These are the words of Bruce Fordyce, said in response to a question when asked how to approach the running of that famous ultra marathon in KwaZulu-Natal. Ironman South Africa (or IMSA for those in the lycra) is only a few weeks away. The serious athlete is thinking about starting to taper, or at a minimum doing shorter, sharpening sessions to prepare for the race, having done the long base sessions early on. This I am told, because in my current form the only serious thing about my preparation for IMSA is the money that my physiotherapist has just made trying to fix my neck after a small race this weekend past.
In tribute to my friend and sensei Robbie Ric, who had a fantastic race – 3rd in his category and 8th overall, I will style the rest of this blog as a race report. Before I start though, I do want to get something off my chest.
Dear Triathlon South Africa – In 2012 I witnessed the spat, that played out on the tailgate of a Hilux bakkie, between the organiser and your representative. It was embarrassing and more to the point we didn’t care about your squabbles, particularly as we were lined up to start swimming in a river that needs no further polluting with senseless cr.. e-coli. This year the denizens at TSA decided to withdraw their sacred sanction of the Prestige event on what, it seemed from the correspondence were safety concerns.
Safety concerns! In October last year, at the Joburg City Triathlon in Germiston, only dumb luck and the grace of God prevented death and dismemberment of the competing triathletes. Inadequately marshalled intersections and ill conceived course layout being two of the primary villains, terribly behaved Gauteng motorists making up for the rest. The Prestige, held in Abrahamsrust, had a caution on the bike route due to a section of roadworks that necessitated slowing down and obeying marshals orders for 20 meters. I detect a double standard. I don’t want to judge without all of the facts so have sent the Central Gauteng Triathlon secretary an email asking for clarification. Yes, I know….
Prestige is a half iron man distance race. 1.9km swim, 85km bike and a 21km run. The race briefing is always a nervous time. Adrenaline, confusion, anticipation and if you are the nervous type, urine. The race marshall encouraged people not to drink the Vaal river water, that had been polluted just a fraction more by the supporters of the Lions Rugby team after their team had managed a win and beer had flowed through Gauteng and its stalwart inhabitants, down the river, the evening before. The water was warm. Too warm. The double lap to the bridge, round back to the start and then out at the transition area was downstream to start and upstream to finish. I demonstrated my ineptitude at drafting stronger swimmers once again and ended up doing battle with submerged flora as I swam too near the bank. It was the first competitive swim in my new sleeveless wetsuit and I am going to need to test it in a dam a few more times to be totally comfortable with it.
Transition one was faster than normal, under a minute, and shedding the sleeveless wetsuit is far easier. I forgot to stop my watch, and only remembered to do so on the bike, out on the road up towards the highway. It registered 40 minutes. I rode competently to the turn around point, a good average speed and feeling strong. I even managed to put my race face on as I went past the supporters, of whom my wife was one, to start my second lap. I glanced down at my watch and saw, in horror, that I was 30 min off my 2012 time at the same point. Impossible. Was I really that poorly prepared? The second lap was harder. A few familiar faces (I will stick with faces..) went past me. I looked down at my watch again and saw, as I climbed the final hill towards the finish, that my bike time was over 3 hours. I will interject at this point with an explanation. Although I wish that I had figured it out then and not as I was downloading my race data on Monday! The multi-sport function on my watch adds the total time raced, including the swim and transition. I was therefore looking at my total race time and not my bike split. Idiot.
The second transition was as speedy as the first, under a minute, and I was out on the road for 21km of running in the Freestate heat. Plodding around a double loop half marathon at 7+min/km does afford one the time to contemplate all of the wasted training opportunities, bottles of wine and cheeseburgers. I had, by this point, reset my watch and it was accurately telling me what I had begun to suspect, it was going to be a longer day than I had anticipated. It was great to see the Bedfordview Triathlon squad out in newly minted trisuits representing the club so well. The run route takes the competitors around a quiet suburb and the marshals were superb. It was a well organised race and compliments to Spectrum Sport for persisting with it, in the face of what seems to be a bullying administrative body.
The lesson. You should only take race advice from Bruce Fordyce if you are built like him. For me, make the most of the next few weeks! Or else: the 6th of April will to be a very long day indeed.