Keelyn kills it in USA

Jun 21 2016

For Triathletes, the United States offers an impressive variety of Triathlon racing experiences. It affords loyal “Ironmen” who would typically only take part in sanctioned Ironman events, the perfect Oyster to get those AWA (all world point) up.

The only issue for South Africans would be that America is on the other side of the world, and with the current exchange rates, it does not make for a cheap holiday. So yes, the journey to get there is long, and your credit card will most definitely curl at the corners, but the experience of racing there internationally makes it all worthwhile.

A footnote, it is advisable to budget in an extra cost of $100- for both departure and return for bike luggage fee’s. I got a nasty surprise when arriving at the airport. In addition to this, if you are skilled enough to build and pack your own bike, you would save yourself a few more extra $$’s as labour in the USA does not come cheap. Most of the pro-bike stores generally charge $60- per hour in labour to build or disassemble bikes.

Arriving in a new country as a Triathlete presents a couple of other logistics to keep in mind: Jet lag from time zone changes, and the biggest one of all—where to swim, bike and run. From past experience, the best advice I can offer, is that if you are booked into a Hotel, try to find one that is out of the busy CBD areas. They are generally cheaper, offer more training space and typically closer to recreational centers for swimming.

Back to the event—Ironman 70.3 Texas was a sold-out event and took place in a small coastal town called Galveston situated on the Gulf of Mexico.

The swim is held in a spectator friendly venue called Moody Gardens—an inlet to the Gulf, where the water is warm and salty giving extra buoyancy, pronounced “boo-ency” in the US accent, which put a smile on our faces at each race briefing.

My particular swim wave left at 7-40am. The swim was pleasant and I had clear open water for the first few meters, until I realized I was heading away from the buoys and not towards them.

Back on the correct swim course, I managed to exit the water 5th in my age group, and with the help of efficient wetsuit strippers, was on my bike in a good transition time.

The bike course in Texas is flat and fast, typically with a head wind out and a tail wind back.

However, nature does like to throw in its own obstacles and ‘blessed’ us with a side wind out and back. Fortunately, training in the Cape, prepares one for any kind of wind, so I put my head down and ground it out,

Americans are exceptionally strong bikers, and I realized that my bike would be my biggest challenge.

I came in to T2 in 12th position, knowing that I would have to give it all in my run.

“Moody Gardens” provides an exceptionally spectator friendly run course too.

It compromises of three loops, of 7km’s (just over 4 miles) and is undulating with a few short up hills. The run went very well and I managed to chase down 8 people in my age group, the last one in the last mile, finishing third in my age group with a 1:28min run split.

So, with Texas 70.3 over and a week to recover before New Orleans 70.3, my family and I decided to spend the preceding time exploring New Orleans.

It is only a 5-6 hour drive from Galveston, a very affordable way to explore both places and get in a back-to-back 70.3.

Having visited N’ Orleans previously I had seen most of the sights and attractions, but experiencing it with family who had not, made it even more enjoyable.

It is often noted that the USA is like 50 different countries in one, and travelling from Texas to Louisiana (New Orleans), clearly demonstrates this.

This festive city is commonly known for its Mardi Gras, The French Quarter, late nights on Bourbon Street and of course the majestic Mississippi River.

We stayed out of town at the Marriott Hotel, close to a river walk where I was able to cycle and run along one of the famous lakes, Lake Pontchartrain.

When the weather did not permit this, I was able to train in the well-equipped gym at the hotel.

We enjoyed tourist attractions like the famous NATCHEZ Mississippi Steamboat cruise, the very well presented WW2 museum and spent a night enjoying the culinary and music delights on Bourbon street.

The New Orleans Ironman 70.3 was held out of town, near a small airfield. The weather on race day proved to be one of the worst I have raced in, but fortunately I am used to training in the Cape in gale force South Easters.

Again the swim start was in a harbor basin, with 12 athletes jumping off the jetty every 8 seconds for the start.It w as an extremely difficult swim with choppy waves due to strong winds making the buoy sighting difficult. This year, 74 athletes had to be pulled from the water, with an additional 10 not making the swim cut off time. Judging by the choppy water I knew the bike would be tough.

Heading straight out into a 40km/hr wind, there and back, with gusts so strong that I almost lost control of my bike a couple of times, and after a few brief meltdowns questioning why I did this “silly” sport, I got blown back to T2.

Windswept, I was ready for the run, not quite sure where I was placed in my age group at this stage, having seen 3 girls pass me on the bike, but being mindful that they may be part of relay teams participating. The run was once again a straight out and back course, with the wind on your back on the way out, and a headwind on the way back. The run was exceptionally well supplied with nutrition, and aid stations at every mile. At the half way mark I managed to pass the first person in my age group. The half way mark came quickly, but the headwind wind on the way back was very strong but I managed to maintain my lead position without having anyone pass me.

The final mile seemed to take forever, but I was thrilled to finish in an impressive 4hrs53, with another sub 90 run split, finishing first in my age group.

Those who participate in Triathlons will know that it takes a lot of training and dedication to reach your goals. It also takes a handful of special people to believe in you and support you along the way.

I am exceptionally blessed with a fantastic coach, Claire Horner, who owns “My Training Day Triathlon Academy”—a coach has to believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself, and that describes Claire in a nutshell.

I am incredibly fortunate to have a fantastic sponsor, TYR, who have provided me with amazing training and racing clothing. I would highly recommend them to anyone, not only for comfort, but their gear looks awesome in photos and stands out in the athletic arena.

My nutrition sponsor, “Powerbar” gets me through those sugar lows, and for their support I am also immensely grateful.

Lastly, a tree is only as strong as its roots. My family and boyfriend continue to support me emotionally and financially. Words can never be enough to thank them.

Often I am not sure who is more honored when I do well, and that in itself is a testimony to their support.


Triathlon has taught me so many life lessons and taken me to incredible places I would never have otherwise experienced.

How could one put a price on that?

 



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