WALKING ON CLOUDS

It’s 24-hours since I became an Ironman and to say I’m walking on clouds is putting it mildly. The realisation of one’s dreams coming to fruition are well worth the nine months of early morning training sessions. The aching and stiffness as I write this are my war wounds and I am enjoying them with pride.

Lining up at 7:00am with approximately 1600 fellow competitors on Hobie Beach and listening to the excited chattering of racers is a sight and sound I won’t forget soon. Seeing the spectators lining the pier and shouting last words of encouragement to everyone bought home the enormity of the day ahead.

The first lap of the swim reminded me of the annual Sardine Run that takes place in KZN. The majority of the time was spent avoiding feet and swimmers veering off in all sorts of directions. The field only thinned out towards the third buoy. A nasty current on the lap exit resulted in frantic hard swimming to avoid being bashed into the pier. Unfortunately a few competitors were not so lucky.  Lap 1 was a warm-up with lap 2 flowing a lot smoother and less bods on either side of me. The 5m buoys were nicely visible once on top of a swell… My swim time was 1:46 with a rather long transition following!

As I started lap one of three on the bike, my thoughts were two-fold. A huge sigh of relief that the swim was done and dusted, the second being pace yourself so that you will have enough energy to carry you through the marathon.

Spectators lined the bike route and each rider was greeted with enthusiasm and encouragement, with an extra few cheers for lady competitors. I was pretty consistent with my lap times and eager to get off the bike halfway through lap 3.

Seeing the top guys and girls come flying past me was phenomenal, with winner Gerrit Schellens recording an average speed of 44kph. Wow, Wow, Wow! My overall ride time was 6:38, far better than I expected.

I started the run with trepidation and had been preparing myself mentally over the past few months for a long, tough run. It was, and keeping focused and mentally strong were by far the most challenging. Being caught and passed by riders that came in over an hour after me on the bike was part of the process.

Names on race numbers enabled spectators to cheer you on with the familiarity of old school friends. A lamppost scenario kept my legs moving and running down the finishing straight and onto the red carpet was like Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. Overall time was 14:29 – with a novice goal of just finishing, you bet I’m chuffed!

Having the medal around my neck and receiving the praise and adulation of friends and family have made the past nine months the most memorable experience of my life.

Rest and recovery are on the agenda for the next week and the next goal is to take part in the renowned 80km off-road PUFFER that takes place in August. I’m looking forward to my first off-road run next week and building on the phenomenal fitness base that training for Ironman has given me.     
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