Race Reports (24)
- Wednesday, 21 August 2019
Finish time of 13h06 at the 2019 Standard Bank Ironman African Championship South Africa! The windy city delivered the wind on the race day the 7th April and the swim distance was shortened to 2.2km. Rough swimming conditions on the day, considering my non-existing swimming background. I managed to get through the storm on the swim and soon after that, I was on my bike, faced with 180km cycle.
I put my head down and got to work, following the plan that my coach produced. The windy conditions made up for the shortened swim, making the bike leg testing and taxing. After 7h08, I arrived at transition 2 and was getting ready to tackle a marathon.
I was eager to deliver a good time on the marathon and I soon realised it’s going to be a tough one. After 21km, I hit a wall and remembered that I must keep going forward, at least according to the my coach’s plan. The plan was to run/walk and 5km later I was strong again. It only lasted up to 30km and I was back to plan B again, run/walk. At this point nothing mattered except to finish the race. After 4h53 I was at the finish line.
Looking at the picture when I crossed the finished line, I looked like I had gone through a war zone. The feeling for defeating this monster was unreal, at that point I thought I will never let myself go through this again! I can say “I have bragging rights for a life time!”
What a wonderful opportunity it was when I was asked to do a Race Report of a race which was a personal accomplishment for me.
Nevertheless, in 2018 my training partner Abdool and I decided to run the 21.1 km in a team at the Joburg Ultra Long Distance Triathlon race on the 2nd of December 2018 at the Cradle. Both of us, for different reasons, had the desire to be able to participate in a long distance race and receive a medal to show for it. At that stage I was training on my own and although I did the km’s, the kmph was an absolute disgrace – even for my age.
During October 2018 I received the bad news that I had to urgently undergo an operation on my right leg. After negotiations with the Dr he agreed that I could participate at the TTA Triathlon Champs on the 4th of November 2018 to qualify for the SA sprint Triathlon champs in January 2019. However, I immediately thereafter had to go for the operation. On the 6th of November I underwent surgery on my leg. I had to wear compression socks day and night for 6 weeks – so the dream of competing in the long distance triathlon disappeared into thin air and I felt extremely cheated.
After the SA Sprint Triathlon, which went ok, taking into consideration that I had only a few weeks to train, Abdool and I decided to enter and train for the 21.1 Wally Hayward on the 1st May 2019.
To be honest and with a little bit of embarrassment, I have to confess, because of our fitness level,Abdool and I started to run / walk a 5km. My husband’s remarks on the distance and the time it took us, I shall keep for myself. Every weekend after that we improved on what we did the previous Saturday. After we could run the 5km without any effort, we began increasing the run distance by 1 km a week. Then 1,5km and then 2km. We did different routes, some easier than others, just to not let the boredom of doing the same route, get the better of us. Two weeks before the event we did an 18km run. We were so tired at times that we had to walk. At that stage both of us, especially I became extremely disillusioned as my common sense told me that there was no way that we will be able to finish the race in the cut-off time, although we trained very hard and according to our levels. After the disastrousness 18 km run, I asked Nico to work out if we would be able to finish the race and he said we would be able to, if we could average 9:45 min per km. This gave us a goal to work towards in the race and we felt more positive. We were also extremely fortunate to be injury free at all times, which was wonderful, as we increased our training gradually and with caution.
I then realised that we needed a taper program for the last week and a half as my expertise as a coach did not reach that far. Both Abdool and I were extremely worried of how little we had to do those few last days. Some days only 30 min run or easy swim for an hour, or 40 min cycle on a spinning bike.
On the day the taper paid off and I felt good and ready for the race, but was also a little nervous. Abdool and I could not find each other at the start, as there were just too many people. It took Abdool 2km to catch up with me, because we were so far apart at the start. When I saw him I was so relieved as the thought had crossed my mind that I would not be able to finish the race without my training partner, as we depended on each other for moral support.
At 9 and 10km we did our best splits, running 8:52 min per km. We also had a wonderful surprise when Annerie and Wooding waved and cheered us on as we ran under the bridge at 10km. At 16 km (which was a slight uphill) I was really battling to keep on running and our split for that km was10:04. I got extremely worried, as I was too tired to work out what our predicted finish time will be, although Abdool assured me that we were on track – he can do “somme”.
At 18km we came across an aid station. I took something to drink and kept on running. What I did not noticed at that time, was that Abdool stopped to finish his coke. When I realized Abdool was behind me I stopped and called him to catch up with me. I was too scared to stop and wait for Abdool as my goal was on finishing in time, which I realized was passing extremely fast and stopping for Abdool to catch up with me was just too much for my tired body, as I would not have been able to start running again. At 21km my dear friend Lorraine came from the front to cheer us on. She saw Abdool behind me and after spoken to me went to support him as well.
Running into the stadium, cheered on by a number of Sterk Span athletes who gracefully waited for Abdool and myself, I burst into tears because I then realized that all the hard work was not in vain. We finished the 21.51km in 3:24. A precious 6 minutes to spare!!!
For my training partner, Abdool, I have the utmost respect as he is kind and a real gentlemen whenever we train together. Without him I would not have been able to finish this race in time.
I was also tearful when I read Nico’s unexpected WhatsApp message on the social group in which he congratulated us on our big personal achievement. Nico also posted a message on Facebook in which he wrote “Alma and Abdool must be our heroes for last week, both running against the odds and finishing the Wally Hayward Half Marathon ... I am so proud.”
Although some of us are older and much slower than the rest of the group, we all feel special in the Sterk Span family, as we get praised for achievements, which is the result of hard training and perseverance, no matter how slow or how fast we are.
I went into the Durban race feeling strong, fit and well-preparedfor the race. my coach didn't want to taper me too much for the race as we have discovered that I race better if I am not tapered completely, and I think that worked well. I had recently raced Sun-City Ultra and done a personal best on the bike and was feeling quite confident and hoping to do a personal best overall time for Durban 70.3.
On the morning of the race, although there were shuttle buses fetching athletes along the Promenade and taking them to T1, I had asked my husband to drive me down to T1, as the buses were full and many athletes were left waiting on the side of the road for a long time.
I arrived at the holding pens a little later than I had hoped and struggled to squeeze my way into the 30 minutes and under section. Even though I eventually made it there, I didn't manage to start as early as I had hoped. Nevertheless, I had a strong swim. The water was beautiful. Flat. Not much current at all. I climbed out the water second in my age category. Racing through T1, I felt strong and looked forward to the bike.
The bike section was awesome,- the weather was perfect! A light breeze, no strong winds, and a beautiful temperature. I held back a little bit,- my heart settling slightly slower than what was on my race plan, but I wanted to go by how I felt on the dyad set myself up for a solid run. The bike went well for me. I knew that I would loose some places one the bike. My bike is a work in progress. I climbed off the bike and had dropped to 8th in my age category but was feeling really good.
On the run I was able to run faster than what was on my race plan. My legs felt strong and I managed to move up to 6th position in my age category, which is where I finished. And I managed a personal best time 05:29:16 for the Durban course, shaving 5 minutes off both the bike and the run, from when I did it last year.
I had an awesome race and thoroughly enjoyed it! Of course, it was awesome to see fellow team mates on the course, as well as coaches, friends and my husband cheering from the side-lines. I must say, I am grateful for the training program, race plan, input and advice from the Sterkspan coaches, and fellow athletes. It really helps. #Sterkspanrocks
Happy with my result given the past 9 month's recovery from my ankle injury which few know about. Managed to gain similar fitness levels and form compared to Xterra Reunion 2017 just before my injury. Proud moment for myself, especially after 2 specialist doctors told me I will never again compete in an off road triathlon or an elite level again....cheers to them - at least I managed the 2nd fastest run split???!
Well done to Bradley Weiss 1st, Michael Lord 2nd and Brice Daubord 3rd all three of them well deserved podium finishers. Proud of my fellow team mates Adriaan Myburgh in 8th overall and Adriaan Wooding top 10 in his age group. Both making solid improvements!
Thank you to everyone who supported me with my rehab and who helped me a long the way!
Hope you are well.
A lot of you have not seen me in a while and must be wondering where I have gone into hiding.
Basically, in short, I have achieved extraordinary racing results during the past month in numerous local and international events. I will most probably not be able to give a full account about the extent of my hardships that I have faced during my races. I have been pushed to my physical and mental limits in my most recent race - JoBerg2C, 9 DAYS LONG over 1000 km MTB racing. I am currently considering many aspects regarding being a professional athlete vs not being a full time athlete, enjoying life and focusing on my business ventures!
The events in which I took part;
- 8th and 9th April – Cradle Mountain Bike Stage Race. Finished 1st overall in Gauteng’s biggest MTB stage race of the year! Believe it or not I only managed to win the 2 day stage race with 9 seconds to the 2nd overall athlete!
- 16th April – Xterra Reunion World Series Race (This is a triathlon consisting of swimming 1.5 km in the ocean / 30 km MTB / 11 km Trail Running). The World series events are the highest level circuit for elite men in the world to compete in off road triathlon. I Finished 4th overall and I competed against some of the best Xterra athletes in the world, including the Xterra World Champion! Reunion Island is the most beautiful holiday spot imaginable. Astonishing beaches, mountains, volcanoes and forest! My 4th place overall will go into my books as one of my best Triathlon results to date!
- 21st to 29th April – Old Mutual JoBerg2C MTB Stage race. After the Absa Cape Epic, this is the world’s second biggest MTB stage race. The hardest, most brutal race I have ever competed in. It is a 9 day event in which you, as a pro cyclist, have to ride as hard as you can each day with distances ranging from 90 km – 130 km per stage! I Broke my ankle on stage 7 and had to pull out of the race with my team mate Travis Walker. We were racing for the KARAN BEEF Ellsworth Pro MTB Team. Until stage 7 we were overall in the GC standings 4thand busy putting pressure on the 3rd team – Road Cover! Never before has a full time triathlete such as myself competed in a MTB stage race in South Africa on this level. Some of our stage results were my most astonishing but hardest achievements of my life. I raced with arguably the best and most talented cyclist of my generation in South Africa, Travis Walker, as my team mate. He completely rode me into the grave!
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cV_mUjPr-Hc – You can view one of the stages on YouTube!
- Tuesday, 31 January 2017
The long and the short story is that from the Sunday 15th January I develop an upset stomach and muscle pain. I tried to avoid any type of medicine and go about my final week of prep for the Xterra Full race as per normal. Unfortunately by Wednesday, 18th January afternoon I started feeling worse and experienced muscle pain and cramps while training. Thus I made the decision to consult with my Uncle (who is a Doctor) and he prescribed to me normal probiotics and Ciprobray XR 500 (Antibiotic medicine). Plus he said I should go and get a electrolyte drip to get my hydration levels back to normal.
I took my first of the three Ciprobray pills that Wednesday evening.
Thursday morning I took my second pill with the thought process to take my last pill the Friday morning – to enable me to compete with most of the antibiotics being worked out of my system as it takes more or less 24 hours to do so…I started feeling better during the course of that Thursday morning the 19th January. Thus I believed that the medicine worked and it did a good job of helping me to recover from the stomach bug.
11h30 am that same morning I went to Irene Intercare clinic. As my doctor recommended a possible hydration drip for me to get my electrolyte count back to normal and make sure I am well hydrated. The Doctor at Irene Intercare felt that I was well on the road to full recovery. He therefore said I did not have to receive any electrolyte drip based on my symptom improvement and his physical assessment. He also said that I should keep on using the Ciprobray antibiotic medicine as it was clearly working for me.
At the same time unfortunately my left lower leg started to get stiff and sore. But I did not feel it had any relevance to my stomach bug or symptoms and therefore I did not discuss it with the Doctor. The stiffness and pain increased during the course of the day especially around my ankle area. I casually shrugged it off, thinking that I must have sprained my ankle somehow while running on Wednesday or the Thursday morning. Unfortunately during the afternoon the stiffness got worse and the pain got more severe. It got to such a point that in the evening I didn’t want to walk and tried to move as little as possible.
Friday morning and both legs felt the same – stiff and sore around my ankles. As if I managed to sprain my ankles in all directions hurting each and every tendon and ligament in that area. That morning I did my usual final equipment preparation and admin. Hoped that during the day the pain will go away or at least subside, as the pain was by now 8/10 while sitting (after I took my third pill).
(At the time I thought it might be pre-race anxiety, as I could not explain the symptoms that I experienced).
Trying to keep this story short – by 5pm the Friday before the race I decided to call the Doctor at Irene Intercare and asked his opinion concerning my ankle pain and stiffness in both legs. Once I got hold of him, he told me that I should stop from all types physical activity immediately and should not race the following day as I can possibly rupture my Achilles tendon. That was it, now real explanation or reason as he was busy consulting with other patients. I then opened the contra indication leaflet for the Ciprobray medicine and could clearly see that one of the side effects from using this medicine is a weakening of your joints, tendons and ligaments.
I started contacting other medical experts. In total 6 (including a surgeon and anesthesiologist) who all to some level off degree told me that Ciprobray is highly dangerous for athletes (and elderly people, diabetics and people with kidney problems). I spoke to athletes and non – medical experts who all was not aware of the danger using this type of medicine. Clearly indicating to me that most of us have never really understood the danger involved when using this type of antibiotics. Most non – medical experts told me that there is no way the medicine can be harmful to me to such an extent that I might rupture my Achilles tendon. Little did they actually now – like myself – how dangerous it may be and probably thousands of athletes have experienced Tendon and Ligament injuries due to this type of medication without realizing it.
Ciprobray XR 500 mg.
“…Fluoroquinolones, including Cipro XR, have been associated with an increased risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture in all ages [see Warnings and Precautions and Adverse Reactions. This adverse reaction most frequently involves the Achilles tendon, and also been reported in the rotator cuff (the shoulder), the hand, the biceps, the thumb, and other tendons. Tendinitis and tendon rupture can occur within hours or days of starting Cipro XR, or as long as several months after completion of fluoroquinolone therapy. Tendinitis and tendon…” rupture can occur bilaterally…”
The Fluoroquinolones infiltrate your soft tissue – especially around your ankle area. Your body then develops antibodies to get rid of the Fluoroquinolones, which increases the inflammation in your soft tissue which ultimately leads to weakening and tendonitis in affected areas. Thus it is an allergic reaction and can take hours, days or months to be worked out of your body…
So the morning of the race I did the responsible thing and did not take part in Xterra Buffelspoort Full….what a huge disappointment for me;
The past 5 years I have solely been training and preparing for this race – explaining to people this race is more important than World Champs for me. Mainly due to it being a high profile event locally and a race that have seen in the past some of the greatest Xterra athletes in the world compete in and win this race. Plus a personal goal I wanted to reach before moving on to other types of events I would want to race.
The race was at a time the biggest Xterra in the world and part of the World Series. Thus the race has a huge reputation!
Another sore point for me was that the race being so early in the year meant that year after year I trained the whole December time and did very little in terms of relaxing and holidaying. Not mentioning the amount of training hours, time and hard earned money in order to try and win this event.
Strangely this year the Full event saw a very low number in top level professional athletes competing….something I would have never bargained on. At least 12 top performing athletes over the past 2 years did not compete/finish – who you normally would expect to be at the race, racing for podium positions…
Thus when I stood at the swim exit area the morning of the race – like a normal spectator – watching the other athletes taking part. The emotion and feeling of disappointment overwhelmed me so much that I had to leave the venue and get myself together again. I ended up supporting all the athletes at various points on the bike and run legs of the race. Luckily Adriaan Myburgh (One of Sterkspan up and coming athletes) had such a good race, he took away my attention from my own self-pity to his success and happiness and it rubbed off. Adriaan finished in an outstanding and surprisingly 3rd overall position. He is a person with an exceptional high work rate and always willing to learn. His humbleness will take him far in the Sport!
After all the formalities and prize giving ended I left the venue to our small cabin in the Magalies Berg mountains where we planned on to stay over for the weekend. I then started feeling down and disappointed all over again. I had such a strong urge to race and have fun while doing so. I told myself that regardless of the Doctors opinions I want to race the Xterra Lite the next day.
Xterra Lite, 400 m swim, 18 km Mtb and 6 km trail run – Only called the Lite event of Xterra due to it being more or less half the distance/effort as the full Xterra event. Believe me there is nothing easy about the event. The intensity and speed racing at the sharp end of the field in these type of events is nothing but frantic. (Something I personally am not very familiar with)
I also knew the amount of disappointment some of my sponsors and supporters will experience with the news that I could not take part in the event. It all then became very obvious to me; that somehow I had to try and make the best out of the current situation.
By late Saturday afternoon (now more than 24 hours after my last pill of Ciprobray) my legs started to feel better again and by the evening the pain was almost gone.
The next morning I woke up and I felt much better, fresh and positive in general terms. I then told myself I will give it until 8:00 am to make the final decision, whether or not to race.
I arrived at the Buffelspoort Venue the Sunday morning (we stayed 10 min drive away from the venue so it was no real effort to go and either race/support the morning) at around 8:10 am. The moment I saw all the athletes getting ready for the race….I started to feel the same as the day before – I wish I can race and take part in the fun. I then knew I should race and give it a go!
I rushed to get all my equipment ready to take part in the event. I was not really kitted out or prepared as an athlete should be an hour before the race. Most who know me will tell you it was a remarkable achievement for me to get race ready in less than 45 min!
Once I stood on the start line with 1600 other athletes I realized why I love racing so much. I am addicted to the rush and feeling of excitement while not knowing what will happen next!
The rest is history – I comfortably won the race and enjoyed every second off it. Not once did I push harder than 85% effort on the bike or on the run leg. Only on the 400 m swim leg did I go more or less as hard as I could….
Reflecting back now at the whole weekend. I would have been down and depressed until now if I did not race. So big was my initial disappointment and self-pity. I would have also not known whether my current fitness and form was strong or needed more work leading up to the upcoming Xterra events I will take part in. Thus in a nutshell I am very pleased that I had a second change to race and that I managed to win the event. Even though it wasn’t the race I planned on to take part in.
The race completely changed my mood and general feeling, no drug or counselling would have been so effective or successful. As the amount of effort and time I had to endure for this weekend was so big that I would have regretted not racing for a very long time.
The person who finished in an outstanding 2nd position at the Xterra Lite is no other than our very own – Xander van der Merwe. One of the most promising and talented junior male athletes in the country and a person who I proudly call my athlete. He is known for a ferocious tendency to be competitive and loves to win. Seldom have I seen an athlete who set such high standards with his training and racing. He is the ultimate race horse as he is lean, extremely fast and will push himself beyond his own physical limits. One day he will surely win major Xterra titles and other triathlon events.
9th Overall of the Proffesional Males – Lets be frank – Last Male bassically!!!
(I shouldn’t be alive story)
This past Sunday I took part in the 70.3 Durban Ironman event.
I was so excited to take part in this event as it would have been my first road Triathlon for many years racing as a professional. Unfortunately, the event turned out to be anything but a joyful occasion for me.
Just my final 5 weeks building up towards the event was a hell of challenge. I first of all managed to tear my Plantaris Tendon (MR Scan confirmed) in my right leg. I then developed unusual knee pain in my right patella as well. Not sure if the Tendon tear and knee was linked or two isolated problems. But it meant that for 3 weeks (From week five to week two before the race) I did not run much, for 2 weeks (week four & week three) I struggled to cycle with my knee pain being at times 9/10 sore while pedalling….and making matters worse two weeks before the race I crashed cycling over a pothole. Causing my left knee to get irritated and inflamed until race day.
For each of these single issues I had a more than valid reason to pull out of this race long before the start…But I fought against each issue and figured a plan to get around each one of them. Why was I so stubborn? Mostly because 5 weeks before this race I had the best form of my life. If the race was a month earlier and I had no physical injury concerns I would have been in shape for a sub 4 hours 15 min. I was so confident in my form and fitness that I looked past my issues to something bigger. Regretfully now I look back at huge disappointment and in some sense embarrassment at this result. As it will dilute my last few top performing racing results in many athletes and bystander’s eyes. Not that I should care about these things. But it does play a role in endorsements, sponsor opportunities and overall athlete profile. The one positive thing I take from this build-up to the race was I have learnt to stay motivated and believing in myself regardless of the amount of issues I pick up preparing for an event.
The race proved to be a real disturbing experience for all the professional athletes who took part in the event.
The Sea Swim of 1.9 km was cancelled for all the Age Group Athletes the morning of the event. But as we were told on the Friday already at our own race briefing for the professional athletes – we will swim!
So what really happened:
The sea proved again that it is not something we should take lightly when entering. The morning of the race the period between each wave was 20 seconds plus. Meaning that compared to the usual 10 – 13 seconds period between each wave (like the Saturday before the race) the strength and speed of each wave on the morning of the race was a lot more than what any non-expert realized.
The Life Guards battled to do their Job in which they are trained to do – save swimmers in trouble… They knew the sea was not safe to go swim in that morning (later the afternoon two swimmers drowned at the very beach we went in for the start of the sea swim).
At the start area I have never seen that Life Guards stand guard/tunnel for us to run into the sea. I then tough to myself that if they do not want to go into the water…then something is not right. Unfortunately, most of us are not experts in reading the sea conditions so we were blissfully unaware of what we were going to experience.
When the gun went off and I ran behind Kent Horner into the Ocean I immediately realized the sea was a lot rougher that day than the previous day when I managed to do a short swim warm-up. I couldn’t see the first buoy we had to swim left around while I was making my way through shallow surf into the sea. I just followed Kent Horner the whole way. The first few waves were nothing near troubling for me. But then, the waves got bigger and stronger. Me and Kent at that point did not swim much, we basically just kept on going underneath each massive wave one at a time…. I manged to swim trough these set of waves only to see people on Jet ski’s pointing to us to swim right against the direction we should have been swimming. This meant that the rip current dragged some of the best open water swimmers in the country a couple of hundred meters to the left of the first buoy.
My reaction then was to stop racing and swim for safety. At the first buoy was a big boat and I swam straight towards it to get out of the sea. Once I got there I was informed I am in one of the leading positions and should just keep on swimming… So like an idiot I kept on swimming, full knowingly I was in trouble.
At some point swimming towards the last buoy I was almost taken out by a massive wave. I then turned 90 degrees to the right and swam another 50 – 100 m deeper into the ocean as I was not ready to take on these waves again.
A good couple of hundred meters before the last buoy I saw guys on Jet Ski’s riding up and down the sea just screaming to me “swim straight back to the beach for safety”. I thought to myself this is crazy…how on earth do they want me to do that? The next moment a big, no a massive, no a F*&%ing big wave came and I went as far down to the bottom of the ocean as I could to avoid this wave. Did my underwater swimming skills help? Not at all…the sea just played with me. I cannot explain to people how strong these waves where. I will never forget how dark it was under that water with the wave crushing down on me.
As soon as the darkness disappeared and it became light again the next wave came at a tremendous speed. Again I do not think people understand! After a similar experience of pitch darkness and terrifying thoughts I managed to come up for another breath of air and then I saw a guy on a Jet Ski…I screamed to him “Please I am so scared, save me” his response “Bud I cannot save you now”. For the record I do not blame him, the conditions were not so that he could have done it without putting himself at risk. I have no problem with what he said or did!
I then realized I had to swim for my own life - I really really do not know how I managed to swim back to the beach but I did! I got out of the water 300 m further down from the exit point. Meaning that the rip current took me down more than 600 m from the point where I started swimming towards the beach for safety.
Can you believe that I was among the top 5 Male swimmers out of the water…what an experience the other swimmer must have had to deal with – especially the girls?
The rest of the race: I decided just to finish. I tried for about 20 – 30 km on the bike leg to race. But me left knee was too sore and more so, I was too rattled to carry on racing as I realized what could have almost been…. For those of you who think I am soft or I feel sorry for myself;
- I have been shot at by criminals with an AKA-47.
- In a separate occasion held at gunpoint for hours in my own house with my whole family.
- Saved by life guards in East London from a shark.
- Attacked by a Male Lion in Kruger park in a private camp.
- Attacked by a kudu bull on our farm in Namibia that I managed to shoot meters away from me and few more other close encounters.
Sunday overshadows all of these near death experiences…MARK MY WORD – never again will I go into the sea in such severe conditions to take part in any form of swimming event!!! For those idiots who said “you guys are getting soft”, “you do not know how to swim” or they “we are disappointed to not have had the opportunity to swim”. Next time please swim in my place….
Here are some of the other Pro Men comments on what they experienced:
Stuart Marais (Who I regard as one of the toughest athletes ever in our sport):
“Thanks for all the support out there today – life and death situation in the final 150 m of swim got me DQ’ed! The rest of the race was great”
Freddy Lampret: (Personally directed to me)
Nico Sterk, well done man! When I exited the water I shook my head and thought "How on earth could we swim in there?" then I said a little prayer: "Lord please let nobody die, and thank you that I am still alive!"
When people hear that the swim was rough, I don’t think they REALLY understand. Last year I was surprised that people struggled because of how easy I found the conditions.
Yesterday was the closest I have ever come to dying. In fact when I was on the sea floor being held down by a combination of wave and rip current, then fighting through meters of whitewash, unable to breathe, I thought that it was the end.
It was a strange feeling to have to continue racing after that. Sitting on the beach crying would have been an appropriate and totally normal response.
Again Nico, well done bud! We live to tell the tale.
Gerhard de Bruin:
“Happy to be alive" is how a fellow pro athlete described the swim at Ironman 70.3 Durban yesterday! I feel the exact same way!! I am thankful that Ironman in South Africa ?? with Race Director Paul Wolff at the helm cancelled the swim for the AG athletes as I am confident the outcome would have been nothing short of a disaster, ultimately risking the lives of all athletes.
So what happened? The water looked rough, but manageable. Here is what I experienced: Immediately as we hit the water, the rip current dragged us to the far left of the first turn buoy, forcing the entire field to swim south along shore for 100+ meters against the strong current. The first casualty of the swim came quick as my friend Lynette Van Der Merwe withdrew from the race due to the swim conditions. On the way north towards the second turn buoy, we all got continually pounded by the waves and the current. I got dragged under a few times, and almost passed out once in the water. In the words of James Cunnama, it was "disaster swim territory". I could feel the fear creep up and got to a point where I thought this was it, but thankfully caught a quick breath in the foam of a wave. I saw one athlete call for help from the lifeguards! My friend @clint.gravett88 was in front of the field, and used his past as a pro surfer on the world tour to navigate the waters - we all could have used some pointers from him! Seeing the turn buoy drift, Clinton went for shore in an effort to stay safe and get out of the surf. About a minute behind, fellow athletes and myself powered though towards the last buoy, but it kept moving in the massive waves. We got separated, and I continued around the buoy while the rest of the athletes got beached by the lifeguards. All in all, we got lucky. I was the only athlete to hit the last buoy, but I can say with certainty that we all did more than prescribed, and that we are all happy that no one got injured. In short, it was a dangerous swim that should never have taken place.”
Buffelspoort Valley in the North West Province of South Africa was the setting for another spectacular outdoor sports festival. More than 3000 athletes took part over the weekend activities, ranging from the notorious Magalies Monster MTB Classic race on the Saturday to multiple distance Platinum Trail Running events on the Sunday. I took part in the Marathon 70 km MTB Race and then next day in the 24 km Trail Run. These two races combined forms the Magalies Berg Challenge….no easy task to compete in - especially gunning for both events to finish on the podium. Each of these events on itself holds a fearsome reputation for its demands on the human body and the strong field of athletes taking part.
The Saturday I took part in the Magalies Monster MTB Classic 70 km race which is one of the most respected and known MTB events in South Africa. The race made its name by the infamous Monster Climb mid-way in the marathon race. It varies year from year, the climb itself using different routes up the Norther slopes of the Magalies Mountain Range in Buffelspoort Valley. It is normally a 9 – 11 km climb ascending 450 – 600 m in total. On paper this does not sound too bad. But when you experience the loose rocks, off-camber rock faces and sudden increase in gradient on the climb while racing as hard as your body allows you to do, then all of a sudden the name – The Monster – seems like a worthy title.
This was my fourth attempt at racing the Monster and I can honestly say this was the only time I could race the entire course within my own abilities and not suffer to the end. I experienced no mechanical or physical issues. I basically rode from the 10 km mark in 2nd position till the finish. There were at times a small group of cyclist who managed to catch me in the beginning. But every time we started to climb I would comfortably ride away from them until the elastic band snapped on the Monster Climb and I managed to put daylight between myself and the other top 5 placing chasing me. At the end after 73.2 km of racing I finished a mere 36 seconds behind the winner. I was extremely happy and satisfied with my performance and how well my body coped with the demands of the race.
The next morning, I stood stupidly on the start line of the 24 km Platinum Trail Run. As you can imagine this 24 km trail run is no running joke. The race includes a 6 km climb (The Xterra Climb) and a decent that is so steep running down that you do need to inform your life insurance beforehand that you might not make it through the run and whether you are covered for taking on such an extreme challenge…
I started the race conservatively and only after 10 km of running did I start to run at my best ability. I was really surprised to see how strong my legs felt given that I have raced the monster within a 24-hour period. Running from 9th position starting with the Xterra climb into 5th position made me realize with 10 km to go that I might be able to finish on the podium. Thus with all my energy and intension I started to hunt down 4th and 3rd position respectively. I managed to pass the 3rd athlete with 6 km to go to the finish knowing the top two athletes were far in front and that I would never be able to catch them.
I finished in 3rd overall position feeling more satisfied than the day before. As I realized that I have never been this well-conditioned concerning my physical shape and ability. It was comforting to see the refection of my training and conditioning carry over into racing results. I struggle to find names of more than 5 athletes in the entire country who can currently mimic what I managed to achieve over this weekend. I managed to comfortably win the Magalies Berg Challenge with the combined time for the two races of 5 hours and 6 min in total.
I have for years trained and prepared myself for the day when I will be in almost complete harmony and sync with my body. To have the utmost confidence and calmness in what I should do on race day and the self believe that I will. It takes a lot of time, success and failures, money and most importantly patience with a sense of bliss to move up on the physical sports performance ladder. The real sad thing for me is that within an instant, one mistake, one mishap or just plain bad luck can have all of this taken away from you as an athlete….
This is where I am now. The week leading up to the weekends racing I unfortunately ruptured my Plantaris Tendon…
What this means in very simple English:
I need to take a break from running (6 – 12 days),
- Hope that the pain and discomfort will clear up in this period allowing me to slowly build my running volume and intensity in preparation for 70.3 Durban 19th June 2016.
- Luckily I do not need this Tendon going forward with my racing career but there will be some complications as now my right leg needs to function without this Tendon.
Hakahana Trail Park proved to live up to its reputation as one of the leading MTB and Trail Running Venues in the country. With more than 1000 athletes taking part in a range of different formats and distances on the day.
The main race started with a frantic pace for the first leg (5 km Trail Run) of the Duathlon on a near perfect Autumn’s day. I was personally responsible for this as I sprinted the first 500 m at an almost best effort attempt. I did this to gain as much of a physical advantage as a mental advantage over my rivals. I wanted to blow them out of their comfort zone and race from the start - in the end I have no doubt that this worked. For the first time ever in this series (for this year or last year) I managed to run the 2nd fastest time and lose less than 1 min on the first leg of the event against Brand Du Plessis (Who is arguably the best Off-Road Duathlete ever in South Africa and almost undefeated in these type of events for the past 5 years). Normally I lost 2 – 2:30 min on Brand in the first 5 km of the race.
I have to confess that I have significantly improved my racing speed and power over the last 3 months. Thus it wasn’t a case of me running harder than before. I actually ran faster with less effort than any other Dual-X event I have raced so far in my life.
Starting the 30 km MTB leg in 2nd position was the plan from the start. I felt really strong and believed the race will turn out well for me. Unfortunately, after 5 km in the bike leg on the first single track section I wiped out with my bike loosing traction and falling. This cost me my 2nd position with William, Theo Blignaut and Aiden passing me. The result of my fall meant that my Handlebars where no longer centered correctly – the handlebars now faced way off to the left. Typically, in such a situation you completely lose focus and do things way to fast and irrational. I turned them all the way to the right. So when I jumped on my bike it must have looked to a bystander as if I was preparing for a right hand turn the whole time.…
With this whole fiasco I had lost a good 30 seconds on my main rivals and they were riding well working together. Luckily the course featured a couple of climbs that assisted me in chasing them all down. After the second significant climb I caught up with the 3 men who passed me earlier and I went back into 2nd place overall.
I stopped another 3 times on the course every time trying to centre my handlebars. It did seem odd for the camera crew as every time I opened up a gap on Theo and Aiden (By now William have dropped out of the group) I would stop turn around my body facing Theo and Aiden (making sure they don’t pass me) and try to centre my Handlebars. The big problem with my bars was that they were just tight enough that I could turn them, but not loose enough to position the bar correctly. On my final attempt I decided to make use of my multi-tool set to quickly loosen the bolts on my headset, turned the bars and then tighten the bolts again.
When I finally got my Handlebars in the correct position I managed to focus 100% on the race. There was then no more playing cat and mouse against Theo and Aiden. I waited for the last climb of the MTB leg to attack and open up a gap to make sure I will finish in 2nd place overall.
My plan worked and I managed to come into T2 in 2nd place. The final leg of the race is a 2.5 km trail run which I ran at around 3:30 min/km pace. My legs felt good and I was happy to see all my hard work paying off in the race . Also very significant for me was the fact that I managed to close the gap on Brand with about 2 – 3 min. He normally beats me anything between 7 – 8 min. This time around I trailed him by 3:50 min at the finish line. Taking in all the time lost stopping to centre my handlebars I must reflect back and say that things are looking positive for me going forward. Theo and Aiden have also improved since I raced them last time around especially Aiden who by his own account was pretty average earlier the year in all three Xterra’s…