You know how it is leading up to a race, “are you ready?” “How has the training been?” “Are you nervous?” “How is the body feeling?” and for the first time in a very long time my answers weren’t, “ah we’ll see on the day won’t we,” “The training has been ok hey,” “Nnnaaaa not very nervous,” “Ya the body is fine thanks,” it was, “Yes, I am ready,” “The training has been really good thanks,” “Yes I am very nervous,” and “The body is feeling great!”
The training was consistent and I was as ready as I could be, but an athlete’s worst nightmare before a big race is either getting sick or getting injured. On the Tuesday before the race I did my EASY indoor, you know how tapering is ;) and as I started my EASY run my hamstring did something funny. Needless to say the next few days it was a continuous repetition of ice, heat, ice, heat, panic message to Lucie, ice, heat, ice, heat, transact patch, pray, ice, heat, ice, heat… well you get the picture!
If anyone had said to me that before I reach my big Four Oh, I would have completed a triathlon, I would have divorced myself from the friendship immediately with a heartfelt laugh! And yet, today I’m writing this blog having completed two triathlons and one of them being Ironman 70.3 Durban.
Prior to joining Trifactri, my only goal was to fit in my clothes (comfortably) and to look good by the time the big Four Oh arrived. Each day I would go to the gym and essentially plod along (can one truly do anything properly without a coach? Nope). A fellow running friend of mine asked if I wanted to join him for training sessions as he is training for Ironman 70.3 East London. Having nothing to lose and frankly there is never anything wrong with running behind a man who has killer legs for motivation, I agreed and unbeknown to me, the triathlon journey began.
Walking onto the beach on race morning, you can just spot the swimmers. They’re an elite bunch. It’s like they smoothly and confidently stride towards the sub 30min self-seeding board with their wide shoulders, narrow waists, unusually webbed feet and mirrored goggles firmly secured by a second swimming cap. *Shivers up my spine*.
Six years ago, I was living in Mozambique. I am missionary and I was making a project to suport 300 poor kids with food, medicine, school and sports.
.I’m still on cloud 9 after winning the Standard Bank Durban 70.3 Half Ironman, my first big win as an athlete. It’s been an incredibly journey so far this year, where the long hours of training and the extra effort put into working on my weaker areas are now finally paying off. Its never easy to be on top form all year round, so selecting key races and wanting to be at my best for that specific goal is the way I like to do it. When I look back to what I put down at the beginning of this, and what I wanted to achieve, I can tell you I am on my way to achieving the goals I have set out for myself.
I was very unsure how I was going to embrace/enjoy/experience/take in the sights/be around 40,000 runners AND still run 42 km – my word that’s a HUGE ask. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about races and people. Lucie kept telling me I was going to be fine, my team members kept telling me I was going to be fine, so this time I really thought I would try my best to just enjoy the event!
The day I had been training for had finally arrived. It was that inevitable day of taking on my first triathlon race. Sure, it was just a sprint race, but to me, it was a whole lot more than that. It was the culmination in a few months of rigorous intense training, hours spent smelling of chlorine, tan lines (yes I get them), orange flavored gel breath and the consumption of a lot of oats and honey.
Trying to remember all of Johan ‘JB’ Bronkhorst’s advice from the day before, I checked in my bike, hung up the bike and running transition bags and then casually made my way through to the Trifactri team Gazebo. Familiar faces were all about. A lot of supporters had travelled up from Johannesburg to Sun City and everyone knew it was my first race. The questions and comments had been flying about, ‘are you ready for this?’, ‘just have fun’, ‘don’t forget to smile for the cameras’ etc. I nodded in nonchalant approval. Those butterflies that were floating about, suddenly felt like gigantic bats fluttering about in my belly.
It all started 4 years ago with my first triathlon 5150 Bela Bela. Ironman was never ever in my mind to do as I thought who can do a 3.8km swim, 180.2km bike and then run a marathon afterwards, this must only be for the pro’s. No normal human can go through this?
So I started with a few Olympic distance events not that I was good at all, battled probably the first 2 years to brake 3 hours on an Olympic distance. I eventually got the courage together to enter my first 70.3 East London. I could not do this by myself and who better to do my first one with, my wife. She was not keen at first but also agreed to enter (well I just entered her and let her know afterwards). So training was going on but not much to write home about. In December of 2015 I rode between Christmas and New year in the Cradle to get a few long rides in and I saw a group of people in pink and blue coming past me. Boy they flew and I pedaled so hard just to catch up with them and started to chat to a guy named Richard Gaugeler. We chatted from Lion and Rhino park to the first stretch on the caves rode where he had to do Intervals. But in that time he mentioned how awesome this group of people is and how they encourage one another and push each other to their limits.
So, I’m an Ironman. I know it because Paul Kaye said it. He’s the voice of Ironman here in South Africa. As you run down the red carpet to the finish line of an Ironman race, it’s announced “Geoffrey Smith, You ARE an IRONMAN”. Every age group athlete has fantasized that Ironman moment and hears those words in their head while imagining it over and over. On many long runs, bike rides, or pool workouts I played out the red carpet moment, crossing the finish, hearing those words. That moment would be an ultimate moment of this journey
Before I started triathlon, I always followed the sport in awe of all the athletes. Chrissie Wellington was an early favourite of mine, especially after reading her book. She wrote that her motivation always came from a poem by Kipling – IF. It really is a remarkable piece of writing, do yourself a favour and read it.
‘If you can dream—and not make dreams your master’
Ironman was never a dream of mine. It was just impossible. 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run. Ha that’s only reserved for the heroes of our time! But then I met one of my own hero’s, Lucie Zelenkova. After training with Luc for 3 years, she instilled the possibility in me to take on the challenge. At first I thought she was mad!
Where Trifactri athletes get to tell their side of the Swim, Bike and Run