||2006 Ironman South Africa
One week ago, I completed my second ironman at the lovely but quite windy eastern cape of South Africa in the friendly town of Port Elizabeth. It took me over 20 hours to fly there as it is the farthest spot from Los Angeles that you can go. The race took me 15:20 so still quite a while but compared to Brazil last year, I shaved more than an hour from my time. The big gains for me were on the swim and bike portions where my fitness has improved from training....and I will say that mentally I was in a much better place the whole time. This was a much happier race for me. I was laughing during the swim (this is hard to do), but I had a great draft. I was whistling/singing on the bike. OK they were mostly Paul Simon songs from the late 1980's album Graceland, but Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes and Tna, na, Tna , na Under African Skies were appropriate to the race setting!
The flight in over Nelson Mendella Bay was the most turbulent I have ever experienced. Looking below out the window at the white caps, I wondered how I would ever do the swim. When I got out on the tarmac, I wondered how I would get to the door of the airport annex--it was so windy even the tighest-fitting clothes were flapping like flags. Yikes! Me and some Swedish racers agreed despite the language barrier.
There were not a lot of Americans as this is an early season race and a far way to go. There were a lot of Germans since their weather isn't so great this time of year. The company that runs this race in the same as IM Austria so it's way cool. They had elaborate dinners, entertainment, and awards ceremonies. They had an electric finish line environment topped off by fireworks at midnight. They had a closed bike course with pristine beach-side scenery, and they had so much crowd support---it was unbelievable. The tv cameras were there all day. And I never once felt scared as a single woman traveling alone.
The swim is in the Indian Ocean. This is very cool because how many times do you get a chance to swim not in the Pacific? Also, though there threatened sharks (you hear about it) or blue fish (some people did get jellyfish stings practicing before the race), the waves weren't too bad, but some people complained about the rough conditions, I say too bad you didn't have the 101. But then again the 101 doesn't have African dancers and drums so it's really a trade off. It is a two loop swim and I found it easy...that's just me. I think it depends on the person. Some people told me they wanted to quit after the swim. So I had 1:30 compared to 1:45 last year and no bathroom problems after thanks to popping immodium 40 minutes prior to the start and taking a few Peptos on the beginning of the bike. We did have a few drops of rain.
The bike course is three loops featuring 2 climbs not worse than anything on PCH. They were into a headwind off the ocean so that was fun. Since this place is a "cape" it is very windy all the time. There were a few times that I went into the drops since a club member told me his brother actually blew off his bike at this race in a previous year. I finished the bike in 7 hours compared to last year's 8 hour nightmare.
The run was three loops and I wish I could have done it steady---it got hard around the midpoint and I did walk the last 10K in, but I didn't care. I'd had such a good day. It was just nice to relax and cool down under the stars of the Southern Hemisphere. I will work on my running form this year...
Major pros were there and they were really accessible---Natasha Badmann said she enjoyed actually getting to meet a cheetah in one of the game parks prior to the race since that what she rides---and they are fast. Faris Al-Sultan was there and got teased about traveling with only a bike case and no personal bags....It was so much fun. I couldn't reccommend it more! Also, ladies please note, there were a lot of hot European guys so that's always nice to see. Sorry!
Finally, I did get a chance to go to Cape Town after the race and take a tram up Table Mountain---WOW!!! The views are a little like some in Malibu, but more dramatic. I went to Robben Island where Nelson Mandella was held prisoner for 18 years. Then I cruised down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. This is where you always hear about the ocean meeting the sea---where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Way cool. I topped it off with a few vineyards around Stellenbosch. But I think the best were the elephants in the the Addo National Park---they are so big yet so quiet when they step. When they go in a water hole, they make more swishing sounds than an Ironman swim start. Next stop for me is probably the Monaco half....unless I decide to just slum it and stay here for the Big Kahuna. Next full would be like W. Australia or something like Lanzorote or Malaysia. I am open to suggestions. Thanks for reading! Good luck to you all in your races and travels.