The year begins properly.
Jodie and myself have been hard at training now since Christmas, but it feels like the year is only actually beginning as we ramp up for Ironman Africa Champs in Port Elizabeth on 2 April.
We both started 2017 with Ironman 70.3 South Africa in East London at the end of January. As always, this race seems to sneak up on you after the festive season and is something of a shock to the system. This year was no different, exacerbated by the fact our festive season was particularly festive as we celebrated our wedding at the beginning of December.
Jodie, true to form, managed to keep her training pretty consistent despite the wedding, a bad case of flu-like illness following the wedding, and the whole Xmas-New Year disruption. She therefore went into the race well-prepared for her 6th consecutive title defense And sure enough she led from start to finish to claim an exceptional 7th title in a row! Superstar!
For myself it was a little more touch-and-go in getting ready for the race. The post-wedding lurgy hit me really hard and I only managed to get back to training about 5 weeks out from the race. This left me short of fire-power to out-race a strong Romain Guillame, but I was pretty happy with the 2nd step on the podium to start the year, and took confidence from the performance on such a low volume of work.
Since then Jodie and I have knuckled down to some serious work to get ready for the early-season ‘big one’ in April. I took a little break from the monotony of Ironman training last week to compete in the intense fun of the Xterra South Africa Champs. I don’t claim to be a mountain bike whizz and always knew i would lose some time to the top guys on the very technical Grabouw course, but hopping on my bike to find a flat tyre didn’t help my prospects one bit! I managed to get around the course with a few pauses to add air my slowly deflating tyre but I was never in the running for a podium after coming off the bike in about 18th place. I ran well to save something of a training effort (and 6th place), but mostly it was a frustrating outcome. Nevertheless it was fun to tackle the rough and intense Xterra racing for a change and I certainly look forward to my next Xterra experience.
Jodie, fish that she is, has had a little playtime in some open water races. She finished third overall at the Western Province 3km champs (as swim followers will understand - not bad for a 35 year old), and then took on open waters best in the Sanlam Cape Mile finishing 5th. Three OW Olympians and the South African 400m Champion beat her, she left the fastest ITU swimmers in her wake. Her swim is definitely on point this year.
So all attention now shifts to Ironman African Champs with no more distractions before the big day. It is always a bit strange going into this race - it is a big event and being on home soil it holds a lot of significance so we desperately want to be in good form for it. But unlike races later in the season, there is a very real sense that it is too early in a long season to be risking injury or even un-due fatigue in the preparation for this race, especially if the training doesn’t go smoothly. A feeling of ‘what will be, will be’ surrounds an early-season race and it almost feels like a test event to see where your form is for the season to come (albeit with a lot of points and money on the line!). A great result at Ironman African Champs can define your season, but a poor result here definitely won’t.
Thankfully up until now, 5 weeks out, preparation for both of us has gone well and we are looking forward to testing ourselves against the strong and deep field a Championship Ironman race attracts. We both know the city and race course in PE very well and are both eagerly anticipating putting some 2016 demons from this race to bed, once and for all.
While we both have something of a race schedule pencilled in to the calendar, the outcome of this race will most likely affect the direction of the rest of the year for us, which is why it really feels that is the beginning of the year.
Time to get race-season 2017 underway!
Thanks for continued support in 2017.
See you at the races!