The first one, the one of Trifactri coach was time spent building up to the start. The weekend spent with my team, team warm up and pre-race dinner. Lots of nervous messages and last minute advice. There was no time to think about my own race but that was something I knew would be the case before I entered. I entered this race because I knew I would be in Durban to support all the Trifactri athletes and that I would feel sad not to be racing on the beautiful Durban 70.3 course. I went to this race not worrying about the outcome but going there being excited to see efforts rewarded of everyone racing, from our top guys to half Ironman virgins. Atmosphere in the team didn't disappoint. There was lot of laughs, nerves and amazing spirit. I loved every moment of it.
When I walked to the transition in the morning, I heard them to announce that swim was cancelled for all age groupers. I felt bad for them because all the guys worked really hard on the swim but safety first. Little did I know at that moment how right the decision was to cancel the age group swim. I quickly sent last minute messages to the group with slight changes to the nutrition plans, managed to talk to some of my athletes and headed to the beach for our pro swim start.
The second element is that of pro athlete. I was excited to swim (gulp), when we stood at the start line looking at the ocean, it looked rough but I hadn’t even the slightest of fears going into the swim. I like swimming, I'm a swimmer and I consider myself as a very good swimmer in triathlon. I was first lady out of the water in many races from ITU world cups to Ironman races. But nothing prepared me for what we experienced out there on Sunday.
Just before the start Paul Wolff went on to explain to us that we need to swim in a far right direction, not to aim for the first buoy that there is very strong rip current. I still was all smiles and happiness.
Then we ran into the water. I was jumping and swimming under the waves but they were coming much stronger and longer than I’ve ever experienced before. I had someone landing on my face, I was kicked in my eye and then to add, being dragged away again and again by the current. I was trying to find some direction but all I could do was try to get through all the waves. This was a first time for me, where I found myself looking for lifeguards and had thoughts if I should carry on. Then I finally got to clearer water and had chance to look for the first buoy and people. To my surprise I saw few guys near me but the buoy was about 200m in the opposite direction than it should’ve be. The ocean had swept us completely the wrong way. We then had to turn and swim back to the buoy before turning and trying to find our way back to next and last buoy before exiting. Sighting was incredibly difficult, I just looked for boats and lifeguards to use for navigation as the next buoy was almost impossible to see through all the waves.
Exit was maybe 300m away and I was sighting to the front for direction and then to the back, waiting for a wave to surf home. And then that wave came. But it was nothing you could surf. It came big and strong and took me and others in my group by surprise. It dumped me to the bottom of the sea and rolled me over. I tried to keep calm and head back to surface for much needed breath....but I didn't get a chance to do it. Just before I could surface, a second wave, exactly the same as the first caught me and I felt like tiny little doll being thrown around in the ocean. I didn't know where the bottom or surface was, all I could see was just white foam everywhere and my arms and legs were completely and helplessly flying around. I honestly think I only made it back to the surface thanks to my Sailfish wetsuit. Wetsuits make your body buoyant and that’s what got me back to the surface. Once there I looked for lifeguards and put my hand up. I knew if there was another wave, no matter how strong, I would not make it. I didn't think that, I knew it. I wasn't trying to swim anymore I was trying to survive. There were no lifeguards around and somehow I had to make it back to the shore with mix of breaststroke and freestyle, albeit with panic and fear in my eyes.
Once there I began the run to transition but I had to stop a few times to throw up all the sea water I swallowed out there. All I could think of and tell everyone around was – “I almost drowned out there”.
Rest of the race luckily wasn't as eventful. I tried to stay in front or on podium position as long as I could but there were three other girls better than me on Sunday. Annah put on brilliant race and took her first and very well deserved win and I'm looking forward to see her progress and carrier.
I finished my run and the race with smile, loving watching every athlete, especially every Trifactri athlete racing. You guys are my never ending inspiration.