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April 20, 2008

Ironman South Africa 2008

In the movie Hitch there was a moment where Will Smith said “Begin each day as if it were on purpose”

I came to Port Elizabeth this year with a clear mind and some simple goals.

1. Dont walk on the run other than aid stations.

2. Dont blow up.

3. Have FUN!

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simple goals. I had a time in mind around 10 hours, and was feeling confident, as it was my first proper taper since swim days years past, and I was feeling the effects more than I ever had. I had a homestay, courtesy of James Cunnema and Alexa Cunningham, who opened their spare room to us. THANKS YOU TWO! it made a huge difference being in a comfortable space with the zen-like presence of James. The amount I learnt from him just in the few days leading into the race was noticeable to those around me. He is going to become one of the greats of this sport someday, mark my words.

3 days prior to raceday I felt real power for the first time in many years, and I held it back. I was light and floating, irritable and full of energy. Perfect. I was healthy and the athletes I coach were calm too, so no worries with them.

Race morning brought a shower of rain but by the time I had set up in transition with my new Prototype bike, the skies had cleared and brought what was undoubtedly the best weather ever for an Ironman in South Africa. I had a quiet word with myself not to kill it on the bike, as it was perfect weather for a blow-up at 32km into the run. I had to leave something for those last 10km.

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I swam with Ray Tissink for lap one and on his feet for lap 2 to come out the water in just under 50min. I thought my watch was broken, but put it down to flat conditions and swimming squad again. When I saw who was around me, I was content, my usual pack of guys. Onto the bike and did what I had practised for the last 8 weeks. Start strong for 30min, settle in, and then hit that zone. Much to my dismay the heart rate monitor wasnt going at all, so it was going to be a day filled with going on “feel” which can be very dangerous on a day like this. I held back the whole way on the first lap and was in at 1:40. What the? thats 5hr pace, and 20min faster than I was hoping for.

Made a conscious decision to slow the hell down in lap 2 and came in at 1:46. Much better. Going over the last speedbump into the 3rd lap I heard a nice, definite crack from the front end of my bike. My aerobar was cracked. I had a quiet chuckle (caffeine will make anything seem trivial after a 2 week hiatus) and got to riding with both arms leaning on the remaining extension. Held back again and came in around 1:45 and was excited to be in around 5:10.

At Ironman you will see that after the speed of moving forward on your bike for 5 hours, when you start your run, you seem really slow and easy. I had a trick up my sleeve in the form of a footpod. I went out and my first km was too fast. I backed it off until I was happy with what speed I was going, and held that for the first lap. I have to note that I had company for about 15km on the bike and about 5km on the run. It was a solo day. By 11km on lap 1, I was alone, and had caught a few guys. Even with the footpod and slowing myself three times on lap 1, I overcooked it by 5min. Amazing. Had I not held back, I am sure I would have overcooked it by 10 and ended up walking the last 7km again like 2 years ago.

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The heat was up suddenly and I was passing people I shouldnt be. But then I thought to myself, this is Ironman. This is the 1 day of the year we all arrive and put out cards on the table. There are no excuses. You go ALL in, big dog style. Stuff happens out there, but you make the most of it. Its bragging rights day.

I held well on lap 2 and got a smell of 9:30 about 3km into the final lap. I decided to push at 6km to go and see what I could do. As I pushed the pace, my bladder decided that I couldnt run anymore. I stopped for a wee break that lasted more than a minute, but felt like an hour. I even had a gel while at it. Classic. Pushed really hard from there, felt like going flat out, but was in fact, according to the footpod, ambling along. Felt like I was going full tilt and saw I gained a total of 200m per hour in speed. Realised I was cooked but was smiling because I was still going faster than alot of guys, and catching people the whole way.

I came around the corner at 9:30:23 and stopped… I was going to soak this up.

I got the crowd going, cheered people, high fived some spectators, held back tears of joy and crossed the line in 9:31:07. An hour and 5 min faster than last time around.

ROCKING!

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my athletes totally outshone me and they were 1:30 and 2:20 faster than last time around or predicted. I am so proud of you guys.

Monday rolled around after an awesome night culminating in everyone finishing the race under 17hours, and I went to slot allocation for Hawaii with a long shot. It turned out positive and i got a slow for the Big Show. I am going to Hawaii for Ironman. I still cant believe it.

to my mom and sister who made the trip down, love you. To my dad who couldnt make it for the trip, but sent my sister and mom down, I appreciate it more than you know, and next time, i`ll personally fly you down. It was amazing having mom and sister there. TO ATC for the support, Gert said it best “it was like having a Whasp Gel everytime we went by their gazebo”. To my girlfriend Marilu, thank you for being patient with me and letting me live my dreams. MWAH! To all my sponsors : Whasp, Orca, Oakley, Suunto, Zipp, Puma and CEP Compression Socks, many thanks for all the help. You make it way easier than it is for alot of people.

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so now its time for ice cream, beer and late nights for a few weeks before we start prepping for something I have dreamt of for 10 years.

to every single person who helped out on raceday, who came to support, and who raced. You are ALL such a part of the experience of Ironman, I applaud you all. You all answered that question and your answer was “I can”

ciao.

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