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2017 was supposed to be the year I did things differently and stayed injury and incident free. Getting cut off by a car whilst riding on the 31st of December, in what was a lucky get off in the end, really sent this message home. I welcomed in the New Year, put the injury drama of 2016 behind me, and was ready to stay consistent.

My goal race for January was like most on home soil; the 70.3 in East London. I was probably way too fit and fresh for this time of year, but considering my lack of racing over the last few months I was easily motivated and very keen to go and defend my title in Slummies.

With a very solid block of training behind me and the morning swim set done, I headed off on my last longer 4hr ride at 10am on the Saturday before race week. Confident in my prep and even grateful for the position I found myself in, I was heading towards Franschhoek to do some hill reps up the pass, a session and a route that I have done numerous times before. Anyone who has ridden along the R44 between Helshoogte Pass and Franschhoek would know it as a very safe cycling route by South African standards and one used by many a triathlete and cyclist.

Recent experience on this same road had made me a little more wary, but it’s still hard to imagine yourself being in danger in the middle of the day on a flat road with clear visibility and a large yellow emergency lane to ride in.

Nevertheless after about an hour of riding, I found myself going from TT position on my bike to double back flip in the air before my brain had the chance to realise what the hell was happening. Hitting the ground and trying to register my surroundings was pretty surreal, the thoughts I had at this stage were what the f… what the f… and, just lie still.

There were pedestrians who were shouting to “stop that car” and someone else saying “don’t worry the number plate is here”. Thankfully, someone came to my aid pretty quickly and reassured me that I should just keep lying as I was. Again, very luckily, an ambulance and police vehicles were very nearby. Apparently the driver of the Hyundai Getz that hit me, a 78 year lady, was in as much shock as I was and couldn’t remember what had happened. One pedestrian thought that she might have moved into the emergency lane to let another car past. Once loaded into the ambulance and lying on my back I could feel that besides the burn of the road rash, my back was also pretty uncomfortable. I was taken to the Stellenbosch Mediclinic where X-rays, followed by an MRI, confirmed that I had sustained a compression fracture of my L1 vertebra. This was most likely caused by the initial impact with the bonnet and windshield of the car and then torn spinal ligaments from excessive rotational force as I flew through the air and hit the ground. Because of the torn ligaments the only option was to then go into surgery and fuse the T12 – L2 vertebra together or risk having a bent back for the rest of my life.

Thankfully one of the country’s best spinal surgeons lives in Stellenbosch. Johan and his team were able to operate the very next morning. Besides the 4 screws and two interconnecting rods they also packed in some donor bone to make the area more structurally intact.

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While I would love to be able tell of this huge successful recovery story, there is no rushing this healing process unfortunately. No doubt being fit and healthy has made a big difference in how long it has taken me to get up and about and mobile and off the pain meds, but one still has to wait for the bone to grow back properly and stabilise the spine completely. So, for now and until 6 weeks post op, I am limited to walking only with no rotational movement, which has taken swimming off the table for the time being.

As frustrating as it is, it takes an accident like this to truly appreciate the support that you have around you. The number of messages and well wishes we have received have been overwhelming and have made the last few weeks that much easier. I also now realise how lucky I was to come away as lightly as I did from such a collision, getting out of the house and just walking has never felt so good.

My first few months of rehab will probably be spent trying to get my lower back strong enough to support the impact of the fused vertebra above it and then it will be onto the anti-gravity treadmill and back in the pool to learn how to swim again. At least I should have a nice flat back that can’t snake through the water. It will no doubt be a long road back but being just a little more mobile and flexible than the day before is motivation enough at this stage and at the moment I am strangely looking forward to the journey and challenges that lie ahead of me.

 Midlands Ultra 2016

Midlands Ultra Nov 2016

After a long layoff due to a stress fracture in my ankle, the Midlands Ultra was my first race back, in over five months. I absolutely love the setting and the atmosphere of this race. Staying with family and meeting up with friends the day before, then being able to check in your bike on race morning makes the whole process very stress free and enjoyable. The race organisation here is absolutely on point, nothing is overstated, the entry fee included; you know you’re going to get a fair, well run event and go home with a great experience.

Race day dawned on a cool and misty Midmar Dam, often a sign of hot conditions to come. After a short delay to allow the conditions clear, we were off on the wetsuit legal, 1.9km freshwater swim. Uber swimmer, Rudolf Naude, got a jump on us at the first turn buoy and Kent Horner and I trailed him around the swim course, exiting the water 30 seconds in arrears. Once on the bike, I set to work to reduce the deficit quickly to try and create a reasonable buffer for my untested run legs. The two loop bike course, with a rather strong headwind and rolling hills, meant it was a long slog to the first turnaround point but made for some very fast speeds on the way back. Add the rising temperatures to the mix and it was soon apparent that either the end of a long season, or too many winter lie-ins, were starting to catch up with some of the field.

With the hot and hilly 21km run course waiting to cap off your day, it’s no surprise that the Midlands Ultra is considered to be one of the toughest 70.3s in the country, or in the world in my opinion. Some enthusiastic crowd support and well manned aid stations meant that I survived the run and crossed the line first, with a new course record.

The all-inclusive recovery tent and a late afternoon thunderstorm even made the wait for prizegiving entertaining and capped off a fun day in the Midlands.

Ari at Ultra

Ironman 70.3 Bahrain

 

70.3 Bahrain is definitely a race that I would like to forget. Thinking back on it is pretty painful and can be chalked up to a serious missed opportunity. Having not raced an Ironman or 70.3 race since June because of injury, this would have been a really good one to do well at, for both the Kona points and even more so for the prize money. I am not a lifestyle pro who cruises around the world, drinking coffee, scratching for a top 10. I race to win and it’s my main income.

Due to the stress fracture I hadn’t been able to run much and put a lot of emphasis on the swim over the last few months. It was great to see this pay off on race day. Exiting the water 30 seconds from the lead and within touch of the front pack was a great result for me and meant I was in with a real shout of bridging to the front bike group.

Once onto the bike you first had to do a loop around the Four Seasons Hotel island, where the swim was held, and then you went on a short out and back section before heading south on the highway. When we got to that first loop turn off for the second time, there was a Swiss pro Manu Kung in front of me who was ahead out of T1. He turned right and followed another pro off onto the loop around the island again. It turned out that the other rider he followed was actually behind after the swim and was still on his first loop. The marshals at this point gave no indication as to the correct way to go. Yes I know that at the end of the day it’s the athletes prerogative to know the course, but with your head down doing over 45km/hr in the heat of the moment there are only a few seconds to make a decision and unfortunately I made the wrong one. Naturally we weren’t the only ones to go wrong here, with a number of female pro’s and age groupers making a similar mistake. Some even missed the first loop turnoff altogether, which unfortunately led to their disqualification.

The extra loop meant we rode about 4.5km further than we should have. Looking back at the splits this meant around a 7min30sec loss to the lead pack. I was incredibly frustrated and despondent at this stage but disappointment soon turned to anger and I carried on, hoping to at least come away with something, even if it wasn’t going to be a podium. I slowly started catching and overtaking a few riders and by the time we turned right off the highway towards the track there was a group about 30 seconds in front of me. Once we entered the track with all the twists and turns I lost sight of them for a while until I saw them again off to my right at the same distance as they were before we entered the track and I followed suit in full hunting mode. It wasn’t until way after the race and after I had been DQ’d that I was told by a race official that I had gone wrong somewhere on the track and missed a short section of the course equating to about 1minute. It turned out that I had got ahead of a few riders without actually overtaking them. They were obviously and understandably confused as to how I had got in front them, which lead to an appeal and eventually to my DQ. The riders I saw to my right were actually a different bunch who had split from the group they were with. Having missed the appeal process and not having my Garmin file with me but only my watch showing the extra distance ridden, there was no disputing the case later that night and the DQ was there to stay.

Exiting transition onto the run I recognized Fredrik Croneborg who I have raced before. At that stage I did think that he should have been ahead of me and I automatically assumed I had passed him in T2, other than that I really had no idea who was ahead of me or behind me.

Having now downloaded my Garmin file, it turns out that the route I took on the track was actually the correct route according to the official bike map on the website. One of the athletes ahead of me who I passed on that loop, Jan van Berkel kindly sent me his Garmin file. You can see the route that he and the other riders he was with took on the F1 track, which is different to the course map albeit longer. Even with this added on, the bike course looked to be a bit short. If we started and stopped our watches at the same place, Jan rode 89km vs my 92.4km.

The run went well and it was great to be on the race course again injury free and healthy. I crossed the line in 6th place in 3:49:38 which obviously doesn’t count after the DQ. There were some good lessons learnt, mainly less ‘head-down bum-up’ on an unfamiliar course and to take your Garmin Dongle with you to races to dispute any challenges. Past that it was great to know that I’m back on track and can compete again at a high level when I go the right way.

Bike Course Map

Bike Course Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Garmin File of the route I took on the F1 track.

My Garmin File of the route I took on the F1 track.

 

Jan van Berkel’s Garmin File of route taken on F1 track. Jan obviously left his watch running from before the the race start hence the long duration and slow avrg speed.

 

 

Race splits compared to race winner Terenzo Bozzone, who had the fastest bike split of the day by over 4 minutes and it shows the time lost doing the extra loop in the beginning.

Race splits compared to race winner Terenzo Bozzone, who had the fastest bike split of the day by over 4 minutes and it shows the time lost doing the extra loop in the beginning.

Screen Shot of the distance we did on the first loop

Screen Shot of the distance we did on the first loop

Screen Shot of the distance we had done after the second loop.

Screen Shot of the distance we had done after the second loop.

 

 

5 Lessons Learnt from racing 2 Ironman 70.3 races in 2 weeks on 2 different continents… and getting 2 new course records.

Ironman 70.3 Durban, South Africa, 19 June 2016.

1) Having the perfect lead in and taper to a race isn’t the be all and end all to your race day performance!

I travelled to Stafford off the back of a big 2.5 week training block with coach, Brett Sutton and the squad in St. Moritz. It was exactly what I needed to get some speed and intensity back into my training after Ironman South Africa. However, there was no taper leading into the first race. It was the exact opposite actually with 18hrs of biking the week before, a 25km track run the week of the race and a 7km swim set just a few days before race day. Before the Durban race there was the recovery from the previous race and an 11-hour flight back to South Africa to negotiate during race week.

2) You don’t have to feel great on race day to perform!

The Stafford race was one of those days that just really clicked and I felt great all day. Coming down from altitude just a few days before worked out great and I never struggled at all aerobically. I had a good pack to draft on the swim, then pushed the bike hard with German, Markus Thomschke and was in control on the run in the wet cool conditions that were very similar to St. Moritz.

Durban, on the other hand, was a very different feeling, the rough sea swim drained a lot of energy early on, and combined with the previous weekend’s efforts I could feel myself fading in the later stages of the bike. Looking at the numbers afterwards, they showed that I subconsciously rode with a higher cadence and higher heart rate to compensate for the tired legs. The run was then hot and not entirely comfortable; luckily the home crowd support saw me through to the finish.

Ironman 70.3 Durban, South Africa, 19 June 2016.

3) Local knowledge helps! 

This is definitely an area I could have improved on in both races. In Stafford the first 10-15km of the bike is on small country lanes with lots of tight turns and blind corners. Riding this section pre-race would have been a big help and was one area I definitely lost time on. In Durban, the bike and run are straight forward but the swim was anything but. The swim was cancelled for the Age Groupers the morning of the race due to a strong rip current and rough seas. We were warned pre-race about the conditions and the need to start and swim right of the first turn buoy, however; all but one of us pros totally underestimated just how strong this rip was and once we were past the backline and were able to sight again found ourselves way off course. We all lost at least 1-2 minutes here and some even more to Clinton Gravett who went further right on his way into the water and avoided the worst of the current.

4) The best way to recover between races is to keep moving as much as possible

If you plan on racing twice in quick succession or even if you just want your legs to recover quickly from any race, the best thing is to keep moving and not let your legs seize up or let your body to go into complete relaxation/shut down mode. I find a short bike as soon as possible after the race helps tremendously, then it’s back into the pool on Monday morning. During the flight, get an aisle seat and move around every 2 hours to stop your legs swelling and if possible, do some easy training/movement the same day you land.

Ironman 70.3 Durban, South Africa, 19 June 2016.

 

5) Embrace the chaos

I’ve always thought that having a lot of time to myself pre-race to focus and get in the zone is a good thing. But some of my best races, sailing days included, have had a less than relaxing build-up. Before Stafford 70.3 I stayed in a friend’s house with 5 young very energetic kids and again before Durban, there was a short space of time to visit and spend time with nieces, nephews, family and friends. Rather than letting it cause anxiety it was great to embrace the extra love and support and it certainly helps take your mind off the event and delay any pre-race nerves.

 

 

Ironman African Champs

 

Looking back at IMSA, it’s hard to shake off the feeling of having missed an opportunity, not that I didn’t pour everything into the race which I did, and not that the podium guys didn’t race really well which there is no denying, but having the dream of a home turf win within sight and not converting is most athletes worst nightmare. I can’t imagine Jordan Spieth has been sleeping that well of late either.

What became clear to me once again with Ironman racing is that if you aren’t doing it in training it’s not going to happen on race day, and even if you are doing it in training it still might not happen. Quite simply I wasn’t swimming quick enough in the build up to the race to expect a brilliant swim, and unlike previous years no strong second swim/bike pack really formed which meant that after the first swim buoy, it was for the most part a solo effort for the rest of the day. It’s a great way to race your own race and test your fitness but it’s not the easiest way to the fastest time on a flat windless course packed with a big pro championship race field, who didn’t come to PE because they heard the people were friendly.

Coming off the bike I was about 3 minutes behind the good runners and 5-6 behind the leading duo. I knew that a sub 2hr45 marathon would be needed to get to the front, this was the mindset heading on to the run. I had trained for it, and believed I could do it. Going through the halfway point in 1hr19 I was on track but the next 21k never materialized, whether it was the heat, dropping my gel bottle on the bike or simply not being strong enough to convert that sort of time on the day, it’s hard to say. I tasted 3rd place from about 30-40km before Marko Albert came back at me, when I had two flat tyres and the tank was running on empty, to pip me to the podium. If the crowd could have carried me to the finish line I think they would have, and in a way they did. It was amazing to feel that much positive energy.

Each race is still a learning curve and I don’t think this will change not matter how many Ironmans you do. This one was a step in the right direction with lots to take with me moving into the second part of the season which I am looking forward to.

 

IMSA SwimIMSA BIKEIMSA RUN

Swim- 54:18                     Bike- 4:31:28                    Run- 2:49:39

 

 

Ironman 70.3 East London

 

BikeThankfully when it goes your way there’s not too much to say. Of course it’s very early in the season, but putting together a solid consistent performance is a very satisfying way to start the year. After a few weeks of bike and then swim focused work in the build up, I came into the race pretty fresh and excited to be racing again, fit, healthy and without any injury excuses.

A choppy swim meant the swim times weren’t the quickest but I came out the water feeling good and ready to work on the bike. A quick transition meant I was able to get a small break on the guys behind me and work on catching the front swim pack. I moved to the front at around 20km and kept pushing the pace into the headwind, with Kyle the only guy coming with me. At the turnaround it was full throttle back towards home, with the tail wind making for a very fun return trip. By T2 I had a 30sec gap on Kyle and and a few minutes on the chasing pack.

 

It can be a long 21km in East London, having to go up Bunkers Hill twice, thankfully I was still feeling good and managed to stay in control and put a couple of extra minutes into those behind me. After last years dog fight, the race may have been less eventful but it was by no means any less rewarding. The added bonus of getting the course record was the cherry on top. The goal now is to stay consistent and convert the fitness into going the full distance. Ironman South Africa on 10 April up next.

Finish

 

 

Hurrying Slowly

It’s been an eventful and exciting year so far, but it certainly hasn’t been without incident. With lots of travel and racing planned, and of course getting married in between, it was always going to be a busy schedule. What wasn’t part of the plan though was a string of unfortunate accidents that have taken some sting out of the season. Starting with a high speed crash while training in the Canaries, which left me a little worse for wear a few weeks out from Ironman South Africa.

Recovering from the race and the injuries it was then on to Franschoek to tie the knot with my beautiful wife Nicole, before heading over to Ironman Brazil. After getting some good Kona World Champs points in the last two races I managed to secure my slot to the big island, which was always the goal for the early part of the year.

 

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This meant I could head over to Europe, not stressing about points and instead focus on getting strong for Kona and hopefully earn enough prize money to support the second half of the year. Training with coach, Brett Sutton and the squad in St. Moritz has many benefits. The altitude, great training partners, facilities and the numerous mountain passes to ride over, just to name a few. The latter though, didn’t exactly work in my favour. During a long and steep alpine descent another mechanical failure sent me flying over the handlebars, this time however, my upward trajectory was a little more severe and I came down hard, breaking my collar bone clean in two.

After hitching a ride to the hospital, the X-Rays confirmed as much and the doctors set about putting in an internal pin, with the precision and efficiency that the Swiss are well known for. This counted me out of my next three races; Ironman Zurich, Alp d’ Huez triathlon and Embruman. Needless to say, I was a little bleak, Nicole maybe even more so being back at home and unable to help. The thing with St. Moritz is there’s not much to do there except train, and certainly not on a SA Rand budget. So after a couple of days in the hospital it was back onto the indoor bike and back into the pool. Starting with 25m at a time, I managed to get a pretty proficient one armed freestyle action going and was up to 2-3km sets by the end of the week. The main goal during the injury was to try and keep up my strength, being at altitude means that you can maintain a decent level of aerobic fitness just by walking to the shops. This meant plenty of big gear work on the bike, numerous aqua jogging laps in the kids pool, and a few half day hikes up to some of the alpine peaks.

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It took a good 4 weeks to be able to swim ‘properly’ with both arms and probably 5 weeks to start keeping up with the slow lane. 6 weeks after the injury it was decided that it would be a good time to test the progress in a race situation.

So off to Budapest I went for a little 70.3 hit out. The fact that it was a non-wetsuit, fresh water swim didn’t really help my already reduced swim speed, so after getting properly dropped by the competitive field within the first 300m, I carried on alone cursing the situation. After my slowest ever 1.9km swim, the fast flat bike leg continued without incident and I came in to T2 in 11th place and still pretty angry. This meant I may have run my quickest 5km split ever but managed to reel in a few guys. Running the last half of the race a little more conservatively, I eventually worked my way up to 3rd place finishing with a 1hr09min run split.

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The following weekend it was off to Zell-am-See for the 70.3 World Champs. and with it the hope that the swim might have progressed enough in a week for me to hang on to some feet. While I did for a short a while, by the time I got to the half way point turn around buoy, I found myself on my own again at the back of the pack, which is a really ‘KAK’ feeling to be honest. Struggling a bit for motivation, I told myself just don’t get overtaken by Daniela on the bike and use it as more good training for Kona, which was always the real reason for doing the race. By the top of the big climb of the day, I had made up some places and continued to work on my own catching a few more competitors before T2. The run was hot and not particularly comfortable, I knew from the word go that I didn’t have the legs of the previous weekend. Luckily everyone else also seemed to be suffering a bit and so by the finish I had worked up to 15th spot, after coming out the water in 42nd.

What I can take away from the situation of being injured, is firstly to try and keep your chin up and embrace the opportunity for a little rest and to try some different methods of training. Secondly, hurry slowly! Although my recovery was quick, it was so because we didn’t rush things and just let nature take its course, having a coach on the pool deck to haul me out before I overdid it certainly helped. Most importantly though, just try and not fall off your bike in the first place!

It is now off to Jeju Island in S.Korea for the Trisutto heat acclimatization camp in the build up to Kona. Really looking forward to putting in a good consistent block of training.

 

 

Thoughts on a long, tough day at the office at Ironman South Africa 2015

chaos-of-the-swim-start

chaos-of-the-swim-start

THE START LINE WAS CROWDED
It was a very big field, 50-odd male pros… By far the biggest field we’ve ever had here in P.E. The start line was full, normally you stand there with 10 to 15 guys and you can pretty much check everyone out and suss out who’s who and know where to line yourself up, but yesterday the start was chaotic. I had a good run into the water, but after that I was just caught right in the middle of all the chaos.

THE SWIM WAS ROUGH
I got a black eye from someone’s stray hand and was thinking, ‘oh shit, this is chaotic…’ By the time we got to the first buoy I was just in the middle of the mayhem and the front pack, about eight to 10 guys had got away. It all happened pretty quickly and if you miss that boat you’re never really going to make up that time again. That was not a great feeling but it was all about maintaining my position from there.

It was relatively choppy and busy. It definitely wasn’t a very comfortable swim, I wasn’t actually feeling that great.

into-the-head-wind-back

into-the-head-wind-back

THE BIKE WAS ALL ABOUT SURVIVAL
I got out the water in about 15th place and started the bike with a few fast guys who set off at a pretty rapid pace I kind of just hung on really. You head out with the wind and it’s mostly uphill on the way out inland and then on the way back you’re coming back along the coast into the wind and you’re a lot more exposed, so we never really got much rest. It was work all the way round the course.

I’ve never been in such a big pack before and it was very surgey so you had to keep paying attention. I remember thinking I just have to stay in this pack, this is where the race is. Because of the 12 metre rule (IRONMAN bike is non-draft legal, which means riders have to be at least 12 metres apart), it’s almost like mini intervals to stay in touch which isn’t necessarily ideal for an Ironman where it’s better to just go a steady pace. You use a lot more energy doing that sort of stop-start riding.

The road surface was pretty bumpy too, which saps a bit of energy from your legs. I was just trying to stay in the moment and keep thinking about my nutrition and trying to stay in tune with how my body was feeling – it’s quite easy to forget to eat and drink, when you’re just trying to survive.

In the last 60-kays I was just kind of surviving and thinking about getting off the bike and onto the run. At that point wasn’t sure how I was going to manage a full marathon.

survival-mode-on-the-run

survival-mode-on-the-run

THE RUN WAS A WAR OF ATTRITION
I think I started the run in about ninth, some five minutes off third place. If it went well it didn’t feel good. The whole day was just a long sufferfest, I never felt very fast or very fresh, it was a case of grinding it out and staying in my rhythm.

Because it’s a three-loop run course, you get a good view where your competition is and how much time you’ve made up.

Slowly the guys started to slow down a bit. I didn’t really speed up to catch anyone, it was more a case of the other guys fading and I stayed relatively consistent. I went relatively quickly into sixth place and then it took a while to get fifth but that was a good feeling and I kept thinking I just needed to keep chipping away. That was probably for the first 33 kays or so and then in the last 10 I said to myself ‘everyone was hurting, no matter how much training they had done’ so then it wasn’t about fitness and just about hanging tough mentally. That’s what I’m good at so I just pushed on and then in the last three-and-a-half kays I caught fourth position.

the-last-10-is-all-mental-that-s-my-strength

I LEARNT A LOT
Could’ve been a completely different situation if I was in the front pack out of the water, would’ve meant I wouldn’t have worked quite as hard on the bike to catch up all that time. But considering how the day played out I’m happy with the result, getting the chocolate medal wasn’t quite what I was after, but it was a good lesson in tactics and competing in such a big field.

first-south-african-home

first-south-african-home

Ironman 70.3 South Africa 2015

Pictures can tell a thousand words, thanks Chris Hitchcock for capturing the day.

Paul Ingpen: Oh faak, those saffas aren't here to lose! #wilddogs

Paul Ingpen: Oh faak, those saffas aren’t here to lose! #wilddogs

Ready to step into the ring. The picture above sums up my intent leading into 70.3 South Africa, Stuart Marais had the same goal in mind apparently.

Swim Exit

After a pretty rough 1.9km’s, Stu, Kyle and myself came out the water together with a 2min lead over the chasing pack, which included former Duathlon World champ and 2013 IM70.3 SA winner Bart Aernouts. Better keep charging…

Bike

After swapping the lead for the first 30km’s. I went to the front and stayed there for the rest of the bike, focussing on keeping the pace honest and trying to hold off the fast running Europeans behind us.

Run

Stuart and I got off the bike together, and the foot race was on. After a pretty impressive kick by Stu in the opening few kilometers, I stayed just in front of him and tuned in to keeping a good rhythm and maintainable pace.

Red Carpet

Going up Bunkers Hill for the second time with around 6km to go, I eventually managed to get a small break and worked hard to extend it from there.

Finish

Greeted at the finish by my fiance Nicole, none of it would be possible without her continued support as well as that of my sponsors. T3 Multisport, Red Bull, Huub, Falco and Darkhorse Wheels.

Thanks as well to my coach Brett Sutton, it was a great build up to the race and a fantastic way to start 2015. I couldn’t be happier with the result. My next race is the African Champs- Ironman South Africa on 29 March.

 

Ironman Wales

DGT_IMWALES_2014_0789.jpg

Ironman Wales is known as one of the toughest Ironman courses on the circuit and conditions this year didn’t disappoint. While it may have been the first time in the last 4 years that it didn’t rain on race day, a strong easterly breeze combined with an incoming tide meant that the swim was as hilly as the bike and run as race commentator Paul Kaye so eloquently put it.

DGT_IMWALES_2014_0048

After a rather bumpy 3.8km’s in the Atlantic I got out the water with 2 other athletes in 3rd position and started the longest transition in Ironman, so long that you get given a separate run bag to cover the 1km uphill trek to your bike. After passing second place soon into the bike, Daniel Niederreiter, Fraser Cartmell (one of the UK’s most successful Ironman pros) and myself started working on reeling in first place.

The first loop of the bike course is relatively flat and fast, and you can almost be lead to believe that you’ll be having a straight forward day on the bike… Then comes the outer loop, which you complete twice. The rolling hills, the steepest getting up to 16%, combined with the numerous 90deg turns and bumpy country lanes means that you can never get into a proper rhythm. Once we had caught up to first place, I focused on keeping the pace honest, and just before passing through Tenby for the first time managed to get a break, which only Fraser managed to bridge again.

DGT_IMWALES_2014_0347

Our 5hr03min bike split turned out to be a new course record which puts into perspective just how slow the course really is. Coming in to T2 we had a 4minute lead over our nearest competitor and it was soon becoming apparent that it was going to be a head-to-head battle between the two of us as it had been since the first loop of the swim.

DGT_IMWALES_2014_0590

We were both pretty evenly matched for the first half of the run, following each other stride for stride which definitely adds another dimension to the race which is normally just a fight against yourself. On the climb out of town on 3rd loop I managed to find a bit of extra gas and opened up a lead, which slowly extended. For the last few kilometers I tried to just soak up the experience and the crowd support which had been phenomenal throughout the entire day.

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Coming down the red carpet for my first Ironman win waving the South African flag was a very special moment. Big thanks must go out to T3 Multisport for their support, Alistair for making the Europe tour possible, all of my UK family who made it out to Wales and were by far the brightest and best dressed supporters there. Lastly my coach Brett Sutton, who in the short space of 6 weeks of working with him made me believe that an Ironman win was possible so early in my career.

Winner of Ironman Wales Is Matty Trautman of South Africa

Full focus is now on recovering in time to get to Ironman Barcelona on 5 October in good form.

 

 

 

 

70.3 Zell-am-See

 

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Zell-am-See, Austria, put on a great show for this year’s 70.3, and it’s not hard to see why they were chosen as the host for next year’s Ironman 70.3 World Champs. The 1.9km swim takes place in a pristine lake, before you hit the scenic 90km bike leg with its 600m speed bump, and is finished off with a half marathon along the lake and into the picturesque old town of Zell-am-See.

The swim was a deep water start and despite my goggles getting bumped and filling up with water, I got round and into T1 ok, in around 15th position. Onto the bike and after a super-fast few opening kilometres, the climb up Hochkönig Pass whittled down the field. At the top of the climb, with the only small to big chainring change of the entire race, I managed to drop the chain over the front. In a moment of near panic I managed to bend down and flick it back over while descending pretty rapidly down the other side- a feat I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to replicate in practice. With two top swimmers and über biker Marino Vanhoenacker still up the road, there were four of us in the next pack. This is the way things stayed until transition, with Marino eventually getting over a 6 minute gap on us.

It was shoulder to shoulder running with my two competitors from the bike, until I managed to pull ahead after around 10k’s and started to try and hunt down the remaining three guys in front of me. Having gained one position I eventually ran out of runway and came across the finish line in 3rd, closing within 90 seconds of the lead. The race marked my 2nd full year in the sport and with the race’s best run split and my first podium in an Ironman event, I was over the moon.

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Tour de Europe

The European tour started out with a trip to Tenby Wales to check out the IM Wales course and race the Wales Long Course Weekend. The LCW is a fantastic concept where one races all three disciplines of an Ironman, but over three separate days. The fact that the swim and bike course are the same as IM in September makes it a perfect training weekend.

Now in its 5th year the entire town of Tenby really gets behind the LCW, and turns out in full force to cheer on the athletes. You can of course choose to do just one discipline which meant that some of Britain’s best open water and pool specialists turned up to take on the 3.8km sea swim, along with a further 1600 swimmers.

LCW

The two lap swim course only starts at 7pm Friday evening- one of the upsides to theEnglish summer. Some favorable current on the offshore leg of the triangular course made for some very fast times, with the winner coming in on just over 38minutes, that’s 1min/per 100m- pretty rapid even with some tide pushing you along. The brand new Huub Archimedes performed perfectly to get me in on 44min32sec, braving those extra weekday swims in CT winter also seemed to pay off.

Day 2 for the 180k Sportive dawned wet and cloudy- one of the downsides to the English summer. The top 20 LCW athletes are set off individually before the main field gets under way, a nice touch to build up some more hype and recognition for the leading athletes.
Draft legal racing on TT bikes in wet Welsh country lanes with no road closure means you have to keep your wits about you. Luckily there was no drama at the front end of the race and having been with a group of 4 or 5 riders from the start, I managed to break away and stay away with 50k’s to go, eventually coming in with a 4min lead. Wales is considered one of the toughest courses on the Ironman circuit and it’s easy to see why. With numerous 90 deg turns and 2700m of climbing including a 14% gradient killer near the end there is not a lot of time to get in rhythm. Having seen the course all I can say is that the strongest rather than the fastest is likely to come out tops in September.

Having decided before hand to race the half marathon instead of the full marathon meant not being in contention for the overall LCW title. So with a 1hr17min target set by the coach, I set off through the rolling country side and came in on 1hr17min15sec. The course was 100m to far though, so almost nailed the target race time to the second.

All in all a very well organized event and successful weekend of racing, watch out for this series to take off internationally very soon.

 

st .moritz

From Wales we headed to St. Moritz Switzerland and have been here a week so far. Situated at an altitude of 1860m and with some world class swim, bike and run facilities the area attracts some of Europe’s top athletes across all disciplines. Week 1 has been all about trying to acclimatize to both the altitude and the general price of everything! Tomorrow we join the notorious Brett Sutton and his pro squad that are situated here, for some group swim training. If I can still blog at the end of the week then you’ll know my arms are still functioning.

 

Ironman South Africa 2014

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I’d had a good build up to my pro Ironman debut in Port Elizabeth South Africa. Training had gone well and I had put in more hours on the bike and on the run than ever before. Having never ridden the new 2 loop bike course I went up to P.E the week before and managed to get a feel for the new route which is tougher and hillier but also very scenic.

Without too much expectation to live up to, I felt pretty relaxed leading up to the start and even on race morning. The pressure that you place on yourself though is always enough to get a few butterflies going, especially when lined up on the beach with some of the worlds best Ironman athletes, listening to your national anthem play.

I had a great start getting through the back-line quickly before getting overtaken by some of the faster swimmers. Rounding the first buoy I was in a big pack of swimmers that was still moving pretty rapidly, and had to work really hard to try and stay in contact. Things eventually settled down a bit and I stayed near the back of the second pack trying to conserve as much energy as I could. Coming back in onto the beach, the many years of messing about in the waves playing ‘king of the beach’ came in handy as I caught a good wave in and got a nice gap over the rest of the second pack.

Onto the bike and it was all go. Having been clear for a short stint up to the top of the first climb, I was overtaken first by a German athlete and then by Kyle Buckingham. Both were going pretty hard and I stayed with them until the foot of the first climb up to lake farm. After a little difficulty getting into the small chain ring I lost contact with Kyle and decided to let go of the chase of the front pack and start riding my own race at my own pace.

At the end of the first lap I’d been caught by a big chase pack of riders. Going through special needs and the next aid station, I managed to get a small break on the pack and, along with another rider, worked hard to keep it that way. The easterly wind had picked up further on the second lap, which made the return along the coast a bit of a grind and rather slow.

Coming in to T2 I was in 7th place, and glad to get off the bike. I could see 5th place, last year’s winner, Ronnie Schildknecht, exit transition as I entered, so I knew I was still in with a shout of getting a top 5.

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By the end of the first lap I had overtaken 6th place and while I wasn’t exactly feeling great my legs were still moving and I just focussed on staying relaxed and keeping my cadence up. Ronnie pulled out just in front of me on the second lap, which bumped me up to 5th. The good, and sometimes not so good thing, about a 3 loop run course is that there are plenty of opportunities to gauge how your competitors are doing. On the last lap I could see there was a sizable gap both ahead and behind me so I just concentrated on getting to the finish line without any drama. Coming down the red carpet was as magical as ever, and I was delighted with 5th place. This was my 3rd Ironman and every race is still a huge learning experience, finding out just what your body and mind are capable of. Huge thanks to the support of the amazingly enthusiastic PE crowds, my friends, family and sponsors.

 

Ironman World Champs

Now that I’m back home and have had some time to reflect on what was an incredible 6 week journey, here is the story.

After finishing 70.3 Worlds I hung around in Vegas for another week to recover from the race and put in some more heat acclimatisation which included, a never to be forgotten, ‘harden the hell up’, 6hr solo bike ride out into the Nevada desert.

I wasn’t sad to see the back of Sin City though, after mixing oats in the hotel coffee pot and eating out in the land of fast food for 2 weeks. I was joined on the Big Island by PE local, Dan Howitz and we quickly commenced the final and critical two week training block. Those 2 weeks were invaluable, getting to know the course and the conditions, which seemed to change every day, if not every hour and having the time to fully focus on the race and train with no distractions.

After the training block we had another 2 weeks of tapering where we got to relax a bit and see some more of what the island had to offer. Kona is an amazingly diverse place with the hot and humid lava strewn coastline on one side, to rain forests, coffee farms and cattle ranches on the other, where the temperature can change 10deg in the space of a few km’s of climbing.

The week before the race things got a bit more serious with the official registration, complete with randomised blood testing which I was included in. The training race swim, welcome banquet, race expo and bike check in, can all be a bit energy sapping but all part of the experience. A highlight of the week was the Parade of Nations, where the competitors walk down Ali’i drive representing their country. It felt a bit like being in an Olympic opening ceremony and was very cool. The arrival of my awesome blonde trio support team which included girlfriend, aunt and cousin completed the pre race proceedings.

Come race morning, I felt relaxed, prepared and ready to hit the lava fields. The pro men start off the day at 6:30, followed by the pro women at 6:35. It’s then the turn of the masses to take to the water. With over 2000 of the world’s best age group athletes treading water for over 20minutes waiting for the cannon to be fired some time near 07:00, things can get a little tense, if not downright aggressive. Luckily I managed to get away from the line clean without too much elbow bashing and quickly joined a good pack of swimmers.

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Rounding the top buoy I thought things felt a bit too easy so I separated from the pack, put my head down and tried to make up some positions, nothing really changed except for the fact that I was spending more energy, so I quickly rejoined the group and felt very comfortable all the way to transition with a time of 54:48.

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The bike course first takes you on a loop around the town of Kona with some steep short climbs before you join the Queen K highway and head north. The goal here was to not get too carried away in the moment, which is very easy to do with the crowd support. I had been doing the majority of the over-taking instead of the other way round until about the 25km mark where I was joined by eventual overall age group winner and fellow Saffa, Kyle Buckingham. I stuck with him for the next few Km’s until we eventually got separated.

Conditions on the bike were hot ,but otherwise near perfect with very little wind, which is extremely rare in Kona especially on the final climb to Hawi. It was on this climb that I was joined by a pack of 5 riders whom I stuck with until the turnaround point at the top of the hill. We were followed by a race marshall all the way up and this continued to be a theme for the day, which was very nice to see after the drafting fest of Vegas.

At the turnaround point some of the riders in the group stopped for their Special Needs bag, I made the call to carry on without mine, not wanting to risk losing contact with the two riders in front of me, which, in hindsight, I think was the right decision. Rejoining the highway at the bottom of Hawi we had caught up with Kyle again and were now at the sharp end of the age group race. The group thinned out a bit for the final 60km’s leaving just myself, Kyle and two other riders. I had felt great for most of the ride and came in to T2 with a bike split of 4:41, way quicker than I had anticipated and right in the mix for the age group podium.

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After a quick transition it was out onto Ali’i drive and the moment of truth to see if we had overcooked the bike leg. Again, I felt really good and held a decent pace for the first 10km, focusing on staying cool and taking on enough nutrition at the aid stations. After Ali’i drive you head out of town on a steep climb back onto the highway and I think this is the first real indicator of how things are going to be for the next 30kms. The Queen K can be pretty  barren and its easy for your mind to wander at this stage of the race. The last section before the turnaround , you run down into the ‘energy lab’ which is surrounded by lava rock and is the hottest part of the course. I had steadily started to slow down by this point and had to really dig deep to keep my pace up. Running back out of the lab you get a chance to see how close your competition is behind you, I had about a 2 minute lead on the next runner in my AG at this stage and knew it was “race on”. I managed to hold him off until about 6km from the finish, but when he came past me my jelly legs just didn’t have any response. I kept pushing though in the off chance that he would cramp or melt, this didn’t happen and I came in to the finish with a run split of 3:08 putting me second in my age group and 30th overall with a total time of 8:49:12. I had never dug so deep before, but this just made running down the finishers chute that much more satisfying, knowing that I had put out my best possible effort on the day.

The number of messages and well wishes before and after the race have been overwhelming. Thank you! It’s been an amazing journey since I started triathlon a little over a year  ago, and one that would not have been possible without the support of some very special people.

Ironman 70.3 Worlds

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Ironman 70.3 World Champs

Race Day dawned in Las Vegas wet and cool. Weather conditions that no one was expecting. The chocolate brown water of Lake Las vegas was a pleasant 27deg so no wetsuits were allowed. We were the last wave to start at 7:52am which meant we were lucky enough to see the pro’s set off at 6:30am, stroll back to the car to get changed and get in another banana before making our way into the water. There were 140 age groupers in our wave (25-29yrs), which is an age where everyone thinks they’re fast enough to line up in the front during the wet swim start. With a lot of jostling and elbowing for position I managed to get away cleanly and ease into a rhythm. Before long we started to overtake some of the back markers of the wave in front of us and had to be careful not too swim over anyone. I exited the water in 14th position in 28minutes more or less on track given the fact that it was fresh water with no neoprene to hold up sinky legs.

 

Worlds Bike

Transition from swim to bike takes over 3 minutes as you work your way around the end of the lake and then onto steep climb with your bike to get out of transition. The bike leg takes you out into the Lake Mead national park which is basically the desert; the cooler conditions were very welcome but a bit of caution was needed on cornering in the wet which was probably the reason for the slightly slower bike splits than the previous year. Having no idea where I was placed during the bike I focused on holding a constant power and not surging too hard up the hills. The traffic was a bit like rush hour on the N2, with athletes at times riding 3 a breast whilst overtaking one another. Not long after the turnaround point I was caught by three riders working together and who looked to be my age group. They were pushing pretty hard up one of the steeper climbs and way over my threshold power so I decided to let them go, and see if I could reel them back in on the downhill. This didn’t happen and in hindsight I probably should have tried to stick with them as they all came in to T2 within seconds of each other and ended claiming the podium. Barring German Uber biker and race winner Sebastian Kienle, their 2hr16min bike split was pretty much the same as the pro men, so some very strong biking done by the top 3 in my age group. I completed the bike in 2hr23min @ a 300W average which was spot on what I wanted to do and a big step up on my biking performance so I was very happy with that

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The run course consists of 3 loops with more or less 3 long climbs, so not much flat in between. I started off at a pace I was  hoping to hold throughout the run, this strategy worked up until the last lap where I started to cramp a bit and generally feel a bit shaky. Reaching the last climb of the day is a great feeling as its all downhill to the finish from there and you can give it your all. In the end I came home with a 1:26 run which put my overall time at 4hr23min placing me 5th in my age group and 52nd Overall.

It was a great experience to race some of the best triathletes in the world and really opens your eyes to the level that the top pro’s are racing at. I’m really chuffed with my result as it was a big improvement on my 70.3 South Africa time. I’ve got another week here in Vegas and then its onto the Big Island for the main event.

 

 

Week before Vegas

 

Settled in nicely here in Vegas, and all equipment has arrived safe thankfully. The cankles took a while to go down from the flight, think I’ll take an aisle seat next time. Have ridden the bike course and attempted some race pace intervals on the run course. The heat has obviously taken a bit of getting used to, but starting to adjust. Glad I did a few fully clothed turbo and sauna sessions before I left. The roads are super smooth here so it’s easy to pick up speed on the bike, both bike a run are pretty hilly though. The bike route takes you out into the desert to a turnaround point then back into the town of Henderson, the dedicated bike lanes make training on the course a treat. T1 and T2 are in different places the run is a 3 loop course on two main streets in town.

The 25-29 age group is the last start of the day on Sunday, head off at 8 o’clock an hour and a half after the pro start. Forecast is for it to be a bit cooler but still unseasonably humid apparently.

As for Sin City, the strip is one crazy place  just bigger and brighter and more over the top than you can ever imagine. We’ve put down two bets on the Roulette table, won $80 and then managed to spend it on 3 pizzas. Think we’ll leave the gambling till post race now.

Pic’s to follow soon.

Bela Bela

I’ve had to make the very tough decision not to race Bela Bela this weekend. I’ve been nursing tendonitis in my ankle for most of the week with the hope that it would of sorted itself out by now; unfortunately it hasn’t and on the advice of the chiro, physio and coach it needs a few more days rest from running. I’m obviously a bit disappointed but the 5150 was always going to be used as a tune up race for Vegas and at the moment racing is going to do more damage than good. Looking on the bright side I can get in a lot of good bike and swim time here in Cape Town over the next 3 days, the alternative would of been to go up and just do the swim and bike leg, but I felt this would of been a bit of a waste of time and knowing me I probably wouldn’t of actually pulled out. Was looking forward to testing out my race fitness against some of South Africa’s top Olympic distance athletes but it’s not to be. Good luck to everyone racing, hoping for a complete My Training Day podium!