I recently returned from Germany where I was meant to take part in the race of my life, Challenge Roth. It was meant to be a race I’d enjoy, race hard and post my personal best time. It was the first race of my life I was going into trained by a professional coach and participated in group training, through the great team at MyTrainingDay. I felt strong, I felt fit and I felt prepared. I was going to smash the race!
But more than that, it was going to be my 4th Ironman distance race, I had completed one before (IronmanSA 2011) and ended up in an ambulance in the two other attempts – IronmanSA 2010 and Ironman Cairns 2012 – both in the final 6km of the run! I have since learnt that it was a combination of being wayl under trained and that I had been taking 1/3 of the nutrition I should be in my races. Hindsight really is a wonderful thing!
So this would bring my ratio of success to 50%, and to me that’s critical, there’s nothing worse than knowing that on average, you’re failing.
Getting to Roth is a story in itself! It is the most attended Ironman distance race in the world and is the second oldest after Ironman Kona. Once open, the entries sell out in only 3 minutes! So how did I get an entry? By going through a 3yr scenic route across 3 continents.
2011 – Continent 1, Africa
It all started in 2011 with Challenge Cape Town. After training through the wet winter, the race was cancelled just weeks before race day. Rather frustrating when you dedicate so much time and energy into the training for the target to be snatched away in the closing days. It’s also such a pity, as Cape Town would have made for a truly spectacular course! In return for the inconvenience and frustration caused The Challenge Family allowed me to choose another race to participate in, at their cost. I chose Challenge Cairns in Australia.
2012 – Continent 2, Australia
After missing Challenge Cape Town in 2012, I set my compass South and signed up for Challenge Cairns in Australia the following year.
I managed to convince my two brother-in-laws and their father to race with me – they did so as a relay (see pic above) and it was a great day out..unfortunately, due to external circumstances the race was not held under the Challenge Family banner and I raced it as another Ironman race.
My extended family had a really good relay race and finished within a good time. However, my ending wasn’t as spectacular – with 6km left, I passed out and was taken off in an ambulance. I had to have 2 litres of liquid transferred back into my bloodstream due to severe dehydration. Watching your body suck four 500ml saline drips dry was slightly worrying, but I knew I was relatively safe and it wasn’t the end of the world!
2013 – Continent 3, Europe
I contacted the Challenge Family race organizers and explained my misfortune around Challenge Cairns being raced as an Ironman race, which was met with a really great response. “choose any Challenge Family race in the world”. With this open offer, there really was only one option – Challenge Roth – THE ultimate Ironman distance to race.
So all was not lost, as the end goal of racing a Challenge Family race, although now rather elusive, was still in sight and more appealing than ever before! Racing Roth would more than make up for my past frustrations and rekindle that true feeling of accomplishment of achieving what I set out to achieve.
So then there was Roth, THE Challenge Family race that I had pencilled in my diary mid-way through 2012 and decided to train better than I had before. This training was taken an unexpected sabbatical as a 2 month expedition up East Africa turned into 4.5 months as we hit severe weather and had to abandon ship mid way through the expedition. But I managed to keep up my Yoga and some core exercises – my team mates didn’t appreciate skipping on the deck as they slept below!
And after an email to Challenge Family midway through the expedition, asking to move the race to 2014 so I can get sufficient training was met with a stern NO, I had to train even harder as soon I set foot back in Cape Town.
Three months had passed and feeling stronger than ever, I boarded my plane to Nuremberg from Cape Town international. On arrival all was well, and I really felt on top form going into the race, with wonderful training sessions over the next couple of days forming the week leading up to race day. But then 3 days before race day, out of nowhere my throat became sore and this only got worse as the days progressed. I had contracted a viral infection. I could hardly move my neck, and could barely swallow and worse than that, it had spread throughout my bloodstream and brought on a fever. I was in serious trouble.
This came as an absolute surprise to me, as I had literally landed in Nuremberg feeling stronger than ever before, and in my training sessions there I felt perfect. But those 3 days before race day couldn’t have been more different, as the viral infection took hold of me and cut out any possible chances of me racing on the Sunday!
I’ve yet to feel the frustration I felt the two nights before race day. As you can see in the picture to the left, I had been wishing for an outside chance of recovery and a miraculous improvement in my health that would allow me to at least start the race, let alone finish it or get a my best time. I just wanted to start the race at least!
Unfortunately this was not to be, and I owe a BIG thanks to my wonderful host from Shwabach (Rike) and her equally kind mother, who is not only a doctor that checked my health, but gave up her time to see me at the place I was staying after normal work hours.
After being checked out by the Doc I was advised that there is no way I would be racing on Sunday considering my health. It was an extremely tough decision to comply, but with hindsight the only decision. Starting the race would not only have been extremely selfish, but would have put both my personal health and the reputation of the races safety at risk!
So the end result was me pulling out of the race and not being there on the start line. However, I still managed to get through to Roth on race day to support my fellow athletes – a highlight was walking back to the stand located 2km short of the finishing line and assisting the final runners, hoping to make the cut off. I’ve been in their position before, and recall how the support from the spectators at the very end of the day made the world of a difference to my race. It was great to be able to give back!
I am now back in Cape Town and already back into training as I gear up towards Challenge Roth 2014 – the journey continues!