So Saturday 30 October I took part in my 2nd Slanghoek Triathlon, it was almost 1 year on from the day where it all started for me. After Challenge Cape Town was cancelled I had quickly revised my plans and entered the Slanghoek Triathlon the following day. It seemed fitting that I would be returning to the place where I first cut my teeth as a newbie triathlete. This year I took part in the ‘Road Triathlon’ category comprising a 1.2km swim, 52km Bike and 12km Run.
I left @beanker and home for Slanghoek at 5am and had a pleasant if not slightly quick journey through to the venue arriving at the venue shortly after 6am (the race started at 8am). I hooked up with @mohebo and caught up while we duly registered and got our race numbers inked before heading off to rack our bikes. There were 3 triathlons taking place that day including ours, the other two were a short and long off road triathlon (xterra style). I had started out on the short distance off road the previous year.
I hadn’t taken part in a triathlon since the 11 Global race back in February and I was a little nervy about how rusty my transition would be. I laid out my kit and then tried to visualise my transitions to ensure a good order and that I hadn’t missed anything. As I was doing this a young lady next to me asked if I could help her as she was doing her first triathlon. I smiled made a few suggestions, answered a few questions before saying that Slanghoek had also been my first triathlon and that I was excited and stoked for her that it was hers too.
I rejoined @mohebo who had gathered with other @MyTrainingDay triathletes spearheaded by Elite Traithlete @clairehorner. It was great to see the friendly and smiling faces of @tracymarkham and @kez_delport and meet some other twitter triathletes @canerat and @rossriv in person too. I still have to meet the speedy @NicMuhl and @paulingpen but no doubt I will at another event soon.
We headed off to the 1.2km swim start at the agricultural dam for the race briefing. 210 of us gathered on the bank in the sun chomping at the bit to get the swim started. I edged down the bank to the water and stood behind the great Viv Williams @veteranviv who was joined by local standout Tristan Kelly. As always I had started on the edge of the pack and my first couple of strokes consisted of getting kicked by Viv and slapped on the back of the head a couple of times before I managed to get some clear water and line to the first turning buoy. At the first buoy i caught someone hard across the side of the head as we turned and I felt immensely guilty about it. The rest of the swim thankfully went by without incident and I exited the water and ran to transition to get cracking on the bike. Seeing @tracymarkham in transition made me feel I had had a good swim and i was determined to try and not lose too much time or position on the bike.
The 52km bike leg of the Slanghoek triathlon was a one loop course that was quite flat with a couple of small hills/bumps. The bike is by far my weakest discipline and something that I feel that I am still improving at on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong I am not an exceptional swimmer or a fast runner but with just over a year of cycling under my belt I feel I still have a massive learning curve or at least I hope so! From T1 I hammered down the first hill like a hare being chased by hounds. Let me tell you that there is nothing more deflating than being passed on a bike almost effortlessly and at speed. It was close to the 10km mark when the first group of guys caught me. I watched them intently as they passed looking at their gear selection, technique and general demeanour trying to pick up some tips. When we turned into the wind I had some more people pass me and then I started imagining that I had picked up a puncture (I hadn’t). When a group of three passed me in quick succession (drafting) I just decided I wasn’t trying hard enough and should try and keep them in my sight until T2.I did my best but couldn’t keep it up so I decided to ease back a little to keep something for the run leg. It was a beautiful morning and at times I was distracted by the peacefulness of the area and scenery on display. Some of the local children from the wine farms hd come out and were out on the side of the road cheering as we whizzed by.
It was a couple of km’s from T2 that I got a surprise when I looked behind and saw Tracy hot on my heels and about to pass me. We had a quick chat before she left me behind and I tried to keep her in sight. I had a good T2 and set out on the two loop 12km run leg that was a mix of tar and gravel track around the Slanghoek Cellar vineyards. I got into an early rhythm but was finding it hard to increase my pace. The months of endurance training preparing for Challenge Cape Town had definitely affected my speed and I became a little frustrated. Towards the end of the first loop a very strong looking Raoul de Jongh passed and effectively lapped me on his way to claim 2nd place. I still had another 6kms to go and the first two guys had already finished.
On the second loop I saw quite a few people drop off with cramps, sickness or exhaustion. It was a bit disconcerting seeing others in distress particularly over a relatively short distance course. The last 4kms of the run I ran almost toe to toe with another guy on our way through the vineyards to the finish. It was exhilarating to be racing side by side with someone for so long. We made the climb up to the dam and the finish was now in sight. I turned to my fellow triathlete and said “this has been a great race lets finish it” and we continued with our tussle. I made my move before we got to the oak trees with a hundred or so metres left. I thought I had gone too soon with about 30 metres to go when I heard another guy come from nowhere at pace so I put my head down and tried to sprint to the line. The announcer brought us home as we raced in and my hammie suddenly tightened as I crossed the line just managing to keep the other two at bay. I shook hands with the guys (Adrian and Simon) that had made me push so hard at the end and felt I had left pretty much everything I had out on the course. My time was 3:04:21 Next year I’m going sub 3 hour for sure!
My splits for the race are below (Garmin 310 XT)
I gathered with @mohebo and the @mytrainingday guys for a post race drink and chat. It turned out that the person I clouted in the swim was none other than @tracymarkham and so at least I got to apologise to her profusely. We stayed on for the prizegiving and it was German Triathlete Clemens Coenen taking top honours in 2h25:57 with @raouldejongh 2nd and @Brad_weiss_Tri 3rd. In the ladies section @clairehorner took top spot in 2h45:18 and @tracymarkham took a well deserved 3rd place.
After the race I was fortunate to have a chat with Agne du Plessis who with her husband Pieter host the Slanghoek Triathlons. It was only their second year of organising the event but I was hugely impressed with how they had already improved on the previous year’s event and had enjoyed fantastic growth in participation numbers for this year’s race. I will most definitely be back in 2012 and I recommend anyone wanting to do their first triathlon to come along too.
On the drive back home I thought much about how I had enjoyed the race. Most of all though I thought about how only a year on from my first triathlon that it had become an almost essential part of it and that I was thankful for the many positive things that the sport has given me.
See you in Slanghoek in 2012