So here I sit – 6.30am on the morning of Saturday the 5th April with a cup of tea and a tennis biscuit. It’s 24 short hours before IronMan South Africa 2014.
All that is separating me from the not too easy task of propelling my body, by use of my arms and legs, through 228 kilometres of sea and road is:
- a thankfully short 20 minute swim and 20 minute run.
- A quick swing by the expo to avail myself of a few nutrition bits
- A hopefully relaxing afternoon
- And most important PLEASE Dear Lord – a good nights sleep
This time tomorrow, I’ll be standing on the beach just 10 minutes from start time. There are only 24 hours left.
[title size=”2″]SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP[/title]
They say the night before the night before a big event is probably the most important, and thankfully I managed to get into bed at the planned 21h30 and managed to get a good 8.5 hours. Superb.
I was sincerely hoping that would be the case after the previous nights measly and worryingly paltry 5. I can never seem to pack as quickly as I want and my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder rears it’s ugly head in situations where careful planning and attention is needed.
This requires me to run through all my race gear, item by item, discipline by discipline, multiple times. Not particularly fun.
On the eve or race day, please don’t think me greedy, but I am praying my overactive and anxious mind allows me 7 hours.
[title size=”2″]BUSY AIRPORT, BUDGET AIRLINES, NEARLY MISSED PLANE[/title]
There’s also nothing to put the virgin IronMan South Africa athletes on unnecessarily higher edge than a busy airport at 05h30 in the morning after already mentioned sub-par sleep.
Mix that with the OCD and you have a heady cocktail of a normally patient person getting extremely agitated.
Walking towards check-in, I remembered wise advice I’d read about and employed on my way to the New York Marathon. Take your important kit on the plane with you as hand luggage. In running circles – that’s your shoes. Wear them on the plane. Everything else is replaceable and shouldn’t cause you too much issue to replace and wear on race day. But to wear a brand new pair of untried and unworn in shoes on race day – NOT a good idea.
Remembering this great advice required opening the bags, removing Bike shoes and Running shoes and putting them in hand luggage.
Remembering the 20kg per bag max weight allocation required a quick and rather unnecessary (given time pressure) rejig of my wife and my bag, before hitting the queue.
And this is where the debate over whether to use a budget airline is seriously tested. We were flying with Mango, an airline I don’t normally use – choosing Kulula in preference. The queue was monstrous, snaking its way from the counters all the way into the general walkway.
One or 2 seemingly helpful Mango employees approached us to encourage us to use the self check-in as that queue was shorter, and the process faster. In retrospect, it was purely a tactic to spread the volume across the 2 queues and help them out because that queue turned out worse.
To cut a long story short, the line hardly moved, inching a long at a snails pace. A lot of very agitated IronMan athletes around me remained polite and asked questions, trying to determine if we were going to make the flight at all, while watching the ‘normal’ queue we had vacated, move faster than ours and the people that were in front of us, check-in before us.
When my wife enquired as to why it was taking so long, the quite brilliant answer was: ‘Everyone just arrived at once’. Do the budget airlines not have logistics departments that study the movement of passengers at various times of day and take measures to deal with it? Apparently not.
What they did do – maybe their effort to use a diversionary tactic to take peoples minds off the poor logistics – was have lots of people handing out free newspapers. Nice touch, but it doesn’t solve the problem or the nerves.
The SAA counters behind us, by comparison, were nice and empty. Maybe something to consider next time around.
After eventually checking in, we made it through a busy security before getting called out as the last 2 passengers they were waiting for the flight, which required an unnecessary run to the boarding gate.
I tweeted about my displeasure at the poor service before departure, only to see a pathetic reply from Mango on our landing saying – “Sorry to hear. We do advise arriving at least 2 hours prior to departure”. Everyone knows and works on the basis that an hour before departure is ample time for a domestic flight. I joined the queue 55 mins before. That should be ample time. Not sure I’ll be using Mango again before a big event.
[title size=”2″]IRONMAN SOUTH AFRICA EXPO[/title]
Are expos not evil? They test the very base nature of our materialistic desire to acquire. Trying to curb one’s expenditure at an event expo is one of the most difficult things to do.
It’s like being a kid in a candy store. The bright colours. The smiley, helpful people. The race day specials. The once in a lifetime offers. The tasty samples.
Even clear plans and budgets are almost always shot as you see a favourite brands new item OR in this particular IronMan South Africa year the special 10 year anniversary badge adorning most new kit. PLUS there is the new apparel sponsor in Merrell which brings with it new designs and gear.
As an IronMan newbie, I definitely needed some memorabilia of my hopefully good memories of an event I complete. I managed to leave with a nice relatively simple IronMan shirt R280 and a commemorative coffee mug. After all, what is an IronMan if he can’t drink his coffee out of an Iron mug. Well truth be told it’s actually ceramic but you know what I mean? I’ll feel tougher drinking out of it anyway. That was R30 – not too bad.
Damn though if the visibility of caps in the Merrell area didn’t revive a memory of the Headsweats caps. Headsweats seem to be an official IronMan partner that make really cool, one size fits all, uber-comfy elasticated caps. I didn’t pick one up at IronMan 70.3, but I needed one now. R300. Little steep but possibly the most important piece of kit to show others that you have in fact done Ironman.
This raises another very interesting question for the superstitious. Is it good darts to buy the official merch BEFORE you’ve actually completed the event?
I must admit that superstition got the better of me at Comrades Marathon 2012. There was an awesome black jacket that I wanted to own. I suppose the term ‘Comrades Finisher’ emblazoned on the left breast may have eventually dissuaded me. I couldn’t in good conscience have that sitting in my hotel room while I was still pounding out 87km’s. Thankfully I did finish that year and proudly availed myself of the self-same jacket the following year.
So R600 wasn’t too bad, but I did stare quite jealously at a vast number of people wearing the light black sports jacket at Primi Piatti last night. Maybe one for next year.
[title size=”2″]THE BIKE ROUTE[/title]
A lot has been spoken of the new IronMan South Africa bike route. Everytime I meet other athletes it seems to come up in conversation. Those that have done IronMan South Africa seem to be making a lot about it.
I suppose the benefit of doing it for the first time ever, is that I have no basis for comparison. I was pleased to hear last week though that Claire Horner had ridden the course and passed on to one of her athletes that it should only add about 15 minutes on to a persons previous bike time and that she didn’t think it that bad. HOORAY. Good news.
Anyway – I am not usually one who looks at race profiles and routes in advance of tackling them. I suppose that’s because I believe that you have to get past it / over it anyway and I’ll just tackle whatever it is, when it comes. However my good mate John Reardon is quite the opposite, always knowing what the total elevation is, what the route and profiles mean so that he has a decent idea of how it will all play out.
With the benefit of a bit of time on my hands, and so that my lovely wife could see what we’d tackle, I drove the bike route yesterday.
And I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. There are 2-3 somewhat challenging hills, but they are only about a 1km maximum in length and quite nicely spaced around the course. The first 10-15 odd kilometres out of PE up Walmer Boulevard are at a slight incline, but not enough to hurt. Or hopefully not. The thing I most enjoyed about it was the scenery, which is exquisite. Once you turn up the Old Seaview road, the course takes you through a really picturesque marshy sort of area before taking you through a windy single lane road with dense natural sea-bush (don’t know how to describe it) on either side. You are then greeted by a beautiful high sand dune at the furthest point of the course before taking a windy left hand turn that hugs the a little mountainous road before heading out onto the open and exposed coastal road.
This is where the weather could help or hurt. If negligible, or even better, blowing in the right direction, you could motor back towards town. If blowing the wrong way, this is where you could suffer into a nasty headwind.
Hopefully the good Lord blesses us with the former scenario.
[title size=”2″]RACE BRIEFING[/title]
Bar the fact that I was anxious about running to a dinner at 19h00, the IronMan South Africa race briefing was good fun.
There is always a palpable energy in the room as anxious athletes mull around, greeting old friends and training buddies.
Then there’s Paul Kaye. Blessed with a natural gift of the gab, a great sense of humour and a ridiculously ‘made-for-his-job’ voice, he is always good value. My brother Rob, who just finished the ABSA Cape Epic and had Paul Kaye MC’ing there for the week, also commented on how great his voice was and how good he was at his job.
Sure he often trots out the same well-rehearsed stuff from event to event – eg. Athletes become really really stupid when they put on lycra – but somehow in his enthusiastic and humorous delivery, it never fails to amuse.
Two highlights from this year:
1.) If on the swim, you end up in the shipping lane in the port, you’ve gone too far.
2.) Apparently the only way to ensure you are not limping on Tuesday, is to dance all night Monday at the after party. I DEFINITELY plan to test that theory.
You realise at the briefing how well organised an event IronMan is. You really feel you are partaking in something at the pinnacle of the sport.
[title size=”2″]LAST THOUGHTS[/title]
I finish this post at 18h30 on Saturday night. It’s just 12 hours till IronMan South Africa kicks-off and the months of physical preparation will be tested. Today has been a bundle of excited nerves.
My OCD was in overdrive with the packing of my transition bags which required 3 phone calls to John Reardon to get some clarifying details and a reminder by Brad Brown (IronMan MC tomorrow and TriTalkSA host) on the way to transition that the helmet I’d proudly told him how well I’d packed, had to be removed, so it could be checked by officials on entry. DOH. I really need to pay more attention in future.
So all that remains is a nice dinner, a bit of nervous time shared with my wife and boet, before hopefully getting a good nights sleep.
My brother offered to tuck me in if I was really nervous, and hopefully I won’t need to take him up on that.
Good night and good luck to my fellow IronMan South Africa athletes.
Next time you hear from me, you’ll hopefully be hearing from an official IronMan.
Paul Kaye’s twitter account – https://twitter.com/kayeman
TriTalkSA – http://www.talkfeed.co.za/category/tritalksa/
Brad Brown’s inspirational story – http://www.talkfeed.co.za/bradbrown/bb-webinar/bra…