It feels like this race should be my New Year’s day- or my birthday. It was a year ago, in 2011, that this race really ignited the spark to re-enter the multisport training/racing scene with oomph. After a decade of relatively non-activity, and then slowly getting less slothful, completing 2011 as a pair with @BrentOne80 with minimal training, I realised just how much I missed the racing. 53 weeks later, I tackled TSC2012, solo. A little less than 9 hours after that, I crossed the finish line…
The race got off to a good start. A bit pressed for space amongst the team hackers and a little slower than I would have liked on the ski, I pulled out a great swim to take me up to 3rd individual out on the bike. I was feeling fresh and still blazing. This is what I remember racing to be like… My strategy was “go for as hard as you can, for as long as you can”. Not everybody’s cup of tea, and probably not what you “should” do, but I like to fail fast. I’m not scared of failure- it’s the shortest route to improvement
Nonetheless, I was probably a little too quick out on the bike because it was a long lonely ride leaving a good 10 minutes before the start of the Terra Firma. The leading Terra Firma charge spearheaded by Conrad Stoltz only came flying by at the bottom of Rooi Els. And to think I could have jumped onto the back of that pack…? Pack #2 at the top of Rooi Else came by, which I managed to hang on for a while… and then finally Pack #3 in Betty’s Bay, which I dropped off just before heading into Kleinmond.
I simply must mention the schools of dolphins who swam with us on the ski, the spectacularly awesome sunrise, the majestic views from the bike along the coast road, the dramatic scenery along the start of the run… all of it did not go unnoticed.
And the run felt great- for about 500m, before getting hard. I had surpassed my 3 hour conditioning mark and the cramps started back-chatting. **My training sessions usually last 90 minutes, maybe 120 minutes on a long day, and I only get handful of them during the week. My longest race in the last year was 3 hours (Slanghoek) so I knew I had limits- I was just not too sure where they were- or what they would look like.**
The 13km run was pure “vasbyt” until my legs literally seized 1km from the end. I did not move. I was trying to find a stretch resembling a yoga pose while massaging my thumbs deep into the muscles, desperately trying to get them to relax. By the way, this works well and so between that, @Simon_Shield and @BrentOne, who were keeping me hydrated and feeding me cramp busters like candy, I made it through to the K1, happy to get off my feet for a while. “Jumping” into the paddle, I felt relieved and started making great progress once again, happy to use my arms for a change. And then disaster…
7km into the paddle and my body started protesting. Loudly. Waves of nausea and lethargy put my arms at an absolute standstill. Any movement and it felt like I would blow- literally. The 3 hour mark was my first limit, 5 hours was my next threshold. Happy to make the turn and just try drift back into port with the wind, I sat motionless, unable to move. Finally, after the nausea got the better of me, I blew a gasket and succumbed to the cool waters of the vlei for a swim. **I was impressed by the rescue boat who speedily popped by to offer me a lift back- and a ticket out.** But no. I was not done- not totally. Somewhere down, deep inside, there was more. I had to believe there was. After a quiet moment of reflection and feeling purged, I drifted into harbour.
Again, the magic of being out there in the middle of the estuary, with time to take in the splendour of all that was surrounding me, was spiritual…
Washing up on shore, I must have looked quite bad because I was greeted by a number of shocked faces. I ignored the panic in their eyes and focused on looking for a comfortable hard patch of dirt and stones. This was going to be an easy transition. Under the shade of the trees, I scoffed down a half dozen baby potatoes, some more juice- a lot more Rehidrat and regained my sense of humour. As long as I had that, I would be ok. A decent 20/30 minutes of shooting the breeze and I was ready to go- relatively speaking.
It was hot out there- but that was nothing compared to the pain I was in. This was a new level of brutal. Out onto the hills and into the Koggelberg mountains. I always revel in these mountains and the absolute beauty. It’s hard to describe. The rawness of those fire-cleansed landscapes and the glimpses of coastline from on top of the world… This was truly metaphorical.
17kms into the ride and again, my legs refused to move. This was now becoming a familiar routine, but walking it off helps. “Just keep moving… You are not done”
Finishing the bike ride, feeling the cooler breeze of the shoreline, seeing my family gathered at the last transition point, a little worried but smiling, all of it lifted my spirits and renewed my sense of determination. Only 9km to go. This was going to be easy compared to the last 7/8 hours. Bottle in hand, some encouraging cheers, a good luck kiss and I was set to go.
Those 9kms drifted past with little pain. The legs knew what had to be done- it was buckle down and work. Again, my seconds joined me on the last stretch, keeping my sense of humour in check and helping me cross that hot, hot, hot sand. Crossing the bridge and rounding the corner into the home stretch was bliss. Seeing my wife and kids ready to cheer me home was indescribable. My little boy, only too happy to see me and missing me like crazy, lifted me home the last 200m stretch, hand-in-hand. I will never get tired of that.
And just like that it was done- and all memories of the hurt box faded… But before they fade, a note to self…
Sports Specific Training
Nothing beats actually riding a bike, running on the beach, on the road, mountain biking, paddling. A spinning class, a treadmill, an ergo machine… all of it- pale and second-class citizens by comparison. Get out there and do it!
35km of official road bike training mileage in one year (yes, if you reading still, you read that correctly: 35km) is not enough. Hahaha. Mountain biking fitness does not cross-over into time-trialing 50km on a road bike. Probably the one thing I will change. Of course, this also depends on your history and what you’re used to and how long you’ve been in/active.
Get a lot of it- don’t think you have all the answers- be open to suggestions. I read and took advice from a lot of people and blogs, particularly Dan’s. Baby potatoes rock! I could have taken more advice, but this is a learning curve, an iteration, a step forward. All in good time…
Don’t try out anything new on race day- especially on a race like this. Practice/train with your racing kit/nutrition/equipment and race with what you’re comfortable with.
Keep It Simple
Seriously. There’s so much going on, the simpler the better. Boat, paddle and a PFd. Wetsuit, goggles. Bike, helmet, shoes, juice. “Takkies”, hat. Food. Suncream.
Control What You Can
From the Mockes, I’ve read and heard this time and again. Control only the stuff you can control. If a random boat is going to destroy your ski’s rudder- then so be it. If your bike derailleur is going to snap *on that day* then c’est la vie. Yes, it will suck, but you cannot control everything.
I have a wonderful wife, a family with energetic kids and I freelance. I have other commitments and need to find a balance- somewhere. Sure, if I could train +4 hours a day, I would probably happily do so- but what I have is **perfect**. Don’t lose sight of the really important things. As a result, your achievements are always in context of what you have- the nett result, not just the line item result. Celebrate small victories, enjoy the ride and push yourself beyond where you can go, but take it easy on yourself too
I gave the race everything I had and I would highly recommend that strategy. If I had to race all over again- I would do it pretty much the same. One or two tweaks maybe, but overall, the same. Life is for living- and living to the full. Do the bestest you can do with what you have- and give it your all, nothing less.
This cannot be overstated in a race like this. Good seconds who you can just trust to do what they need to do so you can just get on doing with that you need to do is paramount. On race day, you don’t want to worry about anything. Just get up and race. Having a seconding team like that makes all the difference in the world. And by the way, seconding starts long before race day…
If you can’t look back on a race and smile, you might need to look at it all again, a little harder, from a different perspective maybe. There’s always the reason you signed up in the beginning, find it. Enjoy it. And see you on the start line next year (and hopefully, a couple more start lines inbetween too)!