Thursday, March 31, 2005

Oh Water, Listen to the Wind

I'd like to go to sleep in a house close to moving water. I'd like to end each day with the murmur of gentle waves washing over me, and wake up, to the whisper of sparkling morning light, its laughter bright and bouncing through the kitchen, over mirrors and picture frames.

Il Mare means 'The Sea'

I went with Corneli to meet Charles and his Australian friend Randall. It was chilly so we quickly drove to a nearby pasta restaurant called Il Mare.

I ordered a tasty salmon spaghetti, with some juicy brocolli, and sipped down my first beer in weeks. Delicious. Randall has been travelling through Asia since November. He was fortunate to be somewhere safe when the tsunami hit. He knows Vietnam and Laos quite well.

We had an interesting conversation with a sweet Korean waittress called Hye Jin about wines, South African and Australian. She seemed really surprised to hear that I am from South Africa.

After dinner we went to have coffee at a place called WHOEVER in LaFesta. I ordered a Hazelnut Cappucino and got a Frappucino instead. It was pretty good anyway. I think instead of calling the shop WHOEVER they should call it WHATEVER.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Salt Of The Earth

One thing I did on the 20th of March, which I have not done before, is use electrolytes in the place of glucose. That may not make much sense: where you replace almost all your fluid intake with a hypertonic solution. How did I know I needed to do this?
I was fortunate to step into a conversation at the GU tent of the Expo. The debate was about the best formula for nutrition and hydration on the Ironman.

Since then I read an article in Bicycling about bonking. There are three types of bonks (energy crashes). The electrolyte bonk can lead to permanent liver damage, and I think the one I suffered in August 2004 was severe. I know I was not healthy again, or at good energy levels for several weeks.

I have suffered a lot from this syndrome, and many times, and could not understand why I was having an energy crisis. This is probably because I believed Energade, Gatorade and Powerade all provide enough salts alongside the glucose. They don't. In fact, in ultra distance events, when glucose actually enters the body the body requires even more hydration to process concentrated glucose into the system. And the more water you drink, the less salty (hypertonic) the body becomes.

I have often found myself getting wobbly and unable to access energy. This did not make any sense because I was sure I was eating and hydrating enough. Now I know that I was forgetting about adding salt to the race day (or training day) forumla. I good electrolyte supplement is called GU20(Gu Two Oh).

The body requires water, glucose and electrolytes. That's like saying it needs something to drink, something to eat and something to fortify it. That something is minerals, the salt of the Earth. Life, intelligent life, is about body, mind and spirit. The salt is the spirit, and without it, the rest cannot run. Over the longer term, the body can get sick, and be permananetly damaged. This can only be known by being conscious and disciplined in our daily lives, with regard to what we eat, think and do as daily habits. We need to have a diet in terms of what we eat, but also in what we think, and what we do each day.

A Hypertonic solution : Defined as a solution that contains a higher concentration of electrolytes than that found in body cells. If such a solution is allowed to enter the blood stream, the osmotic pressure difference between the blood and the cells will cause water to flow out of the cells, which will then shrink. This may cause serious harm, or even be fatal. Consequently, it is essential when blood transfusions are given, or blood replacement products are used, that the electrolyte concentration in the material to be given to a patient matches that of the body.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Million Dollar Insights

I woke up last night at 3am. It didn’t make any sense because I was already sleep deprived. But I woke up wide awake. I got up and made a list of questions to ask my director before signing my next contract.
Then I listened to some music. One line, in a host of lyrics, caught my attention: the worst is over now, and we can breathe again.

That transported me back to the Ironmnan, in fact to a certain point on the cycle. I began to think of the race again. I began to wonder: Was it really that tough?

It is day 9 after the race and my legs still have not forgotten it, my sun singed skin is still shedding flakes. Maybe I walked for as much as quarter of the run,. I mean, let’s face it, 5:17 for a marathon is not a sprint. At the same time, when you’ve been out there for 9, or 10, or 11 hours, walking at that point is not quite the same as walking around in the garden. People are standing on the side of the road shouting. Yes, I’d rather be running, but my body is also saying: wait. I need more rest and then I’ll be able to run for a while again. Give me a bit more time.

If you don’t listen to your body, especially in the run, you pay. I saw a lot of people walking, limping, because they had torn or stretched a muscle in their legs. Each step was like unstitching the tissue running above or below their knees. It looked painful and it was. I was determined not to suffer the same fate, and having come to the race very undertrained, I was a prime candidate.

Whenever I think, well, since I did it, how tough could it be, I also remember after the finishing line, limping to the medical tent, limping up and down the stairs of the Humewood hotel, limping to and from the bathroom the night after the race. I remember the night after the race I was so tired, but the pain prevented me from falling asleep. I remember standing for a while, and suddenly feeling extremely hungry, and then dizzy then lying down and shaking because ice cold had snaked its way through the silver foil that I was holding around me. My body was utterly spent. How on earth did I manage to run so far, when, afterwards, I could barely walk?

The size is of the race is actually too big to appreciate. Even after having done the race, it’s still hard to see the whole race on one page. Rather, it has to be seen, and even more important, raced, in bite sized chunks. In sections, pieces of a lap, one part at a time. The only way to do it is one thing at a time, focus on getting through one thing, then the next. Pace and power need to be natural and in sync. This is a recipe also for how we live our lives. Have a balanced approach. Hold something in reserve. Remain disciplined. Avoid rash behavior.

I turn sometimes back to the glow, the golden glow of that day. When last did I spend an entire day outside? I left the beach just after sunrise and much much later, I was still out there, the waters darker now, and shimmering in the rain. The sun was long gone, but the sea and me were still out there, moving under violent varicose bursts of lightning.

When last did I wake up and go out (wearing next to nothing) and explore for a whole day? When last did I get to know myself and the world so intimately? What happened to the child that set out with an adventure streak and a few coins in his pocket?

One of the blessings of the day, was the realization that God has blessed the length of my limbs with a power and strength beyond what I had imagined. It was not until close to the very end, probably 10 and a half hours into the day, that I began to see the finish as something real. That was how modest I was in my approach.

I made a deal with my body right from the start. My body said I may not even think of times, time targets and deadlines, since I had not spent enough time training it for that. I did ask unfairly of my body, to push itself in one day over distances cycling and running it had not seen for more than 7 months. I emerged at the end of the day fully aware of my natural ability, and filled with the respect that comes from moving deeply inwards and then coming outwards of oneself, richer and fuller.

The reason the movie Million Dollar Baby resonated so much with me, was because I could identify with a woman who came from poverty and despair, dared to dream and be passionate. She suffered pain and defeat, and explored the full extent of her frame, up to the barest edges of her fingertips. The ecstasy of mastering one’s craft lies right alongside the despair of losing all that one could have won. She was a thirty two year old woman (I am thirty three), poor, but not too poor to pursue her own visions of greatness.

The Ironman calls to mostly 30 and 40 something men (and some women) to bring their being back into their bodies. To cast their minds over the sand and sea, to move against and with the winds and hills of the road. To push themselves into the unknown and come out with something new, some new knowledge. What is it? What insights then?
The race, for those who run the length of it, confirms the enormous natural ability that we are born with. Becoming conscious of the mighty strength that resides soft and salty in our bones is warm, and joyful.
We have a living spirit that burns hotter and redder and more energetic in us than we imagine. My race was not about time, or speed, but believing in the race and my place in it. My experience was a happy one. The remarkable gift is simply this: being imbued with a sense of confidence and of a place, a home in the world that is here for us.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Treasure Hunt

I am sitting here very bleary eyed, but I forced myself to come, because I can't afford to fall asleep at 7pm and then wake up at 3 or 4am. I'm trying to get with the new day/night pattern as soon as possible. The longer I am out of it, the more ill and cluastrophic it becomes. Yesterday I woke up at 4pm and when I went outside the sun was just setting. So my whole day was dark! Don't think I would survive long in a place like Iceland in winter. I remember England was hell. Sun sets there around 3pm.

Today was quite warm. I deferred my 09:30 meeting with Jeremy, and met him just before lunch instead. A bit of a mixup as I ended up going by taxi to the wrong POLY school... Got there in the end, better late than never. The director seemed to genuinely like me, but approached me later saying he would like to give me an opportunity, but was worried that the parents might have some reservations (about my being South African). Jeremy and I suggested a test run, and he agreed with some enthusiasm.

Jeremy and I had a very long lunch and chat, which meant I missed my first swim in Korea. I was feeling sleepy then, so not sure if I would have made it this far through the day had I left the lunch early.
After getting Starbucks coffee, we went our separate ways, and later met up for another interview, however the lady was not around. She did offer me a part time post, which Jeremy thought was 'interesting'.

The 3rd interview was for a position teaching adults, and they were looking for someone with a business background. I studied Economics and Marketing, have had a role in management, so that is close enough, I thought. So did they.
The salary is a minimum of R13 000 a month, after rent, and a maximum of R17 500 (once all available classes are filled). The hours are a bit awkward, but I am here to work and train, so I believe this third opportunity is the one I'll take. It's a reputable school, and the director is intelligent, sensible and I like his philosophy. He is someone I can talk with, and reason with, and when I talk I can see he is listening.

He has a photograph on the wall of a Korean standing on the summit of a 8000m mountain. He said, as I walked out, that I look a lot younger than 33, and that he wants a healthy, fit person for the job, because someone with a strong body has a good mind, and a good balance. I appreciated that, and had a good feeling about our meeting. So I think I will go for that one.

I will make a quick trip, I think, during my 5 day break in early August, to South Africa, to sign for a townhouse hopefully in Bloem, and a place in PE or J'Bay. I will get one or two agents busy preparing the paperwork and emailing me photos and descriptions of the places between now and then. Things are starting to take shape.
I hope I will still find the time to train. I believe I will. I will be able to swim most mornings, and go for a run or cycle in the afternoon. Plus I have weekends to get the big workouts in.
So looks good.

I am so sleepy. KT is coming to connect the internet tomorrow. Once that is done I won't have to leave the apartment.
I need to sleep.
Will wake up early tomorrow, go for an easy run, a swim a bit later, and then head to the school to sign the contract. Have I thought of everything...?

Will be good to be organised and legal in this country, and moving in a definite way along the road to a home.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Highlights of SA Trip & Lowlights


Waking up on the 20th of March and feeling great.
The 20th of March (the whole Ironman experience)
The Argus
Seeing an ex-girlfriend and realising how much I have changed
Riding around in the jeep.
Cycling with my brother to Cape St. Francis
Cycle to Franschoek and back.
Going sailing on Theewaters dam with Mandy's dad in gut wrenching conditions
Free State Triathlon Champs
Swimming at the stadium pool, and feeling the sun on my body
Being at home, with homecooked meals and made up beds

Swimming in the dam next to the N1 on the way to Cape Town
Sailing around Greenpoint and Seapoint, watching the sunset, seeing the green lighthouse of the docks rise out in front of the sea and purpling sky
Night out with Hugo at the Shack and Cornerhouse
Running on the beach in Jeffrey's Bay
Arriving at the airport in South Africa and then driving with Alex and his daughter in his Audi A4, to see his new home and growing family
Eating at Hobbit House
South African girls in bikinis
Having my business cards made
Making lots of new friends
Running up Naval Hill with Jacques and Petro
Having my bike fitted with STR's again

The cycle in Johannesburg, to Pretoria, with Alex and his brother in law
The two cycling races to Jagersfontein, especially the one where I broke off the bunch and came first, and the one where I broke in the last km, in the rain, and almost held onto first (behind the fast bunch) but eventually came second.
My two long runs
Going to the farm and Heuwilsig
Discovery Channel
Motorcycle Diaries
Exchange rate changes in our favour
Reading the Da Vinci code
Finally investing in a unit trust
Getting a credit card

Running with Allan along the shoreline around Kleinmond
Awesome food, like Roast Lamb on my birthday
Steers and Nando's
Revisiting the pool in Kroonstad where I swam my best race
Watching Juliet's boy swim
Green Man Flashing
Primi meals

The thunder and lightning in the last few kilometres of the Ironman, the black streets, shining in the rain.
Million Dollar Baby
Nationwide Airlines
Getting one of the last slots for the Argus
Staying at the Humewood Hotel
Red wine
Cafe Rossini at Mimosa Mall
Hearing South Africans around me speaking perfect English
Interview at Xposure

Cycling with Jean
Cycling with my brother to Dealesville
My cellphone (first time I've ever used one for any length of time)


Getting my cellphone stolen out of my bag at the airport
Getting Strep and then a secondary infection
Getting diarhea the day before the Ironman
Missing the race briefing which caused me to lose all the equipment I left in my Special Needs bags
Missing the Tour de Bloem
Missing SA Triathlon Champs
The guy pn the Beck's yacht who took my email address but never mailed me the pictures he took
The bitchy German girl that sat next to my brother and me on the same yacht
Having to leave home to use the internet, and then it was extremely slow and troublesome
Jacques coming to the house and banging on the door to wake me up, but the only creature to come to the door was a cat

Getting two speeding tickets
My driver's license taking over two months...
Someone refusing to have lunch with me
Fainting at the chemists after a shot of Vitamin B12
Visiting the doctor and finding out my sickness was going to get worse before it would get better
Losing my Vodacom cellphone charger
Going to watch Motorcycle Diaries on my own
Buying anew battery the day before my cellphone was stolen
My sister calling me not to wish me well but to ask for money
Missing the wedding in Bloem, and not seeing or being able to call people special to me, before I left

I really wanted to collapse on my bed in a pile of exhaustion after the Ironman, but went out at 11:30pm in search of my special needs bags, and they'd already been thrown away when I got there, even though athletes were still on the course
Running around to get my finishers shirt and other bags after the Ironman
The cellphone
Leaving South Africa

Where The Road Ends...

Frame of Mind

Feel like posting a picture of myself in a happy frame of mind.

Doors Closing Around Me...

I hope others are going to open soon.

Hotage - any takers?

Corneli and Minjung at Chungmuro. They went to watch MILLION DOLLAR BABY and I went to watch HOSTAGE, (maybe that's how I'm feeling)with Bruce Willis. Movie wasn't too bad, a time filler at the very least. Came out of the cinema feeling a bit irritible. I called Sam, from the recruitment agency and he said his school only wanted an American or Canadian. On Monday I will go in with Jeremy and meet a few people, and pursue a few leads. Fingers crossed.

On the way to a place called Chungmuro. As you can see it's pretty chilly so we;'re all bungled up to keep warm. I missed good food tonight.

Monster Thermidor

This guy caused me A LOT of problems since its inception. Wonder where he is now? Actually, don't wanna know. Glad to be rid of this little monster. This guy would cut out in the middle of a phone conversation. Came close to throwing it out of the car window a few times. I heard, from a cellphone shop, the same model, new, retails now for under R700.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Weather Here With Me

Today is 14 degrees Celius, and Tuesday will be 13.

Is Korea A Beautiful Country?

This is actually a picture of New Zealand. This is where two guys that I knew in Korea did their own Ironman, the New Zealand Ironman. I think it was on the 2nd of March. We were quite competitive, me winning a race, and both New Zealanders doing pretty well and sometimes beating me too.

What is important for me, even if for mere academic purposes, is that they left Korea in September I think, and started training with 6 months to go for their races. So they did a huge amount of training in a huge amount of time, on home turf. I did about half of what they did once I arrived in South Africa, and even less in the last month.
It looks like their training went without a hitch, and without girlfriends to distract them. One guy reached his goal of going under 10 hours, he did a 9:57:58. That's a good time, wherever you are. With a time like that he would have easily gotten a slot in South Africa, but of course, in New Zealand, the race is an insitution, and Cameron Brown is an almost permanent fixture as runner up, or second runner up the the world champion.

These results are encouraging because I feel I am at the very least just as good, if not better, at this sport, than these two fellows that I introduced to the sport. The guy who went under 10 hours did a 58 minute swim. I believe I can go faster than that, I'm sure he can too, but then he'd trained like a maniac so was this his best? A 5:24:18 cycle (I believe I can go a lot faster than that), but I am quite impressed with the run, at 3:26:26. I think I can do a 3:30, but faster than that will be a stretch for me. I doubt whether I can go much lower than a 3:15. But I would like to be my best at this distance, before I turn 40, at any rate. Despite what seems like a fairly good performance, this time was only good for 18th place out of 186 competitors. That's nowhere near being in contention for a slot. Sorry.

The other guy went almost an hour slower, at 10:48:38, but I think he had a problem on his cycle, maybe multiple flat tyres. Maybe he just ran a lot, and neglected the cycling training. I know in Cheolwon he charged from behind aftyer losing about 6 minutes to us in the bike. That's quite a big margin in a half Ironman event. I know he can sometimes pull out a kickass run, and he did here.
His swim: 58:18, so they obviously swam together, cycle 6:15 (mine was 6:00 on insufficient mileage), run 3:13. That's a great run.

In the half Ironman we did in Korea, I was in pretty good nick, and after the cycle was about 5 minutes behind the leader, a pro, and about 2 minutes ahead of the rest of the pack. Both the New Zealand guys were pretty far back. My run let me down, or perhaps I cycled too hard, but I also just completely overheated and ended up dropping from 2nd to 21st and was passed at about 3km on the run by first the stocky freckly guy, and then by the taller gangly dark haired guy (at about 9km). Both then ran up to 5th and 6th place overall.

Obviously I need to stay healthy as a bare minimum, if I want to be competitive, if I want to race very fast times, but as an overall ambition, I just need to make sure my legs are strong on the run. I know I have the ability to run fast. I have run a 37 minute 10km, and a 1h39 21km. My best marathon time is not my best, if you know what I mean: it's 3:50.

I see myself being able to pull off a 50-55 minute swim, 5:00 - 5:15 cycle, and a 3:15 - 4:15 cycle. I know that is a broad band for the run, but I really can't say how it will go. I do know, have a better idea how to train for my running. I don't have a problem training too little, I train, if anything, with too much intensity, and too little variation, when it comes to the run. That and additional weightloss should see me through. I can also channel time that usually goes into cycling, my favorite, into running, and also spend less time on the swim. The legs and core muscles also need a lot of strengthening. My left ankle was in a lot of pain towards the end of the Ironman. I also felt a lot of weakness in my inner thighs. Need to do gym regularly to keep myself strong, and flexible.

In the end the lesson I learn from the triathlons of these other guys is that I have the potential to do very well, and I am even more encouraged by my own results, given my levels of preparation, to bring my times into line with my abilities. That's an amazing thing to undertake, and I'd like to try each year to cut large slices off my time, and see ultimately, how fast I can go or a course that urges, time and time again, to go slow, conserve, be patient.

That's a challenge and one I will enjoy pursuing. The next step is obviously to identify the next Ironman. Where will it be? I want to do it in Brazil but it is too soon, it's next month or something. Will have to explore the options in detail and then get cracking.

(The answer to the above question is simply: Come and see for yourself!)

Bike Course Reviewed

This is from Ironmanlive:

Just like Ironman Austria, the bike course here at Ironman South Africa is made up of three 60km loops. There’s a scenic bit along water, too.

That is where the similarities end!

The bike ride on Sunday will not feature any “see-how-close-Jurgen-can-be-to-four-hour” type rides. While the course is “relatively” flat, the high winds and rough roads make it far from fast.

After coming out of T2, the athletes ride along the beach for a few kilometres before making a left turn inland. The athletes would be wise to warm themselves up through the initial flat kilometres along the water – right after that left turn is a fairly sizeable hill!

The bike course goes inland at this point on a long out-and-back section. There’s one screaming descent along that stretch, which isn’t a bad thing considering that on the way back, the cyclists make a right turn just at the bottom of the hill and head back towards the coastline.

There are a number of hills before the athletes get to Marine Drive a 20km stretch of that follows the coast line. Usually there’s a tailwind along this stretch, but for the last couple of days the winds have been coming directly off the water, so it’s been a tough ride!

Rolling hills … wind … hot conditions … sounds like a perfect course for Natascha Badmann!

Badmann told us today, though, that the first time she rode the course, it took her two-and-a-half hours … to do one loop!

While she will no-doubt go much faster on Sunday (a 7:30 bike split isn’t likely from the five-time Kona champion!), Badmann is the first to admit that this is a tough course!

Run Course Reviewed

Also from Ironmanlive:
A flat run ... but a hot one!

Like the bike course, the run is a three-loop affair.

If it is as hot as the weather man is calling for on Sunday, the run here at Ironman South Africa is going to quickly become a race of survival!

How hot are they suggesting it might be? One report has the temperature hitting 38 to 40 degrees Celsius, which converts to a balmy 100 degrees Fahrenheit!

The run begins with an out-and-back section along the beach, following the same road as the bike course begins on. All of the roads along the course are closed, which means that the runners will take one side of the two-lane road, while the cyclists will use the other.

After running back past the transition/ finish line, the runners will continue along Marine Drive, and then make a right turn on University Avenue. The course loops back to Marine Drive, where the runners will head back to the finish line.

The course is pretty flat … the challenge could very well be the heat!

The Long Long Swim

New Hope

I met Jeremy in Starbucks this evening. He is leaving his school, and another job he has, so I can easily slot in, in his place, assuming his employer likes me. Corneli says her school is also needing a replacement for Lavena starting on April Fool's Day.

Jeremy made a few calls and has set up a few things for me already. After that we went to his apartment, around the corner from Starbucks, on the 10th Floor. It has an amazing view of Lake Park, very chic, and is only W450 000 a month, with W5 million key money. Once I have a job organised, I will definitely move in there.

I feel very fortunate to have met him as this broadens my opportunities immensely. I have also responded to two jobs on offering W3 million a month at a public school. I need to get to my resume now.

I am feeling more positive about being in Korea again. Amazing what a good dinner and good friends around you can do to swing things around. It seems my road to a home starts here, in Korea...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Thoughts Before a Big Day

What I have written below comes from The Swimmers, something I am writing side by side with this.
I wrote what you'll find below, on the eve of the Ironman. It reflects that identity crisis we are all faced with when we ask great things from ourselves, and try to muster up the courage and belief to do what we ask ourselves to do.
I am faced with this internal struggle here, now that I am in Korea again. I also ask myself: Where will my home be now? Where will I make a home for myself? Thus I will change the title of this blog to reflect this new direction: The Road to a Home.

The text below was copied from: (or click on the title of this post).

What will I become? What will become of me? What will I will for myself, and will my will be done, in these waters, whatever may happen on the earth or even in the heavens?

Will I fly across the glass, leaving them in my wake?
Will I struggle in the waves of others?
Will my own struggle be enough, or will I have to beat the others and finally, when there is no one left, have myself to deal with? Which will it be for me? Which one of these? Will I be alone at the end of it all, or will others celebrate with me, or keep me in my own company? Will they cheer for me when I win, and even when I do not. And when it is all done, will they remember me, and remember what I did in those strong, tranquil days?

Let me assure you all, even though I am but a child, I will swim hard, harder than I think I can. I will swim in the morning, and even when I am not fresh. I will swim every day and into the evening. I will swim even though my hair dries and becomes brittle and white, and my skin has that sperm-like chlorinated smell. But don't complain if you look at me and I have serene, blink free gaze. I am merely calm and dazzled by the sun, my arms tired from wakes and wavemaking.

I will let it all radiate from me, and into me. And I will ask myself merely for all of my strength, all of my breath, to stretch myself as far as I can across the scintillating glass.

And my coach will say, at the end iof the day. "Okay, get out. Get dry. Nice job."
And then we will do it again, until all that is terrestrial has been drowned, and the fish finds it feet and webs in the water. But I need to know, in all this work, in all this water, what will I become?

Kevin McKinnon

This is Kevin McKinnon and Natascha Badmann (world champion Ironwoman). Kevin stayed at the Humewood hotel and I often saw him having breakfast. He told me his next Ironman was in Arizona, and after that, The Tough One, Lanzerote. Would like to do that one sometime.

Reflections of the Ironman

I went to sleep last night at 11pm, was wide awake at 4am, and then finally fell asleep again at about 7am and slept until 3pm. I have been sooooo tired. The flight, from PE, to Johannesburg, to Hong Kong, to Seoul is a bit under 17 hours. But it is much longer if you add the time at the airport in PE, the 4 hours at JHB airport (without a phone), and the more than 2 hours at Hong Kong's airport, followed by the whole procedure through Incheon's massive airport. Then it's more than 24 hours of just aeroplanes and airports. Maddening, and to think I used to love flying once!

I see I have not really written in much detail about the Ironman, so will elaborate a bit here.


The day before I slept really late, and didn't want to get up due to diarhea. I missed the race briefing, which proved expensive as they said at the briefing that special needs bags would be disposed of, and I left quite a few expensive items in my SN bags. I also left my cellphone in one of the bags, but fortunately got that one back, but when I got the phone back, I think it got wet and hot which together with falling off the roof a taxi, must have written off the battery.
I rested and relaxed the day before, and met Xavier le Floch (3rd overall)at the pool opposite the hotel.
Managed to get to sleep early, although my peace of mind was rattled since Jenny glad said she MIGHT be coming up the next day, and that meant I MIGHT have to make a lot of arrangements with people in terms of my camera and other things. So I went to sleep not knowing if she was coming or not, and thus with a bit of uncertainty into what exactly I needed to do the next morning.

I slept well, and woke up 20 minutes before the alarm, and was actually up and about and feeling fresh: A great sign.
I left the hotel at about 6:15am, which is quite late, but I'd decided not to even warm up for the race, seeing as though I hadn't swum more than 2km in weeks, and I could use the first 1km of the event to warm up.

I walked to the Pier with some of my bike and run stuff in bags, and was joined by an Event Organiser. We had an interesting chat while the sun slowly rose, pink and precious, over the beautiful calm and silver sea. He said the toughest experience of his life, was climbing Kilimanjaro. I told him I thought I was in for my toughest experience. (In retrospect, I have to say Kilimanjaro, the last section, is very tough and mentally draining, and it's a close call between the Ironman and Kili. The Ironman wins because you are sore for a lot longer afterwards. Kili starves you of oxygen, and often makes you sick, so it's a close match).
Anyway, it was an affirming early morning walk, and he wished me well as we parted, so arrived in the transition area feeling confident and ready and integrated.

I met someone I knew almost immediately, Arno venter (Arrie), and almost gave his German wife my camera, but then spotted Mauritz and with only 20 minutes before the race, explained how to use it, and gave him a slip of paper with Jenny's and my sister's numbers.
Then I had to quickly gear up, put on my wesuit, check that the back tyre had not deflated too much overnight (as it sometimes does).
When I walked onto the beach between the 800 other athletes, I felt different to the last time I did that, on a beach in Korea. I didn't have that bizarre sense of, what am I doing here? I had a clearer sense of: I'm ready to do this...and if I'm not, we'll see.
I also had no idea which buoys we had to swim for, since I'd missed the briefing. I knew how the swim course looked on paper. Unusually, I was content to start in the middle of everyone, and ease into the race. My goal was to swim a 1:10 (initially it was a 55), so I just needed to be back on the beach after the first lap by about 35 minutes.

The Start

At last the gun went off and I did ease into the race very gently. Some athletes might sprint into the water. Since there were so many guys in front of me, we jogged slowly forward and watched swimmers ahead of us swimming in shallow water, and waded beside them. And only gradually, after a few waves, did I eventually sink into the sea, and start moving towards the buoys.

I swam easily, knowing that this was the first time swimming this distance in probably over a month, and just trying to have a rhythm, and an even pace.
In the beginning a lot of swimmers pull at you, guys nudge you on the right, trying to go left, and on the left, trying to go right. Sometimes you're one of them, pretty sure the buoy is more left than the guy beside you thinks it is, and he thinks its more right. My goggles also leaked a lot, but then seemed to come right.

The first swim out seemed to take an age, but after rounding the third buoy, at about 900m, that was a milestone, that was the first milestone, and then we were headed back. One thing that is great about the race is that you're always in the company of others, but also you're just with yourself, and your plan.

I swam a bit wide coming around the last buoy back to the beach, and walked the last few metres of water to the beach, then jogged round. My watch read 33 minutes, which made me feel positive. I already felt really good, knowing how little I;d trained, and that I was still able to perform. Now the same again. How would I feel after another lap?
A few swimmers turned back into the sea early, and I was tempted to do the same, but then saw that they were swimming along the longest side of the triangle, the hypotenuse, and if I ran another 20 metres along the beach (a few others were thinking along the same lines) then it was a straight swim to the buoy.

In almost every case I went on the inside of the massive buoys. So big that when the wind blows them, and you're under them, they roll a bit, and squash your head under them, back into the water. So make sure you get around them quickly!
I felt good going out, got into a rhythm, but inexplicably, got sardined between two guys, both wanting to climb over me to get to the sea on the other side. I just accerated hard and then said to myself: caution, don't do that again. Don't go into intense movement in this race.

The swim to the far out buoy took an age, but once around it, I felt like the swim was a snitch, and sure enough, the rest of the swim went by quickly. It didn't feel like being in the water for an hour. It felt like half the time.
Plenty of time to think and to observe and to feel how I was feeling.
I stretched my right arm, and tried to stroke the water nicely, but without using up much effort.
This time I rounded the last buoy very tight, and felt very fresh and strong, so just swam a bit faster towards the beach and caught a big wave that dropped me in shallow water when it withdrew. Great!
Ran onto the beach and looked at my time: 1:08. Goal achieved. No rush.

I was 57th in the swim (in my age group, out of 180), and did my first 1.9km in about 33 minutes, and my second lap in about the same (excluding the short runs on the beach).

Ran up the beach and through the showers where I took off my wetsuit. I didn't feel winded from the swim, in fact I couldn't believe after swimming so far, I felt so fresh, but I did feel: Oh my God. Now I have to cycle 180km. Is that something I have to do on the same day. Can't I do that tomorrow.
Once in the transition tent I was suprised to see guys standing around and applying sunblock, apparently in no hurry. I took my cue from them. But my shoulders went into a cramp and this worried me a lot. I haven't even started the cycle and my body is cramping up.
I applied sunblock (not enough behind my arms as it turned out, still OW), and then went off to get my bike.
Once there I hit the red START button on my heart rate monitor. Goal: Go under 6 hours, and average 30km/h, if you can.

The Cycle

Jean and Joggie passed me on the long climb on the cycle, which I took really easily. My heart rate was between 150-160, which wasn;t ideal, but much lower than in the Argus, and I felt fresh.
I felt very encouraged that even though I held back so much on the swim, I was still ahead of those two guys who were training full steam.
I passed Joggie on the downhill, and chatted to quite a few guys en route. I enjoyed the fact that people were around me, and the pace was reasonable.
I had ridden this course once before, but only about 50km of the 60km distance. Those 10km proved to be quite nice - fairly straight, and undulating enough to be interesting. When we turned, the wind pushed us back, and after Sardinia Bay I kicked the Zipps into action and reeled in about 30 guys. At one point, I passed a little boy on the bike who was going: "A hundred and sixty six..." I was 167. I passed a tortoise on the bike and then again, and it seemed a necessary remember to me to take it slow. My average climbed from 26km/h before the turnaround to 31.5km/h at the end of the first lap.

The second lap, the climb, felt tough, and it was my worst moment in the whole race. I felt despondent and slow. But I just let myself go easy, and reminded myself of a good swim, and so far, a very good cycle. My average slipped to 29km/h but I wasn't even watching it that carefully.
Once passed the MTN crew on the top of the long climb, I began to enjoy it again. On the second lap I hit 100km in 2:38 and realised I was doing a much faster Ironman than the Argus, and also that I had already passed my performance in the Korea Ironman, where I quit at 99.9km (before a big climb). Now I was in uncharted territory, but it felt good.
More tortoises - take it easy.

After the second lap I called for Special Needs (at about 120km) and changed waterbottles, and at the last moment, yanked my tubbie and tools out of a bottle holder behind my saddle to lighten the load. In retrospect, I should have left it in, and not added the second salt bottle, but it does show I was in ALERT MODE, not as in Danger Alert, but as in I AM PAYING ATTENTION.
Obviously it was a gamble - that I might get a flat tyre, but my tyres are special ZIPP anti-puncture, and the road was just pretty pebble and debris free, so my focus was more on electrolytes, my body breaking. I basically feel that getting punctures is seldom accidental, and very preventable. I basically got over 1000km without punctures, and when I do get them it is because the tyres are worn out or I;ve allowed the tyres to deflate too much.

The third lap felt better than the second, my average was 30.5km/h and I'd determined to try to make sure it didn't get to below 30km/h in the last few km's. But I did take the last 14km uphill climb easily, and there I felt pretty tired, especially since the wind picked up. Just before the MTN crew on the summit I was really hurting, and going slow. But after that I felt a lot better, and was loving the stuff the crews provided. Cold Powerade, cool water, lots of food to choose from. Great job.

I really flew back but my averaged speed had to be lifted from 28.8km/h at the turnaround, and by the last km it was 29.6km/h average. I was on time though. I reached the transition area within 6 hours, and officially, including my stopover for special needs, my time was: 6:00:27 (average 29.96km/h).
That's not accurate because the cycle was only 177.2km, shortened because the road just beyond the turnaround was too narrow.

I got off my bike very slowly, to avoid a muscle going into spasm, and wouldn't let someone take my bike away - I needed to remove my heart rate monitor. Then I ran slowly through the transition area, kind've surprised my legs felt really OK.
When I entered the transition tent, a girl immediately took my hand and started sorting me out. Ice on my lower back, rubbing sunblock onto my legs.
Guys were pulling off their cycling pants while girls walked between us.
"Don't look," I said to Danni, and then got undressed myself.
A few more cramps in my calves, and chatted more to Danni, and said, "It's so good to be talking to you. It was a really long, lonely, six hours."
I meant it.
"Am I supposed to run now?"
She was very encouraging, said I'd fine, and showed me where to put my bag.
I got up and ran and by golly, my legs felt fresh. No backache, no dizzy legs. They felt fresher than in the Half Ironman last year. Whoah.

The Run
I had one goal with the run: Survive. No time. Obviously I had worked out that with a decent swim and cycle, and I just mean fairly decent, say 7-8 hours, I'd have plenty of time for the run. For walking. My fear was that my legs would simply be too tired, full of cramps, would simply seize up and I'd be unable to run.
This would have been the case, almost certainly, had I gone much faster.

The first 2km were agonising. I couldn't believe, after running for such a long time, that I'd only done 1km, then only 2km. At 2km I ate a potato and went to the toilet. What came out was almost brown, and thick. It didn't spurt out, it kind of just trickled weakly out.
A lot of the way on the bike, i felt very bloated, but was trying to prevent, at all costs, the opposite - going into reserves, basically running up huge credits that would be hard to wipe out given my bodies poor conditioning and low (sickness reduced) recources. But I was feeling good, because I had swum according to plan, and cycled according to plan, and though tired, my legs were still working.
The questionw as, how much further would they let me go, how quickly would they deteriorate. Another question, even worse, was this: how do I eat now? what do I need to eat and drink to keep me going for the next 5 or 6 or 7 hours?

The support on the side of the road was awesome. People even called out my name, and when I looked up, in shock, I saw they'd sourced my number and looked it up in the Race Booklet. That made me smile. Some people would be like: "Come on Nick. You can do it." That's quite personal you know.
A few times when I was walking someone would say that, and I'd immediately run again. I tried to run at least 1km and then walk a bit, and then repeat. Sometimes the inner muscles, stabilisers, would threaten to go into spasm and cramp, especially on uphills, and when I ignored them they'd suddenly flare up.
Listen to your body.
I did.

I also took a gamble. After the first lap, after about 15km, I started drinking Coke. I mostly avoided Powerade on the cycle, letting my body use mostly fat reserves. Now I was switching to sugar, and asking the caffeine to kick me as well.
The beginning of lap two, and my legs were starting to feel damaged. I sometimes felt cold, and I was wondering whether I'd started with Coke too early. I ate two potatoes every time they were offered. (I ate lots of bananas on the cycle).

At about 17km I felt tired and gloomy, and my thoughts turned to Jenny. I really hoped she was here. I really needed some encouragement.
I started to wish that I would see her soon. I said to myself: I believe she is here and that I'll see her near the bridge." I tried to actually believe that, and made my way, in my mind, to a place where that seemed to make sense. About 5 minutes later, at the top of the hill, I suddenly saw her.

I gave her a hug, and spoke to her, asked her how her trip was, whether Mauritz got hold of her and gave her another hug (I thought I might not see her again) and a kiss and then ran off, feeling much better, restored emotionally and psychologically, and with a spring in my step. That helped me a lot.

Now I had an unshakeable belief that I would finish, and I started planning how. I made a rough estimate that I was doing each lap under 2 hours, so that meant I should try to finish under 13 hours. So that became my goal. For the first time that day, and very late in the day, I set myself a time goal for the entire event. I knew how hard I wanted to go on the swim, and the cycle, now I had that same certainty for the run. That was a great feeling.
I saw Jenny 3 or 4 more times, and she commented on how fresh I looked. Sometimes we walked a short distance together. I had felt lots of salt, granular and sharp on my sideburns. I thought I must look like a kid who has been sleeping after eating icecreams and sweets all day.

Then the last lap. I kept catching and releasing two guys who would run and walk, one with a slight limp. Finally I caught them and passed them, and never saw them again. Now I was running by people, and running about 1.5km at a time. I was actually running faster than the first lap.

Then the darkness fell, and the rain fell on us, and as I came down to the road with the 39km sign, lightning flashed and blitzed across the sky, turning everything electric blue white, and deafening us with roars and booms and shots.
What a celebration for me!
The black road, green bushes, white lines, and those of us running. And that was it. Flashes of lightning in the dark, nature's growls of pleasure, and ecstatic bursts of delight. And now it bloomed all over me, the accomplishment, the power, the pain.
I dreamed of the finish, that I wanted to shout: I DID IT.
I wanted to run all the way to the finish, but the muscles on the inside of my legs wouldn't let me. I walked with 1.2km to go. And then I ran one more time.

I acclerated, felt my muscles twitch and spasm in my legs, ignored them, felt them clench, so relingquished speed. The spotlights fell on me, I saw myself on the big screen. I wanted to smile, but my mind was telling me to be careful, and I'd listened to my body all day. Here, I pushed harder than my body would let me, slower than my spirit demanded. My mind hung in the balance. My legs burned, muscles started reeling. As I crossed the line I threw my hand up, three fingers in the air.
Third Time Lucky. I think I shouted "Yes," or something, but it was a private moment that I didn't expect so many to see, and I wasn't in display mode.
Jenny was there, at the finish, and took a picture. I'd like to see it.

I was wrapped in a foil blanket, given a medal, asked, "Do you need medical treatment?'
"No, I think I'm alright. Thanks."
I went to the medical tent and Jenny was waiting at the fence. I gave her a hug and was just delighted to be able to share how I felt, and have someone to congratulate me.
When I walked to the went I realised how much I'd put my legs through. I could barely walk, and my left ankle was screaming and swollen.

After the massage I went out the wrong way (which is why I had to run around afterwards to get my finisher's shirt) and met Jenny in the next tent. I was only a bit peckish, after eating bits and pieces for over 12 hours. Finally she went to buy a hotdog and I suddenly felt very dizzy and weak, and so I quickly lay down on the ground and felt better.
Very soon someone came to ask how I was, whether I needed a drip. I said I was fine, just hungry, and within a minute he'd given me a piece of pizza. I chewed on it slowly. My body felt too tired for a big meal, but needing to consume something nonetheless.

I had to walk back to the hotel with my bike and stuff after that, and then at 11:30pm went to collect my Special Needs bag (an agonising thing to do) and it had already been taken away and dumped somewhere. There were still one or two athletes left on the road, who would finish in about 16hours, 40 minutes. I greeted the last of them, and said, "Keep going, good stuff." I got a smile, and "Thanks."
I saw the firewalks flash over the sea while I cycled quietly downhill in the dark to my hotel.

I didn't sleep much because of the pain in my legs, especially my left ankle. I tried to eat, and had to make several trips to the bathroom. During the flight here I realised to what extent that race cleaned out my system. If I drink something now, it seems to take just an hour, not more than two, to flush right through. And despite eating countless bananas, energy bars, glucose sachets and potaotoes, my body absorbed it all. None of it came out in the 12 hours I was running, and I didn't feel it needed to either. I just had a bit of excess water.

I am very happy to have pulled off this race, particularly given what seemed like a very small window of opportunity left to me. The sickness that started the day after I entered the race, and persisted to about 3-4 days from the actual event, was more a test of mettle and mind in the end than anything else.
The mantra of Ironman is ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
It is. But that each of us has to prove to ourselves. The important thing, despite the odds, despite what others say, despite our own limiting beliefs, is simply to give ourselves permission to try ro do what we're not sure we can. We can do anything we believe we can, whether there is evidence to prove it is possible, or not.

PE Airport: Heart attack?

A politician arrived here the other day and promptly had a heart attack. Probably because he found his cellphone had been stolen.

Driving Miss Crazy

One thing I'll miss a lot in Korea, the longer I stay, is driving myself around.

The Future is Unclear

I called my father at about 5am local time (about 10pm SA time), and he said I should really reconsider taking the job working for the magazine.
I am reconsidering it. I have also a possible job lined up here, starting on April 1st. Thing is, I don't want to be a fool.

I have to say, after being here for just a few hours, it already feels like a few years. The streets are cold. I think it is extreme fatigue that makes one feel gloomy, and a place feel dreary, so need to give myself some time to adjust, and also to recover still from the Ironman. Can still feel the sunburn, ankle still hurts, still have a scab on my neck from the wetsuit.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

After all that flying and crisscrossing the planet, it comes down to this. A door and a lot of bags on the floor.

Put A Sock In It

When Corneli arrived back, all her stuff had been packed into sacks and boxes and moved to another apartment in an adjacent building. Number 740.
So there was the mammoth task, awaiting us jetlaggers, to unpack all this stuff, plus the stuff we had with us.

Later in the evening, the girl who was substituting for Corneli, a pretty, picky (aka finicky) girl called Iris, called to complain about the school and shortly after that Corneli was told that instead of starting on Monday, as agreed, she would have to work the next morning because Iris had kicked up a fuss about something and said she wasn't going to work her scheduled last day.

As you can imagine, we were both exhausted, apartment is a mess, and not the nicest way to start the next day.
But, workerbee that she is, Corneli got up at the crack and did her shift. Oulik hey.

A little unpacking to do...

Korea is 7 hours ahead of South Africa. I can be reached on +82 31 911 7527 or +82 19 203 2771. I'm staying with Corneli until I get a contract and can move into my own place.

Do I look happy to be back? 4 hours sleep in about 2 days, and still wearing the same (now stinky) clothes. Heading towards customs here and hoping to get a 90 day visa. They only gave me 30 days, so hey, if things dont work out, I'll be back before you can say MAY.

I took this photo just after posting LOST IN HONG KONG. I did feel pretty lost and said to Crystal, maybe I should fly back. But I decided to haul myself over the last leg.

She's headed to a small village. Don't get too lonely.

Crystal (I think she spells it Krystel) checking her mail before catching a flight into Mainland China. She's a model from Zimbabwe, going for 6 months.

Just before landing in Hong Kong.

When you fly for a total of almost 17 hours, you get really far from where you started. It's a bit scary. Some might say one place is as good as another, but I'm not sure if that's true.