*** many thanks to Leana Less for this race report ***

A dream come true!

About 15 years ago I saw a TV program on Ironman.  I was not familiar with this ultra triathlon, and this particular episode highlighted the journey of some of the everyday people that decided to take on this grueling event.  I will never forget how that particular show moved me – and I immediately added Ironman to my bucket list.  I was in no rush to tick it off my list though!  But as the years passed, my desire to do this race just kept growing.

In 2009 I was ready and lined up with fellow hopefuls on the beach in Port Elizabeth, I however got severely dehydrated that day and had to make the tough decision to withdraw.  I was a DNF. 

Sadly I had to wait a number of years before I would again have the opportunity to train for this amazing event. 

In this journey I had to learn that things don’t always go as planned.  This year Abu Dhabi was supposed to be my dress rehearsal for the big day, but again I had to withdraw from the race, I had an infection and was simply too weak to complete the race.  Another DNF.  I had to pull myself together after Abu Dhabi and remind myself that I never wanted to say “I did Abu Dhabi…” (no disrespect) – I wanted to say “I am an Ironman”.  One failure in my training plan was not going to let this dream slip through my fingers.

It is so easy to be confident when I look at myself in the mirror, but then you arrive in PE, and of course for days you are surrounded by the leanest, fittest, most muscular looking people!  The weather remained an unpredictable factor.  And then there is my own mind that kept swinging from “wow I am really doing this” to “look at that guy!  Now he looks like an Ironman, you, not so much”.

Then race day arrived, the day I dreamed for years, and the event that for the last six months dominated my days, if not in action then in thoughts.  It was a beautiful day.  The weather was perfect.  I survived the swim, I felt comfortable on the ride and I kept focusing on running for as much of the time as I could.  The entire time though I just felt so happy to be out there, making one of my biggest dreams come true!  I was extremely emotional in the last 3 kilometers of the run.  I honestly cried a few happy tears, and had to control myself to not burst out in uncontrollable euphoric crying. I know that sounds dramatic, but I kept thinking “less than x minutes then I am going to be an Ironman!”

Running down that red carpet!  What a moment, the crowds were going crazy, my family was going ballistic and I was the most excited of everyone!

LEANA LESS, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Anyway – I know this is supposed to be a blog and not my humble life story!  For me it was the perfect day, and there is nothing that I would change – however if I had to do it again… there is definitely room for improvement.

Here is my list to self and to you:

  • Swim more.  As a weak swimmer I avoided swimming as much as I could.  I don’t think I can get much faster – but I can definitely become more confident.  I had a mini panic attack around the first bouy – you don’t want to think “OMG I am not going to make it”
  • T1 take TriDubai towel.  I packed a hand towel (to safe space in bag), but swimming in 17 degree water for nearly 2 hours, when you are at your leanest, meant that I was very cold when I got out the water.  I shivered uncontrollably, and the lady next to me threw her towel over me.  So my transition was much slower than planned.
  • Follow checklist.  I have spent years perfecting my checklist, but didn’t use it!  So left my running cap at home (bought 3 at expo…) – and I placed my sunglasses in my run bag – long day squinting into the sun on the bike…
  • Don’t experiment on the day.  Oldest mistake in the book – I changed my running shoes 2 weeks before the race.  Same brand, same model, but different color to match my outfit…  So thank goodness my shoes didn’t clash with my outfit, but running with growing blisters should rather be avoided.
  • Be prepared for anything.  I always used to have stomach issues on my ultra running events.  And again I had to make 4 toilet stops on the run.  If only I packed an Imodium tablet, I could have saved at least 15 minutes.
  • Race on race day.  In 2009 I pulled out at the 28km mark on the run.  It made me overly cautious this year.  I only ran the distance between 12 – 16 street lamps, and then walk the distance between 2 – 3 street lamps.  I didn’t need to walk, in fact I didn’t want to walk, but I kept forcing myself to walk, I didn’t need to be that reserved. 
  • Relax more – enjoy the entire week, not just race day :)