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Archive for May, 2009

Ironman 70.3 St Polten

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

007

The day before the race, things weren’t going to plan… I went for a test ride of my bike and the gears were jumping in the hardest gear. Just a minor mechanical, and I am a minor mechanic, easy to fix… or not. After an hour of fiddling, riding and fiddling ad riding some more, I gave up. I’m not an expert after all, and there are people around who are. I sought out the bike shop at the expo, and bother the seriously harassed looking mechanics for their help. Their response? Nothing’s wrong. This is where it took a lot of patience to tell a guy, through the language barrier, that he was wrong, and so was something on my bike! He test rode it. Came back and said, ‘Something is wrong.’ No shit! But he didn’t know what. Mechanic number 2. Same story. Nothing is wrong. Test ride. Something is wrong. No clue. Mechanic number 3. (I am getting frustrated now, as if I wasn’t before, but at least my mechanic skills are not as bad as I thought!). Same story.
So after changing chains (no improvement – not the chain), changing wheels (fixed – its cassette), changing my cassette to new wheel (fixed – it wasn’t the cassette), and then changing it all back to the original configuration (fixed – WTF?!). Stoopid bike. Whatever. 2hrs wasted on a non-existent, yet very real problem.

Race day dawned cloudy and cool. Okay, cold. Glad I am not used to training in 45°C in Dubai like my roommate. Shame!

The pro’s started by jumping off the jetty. Good idea. No-one can cheat. Bad idea. No-one can dive. So I lost my goggles. Actually I think the guy next to me (diving sideways!?) knocked them loose before I even hit the water. Either way, I swam a for few meters with my goggles over my nose. Unfortunately I can’t see very well out of my nose, even with goggles on, so once the melee of arms and legs had spread out a little I paused to correct the problem. The rest of the swim was incident free, but mostly draft free too as I had missed the main packs. Oh well. The day is young, and I’ll look back on this and laugh later…

I ran through transition on very tender, cold feet (there was a lot of running during that swim!) and got on my bike, looking forward to a scenic and fun bike ride. Whoa! It felt like someone had pushed my back wheel out from behind me. I looked behind me, no-one was there! Uh-oh! Hope springs eternal of course, so I rode a little way down the road, only to confirm my fears. Flat tyre. How the hell did that happen?! It was fine an hour ago… Sigh! Deep breath. Get on with it, James. If the bike can still go, you will finish. I changed the tyre, with a little difficulty as the canvas tape pulled off the base of the tyre and remained firmly glued to the rim. Stoopid bike.
Oh well. Perhaps I’ll look back on this and laugh later… Hmmm…

I got going again after a 5-6minutes and decided this would still be a good ride. I was, however, acutely aware that I was going to have to descend some steep and twisty hills on a tyre that was now held on by minimal second-hand glue, 6-bars of air pressure, and a whole lot of hope…

The ride did end up being a good one. I felt great, ate and drank well and was constantly passing people (including most of the ladies – the first ladies only at 70km – Go Lucie!) I took the downhill’s more cautiously than I normally might, and the corners very slowly (for me), but made good progress.

Onto the run I decided that if this was going to be a good training day (as that was all it could be at this point, and Doc had said it should be such anyway) then I was going to train hard! I started at good clip and felt great. Sometimes you stat a run feeling great, but somewhere deep inside you know it won’t last. Sometimes you start a run feeling great, and you just know today will be a good one. Today was the latter. I ran a 1h15:50 and felt great, with a 4h19:17 finish time. Not too bad, all things considered.

But that is enough analysis of that race. Off to Leysin tomorrow to continue with the European summer of training, which started today with a bang…

Visa, a four-letter word!

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

So, right now I am sitting in jo’burg airport on my way out of South Africa. It has been a great couple of months at home, reconnecting with special people in my life. But it has not all been fun and games as I prepare to fly North for the winter…

In the last few days I have had more than my fair share of stress. My visa application was, in order, swapped by the courier and sent to the wrong place, refused by the Visa service saying I needed a personal interview (I didn’t!), sent to Pretoria when it needed to be processed in Cape Town, had the photos refused (even though they were fine last time!), refused collection by courier company as no authorization, and then in the final 24 hours, I was told by the courier company that I need to give 24hrs notice to collect Visa’s (when I travel in less than 24hrs!?!).
Anyway, I got my visa with a few hours to spare and now am on my way. Phew!

IM 70.3 St Polten on Sunday, then off to Leysin for some serious training…

Comrades Marathon

Monday, May 11th, 2009

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In 12 days, a few thousand South Africans (and a few hundred foreigners) will take part in the 84th Comrades Marathon. The Comrades is a 89km(56mile) Ultra marathon alternating ‘Up’ or ‘Down’ annually between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
The race has thousands of participants each year (peaking at 23 961 runners in 2000) and is one of South Africa’s (and the world’s) greatest foot races. For a full (but brief) history of the race see http://www.southafrica.info/about/sport/comrades.htm

The Comrades has special memories for me as it was one of my biggest athletic influences growing up, and I have no doubt that I would not be a professional athlete today without having been inspired by the race in my early years.
I grew up in Pietermaritzburg and both of my parents have completed the race 3 times. This meant that annually, even if my parents weren’t racing, we would get up before dawn and find a spot on the roadside where we would sit with hot chocolate and rusks and wait for the procession of runners to pass us by. Rising at a god-foresaken hour and sitting in freezing conditions on the roadside waiting for a bunch of sweaty runners to jog by may sound anything but appealing, but there is a magic around the race that you have to experience to believe! …Perhaps it is similar to the Tour de France in that way – I always watch TV and think why would anyone sit on the roadside when the peleton rushes by in a matter of seconds – but at least the Comrades procession does take more than a few seconds!

Watching the Comrades inspred me in my youth, and although I shared it with very few, one of my dreams growing up was to win the Comrades. These days running alone, although I still love it, seems a little 1-dimensional and the dream of winning Comrades is replaced by a little place called Kona. But the inspiration that got me out of bed for early-morning runs with my mom and her Comrades training group in my school days is still with me today.

Best of luck to everyone taking on the Comrades Marathon challenge on 24 May. I certainly aim to one day take on the Comrades challenge myself, but I think it will have to wait until Doc gives me the thumbs-up… or gives my triathlon career the thumbs-down! ;)
Or maybe it can be a ‘birthday session’ in years to come… hmmmm… :)

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The route is not only long, but hilly too, with the Up run climbing from sea level to 810m, and the Down run punishing the quads in the second half…