Coach’s remarks: This is great Johan, Thanks for sharing this with us all. I know the personal journey, its been 8 years since we started together. You know how important that event was to us. I wil never forget that last 6km we had…we shared emotion 😉 A great read team, you did a great job here Johan for a non writer mate….
“Race Nr 3125
This was a journey that meant the world to me; which not many people will understand nor comprehend…..This is a story rather than a race report, the long awaited journey to me finishing an Ironman distance race, which in this instance was the ETU Roth Challenge on 08th July 2012……….
Quote from Life Cycles 2010:
“Life is a river… a beginning, an end, a million different ways in-between; that’s what granddad always used to say.
He used the metaphor my whole life…how it ebbed and flowed, following the path of least resistance, barreling straight through the impossible, clear as air and black as night. But no matter what direction or how it moved, or what it looked like…the point according to granddad was that the river always moved forward.
What kept him running the rapids until he was old and grey?
The mystery of what lay around the bend!
These days that mystery is hard to find, the river is distant, the sky clouded with concrete…for many of us life’s great adventure, all its beauty and all its connections, sails by unnoticed.
The funny thing is the river is never that far off….this is a story of a way back in…to the rush of moving forward, born from the earth’s crust, grown from the seeds of innovation, forged in the fires of industry. The earth’s most efficient machine creates its most efficient animal…the bicycle, our noblest invention.”
The swim….1h13seconds A brisk, fresh morning greeted us with touching music, something akin to the theme song of Titanic…3000 thousand athletes were gathered next to the embankment of the canal, ready to conquer the brutal fight that lay ahead, a few nervous but anxious individuals were carefully scrutinizing the competition. Family and friends stood by to offer their comfort and moral support…
I found myself amongst the last wave, kicked off at 7h45am, nervous but relieved that there was no pressure as most of my team mates had already started…no pressure to swim outside of my comfort zone.
I chose my line as close to the embankment as possible where I knew there would be less of a current. I knew that a few athletes could be caught along the way. I managed to work my way through 2 of the waves which started ahead of me to only find myself swimming on my own as the rest of the athletes where either too fast or too slow. I just kept close to the embankment, which meant I could keep my head in the water and navigate my way to the turn-around.
Out of the water and onto the bike….. I was welcomed by race organizers in transition who happily helped athletes to change into their cycling gear. I managed to find an open spot on a wooden bench, whilst my bag was taken off me and opened by a German lady who handed me everything I needed, she even helped me put on my socks, sun screen etc..Bless her.
Grabbed my bike and off I went, only to have found coach at the top of a small hill shouting encouraging words…as I turned left down a hill and was greeted by a slight head wind, but still felt strong and confident after the swim.
What went through my mind was coach saying beforehand: “forget about your speed in the first couple of kilometers…get those calories in and find your rhythm”.
The plan was a steady 30km/h ride throughout, however Roth is not entirely flat. Beautiful country side but rolling hills greeted us along the way which made it a little impossible to maintain the proposed speed…at least hordes of people were cheering us on.
I managed to catch a few more athletes along the way, which encouraged me as I was going slower than planned and I wasn’t the only one that felt the resistance of the wind. First lap went well, saw my wife in town and gave her the thumbs up….”see you in T2 babe”…
Mechanical failure forced me to stop and change a puncture on lap nr 2. My front wheel; I felt pretty lucky as I’ve changed many punctures in my life…this should have been quick and easy right! An easy 5 to 8 minutes tube replacement turned into a 25 minutes ordeal… I just couldn’t find my hands, adrenalin pumped, athletes passed me and that didn’t help at all.
Then back on the bike I tried to make up for the lost time. I soon realized that I was actually causing myself more fatigue than any progress I made. Cramps started to knock on the door…I felt them in my fingers and left arm, but that should have been ok because I cycled with my legs right?…NOT…my quads then started cramping slightly but manageably. I bought whatever they sold at the aid stations in order to ensure I stayed ahead of dehydration and those bloody cramps.
My mind started playing games…for the first time on the entire trip, I started to think about my failure in Busselton Ironman 2009, in which I had to pull out of the race at 160 kilometers on the bike due to heat stroke, dehydration and vomiting. The only thing I told myself at that point in time was: “This aint gonna happen again mate, you are fighting these cramps…all you have to do is get off the bike and start the run and all will be fine!.”
A few kilometers up the road I found myself falling asleep on the tri-bars….yes you heard me, I started falling asleep. Many of you will recall me saying the same on a few of our Friday training rides, however I didn’t think much of it at the time as those where early morning training sessions and seemed completely plausible, but this was the Ironman…this couldn’t be happening then!!
Quote from Life Cycles 2010: Complex by design, simple by nature…the bike is nothing more than circles turning circles; it’s the human motor that makes it elegant!!
Note to self: back to the drawing board with respect to nutrition and the quantity I need to consume, I guess….
Off the bike and onto the run… Running shoes on, visor on my head, Garmin switched on…”Hallo wifey, see you at the finish line, darling!” and off I went…
Bang on plan 6min15/km, ran 20 minutes, walked 5 minutes for the first couple of kilometers. Met coach on the course and exchanged a few words and headed into the sun along the canal, had no time to think…only reaction and focus, all the worry was washed away by the rush!
The first 18 kilometers went ok but then the strategy we planned went out the door, my energy started deteriorating step by step… “Now what?”….plan “B” I guessed!
“Survive mate, survive….you can do this!”; so I ran 10 minutes, walked 5 minutes….
This only lasted for a couple of kilometers and my world changed again, I found myself in the forest struggling to keep the cramps away…they where back to haunt me.
My mind started playing war games with me again…”you’re not a long distance athlete mate… you’re a bike rider… you have what it takes to race in a road race and cross the finish line….once again you aint gonna see this finish line!”.
I’m no Gospel preacher, but I turned to God and prayed for strength; “all I need God is strength to finish this race…I’m not willing to settle for second best…I’m not failing my team mates, my family, my friends, especially my wife who stood by me since my failure in 2009….I need this finish more than anything right now!”
I realized that this was no fight in a boxing ring; this was a real street fight…it was now gloves off and fight until the end. My teeth started hurting, that was how hard I was biting on them and my legs were killing me, I was once again falling asleep, this time whilst walking….WTF?
With 7 kilometers to go I saw an angel up the road, the thing I wished for the most…my wife!! She came walking towards me in the forest, ready to kick my ass all the way to the finish line….we exchanged a few words and off she sent me: “I’m already proud of you; hubby and I’ll see you at the finish line soon! Coach is waiting up the road”; she said; “he will run the last bit with you!!!!”
“Coach WTF man?…this aint easy bro! Fighting Mike Tyson must be easier!”…coach just laughed and said….”walk this thing mate you have more than enough time!” I wasn’t too sure about that, I didn’t actually trust anybody at that point in time. Running into town through those switch backs, hearing the music blaring somewhere close by made me realize….I had it in the bag….I just had to keep on going, had to pick myself up and run…”it’s now or never”. It was like I found my second breath, my legs were still hurting, I was in a world of pain but shuffled into the finish shoot, only to find loads of people, friends, team mates and my lovely wife to welcome me home…what a great feeling that was! I was emotional but managed to hold back the tears, as I was taught as I grew up…”men don’t cry! If you cry, someone will give you something to cry about!!!” I had my own private little moment in the recovery tent whilst I realized what I just achieved then…and that’s off the record please! ☺ Race done and dusted..dreams do however come true!!!
Special thanks goes to Coach, my team mates, the people in the chat room that stayed awake to see me cross the finish line.
Simon Marshall…what a legend he is…Simon, thanks for taking good care of us mate, thanks for the fine organization, the logistics, the booking of the hotel and most off all ensuring that everybody was happy!!
And most of all Liezel, my lovely wife who stood by my side throughout this journey. “Thanks babes love you to bits”
Lisa Fenton….this one is for you….Busselton 2012 here she comes!
Quote: “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. Not you, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!”