Slanghoek Triathlon race report - a first timers perspective

Event: Slanghoek Long Road Triathlon in Rawsonville, Boland (1.3km swim, 42km cycle, 10km trail run)

Psychology and Pre-Race Strategy: Not only was it my first official triathlon, it was also my first open water swim in a wetsuit! Knowing this my friend suggested a swim at Redhill Dam two days prior to the event to get a feel for OWS, but it turned out to be quite scary. Water was pitch black and cold, even with a wet suit, which made swimming difficult. I couldn’t breathe or find a rhythm. I eventually took 54 minutes to swim 750m and was having serious doubts. I contacted my coach, Claire Horner, but she assured me that Slanghoek Dam is a lot less intimidating and that I would be fine.

The evening before the event I packed out all my gear with a checklist to make sure not to forget anything. I tried to practice a running mount in our garden with no success (read: fell on my bum) and decided to scrap that idea. I also went over the transitions in my mind, practicing the flow of actions that I would do the next day. I struggled to sleep and kept thinking about the swim… By the time I fell asleep I ended up dreaming about swimming!

On race morning I woke u, had breakfast, checked my tyre pressure, and prepared my drinks for the bike. Then it was time to load up, pick up my friend, and drive through to Rawsonville. We arrived at the venue about an hour before start, giving me enough time to setup my bike and run transitions, fit into my race suit (aka THE RACE SUIT, Cuore MTD Two in One TriSuit), and other last minute preparations. Last stop – MTD gazebo, and then it was GO time!

Swim leg: I did a quick warm up lap in the water. The depth looked a lot better than Redhill and felt a bit warmer as well. When the gun went off I stayed on the right hand side, and slowly made my way through the first lap. By the time I finished the lap, another athlete was finishing his second! At this point I felt demotivated and wanted to quit, but I thought of all my support and it gave me some determination to push through. I jumped into the dam for the second lap, found my rhythm, and eventually finished the swim third last with a time of 39:57.

Bike leg: This was where I felt the strongest, and once I was on the bike I felt the confidence flowing. The demo model of the Powertap P1 power meter that was lent to me by Kent made a huge difference in the pacing of the bike leg. The conditions were very windy but I managed to reel in lots of athletes that were stronger swimmers. I finished with a time of 1:26:13, with average power of 200W and average speed of 29.3km/h over the 42km distance.

Run leg: It must be stated that I don’t do trail runs! The surface was a mixture of loose sand and gravel, not to mention sections with knee deep water. Despite this, I enjoyed the change of scenery and knowing that it was the final leg of the event ultimately gave me an extra confidence boost. Once I completed the first lap it was time for the home stretch and also the all-important photograph! I was looking out for the photographers and hoping to get some snaps from Chris Hitchcock. Then I could hear the fat lady singing as I cruised to the finish with a time of 54:24. It was official, I was now a TRIATHLETE!!!

Lessons Learnt:

* Do more open water swims to get more comfortable in open water, as well as in my wetsuit.

* Don’t let the nerves overwhelm you into quitting! Remember this is what you been training for, this is what you love doing!

Tips for other first timers:

* Replicate race conditions in your training as far as possible, this will eliminate some of the nerves on race day.

* Visualize and practice your transitions so that it feels intuitive on the day.

Next stop: Ironman South Africa 70.3!

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