Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ironman South Africa 70.3 Race Report

The road to Ironman got a little bit shorter this past weekend in Buffalo City, South Africa, as I completed my first 70.3.  After my DNF at Jailbreak, I must admit I was a bit nervous about this race, specially the week following Jailbreak, but it all eased off as time got closer.

Weeks leading to the race

For those of you who do not follow me on Instagram, I was pulled out of the water on the first lap of the swim with massive cramps on both legs! My coach says it was a severe case of starting a race already dehydrated on a very hot day, but that just put more doubts on my swimming ability with little over a month till IMSA70.3.  So much so that on December 10th I withdrew from the full Ironman South Africa taking place in April in Port Elizabeth.

In order to improve my swimming technique and confidence I started swimming lessons with a private coach at 5:30am three times a week at my gym, and I noticed the changes immediately.  The cycling and running had been progressing nicely, and I was feeling very confident on all three disciplines with two weeks to go.

Race Week

On race week my wife and I left with the children on the Wednesday before the race. I sent my bike with Paul Kaye's company, Focus on the Finish Line, and I picked it up on Thursday at the official bike shop in East London.  Took it back to the hotel and assembled it carefully.

Thursday night I went for a gentle run and my right ankle was hurting me a little bit so I stopped right away and ended up only running 4Km. 

Friday morning was the official swim practice so I went out to Orient beach with the wetsuit and did what most people were doing, a short and quick lap around the first and last buoy just to get a feel for the water temperature, waves, and just to have a swim in the ocean really. It felt good and I was relaxed and, most importantly, I did not cramp, which was a relief given what had happened at Jailbreak! That afternoon I went to race briefing and noticed how big this event was going to be! A packed theatre with capacity for 1500 was completely full, and this was the first of three planned race briefings.

Saturday morning I went for a 1h ride and explored the run course on my bike. Boy this was going to be a killer! Nice and flat at the beginning, with a pike at Bunker's Hill, then flat again at the top and a descent back to the beach! "No problem" I thought... "I got this".

After the bike session I went out for a quick 20min run and called it a day. Went to the hotel, had lunch with the family and took the bike to traisition before I went back to the hotel for a nice, long nap in the afternoon.

Race Day

I woke up at 4:15am as I planned to be at transition at 5am.  Good thing I got there early as I needed to inflate my disk and I didnt have a disc adaptor for the pump.  I went to the official shop and they had one, which I bought.  I took my bike to the top of the transition area where they were inflating people's tyres, but my front 808 wasnt taking in any air, and although it was still hard, it surely wasnt at 140 which is what I like them to be at.  Oh well, I was gonna have to race it like that, but I did get the disk inflated.

I placed my bike shoes on the pedals with the velcro open and hung them with some rubber bands I borrowed from another athlete since I had forgotten mine.  At this point I thought I had everything ready so went on the mandatory trip to the loo before putting my wetsuit on and heading out to the beach.

I was feeling very calm, and at the beach I met my wife who had arrived at about 6:20am.  I gave her my swim bag and went on a quick swim to feel the water and waves.  We then waited for the pros to go and we kissed goodbye so I could go join my wave (3) which was leaving at 7:15am.


I placed myself towards the left (facing the ocean) as there were a lot of people bunched up on the right hand side of the starting box.  When they lifted the rope, we started running, but I took my time getting in the water, placing myself at about the middle of our group.

There weren't really many elbows or punches, at least I cant remember getting hit, and the swim to the first buoy was quick and smooth.  At this point is where I started following some guys but decided to not look up and just swim, which was not a wise decision.  I kept swimming, assuming I was still following that group of guys I was with, but the swells had taken me towards the third buoy, and when I realised I had to retrace back to the second buoy, but this time against the swells!  My mind started going at 1000 miles/h and all I could think of was "what a fuck up, what a fuck up"!!! Nevertheless, I kept going and thought to myself, just get out of the water!

I had told my wife I was going to be about 35 mins, but with this stupid mistake I ended up getting out of the water at 47mins. This was 11 minutes quicker than at Half Challenge Barcelona, but slower than what I had planned on doing.


I jogged up from the beach to the tent, but then I did take my time at the tent putting my socks and compression on. T1 time was 5m:38s


I jumped on the bike and purposefully did not push until we got on the highway.  As we got on the N2 and I saw those rolling hills I about shat myself on my lycra! I was not expecting those hills for 45Kms. I did know what the course was like, but I hadn't driven the course, I had only seen it on paper. Anyway, I knew I had to push hard on the bike as this is my strength, but when I looked down at my Garmin I noticed I was only going on BPMs as my Garmin 910XT was not picking up speed or my power! FUCK! This was the second race where this had happened! Not acceptable from a $400 watch! GARMIN, I hope you're reading this! NOT ACCEPTABLE!

Ok, so I could only go on BPM so I tried to keep it at about 165-175 depending on whether I was climbing the hills or not. I was able to keep a good pace, and got to the half point pretty fresh, but pretty pissed off as I couldn't see any of my readings or averages on the Garmin.  I was drinking my electrolytes and taking my staltsticks so my legs were fine and I was not cramping at all.

I passed 250 athletes on my age group, and I was only passed by 5 guys, all from the 4th wave, meaning they were all older than me and were racing on the 40-45 AG. I'm not sure what that says but, I sure hope Im that strong when Im on that AG.  Overal bike time 2h:50m:30s. 


I handed my bike to the volunteers and headed out to the tent only to realize I had left my watch on the bike so I quickly went back to the bike, got the watch back and quickly got on the tent. Changed in 3m:14s and headed out to the run.


As I exited the changing tent and headed out to do my run, I started feeling my legs cramping a little bit, but it wasn't much so I kept going.  I wish I could tell you my pace throughout the first lap, but, again, my Garmin was only going on BPM, so I tried to keep it high but comfortable, pushing it when I could, but I had to walk a bit on my first time up Bunkers Hill. 

As I went by the hydration area on Bunker's Hill I walked up for about 20 meters just to catch my breath, and them I kept going at a slower than normal pace.  Once I got my first bracelet and headed back to the beach, I was passed by a speedy girl and for about 2Kms I kept up with her and that helped my average.  When I got to the bottom I followed another guy and was feeling quite well at this point. At the beach I was passed by another quick girl and I followed her all the way up to the turn around point then she was gone! 

I pulled myself all the way home and made it through.  As I went by Paul Kaye he announced me as the first Angolan to EVER finish an Ironman sanctioned race. Although this is a half Ironman, I am still very, very proud of my accomplishment.

It started in Triathlons back in January 2010, three years ago, when I took on triathlon as a means to lose some weight. Today, I am here writing this post on how I finished one of the toughest Ironman 70.3 in the world. My overal time was 5h:39m:41s, and I finished in 45th position within my Age Group.

Race Stats
Race Time: 5h:39m:41s
Gender Position: 241
Age Group Position: 45
Swim: 47m:24s
Swim Position in AG: 279 
Swim Position in Gender:1616
Bike: 2h:50:30
Bike Position in AG: 29
Bike Position in Gender: 132
Run: 1h:52m:53s
Run Position in AG: 41
Run Position in Gender: 239 
Official results can be seen here.

Now, I know I can tackle this course, and I have already registered for the 2014 race with a plan to qualify for the 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas.  I know I can improve 30mins on my time, putting me within the top 10 in my age group with a chance to qualify. All I have to do is train hard, put in the hours, and hope for the best job on race day.

As a consequence of having had a relatively good race, I decided to re-enter the full Ironman in PE as Im confident I can take it on. My swimming has improved dramatically, my bike is still my strength, and my running is solid. The aim this year is to just finish the races, time to think of qualifying will start in 2014.


The tragic and negative aspect of this race was the death of two young men on the swim portion of the race.  This was kept from all the competitors during the race, but they both died of cardiac arrest during their swim, and one of them was on my wave.  Two young and apparently strong an healthy men died competing in the sport they love, in the sport we all love. It just goes to show we cannot take anything for granted as we are here today but gone tomorrow. My thoughts are with their families, and I ask everyone who reads this blog to please try and stay safe out there, whether on the road riding our bikes, running, or swimming, please be careful.  

Lessons learned form IMSA70.3
  • I didnt have a drink bottle before the swim. Thankfully my wife was there with some money and we bought a drink. In the future I need to carry something with me.
  • I didnt deflate my tyres when I racked the bike. Newby mistake. 
  • I didnt carry a disk adaptor for the trip, NOR did I have one on my saddle bag in case of a flat.
  • I only left one of the velcros opened on my bike shoes, I had to open the other one when I got on the bike. Obviously not ideal!
  • Garmin 910XT malfunction. Cant do much about this one! 

  1. What was your toughest race to date? What distance was it and what was so tough about it?
  2. Have you raced IMSA70.3 before? What did you think about it? Will you do it again?
  3. What race mistakes have you made in the past? In which of the three disciplines were they?
  4. When is your next race? What distance is it?
  5. Do you have any questions for me? Shoot!


  1. Muchas felicicades Miguel!! tiempazo como siempre!

    1. Hola Tania, muchas gracias. Sigue entrenando fuerte! Un saludo desde Cape Town! :)

  2. 1. What an improvement over Jailbreak!! Even just that mental barrier being broken is HUGE! You're definitely ready for PE.
    2. Despite a few malfunctions or mistakes, you had a very solid race.
    3. The GPS issue is the main reason I don't like the idea of racing by metrics. If you can't get your HR, pace, power, or what not, then what do you do? Plus, what a horrible representation of Garmin!! I would definitely write to them.
    4. It was certainly a sad day to have those two athletes die in the swim, but it goes to show that none of us are invincible.

    Your questions...
    1. My 1st marathon was the toughest race to date because I did not know what I was getting myself into and had not trained properly. As for triathlon, Rev3 Quassy was the toughest course I've raced because of the non-stop hills.
    2. I've never raced IMSA 70.3
    3. I've made the mistake of depending on body glide at T2. Bodyglide does not hold up to heat while sitting in a bag very well and fell apart when I opened it. I've learned to go with Aquaphor during a race.
    4. Marathon is next on the 24th of this month.
    5. You mentioned picking up your "first bracelet." What was that?

  3. Felicidades Miguel, muy buena crónica. Un detalle: el Polar Barcelona es Sprint.

    1. Oopss!! Te imaginas un triatlon olimpico en con ese tiempo? Vamos, nis los Brownlee me pillan! Gracias, ahora lo cambio! :)

  4. Hey Miguel

    Thanks for posting your experience from 70.3. Was a great read! Congrats on a well executed race. Yes I'm sure you will improve you've proved that already and have got a positive outlook and plan on the road ahead. I wish you all of the very best for your Ironman journey in April. love every minute it really is an incredible experience!

    Best wishes


    1. Hi Scott,

      Thanks for stopping by and for the motivation. I will let you know how I get on! :)

  5. Thanks for stopping by my site.

    Congratulations on the finish!

    SA (Port Elizabeth) is on my docket to complete 6 IMs on 6 continents in 2014.
    Being from Africa, you might be interested to know that I am doing it to raise awareness about the plight of nearly a billion people around the world that struggle with finding clean water of which Africa is the leading continent.
    As for Garmins, I don't use them for two reasons you point out... cost and reliability.

  6. Congratulations on your first 70.3! I've been taking a break from tri over the winter, but was curious how things were progressing with you. Well, it seems!

    Great race description. I've definitely succumbed to the "just keep your head down and swim" temptation -- with similar results to yours. Something about sighting is hard work. And, 165-175 heart rate, I think my heart would explode on the bike at that rate.

    On your questions --
    1. Hardest race ever, Leadman Las Vegas (much of it on the 70.3 world championships course). Horrid winds, lots of hills. I've never had a ride like that.

    I hope you do qualify for Vegas, you can come over to my little part of the world.

    3. Race mistakes. First IM went out way too fast on the bike, so excited I forgot to eat enough for first 50 miles. Bonked hard on the run. Last year at IMCDA I had only seen the course from the car the day before, bike turned out to be much harder than I thought (similar to your Lycra-cleaning experience here). Probably biggest mistake ever, putting my head down and crashing into a cone in the road at high speed.

    4. St. George 70.3, then IronMan CDA in June (I know the course this time!)

    5. What's next?