Ironman South Africa would be my first “A” race of the year. My preparation leading into the event was the best it had ever been – I felt in shape and on form. I had changed my mindset slightly in my training as described in my previous blog and it had paid dividends. I really felt for the first time in my professional racing career that I can belong and can be competitive against the worlds best.
The race would be classed as a regional Ironman Championship event meaning a large prize purse and more points up for offer for world championship qualification. This also would mean for me tougher competition – with the number 1 and 5th ranked female on the starting line as well as a number of other credible athletes, I was in fine company.
(Hobie Beach Pier. Photo Credit: Chris Hitchcock)
The industrial town of Port Elizabeth would be the host town for the event. At first, I felt slightly insecure being there on my own but over the days leading into the event, I started to feel a little more comfortable. The town reminded me of my local seaside town of Busselton with the bike course showcasing a rugged/surf coastline similar to the cape-to-cape region of Western Australia. I could feel a sense of insecurity in regards to the segregation of the white and black cultures and was even given a lot of advice from the locals not to venture outside of high public areas on my own. Thankfully, a few other Z-Coaching athletes were also racing the event so I was able to train together and socialise with them keeping my mind at ease.
Race day was interesting for me but one I wont forget in the scheme of things. I had never felt so great and in my element. I exited the 3.8km swim (was a nice change to wear my Xterra Vendetta wetsuit!) in 10th position and had felt comfortable throughout expending very little energy. Onto the 180km bike, I made a little charge to catch 3 other women up the road and by about 20km I was sitting in the group comfortably covering any move. After the first loop at 90km I was in the top 8 riders. Onto the second loop, one of the riders in my group decided to put in a solid effort using the tail wind. Once again, myself and another rider responded and knew this was make or break time to catch the next group ahead. Onto the “major” climb on the course I started to lose contact un-expectantly only to find out that I had sustained a flat tyre. Lucky for me, I was able to dismount and calmly repair the puncture quickly with a roaming mechanic also stopping to assist. But as I was inflating the tyre, the tube punctured again and instead of limiting the time gap to my competitors – I had just lost more time. I tried to get going as quick as I could but with the cooler conditions my core temperature dropped and I found it quite difficult to get back into my previous race pace. Once again, I was stuck in “no-mans land” on my own only to see I had lost 8km to the athletes I was riding with.
(Photo credit: Ingo Kutsche)
From then on, I tried desperately to refocus and regain any lost time but knew that given the calibre of athletes and the time lost, it would be very difficult to collect substantial points for my world championship qualification (Kona). I had to be realistic, and so calculating numbers and the likelihood of athletes not finishing, I decided it was in my best interest not to continue to run the marathon. Even though I knew I could finish and may pick up a few places – there would be no benefit to my overall goal of qualifying for Kona (I needed top 7 overall or better). It was the hardest decision I have had to make racing in the pro ranks – especially when I was racing so well only to have mechanical failure stop me in my tracks. I had hit an ultimate low emotionally but looking back, one week later, it was the wisest decision. My personal goals have changed from just “finishing” to being a force to be reckoned with. This means I can recover quicker and get back to training and focus on the next Ironman and other lead up events.
So, to conclude, I apologise to my supporters for letting you down. But, I am hungrier than ever to succeed in this demanding and sometimes brutal sport. I have just spent one week in Kenya to not only clear the mind but also run with some of the best athletes in the world and gather some inspiration and motivation. I can tell you now this has been a life changing experience and one I will cherish forever. Stay tuned for my blog about Kenya in coming days…
“Always look on the bright side of life”