It has become somewhat of the norm that my posts are super late, but I could not let another triathlon season start without getting my race report of the 2018 Ironman 70.3 Buffalo City out. The race was a life-changing moment for me, and my hope is that my experience can inspire others to go for their dreams and goals no matter what, because the Ironman slogan has been proven to be true over and over again… ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
After all the formalities of registration and racking was done, I was very emotional the day before the race…evident in this pre-race post. Every message of goodwill that came through, every word touched me deeply. My eyes welled up at just the thought of this moment finally being here. I was incredibly lucky to have so many people who love me and wished me well, and I really wanted to do my very best for them. From my family and friends who have been through this journey with me and supported me despite not fully knowing what it entails, to friends who have traveled the road before and knew exactly what it takes, to the coaches who guided me up to this point, and everyone in between…I might be out on that course by myself, but I knew that I was not alone. It takes a village, and mine had the best tribe of them all.
There are 3 disciplines in triathlon, and I particularly wanted to do well in every one of them for specific people.
The SWIM… For Jacques. The one who started me off on this journey when he suggested we do a triathlon together in 2014, and I couldn’t swim to save my life (literally). For teaching me and getting me through that very first race at Fisantekraal Dam. We don’t even train together any more because of living in different cities, but I think of you before every big swim that I do and will ever do. I will be forever grateful to you for creating that spark in me that has now become a raging fire that will never be tamed for as long as I live. That 2km swim was dedicated to you. A half Ironman was on your bucket list even before I knew what it was, so you’d better get your ass on a start line soon my friend!
The BIKE… For Wickaum, whom I met in the same week as starting to train for 70.3. He’s a phenomenal cyclist, and at the time I was an appalling cyclist. During the next few months, my cycling completely turned around. And while a lot of that was because of the ridiculous amount of time I spent in the saddle, a very big part of it was the little things you taught me to make my ride better. But, it was your supportiveness throughout my training period that meant the most to me. Always asking about my training at work and getting me through those really tough periods, keeping me sane…even suggesting early morning runs when we were away on business trips when I know you absolutely hate early morning runs. I don’t know if you were aware of the emotional support you were giving me or if it was just consequential, but I appreciate your friendship immensely. I really wanted to do the ride in under 4hrs and make you proud of me for not being slow.
The RUN… For Aashiek. I first met Aashiek through Twitter and running. He’s one of the best runners that I know, and he was inspired to start swimming and triathlon because I was doing it. Once he started, he smashed every barrier there was, and while I was his inspiration, he far surpassed me in achievements, finishing the Ironman 70.3 Buffalo City a year before I did. I relied on him often for guidance and support during my run up to the race. In his pre-race message to me, he put an instruction, a rule so to speak… Ride for show, Run for dough… meaning you can take it easy on the bike leg, but the race is made on the run. We are runners and so the run is where you kill it and smash the race to pieces. This made me nervous, I had been struggling to run off the bike in training. No matter what I did I always had no energy to run and pretty much ran at walking pace. I had planned to just run to finish, but now I felt that I couldn’t let Aashiek down and do a sucky run.
Well, race morning came and I was so excited to just start and finish this race. I had breakfast and walked to transition with my stuff for final racking. I ran into Esther at the bike bag racks. Esther is an absolute legend and one of the first people I met from Embark at ATC, years ago.
We exchanged loud hugs and shrieks of happiness and then I got a stern talking to that I need to pedal for 90km. R: Uhm… no but what about the downhills, surely I can take a break from all that climbing and freewheel down them? I need to have something for the run. E: No, you will pedal for 90km and make sure you make that bike cutoff. 2 years ago I thought I could freewheel the downhills and then I didn’t finish the race! R: *sigh* Ok Esther I will pedal the whole way.
So now with listening to Esther and Aashiek I would pretty much be redlining the entire race. LOL
Finishing touches on my bike meant a final lube, tyre pressure check and top-up, bottle caging, and filling my stem bag with food for the ride… proper food, because nutrition is what went wrong during trainings when I bombed. In there went gluten-free banana muffins, salted nuts, biltong, dates, energy bars, and the usual gels.
During the race I made sure that I was eating all those snacks I packed, even when I wasn’t hungry or didn’t feel like eating. Man cannot live on gels alone for 8 hours. It sure did make a difference!
After that it was into the wetsuit and onto the beach. The swim was rough but I had a fairly good one. Wetsuit strippers on the beach meant all we had to do was unzip and strip to waist, then plonk your back down on the sand where the strippers peeled off the whole wetsuit in seconds. Score! The run up to transition is quite far, with about 70m of climbing to even get there. The volunteers inside transition are awesome, they even help you put on shoes/helmet/sunblock and stuff your swim things into bags. Now it was onto the cycle leg. As I left the area just before the mount line, I heard my sister shout for me. There’s quite a special story to this, which I will get to later.
Now came the bike leg. I was quite terrified of being disqualified for drafting. IronMan’s drafting rules are so strict, and with me being of the slower riders I was afraid I would be passed all the time and end up in people’s draft zone. But I pushed hard on the ride and actually ended up passing more people. I killed the rolling hills just like Coach Pat taught me to. Just before halfway I stopped pedaling a bit. Esther wasn’t around now so I could steal a break, right? Ha, wrong. Right at that moment I heard someone shout from a distance behind me: Rogeema…PEDAL!! OMG Esther how are you here right at this moment?? As she came closer she confessed: I’ve been behind you for a while and watching you. LOL clearly there is no place to hide on this damn course.
The last part of the cycle was very hot, and final stretch of 5km uphill was tough (thanks Darren for the warning!). I finished the bike leg in just under 4hrs (yay for that tickbox), but my legs were burning. I made a decision that would cost me time in the moment, but would pay off dividends later…I went into the change tent and applied Arnica Ice gel to my legs and glutes before starting the run. Those 2 extra minutes taken in T2 freshened up my legs considerably.
The run consists of 2 loops, the 1st part of each loop being flat and the 2nd part infamous for its hills, Bunkers Hill being the monster. Thanks goodness Embark took us on a cycle of the run route the Saturday, because else that would be a nasty surprise, because the hill sneaks up on you just after a blind corner. My run pace started off decent, but I knew that I would fade and so aimed for a comfortable 2h45 run. Bunkers slowed me down but what goes up must come down 😉 My average pace was holding despite the heat, humidity and walk breaks, and I decided to try and go for a 2h30 run. But early on in my second loop, I realised that if I really pushed, I could finish in a total race time of 07h30, which is 30 minutes faster than what I was targeting and a full hour before cutoff. BUT that would require me to run the last 10km in about 65 minutes, and a run time of under 2h25 for the 21km.
Bunkers the 2nd time around in that heat was soul destroying, and I gave up on my new goals a few times as I kept recalculating my finish time and paces in my head when I got slower and walked more. But with 6km to go I gave myself a stern mental talking to…
It’s gonna hurt either way… This is the most important 6km of your life so far… Run your heart out, it doesn’t matter if you’re broken afterwards… Think of everything you’ve sacrificed… You’ve worked for this for half a year, finish it! Yes you are in pain but it’s almost over… Leave nothing in the tank… Run FOR DOUGH!
Balls to the wall, BEAST-mode on and I ran the fastest quarter of my whole race, with the last 3km all being under 6min/km. And I made the sub-2h25 for a sub-7h30 finish.
Mission accomplished – 1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21.1km run – done and dusted.
Many times during that run I was feeling emo again, realising that I am on my way to finishing one of the toughest Ironman 70.3 races in the world and that nothing could stop me now. Had to check myself and just not allow it to take over, there was no energy available to catch feelings, everything had to go into physical expenditure. But once I stepped onto that red carpet and crossed the finish line, got my medal, and found my sister…everything came out…tears of joy of an experience like no other. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! OH, and about that story of my sister I promised earlier…here it is. She’s the best sister ever and my biggest Ironfan.
My Embark teammates and coaches were a big part of my whole journey from the very start. Everyone in the Southern Suburbs group finished the race and we had a heck of a celebration after. Thank you my friends, we will always be family ♥️