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.