BY CHARL VAN HEERDEN
I wasn't nearly as nervous going into IMSA'17 as I was for IMSA'16. I knew what to expect, my preparation with coach Magda Nieuwoudt from Trivium was solid, I had a very specific heart-rate based race-plan which I trusted to get me to the end, and I had no injuries. The weather prediction looked great (very little wind and a warm day, which suits me perfectly). Murphy had other plans though, as always.
Race morning, and I couldn't wait to start. I was so excited, that I forgot to take my goggles and race cap from my brother who held on to them while I was getting into my wetsuit; thankfully he somehow found me among the 2000+ participants. Disaster narrowly avoided.
The swim (3.8km). Race plan: 1h15m.
It started well. I was relaxed, well prepared and determined to improve on my rather average 2016 swim time of ~1h24m. At warm water weekend, two weeks earlier, I averaged 1m53s / 100m, which was right on track with Magda's training plan. Surely I could do the same (or better) in PE?
The sea was rough (big swells which made sighting difficult), but nothing too bad. Apart from an annoying old man touching my feet about 200 times, I thought I was doing OK. When I checked my watch at the second buoy (halfway) though, I was devastated to see that I was going even slower than in 2016! I tried to speed up, but eventually got out of the water in a disappointing 1h29m, averaging 2m18s / 100m.
The bike (180km): Race plan: cadence 80-90, heart rate 155-158.
I was determined to make up for "lost" time on the bike. Murphy decided to say hi, as soon as I activated the bike leg on my watch, as there was suddenly no HR reading! Carefully tailored HR-based race plan out the window, I tried to focus only on cadence and to never push too hard, and it seemed to work well. Apart from the seriously deteriorating road surface (my aero water bottle literally broke off from the constant vibration), the bike leg went really well, and I got into transition just as Ben Hoffman finished his marathon, winning in an incredible course record time of 7h58m40s! Bike time: 5h41m (5h44m in 2016).
The run (42.2km): Race plan: 3h52m, heart rate 160-165.
Getting out of transition, my legs felt incredible. Magda's double brick sessions really paid off, as the first couple of k's after the bike is usually quite difficult while one adjusts from the bike to the run. In fact, I felt so good that I ran right up to a motorcycle that passed transition just I was getting out. When I looked behind me, I saw a mountain bike with "1st lady" written on a card. And when I looked to the side, I was running next to Daniella Ryff! For people who don't follow triathlon, this is like running on a track and suddenly finding yourself next to Usain Bolt. Or doing Comrades and suddenly finding yourself running next to Caroline Wostmann. We were cruising along at just over 4min/km. After ~1km of running with the reigning world champion (Daniella was on her final lap), some sense finally kicked in and I slacked down to a more sensible 5+min/km.
The run turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable experience. I saw my new friend Arnold a couple of times on the route (it's always nice to see someone you know that you can talk to, and who shares in the pain), and the support in PE was incredible, as always. After 04h05m (4h24m in 2016), I finally ended another incredible ironman experience in 11h29m.
The weekend and build-up to ironman was really special. The people who sent messages of support probably have no idea how much it really means (to all of you, thank you!). To the supporters who went with to PE (Sandy, Nicolette, and PW and Lee-Ane who drove all the way from Pretoria to come support me), thank you SO much. Magda, for the interesting and well-designed training plans, thanks a lot! And last but not least, to everyone who trained with me (all my new swimming friends and cycle buddies): while race-day is the so-called cherry on the cake, the training and the corresponding camaraderie really is what makes the ironman experience so special.
DEUR MARLISE ROBBERTZE
Hier is ek nou weer in Port Elizabeth, en ek moet myself heeltyd gerus stel dat ek nou niks meer aan my lot kan doen in verband met wat Sondag 2 April vir my voorlê nie.
My voorbereiding wat ek sodanig beplan het vir HIERDIE Ironman het nie so glad verloop soos ék beplan het nie…die ITB-besering waarmee ek geworstel het vanaf laasjaar Junie het my aanvanklik bietjie mismoedig laat word ten opsigte van my oefening, sodanig dat ek maar vir myself getroos het: “Hierdie Ironman gaan ek net doen vir oefening, en tien teen een die hele run moet stap aangesien ek mos nie kan hardloop nie!”
Maar, nou is die dag hier en ek is opgewonde – tog senuagtig – oor hoe ek gaan voel op hierdie tawwe dag!
Met jou eerste Ironman gaan jy die resies in met die idee: “ek gaan net kyk of ek kan klaarmaak”; noudat mens weet jy HET dit al gedoen, is daardie onsekerheid darem nie daar nie, maar nogtans het ek geweet elke race het sy eie uitdagings.
Ek staan LANK in ‘n ry en wag vir ‘n toilet, die beamptes skreeu dat ons nog net 3 minute het voordat transition sluit en ek trek inderhaas my wetsuit vinnig aan in die benoudheid dat ek dalk te laat hier gaan uitkom.
Op pad na die start kry ek my man, Nico en vriendin Adéle, ek gee vir hom my fietspomp en my streetwear-sak. Ek gee hom ‘n soen en ‘n stywe druk… en daar kom die trane in ons albei se oë. Hierdie is ook sy droom en hierdie keer moet ek dit alleen doen want hy herstel van ‘n besering!
Ek kry ‘n paar mense wat ek ken terwyl ons staan en wag en die gesels laat my tog ontspan. Dis my beurt om weg te spring en meteens is ek in die water en daar gaan ons…
Tot by die 1ste rooi boei swem ek lekker gemaklik…totdat ek moet draai…ek voel soos ‘n klein bootjie wat dobber op die groot oop see, en omdat ek gewoonlik regs asemhaal, sluk ek met amper elke asemteug ‘n hengse sluk seewater.
Die op-en-af deinings in die water en die BAIE water wat ek sluk veroorsaak dat ek amper seesiek wil word. Al wat ek vir myself heeltyd sê is: “jy sal NIE nou siek word nie, want dan is jou hele race ‘n naar storie”
Nadat ek by die 3de rooi boei gedraai het op pad huis toe, gaan dit beter en kan ek lekker asemhaal en my ritme kry. Ek swem ‘n 1:19:09.
By transition 1 trek ek rustig my fiets gereedskap aan, hardloop tot waar ons kan opklim en daar gaan ek, en SO dankbaar dat ek nie naar is na die swem nie!!!
Die 1ste 45Km verbaas ek myself op die fiets en dat ek so goed voel, en ek bid gedurig. Ek sê dankie aan my Skepper dat ek hierdie dinge kan doen!
Op pad terug met 1ste loop stop ek eers by ‘n toilet en strek so bietjie uit… die rit terug is wel bietjie swaarder en ek begin die uitdaging op die fiets nou voel met ‘n lae rugpyn wat knaend is maar ek kan nie bekostig om op te hou fokus nie, want ek wil nie onnodige tyd mors nie.
Die 2 km voordat ek draai vir die 2de “loop” sien ek my man Nico, my kinders, ouers en vriendin en dadelik verdwyn al daardie klein skete (vir ‘n rukkie). Ek glimlag van oor-tot-oor soos my kindertjies op die sypaadjie langs my hardloop. Nico bemoedig my so dat ek op pad uit met die 2 de loop sommer trane in my oë het.
Die 2de loop uit Port Elizabeth verloop weereens verbasend goed en ek praat heeltyd met myself om aan te hou hard werk sodat my average spoed kan verbeter. Die gedagte dat ek myself nie TE hard op die fiets moet druk sodat ek darem nog iets in my bene oor het vir die run, bly heeltyd by my opkom… maar tog ry ek so lekker dat ek nie eintlik meer weet hoeveel is TE hard of wat is NET genoeg nie.
Alles gaan goed en op pad terug kry ek ‘n vrou wat langs die pad vra of iemand nie dalk ‘n ekstra bomb (compressed air) vir haar het nie. Ek stop toe en gee vir haar ‘n bomb en besef dat ék dit baie sou waardeer as iemand my in ‘n krisis sou help.
Ek besluit om my laaste toilet-stop te maak aangesien ek nie weet hoe besig dit by transition gaan wees nie, voor ek verder ry strek ek eers weer!
Die laaste 20 km voor transition ry soos ‘n droom! Ek trap teen ‘n lekker hoë cadence soos my afrigter my aanbeveel het.
By transition bêre ek my fiets, draf stadig na my run bag en ek kan byna nie glo dat my bene so verbasend goed voel na die 180km fietsrit nie! Ek eindig op 6:26:38.
My 1ste km op die run kyk ek na my horlosie en wonder of die ding nie dalk stukkend is nie, want hy wys my pas is 4:45 min p/km. Maar as ek rondom my kyk, voel dit of my pas 6:00min p/km is. Ek besef HIERDIE pas sal ek nie kan handhaaf nie want my rug voel skielik of hy wil afbreek en ek besluit dat ek sal MOET stop en strek anders gaan hierdie ‘n baie lang en moeilike run wees.
Die 1ste en 2de rondtes van die run was vir my verskriklik swaar en die gedagte om te stop en loop kom heeltyd by my op. Elke water-stasie loop ek en drink Coke of water of High 5 en dit voel of my dors net nie gelês word nie.
Nico draf langs my as ek by hulle verby kom en gee my info van my coach van hoe ek myself moet pace en ek hou dit heeltyd in my gedagtes.
In die helfte van die 2de rondte besluit ek: “Nou gaan ek sommer loop” en toe besef ek hoe spyt ek gaan voel aan die einde as ek as gevolg van loop nie die tyd gaan maak waarvoor ek gehoop het nie.
Ek onthou die sin wat my coach die vorige aand vir my gesê het: “Jy moet nie aan die einde van die wedloop voel dat jy nog kon gee nie… Jy moet weet en voel dat jy ALLES wat jy kon, gegee het!”
My voete begin skielik voel of hulle wil kramp, en ek konsentreer daarop om my voete so neer te sit dat hulle nie kramp nie.
Gelukkig gaan die laaste 20km beter.
Ek gee werklik my ALLES in die laaste 3 km op pad na die einde en ek voel soos ‘n celebrity toe ek by die finish se rooi tapyte inhardloop! Hulle kondig aan: “Here comes Marlise Robbertze with a big smile on her face” en weet dat ek dit bereik het wat ek gehoop het!
My tyd is meer as 1 uur 30 minute vinniger as verlede jaar - 11:53:29.
Ek glimlag en kry trane in my oë van dankbaarheid en besef:
“HIERDIE WAS DIT ALLES DIE MOEITE WERD!!!!!”
BY LE-ROY GELDENHUYS
Coach Magda asked me to write something short about my journey...
My story - although I really want to keep it for after Ironman - has been a roller coaster ride of mental and physical pain. After going through a car accident about 6 years ago, I was left with back problems. I especially experienced back spams after the bike, which meant I couldn't do the run. I spent a lot of time and money asking people to help me achieve my dream and get me back to the event which made me my family's hero. It soon became clear that many people just wanted my money and were not truly there to assist me.
You start doubting yourself! If you take a look at my pictures (below) - you'll see that I have experienced the highs of finishing Ironmans and the low of quitting 2 kms (yes 2 kms) from the finish - due to my back. You really lose your confidence because your family are the only ones who support and believe in you.
One Friday afternoon in November I went to Magda. I had tears in my eyes and I was very skeptical. I said: "Please help me feel alive again." At that stage I couldn't even walk upright.
My passion for Ironman doesn't always make me an easy customer but she's been there for me all the way. We grow day by day. There is still a lot of work to come in the next 5 weeks.
This will be my 9th Ironman. I haven't always finished but, being a Dad, my kids are inspired by the fact that I live by the things that I have taught them: "You might not always be successful but if you fail, always stand up and go back and, you know what, ONLY IMPRESS YOURSELF."
My story isn't finish yet, and it definitely has a To be continued in it...
BY CHARL VAN HEERDEN
I was slightly nervous heading to East London. The course is infamous as one of the more difficult ones on the circuit; the bike route is the 3rd most difficult - based on participant average times - and on the run, there's Bunkers hill, twice.. On the other hand, I had confidence in the training I'd put it; I recently joined Trivium triathlon club and having soon-to-be-pro Magda create a customized program (on a weekly basis) and monitor your progress makes a huge difference.
Iron Man once again impressed with their efficiency at organizing a big event. Registration was a breeze, and the pre-race briefing was informative and fun. There was one small problem, though; my name somehow got mixed up with my street name, hence for this 70.3, I was racing undercover as *Albertyn* van Heerden.
Race morning finally arrived and I couldn't wait to get started. My swimming had improved substantially since I did Iron Man in 2016, and I confidently seeded myself as a 30-40min finisher. As soon as I dove through the first wave, though, I realized something was terribly wrong. I simply couldn't get myself to put my head under water and swim freestyle as I struggled to breathe. I'm still not sure why that happened, but I forced myself to continue swimming, albeit breaststroke, to the first marker, about 300m out. After that I was able to alternate freestyle with breaststroke, but I eventually made it out of the water in a disappointing 45mins.
When at long last I got to my bike in the transition area, ready to make up for lost time with my strongest of the three disciplines, I got my second surprise of the day: a flat back tyre. My target time of sub-6 hours suddenly became a goal for 2018. The volunteers kindly offered to help me change my tyre, only to hand me my third and last surprise of the day by accidentally unscrewing a full gas canister from the CO2 inflator, which hit me solidly in the chest (nothing serious, and I had a second canister to inflate the tyre with).
Once on the bike I started to finally enjoy the day, tremendously. The bike course is stunning, and both sides of the N2 are closed just for us! The hills going out were long, but with easy gradients, and despite the head wind on the way out, I was able to finish the bike leg in 2h59m58s (I was hoping for sub-3 🙂). Magda's killer brick sessions paid off and I was feeling great starting the half marathon. I suddenly realized sub-6 hours was in play again, and timed myself to eventually finish in 5h58m.
Before I knew it, a great weekend was over. The road trip with my good friend Gaffi was awesome (he showed me the route for a race I'm never going to do: the Washie 100miler). It was great meeting up with old friends (Elana, Dewan), and I made new friends (Rika, Magda, Roy, Melissa) who share the passion for trying.
BY RIKA NIEUWOUDT
Immediately on arrival East London made it very clear that we are now in the backyard of one of the most difficult 70.3 races in the world. I got out of the airplane and wind gusts welcomed me. That is when I realized this is going to be tough and I prayed that the wind and conditions will be better coming race day.
Waking up on Sunday it felt like perfect conditions but little did I know I still need to work hard. Swim start is always fun. You can feel the adrenaline of each individual. I started the swim at the >30 minute wave and got to meet a few new people just before the start. That's my motto during the race – enjoy it and meet new people.
Starting the swim with the sea feeling calm I quickly reached the first turn point and then settled into a great rhythm. I found myself smiling while swimming and thinking, "I am one with nature, why would I not enjoy this?" Turning at the third buoy, about 1,4 km in the race, I got a smack on my swimming goggles which made me stop in my tracks. With a few breast strokes I regained composure and worked till the last turn (the only right turn on the course) and now it was stroke for stroke all the way home. Getting in transition, I always appreciate the lovely volunteers. They helped me get on my bike, ready to take on the N2 with full road closure and no cars.
Making my way on the N2 I got stung by a bee. I started to feel anxious because I am allergic to bee stings, but luckily adrenaline helped me to fight the poison and I could safely carry on. On this course I realized why you should never stop to respect this sport called triathlon. Your body quickly has to adapt from swimmer to cyclist and you push through burning legs and your brain just keeps you going.
This was a very tough bike for me because it felt like the wind was constantly following me head-on. Turning off the N2 going back to Orient Beach you are greeted by a final climb. This is where I felt like I don’t want to do this and I saw a guy racing in a full orange suit (he was racing for more than himself) and I knew, if he can do this with those clothes, I have no excuse.
After the bike, we start with the run leg. Again your body needs to adapt - this time from cyclist to runner but now you face a thing called gravity. No wetsuit or wheelset to help you forward but only you and the road. Running was never a specialty I enjoyed, but since joining Trivium Triathlon club I started enjoying running. Coach Magda helped me with structured weekly training programs to feel confident in my running and the track sessions with the team made running fun. Yes I just said running is fun!
Going up Bunkers Hill, not once but twice, is not a joke but that is where the friends you make along the road help you on. All the supporters shouting your name as if they knew you personally or playing some music and making road showers for you to run through make this race worthwhile.
Going over the finish line with a better time this year (with tougher conditions than last year), I have my coach and great Trivium-team to thank. You made it worth it!
East London 70.3, I will never underestimate you again.
This blog is written by the coach and athletes associated with Trivium.