Sam does Ironman!

So for your sins, or mine, you get to read another race report from me. I thought I had been well behaved, did almost everything my coach wanted, and yet, here I am, doing another race report.

On the way home from East London, 70.3 I was in the car with the Horner’s while they were strategizing our next ten weeks of training. It didn’t matter how loud I turned my earphones, the scary reality of how much life was about to look, sunk in, and one thing was for sure, I needed a training buddy to go through this with, so, naturally, I managed to rope in the wonderful Janine, to join me, and oh my gosh am I glad I did. Because it really helps to have someone that you can laugh, swear and question so so SO many life choices together. The Horner’s also promised to pick up the pieces when I start to fall apart, and they did, they were ridiculously wonderful. Claire even went to so far as to walk my dog on the days that she sent us on 6/7 hour rides.

So what does an training week look like.

Well lets start on the Monday. It begins at 6am, for an hour and a bit swim. You average anything between a 2.6-3.2km swim set, and you are super rubbish at it, because it usually comes after a big weekend of training. So you swim with lead arms, and dead legs, but Kent knows this is the case, so he takes it easy, and you just need to get through the set. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but that’s okay, I don’t do anything pretty. I then have core in the evenings. Monday core with Matt, has become my sanctuary, its tough and you absolutely finished but you try find some quiet time to reflect on your week, and what you want to achieve, and the music is really good while you sliding around in your own sweat trying to hold a good Planking posture, but failing miserably.

Tuesday morning is one of my favourite mornings. It’s Time Trials or intervals time. We meet at 5am sharp, and we “warm-up” with Freddie in front leading us to Fish Hoek. He is a speed freak, so your warm up is normally a group time trial where you are holding on for dear life, eyeballs popping and lungs on fire. It’s normal to taste blood in you mouth when you warm up right? So, you hit Fish Hoek, and then the intervals start, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief because you actually slow down for the intervals. And the speedy young things fly away, and you go and do your thing. This usually ends at Bootleggers Tokai, with Freddie sadistically smiling when you tell him that his warm up, gave you a new high functioning threshold, and that was before the intervals. Flat whites all round, and a glass of warm cocoa for Pricey.  Best way to spend a morning! No jokes.

Tuesday evening is track, which starts with a good chat and catch-up with everyone. Claire claps her hands trying to get everyone around the track, she says twice, but Rainey and I think once, is good enough, and then its flipping drills, which if you have the co-ords and left/right awareness like myself, is basically just me trying to not make a complete fool of myself and stay on my feet. Then we run. We run laps and get special treatment, because we are the Ironman athletes, so no sprints for us. Score!

And that’s pretty much how the sessions roll over. Rinse and repeat. On Friday, you do double runs, the first being a long run, which is when you first start to take stock of your own progress. My morning run is about 22km, I once took an entire year to train to run 21km, and now I was running it in less time, and before my second cup of coffee (the other guys were running 32km, they are amazing).

Saturday is a “short” 5 hour ride, which is over 100km, (How cool is that?) and then sometimes we swam 3km in the afternoon.

Sunday is always super special, with a little 6/7hour ride followed by a 30min run. Now you may say, oh my gosh, you have a 30min run, but trust me, you are so happy to get off your bike! Bring on that 30min run!!!

And that is the week. So can you see why your Monday morning swim, is um…not so great.

But that’s just the training. I was expecting that, I knew that was coming, what I did not see coming was how much fun I would have training for this race, and the people I met. We became a little dysfunctional family, that knew everything about each other, from injuries, to nutrition, to chafe cream preference, nothing was off limits, and I mean nothing. They could have kept a little mystery to spice up the friendship, the chat varied anywhere between total relentless support for one another and our fears, to absolutely ripping each other to shreds, trying to buy Gareth a pink camelback, or questioning my lack of sighting skills and Pappa Duncs ability to find the worst coffee stop in the middle of Noordhoek, (a place with several of Cape Towns finest coffee destinations). These people became my people. We were all chasing a different goal and dream, but we were chasing it together.

So when I stand on the beach waiting for the start, and the cannon goes off, I have a goofy smile on my face, Janine is behind me, laughing, Jolly and Price are in the front, Rozzie is looking like she’s just seen a ghost, but we’ve all got this. We have trained hard, and consistently and its going to be good.

Here is my race in a nutshell:

The swim was yet another disaster. It appears that in the ten weeks, I’m still the worst person when it comes to swimming in a straight line. I doubt anyone has as much one on one time with the life guards in the ocean. Although I think I do test their patience with how wide I like to swim. I hated the swim, was ‘never going to do another Ironman ever again’, ‘when would this end’, ‘could I bail, no Claire will be so very stroppy with me’, I will get Grumpy Bear face, and no one likes that. So suck it up princess and swim!

The ride. OH MY GOSH I loved the ride. I love my bike. I love my race sui. I love life. For once, Claire was honest when she called it a flat route, there were no Horner Hills, or rolling Hills, there were two bumps, and a longish drag coming home, but it was fun, so much fun that the 180km flew past, and didn’t feel like more then a Saturday morning coffee ride. I managed to catch a few people one of them being Janine. Both times I went past the MTD tent, they went wild and that support was awesome. Freddie said he would scream, and he did not disappoint all day! The wind picked up coming home in the last leg, and it was amusing watching people who didn’t train week in and out in the wind pop like Blaze (my dog) pops Logan’s soccer balls. Ka-boom.

So, sadly, the bike leg had to end, and I needed to start running. My run is not pretty when it’s the only thing I have to do, so this could be interesting. I have never run more then 22km, and now I had to do a marathon, but that’s fine, I have all night if I need to, just try keep the walking to a minimum, and no temper tantrums. Wise words from Claire. I kept waiting for Janine to catch me, but she at that point was trying to find a personality and drop her thunder cloud, so after 10km, I asked if we could run together. She is a very strong runner, so it was going to take a lot for me to keep up with her. Thankfully she has the patience of a saint and we ran together.

Passing the team tent was so funny. Seeing everyone jump up and down and go berserk for us, I even managed to sneak a few sips of coffee on the one loop. Claire jumping up and down like a lunatic running along with us, making sure we were good and happy and surviving was awesome. Happy Coach, I think. Insane but happy.

Slowly ticking down the Km’s when we had two laps to go, its started to sink in. We were going to do this, we were going to be Ironmen, all the hours and work was about to come to an end.

We started this crazy journey together and we were going to end it together in the most spectacular way possible, on the Ironman red carpet. Running literally in the arms of our loved ones, those that saw us at our worst, and picked us up, so that we could become a better version of ourselves.

I saved my biggest hug for Claire, and she gets unlimited hugs from here on out. I absolutely loved training with her, she cares so much. The fact that she got me to the finish line of an ironman should give her instant sainthood. She has the most amazing ability to get the best out of me and her other athletes. She knows when to push you, when to hold back, when to tell you #pedalmoron she knows when #itwillbegoodforyou and I love both her and Kent for their brutal honesty and passion, and the fact that they always want the best for their athletes. Whether the athletes wants to hear it or not. If you are their athlete, I really hope you have the courage to listen to what they say.

Thank you.

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