Ironman 70.3 Durban

Life’s about choices

By Claire Horner, “non swimmer”, mother & wife

Over the past few days I’ve been reading a few race reports from various athletes, I’ve been reading Facebook posts/ twitter posts and having a look through pictures. Everyone has their own views and everyone is fully entitled to their own views… but no one ever stops to think about the other side of the coin… with too many athletes it’s all about ME!

Let’s rewind back to before Sunday morning.  Durban has the most beautiful beach front imaginable – the weather is better than anywhere else in SA in winter and with a stunning promenade that goes on forever it is every triathletes dream.

So all triathletes looked at this gorgeous setting and our thoughts were as follows: “Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a triathlon here!! Ironman SA, Paul Wolff & team answered every triathlete’s prayers and in 2015 Durban 70.3 was launched

This year entries were sold out as more than 3000 eager triathletes flocked to Durban for our 2nd 70.3 of the year now in South Africa. Coming from the Western Cape where triathlons are few and far between we are obviously delighted to have another race to go to! Training is done, our bikes are serviced and ready to go, kit has been printed, legs have been shaved and we’ve had our race haircuts.

We arrive to Ironman & Standard bank flags, massive big tents holding expo’s and registrations and of course thousands of bike racks ready for race day. Registration takes all of 3 minutes as the amount of organisation and planning that has gone into this event is massive.

1 week before race day there are no athletes at the race venue. It is a Sunday morning and as you look out onto the sea you are greeted with litter that covers the promenade. A few drunk characters stumble around after a massive night out. One guy picks up a half finished beer bottle and then drops it so that glass shatters everywhere.  Music is still pumping out a few cars and seagulls hang around the overflowing dustbins in search of a few scraps. Get the picture I’m sure?

The Ironman team arrive in Durban and this is what they are presented with so BEFORE ANY set ups happen of tents & expos they need to tidy up first!! Other than the tidy up of the beach front the team are also stopped by irate locals – WHY is their beach front being closed down for a bunch of idiot athletes? In 2015 an Ironman ref was even beaten up by a local because municipality hadn’t communicated that there would be an event taking place. The course had to be diverted at the last minute to stop the chaos that the locals were causing. Not to mention the days and weeks and months of negotiations that take place between the team and the municipality to get full road closure.

This year the Ironman team were greeted by another hurdle – the ocean!!

On race morning they made the final decision to cancel the swim for the Age group athletes, but still make the pro athletes swim… and boy oh boy did this open up a whole can of worms!!!

I will be the first to admit that if I heard the swim was cancelled I’d also have a good moan… you train months to complete a triathlon and getting up for all those early morning swims, it just seems to be for nothing!

Back at the beach the pro’s were getting ready for their swim. The waves looked big but not ridiculous. I’ll admit again – I did question why the AG swim had been cancelled.

As that gun went off and as 15 pro athletes ran into the water I realised immediately why Paul had made the call to cancel the swim. There are many fast AG swimmers but the majority of the field are novices and it was 100% the right call to have cancelled for the AG athletes.

I got pumbled by one wave after the next. To my right I saw all the lifeguards shouting at me “go under go under!! “I am going under you idiots, what do you think I’m doing” I shouted at them!! I then got the giggles! Have you ever tried to swim in a washing machine while laughing! I then started swearing as I realised I was not getting anywhere.  I then panicked… not because I thought I would drown, but because I was convinced I was last – every other pro was already on their way and I was the only one fumbling along – good Lord no athlete would ever take me seriously as a coach again if I couldn’t even make it to the very first turn around buoy… OMG that got me swimming so fast and so hard – I definitely set a new swim threshold record getting to that first buoy! I give thanks to all our MTD athletes for this sudden adrenaline surge that got me around that buoy!!

Once I got to that buoy I could see a whole bunch of others around me – cool – I wasn’t stone last with everyone waiting on the beach for me…. Hectic… there’s James & Lucie…. Woohooooo I was now celebrating!!  I was actually having the swim of my life in 15 years of triathlon racing in THE WORST conditions I have ever experienced in a Triathlon!

I was so busy celebrating my new found swimming arms that I completely forgot that I actually had to continue swimming and then I still had to bike 90km and run 21km!!

The way out was an adrenaline rush all over again. I took one look at these massive waves coming up behind me and realised there would be no funky wave surfing. I bobbed up and down, got smacked by the last red buoy before literally rolling onto the beach.  With no cap, hair everywhere and Heart rate through the roof – the ocean had seriously beaten us all up but I had survived and I ran up to transition with a massive grin on my face!

I don’t want to bore everyone with details of the rest of the race so I’ll keep it short and sweet – my whole body was smashed so the bike was tough but I got through it fine.  The run was even tougher with temperatures over 30 degrees – but I crossed the finish line in 3rd place which I was ecstatic about! Nowadays with work and little Logan keeping us so busy, we don’t quite get to train as much as we used to so I was delighted with a podium.

Unfortunately as some of us walk away happy with our results, others walk away not so happy. Either with their performances, or the race director’s decisions.  For those AG athletes who didn’t get to swim, think about 90% of the field who wouldn’t have made it onto their bikes if there had been a swim. And for those pro’s who did get to swim, we all sign indemnity’s and waivers so the moment we ran into that water, it was 100% our decision. If I’m not mistaken, no one holds a gun to our heads at the race start – surely as an intelligent human being, if you don’t feel you are able to survive that swim you wouldn’t start? Everyone including the race director AND ourselves made a calculated decision that we’d go out there and swim.

The bottom line is though, to all triathletes out there – when you arrive at the next race, when you open your mouth to complain about something, try and stop yourself and look around you – if it wasn’t for the race organisers who put these amazing events together, we wouldn’t be racing this beloved and crazy sport called triathlon.


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