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And then a plane crashed on the bike course…

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Yesterday, the final race of the year in South Africa took place in Germiston, which forms part of the Greater Johannesburg. The reputation of Germiston is, well, at best a little dodgy! The race takes place in a reasonable (we never ask too many questions in these parts!) lake that owes it’s existance to the gold rush era and plays host to many canoeing events and sailing regattas here in Jo’burg.

Germiston Lake has often been good to me when it has come to racing, probably because I am from the ‘rough east’ myself, so I feel quite at home here. Last year I won this race, and it felt good. This year turned out to be even more memorable, with the most bizarre race experience that I have ever had!

The start of the race was delayed significantly due to a horrific traffic accident that took place nearby on the bike course. Eventually, the swim got under way, with the women going off first which was great, and Lucie Z quickly taking command of that one! I was also quite surprised at how quick some of the younger girls had become! After fighting arm tangling weeds, I made it out the murky waters. As soon as we could stand, the race marshalls began shouting to us to get our run shoes on – there would be no cycle and we would have to proceed straight onto the run! HHHHUUUUHHHHH?????

Turns out, there is a small airport just on the other side of the lake, and well, a learner pilot had made a “small” error of judgement, crashing his plane, slap bang on the bike course! Nobody was seriously injured, but what was freaky is that if the race had actually started on time, the pilot would have crashed his plane into athletes!

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On realising the severity of the events, we could hardly thank the organisers from Troisport and referees enough for their rapid decision making!

The unusual events then resulted in all of us being thrown a bit off kilter, and having to proceed onto a fast 10k with the blood still sitting well between our arms and not the legs! Some of the girls went out really hard, but for me, having just come off my near fatal Ironman in Cozumel two weeks before, this was near impossible! I just tried to get my legs in motion as best I could, and thought I would make my assault in the last 5k by just forcing my legs. Starting off in 6th place, I made up some ground, making it up to 2nd place behind Lucie Z, and taking along with me the promising Lauren Dance, who simply would not get shaken off! It was really fun racing like that, so much more than what can be the lonely haul of an Ironman marathon. Eventually, when I thought both my heart and legs were going to explode, Lauren and I headed for the finish shutte, we hit a right turn with a barrier straight down the middle. Given my notoriously great eyesight, and well, the fact that it was not clearly obvious which side one was meant to run on, I headed to the right of it. Wrong move! Arrgghhh! Lauren, being slightly behind whipped around to back track, I thought of going over or through but was forced to also turn back, at which point Lauren had got the edge on me! I finished 3rd, and had great fun, even if I did not get the sprint finish with Lauren we certainly hurt each other out there!

One could never say that racing in Africa is not exciting!
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Death walk in Cozumel

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

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There is no shame in walking. I swore that I would never walk, I mean how hard can it be not to even just shuffle along? Well, on Sunday, even walking became hard, there were times I even had to sit on the side walk, so sick, but I never thought how hard it could be just to finish – especially when things are going horribly, horribly wrong! The truth is, failure is only failure if you believe it to be so.

As you can gather, IM Cozumel did not go exceptionally well for me! While some in the Pro ranks would turn their noses up at finishing last Pro (6 chose not to go all the way), 12th place, and in a whopping time of 12h20, I swallowed my pride and did just that!

The day started off well enough, I just simply loved the swim – no wetsuits, beautiful warm clear waters that gave you the impression of swimming in a tropical fish tank! I felt good and was swimming comfortably in a small group of three which included Bella, which was a good thing for me, given my poor eyesight, I could count on her to swim straight, and I think we pushed each other well to a good swim time.

Onto the bike, and it was going to be tough! The wind was blowing very, very strongly, all the time and in every direction it seemed to me? I felt very thristy and sucked up two bottles within the first hour, a little surprising considering that it wasn’t really that hot at all? At the 30k mark I stood up briefly to stretch my legs a little, and wham! Both hamstrings cramped up! I have no idea why, but it was so painful that I was unable to push on the pedals with any kind of effort. This went on for the next 20k, all I could do was ease up and try to get the cramping to subside. By now, already, this early, I knew it was not going to be an easy day at all! I continued to lose positions while I tried to get my legs to operate sufficiently while not cramping, and also trying to get my thirst under control with endless amounts of Gatorade! 

At the end of the bike, I knew that I had lost a considerable amount of time, but I thought that I may just come to life again on the run, which is usually my favourite! I started off not feeling good at all, but somehow running at a fairly good clip. I then tried everything in terms of food and drink to try and make myself feel better, but to no avail, I just felt worse and worse, feeling  dizzy and nauseaous. Just after the first loop of three, I suddenly came to a dead stop in my tracks – the worst stomach pain I had ever had! It literally felt as though something inside of me was completely malfunctioning! I tried to walk a bit, convinced it would ease up, but eventually had to sit hunched over on the side walk to ease the pain..

I had many discussions going on in my head, but somehow, I kept thinking, that if I could keep moving forward, it may just get better? In the end, I was never able to run, although, until the very last kilometer, I always thought that there may be a chance! On Sunday, I walked 28kilometres, ended up with very blistered feet, urinating blood for a day, feeling disappointed for my Sister who had come to watch me for the first time ever, only to look at a guy, way back behind me, with one leg who took the same opportunity as I just to compete…

Meeting Jesus

Friday, November 27th, 2009
Jesus, Bean and Fernando

Jesus, Bean and Fernando

Yesterday, I met Jesus for the first time. I am here in Cancun, defying the odds of a near empty bank account, a 28 hour journey around the globe and filled with nothing but determination! It has always been a dream of mine to come to Mexico, and it is still an unbelievable feeling! I am looking very forward to racing the Cozumel Ironman on Sunday, and I have only some great people to thank for it! These people are the ones you always believe in me no matter how bad things get, so thank you to my sister for organising the (cheap accomodation), Mom (for putting up with my nomadic lifestyle) and Kristian, Jillian, Dan who have offered the positive words in the face of adversity!

So, yesterday, I finally met Jesus and Fernando. Quite coincidently I might add, when I headed out for a solo bike ride here in Cancun. I came across these two guys riding on a superb piece of tar from the hotel area in Cancun to the Airport. They were ambling along at conversational pace when I came by (delighted to see that proper cyclists exist in these parts). I muttered a friendly “Ola” , smiled and went by. A while later, Jesus (pronounced Geh-sous), pulls up alongside, panting from the effort, and we started an animated discussion in Spanglish. He introduced himself and his riding partner Fernando (who has legs that should belong to a Pro!). They invited me to join them the next morning for a ride and perhaps a bit of “repetition”, how great is that! Interestingly, they have a sweep vehicle, with a driver called Eric, just for the two of them! I am not sure if it is a saftey thing, but it certainly is great, Eric clears the little traffic that there is on the road, and you can be sure that no one is going to rear end you!

This morning I eagerly headed out to meet my new found Mexican friends, along with a new one called Alexandro, who claims to b just out exercising! We had a great ride, and they answered many questions about the area and Mexico in general, and then it was my turn – “Carolina” asked Jesus, “You do fast repetition for us?” Oh goodieee I thought! There is nothing more amazing than tearing down the airport road in Cancun, just smooth and so, so fast! They loved it to and we just ripped it up for 10k or so. I was smiling and so were they – heck it was fun!

Then we rode back towards the Zone Hoteleria, and they explained to me that it was rather cool at this time of year, apparently Winter? They weren’t coping too well, and explained that for a while now they had been going out with long sleeves in the early mornings! It is at least 28deg in the mornings here, and I had sweat literally blinding me – or was that just the speed???

Thank you Jesus, Fernando and Alexandro for making a great memory!

The podium plot

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

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So the curse of 13 finally broke! At Powerman Malaysia I finally did not get race number “13″, boy was I relieved! While some Pro’s may not like the sound of race number 505 I was ecstatic!

This was Powerman Malaysia. This was me getting a third place and finally a good podium in what will probably be my last race for the year and last race for Team TBB.

I arrived late in Malaysia, on the Friday just before the race on Sunday, and I was wondering how the travel time might affect me? Well to be honest I never thought of it at all! The beautiful surrounds of Lumut where the race was to take place left me only in awe. The race organisers Melody and Adele from Quick Release Adventures could only be described as the best in the business! We were treated like absolute stars from the minute we arrived at the Orient Star Hotel. Someone was even lucky enough to to get a chocolate cake for her birthday (and yes, she was kind enough to share!)

Race day was nothing short of the most fun you can have doing a Duathlon! I have not done a Duathlon in a long time and I was wondering what a fast 11k and slightly less fast 10k were going to feel like? Well, the run and bike course were lovely and flat, just my kind of course :-) The first run started just after sunrise in Manjung and I had surprisingly very good legs combined with loads of red blood cells (having just come from high altitude). It felt easy, and quickly I found myself leading the run, I couldn’t believe I was in this position and did worry why the others were not going with me? By the 8k mark they had caught me and I thought this was a safe position to be in.

On to the bike, I had to remember that in such a short race you have to get going fast! Unfortunately, my legs would not react until Rebecca Preston caught me, and then suddenely, I was motivated to try and keep her in sight, which I managed to do the whole bike leg.

I came into the transition area in 4th place, not too bad as I enjoy the chase, but when I tried to (quickly) get my running shoes on, I realised my feet had swollen so much from the 35deg heat that I couldn’t get them into the shoes! After numerous attempts and adjustments, I finally got them on and headed out of the transition in 5th or 6th place!

By now the heat and humidity had really built up and it was tough going, pouring water on my head seemed to do little else other than build up steam! I just kept going and going even though it felt unbareable, and I eventually ran up to third place!

I was absolutely delighted to finish on the podium behind the European Champion and the Zofingen bronze medalist!

Race number 505 is a good one if ever you get it…

The things Billy taught a Bean

Friday, October 30th, 2009

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So the story began a little over a year ago, I met Billy at the Gym pool where I spend most of my water time. I had seen him around before, he is a runner and has run the Comrades Marathon several times, which immediately earns my respect (seriously – 90k of running nothing but hills???).

One day, Billy plucked up the courage to get in the pool, quite a feat, when you consider that he couldn’t swim at all, and being as short as he is, barely has his head above the water. As I swam I watched his persistant struggles – big splash, gasp, splutter which would almost always end with him hanging on the lane divider.

As I swam I watched his determination. He was also watching me, trying to imitate what I was doing. I have been trying to perfect my less than perfect swim since I was 5, Billy was just trying to move from A to B. While some would laugh at the attempts of a grown man to conquer the wonders of the water, and in fact, many did, as the pool happens to be the centre of the entire gym! Undetered, Billy would be there every Friday watching me.

Eventually, after two or three of these “sessions”, I couldn’t help but let instinct take over, I just had to do what I could to help him get to his goal! At first the goals were small, like just kicking with a board. Then it was kicking with board AND moving forward! I would tell Billy “Practice that” Billy would say: “What next?” So in many ways we are alike, we are impatient when it comes to getting things right!

The Friday sessions continued over the past year, and Billy’s progress has been astounding! At first he was proud to say “I swam a whole length!!” A couple of months later, he told me he swam 2k – I was so proud!

As things are now, the Friday session still happens when I am home, and no, it is not about me passing something on to a black South African who never had the opportunity to swim, Billy has taught me it doesn’t matter what the obstacles, you want it, you can get it! So, every Friday, we do some sprint sets, Billy gets his fins on and we hammer it! I will never go slow to make him feel good and he couldn’t care if I am tired, he will do his best to kick my ass!

So you see, it is not necessarily about how many races you won or how great the season was, but rather how many times you get up after being pushed down. Billy has taught me that.

Billy has actually surprised me in many ways, most recently, he excitedly told me that he had signed up for a community triathlon coaching course (which he said he had been waiting the whole year to do!), he is now actively involved in getting local and disadvantaged kids into the sport.

My challenge to him is to do an Ironman, being an endurance junkie I know he is just itching! Well the picture above is of my friend Billy doing his first triathlon – an indoor triathlon in the very gym he learnt to swim. He does not yet own his own racing bike (we are looking for a really small one – like a size 48??), but he finished second in the race! I can tell you he wasn’t impressed with coming second….

TBB’s top secret training bunker

Monday, September 28th, 2009

So while most people think that the secret Team TBB training camp is in Jeju, Korea, there is in fact another, in a very secret location in Singapore!

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This weekend, a top secret training session took place in a bomb proof bunker somewhere in Singapore. Seriously, it has steel walls and IS bomb proof! The invited participants hailed from four different countries, including a Korean-American Kona qualifier, a hard-ass Texan, an ex-pat who speaks queen’s english but has spent more than a decade in Malaysia, and of course, me, of French-German descent from Benoni, South Africa.

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Pre-dawn preparations…

Well, the purpose of the session was basically to see who had the most guts in withstanding the imposed test of toughness. Certainly a mental test this one. It started with a simple question being posed “Have you ever spent 4 hours on a turbo?” “Nope, should we try?” Well just turning legs for that amount of time could be a little challenging, but not challenging enough! So, a top level torturer was consulted in order to produce a real challenge….

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Let’s GOOOOOO!!!!

So, the testing took place at dawn, in the bomb bunker. Participants were sealed in for the allocated time, with some serious guards at the entrance in case of attack or escape…

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The mean guards laying down the law…

 

Preparation is the key to success, and so it was in this case! A countless number of bottles were required, as well as an individual assortment of anti-bonk nutrition (yes, it is possible to hit the wall on a turbo!), towels to mop up the blood bath. I was clever enough to bring a rain jacket to protect myself from the bio-hazardous splashing landing on me!

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Protective gear…

Torture methods included special screenings of Ironman Japan and Tomb Raider, in an attempt to distract participants into weakness. I have no idea what happens in Tomb Raider, so I guess I am not that weak after all! Same goes for the pee break – only two participants successfully managed to hold it in, or sweat it out – the others had to beg mercy from the guards! I, proudly, did not have to pee for 4 hours, but successfully sweated ten towels to capacity despite consuming 91/2 water bottles. 

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Torture for the weak minded

The session itself is really T.O.P. S.E.C.R.E.T, but I can say it lived up to expectation of not being a pleasant experience! At the end of the 4hrs, the clever three female participants negotiated with the guards a conditional parole – allowed out only if you complete a specified run. The Korean – American, training for an important mission in Kona chose to remain in the bunker a while longer, hoping that the additional torture would impress the guards, which it did, as when he negotiated his release he was allowed a much shorter run…

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Nearly there…

 

Excited about my release, I headed out the door with enormous determination and great legs! Let’s just say I did get asked by spectators at the secret run location if I was “Ok?” “Are you in trouble?” “How many more times are you going to come past”…. well, quite a few actually – I am lost. Going well, so what the hell!

Invites are out for the bunker camp next year – anyone keen?

Singapore Fling

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

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So I am not going to Kona because, not that I am ready for it this year anyway, because I have to overcome myself and climb higher on the learning curve that is the sport. I have never been to Kona even though it is the ultimate goal, it is not the only goal!

This has been a tough year for me personally, for a variety of reasons that have imposed themselves on me, and many a time it has been a challenge just to keep going, and keep trying, despite the voices calling for the easier, less demanding route. It is hard to pull yourself out of the big black hole when all seems hopeless, yet, I have had to do this more times than I can ever remember this year.

So, I have been put to work, for my fellow team mates, at TBB head quarters in Singapore for two weeks. This brought all sorts of anxieties for me – how on earth can one cycle here? Every road is a highway with a zillion traffic lights? Then there is the idea of being in an office the WHOLE day – a shock to someone who’s offfice is traditionally the great outdoors! Lunch is generally a cooked Asian meal, which is ok, although a bit on the spicy side for someone who prefers things a bit more temperate, and yes, I do get rather sleepy after this hot lunch!

It is strange, I have thought that sitting at a desk would be far easier on the body than sitting on a bike for 5 hours, but I have suffered sore butt, tight hamstrings and knotty shoulders!

So the point is, that going back to work has been far harder than I imagined, with the constant yearning to be outdoors and the realisation of how much the sport is my life. Sometimes though, sacrifices have to be made…

This weekend, I got to escape for a while and just thoroughly enjoyed my training, even though conditions are not close to perfect, and I have only managed to do about half of the training hours that I normally do! Pictured, is me at the pool close to where I am staying – it is a little shallow and I really have to scrunch up to effectuate a safe flip turn – but then again , I was just super pleased to be in the pool! I have had to limit my cycling to the turbo as it is just too crazy on the roads here, which is a pity as the surfaces are magnificent! Yesterday, I made it to the mint condition track, and as I was suffering through the heat and humidity, I just thought to myself, you are so lucky to be out here right now, even if it is not EXACTLY how you want it!

HELP! I’ve killed my Mother’s fern!

Monday, September 7th, 2009

I admit it. One of the few Bean talents is definitely not gardening! So I am looking after my Mom’s house (and plants) while she is on holiday…

The problem is this fern, in it’s hideous pot, that has lived in the bathroom for as long as I can remember. Sadly, no matter how little or much water I give it, fertiliser, sweet-talking, the fern is unhappy and it’s leaves are dying?
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I took the fern out of the bathroom for photographic purposes, in the hope that someone out there will have some advice as to how to resusitate this plant before I get an earful as to how she has had this fern for 15 years???

So, some backround info on “Ferny” – He (Yes, I am sure it is a he!), lives in the bathroom and gets sunshine when the frosted window is open, otherwise lives on light bulb light or filtered natural light. I have watered him when his soil looked dry (about 3 times a week) and given him a bit of general garden fertiliser as a last resort. Ferny lives at an altitude of 1600m, in a very dry climate.
Below is a close up of Ferny’s leaves, no sign of any bugs???
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If anyone has any ideas as to how to treat Ferny’s current illness I would greatly appreciate the input!!!

Spring Clearance

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Since returning home I have decided to put some order into my life, and so I thought, with the arrival of Spring that I would start with a bit of a “closet” clearance…

 The truth is, I have discovered a closet obsession – an addiction to flip-flops! Yes, while it is customary,or even generally accepted that most women have a close relationship with their shoes, they are normally related to Jimmy Choo’s or the high-heeled hurt-the-heck out of your feet kind.

 

Well, I don’t own a pair of heels (if you’re a Bean it’s asking for a broken ankle!), but I discovered that I own an impressive collection of 29 pairs of flip-flops! I believe that the collection would have been larger were it not for the Wongstar using her persuasive powers to convince me that the purchasing of food was more necessary than these pressed foam-rubber delights…
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I cannot explain the obsession with the cheapest shoe known to mankind, but I can say that it has something to do with comfort and memory. You see, in these simple shoes, I have walked close to the ground, and they have never given up on me, like the way heels would wear out.

 I believe that just as the soles memorises the shape of one’s feet, so do the shoes carry the memories of the wearer. Clearly, when I look at each pair, a certain memory comes to mind, with each representing a step in the path that I have travelled so far. It is evident from the selection, that I have no regard for cold weather at all! No, they are far from classic collector’s items, but each has brought a certain amount of happiness to my life!

 So, if this is a Spring clearance, have I decided to get rid of the less happy memories? Sure, but which ones…which ones? Hey! we can always start a new collection….

Bean and the black card – how unlucky?

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

So last weekend I headed off to the luckiest town in the whole of Germany, to do what was intended to be the luckiest race of my whole season. While this blog is actually dedicated to luck itself, it is the race story itself that made me realise that luck is a happy thought, but actually does not exist to the same extent that fate does…

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Glucksburg, which directly translated means “Lucky Town”, is to be found in the northern most point of Germany, a stone’s throw from the Danish border. An excellent adventure I thought! I just had a good feeling about the place, and thought where else would I get the opportunity to go THERE!!! So, it took two trains, two planes and another 3 trains to get there, but I arrived with my battered bike case in Lucky Town expecting this to be my big break weekend.
Ok, so the weather was bit shit, but that’s not bad luck is it??
Go and register for the race, oh so happy-go-lucky, after all this is going to be great!
Sign in and realise that I have got race number 13 – ha ha! No such thing as bad luck…my Mom thinks that number is not exactly recommended, how silly! Found some electric pink socks at the expo (just like Erika’s) and decided that they would now be my new “lucky” race socks!
Saturday. I go and check my bike in and have a look at what is on my shoe – a lady bug! In German culture the lady bug is considered lucky and is often depicted on such greeting cards. Super! It is going to be a lucky day!

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So race day dawned, I managed a decent sleep without THAT dreaded dream of not getting my wetsuit on in time, and so, was ready to go. I was first on the beach, warmed up in the chilly waters of the Fjord feeling like the luckiest girl in the world (which I am). Race organisers had put in place an army of American Football players (helmets and all) to prevent the field from “creeping” into the water. Unfortunately, one did not realise that I come from the country of the world’s best rugby players, and he was unlucky enough to go for a bit of a swim!
Swim went great, stayed with the pack of top relay swimmers and came out the water first in the women’s race – YIPEE!!! I am so lucky, now we must just fight and hang on…
The bike course was a 6 lap leg biter with many, many turns, accelerations, sharp bumps and gusts of wind. So now I am thinking how lucky I will be if I manage to hang on to this lead…
Lap number 2, have a string of age groupers and relay dudes sitting my wheel – strange that they would actually WANT to sit my wheel? After about 20k, the wheel sucker directly behind me suddenly jumps out and cuts in front of me (I nearly hit the gravel), and as luck would have it, just the moment when the Ref pulls up on the motorbike. Bean gets flashed the black card – oh dear! What on earth does that mean again?? Black is not a lucky colour, it means an 8 minute penalty in this race. Try arguing with the Ref, knowing that I am just in an unlucky situation … Nope. That’s it girl, you’re not going to negotiate your way out of this one, first EVER card, boy that is unlucky! I think not, it had nothing to do with luck.
So, we served our time, cold, wet and shivering for 8 minutes in a prison reserved soley for the unlucky. Rest I did, re-focus I did, hope that my luck would change? – No. I headed out on that run harder than ever before – with no luck to count on, only heart and energy. In 5 laps I hunted everything in my path, eating them up one by one, charging by in my lucky pink socks. In the end I crossed the line in third place, rather lucky some would say?

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Moral of the story is that I no longer believe in luck. Luck like hope will not win you races. I have not yet won an Iron race, but am slowly replacing luck with perseverance, persistence and patience. Not as simple as luck I am afraid…