The Jailbreak Triathlon to me as a tri newbie seemed like one of those events that you just had to take part in. Any event that calls its participants Parolees, supporters Parole Officers and race officials Wardens was bound to be a hoot. The event actually takes place at Brandvlei Prison outside of Worcester, yes it is a real prison with real prisoners and yes, they wear orange!
Now I don’t want to get too philosophical about my training and experiences over the past 4 months in the lead up to this event but they have felt like a breakthrough for me. It has literally been an experience of Breaking Free of constraints and self doubt in my ability and performance. Having to focus and train for three sporting disciplines has often made me relax and actually enjoy or look forward to the variety each session and discipline offered.
So my 4 months of triathlon training and experience came down to one event as it sometimes inevitably does in sport. I had chosen to enter the Minimum Jailbreak which is a 1.1km Swim, 50km Cycle and 12 km Run. A good distance I thought to give it horns and not risk doing too much too soon (my injury nemesis).
I probably over packed for a weekend away but I figured that I didn’t want to run around in a panic on race day looking for something at the last minute. I doubted that they were going to have too many triathlon related items at the prison tuck shop even with the event exhibitors in attendance. So Saturday registration came along and just seeing the lean yet muscular and tanned athletes everywhere made me think I was attending a modeling shoot, it was a bit intimidating.
So race day arrived and I got to the venue just before 6am to check in my bike and bucket all parolees got these as they were for our transition gear. I felt the early morning warmth of the sun on my face and looked up at the clear skies; it was going to be a hot and potentially long day at the prison!
Stepping into the water with over 200 triathletes was invigorating and I soaked up the banter of those around me including the ever jovial Paul Kaye (the Ironman South Africa commentator). The start got underway and the swim was over before I knew it and thankfully without incident. I hit the shore and headed to the transition area to start my bike leg. The bike leg took in a large circular route with scenery that was a mixture of endless vineyards and imposing mountains. I cringed when we headed through Rawsonville with a road that was littered with pot holes and made for a very bumpy ride. The bike ride went pretty well and I rode the last 15km to the final transition quite hard. Coming into the bike transition zone to dismount I had only just put my feet on terra firma when I fell foul of a wasp that got stuck in my helmet and ended up with a nasty sting to my pip. In pain but undeterred I racked my bike and headed out for the run.
The temperature was now soaring in the mid 30 degrees Celsius and there was no breeze to speak off. With adrenalin firmly pumping I got into a good rhythm and began clawing back some places I had lost on the bike leg. The heat was becoming quite oppressive and it was such a huge lift to see my wife and friends at the turnaround point cheering me on. I felt obliged to quicken my pace for the final lap though in truth I was quite tired. The last loop came and went pretty quickly and the final couple of hundred metres were amazing as I neared the finish. I didn’t feel quite as emotional as I had when I ran my first marathon or Two Oceans Ultra but I had the same great feeling of gratification and achievement. I had dared to try something new and had loved every minute of it. After 3 hours and 13 minutes of tri-ing it was over so quickly that I began thinking about my next one!
For anyone looking to take part in triathlon or for that matter any sort of race whether it be a running or cycling. I would highly recommend getting your family, friends or those close to you to come along and support you on the day. Remember that they may have had to put up with the early mornings, the increased laundry loads or just the seemingly unsatisfied appetite for food during all hours of the day. Believe me there is nothing better than being cheered on by loved ones when things get tough and then being able to share your achievement when you cross the finish line. Besides you never know who will be inspired to try themselves, trust me that is what my wife was talking about afterwards!