*** many thanks to Kieran Ballard-Tremeer for this race report ***

Following all the wonderful race reports from IMSA 2013 posted on TriDubai website recently, I was initially somewhat hesitant to send mine in. Firstly because I am temporarily in South Africa for several months so not attending TriDubai sessions (feel like an outsider at the moment!) and secondly because 2013 IMSA was not a great race for me this year. However, I guess it is good to give feedback and learn from our experiences so here it is.

So….here it is.

PRE EVENT

Having arrived in Port Elizabeth, I merrily settled into the gorgeous guest house a few km from the IM start. I was introduced to the only other triathlete staying there. Upon a little chat I realized he was from New Zealand and could do 9 hour 30min Ironmans. OK. Gulp. The owner of the guesthouse told me his times. The Athlete himself was quite and his calm demeanor helped keep nerves at bay pre race. I secretly hoped that hanging around this machine person a little would help some of his Ironmaness creep into my aura and give me extra speed for the race. Anyway….moving on.

THE SWIM

Having survived the 2012 IMSA almost gale force swim conditions, I felt very happy to be on the start line again with better weather and the sun rising blissfully orange and pink over the horizon. This had to bode well for the race right? Following the SA National Anthem, some tears from my compatriots and some sighs over the pretty sunrise I felt ready to go! It is special to do this event and even more so in your home country. The peace and nostalgia didn’t last long however, as the cannon went off with a huge boom marking the stampede to the water and straight into the first enormous wave.

I smacked into the wave more with the force of the 1600 swimmers behind me pushing forward and my left goggle suctioned very firmly onto my eyeball. In fact it literally was pressing my eyeball with no space to blink!! That aside however, I wish I had taken up boxing classes to assist me with the very rough approach many swimmers had this year! The first buoy and to a lesser extent the second and fourth were so jam packed with swimmers/boxers that there was nothing for it but to almost go vertical and do doggie paddle. I tried asking the man behind me to stop hitting me, before realizing I was a very small fish in all this congested bowl and deciding to simply get to the end asap. I kicked anyone off me who even touched my feet, to avoid being pushed under into the watery depths.  I took in lots of salt water from all the arms and legs splashing around me in spite of efforts not to. This was a first for me as I always make sure I don’t swallow the sea. I still hadn’t blinked my left eye due to the silly suction from the goggles from the first wave. It felt odd and vision was tricky. The course is 1.9km twice with short run during which time I refitted the goggles and my timing chip which had slipped down onto my heel. 33mins at halfway, but so many swimmers around! Usually I fit somewhere in between the uber fast fish people (Deidre and Roy types) and the bulk of the swimmers with less congestion. I guess due to Kona slot increase and perhaps other factors there were a lot of very strong swimmers all swimming between 1 hour and 1hr10 so very congested in the water. As mentioned in other IMSA reports the large swells made sighting the buoys very tricky (had to wait for the big swell to go by then view) which increased most swim times somewhat. I was down 7 minutes on my swim, but still did well in ladies placing and in my age group came out 5th, happy to be alive and moved my thoughts on to the Bike.

*Mental notes for next event:

  • Take up boxing.
  • Spit out sea water
  • No sea conversations just breathe, swim, survive
  • Don’t slam in to wave dive through it

THE BIKE

Following a great start to the bike course, easing up the long 14km hill and the thrill of realizing it was so much easier to bike than 2012 (VERRRRY windy year) I settled in to my pace which I had worked so hard to increase from 25kph in my first year of cycling to 28kph this year allowing for the hills on the course. However my speedometer showed 0 no matter how much I tried to fix it.  I had checked it the day before and was fine. So all cycling was done by my watch and body feel. The first two laps were spot on, but then the day threw a few slaps at me. By loop number 3, the Aid Station at 14/74/138km ran out of GU and no others had any food whatsoever. Given the length of the race this was not a good thing. When I saw 4x sealed GU chomps packets on the road I stopped and opened them and ate the lot. This could have been my downfall error or, either the GU brew offered at the aid stations was not going down well, or the combination of salt water/ hot weather ?? had made me feel really ill. Never having had any form of gastro issues in training of events I was not quite sure what to do. So after simply stopping when needed along the route and trying to keep the water/electrolytes intake right, I resorted to an unexpected plan D. Plan A was 13 hours finish, Plan B if previously injured foot played up, a run walk 1330/45 finish and plan C more walking than running 14 hours finish. I had no Plan D until 130km on the bike. Plan D-I burst into tears. I felt aweful and dizzy. The tears, I guess because of the disappointment of my times now going out of the window and the possibility of not finishing the race if my tummy didn’t settle down somewhat. With all the prep and mental energy which goes into these races it is very disappointing not to go to plan.

I quietly peddled onwards towards transition with 10km to go still in tears and saw Kenneth Hubbard (TriDubai) shoot past me looking very strong. I shouted hi, but he was on a mission, and seeing his effort and knowing so many friends were actively on the same route all with their own challenges and goals definitely gave me some positive energy. The tears stopped and I tried to pull myself together.

I slowly wheeled a bit wobbly into transition more than 7 hours on the bike. I sat for several minutes letting my calmness return and dizziness subside, and hearing the roar of the crowds outside and knowing my twin sister and Dad were out there waiting to see me, I decided to see how the run went.

*Mental notes for next time:

  • Get a speedometer which works
  • Carry own GU/food for when the aid stations run out
  • Don’t swallow sea water
  • Reapply sunscreen (see finish photo!)
  • Don’t eat 4 packets of GU Chomps in one go

THE RUN…LONG WALK

I had had a foot injury a month prior to IMSA from old shoes, but had rested it a few weeks. It felt fine as I started the run. I felt surprisingly strong receiving the first wrist band at 3km and some hope of having a decent run returned. My tummy had other ideas though and soon the jolting up and down was not helping at all. So I tried a fast walk to see if this would minimize any need for further stops along the way. I didn’t know I could walk at 8.5mins a km. Was quite impressed when I saw the walking times on Ironman Live afterwards! Meeting others along the walk, and seeing how so many were in pain and really focusing on their goal to finish was an amazing experience to see. The tail end of Ironman finishers are a different type of triathlete. Most are just ordinary people who want to do something extraordinary. The determination of these walk/joggers all calculating their final marathon to beat the 17 hour clock was admirable and I then I realized that I had the wrong approach to this particular race. I needed to cheer up. I have a body which, even when not feeling great, can complete an Ironman. It is our choice to keep moving towards the red carpet finish line (unless injured) and our choice to see it as a celebration of what we can do with ourselves when challenged. Many people don’t have a choice and cannot do what those 1700 of us did on April 14th.

Triathletes racing for Richard Holland

I thought of Richard Holland, whom many of us were racing for awareness for and immediately switched from negative thoughts of the day to one of pure elation at being able to simply complete this event. I moved into walk overdrive using a little hip sway too. Must have looked odd. My energy returned so much so that when that red carpet came into sight finally, I ran full of energy and leapt high over the finish line grinning from ear to ear with elation and thanks. Ironman number 2 done. Nice finish photo!

6’11 walk time, 7’15 bike, 1’07 swim.  2 hours off my goal, but IMSA 2013 achieved.

*Mental notes for next time:

  • Positive self talk
  • Never underestimate the power of walking
  • Moving out of the bubble of my own race and using the hardships and also the energies of those around me on the day to motivate onwards.
  • Have a plan for unhappy tummies
  • Sunscreen
  • Smile for the camera;)

THE LIMP TO GUESTHOUSE

So, elated at having finished the race and got the medal and also seeing my family who had supported the whole week, I returned to the guest house to rest.  As I navigated the staircase verrry slowly up to my loft room for my shower and finally for bed, I took a moment to be thankful for all those who have crossed my path in training this past year and helped me reach this goal. My family, TriDubai, all the machine people I have met who loyally urge me onwards in speed as the Caboose of the triathlon train, all those who just take time to chat about the little things which make a difference, those who encouraged me and those who discouraged me, and those whose smsses got me out of bed on early mornings to head down to train in the dark.

In spite of the pain and emotions of the day, I have already decided on my next Ironman events for the next 12 months. This time with renewed vigour, plans A,B,C,D and E and a thorough training and eating plan for race day. Bring it on!

*Mental Notes:

  • Book guesthouse on ground floor-hard to navigate stairs post race
  • Try to become a little faster
  • Use the experience of others/friends to assist me on my next quest
  • ALWAYS attend the Ironman party! It was such fun and great way to close the IMSA experience. There are a few party people in triathlon!;)