Neville: 5150 Survivor to 70.3 East London Finisher

I have just bettered my IM East London time by a slight margin of 1h39m21s! What makes it amazing (in my opinion at least) is that I have done this in one year 2017-2018. Even though I did not break any course records or even qualified for a slot in the upcoming world Championships in PE, I am extremely proud of my 6h18m.

Even though I would like to take all the shine for this achievement, credit is to be given where it is due and that is to both the coaches of MTD Port Elizabeth where a special mention must go to JD Marais whom has been working with me for the last year.

My journey started slightly heavier though, with a weight 132kg (YES, 39kg heavier than today). Having been diagnosed with Diabetes on a standard visit to the doctor, I realized that I couldn’t carry on the way I was with my health and decided to make a real challenge. Thinking that I’ll start slow I signed up for my first ever triathlon, the Corporate Triathlon Challenge (CTC) in 2016 (the day before Ironman in PE), and said to myself it can’t be that hard…Let me tell you what without “my JD” I WAS WRONG I suffered!

To every ones total amazement I finish the 2016 CTC and thought to myself if I can do this, I’m ready for the next challenge and thought to myself that my life will be complete if I can only finish the 5150 which was running for the first time in Port Elizabeth. At this stage I was still doing my own thing (no MTD) and managed to hurt my shoulder slightly in training, it was here where I met the first crazy person (Marolien Schmidt whom trains with the PE-Squad). She screamed softly into my ear that I need help to do this (as I called it) “triathlon thing” well, she recommended that I speak to MTD-PE.

I was invited to the Tuesday run squad, which I politely declined (as I was not able to run 3 km without stopping for a coke and Bar-One at this stage). I did however do a “drive by-spy” (on the squad run) and though, this is a nice social running club as everybody was chatting and laughing when I drove by… little did I know I was driving past during the warm up and have since learned that this is the ONLY time people laugh at run squad (hehe).

Armed with the slightly warped view of how training with the MTD squad goes, I decided that it is time for a bigger challenge and I joined MTD PE squad the same day I signed up for my first 70.3 East London (2017), one week before 5150 in PE.

My first session was a swim with the PE squad and after the 3 length in the pool the lanes was reshuffled and I was left alone in my own lane…which I fondly called the “baby lane”. I finished that morning broken, after 1450m swim and could not believe that the coach made me swim that far before the race! With tears in my eyes, and the thought “what did you do Neville” in my head, I did not even realise that my session was only half of what the other people swam.

Race day 2016 – 5150; the sea was flat, wind light and not too hot. Conditions anyone would call PERFECT. In these perfect conditions I managed to finish 3rd last (beating a lady of 60+ and a guy that pushed his bike for 20km (and then still did the 10km run). My not so hot finishing time here was 4h10:59.

This is where Coach Richard sat me down and said that I will only be able to finish EL (and enjoy it) if I take training seriously. Not wanting to back of the challenge I decided to tackle it head on and put my head down and started training. With the amount of training I had to do I honestly thought that JD is a sadist and just wanted to see that “fat boy suffer”. I remember how I could barely get up in the mornings without making strange pig like noises. I had the longest December and January EVER but finally Ironman East London 2017 arrived.

Race day 2017 IM – EL; Race day (down to 108kg at that stage) was hard but it would have been impossible without the training that I put in with the help of coaches. Even though I was still very concerned that I might not make the cut off time, I did a lot better than what I did 2 months before at the 5150 and was impressed with my finishing time of 7h57:48 (30min before the cut off).

After the race EL 2017 race I decided that I enjoyed the sport, the training and more than this the company of the coaches and other athletes. At this point I also decided that I will treat this as a “fat loss club” and as such need to keep going with the training, and this is what I did the whole of 2017. The first time that I could actually compare my progress was with the 2017 - 5150 (which is now a full year later with MTD).

Race day 2017 – 5150; even though the conditions was not as great as it was in 2016 I managed a finishing time of 3h06:10. Unbelievably I improved my time with 1h4:49!

The improvements I have made through the year did not sink in until the MTD-PE 2017 year end function where I got given a reward as the most improved male athlete 2017 (which is still sleeping next to me between my wife and I). It was the first time I realised that I am no longer just the fat boy at the back, but one of the MTD athletes getting ready for a big race in East London in 2018. I put my head down and gave the last month of training everything I had.

Race day 2017 IM-EL; Down another 12kg from last year, I was totally ready for this race. The fears of one year ago (of not making it in time) made way for extreme nervous excitement but I was ready to go. I tried to stick to the figures JD gave me as best I can and I amazed myself by improving my time by 1h39:21. I am still not off my high yet, and now understand what people are talking about when they say it gets addictive. I need more of this feeling… I need to improve my time in 2019!

With the “TRI-bug” haven bitten me badly (and loosing my mind slightly) I have now signed up for FULL Ironman in PE this year. From not being able to do a proper park run to getting ready for a Full Ironman in 2 year would not have been possible without the passionate and committed coaches of MTD in Port Elizabeth. Thank you JD and Richard, this journey has been amazing, and can’t wait to see what the next year holds.



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