Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa 2018

Ironman 70.3 South Africa in East London has been in my bucket list since I started doing triathlon. I registered for the 2015 edition and cancelled it when Challenge Bahrain 2014 was announced. This race is regarded as one of the toughest 70.3 races on the circuit especially with its 45 km of uphill bike course.

The universe works in mysterious way. I did not even plan to enter this race as I was in the middle of the peak training block for Ironman 70.3 Colombo to be held later in February where we also planned for our second family vacation in Sri Lanka. Qatar Airways then had a fantastic sale just as I was about to buy the plane tickets for Colombo and two weeks later we found ourselves on a plane bound for Cape Town.

I did not have any expectations going into this race. Well a meagre 1.5 months of training was not exactly how you prepare for any 70.3 but I did not expect I would be torn apart and burnt alive (literally) from the brutality of this course.

The sea of bikes at T1

With my old buddy, Fabrice who is now based in Hong Kong

The swim was 'calm' to South African's standard but really choppy for us who open water swim trainings confined to sheltered bay or any placid waters. It was cold too. My feet and hands were numb immediately. Lesson learned from IM Malaysia where I swam almost 1 km extra, I tried to sight as much as possible this time. Though I was bouncing up and down with the waves, somehow, I managed keep my line straight along the buoys except once when I confused buoy no 3 as buoy no 2 which cost me 100m extra. I thought I had a decent swim until I saw 44:16 on my watch, well I could have been worse.   

After a long transition, I was anxious to start the bike. I drove along the bike course the day before with Fabrice and I must have peed a little. The course was 45 km out and back on a highway totally closed from traffic which was great. What not great was it goes up and up with intermittent short recoveries. I knew I have to get my pacing right and ride conservatively. However it was tricky to stick to my planned average power of 130 watts in such a hilly course. I got tired by the time I reach the turn around point near Berlin at km 45. I was hoping for the gravity do the work for the next 45 km because my legs felt heavy and could not produce the same effort going out. There were still many short climbs on the way back to East London and the 90km bike course had more than 1000m elevation gain.

I thought I was in a good position because I overtook hundreds of competitors on the bike and there were hundreds if not thousands more cyclists yet to make the turn as I was coming back into the town, but my heart sank when I make the final right turn into the esplanade. There were thousand others already started running. I lost my urgency and cycled slowly back to the transition. I finished the bike in 3:19 with an average power of 118 watt, well below my target.

45km of climbing then 45 km of headwind

I was already tired when I started running and the sun was out in full force. It was hot. Very hot that I had severe sunburnt. I constantly had sponges in my suit to keep me cool. To survive this run, I need to focused on my heart rate and cadence, which at that time did not translated into a speedy pace of a rabbit. I did not bother about pace and split anymore. I was more excited to see my wife and kids who were out cheering for me on the run course. I got to see them four times in the two laps run course. They really lifted my spirit and kept me going. There was a steep hill near the turn around on other wise a flat course, the Bunker Hill. The two laps course means we have to climb it twice. Paul Kaye made us promise to walk on Bunker Hill during the Athletes Briefing. I did not have a chance to recce the run course, so I did not know what to expect. Boy it was long and steep. I tried running it on the first lap (if you can call pace 8 min/km a run) but on the second lap, I gave up and just walk like everybody else. Well at least I kept my promise to Paul Kaye. I completed the run in  2:06 for a total time of 6:19:17. It was not fast but I was so proud I conquered this race. It gave a sense of true  meaning of 'Ironman'

It was scorching hot in East London

My Ironfan (Cinta was sick on that day. Poor girl)

I can always count on my awesome wife to have everything under control

Tap for energy

Proud Malaysian

I made it to the race video. My Jalur Gemilang and I running towards the finish line at 8:33

Swim 45:28
Bike   3:19:12
Run    2:06:04
Total  6:19:33 (122/303 AG)


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