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May 30, 2008

Ironman South Africa : Spectators View by Marilu Matthee

I received this from my awesome girlfriend Marilu after her experience at Ironman supporting myself and EVERY OTHER ATHLETE in Port Elizabeth in April. Anyone who was there will remember the ATC tent and the vibe it created.

here she goes

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If you have never gone to watch an Ironman competition, you would probably not know what the big fuss is all about. Some people confuse the Ironman competition with some body building or lets-see-who-can-pull-the-biggest truck-with-the-most-weight-on competition. This is nothing like that.

I have been a triathlete for just over 2 years with an athletic background in running. This means that I have an idea of pushing myself through the times when you don’t really want to go any further, but just have to. Since I am one of those athletes that had to learn from the beginning how to actually swim properly and it not being easy, I can almost understand how much dedication needs to be involved to attempt a race like Ironman. What I just can’t comprehend is what a long day the actual day could be. I just can’t get my head around it yet!! With the biggest hurdle for me being the 3,8km swim at the start, followed by a 180km bike and finishing with a marathon, 42,2km run. So then you do what I have done; support.

I have been present on the spectator side not just on the day, but the 12 weeks prior to IM. I have witness the deep and thorough thought process just deciding to do an IM. The intense and detailed planning that includes not only the obvious training program, but eating habit change, nutrition, habitual Vit B injections and chiropractor sessions, all the latest technology research in gear, monitors, compression clothing… and this is just for the time prior. You also have to plan for your race day on what, how and where abouts. I’ll never forget helping to calculate, working out Kilojoules burned on the day thus on the hour consumption of gels, bars, coke, vitamins needed to replace energy.
It goes without saying that in this time of preparation there is no time for much else. It’s early to bed, early out of bed and everything stands 2nd place. So no late nights with friends. IM is a big commitment with definite sacrifices, and like everything else in life that is hard, so absolutely rewarding!

I also witness the last two weeks before the race, how someone that I know as attentive become completely clueless to what is going on around him. So we labeled it as the IM syndrome, and believe you me, every other IM was like that. So the night before I can’t sleep. The person I love so much is about to put himself through something that I can only think of as painful and there is nothing I can do to make it better, than just cheer my loudest. With little sleep I wake up on race day and mission down to set up. Being early we got the best spot to witness the start of the race and where the athletes come out the water into transition. It’s raining, but I don’t care being wet so early in the morning. I know that in a few minutes the buzzing will start and then getting a good seat will be impossible. My nerves are killing me at this stage. I gave him his last kiss goodbye and off he goes into what was his own battle to fight. Just before 7am and the energy is all around. Goose bumps run down my spine as the helicopters are in place, gun goes off and there they go. All the girls are in tears, and the more you try to fight it, the more does this indescribable feeling of humbleness fills you as you know that anything can happen. It wasn’t until the sun broke through the misty clouds and a big ray of sun fell onto the swimmer that I knew for sure that God was smiling down on the Ironman 2008.

Few things that are really impressive on the day were, firstly the amount of people that entered IM. Secondly that the municipality of PE and ESKOM did not let anyone down on this day! Thirdly the shapes and sizes that actually do IM. If you have ever wanted to find encouragement in life in general, I do suggest you go watch the IM, because you realize that it doesn’t matter what your excuse is, there is just no such thing as impossible. You see people that should (by your judgment) not have even entered IM, get it done and make it look so easy. You see how athletes get to their dark stages of just wanting to give up, dig deep and somewhere find motivation to carry themselves to the end. You see how people will stay and cheer for 17 hours long until the last person come in before cut off. And then you see the tears of pain, the tears of joy and then the tears of complete thankfulness that the battle was won. Everyone understands. Especially when you walk around the next day and majority of PE is walking cripple, yet so extremely happy! Strange but so fulfilling.

So if you want to be apart of something much greater than yourself, learn something about yourself, see what humanity is positively capable of, I encourage you to book your seat in PE 2009 and come see for yourself.

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thanks love.

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