Race day dawned…and the craziness began!
I had a good swim, was caught unawares by the extra 500m being tagged on after being told the swim was only 1.4km after having it moved to uShaka pier. Also lost a good 5mins fighting through the surf because we kept being pulled back in with one wave (the first one) catching me completely unawares and tumbling me quite badly. I forced myself to keep calm and consciously “waited” to breathe, making sure that I did so before the second one hit. From there it was a matter of keeping one eye on the shore, and one on the incoming waves so that I could put a hand on my mask to keep it from being washed off. In between the waves I upped my stroke rate to make headway. I read somewhere that if you glide too long you lose too much if you’re trying to make it through a current or a wave pulling you back. Apparently Durban recorded their biggest swells in 10 years in the 3 days leading up to the race.
I opted to run the additional 1km between the swim exit and T1 on the promenade and not on the beach, I have enough experience with running on the beach to know that that would have made for calf cramps later in the race. My stomach heaved a bit, the swells were quite large but the water was clear enough and not very choppy so I kept everything I ate before the swim down. Sighting was an issue because for the most part we couldn’t see the second buoy until about ¾ way through the swim, I ended up using a combination of swimming in the general direction of the group and using a landmark (hotel) to do course corrections. It worked out fine in the end, but with the buoys not being visible I wasn’t comfortable drafting anybody and preferred to rely on my own sense of direction, as poorly developed as it is.
The bike route was a beaut, very scenic and the road surface is incredibly smooth for the most part. Metro played their part very well and there were no cars on the course that shouldn’t be there (although some of the local cyclists training for the Amashova and runners training for the Kalahari challenge took advantage). It looks hilly from a car (Petri and I drove it the day before), but with a bit of momentum you can cruise over most of the hills. Unfortunately I dropped my chain twice after the on-site mechanic had to adjust it because of noise in the lowest gear, dropping the gears was still preferably to having to listen to 3hrs of “crrr, crrr, crrr”. Fortunately I found a “workaround” to get it, and keep it on the chain ring for the rest of the ride. I had a quickish loo stop just after the turn around at 44km. Felt super comfortable after that. I also kept an eye on my 10sec average power, working to try and keep it in range (well below FTP). Also put a lot of focus into getting my hydration and nutrition into my body. Finished the ride with nothing in the bottles and all my gels gone. The weather was quite cool but I know I have an above average sweat rate and the humidity was high. The weather played along nicely though with some rain along the way.
The run was great and comfortable and included another 2min for a toilet break, but most importantly, the run was cramp free (a first over this triathlon distance)! I think both the training and the nutrition played a huge part with that. Note to self – rather drink and pee than don’t and cramp! The distance was a bit disappointing, I was caught unawares by the fact that the run was only 17.6km long. The plan was to start slow to a race pace of around 6:20/km and from there to speed up every lap and finally get it below 6:00/km over the last few km. I was on track, finishing at 6:03/km with 3.5km to go when I ran out of race. I’m convinced I could have finished the race in 05:45:00 to 05:50:00 if it was the full distance.
Overall, the organisation could have been a bit better. There were a whole bunch of little things that one could live with, like the athlete’s guide not being quite up to scratch (it’s something you can improve on every year), but there were a lot of major things that went wrong or that was simply changed last minute, from briefings being cancelled, to race numbers not being ready, then the athletes bands not being ready (4 trips to the registration tent to get everything!) to not being correctly allocated (“Wonlong and Michelle”, really, REALLY!).
Will I do the race again?? Maybe in the heat of the moment, and after having forgotten all that went wrong, I’ll register again next year. The venue really is awesome and has a lot of potential if they could get everything running a bit more smoothly.
I think of this race it as a Ostrich feather sized decoration in the cap of adaptability and mental fortitude, and now a couple of days later I must admit that I had fun, in a masochistic sort of way.