The Scoop on 2018 70.3 Worlds in South Africa

Last month I was lucky enough to race Ironman South Africa (Ironman African Championships). My Husband, Scott, is from South Africa and the location of the race was his hometown, Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay). He and his brothers would even launch their inflatable boat (rubber duck is the South African term) on the same beach from where we would do the swim and transition. We were already going to be in South Africa for a family wedding 2 weekends prior so I decided to race with the many thanks to the family that supported all the logistics involved!

An added benefit is I would learn some useful information on the race that could help my athletes, friends and maybe even an internet visitor to this site racing 70.3 Worlds this year; as it’s at the same location as Ironman South Africa (IMSA).

Here is some of the scoop I learned on the course specifics, nutrition and logistics. It’s focused on travel from the US but many parts are applicable to traveling from other locations.

Course: 

Swim:

The swim is located at Kings Beach about 1 mile from the expo (The Boardwalk) and the location of the swim for IMSA (Hobie Beach). It is a rectangular swim. I recommend at least one practice swim to work on figuring out site lines etc. A big harbor with cranes is located off to the distance that may be useful for siting. It’s a protected bay but can be wavy. Some days the course was quite rough but other days almost flat ocean swimming. Prepare at home by practicing ocean swims and starting from the beach if you have the capability.

Bike:

The bike is slightly different than the Ironman course. The two biggest things I found were the roads are very rough as well as the potential for very high winds. Potholes weren’t the issue but just a really rough surface. Not as much an issue in a 70.3, but can tire the body more than a smooth course. The course itself is one of the most spectacular bike rides I can remember with tide pools, beach vistas and sand dunes. My Father-in-Law told me that Port Elizabeth is the second most windy city in the world to Chicago. Two days before our race the wind was whipping at more than 25mph sustained. It was crazy and luckily we didn’t have that wind on race day. The prevailing winds are easterly or westerly which can make for some fun headwinds on race day!

The biggest climb is right at the start of the ride, ~200 feet over about 7 miles. Nothing like the 2017 Chattanooga starting climb! There are some additional climbs near the turn around but much shorter and about 50-75 feet in climbing each. The rest of the course is flat to false flattish of ~1%ish with some long stretches of minor grades and some light rollers.

If you can before the race, drive the race course. I highly recommend if you do ride it you do the group ride that is in the athlete guide as especially in the first several miles you will be riding on roads with lots of traffic (watch out for the many taxi-vans!!). If you cannot do the group ride, I would recommend going out on beach towards Summerstand and on to Seaview (the second half of the course), and skipping the city part all together (the first part of the course).

Not to be forgotten, you drive on the left side of the road in South Africa! This is another reason to do a pre-race ride if you can to get acclimated to riding on the other side of the road!

Run:

The run is very similar to what we did at IMSA. It is pretty flat. And probably the most highly spectated race than I have ever done and includes cheerleaders! There are several sections where the people were several deep. The South Africans take their sport VERY seriously! Many are not triathletes but just fans of Sport. You will get many offers to join them for a beer while you are racing. So fun!

Cheerleaders!

There are two hills on the two loop course. Both are at the turnarounds. I recommend checking these out before race day. We did the second one during the Ironman and it was not steep at all! This course has about 1/3 the elevation gain of the hilly Chattanooga 70.3 Worlds course.

Nutrition (if you are not going to take race nutrition from the course skip ahead):

The race website doesn’t have nutrition information updated yet, but, the High5 rep at the Ironman expo told me High5 will be the drink provider on the course. https://highfive.co.uk/ 

High5 at the Expo.

You can’t really buy this nutrition in the US currently. We have used Probikekit based in England before (they typically have good prices) if you want tot try the nutrition beforehand: https://www.probikekit.com/brands/high5.list?search=high5 

The specific High5 drink is called Advanced Sports Drink Mix Energy Source (now apparently called Energy Drink). The flavor on both run and bike courses was Citrus. Nutritional information in South Africa is listed differently than in the US and can be a little confusing.

On the bike course it was passed out in these small bottles that were filled not all the way to the top. Each was filled with about 13 ounces.  On the run course High5 was in standard paper cups. Doing some conversions, I estimate that each ~13 ounce bottle has about 150 calories and 200mg of sodium.

Bike bottle and High5 on the course

Also, on the run course, the water is provided in sealed pouches of about 3-4 ounces. To open you just tear off a corner by biting the corner. They are actually quite convenient as you can carry it with you as you go. But watch at aid stations, they can become slippery on the ground!

Logistics:

Getting to South Africa:

Since I am from the Northern VA area, this is centered around leaving from Dulles or the East Coast.

The “quickest” way to get there is on South African Airways – “17 and change hours” to Johannesburg – but note there is a layover in West Africa where you don’t get off the plane and wait as people deplane and board. This layover is typically in the middle of the night. Not very pleasant.

Another option is to fly out of JFK on South African Airways or Atlanta on Delta. The flights are 15 hours and non-stop! There are also several options flying through Europe, UAE or Qatar, but the time to Johannesburg is going to be 4-10 hours longer. Going through Europe/Middle East also allows you to fly to Cape Town.

Then once in Johannesburg it’s another 2 or so hour flight. The race site is only a few miles from the Port Elizabeth Airport.

We carried my bike on our flights (we actually did 7 individual flights on the trip). I have a Ruster Sports Hen House bike box and it worked perfectly. On the domestic flights within the country we paid for the bike in advance. It worked out to about 25 US dollars (R300) per domestic flight which was mcuh cheaper than paying oversize and extra baggage weight fees. The bike was free as it was included in our baggage allotment on our flight from the US. Happily my bike made it on every flight on time!

6 people, 7 flights, 20 days, 6 pieces of luggage, bike box, stroller, car seat, 6 bookbags and no lost or delayed luggage – MIRACLE!

Hotels:

There are quite a few hotels along the run course. I am not sure how many still have availability but most seemed to be centered around the Boardwalk area where the expo is located. If you are unable to find available rooms near the Boardwalk, I would recommend looking towards the beach area of Summerstand over Humewood. Prettier, and felt safer.

We stayed at one of the Lodge properties and it was suitable and very convenient.

Race logistics:

I found racing in South Africa to be very organized. The race briefing was listed as mandatory and I am glad I went. They really explain everything that you need to hear and it’s much more complete than the ones in the US. You won’t get the Athlete guide as early as you want (only a few weeks before the race) but once you get it, I found it VERY helpful.

The race itself had more officials than I had ever seen at a race. Many more than a big US Ironman on the bike (better than Texas – HAH) but what was most different was the run. There were officials walking down the center of the course. I saw at least 10 different ones race day! For example, they were strictly enforcing the exposed chest rule on male athletes.

Tourist stuff:

Addo Elephant park was excellent! Highly recommend it, especially if you don’t have time to do another side trip in South Africa. Near the bike turnaround in Seaview is a predator park. Scott went on his last trip to South Africa and really enjoyed it.

That being said if you are traveling that far I highly recommend visiting some other parts of South Africa. This could be a post in itself but my favorites on this trip were Stellenbosch wine farms (great riding too!) and Cape Town.

Mulderbosch Wine Farm – also had the best pizza I have ever tasted.

One thing we didn’t have time to do this trip was a Safari or visiting a game reserve. There are private game reserves about 1-1.5 hours from Port Elizabeth, but they can be pricey ($300-600 per person per night). Large national parks such as Kruger are a 2-3 hour flight away.

Note: Whale watching season is in September and worth a trip to Hermanus or Plettenburg Bay.

Food/restaurants, groceries:

Food, restaurants, alcohol and groceries are VERY affordable in South Africa (hint hint one of the many reasons I loved the Stellenbosch wine farms). One of my favorite restaurants in Port Elizabeth is Something Good which is located in Summerstrand on the run course. Wimpy is an extremely affordable chain of diner like restaurants (perfect for pre-race and post-race breakfasts and there is one in the Boardwalk next to the expo). If you have kids with you on the trip you have to try out a Spur as most have a indoor play area staffed with a nanny and they have some level of “American” food such as steaks (they call them filets pronounced FILL-IT) and burgers.

Grocery stores were underwhelming. Many things we are used to they just don’t have. I never found a bagel or applesauce. But they had some other cool things like meat pies for breakfast! The nicest (and most expensive most of the time) grocery store is Woolworths.

Communications:

Unlock at least one phone in your traveling group with your phone carrier and purchase a sim card in any grocery store or gas station. You can get 2GB of data for the equivalent of 10 dollars.

Driving:

Don’t take African Taxi-buses. When returning rental cars really look over your receipt, they sometimes like to try and sneak over-charges.

Overview:

The trip to South Africa was just amazing. We had a fabulous time. Hopefully reading this blog helps with your planning to South Africa or helps you make a decision whether or not to take a slot. Email me at fiv3racing@gmail.com if you have any questions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

End of the Offseason, Wrap-up

Tomorrow starts the training for Ironman South Africa! Well actually today does, but I have today as a rest day. Back in the pool for the first time since September and on the bike for more than just fun rides.

The offseason was pretty productive this year. It was ~ 2 months long from my last race in late September until now. South Africa is April 15th so I have a solid 4.5 months to prepare. Some things that I accomplished on my offseason:

1. Lots of rest, no stressing on missed workouts (mostly accomplished) and a break from the trainer and the pool!

2. The run has always been my weakness so I took about a week off here (I believe in 2 weeks a year of time off from the run, typically in 2 one-week blocks). The first month or so was pretty inconsistent, but the last month I ran over 100 miles. My running was mostly base work with some what I like to call “micro-intervals” as given by Coach Liz, http://www.multisportmastery.com. I love these intervals – typically anywhere from :15 to 3:00, they are all about foot speed, run economy and keeping some level of fast running in the training without over taxing the body. I have found over the years that running feels mostly awful if I run less than 20 miles a week. Once over that threshold things are much more enjoyable.

3. Along with the run training I made a trip with my athlete Troy to the UVA Speed Clinic. This was a very useful trip as I learned that the issue with my running was something I hadn’t thought about at all! I know I have swimmers posture, something I have worked on all my life but Max taught me how to work on that in my running! I had been sticking my head/neck too far forward, which caused overstriding and issues I have been experiencing in my hamstrings/hips. With a simple cue of “neck back” my posture was suddenly better with very little muscle engagement and I have noticed I am using more of my posterior chain instead of just being a “quad runner”. This trip also motivated me to get back into yoga as it would help with my postural issues.  https://med.virginia.edu/speed-clinic/

UVA Speed Clinic
Learning my exercises

4. I also did 10 yoga sessions that were really helpful for strength, flexibility and mobility. And they were a great change of pace from swim, bike run. http://fiv3racing.com/news/index.php/2017/10/26/why-i-do-yoga-in-the-offseason/

5. Probably my biggest limiter other than time is weight. Especially post-baby that last 15 pounds has been sticking. I focused on no sugar, very limited grains, and limited dairy for 30 days and lost 6.5 pounds. I made some new habits – swapping rice with cauliflower rice, eating a banana instead of a granola bar, etc, that were quite helpful with the weight.

Now on to IMSA. I have some big personal goals. I figure if I write about them I will be more likely to make them a priority. So here goes:

  • PR the Ironman distance. I have done 4 Ironmans, 3 Lake Placids and one Louisville. Other than being hilly one Lake Placid was 4 weeks post broken collarbone, one was less than a year post-baby and the third is my PR when I put up the most training I have ever completed (12:14 in 2011). Louisville I was in great shape but I had a run injury (2012).
    Lake Placid 2011

    Lake Placid 2016
  • Get back to my race weight. 10 pounds to go!
  • Do the training necessary to compete. The last time I did training that I would find suitable to compete well at long course was in 2011/2012. I took 2013-2014 mostly off with IVF/trying to get pregnant and in 2015 I was pregnant with Bode. Since Bode I have averaged in season about 8 hours of training, will need to double that to be competitive. I focused my time on proper execution on limited training since 2015. Now it’s time to tie the execution to training load.
  • Write about the training every 1-2 weeks. I have learned so much from doing the sport myself. I love coaching races and training others, but there is something about making the sacrifices and doing the work that can’t be replicated watching others.
  • Balance family, work and training. When training put the focus on training, when not training put the focus on work or family. Multitasking only goes so far, productivity is the goal.
  • Find a masters program I really love. I really enjoy the social aspect of it, but I need to do a daytime masters program as mornings and evenings are mostly focused on Bode. I am going to try a lunchtime program 2x a week in January. Swimming is clearly my strength, but my best long course fitness came when I swam a lot.
  • Learn to love long rides on zwift/kickr and get outside when it’s cold but dry. This is going to be a challenge. The garage is setup with tv/plex/treadmill/kickr/trx etc so I really have no excuse.
  • Keep the running going. I’m happy where it is right now and hope with the 10 pound weight loss that it continues to go well.

Why I do Yoga in the Offseason

By Coach Shelly

There is something awesome about challenging myself on my yoga mat. I have found it to be a perfect complement to triathlon training in the off-season months. This is not the first year where I have been consumed by the balance that yoga provides in my training (and in my mind). If you have never tried yoga I suggest you try it out. You do not have to be an expert and pretty much every pose can be adjusted to a beginner or a more advanced level. I practice yoga at Down Dog Yoga in Virginia, www.downdogyoga.com. Here are some reasons I make yoga an important part of my off-season:

  1. Challenge. It keeps me interested in doing something active that is “different” than swim/bike/run. I am challenged by trying something new and seeing how I can improve each of the poses. When I do a pose much closer to correct (I’m not going to pretend that I do any perfectly) it’s a nice sense of accomplishment!
  2. Hip Flexibility. Yoga allows me to focus on hip flexibility and range of motion. This is a limiter, especially in my running. My hips are so tight. Yoga is a wonderful way to stretch and strengthen the hips. At Down Dog, we always end the practice with a few minutes in pigeon pose. Pigeon pose stretches the hip flexors and the hip rotators (glutes). It often feels great because I know how good it is for me, while at the same time feeling terrible, because it feels awkward. But afterwards my hips feel so much better.
  3. Focus. Hard poses require a lot of focus. This is an area that many of triathletes need to work on.. When something hurts and is not comfortable, it’s easy to stop the pose. Staying with it teaches good lessons in mental toughness.
  4. Core Strength. Core is the easy thing to forget to do during the triathlon season. It is also the thing that triathletes first drop from their training week. The off-season is a good time to reintroduce and recommit to core work. Yoga has been great to help work on my core, especially the lower back.
  5. Balance. I have a different amount of balance on each side of my body, that comes from a fall from 18 feet, which resulted in a leg break and a 1/2 inch leg length discrepancy. I am unable to properly fire the muscles in my left leg. This is the reason I manage to feel most of my aches/pains/injuries in my left leg. Yoga poses such as eagle and tree allow me to focus on firing my left leg muscles to allow staying upright during the pose. Hopefully focusing on this inequality will help to make my legs more symmetrical and end the feeling that I can run a marathon with my right leg while my left leg is done after 2 miles.
  6. Heat Acclimation. Down Dog yoga studios are heated to 90-95 degrees. There is also a nice humidifier. A 90 minute practice gets “juicy”. These classes will become more important for  acclimation for an early season warm weather race.
  7. Breath control. As a lifelong swimmer, I have a problem with holding my breath. In yoga I am much more aware of breathing as many of the poses are timed and controlled by the breath.
  8. Cleansing. Yoga just makes you feel better. If I have had a bad night sleep, or have a headache, I typically feel back to normal after class.
  9. Injury Prevention. The years I did yoga in the offseason I just felt better when the training got heavy. Less nagging injuries.

Of all the benefits I listed above, the most important, in my opinion, is how I just feel great after class. I have worked hard, had fun, worked on my limiters and did something active that is just different than the normal swim/bike/run.

Kona Thoughts by Nathan Rickman

As fall approaches and many of us are winding down our triathlon season, the biggest and most iconic race in our sport nears.  For those that have earned the right to be in the water at Dig Me Beach when the cannon goes off, you need to figure out why you are there and what you are looking to accomplish.  There are only two reasons as far as I am concerned.  Some will say there are plenty of areas in between and maybe there are, but for me it is binary, but then again, some say I am little messed up in the head.

  • Are you looking to relish the moment, take a victory lap, be smart and do the best you can? Or…
  • Are you willing to turn yourself inside out, throw caution to wind and do something special, something that you wouldn’t have thought you were capable of?

If the former, no shame in that.  Great accomplishment and achievement making it to the big island and hanging out with the world’s best.  You are roughly the top 2% of those that do this sport just by qualifying. You have 17 hours to finish and you will not be alone. Enjoy your day.

If the latter, you are there to match yourself up against the hardest headed, self-motivated and driven type A’s in the world.  For me, this is why I compete.  If I am going to enter a race; it is a race after all; I am going to do everything I can to cross that finish line knowing I had nothing else left to give on that day.  That may mean crashing and burning and having a historic meltdown and has always resulted in me going to the medical tent after this race.  But maybe, just maybe, that may mean doing something that you never thought possible.  The human body is capable of so much more than we realize and can comprehend.  It is our minds’ that get in the way of achieving our full potential.  Every time I hear, I need to ride “my watts” or I can’t go over “X”, a piece of me dies.  I am not suggesting to go FTP from the gun, but we should be racing to see what our potential is.  Often times, that may mean we fail, but on that special day, it will mean you are able to accomplish what you previously thought impossible.  That is what motivates me and should motivate you.  To be great and do what you previously thought unachievable, it needs to hurt.  You need to second guess yourself.  You need to think this is insane and there is no way you can maintain this.  If you go easier because the conditions are harder, then you have already lost.  This is the World Championships – you should be going harder!  It should be tougher than anything you have experienced.  It is tougher for everyone and if you are able to mentally push through that, you will feel something you have never felt before.  For me, nothing is worse than not giving every ounce that I had.  The sporting events where I have not laid it on the line or let up, I lay in bed thinking about at night.  The what if, the should’ve been moments – those are the ones that will haunt me until the day I die.    You need to embrace the pain and learn how to suffer.  Only then can you truly achieve what you are capable of.  The individuals that perform the best are the ones willing to take that chance and go further than they ever thought possible.  Every race is not going to be their race, but the day that is their day, is the day that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

With that – my advice is to get in the mix in the swim and push the bike.  The harder you ride, the less the wind affects you.  You need to be alert but if you are not pushing yourself, then you will never know what was possible. If you are riding hard, the cross winds, head winds and swirling winds are just that and as everyone else is thinking about them, you are passing them.  Do not skip an aid station and force yourself to drink more than you ever had.  You will lose more hydration and electrolytes than you can replace, so don’t miss an opportunity to get what you can in.  For the run, steady and strong.  Feed off the energy of the island, those cheering you on and your competitors.  Get something to drink (multiple drinks) at every aid station and find a reason to embrace the pain.  For some it is memories where you have excelled that make you feel good, for others, it is times where you didn’t achieve what you were capable of that motivate you.  Figure out what works for you and find a gear you didn’t know you had.  It is hot for everyone, embrace it and push on.  While others are embracing the last mile and taking in the atmosphere, you are putting time on your competitors, digging deep and ensuring you do not leave a second on the course as there will be plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere after you have crossed that line.

Of course, I will be a case deep listening to the Boss singing Glory Days on repeat as you all run down Ali’i Drive in two weeks.