I have wanted to write this report for a while. I had such an amazing experience at Ironman South Africa. My training had gone well this winter and I felt ready and excited to race. After a long journey, 40 hours of travelling and no sleep I was exhausted and battled all week with low energy. My hard efforts were lame and this was more how I feel before my taper than after 2 weeks of taking it easy. I complained a few times right up until the day before the race to my sister and mom, who had come out to support me, that I was not recovered yet. But the energy in Port Elizabeth was high as the little town started to fill up with athletes and I could not wait to race!
As I sat at the press conference I eyed out the competition. Bella Bayliss was back. She had won 6 Ironman last year and teammate Lucie Zelenkova had come second in IMSA. Also there were a few top 5 finishes from the year before. Andrea Brede who had won the European Long Course Championships was also there. It was going to be tough as always!
Race morning was spectacular. Everything went smoothly and I was so calm.
On the start line I took it all in and felt very happy to be racing at home again. I ran out hard as the cannon went off and was happy to be keeping pace with Bella. She too was getting crushed by the age groupers that started a few yards behind us and swam over us like we weren't even there. By the turnaround I had lost her but kept looking for people's feet to swim on. I was thrilled to come out of the water in 28 minutes for the first loop. This could be my sub 1 hour swim I thought so I ran hard up the beach and back into the waves. With less people around I knew my second loop was going to be slower. I pushed the whole swim and in my heart I smiled as I knew I had nailed the swim. It was 8 minutes faster than 3 years ago.
The bike felt great. I focused on riding steady and not pushing too hard. This bike course is amazing. I love it. If the winds blow hard as they do in PE this course can be unforgiving. Today was just going to be HOT with a 7 mile/hr wind. By the second lap I was using half my drinking water for keeping my body cool. By the third lap my stomach was shutting down and the concentrated calories were not going down. I tried to keep drinking water though otherwise I new I was going to be in trouble. I had great energy on the third lap and I pushed to the finish feeling strong but a little low on calories.
I came off the bike in 5th place and knew I was going to have to run fast.
After the first mile out of transition my legs started to come around and I felt good. The spectators that lined the streets were amazing. Three quarters of this race is flat and has spectators but the one quarter that doesn't is a lonely brutally hot section with a incline and where their is no ocean breeze and no aid stations. I found it was here that I would lose a little momentum. However I still came through the 13 mile mark at 1.35 and knew I was on track for a very good run if I could keep up the effort! I could see the girls getting closer and closer. I was getting good coverage from the helicopter and TV guys so I figured I must be gaining ground so I kept pushing hard. But all of a sudden I hit a wall. My energy was sapped out of my legs and my stomach started cramping. I had to slow my pace down and focus on getting liquids and breathing. At this time of day it had to be well into the 90's and for the first time I was feeling the effects of dehydration. I figured if I could keep getting plenty of coke and water in me I could recover. This is what happened and I managed to finish the last 10 km feeling stronger but on very heavy legs.
Seeing my family there on the course every out and back kept me pushing hard and I enjoyed myself tremendously...despite some pain.
As always I was happy to get to the finish line and was thrilled with my PR and 4th place finish.
As I finished the race a storm rolled in and the winds picked up. Lightening was striking over the ocean and the thunder boomed loudly. Later I heard the medical tent had been blown over and they came close to cancelling the rest of the race. They don't call it the windy city for nothing.
This race is truly awesome and I recommend it to everyone! I may have to go back there in 2010!