picked up at the Saturday swims meant I had a calm and extremely fun swim and finished the 1.9km in 34 minutes.
T1 in my first half ironman was a complete blur of activity and I suddenly found myself on two wheels. The bike course is infamous for being super hilly, being ranked in difficulty only after Phuket by the guys with the coconut-sized calves. My first triathlon season was focused on learning to swim properly and dipping my 10km run under 40 minutes( a personal goal I was obsessed to achieve) but left me a weak cyclist. After just 10km I was becoming very aware of my cycling inability as a steady flow of athletes from my category was starting to overtake me. My discomfort was then exacerbated by my left cleat mysteriously loosening up to the point where I was unable to pull on that side. Further investigation revealed that a small part broke clean of while running with them in transition. I pushed on but struggled up the steep hills as standing on the pedals became impossible. Pushing on past the halfway mark saw us returning to the coast. By this time, the wind joined forces with the mountainous region. Having never done more than a 60km training ride, I was exhausted by 55 and hurting by 65. The final 20km reduced me to a snail's pace and bleeding minutes on every passing hill. The course became eerily monotonous: climb until all leaves my body then duck from the wind while speedily descending face first into the next hill. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.
Finally reaching T2 was bittersweet as I seriously doubted my ability to run on the same pair of legs that I left scattered over 90km of hellish highway. I was not about to be contempt with the debut I was having and decided to bet all on a fast run. Setting of at a pace that felt comfortable, I completed the first 5km on pace for a 1:45 half marathon. My legs felt springy and invigorated just from getting of the bike and shifting to my strongest discipline. All went well until a certain geographical feature correctly named "bunkers hill" gripped my legs in pain, focussing its furry on my right leg, already damaged pulling more weight than the left did on a slippery cleat. Again being forced to walk, I had to settle for a sluggish 2:08, almost 40 minutes slower than my PB. In the end, crossing the finish line was every bit as magical as I dreamt it to be for the previous 6 hours. My journey was far from over as a battered immune system let something nasty slip. My next two days were not spent basking in glory, but rather shivering on the bathroom floor with a mean fever and nausea. The suffering on the bike suddenly faded far away in comparison to discomfort you do not choose to impose in the exact preferred dose.
It lead me to realize how fortunate we all are to be strong. To have the ability to suppress pain with guts and to complete physical feats such as this. We are truly blessed to be triathletes. My sights are now firmly set on a full Ironman in 2014, thanks to the motivation of some of my TriDubai friends. In conclusion I must add my greatest appreciation for all TriDubai members who took time to support and motivate me, even though most of you are already experienced ironmen.