There's no need to choose between life and death when you can choose to live on the edge of both - Alex Eliott's recount of IRONMAN 2016
This past year has presented me with enormous life challenges, both personally and at work. Was it the masochist in me that led me to add to these challenges by taking on the physical challenge of an Ironman. Was it ego, that I was determined that though my head be bloodied, I would prove to the world it would remain unbowed. Was it just the right time, after years of dabbling in different sports, to bring it all together. Why now?
It’s been difficult to put a race report together for my Ironman at the African Championships last week. The outcome seems to have overshadowed the race itself.
I’ve been playing this game for a few years now and been following Ironman racing for a lot longer. After a few disappointments, and some time away I wanted a special last Ironman. My plan was to finish my career and have a race that I would be proud of. No expectations, no time, no place, no goals.
Our age group is insanely competitive. At least 5 top athletes from Trifactri alone, add a few sub-9 hour finishers, then half of Europe and the usual mix of strong Saffa’s, making a top 20 place is a great result. So no expectation or pressure to place well… just a plan to perform in my last race.
My greatest motivation has always come from failure. Going back to September last year, Ironman Mallorca was that failure. It was humbling to put in a good performance but still be totally blown away by the European competition.
Lucie, Andrea and I discussed a winter training plan to overcome firstly my shortcomings on the bike and secondly a programme that would include mostly (what turned out to be a complete) indoor winter. The other main goal was to race at 65kg's, considering I'd raced Kona at about 72kg's this was going to be a challenge without losing power.
During October I invested in tests, equipment and software to ensure each and every session would be tracked and analysed. During November, December and the first half of January I trained. I worked hard but allowed myself to enjoy my training. Sessions were moved around to fit my day to day and work travelling. I'd say 90% of the sessions were completed but I never stressed if I missed one or had to cut one short. Time was spent training with Andrea, swimming with the club and running a few off road lanes. Basically I loved training.
I’ve been asking myself what it is about this Ironman thing that keeps me wanting more…?
After Kona last year, I entered a bit of a no-man’s-land (so many people told me this would happen), I didn’t rest enough but I couldn’t stop training. I was nursing a hip injury and a knee that would hurt on and off right up to race day. The worst part is that I kept most of this from Lucie just in case she stopped updating my Training Peaks (really!?). In January I ended up at my physio, Julia Witt, somewhat over-trained, stressed about starting a new career and not quite sure what was next for me with regard to triathlon. At this point I wasn’t running as my hip was too sore. In our first session she asked me, “Why are you beating yourself with this big stick?” and I know this sounds weird but I began a journey with her where we got to understand how my body works, but more importantly how my mind works and what are the things that drive me both positively and negatively.
The morning began with a final stop in at transition to do the last little things that needed to be done before the race. My bike and transition bags were set and ready. At this stage I was feeling fairly calm with a few butterflies in the stomach. Being around the Trifactri group also helped settle the nerves and kept me smiling. We slipped into our wet-suits, said our final goodbyes and headed down to line up in the starting pens.
The swim went off smoothly; the rolling starts really do allow a pleasant experience in the water. The sea was fairly calm and I enjoy swimming up and down in the swells. After a very long drag along the shore with an endless amount of yellow bouys, the turn around bouy was in sight. The sea on the way back wasn't as pleasant as heading out, but still quite an enjoyable. Finally it was the last turn around and I was heading back to the beach. Running out the water I felt great and was satisfied with the time which I had completed the swim.
The big one, the main event, and the reason for so many early nights and even earlier mornings. Ironman! The race was finally here, race weekend was upon us and to be honest, I have never been more excited! This was my first attempt at the full Ironman and I actually couldn’t wait.
Sleepless nights in the days running up to Sunday 10 April were the order of the day, anxiety my starter, excitement the main course and just a hint of fear for dessert. This was it! I really wish there was an Ironman every week, even though my body may disagree.
Where Trifactri athletes get to tell their side of the Swim, Bike and Run