So here goes:
Year 2017 did not start as I thought it would. I was planning my 3rd and last attempt at a Comrades silver, having just missed it the 2 previous years due to a cramping issue. I got diagnosed with severe bone bruising and the start of a stress fracture in my hip area in Mid-February! 12 weeks without running...
So...I was out of African X , out of Two Oceans and out of Comrades! Soul-destroying.
What now? Coach Claire Horner's dream had finally come true. " You can swim more Rob!!!" Yeah right. With no running this meant my once a week swim went up to 3 times a week and luckily I kept the cycling going.
The swimming did feel better and I was owning that pool. I thought I need to re-assess my goals for the year and so I thought lets get back into triathlon and I entered Durban 70.3.
I started running again slowly in early May but I was not quite right yet...
I asked Claire nicely if I could run the first 30kms of Comrades with friend at the back and she reluctantly agreed and was very stern with me saying 30kms but no more! She even had John Grobler, an MTD Durban athlete stationed at Winston Park bang on 30km mark with the instructions to "rugby tackle" me off the course if I did not follow instructions. I obeyed.
I was back in Durbs 2 weeks later for 70.3. Best place in the world in winter and my whole family lives here. Now many of you know that I have a reputation for coming 4th in my age group which I have achieved consistently over the last few years. So much so that my mates were calling me Robbie de Fourth! :D
So, I arrived in Durban on the Thursday, registered, checked out the expo, attended to a few business issues and caught up with some family and friends. Coach Claire predicted a 30 min swim 2:30 bike and we were going to try and wing a 92 minute run.
I must say I have become very relaxed before races these days and I think this is crucial in the build up. A few beers every night with some great food does help indeed.
I met up with the MTD squad on the Saturday morning to check out the swim and that went pretty well. Later I racked my bike and checked my bags into T1 and T2. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the SA- FRANCE test that afternoon so it was great to go and watch that with a couple of mates, especially with SA winning. Everything was going according to plan and I ended of the evening with my stock standard carbo loading routine of many years - a large pizza and I washed it down with 2 beers.
Race day dawned and I was up early after a good nights sleep. I made my way to the start after a small break and the conditions looked perfect.
I love this course having raced it and came FOURTH 2 years back...
The rolling start swim is a fantastic idea and suits me perfectly and this meant I was able to position myself nicely and I had a comfortable, incident free swim, coming out the water after 30 minutes - bang! On target.
Had my usual picnic in transition and then set off on the bike with the first 3kms being a neutral no passing zone. I got into a great rhythm early on, on the bike and I made good progress. I hopped off the bike after a 2:30 ride. On target again...
I have always loved running off the bike but I was coming in underdone and I had to be careful and pace myself so that I could achieve my target and not blow up and fall apart. I felt really good on the first lap churning out 4:08 - 4:10min/km splits. I was also getting major encouragement from my team mate, John Grobler at every turn who was ahead of me updating me where I was lying in my age group. He told me I was 5th on the 1st turn....4th on the second turn. Ok...here I go again.
3rd on the 3rd turn...Wait, WHAT?? Then I overtook the 2nd guy. I was now running with my head and totally determined to finally bank a podium position. I had to dig deep for the last 5kms and managed to run an 89 minute run.
I still was not convinced I had made the podium and kept checking with Kent throughout the day to make sure.
Well, at the awards dinner I did stood on the 2nd step of the podium to my complete amazement. I was truly stoked.
I managed to get a slot for 70.3 Worlds in PE next year so I guess its back to Triathlons for a while...
And also, no more 4th places. But I'm still aiming for Comrades silver.