To say Ironman was a dream 35 years ago is not completely accurate. Frankly, I never thought I’d be this close to entering, let alone entertaining the finish of an Ironman. To think I’m 35 days out (as of last Sunday)……I always treated a full Ironman as a fantasy. Even after completing several half IMs, a full IM seemed out of the question.
I’m now a pensioner, at least according to South Africa. I enjoy cheaper movies, museums are half price, and Builders Warehouse has Wednesday discounts (though I’d prefer if Rory offered such a deal to Pensioners at CycleFo). At 61 I’m 10 years and three age groups into triathlon. The 25 years between dreaming of triathlons and actually accomplishing one in 2007 were spent in less bike friendly locations like India, Israel, and Indonesia. Throw in demanding jobs for my wife and I, and a couple of kids, meant that triathlons weren’t in the cards. Tennis was my game, basketball was my love, golf was a pursuit over those years. But, by 2007 cards shifted and fell into place. I entered the Bintan Olympic distance race in Indonesia. Alan sold me his Lemond road bike. Sim got me into the pool in the mornings, and MJ urged me on around the track. Sim and MJ (amazing athletes) were both at the finish of my first triathlon. It was an amazing accomplishment!
I’ve dabbled since – in Asia, America, and even the first ever official triathlon in Ghana, a couple of tris per year. I’ve figured out what I need to do in order to finish and to stay in at least 2/3 of the way through my AG. It’s all good! I’ve totally enjoyed this hobby as I’ve prepared during my years in Indonesia and Ghana prior to SA. Enter SA, the Cradle, the home of the 94.7 and the Argus, Mt bike stage races, real bike shops, regular road races and triathlon after triathlon after triathlon….and an accidental meeting with Lucie.
Biking in the cradle, in October 2015, my friend has a puncture near the turnoff to the caves. When I show up she’s getting help from some blonde lady. Lucie was riding alone that day (when does she ever ride alone in the cradle these days?) so I after helping my friend fix her puncture, we ride off together until the middle circle between VV and the Lion/Rhino Park. It’s a relaxed ride and she tells me her story. Damn, “I’m riding with a real pro triathlete”. And she’s awesome. She’s got this club….she says she could get me ready for a full IM by 2017…..says she could get me to Kona in two years if I do what she says (that’s actually bullshit, no way I get to Kona but we all know how that resonates, she totally hooked me!) So, we part at the circle, I ride back to my wife and friend…thinking, the time has come!
So, this fortuitous meeting leads me to a decision that I mull over for quite a while – It’s time to up my TRI game and I have found the perfect route, it’s fallen into my lap – AND this club has really cool suits with a pink flower! After a few back and forths via email (including long stretches of time for responses!) and a couple of stray rides with the group, Lucie arranges for Des and I to meet. Enter Des. It’s not until May 2016 that I start my first month of TPs, but being gone during much of June and July means I didn’t get serious with TRIFACTRI until August. But, it doesn’t take long to be absorbed into Training Peaks, obsessed with the color green, guilted by Yellow, and disappointed by RED. I had no idea I could be motivated by colors at this point in my life! I could use a system like TP for my tasks at work!
I’ve been a consistent Saturday and Sunday rider, though ultimately on every ride I am dropped from the group – once the hammer gets dropped and the pace really quickens there are a couple of hills that I just can’t keep up on!! My job is demanding - 50 to 60 hour weeks as a High School Principal at the American International School of Johannesburg. I’m too far away from UJ for Wednesday track. But I feel blessed every day. My runs in Fourways Gardens, biking from Broadacres and VV, working out at the Cedar Virgin Active, swimming in my gorgeous school pool….it’s been an absolute brilliant ride and road towards PE.
Rich hand delivered my first Trifactri riding shirt the day before the 94.7. I wore it with pride after 4 solid months of riding with the group. 20 minutes after leaving Riversands someone came up behind me and said “Lucie is watching you”…..and they sped off! More Trifactri cheers on the day BUT the real fun began with the Midlands Ultra. As challenging and difficult as it was, I most definitely felt like part of a team. So much support up and down the ride and the looping run course. It didn’t matter that the lightning almost killed me on my last 7 km loop….I finished and throughout the event I felt like I was part of a team, involved in a shared experience. Which, frankly, surprised me given the solitary nature of Triathlon – being on a team was a new feeling for sure. The connections and conversations with Trifactri mates over the past couple of months have been an absolute pleasure (though Craig scared the piss out of me on the VV hill at the close of December). Good people in those awesome Trifactri suits, with the pink flower!! East London 70.3 as part of the Trifactri team was a very different experience then my solitary 2016 race. The support and enthusiasm on the course was inspiring. I can still hear Jeanne’s voice from across the N2 with a shout of encouragement as she sped towards her podium finish in the opposite direction! And, after several months of commitment and hard work, I saw a definite improvement. Rather than the usual bottom third of my AG, I came in the top third of my AG, 7th place. That was an accomplishment. Des has obviously been supportive and encouraging BUT, more than that, I absolutely admire what she and Helen are doing together. Watching the two of them brave the practice swim on Saturday in which Helen experienced those waves for the first time was special.
Des is top drawer in my book!!
My goal is to continue to participate in triathlon for as long as I can physically and mentally. As an educator, I’ve always prided myself on being a learner and I’ve always encouraged my students to develop, nurture, and follow a passion, raise the bar, and challenge yourself. That’s what I’m about – feeding a passion and a challenge. So, 35 days out (on Feb 26) from Port Elizabeth and 35 years since Ironman caught my attention – I am counting down. I know I’m up for it on April 2. It’s been a long wait. The finish line will be worth that long wait and years of wondering! BUT, I do know if I hadn’t met up with Lucie on that October Sunday morning and Trifactri hadn’t fallen into my lap, and Des hadn’t taken the time to encourage me, and the inspirational athletes who are part of Trifactri hadn’t embraced this 60+ American Pensioner, and, of course, my amazing wife of 33 years wasn’t the supporter that she is, there’s no way I would be lining up at the start line on April 2! Bring on the 30x800s next week and Ironman South Africa!