Race weekend started early Thursday morning with the 960km drive to East London. I arrived at about 3pm, checked into the hotel and headed down to the beachfront for a short run to stretch the legs. It felt awesome to be down there and in good shape ready to race.
The swim course was open on Friday morning and I took the opportunity to get my first surf swim under my belt. It was an interesting experience to say the least. The first 5 minutes scared the living daylights out of me! The sea was quite rough and very cold (I’m really glad I bought a wetsuit the week before after considering not getting one for this race!). Once I got into my rhythm I settled and quite enjoyed it but those first 5 minutes made me realise I was in for a tough swim on Sunday. I registered and attended the race briefing on Friday night. I also forgot to mention that I had dyed my hair pink for the weekend in support of the PinkDrive who I was racing in support of.
The weather forecast for the weekend was heavy rain and for once the weatherman got it right. It rained all Friday night in East London. The weather was starting to make me very nervous. Saturday morning saw the first Irongirl South Africa run and the weather was superb. Not a breath of wind and the sun was shining. Everyone was secretly hoping this is what it would be like on Sunday morning. As soon as the race finished the wind picked up and it started raining. Again. In the space of 10 minutes the weather had gone from great to terrible.
I spent the day around the hotel getting my transition bags packed and ready for the next day. The nerves were starting to kick in really badly by lunch time on Saturday. I was cranky and irritable and just wanted to get racing. I hate pre race nerves. I think I’m not very pleasant to be around the day before a big race. Bike check in on Saturday afternoon went smoothly. Got my bike and transition bags racked just before it started raining again. It rained all night again.
I actually slept well Saturday night. I woke up Sunday morning and the first thing I did was head to the window to see what the weather had in store for us. It was overcast and dry but the wind was pumping. I had breakfast and headed down to the start. The excitement and nerves were really starting to build. Last check of the bike and transition bags. Before I knew it I was suiting up, photos were being taken and we were ready to get started.
We headed down to the beach. 7am and off went the pros. We were the next group off at 7:15. Over the timing mat and to the start line. Even with the wind the sea was flat. The pier to the right of the swim start was providing a bit of protection from the westerly. The ten minutes of waiting took forever. Eventually the gun went and we were off.
My strategy in the swim was to stay out of the heavy traffic and to get out of the water feeling good. The swim to the first buoy is always a bit of a scramble. The first thing that struck me was how cold the water was. It was definitely colder than Friday. We turned left and I was soon into my rhythm and was going really well. Got to the second buoy, turned left and this is where things started getting interesting. I can only breathe on my left and that’s the side the swells were coming from on the way back. I drank serious amounts of water between buoy 3 and 4. I was seriously relieved to reach the last buoy and turn for the beach. I got onto the beach, looked at my watch and saw that I had done the swim in 37 minutes.
I headed up to transition feeling a little bit wobbly from the movement in the water but generally felt good. Found my bike bag quickly and headed to the changing tent. Out of the wetsuit into my cycling gear, got my bike and onto the bike route.
The rain started almost immediately on the bike. The ride down to the N4 was a nice warm up. Turned left off the NEX and the serious business started. We had a serious head wind for the first half and it was bucketing down. It wasn’t pretty. Mike Finch, the editor of Runnersworld, told me at the start to take things easy on the first half of the cycle because its a tough course. He wasn’t far off. I can honestly say the first 45km of the cycle were probably the toughest I have done.
I got to halfway feeling ok, picked up some bottles and something to eat. The ride back was awesome. Tailwind and some serious downhill stretches. I reached halfway in about 2:12, with a 4:15 cut off for the bike I knew I had to hammer the way back and that is exactly what I did. The last 45km took me around 1:15. I got back to transition feeling good and ready for the run.
I had a fairly quick T2 (compared to the picnic I had in T1). Running shoes and peak on and out onto the road. It took a bit of time for the legs to realise what was happening but after the first two kays I was into it and feeling strong. I’d did the first 10km on the run in 62minutes.
The second lap of the run hurt a bit, especially going up Bunkers Hill. Once I reached the top and had picked up my second lap band it was going to be an easy run home. Maybe not. The last 2kms on the esplanade were straight into the wind but the crowd support on that stretch leading to the finish was fab. I had visualised that stretch many times during training and it was awesome to experience it. Down the red carpet and over the finish line. 6:32.29.
I had an awesome experience at my first Ironman 70.3 and can’t wait for the full in 10 weeks. This one was a serious confidence builder in trying conditions and I came through it feeling great. I will definitely be back to the in Ironman 70.3 in 2012
Below are the details of my race on Garmin Connect: