Coach’s remarks: Thanks for sharing this Gazza. Enjoy the read team and thanks Gary for never giving up here, that ankle for those that do not know was properly torn off the bone multi ligament damage.
Team, read the bit about run/walk strategy, this shows how much I believe in it for most of you to be fair. What impresses me so much about Gary is he has a lovely wife and 3 kids in addition to being a big wig with MAN Investments and yet still smiles anytime you see him out training and racing. That positive attitude I firmly believe was a leading factor with Gary’s result in SA.
Gazza is an inspiration to those out there with a hectic busy lifestyle, very much similar to the Tiger and Stoli as far as working and family commitment’s. Great job Gary, enjoy the read team!!
It has felt like ages since my last race report which was my first 70.3 in Switzerland. That was such a perfect race with perfect weather, and everything going to plan. After Switzerland I sat down with Helen and we planned out 2012. The plan was Sri Lanka (did not happen because of injury) then South Africa and then Roth. I selected South Africa as my first full IM location as I was born there (so a bit symbolic), it was a good event (organisation, support etc) and not such a tough course and it was also a good time of the year with most the training in Dubai being done with good weather.
This was not great. Having broken my ankle at the Crowie camp I was then out for 3.5 months. Then I had about 3 weeks of gentle running, getting back into it, and then a had a calf strain so another 3 weeks out and then the race taper. The conclusion was 3 weeks of running in about 5 months with one “long” run of 22 km. When I was injured it was very frustrating BUT you have to realise that injury is part of the journey and we all have to live with it. I took it as an opportunity to concentrate on the bike, on core training and of course swimming. Also focused on nutrition and was able to drop a few kg’s.
(Total time 12.41. Swim 1.13, Bike 6.24, Run 4.52)
Ohh my goodness, we woke up to some terrible weather. Cold, horizontal rain and crazy winds. Piers and I walked to transition in the dark and had a good chat where Piers put my mind at rest that “it is the same for everybody”.. it was thinking I don’t care about everybody, I care about ME, this is my first race, I want it to be great. J
Got to the bike and all was ok besides the torrents running through transition. We decided, even though we had an hour or so to go we may as well get the wetsuits on as it was wet and cold. As we got onto the beach and realised again the conditions that we would be facing, starting with the swim, Piers told me to forget times, get the job done and don’t give up. We knew many people would be quitting today.
As the national anthem was playing I was very emotional, not only as it was my home country anthem but thinking about the race, what it meant to me and many others, all the work that has gone into being there on the starting line and thinking about how much we get from this sport.. 10 seconds after the anthem finished, the canon fired and off we went.
The first lap was “relatively” ok and as I came in at 33 mins I thought I would go a bit harder on lap 2, BUT the waves, wind and current had changed so much and the second leg was a massive battle. I am very comfortable in almost any conditions and have swum in some tough surf but this really was hard. I was thinking about some of the slower swimmers and thought how much they must be hating this. It was a great feeling to have your feet on the sand after lap 2 to (not that I could feel my feet as they were so cold). My time was 1hr 13 which was slower than I planned but I knew that relative it must be ok.
Into transition to get some warm clothes etc. I had decided on a windbreaker and arm warmers which I think was a good decision as I did not feel too cold most of the day. Heading out of transition and turning right I got the first feel of what the ride would be like. The wind was just crazy, gusting, crosswinds, headwinds the works. Staying upright was a challenge and I wish there was some way to measure how much energy was spent not getting blown off vs actually turning the pedals. I recon close to 25% of energy is spent holding on for your life.. my worst injury is a massive blister on my right hand from holding the bars so tight. I kept think about what Piers said “get it done and forget times”.
What helped me and I know Piers as well was having the support of Helen, Wendy, my sister Leigh, Stacey and Sam (the Gazza/Piers private support team). They were out there the whole day and braved the elements and said at some stage it was tough enough just standing up. Thanks guys for being there.
As you turn off the beach road you go up a gentle climb, but on race day this “gentle climb” was anything but easy with winds of 50-60 km/h blowing you backwards. Easy gear and just kept moving trying to get the speed up ion the flatter parts. The crowd support was really superb and this does help. One of the biggest lessons that I have learnt, is to break the task down in segments. So all I had to do was get to the top of the hill, then the next small challenge was getting down the hill to the turn around without getting blown off the bike, then head downwind etc etc. This is what I did all day and I think is a big advantage of a course with multiple loops as it allows you to set those points of reference. One of the highlights and it almost makes it all worthwhile was the feeling you get at the 1st turnaround when you have the wind behind you. It seems so calm and quiet and the only time to eat and drink. Heading back really was great and seeing the others struggling. As I headed back on lap 1 I was looking for Piers, Finn and Simon but they were a bit further back so did not see them before we turned off right down to Marine drive. This mean a massive crosswind which was very wild. I later heard that some people got off their bikes and walked down the hill (that must be a first vs walking up a hill). Eventually we got to Marine Drive and headed left with a great tailwind so about 30 km to transition.
This was then repeated 2 more times with the winds getting stronger and lap times coming down. Almost at the top of the 2nd climb I heard this voice from behind shouting “hey you, get your arse moving up the hill” and there was Piers with a crazy man smile on his face, he was loving it. We spoke for a while and I confirmed I was feeling very good and off Piers went. The next time I saw him he was heading downwind again with a strange look on his face, which he later told me was his “concentration face” to wee on the bike so as to no waste time getting off J
Although the bike split was 6hr 24 it actually seemed to go very quickly. I was aiming, conditions permitting for about 5hr40 ish. Times really were not important anymore.
As I started to finish loop 3 and was then getting into the zone for the run I started to think about how on earth was I going to get this done. A MASSIVE help was the chats Jason and I had had about the strategy of run/ walk. I kept saying to Piers the day before, I feel bad for you having to run a marathon, all I am doing is a 20 min run off the bike (he looked at me as if I was a bit nuts). That was the plan, get off the bike and run 20 mins then walk 5 mins then repeat this a lot of times. It was amazing how this helped mentally. I must say, I stuck to this approach from the start to the end and not at one stage did I feel that I was battling or could not go on. It took all the pressure off and I really enjoyed the run. Even with ONLY 3 weeks of running in the last 5 months and the longest run been a 22 km run, I really felt fine. As the last lap of the run approached (you have 2 complete 3 laps and collect a different wrist band on each loop until you have the elusive white band), I knew I was going to do it and decided to just run the last 6 km rather than run/walk and really enjoyed it as the last 6 kms to the magic red carpet rushed by. As I turned the last corner into the finish chute it was just amazing, all the people, the music, the lights, people shouting your name it is an amazing blur to hear your name and cross the line. Wow job done.
So I had selected South Africa as it was meant to be not such a tough course.. well that was wrong it really was a tough old day but when you finished you have such an amazing feeling of fulfilment and achievement. Having now done this as I first one I feel ready to take on the next. The other reasons for selecting |South Africa as mention was the support and organisation. Both of these really were superb and I can very highly recommend South Africa to any of you.
Having Piers around was a great help and being able to tap into all his experience was great. We really are lucky to have a team with so much experience and people so willing to share their experience which helps a lot. Always feel free to ask other members for their advise and help. Even though we did not see Finn and Chombi much when we were in PE it was really great when we did spot each other before the race and having multiple loops seeing each other on the course./ All of you guys did really well and it was superb to have done much of our training together (this is another big plus of the team).
The support from Jason (keeping me patient) and the team pre-race as I was dealing with the injuries etc was a big help. Also thanks Carl for all the top quality advise you gave me on racing in general and also what to expect from SA.
Also thanks to my best supporter, Helen. You know I would not have done this without your support and encouragement.
We are lucky to be part of such a great team and be participating in such a cool sport.