I left committing to this race very late in the day and only actually decided I was 100% on it 5 weeks beforehand. The original plan was to do Powerman Florida at the beginning of December but unfortunately not through my own fault it didnt come together. So new advisor and coach Dr Martin Yelling of http://www.active-futures.com/ suggested 70.3 South Africa and with Christmas allowing plenty of time to train with no work I figured it would be a good and exciting opportunity, or so I thought! What I hadn't accounted for was the huge amount of snow that decided to dump itself on most of the country for the best part of my build up! I can remember one day in particular very well, on my plan I was supposed to run but everywhere had iced up badly so thought I would swim instead but the pool was shut so thought no big deal will run on the treadmill but the gym shut as well! So preparation was not ideal and unfortunately no squad to swim with over Xmas either so was very nervous going into this about holding my own and pulling out something respectable.
I touched down in Buffalo City, East London on the Tuesday before the race to overcast sky's but very humid conditions, the weather here though can change at the drop of a hat and it wasnt long before the sun was out I think if I were to race here again then I would get out the weekend before just to allow enough time to fully acclimatise because on that run course on race day it hit 33 degrees!
What made the lead up to the race very easy was meeting up with first timer and Liverpudlian Richie Williams of Tri Central. It was a chance meeting, I found him on the road on my way back from the bike shop on my first day. The guy has so much enthusiasm its scary and has only been in the sport 7 months. It was a welcome distraction from my own agenda listening to his experiences and thoughts about the race. Plus he had been out there a little longer than me so knew about where to go and more importantly where not to go!
By Thursday the buzz of the race had started to filter into town and the area was starting to look more like an ironman venue. The pro briefing was straight to the point and a fairly relaxed affair, organisation was very slick as to be expected.
Race day came around in no time at all and i found myself on the start line for the beach start into the water. For reasons discussed previously the swim was going to be about damage limitation and I think I executed an ok performance here but unfortunately didn't have the miles in the pool to keep with the guys a little further up in the water where i would normally place myself but in terms of time it wasn't much to speak of.
Through transition fairly sharpish and out onto the bike. Now if you look at the course profile map it gives you the impression that its all up hill heading out to the turn and all down hill coming back. This is true but its rolling the whole way so your either going up or down. What I hadn't accounted for was the fact that the wind would be behind use on the way out and into our face coming back which really screwed things up especially because I went out far too quickly and by 45 minutes my lack of time on the road over the last few weeks was telling, the turbo is great but its by no means a full replacement for riding on the road. Towards the end of the bike I was suffering and my lower back wasn't great, not helped by the fact that I dropped my bottle at the final feed station. I had lost a lot of ground and I think was around 17th. I wasn't feeling good going into T2 but once out onto the run that started to change despite feeling like I was running in an oven. It was clear that I was running down most of the field in front of me and was actually feeling good despite the poor bike.
Onto the last lap of the run and I knew by the shouts from the crowd that I was catching two of the Storm brothers who are very popular South African athletes so this gave me the push I needed on the final lap to empty the tank and to my surprise it was enough to run into 10th position out of the pro's and 11th overall (an age grouper just nicked in front!) So of course with the position in the race I am delighted. The performance had good points but also bad points particularly the bike but under the circumstances I felt I did the best I could and can certainly improve on this, plus the year is young so plenty of time to plan my next outing!
A big well done to Richie who nailed his first effort and is off to Clearwater! A tough first effort too considering I reckon that South Africa is one of the tougher courses on the circuit.
I am off to soothe my sunburn!!