Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ironman South Africa Race Report -- Port Elizabeth

March 29, 2015
Now that Ironman South Africa is in the books, this is a special thank you note to my Number 1 supporter and the love of my life, Laura, who is relieved of sherpa duty and has returned to doing the thing she loves the most — hugging other people's cats.
This is also a big, public hug to of my friends, family and Team Every Man Jack buddies who woke up early on Sunday to see my glorious climb into contention and catastrophic fade out of contention at the Ironman Africa Regional Championships on Sunday.
A quick recap of my race for those who missed the Ironman coverage on the South African Broadcasting Network:
Swim: 1:09, 16th in my Age Group. I want to thank the nice people on the paddle boards who doggedly kept steering me back onto the swim course. Contrary how it may have appeared, I was trying very hard to swim a straight line, and it was never my intent to swim for shore during the middle of the race. But given that the course was foaming with waves, my goggles were full of seawater and there was only one intermediate buoy on each one-mile long leg of the course, you’ll excuse me for having no sense of where to aim myself.
Bike: 5:32, 5th off the bike. I passed the defending champion at the start of the bike ride and stayed within eyesight of him during the ride. Despite the hilly, windy course and truly rough roads, I was stunned by how good I was feeling. In fact, I was so confident, that I decided not pass a guy named Kai to move into 4th before T2. And as anyone who knows me knows, this was revolutionary thinking on my part.
Run: 4:14, dropping to 9th at the finish line. The run started not at all badly. I passed the guy named Kai for 4th place in transition and was virtually tied for 3rd, no more than 2 minutes out of 2nd, when bad things started gurgling in my insides. I slowed down and tried to reset my system, drinking water and walking the first two aid stations — but to no avail. By mile 4 I had started feeling really sick and by mile 9, I was keeping my intestines inside my body by sheer force of will. No bush was too small for me to use as a vomit shield.
Still, I wasn’t going to make it easy for the guys chasing me down, particularly my friend Devashish Paul, who was fighting his own injury demons in the form of nerve damage from a head first impact with a building in Switzerland. Of course, if you think about it, there’s really nothing more amusingly heartwarming in sport than two old guys, fending off age, illness and injury to race each other to an essentially meaningless finish line. Ah, good times.
The thought of Dev limping after me while I was running as fast as possible from bush to aid station to bush was the only thing that brought a smile to my face during the run — the only thing that is, except for the moment at mile 23 when Laura bounced alongside me, cheering, at the same moment that a young studly-looking dude was passing.
As Laura sprinted off to set up a cheering section further down the road, the stud stared after her for a moment, then turned to me and said “You need to marry that girl. And quick! -- If you don’t, I will.”
I laughed and said, “she’d probably like you better. You’re younger, better looking and you’re passing me.” He looked back at me, chuckled, shook his head and shouted: “Dude, I’m on lap two! I’m 8 miles behind you!”
So, despite a tough day on the race course and missing out on one of the 5 spots to the World Championships in Kona, things are just fine.
In fact they're great.
The way I figure it, I’m the 9th fastest 50 year-old in Africa.
And my girl still loves me.
Hey, I'm big in Africa.