So here it is. Another delayed race report. It’s funny how this thing starts to become common, but I guess it’s a good sign showing how awesome life on the road is. Every day the thought crosses my mind that I have to write a race report, but I simply seem to forget it just as fast because of the cool places we are and the (training) possibilities that these places offer.
Anyway, Ironman 70.3 Durban was a crazy race. It might have been the single race that I was looking forward to the least so far. I didn’t feel super strong and I didn’t really feel like racing either. My friend Manuel said he seemed to notice this already when I wasn’t bragging the day before the race ;-). But no matter how not fit and not race ready I felt, the outcome was quite the opposite.
I definitely had mixed feelings coming into the swim. While training in Cape Town I had seem to break through a plateau in terms of swim speed, I felt like all the session that I put in in Girona finally paid off. On the other hand there was that practice swim the day before the race. I don’t know if my Garmin was tripping or I just had a bad day, but my times were way off while swimming the course. It also felt very hard. There were a lot of waves and the swell determined my direction of swimming more than I did.
The swim in Durban was a self seeded rolling start. I love these starts. I lined up all the way in the front in the first (sub30) coral and must admit that I was starting to feel like racing. The sea looked quite a bit calmer than the day before too. The gun went off and within 30 seconds I was in the water (the cool thing about a non-pro race). Where in Barcelona I found some clear water pretty much right away, this wasn’t the case here. There also wasn’t a warm up possibility which always bites me in the ass. I really need to spike my heartrate a couple of times before I find a rythm. It was a big time fight to the first buoy and getting through the break. After the first buoy we turned left and I finally found some feet. My heartrate settled and I was feeling that the pace was ‘comfortably hard’ again.
The rest of the swim was pretty uneventfull, except for the fact that on the way back the swim was way more choppy and I swallowed quite a bit of salt water. I also decided to leave the guys I was swimming with because I had the feeling they were not swimming straight. I had to put in some more effort than swimming with the group, but it’s worth it if you’ve got the best line, right? Wrong. After the last turn buoy I saw the group swimming 20 meters ahead of me. I smiled and thought ‘well done, idiot’ while sprinting back to the feet of the group…
Exiting the water is always a surprise moment. Although I felt like I swum decently I thought it would be good enough for a low 30:xx. When I looked at my watch I saw 29:10. Wow. Although it’s just a minute it really gives you a boost and sets you up for a good day on the course.
I rushed through transition (with 700m the longest transition I’ve ever seen, longer than Mallorca 70.3) and jumped on my bike.
When driving the course on Friday it really left me two thoughts. The surface was crazy smooth, but at the same time it was quite a hilly ride. It wasn’t going to be as tough as Barcelona in terms of climbing, but this was far from a fast course.
The first 3k of the bike zone were neutralized. This means no passing and no aero bars. This sucks of course, you want to get things going but instead you have to wait, sit back and be patient with the people riding before you. 3k felt like half an hour, so I was super happy when I could finally go full gas after this zone. A bit too happy maybe, because I missed the first corner and ended up on the other side of the road on which a car was just approaching. I missed the car by centimeters. I realized how stupid I was taking so much risk and I was happy that we reached the highway on which we would ride most of the remaining kms. From here on it was pretty much straight forward.
My powermeter broke down while training in Cape Town so this race wasn’t about numbers but more about feel (although I was happy with the calculated 259avg watts by Strava afterwards). I was pushing hard and passing quite some guys. I really felt strong. Closing into the turnaround point at 45k I was riding in a (legal) group with guys that were all pushing hard. On the hilly parts I felt like I was quite a bit stronger than everyone I was riding with though. I tried to ride away two times but on the long, gradual decents I got picked up by the heavier guys in the group.
The turn around point was interesting. I knew I was having a good race but I didn’t know how well it actually was until I saw there were only 15 guys riding in front of me. It was an awesome feeling to be really in the front of an Ironman 70.3 race. I decided to not give up positions no matter what and push myself hard on the way back to Durban.
Riding in front of the race also meant a loooooot of referees. Although everybody around me tried to ride legal it got tricky sometimes on the uphills when things close in like a harmonica. A number of warnings were given, but no penalties. The group got down to only 4 guys when entering Durban. Together with these 3 others we were really riding 45km/hr non stop for long flat stretches. It hurt but felt good. I knew I was setting myself up for a good finish time, and maybe even a PR.
That PR seemed to vanish within 3k of the run. I wasn’t running bad at all, kms around 4:00 felt easy. My stomach was protesting big time though and I found myself looking for dixies and possibilities to solve the problem. Although I go by a pretty strict game plan when it comes to food I decided to adjust a little bit and skip a gel to see if this would help, before really hitting the emergency brake.
After a couple of kms my stomach felt better. I drank some water (it wasnt too warm, fortunately) and even took a little bit of gel to be able to keep going. It was a thin line I was walking and I didn’t feel comfortable running at all. Luckily the legs were more than OK. Although I destroyed them pretty badly on the bike (my quads cramped while running into transition, so it was really on the limit) I had a good rythm and could really settle into kms of 4:05-4:08 later in the run. Marloes screamed to me from the side that I was close to the agegroup podium, which gave kind of a boost. At the same time I knew that all I could do was run my own pace and that if the 3 guys in front of me wouldn’t blow up it would probably be 4th place.
Going into the final 4km I knew a PR was coming my way and I found this way more important than my rank. This was all I could influence myself. I thought a 4:27 would be possible at a certain point. I think I would have come close if not for the final km. Where all the kms were spot on with my Garmin, this last one was 1200m. Bye bye 4:27. I gave it my all and finished in 4:28:36. I was super happy! After waiting on the result confirmation it turned out that I got indeed 4th in my agegroup, and 13th overall out of over 2500 competitors. I couldn’t wipe the smile of my face for minutes. It feels so good when you give it your all in such a long race and it pays off.
So whats next? After some amazing days of relaxing in South Africa we arrived in Boulder. Boulder is another training Mecca and I’m looking forward to put in some hard work here. The body definetely needed some time to adjust to the altitude, time zone and heat but it’s getting better every day. The next two weeks I will go full gas again and try to reach the next level. Can’t wait to race in Ecuador after this period, in about 3 weeks from now!