On Sunday 11th December I participated in my first Half Ironman distance triathlon the Jailbreak Maximum at Brandvlei Prison. It was my second time at this Triathlon after completing the Minimum distance in 2010. The Maximum consists of a 2.2km Swim, 88km Bike and 22km Run while the Minimum is a 1.1km Swim, 44km Bike and 11 km Run. The Jailbreak was one of the many events that I planned on doing as part of my build up to doing Ironman South Africa in 2012 for my chosen charity The Sunflower Fund. New Balance had showed their support in the week preceding the race and provided me with items from their new multisport range to tri out during the event. My race plan was to take part in The Sunflower Fund colours to highlight the charity whilst taking on the challenge of this distance. Of course I wanted to get in under 6 hours that I believed to be achievable but most of all I wanted to enjoy the experience.
@beanker and I arrived on Saturday morning for the registration and pre event briefing. @beanker was not deterred by being in an orthoboot from her still recovering cuboid fracture and was very much focussed and intent on finishing the Minimum (her first triathlon). Conditions on Saturday were warm with a little bit of wind around the course and the weather report looked pretty much the same fare for race day. This year they offered a 3.3km Swim on the Saturday for keen open water swimmers and those crazy enough wanting to do both this and one of the following days triathlons. The water was just over 20C and there was a mixture of Channel Rules swimmers and those clad in wetsuits waiting for the water start. @beanker and I stuck around keen to watch the swimmers do their thing and it was great to see @tracymarkham keen to show her open water prowess. I soon noticed the very talented Philip Emslie @PhilSwim warming up and I was glad we had stuck around to watch. The guys started at what seemed like a quick pace and by the first buoy @PhilSwim had pulled clear and had a good lead on the 2nd swimmer. The lead didn’t change hands as @PhilSwim continued to dominate the swim by an ever increasing margin over the 2nd swimmer. Conditions got a bit choppy on the water and the last stretch from the 3rd bouy to the beach seemed a bit tricky with plenty of chop and a noticeable current pulling some of the swimmers quite wide. @PhilSwim was first out the water in a rapid 47 minutes with the other swimmers coming in quite a long way behind. It was great to see Warren Fialkov from 1st Sunday of the Month Swim (#SOMS) have a great swim and finish amongst the top men. @tracymarkham also had a great swim finishing in an hour and 2nd Lady overall.
Saturday evening was a fitful evening as the wind picked up and rattled the branches against the roof at our accommodation. I awoke early feeling a little tired but raring to go and nervously excited but looking forward to my first Jailbreak Maximum. I showered, stretched and then had my standard @futurelifeza breakfast and then we headed to Brandvlei Prison. We arrived a little later than planned and didn’t realise that parking was on the far side of the prison (nearly a km from transition). We got to transition and racked our bikes but I then realised I had left my sunscreen in the car with 10 minutes to go until the start. Thankfully @beanker had some sunscreen sachets and was an absolute lifesaver as I had visions of getting burned to a crisp during the race and getting heatstroke if it heated up during the day. The previous year the temperatures at the venue had soared to 36C and it was certainly heavy going in that heat. I rushed down to the water whilst busy applying sunblock and literally dashed into the water with 2 minutes to go to stretch out my arms and acclimatise the conditions. I got out said howdy to an ever friendly and very focussed @kenthorner then positioned myself at the edge of the herd and behind the quicker swimmers. The 2.2km swim was a 2 lap course swam clockwise and was interesting to say the least. Conditons looked smooth from the shore but as we got out in to the middle it was certainly choppy with the final stretch being particularly choppy with some drag and I found sighting a bit tricky. I was a bit relieved when I emerged from the water feeling like I had swallowed half the dam and looked at my garmin on 45 minutes.
T1 was a bit of a shocker as I took a while to find my bike and then decided to take a bit of time putting my socks and cleats on. I definitely need to invest in some decent footwear on the bike. Anyways I headed down the long chute and out onto the bike leg. The 1st lap of the 2 lap 88km bike leg went well despite being overtaken by a multitude of people (I’ve accepted my weakness and it will take time to improve). The wind was pretty hard in certain places out on the course and it made the going quite tough at times. It was about 5kms into the 2nd lap of the bike leg when the wheels literally started falling off. I began experiencing painful cramping across my stomach followed by severe nausea. The pain was so unbearable that it was impossible to ride down on my tri bars and resorted to riding upright. The bouts of dizziness and nausea were very unnerving and resulted in a couple of unexpected yet forced stops. Coming back into T2 the 2ndleg of my bike leg was over 20 minutes slower and I was glad to be finally off the bike and out of the wind. However I was dreading the 22km I still had to run in the increasing heat on the course.
In all of the triathlons I have done so far I always look forward to the run leg. I feel comfortable running off the bike and often look forward to making back some time and places. This was not the case with me coming into T2 feeling so out of sorts and disappointed to have lost so much time on the bike. I was thankful that the cramping had abated and I was not feeling the nausea. I began feeling mentally better and figured it was just a temporary condition. I looked at my time and believed I could still get under 6 hours but I would have to run well. I set off and I got into a good rythmm running at just over 5 mins per km pace. The first loop of the 3 loop 22km run leg seemed to go by quickly in just over 35 minutes and I was feeling confident again. Unfortunately as I was nearing the 10km mark I physically hit the wall as the cramping and nausea came back with hot and cold sweats and confusion. I was in a bad way and a slow walk at this stage became almost physically unbearable. I saw @beanker a couple of hundred metres up the road walking in her orthoboot. It gave me a wake-up call knowing that my wife was willing to walk the 11km’s required in the minimum jailbreak so that she could claim a finish despite still having a fractured cuboid bone in her foot. I eventually caught up to her and we chatted while we walked. It was amusing to see people look at her in surprise and amazement. It’s not every day you see someone completing a triathlon in a moonboot. It was hard to watch her turn off and go on the shortened course whilst I had to continue on on my own.
The remaining 12kms of the run leg were the longest and hardest kilometres that I have ever done. I am not afraid to admit that i went through a range of emotions on the run leg and I can’t remember much about those kilometres except that each one hurt! One thing I do remember clearly is the faces and the kind words from fellow triathletes and spectators alike. @mohebo @kez_delport @RustyWilsenach and @KentHorner were particularly great at keeping me cheery and focussed on getting to the finish. In the final couple of kilometres to the finish I thought a lot about my brother (a leukaemia survivor) and knew he would be proud of me for not giving up on the day and for fighting all the way to the finish.
I did eventually finish in 6h23mins but I was broken when I finished and I sat down and didn’t move for an hour trying to keep nausea at bay. I was awake enough to hear that @KentHorner took top honours in the Maximum in an incredible 4h36mins 5 minutes ahead of 2nd place even after being sent incorrectly on an 8km detour on the bike leg. Whilst in the ladies race it was great to hear @tracymarkham claimed 2nd place in the Minimum and @kez_delport took 3rd place in the Maximum.
I still don’t know what happened on the day but I am thankful for many things. The New Balance multisport kit I was given to use was fantastic. I used it for the first time on the day of the race, usually a big no no where trying out kit is concerned! However it fitted perfectly, was comfortable during all 3 legs and it has given me confidence knowing through many long hours in the water, on the bike and on the run going into other events and Ironman in April that it will get the job done with ease. My fitness is excellent as I felt no heavy legs, stiffness or soreness the next day and after a day’s full rest resumed light training. Finally it wasn’t a full ironman distance event but it was a start in getting me mentally and physically toughened up for the journey that lies ahead to Ironman South Africa.
Finally I may not have had the best race day ever but I will take the finish safe in the knowledge that next year I am going back to bury that benchmark well under 6 hours and put things right.
All the preparation in the world cannot substitute actual physical and mental experience. We will have an off day in our sporting careers it is inevitable! It’s what you do when faced with adversity that ultimately defines you.
As a wise man once said “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever!”
I certainly don’t plan on quitting anytime soon, do you………