Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2014-15 Season Summary

Its been a long time coming, but work and life in general haven't allowed me to write much on the blog, but here is a brief summary of whats happened since IM south Africa 2014:
  • Competed and finished IM Frankfurt with a PB of 10h:32ms
  • Competed and finished at IM 70.3 World Champs in Mont Tremblant, Canada with a PB of 5h:07ms
  • Only managed swim and bike at local Jailbreak olympic distance race due to injury.  
  • Competed and finished 2015 IM 70.3 South Africa with 5h:20ms. Disappointed with time, but the conditions were awful and everyone suffered. I placed 8th in my Age Group and would have gone to World Champs in Austria, but I didnt take the slot...or rather, I turned up late for slot allocation!!
  • Competed in 2015 IM South Africa but DNF.  PB on swim by 10 mins (1h:15m), Bike of 5h:52m, and injured on T2.
Not the best season, and definitely nothing to write home about, but I'll take my PB at IM Frankfurt, and my presence at the 70.3 World Champs in Canada as the highlight of the season.  I met some top pros in Canada and it was a great experience overall to compete in a world championship event!

After IM South Africa in March I took 5 weeks off training, completely OFF training.  Work and life in general haent allowed me much time to swim, bike and run, but it was good to take the foot off the gas pedal! I gained weight and reached 80Kgs for the fist time in 4 years, and it felt great!

The plan is to just keep ticking and stay active for a few months, do a few local 70.3 and shorter races, and look back at IM in the second half of 2016.  Below are some photos of the last season!

2015 IM South Africa - DNF
2015 IM South Africa - DNF

2015 IM 70.3 South Africa - 5h:20m
2014 Ironman Frankfurt -10h:32ms

2014 Ironman Frankfurt -10h:32ms
Ironman 70.3 World Champs - Mont Tremblant 5h:07ms
Ironman 70.3 World Champs - Mont Tremblant 5h:07ms
Ironman 70.3 World Champs - Mont Tremblant - with the MTD Squad
2014 Ironman 70.3 World Champs - Posing with eventual Pro winner, Javier Gomez-Noya
2014 Ironman 70.3 World Champs - Posing with 2014 Kona World Champ, Sebastian Kienle
Ironman 70.3 World Champs - Mont Tremblant 5h:07m

Monday, May 5, 2014

Ironman South Africa 2014 - Race Report

One month after Ironman, I am finally able to post the race report of what was, to date, my best race in this distance.

Nine months of training were about to culminate in what I was expecting to be close to 11h of racing in PE, so it was about time to travel out there and prep up for the last few days before race day.

We arrived in PE on Thursday and, like last year, I was well accompanied by my wife, kids, and my sister, who had traveled from Angola to not only watch my race on Sunday, but to also race on her very first triathlon on Saturday.  It was about to be a very busy and competitive weekend for the Vieira crew!

This year I chose a different Bed and Breakfast as last year’s was a bit too far, and we needed a car to get to and from the BB, so this year we stayed at the cozy Brighton Bed & Breakfast on Brighton Road in Port Elizabeth.  We checked in and decided to have something to eat so went out to the mall for a quick meal, and then back to set up the bikes and get some rest for the following day.

On Friday morning I went out for a quick and relaxed swim, then we all went out to the Expo, checked ourselves in and, obviously, spent some money at the different booths.  It was all very busy with athletes and their families, and you could feel the energy everywhere.  We met up with our Spanish friends Paco and Yolanda who drove from Cape Town to come and watch me.  Paco was a heavy smoker who had recently quit smoking and had been following my triathlon training and racing for the past 9 months.  I convinced him to give triathlon a go so he was also doing his first triathlon with my sister on Saturday before my race.  I couldn't wait to see them both compete, but before that, my power wife was racing the IronGirl 8,5Km run on Friday.

We both headed out to the starting line and we left the kids with our friends and my sister.  The the start line was completely packed and we had already talked about her pushing her way out to the front of the pack otherwise shew as going to be slowed down by the "walkers" in the race.  We kissed goodbye and off she was, to push her way up to the front of the start line before the gun went off.

There were roughly 1600 ladies doing the race, and many of them were either wifes or girlfriends of guys doing the Ironman on Sunday, but I was surprised to see that quite a few of them were actually racing IM on Sunday themselves and were just doing this 8,5Km race for a jolly! Good for them!

The gun went off and Sonia headed out on the first third of the group, but not quite as ahead as we would have liked.  As the avalanche of runners went by, the avalanche of family member ran to the beach road to wait for them to come by us.

She found her way to the front of the pack and passed us in the top 20 as we all cheered and shouted for her.  As the whole group passed us to go for a final turn around before coming under the arch and through the red carpet!  Once again my power wife was able to come in on the top 20 of this race, with a 20th position overall out of 1600 women, and 5th in her age group! I was so so proud of her! THAT'S MY GIRL!

One more medal for her collection, now if only I could convince her to give triathlon a try! I did, however, convince my sister Helga and friend Paco to try the Corporate Triathlon as their first event in the sport, which comprised of exactly one tenth of the distances we covered in the Ironman making it a 380m swim, 18Km bike, and a 4,2Km run.

On Saturday morning I accompanied them bright and early and I could feel both the excitement and nervousness in both of them, but my only advice to them was to not worry about any times, and just try to enjoy the experience! They both finished the race and had a blast... so much so that Paco registered for the ITU race in Cape Town with me 3 weeks later, and my sister registered for a half marathon in Houston, TX, and is already looking for her next triathlon race to enter! Triathlon does this to us... it gets us addicted!

Right, so by now I had lost my voice from all the cheering and screaming for my family and friends, and I needed to try and relax a bit, rest, and get ready for what was to be a very long day on Sunday!  I went to rack my bike and then I headed back to the hotel to rest.

Race Day

I had the alarm clock set for 4:15am, but there was really no need to do that as I kept waking up every hour during my sleep!  I already had my bike racked from the day before, but I kept going over the item list again and again as if I was expecting to have forgotten to pack anything in the bags... luckily not!

I left the hotel by myself and got to transition right after it had opened.  I carefully placed my nutrition and drink in their place, made sure I had 12 saltsticks for the bike and 6 for the run.  I needed to find someone to lend me a pump as I didn't take mine with me cuz I didn't want my wife to have to carry it around the whole day! I find a guy to lend me his pump and as Im pumping my front wheel... puff... the end o the valve (the part that unscrews loose) breaks!! FUCK! Immediately I thought "Ok, run to the hotel and get the spare front wheel (Zipp 404) for the race, no big deal"! I panicked a bit, I must say, but after a few deep breaths I realized I could still pump air into the tyre... and it would stay in! I pumped and pumped ( a bit harder than usual) and "voilá", it was fine! Yeah, big sigh of relieve from me.

I was all ready to go... but no family in sight yet, and the beach was packed! I had spoken to my wife and sister briefly telling them where I was, but they were already calling my wave out to the beach to line up and I was already expecting not to say goodbye to them, when I finally see them when on the phone to them. We kiss, we hug, and both my wife and sister give me a few words of encouragement, while my kids simply kiss me while still half asleep! Bless them!

Boy, I look dead tired here! 
For the first time this year, there were going to be different waves for the race start, and I was on the third wave after the pros and the 18-34 AG.  I didn't place myself at the very back this year, but neither did I go to the front of the pack! I was about two thirds of the way back and when the gun went off I followed the crowed into the Indian Ocean.  The first 300m were quite agitated and I did get and throw a few punches, but as we turned left at the first buoy it all got better as the field thinned with the faster swimmers gone quite quickly.  The whole swim was quite uneventful and relaxed.  I remember looking at the right and seeing the sun coming up on the horizon and thinking to myself how lucky I was to be there, with close to 3000 people racing in the sport I love and BAMMM.. (punched in the head by another swimmer) what was a sign to stop day dreaming and keep going! I was actually quite happy to get the same time as the year before, which was 90mins, so all I was thinking about was to keep going and not stress too much.  This year the swim was only one lap, which was surely welcomed  by me, but it felt like it just kept going forever!  i finally reach shore and get out of the water in 1h:14m, 5 minutes faster than the year before!

For me, this is where the Ironman fun begins! I consider myself a better than average biker and I was ready to shave some time on the field with my bike split.  My coach and I looked at my FTP and set my target wattage to 190 for the race, so all I had to do was look at my Garmin and keep the average wattage on 190W, and that would give me good bike time!  It was all a bit of a guessing game on the times, because they had changed the course from the previous year where I had an average of 170W for a time of 5h:29m, while this year we didnt really know what the 190W would give me in terms of time!

I headed out for the first of two laps and immediately my wattage was above 200W! I had to pace myself down on the wattage, specailly as the first 20Kms of the bike are on a gradual climb which, obviously, make you push more watts.  I was not worried about getting passed on the hill climbs, but I had my eyes on the descents to keep the wattage at 190W to stick to the plan.  
After the initial climb and descent we got into the hills, which was the new part of the course this year.  I was feeling fine and I knew what was ahead as I had driven the course a few days before! I stayed in the saddle, hugged the tri bars and stared at my cockpit spinning my legs, spinning and spinning! I was not going to fatigue on the climbs so I sticked to the plan and kept the wattage as low as possible on the climbs.

I was feeling very comfortable on the bike, and the wattage was at 192W on by lap 1, but I knew I had to do it all over again and keep the same effort on a hilly ride! As I do my first lap and go through the buzzing town center, I couldn't help but look around everywhere for my family! But as I reached and passed the Ironman arch over the road I thought I had missed them and headed towards the water station on the side of the road for a refill of my Speedfill bottle when I heard "Papiiiii... Papaaaa, Vamosss Miguel, Vamos Papaaa!!!" I almost crashed into the water tent as I was trying to grab a bottle and wave to my family at the same time! Needless to say, seeing them gave me an extra adrenaline boost which lasted long enough to get me half way up the hill out of town!

I do my best to stick to the power on the ups and downs, and just as Im getting ready to go down the first long downhill, my team mate Robbie catches me from the wave behind! It was great to know he was around as he is a great cyclist and very strong athlete who I knew was chasing a podium at that race.

Robbie passed me with a "heeyyy buddy", and  soon enough he was a few riders ahead of me, but I always had one eye on him and the other on my Garmin and the wattage.

After the dunes and the hilly part of the course, I reeled Robbie in and pushed a bit harder to stick to my wattage as it was falling behind at this point. I was able to finish the bike with a 185W BUT, but... my normalized power was 199W, meaning my effort could have given me 199W had I been a bit smarter on my power distribution on the bike.  Total bike time was 5h:49m.

I exited T2 at the same time as Robbie and even smiled at the camera when my sister was taking some photos saying "hey... Look who Im hanging with!!" Yeah, that didn't last too long as Robbie was soon gone at lightning pace while I was hanging on 4m:45s/Km for the first lap, which was quite comfortable.

My second lap, however, was a different story.  I hit a wall on Km 18 and slowed my pace down tremendously to the point where I was running 6m:20/Km at a point.  The way out of to the University is the worst at IMSA because we leave the crowd  and the party scene behind.  No family to cheers us on, and no screaming crowd to yell out your number even without knowing who you are! Out by the University we are on our own, chasing the guys in front of us and counting the turns to that last water station before we head back to the party scene.

Once we head back to the center of town our head lifts higher, our stride is firmer, and our back is straighter... "I'm ok, I got this!" your body is telling everyone! Every time I went by that crowd I had an extra bit of strength pushing me through! Every time I would go by the MyTrainingDay tent and the guys would scream my name I'd push a longer stride and a quicker candence! It was an unbelievable crew at the tent, and if anyone is reading this... thanks guys!

On lap two I passed a few of my squad mates who were showing signs of cramping and pain. I couldn't really do much but tap them on the back and yell out a "C'mon mate!". I was chasing a sub11h as a personal goal, but I was also chasing Tim and Rob (Yeah Tim.. I know you're gonna read this!!).

I could see Tim and Graham at the turn around point, and I chased them down after the first lap, hoping to close the gap on them on laps two and three. But Rob was behind me on the turnaround point meaning he was either about to lap me, or he was behind me and I did't notice passing him. After the second turnaround, I could see I had gained some ground on Graham, but Tim was actually pulling away! "Bastard" I thought! He's gonna beat me again!  I hit a bit of a wall on Kms 19 and 32, but I was able to press on the gas pedal for the last 10Kms.  I didnt manage to pass Tim (Yeah... I know you're reading this!) but I did manage to pass Graham and Grant to finish my run with a time of 3h:53m.

Looking Back
Looking back I dont think I could have done anything different or any better.  My swim is still where I can shave the most time on as most of the guys who I train with swan anywhere between 59m and 1h:15m.   I need to make the swim sessions with the squad and try to leave the water with the pack, and not behind the pack.

On my bike I feel I can still push my FTP 20W-30W towards the next season.  If I can come in 30 mins quicker on the bike, then I'll be chasing top10 spots on my AG (provided I swim quicker, of course).

My run was a bit up and down with two slumps which slowed down my pace.  I should be chasing 3h:30m in the marathon, meaning I need to shave over 20mins on this year's time in order to hope for Kona spots.

After the race I found my wife and kids and gave them the biggest hug! They were out there the whole day cheering for me and yelling every time I'd go by, and they are a massive part of this accomplishment, specially my wife.  I am able to train and compete in this crazy sport of ours because she allows me to! She is the apple of my eye and my queen!

One more year has gone by, and another IMSA completed.  Time to relax a bit and start training again for Ironman Frankfurt in July with the Argon18 Spanish Mafia! I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

IM 70.3 South Africa - Qualified for World Champs

I went to East London with my wife, kids, and my mother a few days before the race, and as part of the racing weekend, I registered both my mother and wife to do the Irongirl fun run! It was amazing to see my 57 year old mother enjoy every moment of what was her first ever competition, even with it being a fun run!  There were 1300 ladies running, some just for fun and some others really pushing it hard for great times.

My wife made me very proud once again, coming in 5th in her age group and 20th overall for a total of 37mins on the 8.5Km run, running at a pace of about 4:20/km! Not bad at all and very impressive! She was a bit disappointed as she came out 12th overall at last year's Irongirl during Ironman weekend, but I told her we have time to get her to a top 10 finish in April this year at Ironman South Africa.

On Saturday afternoon I racked my bike in transition and deflated the tires just in case, although it looked like it was going to be a wet and rainy afternoon.  On race day I turned up bright and early, right after transition opened at 5am, and inflated my tires, placed my drink behind the saddle, and racked my transition bags.  I was pretty much done in 30 minutes or less.  The waiting game then started and I was high-fiving my team mates and talking to random people about the nerves and excitement of race morning.

As always, I was sure my swim was going to be my weakest result of the day, but I still wanted to beat last year's 47 minutes, so I placed myself towards the left of the holding area out in the beach, and when the gun went of I sprinted like a bat out of hell.  The sea was calm and there were no waves, unlike last year, but it still took a good 50 meter sprint to get fully submerged in the water.

I wanted to make it to the first buoy quickly and then relax a bit afterwards, keeping my strokes constant  and steady breathing.  We must have been about 300 in my wave, but there was not too much punching or kicking around. It was a smooth start of the day.  I made it through half way quite comfortably, and as we turn around to come back I start seeing yellow caps passing me.  These were the fast swimmers on the wave behind me, and this is when it starts getting depressing... they started five minutes later and they already caught me! Anyway, I didn't let it get to me and finished my swim in 41 minutes, shaving 6 minutes from last year! "Good start, good start" I kept telling myself.

I get out of the beach and run up towards transition where the volunteers helped me get my wetsuit out! I grabbed my bike bag, poured everything out on the ground and repacked it with my swimming stuff, handed it out to the volunteers and ran out of transition with my bike! I didn't know it yet, but I had shaved another minute off my transition time, so I was now a total of 7 minutes ahead of last year's time!

As I jumped on the bike I had my shoes clipped on, but unfortunately the velcro on the left shoe got loose and I had a bit of a hard time putting it back on while riding the first Km.  I eventually fixed it and got down on my TT bars.

For those of you who do not know it, IMSA 70.3 is the second toughest 70.3 in the world. We had a total of 1200m gain in 90kms, and although its 45Kms climbing on the way out of town, you still do your share of climbing on the way back to town on some tired legs on those rolling hills.

The first Kms on the bike were a bit slow as I was getting myself together and basically spinning high cadence.  I was behind people who had obviously swam faster than me, but I knew the bike was my strength, so I had to make my move quickly to make the most of the 90Kms available to me!

Before we got on the highway I got off the saddle and started pushing the watts.  In the back of my mind I had the number 205, which was what my coach told me to average on wattage, but with a route going up half of the course and down the other half this was going to be very hard to pinpoint!

I was flying on the bike, passing people from waves 2 and 3, which was great for my ego!  As you can see from the image on the left, I started the bike on overall position 1751 and AG position 244, and finished in overall position 198, and AG position 33.  This means I passed a total of 1553 people, and 211 of those where on my AG.  Not too shabby, and again, great for the ego...although the price to pay wouldn't be cheap as I ended up with an average of 213 watts instead of 205 prescribed.

Transition 2 was smooth with no hick-ups at all.  I handed the bike to the volunteers, sprinted to get my bag, changed and hit the ground running behind a few of my teammates who had left on earlier waves.


I started the run feeling my legs heavy and tired, and I could already tell I was going to pay for the additional wattage I pushed on the bike.  I chased a few of my team mates down and passed them on the first Km, but I was soon caught by my team mate Tim, who was on my wave and I had previously passed on the bike.  We stayed together for a few kms but then I took off  ahead of him.  I gave it my all to try and keep a fast pace, but my legs were just not having it.  As I went through Bukers Hillthe first time, I managed to keep running, allbeit very slowly, and pushed hard on the way down from the top.  I could see another team mate of mine on a distance, Robb Cragg, who is a much faster swimmer than me, but who I had chased down a bit on the bike.  My eye was on him but I was not able to catch him.  Not only that, but Tim passed me on the last 3Kms of the race and we all arrived within 1 min of each other!

When I finished and looked at my watch I realized I had shaved 20 minutes from my previous time in 2013.  I must admit I was a bit chuffed to not have been able to catch my mates, but that just shows me how important a strong and solid swim is at the start!  I should have kept a steady 205 watts all trough the bike, and that would have allowed me a faster run to finish it off.  I supposed that's a lesson learned for the next race!

My race official race time was 5h:19m:01s, a bit more than 20 minutes off my 2013 result and 25th on my AG, down from 45 last year!

Later that day I went to the slot allocation ceremony, and along with two of my mates I got a slot to the World Championships in Mont Tremblanc, Canada.  My slot was a roll down, but I took it anyway as the experience to race a world championship must be one not to miss!

Now I am only 7 weeks away from Ironman South Africa and the training is very intense.  Last week I had 20h of training scheduled (I only managed 15h), and this week I have 24h scheduled, which I will try and do by hook or by crook.  My mornings are starting earlier and earlier, but hopefully It will all be worth it if I am able to manage a sub 10h time in SA or Frankfurt. Apart from training with MyTrainingDay I have also secured a private swim coach to work on my swim technique, as this is still the big elephant in the room, and where I will shave the most time on from here onwards.

Thanks for stopping by the blog and showing your support. Please feel free to leave a comment or question for me. Train safely and stay fit!

  1. Have you ever qualified for a regional, national, or world championship? Where?
  2. Which of the three disciplines is your strongest? Weakest? What are you doing to address the weakest?
  3. What are your A races this year, and what times are you aiming for?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Season Summary - Season Goals

It's been several months since my last post, but as for most of us, life gets in the way of updating my blog and I find myself postponing it week after week! I am, however, out on business and have found a few hours (late at night) to jot down some words in order to summarize all that's been happening.

The family is loving Cape Town, and I do not think we could have made a better decision or picked a better place to live.  The people are very friendly and welcoming, and now that we have been here for just over a year we almost feel like locals already.  The expat community is quite large and there are people from all over the world.  Cape Town has just been named the top spot to visit in 2014, so that ratifies our decision to move here.  My children are quite active with sports and dancing activities, and my wife has started competing in half marathons last year.  They are loving life in Cape Town.

I try not to mention much about my work on this blog as I want it to be purely athletic focused, but I must say that my move here has also benefited my company tremendously and that has taken some pressure off my shoulders, and diminished my need to constantly travel as on previous year while I was in London.

Things could not be going better.  I can honestly say that, at age 37, I feel I am in the best shape of my life.  Taking into account the fact that I had to completely stop exercising for three months last year after IMSA due to my ankle sprain, things completely changed when I joined MyTrainingDay.  Kent Horner, SA professional Triathlete, has been the key component to me being in the shape I am.  Some of the key factors which have helped me stick to the plan and, therefore, have improved my fitness level are as follow:

-Team bike sessions: Every Tuesday and Thursday we ride from 4:45am to about 7am.  These session make me get my ass out of bed and actually go out there and train.  Mostly intervals and hill repeats in different variations and intensity.
-Team track/speed sessions: one of my favorite sessions since I am really a fast twitch athlete.
-Long rides with the team: I have been riding on my own since I started with triathlon, and I can definitely feel the difference when riding with this squad.  We are fortunate to have people of all levels so there really is no pressure to stay up at the top with the pro triathletes, but over the past few weeks I have been strong enough to hang with them at 29Km/h over 120Km ride, with 1300m total ascent!
-Strava: Now, this really doesn't have much to do with me joining the team, but I am pretty sure we all agree we love to get new segment records, KOM, and PR showing up on the screen when we log our workouts. You can click on the link above to find me and follow my training sessions! :)
-2014 Goals: Last but not least, I have set some tough goals for this season and I know that, unless I put in the hours, I will not be able to achieve them.  My goals for 2014 are:
    • To finish IMSA 70.3 in the top 20 of my AG, and hopefully qualify for the World Championship in Mont Tremblanc.  I am aiming at anything between 5h-5h:15m.
    • To finish IM South Africa under 11 hours.
    • To finish IM Frankfurt under 10 hours.
I have done three races this season but have not been able to do a race report for either of them.  The first one was 11 Global, then Slanghoek and Jailbreak. They were all good Olympic distance warm up races, but where I felt best was at the last race where I ran the 11Km at a 4m:20s average, setting a strava segment run record.  Oh, and did I mention my new acquisition? Here she is, my 2014 Argon 18, E118:

Upcoming Races
I am writing this post from Mozambique and I am back in Cape Town tomorrow at lunch time.  When I get home I will leave with the family to the Western Province Championships which will take place on Sunday.  This should be a good gauge of my fitness level as I head out to East London the following week for IM 70.3.  

Thanks for stopping by, but before you leave please share some of your motivating factors with me and the blog readers.
  1. What makes you get up in the morning and get those training sessions done? 
  2. Do you train alone or with a triathlon club?
  3. What are your goals for this season?
  4. What is your A race for 2014?

Friday, August 30, 2013

So.. you wanna be a triathlete?

Its been a while sice I blogged, and to get back into it nothing better than a few lines from on what our sport is really about:

Fact: you will not become efficient at swimming, biking or running over night. Sorry to burst your bubble. This is NOT an easy sport.

Check your ego at the door because chances are someone fifty pounds heavier than you will lap you in the pool. Not to mention she will be ten or fifteen years older than you.

You will be passed on the bike many times and you will never be the fastest runner in your town.
You will have early morning workouts. Really early.
You will plan your weekends around your swim, bike and run.
You are up while others are sleeping.
You are training while others are sitting.
You will discover others who also follow this blood, sweat and tears cult.
You will eventually get a flat tire... and have to change it all by yourself.
No matter what you hear, triathlon is NOT an inexpensive sport.
Warning, it is extremely addictive, hence the impulse spending on wetsuits, bikes, running shoes, aero bars, aero helmets, speed suits, power meters, GPS heart-rate monitors and many other ‘gotta have items.’
You will hate swimming more times than you like it for the first year.
You will suffer through road trips with whiny fellow triathletes.
You will suffer set backs.
You may experience an injury.
You will develop a love/hate relationship with a foam roller and ice baths.
You will at some point realize you need a coach.
You will hate swimming for the first year.
You will wear tight clothing.
You will not like how this tight clothing fits or looks.
Your age will take on a whole new meaning.
You will discover a whole new meaning for tan lines.
Food will become an extremely important part of your life.
You will learn new words such as GU, cadence and brick.
You will hate swimming for the first year.
You will spend more time on your bike than on your couch.
You may lose a friend or two because you spend too much time swimming, biking and running, and they could careless about your heart rate training, foam rolling pain or 20 mile bike ride.
You will learn patience.
You will be humbled.
You will start to realize you are paying money to put yourself through pain and suffering, but for some odd reason, you LOVE it.

This sport called Triathlon, becomes a part of you. You start to plan your entire year around sprint, international, half-iron or full-iron distance races. Your vacations become racing, and you start to realize that this sport called triathlon could become a life-long adventure.
Many people settle for things in life. They settle for a crappy job, marriage, friends, food, place to live and overall fitness and health.

Those who desire more or those who want more out of life than a drive-thru window and boring sitcom, will choose triathlon or an activity that makes them happy. An activity that will change their life. Triathlon will change your outlook on life, your career, your marriage, your goals, your friends and many other things you thought you had figured out. It’s not just crossing a finish line or a boring finisher medal. It’s the countless hours that got you to that point. A moment in time that you will NEVER forget. A moment that you will discuss with your family and friends for hours if not days after the event. These discussions will most likely be about how you could have done better. At what point could you have swam faster, biked harder or ran more efficient? This is what will go through your head everyday until you get the opportunity to suffer again.

So you wanna be a Triathlete? Enjoy the ride and train hard!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ironman South Africa 2013 - Report

Wow, I did it! I still remember the day I woke up in March 2010 and told my wife I was going to register for a triathlon to lose some weight, and now, three years later, I finished my first Ironman race!

A few days after we got home from the race my wife hugged me and asked me if I felt any different, if I felt anything had changed, and I asked her what she meant! She said, “Miguel, you have accomplished something not many people are able to accomplish. Many only dream about it or watch it on TV, but you did it… don’t you feel any different? How does it feel?” That was an interesting question from the person who has been affected the most by my training and dedication. Let's look at my experience in detail before I answer that question for you guys.

Thursday, April 11th
Our flight was planned for Thursday at 4pm and we got to the airport with plenty of time.  As we checked in there was an issue with my wife’s ticket, and they weren't going to allow her to board the plane.  This was going to be the worst start to what was supposed to be a great family weekend experience.  I was with the airline for close to one hour and they eventually fixed the issue with her ticket.  

As we all get on the bus to take us to our plane, my wife notices she had left the baby bag with her purse, all of the baby’s nappies and clothing by the airport x-ray scans.  I jumped out of the bus, ran up the escalators, got to the police x-ray scans and, luckily, the bag was there with everything still intact.  I ran back to the bus and off we were to the plane.  Those of you who follow my Instagram account will remember I had sprained my ankle three weeks before the race and I hadn’t ran since.  Well, this little exercise made my ankle hurt and I was starting to have second thoughts about my ability to do the run on the weekend.  I didn’t make a big deal out of it and I shook it off.

We landed in Port Elizabeth and there were massive Ironman posters on the airport and all around town.  We got our stuff and our transfer was waiting for us outside to take us to our Bed and Breakfast.   As we got to the BnB we met up with my Spanish friends, and I realized the BnB was a bit further away from the beach and race than I thought, so we decided I was going to head back to the airport and rent a car so we could get around.  I went to the airport, got a car, and went to get my bike from FOTFL.  I assembled the bike that night and then we went to dinner somewhere nearby. 

Friday, April 12th
Friday morning Guillermo, Toni, Pablo, Pedro and I woke up early and went out for a swim on the course.  We did an easy 1.9Km (1 lap) and then went back to the hotel for breakfast.  After breakfast Pedro and I went to register at the Expo quickly so we could meet up the guys at the BnB for our morning ride.  We got back on time,  jumped on the Argon18 bikes and headed out for a 60Km ride on the course.  It was fun going out with the Argon18 Mafia guys from Barcelona.  We all took our turns up front, Guillermo got away for a while then he slowed down, but it was a great opportunity to ride the course, feel the road, which was very rough, and have a feel for what the toughest parts would be out there on Sunday.  

After the ride I headed out to the beach with my wife, sister and children as both my wife and sister were running the IronGirl fun run with 1500 women.  It was a very, very colorful race with women of all ages, shapes and nationalities.  My wife finished the race in 12th position overall, 2nd in her AG, and my sister finished 48th overall and 8th in her AG.  I was very, very proud of both of them, and it was great seeing my daughters cheering their mummy and auntie on during the race!

Baby got BACK

Sonia coming in on 12th position
My IronGirls with their well deserved medals! And our parking attendant on the background

Saturday, April 13th
Saturday morning we headed out again for an early morning swim, but as we got to the beach we realized there was a sprint triathlon going on and the beach was swamped with triathletes.  We decided to head down to the beach anyway and we swam away from their course.  This time Pablo, myself and Pedro did a short 700m swim, basically an out and back to the first race buoy, but Tony and Guillermo did a few more and we headed back home.

No more training at this point, and since I hadn’t been to the race briefing before, I decided to go to the 11am briefing on Saturday.  Butterflies all over my stomach from the moment I stepped in the auditorium! Hundreds of people from all over the world were in that room, and that was just one of the many race briefs over the weekend. After the race briefing I went to the hotel, picked up the bike and racked it for the following day.

Race Day - Sunday, April 14th
Me and the boys got up and met by the pool at 5:30am.  We headed out to the transition area and we each went to our bikes for final check ups.  My wife and sister were going to meet up with us at 6:30am by transition.

As I go to my bike I placed all my nutrition in my nutrition bag, and then..FUCK!! I forgot my drink to put on my Speedfill! "Damn, damn... ok, ok calm down" ... "FUCK, FUCK.... calm down" I thought to myself. I remember seeing on the race briefing that the very first aid station was 1Km from the bike start, so all I had to do was remember to get my water at that station!  I placed my bike shoes on the bike and secured them to the bike with rubber bands, ready to fly onto it on T1.

I took a bit longer to get to the beach than planned as the mandatory toilet stop took a bit longer than expected due to a quite long line as you can imagine!  When I finished pooping I went looking for the guys but they were already by the beach, so I called my wife, met up with her, my children and sister and we said our goodbyes! As my wife was helping me put my wetsuit on and as I was pulling the left sleeve up...... "rrrriiiiiiippp" a big rip on the sleeve! I could not believe that! A ripped wetsuit 5 minutes before the swim start on my first Ironman! My wife looked at me, I looked at her and she told me "You'll be fine baby, you'll be fine, just don't think about it". I was scared shitless at this moment as swimming is my worst discipline, and I was imagining the rip extending down and up my suit creating drag and letting loads of water in!!! "Time to man up... time to man up!" I thought as I headed out to the beach to start my swim. "It is what it is, so just deal with it" I thought!

3.8 Km SWIM
I placed myself towards the left, about three quarters of the way back of the pack.  The first 300ms were a bit choppy as it was 1800 of us, but, to be honest, I felt quite comfortable and didn't feel a bad punch or kick at all.  As we got to the first buoy it must have taken us about 3 minutes to go around it because we were just so many swimmers out there. I took my time and after the first buoy I was off.  There was another buoy half way to the end of the first straight line, and I made sure I was in line with it all the time.  I went around the first lap in 42 mins, and as I exited the water I didn't see my family so I jumped back in for the second lap.

The second lap was fine with no problems at all, other than making sure I was in line and not swaying to the sides as I had done before at other races.  Sighting was not an issue as there were hundreds of swimmers around me, so I made sure I was always near someone. I chatted with a guy on the last 400m as we both stopped to sight, and we pumped each other up with a "C'mon, lets do this", and we were off!

I exited the water in 1h:28mins, which was 15 mins ahead of my planned time of 1h45mins. I was happy the rip on my wetsuit didnt make a difference and didn't extend any further, but not too happy about the fact I need to "invest" a substantial amount of money on another one!


As I exited the beach and went up the steps I was still feeling a bit dizzy, as you do, but managed to get my wetsuit out and get my bike bag from the rack.  I didn't rush out of transition and I actually took a bit of a breather before heading out on the bike, chilling a bit while I put my Quad and Calf compressions on. Transition 1 time was 05m:39s

180 Kms Bike
As I head out of transition and hear my family cheering for me on the sidelines my adrenaline levels shot right up to the roof.  it was great seeing and hearing them cheer from me!  I jumped on the bike on the move, placed my feet in the shoes, and made sure I grabbed a drink on my way past the first aid station.  

The way out of town is uphill and a bit of a challenge at this point given we were all still tired and dizzy from the swim.  Nonetheless, I kept on going, ramming those gears on my way up the hill.  I remember what Guillermo said when we went out on the course recognition ride on Friday,"This is the typical course where if you go too hard on the first lap, you reach the last lap completely dead", so I made sure I was going fast, but not too fast to ensure I still had something left in the tank for the last lap.

My pace was good and I was averaging 32Km/h, with a few stints over 70Km/h.  I was not looking at my wattage at this point as I was aiming for a 6h ride avaring 30Km/h, so I knew I was ahead of schedule with this average.  I passed hundreds of people, and I was only passed by two guys, who obviously had paid quite a lot of attention to their leg strength as they both had MASSIVE legs! Note to self, improve leg strength next season!

I was taking my Gu gels and my saltsticks every 30 minutes as per plan, and I was feeling fine, with no tummy issues, no cramps, and my ankle was not bothering me at this time.  On my second lap I starting taking some pain killers as I was expecting my ankle to start hurting on the run, and I wanted to delay it as much as possible.  I cramped a little on the last 50Kms but I was able to shake it off by standing on the bike and slowing down the pace a bit. 

Following my cramps, the 
unthinkable happened! 
I started having issues with my gears and Iwas not able to keep the rear derailleur on the little chain-ring to keep the speed up.  It slowed down my pace and two guys managed to pass me.  I couldn't believe it, mechanical problems on my first IM!! Everyone's nightmare!  I kept playing with the gears and I realized that it was my Di2 battery which was dying on me, so I tried different combinations between the front and rear rings to keep my speed up, but at this point I was riding at 27Km/h and I was not a happy man!  The last 30Kms were the longest, as I was expecting the worst to happen, but I managed to reach T2 in a time of 5h:29mins, half an hour ahead of schedule and with plenty of energy still left in the tank.


I was happy to be 45 minutes ahead of schedule (15' on swim and 30' on bike), but the hardest part was still to come.  As I got my run bag I went to the medical tent and told them about my ankle injury three weeks before the race.  They applied some cold spray, tapped me up gently, and sent me on my way in 07m:14s

42Kms Run
Before the race Guillermo told me that an Ironman doesn't really start until Km 28 of the marathon, and I remembered those words as I exited T2.  I was praying for my ankle to hold up, and really looking forward to that finish line... but I still had 42Kms to run!

I ran the first lap with no issues and very little pain, but I was still taking my pain killers, which ran out on me in the middle of lap 1 of the marathon.  as you can see from my GPS below (click for details), I managed to run the whole of the first lap without stopping once, BUT  I ran out of saltsticks on lap 1, and I knew cramps were about to kick in at any minute, but that was due to a dumb mistake by me, having placed my saltstick tube in my run bag with no pills inside it! Dumbass!!

I went around the first lap in 1h:24m, meaning an average pace of 6m/Km. From the second lap onwards it really was downhill, with lots of pain on my ankle.  I managed to hold on to the pain by walking the aid stations on the second lap, getting me around in a total run time of 3h:48m, lowering my average to 6m:48s/Km. But it was the last lap that killed me. At this time I was walking most of the way around, and my ankle was not having it any other way!  My total running time was 5h:20ms.

Post Race
When I crossed the line Paul Wolf, the race director, shook my hand and asked me if I wanted to give my son back to my family.  I handed Angelo back to Guillermo and Monica and asked them to find my wife, who was about 20 meters away from them on the stands.  I then headed out to the massage tent where I had a 10 minute leg and back massage which, at that moment, was the best thing I could wish for!  As I am getting ready to get up form the bed I hear my wife shouting my name at the entrance of the tent so I go towards her and she hugged me and kissed me with tears in her eyes! "You did it baby, you did it!" she said to me! I hugged her and thanked her for having been there and having put with all my training to be able to reach this goal!

Although it was not the sub12 time I was looking for, I am still happy with my time taking into account the fact that it was my first ever IM, and I raced it with a recently sprained ankle!  It was a bitter sweet feelinb, but as one of my Instagram and Tweeter followers said, "there will be other days to chase times, you are an Ironman Miguel".

I get emotional when I think about what I have achieved with my training and racing.  People who don't share this sport and lifestyle find it hard to understand, and many think we are crazy for doing what we do... putting our bodies through the long and tough hours of pain on our training and racing, but they don't have to understand it, as long as we do!  

So what did I tell my wife when she asked me what I felt like that morning a few days after the race?  I told her I didn't feel particularly different.  I told her I felt the same, apart from, obviously, still feeling a bit sore from the race! I told her I was now even more hungry for Kona because I had a taste of what racing IM was like.  Because of the bitter sweet feeling from having had to walk the best part of the last 14 Kms! Because I knew I was on pace to go sub11, but my ankle made me add an additional 90 minutes to my time!  I told her I felt the same, just a bit more hungry for the goal we all have, which is to go to Kona, at least once in our life!

Lessons Learned
  1. No more running in the dark on training days. That's how I sprained my ankle three weeks before the race.
  2. No matter what, always recharge my Di2 battery prior to race day!
  3. Make sure ALL my saltstick tubes have salt pills in them, specially my run tube!
  4. Pay more attention to strength/core training next season. Definitely not enough done this year!
  5. Continue working on my swim, as I need to get closer to 1h swim time