About 2 months too late but better late than never.
So this winter ( South AFrican summer ) i went home to South Africa for my Sister, Nadine's wedding on Dec 17. Since i hadn't been home in about 3 years and wanting to spend some extra time with family, and since it was South Africa's Tri season and South africa 70.3 was just around the corner, i decided to stay for 7 weeks leading up to this race and skip winter here in Austin, TX.
I spent the first 3 weeks of the trip in Kimberley, South africa. Best known for the diamond mines and the Big hole ( which was created from diamond mining ) It's literally a giant hole right next to the downtown of Kimberley and evently the ground around it is starting to cave in. So no doubt in the future Kimberley is going to become a giant hole. Hopefully not too soo, since most of my family still lives there. Besides there being a giant hole, Kimberley now has 2 malls !! This is a huge thing since when i grew up there, we weren't so lucky. With that being said, all time spent not training, sleeping or hanging out with my family, we were at the mall. There was plenty of coffee time and a movie here and there.
Training in Kimberley went great. I was coming off pretty much doing nothing in Oct and November due to being very busy with Tri Team Transport, being an Extra and a PA in a commercial that Steve was working on, and then subsequently falling sick right before the trip home. With that being said, i was in terrible shape and felt like i was starting from scratch. But i was hopeful, and was super excited about putting in some quality training in the heat and altitude. Yeah, no idea that Kimberley, where i grew up, was at 4000 ft altitude.
So of course the first ride i head out with a group of strong guys and one gal that the local bike shop set me up with at 5am in the morning ( gulp ). Within 2 min of the ride they had spat me out the back and my heart rate was sky rocketing at 170 +. For the next 20 miles i literally had one of the guys push me on the back as we rode on what was pretty much a flat course. At the end of the ride our Ave speed was 16mph. I was pretty embarrassed to say the least and no doubt they all thought i was lying when they found out i was actually a professional triathlete.
The good news is that they were awesome and let me ride with them again. The 2nd ride, thank goodness, was way better, but for the rest of my time in Kimberely i was riding like my life depended on it, all trying to prove that i did not in fact "suck", especially after that first ride. Oh, the precious ego. The good news on all that is that my cycling significantly improved in 2 weeks and i was starting to feel a little better about the fact that i was having to race in 3 weeks time.
While i was in Kimberely, i also found a group to run with on the days i didnt have a ride, also at 4:45am ( bigger gulp ). One of my first days there we actually had my sisters bachelorette party till 2am in the morning and then i was set to run at 4:45, so a 4am wake up is in order. I ended up running an amazing 15 miles and feeling great, so there was a definite take away from that run. I can suck it up and train on little sleep as long as no alcohol is involved. Was definitely not going to make a habit of it though.
So after 3 weeks of training in Dec in Kimberley and i was off to a training camp in a National Park at 7000 ft and with some of South African's strongest triathletes and best coaches. Anyone who is wanting to take a trip to South Africa and want to have an amazing training experience, i would definitely recommend this camp. Great training, people and food all in one of the most beautiful places on earth - Golden Gate National Park. The coolest thing is there were horses, all types of deer , zebra's and more all over the place. Almost got run of the road once or twice. I am sure you have seen that video of the mt biker that gets hit by a big buck in the wild. Yeah, i was hoping not to be another victim of that incident. Besides the wildlife, there were tons of hill's , too many in fact, since i of course end up hurting myself on Day 3 of the 8 day camp. Sad face.
After riding hard Monday when we got there, followed by an open water swim and HARD run hill repeats on Tue, the nail in the coffin came when we cycled about 4 hours and about 6000 ft of hard climbing on Wed morning. Way too much on these little legs and my "stupid" calves that keep on injuring themselves. I found myself hobbling away from that ride and for the rest of the week. Calf strain - and 3 weeks till SA 70.3 .BOO....
Well, the rest of the camp was spent swimming and doing light cycling while the physio's and massage therapists tried to nurse my calf back to health. Alot of pity eating was done, so the camp became more enjoyable in one aspect. :)
The next 2 weeks leading up to the race i was able to join Lucie Zelenkova and her group - Trifactri - in Joburg. A seriously strong and really fun group of triathletes, and had an awesome time riding with them and also watching them swim circles around me in the pool. On the side i was able to do a 15 min jog here and there just wanting to get to the start line in zero pain. Less pity eating was done :) and i also found myself leaner than the peak shape i was in the year before, so surely that would help me fake the half marathon coming up.
My first ocean swim was quite the adventure ! The beach start proved to be harder than i thought since by the time i ran through the sand and figured out how to get through the crashing waves dolphin diving under them, all of the pro's were already circling the first bouy 200 meters out. At one point i saw someone in the corner of my eye next to me, and i was relieved that i wasn't alone and swam over to them to hopefully catch a draft the rest of the way. Only to find it was the CAMERA MAN ... i cant describe how my little heart sank at that point. The rest of the swim wasnt any better. With there being 700m between buoy 1 and 2 and me not being able to see it and only think about how many, many great white sharks lurked a few 100m away, i found myself swimming along the shoreline and not into the ocean where that buoy was, adding some unfortunate time and distance to my already "sucky" swim. To sum up - it took me 37 min and i had alot of work to do.
The bike was decent but not as fast as i had hoped. I was cycling all alone for 99% of the ride, and since it was 28miles uphill, i wasnt sure how hard to push or how much to save so i just kept it steady. Looking back after the race and knowing the bike fitness i was in , i should have pushed a little more heading out. I was able to pass 3 girls eventually and found myself in 6th and heading into transition right as 4th and 5th were leaving transition. I WAS BACK IN THE RACE ! YAY.
That "yay" was short lived - it was now time to run on legs that hadnt run in 3 wks. With that being said, i of course thought at the time i was invincable and was going to run like a madman and catch up to the two girls infront of me. About 2 miles in i was right with them but that was also the time we hit a monstrous hill which proved to be a handful for my run fitness and my calf. I was able to manage up and down it but knew my time was limited and before i knew it, was in trouble and running was no longer an option.
There was no way i was going to pull out, for many reasons, so i just walked along feeling sorry for myself. Usually after 2 min of a pity party i snap out of it and take in the experience, all the people out there supporting us (namely my mom who i just passed all excited to see me running by) and start to put in perspective how lucky i am to be there in the first place and Thank and pray to God trusting in His overall plan for me, but this time was different. I had placed so much hope, wrongfully so, on this race and my future in triathlon. #stupid.
To finish up - i plodded along and walked the next 6 miles, walked across the finish line, walked to the food tent, ate my 4 slices of finishline pizza, listened to my mom love me by telling me how stupid i was to race knowing i was injured and then proceeded to buy my favorite chocolate from childhood that i had deprived myself of eating till post race as a reward. It unfortunately wasnt as delicious as i remember - dont you hate that?
Anyways, The After Party soon followed , and get 2000 South african's in one club, all just having done the one 70.3 South africa has per year, and well , there was alot of Cream Soda and Cane to go around ( ew, but evently Cream Soda is good for recovery.... not sure about the Cane )
Alot of personal growth and lessons learnt on this trip. ALOT ! And all in all, i couldnt have asked for a better time and experience in South Africa. Onward....
I will share all lessons learnt in next blog ! :) Hopefully it wont be 2 mths from now which seems to be the going time from one blog to the next. I need to learn to write shorter stories.....