Dion's Ironman South Africa report for Tri247

May 7, 2010 | Author:  

Dion HarrisonIt’s the morning after Ironman South Africa and I really wanted to let Tri247 readers know what an excellent race it is. From my experience, the race organisation, from check in to racking and the whole of race day was exceptional. The whole of Port Elizabeth really makes such an effort to make the event as spectacular as possible. The support on the run course was unbelievable.

In the days leading up to the race, there were five metre waves and swell on the swim course but race morning dawned with calmer seas and a three metre swell. It certainly made things interesting but wasn’t too intimidating. The video of the race start is pretty amusing. The pros had a 20m lead on the rest of the field but were stood knee deep in the water so had no momentum when the gun went. Behind them, the Age groupers came charging down the beach and through/over them.

The swim was pretty uneventful, apart from body surfing the waves back to the beach at the end of each lap which was great fun! I was in sixth place for the first 800m or so and in the pace line with the leaders. Then the front four put in a surge and gapped the swimmer in front of me. I went past him but couldn’t bridge the gap. When the Storm brothers are putting the hammer down, the only chance to stay in touch is to be right on their feet. I settled into a rhythm in the second pack and conserved energy for the rest of the day. Exited the water 6th in 50mins with a small group of athletes and got through T1 onto the bike with eight pros up the road.

The bike course is three 60km laps with a gradual climb for the first 10km, followed by an out and back section of rolling road before you drop down to the coast and loop back to transition. Settled in my pace…until Raynard Tissink came past. Road out of town with him but he was absolutely smashing it and I had to drop back. I was out on my own for the rest of the first lap and was caught by Jason Shortis and three other riders as we began lap two. Doc Snook, a British Age Grouper was with them and having an awesome race. We rode together for the next 50km until I lost touch and then rode the last lap solo. By this stage though I was passing loads of riders on their first and second laps which really brings home the Ironman experience and makes the three lap course stand out in my mind. Bike time 4.58.

Annoyingly I broke my big toe last Sunday on my last long run…actually it happened five minutes after the long run was supposed to have finished. So the moral of the story is, stick to the program and don’t run on overgrown rocky trails…and certainly don’t kick rocks whilst running at 15kph ;-). The marathon was the first time I’d run since then and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first few km always feels a little weird but after that, I got into a rhythm and my toe wasn’t too painful. At 21km, I was on for a 3.05-10 marathon and thought I could handle the pain and might have got away with it…but then the pain in my achilles started and progressively got worse. By 30km it had reduced me to a hobble and ultimately I decided to walk to reduce the risk of causing further injury.

I guess it was a compensation injury whilst trying to protect my big toe. Just after 30km I decided I should be sensible, think like a pro, call it a day to limit the damage and allow myself to get back into training for my next race more quickly. My heart didn’t agree but I took my shoes, number belt and chip off and started wandering back to transition along the pavement. I went over to the first referee I saw and pulled out but he voiced what I was thinking and told me to get on and walk the last 10k. From an injury prevention point of view, it didn’t make sense but I owed it to myself and the other competitors not to wimp out. People still had 30km to go on the bike course and were going to finish. I only had a 10km walk.

I met up with Doc again, who was also suffering from achilles issues and we jogged the last half of the lap, taking tiny little steps to reduce the pressure on the tendon.

So glad that I finished. From one angle, it may not have been the ‘professional’ thing to do but I’ve come from amateur racing and not finishing would’ve been disrespectful to the race and the effort that everyone puts in to make that finish. Really glad I got to walk down the finish shoot. Would’ve been gutted now if I hadn’t. I didn’t have a clue what time we were on for but was expecting an 11hr+ as it felt like we’d being going so slowly so was pleasantly surprised to see 9.32. 45minutes slower than my first pro race but, as with every Ironman, I’ve learnt a lot about myself from the journey to the finish line.

An experience…but not one that I want to repeat. Time to heal, move forward for Ironman Austria and avoid doing anything stupid in race week next time!

If anyone is thinking of doing this race next year, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Fantastic setting, amazing crowds on the run course with three laps on the bike and run, it really helps break the race down into manageable segments.