#AVonVoyage to Abu Dhabi – A Maxi Triathlon weekend

Last weekend, I participated in my first ITU World Triathlon Series race in the awesome city of Abu Dhabi. I’m unable to race Ironman South Africa this year, so I thought a Maxi triathlon in the region would suffice. In case you don’t know, a Maxi consists of:

– 1500 meter swim
– 80 kilometre cycle
– 20-kilometer run

This and 70.3 is a great distance for me. I’m able to find my groove, and I know how to pace myself accordingly. When it comes to Olympic distances, I tend to push hard on the swim and the first bit of the cycle. So I get a lot slower towards the end of the race. That’s going to change, though, as I build up to the New York City Triathlon in July (WOOOOHOOOO). Back to Abu Dhabi though.

I arrived in the UAE on Thursday evening. I had a bit of drama with the Etihad Airways ground staff in Doha. They wouldn’t let me take my bike bag and a checked piece of luggage on, even though the agent who works for the airline and who booked my package assured me that everything had been arranged especially for us triathletes. Alas after a bit of annoyance and a broken piece of hand luggage later, I got through. When I arrived in Abu Dhabi, I caught one of the cabs waiting outside the airport… A nice little (not so little) Mercedes-Benz took me to the Centro Al Manhal By Rotana.

Sidebar, nice comfortable accommodation on Yas Island if you’re looking for somewhere to stay. It’s close to the Marina, the racetrack, the mall, Ferrari World. It’s perfect!

On Friday, after a bit of breakfast with a friend who came through from Dubai (45minutes or so), I headed off to registration. It was smooth, a breeze. The one weird thing is that the race briefing was held on the grandstands… Standard really, but there was no shade, and for athletes who are supposed to be keeping hydrated and resting, this seemed a bit off. It was about 28 degrees, so it was hot. First world problems, blah blah, but that was one observation. The one thing that saved the briefing was the ever entertaining and awesome announce, Paul Kaye. It’s weird; I almost feel at home when he’s on the circuit giving us our briefings and throwing in some quips and funnies along the way.

True to the pre-race routine, I checked the old bike, packed the bags, got the bottles ready and hit up a restaurant in the mall for some chicken protein boet. I always say I’ll have an early night, but inevitably land up having a late one, and then I don’t sleep properly for fear of missing the alarm, etc. So by 3 am, I was up and at it. I gave up coffee and chocolate for Lent, so a cuppa tea was on hand to wake me up, lol. My other race must-have is my FUTURELIFE High Protein, trusty and now old faithful ☺

Once everything was sorted in bike-check and transition, I headed off to the swim start. It’s quite a walk from where the bikes were, so if you’re doing the race next year, give yourself enough time to get there. The race was supposed to kick off at 7 am, but due to some delays on the cycle route, they delayed it until 7:30. One gent, who was clearly very anxious, was getting rather frustrated, tried to get me involved in his frustration meets anxious tendency, and I was like BYE! I’m one of those characters who gets really quiet. I’m singing songs in my head and analysing the water conditions. I guess you can say I ‘Zen’ myself, haha.

We finally got going, and so did my swimming muscles it would appear. I haven’t been able to swim properly because believe it or not; it has been pretty cold in Doha. It wasn’t ideal because I love my swimming and I usually do pretty well here, so I was a little worried about that. It turns out muscle memory is a winner – I climbed out the 1500m swim, some 22 minutes later. I believe I was fourth out the water too, so I was pleased, to say the least. That success didn’t last long though because of the cycle, once again, was weak for me. I don’t know why but I just can’t get it right. I think it has a lot to do with bike positioning and the fact that I don’t have tribars. I need some cycling assistance, so if anyone is keen to help a brother out with some tips and guidance, holler!

The cycle route was interesting. We got to ride around the Yas Marina Island Circuit, which is quite technical and isn’t short on turns. We cycled around the outskirts of the circuit and through Yas Island too. So at least there was some reprieve too. The Maxi athletes had to do four loops, while the Olympic racers did two. We were all on the track at the same time at one point, which could’ve gone horribly wrong, but luckily for most, it seemed okay. My suggestion to organisers would be to relook the cycle. It’s just a little too boring for the Maxi I feel. I managed to do the distance in 2:31, which isn’t bad, but still, I need to put a lot more work into it to make the cycle count. The run was grand, and thank goodness for good weather conditions. If the sun was baking down on us, I think I would’ve battled a lot more. The run was a double loop of ten kilometres each. At about 11 km in, I stopped to grab some coke and an orange. I walked a bit, then ran and then walked again. A fellow racer, probably in his early sixties came running past me and said there is no way I am to walk. It’s funny, because this always seems to happen to me, and it’s always the ‘wiser’ gents. So I carried on, and he was hot on my heels, so I just carried on knowing he would curse me if I walked again haha. I managed to finish the race in 4:34, which I think is good? I haven’t done the distance before, but I’m pretty happy with that performance.

I enjoyed the race. I thought it was fun, tough but good. I love pushing myself too. So perhaps that why I felt so shattered afterwards? There’s always a lot of room for improvement, and I’m ready to keep moving forward. I wish I were doing Ironman South Africa on the 2nd of April, but alas this year it isn’t meant to be ☹

Gallery: #AVonVoyage to Abu Dhabi

We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the city too much, but post race, and a delicious burger later, myself and a few tri club friends decided to head off to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque… It’s one of THE most raved about Mosques in the region, so we had to check it out. What a marvellous piece of architecture, culture and a beautiful, calming place. It was busy, full of people from all over the world. It’s a place you need to visit if you’re in Abu Dhabi. As I said, time was limited, but next time I’m keen to hit up the theme parks, and also see more of the city, the souqs and eat more local food. Hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned for #AVonVoyage to Oman, and more races, coming soon. Who knows where to next after that? Well besides Dubai this weekend 😉

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#AVonVoyage to Dubai

Last Thursday I hopped on board an Emirates plane en route to Dubai in the UAE. I had a bit of a scare at the airport, with my exit permit not being issued in time, but luckily after several frantic calls all before 5 am, I managed to get it. The mission for the trip? Well firstly, to complete the Standard Charted Dubai Marathon… My first real marathon, really. The last marathon I did was in April when I participated in my first IRONMAN event. Yip, that was my first marathon. What a way to introduce yourself to marathon running, huh?

The last time I was in Dubai was in 2012. I had no expectations when I got there, and so my time there was a lot more than I ever imagined it would be. The city was vibey, fun and my friends looked after me real good. It was enough for me to start looking at any working opportunities there. It wasn’t meant to be, but now being based in Doha, Qatar, it’s a lot easier to visit the city. So upon my return to the city, I was absolutely blown away by how much it has changed. For one, it’s a lot ‘taller’. There are so many more buildings, so many skyscrapers. The Dubai Canal is a new addition to the city, and the Metro is fully functional too. This city is truly world class, and they aren’t playing games when it comes to proving how much they want to be considered as such.

I headed off to the race registration. Now usually you find a big expo with loads of stalls and brands showing off all their latest trends and products. So I was a bit taken aback by the lack of exhibitors there. In fact, I was disappointed because I was hoping to get myself a new pair of running shoes there. I mean, in my head there’s no better place than the number one hub for runners, right? Alas, it is what it is and the one good thing is that I didn’t have to stand in too long a queue, which is always a bonus. All wrapped up, all registered and now officially ‘poeping’ myself, I headed off to my hotel. If you’re ever looking for a central place to stay, I would definitely recommend the Metropolitan Hotel. It’s newly refurbished, it’s a short walk from the FGB Station and it’s very affordable too. The room was comfy and it’s close to the Burj Al Arab…. So it comes highly recommended. It worked very well for me too because it was about 3kms from the start and finish of the race. There’s also a really nice grocery store down the road (it sells biltong). PLUS if you’re South African, there’s a Mugg & Bean in the centre too… A little taste of home never hurt. Gosh, was that necessary. I vowed to get myself a banana muffin after the race, but that didn’t happen this time around. So I’ll just have to go back I guess 😉

On race morning, I got up early, enjoyed my High Protein Futurelife and then headed to the start. It was supposed to be pretty chilly, but to be honest the humidity kept it quite warm. Perfect for running really. After checking in my bag, I made my way to the start – EEEEEEEEEK! I’ve come this far, the only thing left to do now is to run. And that I did. I managed to find my rhythm quickly and I slowed my pace down too. Sidebar, I recently did a 21km training in Doha and I managed to do it in 1:38, which is my fastest. Granted it’s flat here and the weather is perfect. I didn’t expect to keep that pace for the marathon. In fact, I knew I had to slow down, and that’s what I did. I found a group of runners from Dubai, who were running a really nice pace, and so I hooked onto their bus and ran with them. At around 19kms, I need to use the little boy’s rooms, and so by the time I was done (like literally 2minutes), they were gone. I tried to catch up, but they’d upped their pace and I couldn’t keep up. I kept it steady, though and found another group to run with. At around 30kms in, the wheels started coming off. I think I’d pushed a little too hard. That coupled with old running shoes and too little distance training in the build up. It was possibly the longest 12kms of my life. I battled through, but I came out on top and managed to sneak in a time of 3:48… Super stoked about that one, seeing as though my marathon time in Ironman was a long 4:50.

A few lessons learned on the run:

– Don’t drink too much

– Get your nutrition right. All I wanted were some baby potatoes (my mum will be happy)

– Slow it down in the beginning, and pick it up for the last 10kms

– Do more longer, slower distance training in the build up

– Make sure your running shoes are conducive to running long distances like this

– Have fun

If you have any tips, please feel free to share with me too.

I really did enjoy the experience and I’m keen to do more marathons now… I’m a global runner and I love this ish. Between running, swimming, cycling and a combination of all three in the form of triathlon, expect more travel and race reports from me. I’m longing to go to Ironman South Africa, but it’s looking unlikely. New York City Triathlon in July is definitely on the cards – entry was paid for last year and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Plus it’s New York City… My home away from home 🙂 As for the city of Dubai. Well, I do love thee. The pulse, the people, the forward-thinking types, the infrastructure, the cleanliness, the services, Dubai stays winning. I’ll be back there soon, but first we prep for ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2017 in March.

Witness the fitness and get your Discovery points again

Good news exercisers, you can now earn the Discovery Vitality points you deserve… again. The company will once again make changes to its points system, following what I believe to be a massive outcry from the public. I wrote a post on Facebook shortly after Ironman because I felt like I got the raw end of the stick when it came to the points. Some got 300 points for doing the race because they owned a Garmin device (I own a Suunto), but others like me got nothing, zilch, zero… 12:39 hours out there, doing one of the most challenging races on the circuit and I got no points.  Not ideal, I’ve had my moan and I offered some constructive feedback, proposed some solutions, which I’m glad I did. I may not be invited to attend their events anymore, but that’s okay because things seemed to have changed. See the email details received below:

Dear Jason

Helping you reach your personal health goals is hugely important to us and we value that you’ve chosen to partner with Vitality on your wellness journey.

From Saturday, 20 August 2016 we will be adding more ways to earn Vitality fitness points. These enhancements are based on our analysis of the member experience as well as member feedback we have received over the past few months. Our upcoming updates aim to positively challenge and motivate you to further engage in Vitality Active Rewards. We saw that certain changes we made earlier this year frustrated some members, and we are truly sorry for this.

What you can expect from Saturday, 20 August 2016:

  • You’ll be able to earn points by taking part in any timed and verified race event locally or internationally in the disciplines of cycling, walking/running, swimming and major multisport events in line with our fitness points table.
  • For members who are just starting out, we’re re-introducing the popular 50 points category for tracking 5 000 steps a day.
  • There will be a new heart rate points category for workouts between 60 and 69% and between 70 and 79% of age-related maximum heart rate.
  • We’ve got a new Endurance and High Performance category to enable points earning for longer duration workouts.
  • The weekly maximum goal will be lowered to 900 points (from 1 200) for all Vitality Active Rewards members (excluding those in the new Endurance and High Performance category). The weekly maximum goal will remain 600 points for at-risk members with certain chronic conditions, health concerns during pregnancy, or members aged 65+ with risk factors.

These changes will mean a more personalised fitness experience for you while staying true to the evolving science that guides our programme and highlights our commitment to encouraging safe ways to exercise.

To inspire you towards your own fitness personal bests, we’re proud to announce that Discovery Vitality is the Official Wellness Partner of the SA Olympic Team. Don’t forget to tune in for the 2016 Rio Olympics from Friday, 5 August to support our Vitality ambassador, Chad le Closand the rest of the team as they GO for GOLD.

Enjoy this month’s newsletter!

Dr Shrey Viranna
CEO Discovery Vitality

Well done to the Discovery Vitality team. This is a prime example of listening to your base, your clients and making the necessary changes to align with the public’s demands – all while ensuring your business interests are being met too. Now go get active, get moving, be healthy and earn them points. When you reach your goal or the next level, you can treat yourself to a trip locally or internationally 😉

RIP Gugu Zulu

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Today is Mandela Day. It’s a day whereby many take the time out of their busy schedules to dedicate 67 minutes to the memory, the legacy of our beloved late Madiba. And while many will continue to take the time out to do good for our fellow South Africans, it’s turned out to be a very sad day for the sporting and lifestyle fraternity too.

Race car driver, family man and all-around amazing human, Gugu Zulu has died. The star, together with his wife Letshego and a couple of others were climbing Kilimanjaro in aid of the #Trek4Mandela campaign. The details around his death aren’t clear as yet, but the news was confirmed by the Nelson Mandela Foundation earlier:

Date: 18 July 2016

From: Nelson Mandela Foundation

It is with a heavy heart that we announce that one of the climbers on the Trek4Mandela, Gugu Zulu lost his life early this morning in his attempt to summit Kilimanjaro.

On behalf of the Board and staff of the Nelson Mandela Foundation we extend our sincere condolences to his wife Letshego Zulu, their daughter Lelethu and the Zulu family on this tragic loss.

Details are sketchy. What we do know is that Gugu experienced problems breathing. The medical team supporting the trek put him on a drip and they descended the mountain with him. We are informed that the medical teams tried everything possible to save his life.

Gugu was climbing Kilimanjaro with his wife Letshego and we understand that they both descended the mountain together with Richard Mabaso, the project leader and the medical teams. The team was led by experienced mountaineer, Sibusiso Vilane.

Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation said, “I am devastated. I knew him well. I recruited him to climb Kilimanjaro. The last thing he said to me at the airport before he left last week was that he wanted to speak about doing other Mandela Day projects. I feel a huge sense of loss.”

This was Gugu’s last post on his Facebook page on 16 July:

“Made it though (stet) day2. My wife is doing fabulous, she has even learnt the local language. Am having flu like symptoms and struggling with the mountain but taking it step by step!! Today we managed to see our destination and our camp is literary above the clouds!!”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation will share more information once we get further details from Tanzania.

The climbers were due to summit Kilimanjaro today, for Mandela Day.

I can honestly say he was one of the nicest, calm and friendly gentlemen I have ever known. Always so polite, always greeted, gave great interviews and glowed/ gushed when he spoke about his beloved Letshego and their daughter. My heart breaks for them. Keep them in your thoughts today and the days to come. Gugu, you were an amazing soul and your adventures inspired many of us to be the best we could be. Rest in peace, sir!

Siba’s Table returning for a third season – yummy!

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Want some delicious news? Good, I’ve got it. One of my absolute favourite people in the industry is Siba Mtongana. I’ve been a fan since her first cooking show on Mzansi Magic (I managed the digital platforms at that stage). She’s warm, intelligent, so likeable, beautiful and just such a gem on television. I noticed, but so did others. So much so, she caught the attention of the bosses at Food Network. Fast track to 2013, and her show Siba’s Table made its debut in 2013. Fast track even more and the show is now returning for a third season

Siba’s Table s3 (ten episodes) builds on the popular format of its predecessors whereby the host brings her culinary flair and on-screen charisma to viewers across the region. Siba is just as delighted to be heading back into her TV kitchen “This is great news for me, but more so for my beloved country, South Africa, as Cape Town is home to South Africa’s most vibrant food scene and reflects the rich cultural diversity of our rainbow nation”

Phillip Luff, MD Scripps UK & EMEA, says Siba’s Table exceeded all expectations. “Internationally, the series proved to be one of our most successful shows and we can’t wait to bring the third series of ‘Siba’s Table’ to all our food lovers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”

Siba’s Table will air again later this year on Food Network, channel 175 on DStv.

Some interesting facts:

Siba’s Table debuted in September 2013 airing in over 90 countries across Africa, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Siba’s Table is now airing in over 128 countries, including the US where the franchise is broadcast to 60 million homes on The Cooking Channel.

 

The #NewSunCity is coming

Do you remember the entertainment centre at the Sun City Resort ? It used to be the hub of a lot of activity. There was a casino in the centre many years ago. It then became the centre of all things fun, and the are was filled with restaurants and pubs, a movie theatre and retailers alike. I remember spending many an evening after the Miss South Africa pageants or SAMAs, standing in the Nandos queues to get some well-earned dinner after a busy working evening. Sometimes when the work was done and we felt like letting our hair down, we’d head to the clubs there for a couple of bevvies.

MiWay Sun City Ultra_ Jason Von Berg

But even before the clubbing days, I remember the arcade games, the hippos and crocodile games that used to keep me company for hours on end. In short, the entertainment centre was exactly that, and it appealed to young, old, the hungry and the party animals 🙂

Well, it hasn’t been around for a few months now and that’s because it’s getting a major facelift. This is part of the resort’s overall revamp, which should be wrapped up and ready to be revealed later this year. I went through to Sun City recently for the MiWay Sun City Ultra. So because I’m curious, I managed to get a sneak peek at what’s going down as far as the #NewSunCity is concerned. Check out some of the pics below.

I think this new entertainment centre is going to be quite something. It’ll still have that iconic Sun City look and feel, but just newer, fresher and a lot more modern. For one, the skylight in the centre is going to be incredible. No more artificial lighting during the day, but rather the natural rays from the sun will beam its pretty self into the centre. The restaurants, movies, retailers will all return. The Sun City Superbowl remains, which is great news. There are going to be some awesome new additions in the form of the ‘Walk of Fame’. I was told about this last year, but to see where it is going to go and how it will roll out is really exciting. I’m pretty damn broody at the moment, no lies. Seeing how they’re catering for the kiddies makes me even more ready for little VB’s, but while I wait for that stage of life, I think I might just bring out my inner child again. The new designs include a ten-pin bowling area, right next to the magic centre. So you can imagine how much of a jol the young and old are going to have there.

From a corporate perspective, the first floor will have a lot of conferencing facilities. Work hard, then play hard and boy is there a lot of playing to be done. The shebeen restaurant, the amphitheatre for some acoustic music sessions, the Valley of the Waves, the golfing… It’s all there, so it’s actually great for a team building or conference venue. I asked the team if they’d experienced a drop in reservations or visitors since the plans for the revamp were initiated. Not at all. In fact, they were at capacity from a reservations perspective was concerned, and the resort was buzzing with tourists and day visitors. I guess the warm weather and close proximity to Jozi and Pretoria helps a lot too. It’s also perfect for the whole family. This time, I stayed at the Vacation Club, which is perfect for the family or for a bunch of mates.

I hadn’t been to Sun City in a couple of months, and to see how much work they’d done in that time is incredible. The chances are the next time I head up there will be for the unveiling of the #NewSunCity and I cannot wait. Fun City… Obviously, I’ll probably do another triathlon while I’m there too, haha. Stay tuned, more on this to follow.

 

I am an Ironman – I never would’ve thought

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I think many of you know that my lifestyle has changed quite a bit in recent years. It’s not as a result of anything major or some massive shift, but rather just a choice I made. I decided to trade in the late nights for early mornings, opting for healthy nutrition instead of fatty midnight snacks, and swop my dancing shoes for running ones. I started with a few 5km runs and mini triathlons. Those quickly developed into half marathons, 70km cycles, and Olympic distance triathlons. I thrived, I got fitter, healthier. I completed a nutrition course through the Sports Science Institute of South Africa and I began my partnership with Futurelife. It’s been quite a journey. One that has lead me to this point… That being Ironman finisher.

I don’t know what it is that made me want to do triathlons, but I’m so grateful I started. I think for many years I’ve watched people crawl across the finish line at the Comrades Marathon. I’ve watched cycle races here and there, and I myself have completed nine Midmar Mile open water swims. So how did the thought of combining all three of these disciplines come to be? I think it’s because of that exact reason. You’re not ‘suffering’ the whole day, distance, duration, doing one discipline, but rather breaking it up into three. Your training is a mixture of the three. That with some strength training (I say some because let’s be honest, I don’t know many gym bunny triathletes).

Last year I put my mind to participating in the 70.3 Half Ironman in East London. If I’m honest, I went in blind i.e. doing what I thought was right from a training perspective, but not actually having the foggiest idea. I remember the overwhelming sense of terror and emotion when I arrived in East London. The weather was miserable, to say the least, and I was horrified at the thought of having to swim in the sea. I love swimming, but looking at those swells made me super nervous. I recall saying to my mom there is no way I’ll be able to make it out of the swim in conditions like that. Mother being a mother put my mind at ease and brought me back to earth by saying “yes darling. Nobody is going to swim in weather like that.” Lucky for me, the wind direction changed, the swells subsided and the weather was but magical. The race briefing was also quite an experience. Paul Kaye, a regular MC on the Ironman South Africa fixture told us all that the Buffalo City 70.3. was rated one of the most difficult in the world. There I was thinking mkay, it will be hard, but really that hard? He was right. Especially when it came to the cycle. It’s kak, it’s horrendous, grueling, brutal. It’s worse than a gory episode of Game of Thrones. Jokes, I’m being dramatic, but it’s really not pleasant. Especially when the wind isn’t at your back. Alas, I completed that leg and the entire course in under seven hours. Not bad for a novice. I knew what I’d done right (the swim) and I knew what needed to be improved… the bike, the run, the transitions, the nutrition. So I signed up with the Team Tissink, opting for their programme to get ready for the 5150 series, as well as East London’s race (for my sins).

The discipline one learns throughout a process like this is remarkable. I’ve heard many triathletes say the training is the most difficult, and that when it comes to race day, it’s all about bringing all those elements together. It’s true. Very, very true, but more on that later. Training through winter requires a lot too. Leaving the comforts of a warm bed to get up for a half marathon, a four-hour ride, or worse, a 2km swim isn’t the easiest, but when you’ve invested time, money and a lot of energy to this, you damn well get up and you go. So when August rolled around at the first of the 5150 races snuck up on me, I believed I was ready to go. I was for the most part, but for some reason at the end of the race, my time wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. Sure the conditions were challenging, to say the least, but I’d trained, how could I be slower? I put on my big boy pants, I stopped sulking and back to training I went. East London was approaching. I continued with my runs, my longer cycles and squeezed in my swims here and there. The next race was the 11 Global race in Sun City. I’d never done that one, but I was encouraged to attempt it. So I signed up and readied myself for the race. That one was tough too, if for no other reason than the heat and that dreaded hill up to the Palace. I thought I’d done relatively well. I congratulated my family friends, and then went back to my room to pack up and head out. On my way back to Jozi, my friends called to say I’d actually come third in my age group and that I’d missed my podium moment. The one bloody time I don’t stay. This was amazing and it showed the training was starting to come together.

GALLERY: BECOMING AN IRONMAN

Training continued into December and let me tell you, this is very hard. For one, you’re tired from the working year. Then everyone is going on holiday, eating and drinking up a storm and you’re not. You’re training and a lot. Why? Because come the new year, it means you’ve got some twenty days before 70.3. This year, I was done in KZN for a few days and the in the Eastern Cape. I decided I would use the two weeks to train long and hard, but what I didn’t expect was to get sick. The doctor booked me off for a week, put me on a course of antibiotics and told me not to exercise at all. Super frustrating, but perhaps the break did me the world of good! I managed to get back into it in Jeffreys Bay and that put my mind at ease. Also, training at sea level is amazing. Gosh, the air is so light and clean. Do I sound like a tree hugger? Haha.

I won’t bore you with the details around my race in East London, but what I will tell you is that it was just as hard as last year, but I managed to knock off a good twenty-seven minutes. So it worked, and I was happy. Done, thanks for coming… Said no one. Ever. My friends had planted the seed of full Ironman in my head at our year-end function, but I wasn’t keen. I mean really? They kept saying it’s the best race you will do. I think in the back of my mind there was a little voice encouraging me to enter. I chatted to the coach and after some (not much actually) convincing, I entered full Ironman. Are you actually joking, Von Berg? Have you seen the distances? Have you actually lost your mind? Those were some of the questions I asked myself, but hey, the entry was in and there was no time to chill.

And so began some of the most challenging times I’ve ever experienced. Double sessions in the week, a minimum of nine hours over the weekend. Lots of training, not so much sleep. A lot of eating, and not a lot of socialising. That was my existence in the build-up to the big race. And all of that on top of a demanding day job, including preparing for a conference, which almost ended me. Again, your mental strength is tested to no end, and I’m so happy I had that in retrospect. The excited nervousness mounted and when I boarded my plane to PE, along with some other very fit looking Ironmen, I realised how real shit had actually just become. I had two days to chill, acclimatise and ready myself for the biggest challenge I’d ever set myself. My uncle and I headed through to PE via the cycle route, which was great and really scenic. Maybe not the type of response you would expect for someone about to embark on an 180km cycle, but hey anything to take your mind off the task ahead 😉 Registration was a breeze, everything just seemed to go quite smoothly. The vibe was great too. Old mates catching up with one another, racers brought their families and I heard the accents of loads of international athletes. Simply put, there was a great energy in Port Elizabeth, which really helped alleviate the nerves somewhat.

On Saturday all, athletes get the opportunity to do a practice swim. For anyone who lives inland, or who doesn’t enjoy swimming that much, I would highly recommend this. You get a feel for the water, the temperature, your markers and the like. It really is a good idea. It’s also extremely well organised in that only athletes with timing chips are able to swim. If you don’t have your chip, you are not allowed into the water. Are they strict? Yip they are. So much so they didn’t let one of the delegates from the Prince of Bahrain participate in the swim because he didn’t have his tag. He tried to pull the “do you know who I am” card, but the officially wasn’t having any of it! After that, the day really just flew by. It was a matter of checking the bike, going for a ride, changing a flat tube (FML), packing bags, packing special needs bags, rushing to drop it off in transition, finding out where everything goes and then remembering where it all went. It’s a whirlwind, and your stomach really does start to do all kinds of acrobatic moves as the hours tick by and as the race approaches.

We went for a really chilled dinner at one fo the restaurants near to the place we were staying. It started out nicely but then my nervous energy really kicked in and unbeknown to me, my leg was twitching to the point that my mom pointed it out to me. It was time for bed. It was also just before 8pm, but you know. Ironman. So this was it, a good few hour’s rest before the race would be grand. Sadly I didn’t sleep much. I kept thinking about this, that, all them scenarios you can imagine popped into my head, but then it was time to get up and go! The calm before the storm really. The very last bit of your prep is to grab your bottles, nutrition and stick them in where they’re needed for the race. It was still dark, but the nervous energy was actually quite light and jovial. Even on the back where everyone waits for the buzzer to go off and the race to start. Honestly, it felt like I’d stood there for hours on end waiting. You heard such random conversations too. I quietly stood there with my goggles on and ready to roll, but I did enjoy a chuckle or two before we set off. When the anthem played I cried man tears. Shame, poor little emotional me haha. And like that, we were off.

Let me tell you, one of the most magical moments of the race happened in the water. We swam out towards the sunrise and for a brief ten seconds or so, I looked up, admired such beauty from 300metres or so off shore and realised that this was actually happening and that I was actually going to do it (goosebumps moment). Okay epiphany moment, okay, now swim son! That swim was long and rather rough, but I managed and in the time I’d set out to do it in. Good start. Look I took my sweet time in transition, which is a little silly, but perhaps it helped too because the 180km was going to take a while, to say the least. Again I won’t bore you with all the details of the cycle, but let’s put it this way, it’s long. Very, very long but it’s nice. The conditions were incredible and the vibe along the route was magical. For those of you who haven’t done the race, you might be interested in this ‘special needs’ bag story. So basically you’ll pack two bags for your cycle and run leg. You put whatever you absolutely need in there, be it more liquid, a proper meal (sandwich, baby potatoes, a shirt or top to keep you cool or suncream). On the cycle leg, you can collect your bag at the 92km mark. So that’s what I intended to do, but when you’re in a daze and you see what you want to see, I thought I’d missed it. And that would’ve been dire, as my bottles were in there. Luckily I calmed down to a mild panic and all was under control. If you’re looking to do the race next year, note that whatever you don’t use in that bag, you lose! So think carefully about what you put in there.

After another ‘tea party’ in transition, I decided it was time to head off on my maiden marathon run. How bad can it be? WELL…. I’m usually a decent runner, but off the bike I’m weak. So running into the sun, on tired legs and it being my first marathon didn’t make for a pleasant experience. Add four loops to the equation and my sense of humour was officially gone. But you make friends along the way, friends who become your bests but you’ll probably never see again. The support along the route is amazing. When you really need a push, these people do so with their words of encouragement. It was on this run that I felt like I’d really pushed my body to its limit. I was tired, physically, but my mental strength was what got me through this. I was in pain, but I smiled and I made it through. The moment I hit that red carpet, I was overwhelmed by an incredible sense of accomplishment. It was amazing, exhilarating. It was without a shadow of a doubt, the best moment of my life. I’d done the impossible and made me realise that is ANYTHING ACTUALLY IS POSSIBLE.

My friend, Cherry-Lee told me this is the most amazing race you’ll ever do, and boy was she right. It was and I while it was the most difficult day out, it was also the most amazing.

Here comes my Oscar winning speech:

I’d like to thank my number one supporter, my dear mom. Through thick and thin, erratic mood swings, countless breakfasts, brunches and the like, my mom has been so amazing. My family, my friends, and colleagues have all been so damn patient with me. It was a long journey, but without their patience and understanding, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get through this. My Futurelife fam, who kept me healthy, happy and content. The perfect pre-race food, post-training smoothies and during training bars, snacks etc. So honoured to be working with such a strong brand. Natalie and Raynard Tissink, I know I’ve been quiet, but without your training programme, I know I would never have made it through this race. I also know what to expect now and what I need to improve on, so I’m keen to work on next year. Yip, if it isn’t clear, I am definitely doing this again. I need to #ChaseTheSun and I’m officially hooked. Oh yes, and I have bragging rights for life. I am an Ironman!