Nike’s Breaking2 Project was announced at the end of 2016 and attempted in May 2017 (I called it to be a fold from the start). That provoked a personal goal. Breaking two. But in no means did I consider “breaking two” by running with spring-loaded shoes, drafting in diamond formation, getting a body like a Fatti’s & Moni’s spaghetti or even attempting a sprint over 26 miles, but rather “breaking two” at the Age Group World Triathlon Championships over the Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km non-drafting TT, 10km run) hosted by Rotterdam, Netherlands.
And unlike the world’s most ripped Kenyan’s, that is exactly what I did and I slipped into 8th position in my Age Group. I’ll use a few sentences, or in some cases just a few words, to describe the swim-bike-run punt. But in essence this poem is not about that. Nor about the Dutch’s great cheese or their mind-blowing commuting skills. I’d rather like to mutter the next following lines on paper to give some insight and share the juice that got squeezed and what I got to sip on from that.
Swim. I hate it. Well, until it starts… And about 20minutes after the start, when the slam-dunking is done and I have come up to still be alive… Those crazy swim starts! None the less, even this time it was nothing different. But, probably for the first time ever, I managed to cling to some breakwater boats’ feet and even lapped the guys in the heat that started 3 minutes ahead of us.
Bike. The most technical, bendy, loopy, droopy, slowest dragon I have ever seen and it was two laps of it. I was pace-lining a ginger Dutchie and was just focusing on a sustained but extremely hard effort. I managed to suck a 58:37 out of a fraudulent course. The race was on!
Run. Forest run. No jokes. Two loops in one of the most beautiful forest parks! But my feet? Never heard of her. And my almost late and extremely awkward tri-suit did not make me look the part either. I gratefully slided to a 34:30 split.
But here is the meat. I am not an experienced racer, in fact World Champs was my 12th triathlon ever. This stint was truly a swing for the fence where I can honestly say I am not able to look around for answers. But I’ve always tried to scrutinize my performance post-race to pick at errors that might have costed me. And after every race I have found worms. Every. Single. Time. This time I have given them names:
- One question. Are you wetsuit fit? We spend hours and hours of time looking at a bluddy black line, in trunks or a banana hammock or if you have been at squad swims you would have noticed even undies. But, do you train the way you race? Sure, a wetsuit gives you a massive buoyancy advantage, but simple science tell us that buoyancy is an upward force and not a forward force! Get those lats to work some rubber before you jump in for the race. It doesn’t help you float like an aqua-turd but you are just lying there like an ancient Roman on a couch with a bowl of grapes ready to be oil painted. Over Olympic distance racing you only have one match to burn… It will burn easier if it’s a wooden match.
- Any triathlete’s love-hate partner (if you race on carbs). Have them and you are invincible. Don’t, and you are gone! Pop. Blown. Riaan. But caution… Don’t get to the other side of the spectrum. Over consuming the amount of carbs that can be absorbed through your stomach wall is also possible. Remember, simply put, during intense exercise or racing blood is forced to the critical areas of your body, like screaming muscle groups. This reduces blood availability and its capacity to absorb the carbs in your stomach. The result? Ged oudda hie-ya! Bleh. Carbohydrate intake is a simple formula of body mass and hours of training/racing. Google it and be obedient to that logic. Over Olympic distance racing you only have one match to burn… Fight fire with fire!
- Flip, I hate admin. I just want to wake up on race morning with coffee, jump in my suit and hear the gun go. I don’t want to cross the Atlantic Ocean, bundu-bash the rain forest, successfully finish 5 games of Tetris, summit Mount Everest and fix the Hubble Telescope on my way to transition 1 at the bottom of the Mariana trough. Logistically races can be stressful and full of unnecessary admin and clutter while you are actually supposed to be focusing on smoking everything you see the backside of and not on making it to the start in time. If you are like me, sort your logistics out to the best of your ability as long in advance as possible and figure out the best plan to deal with the admin, especially on race morning. Get it wrong and you are bound to freak out your skin. Over Olympic distance racing you only have one match to burn… Don’t light it before the race!
- Even though weather is something that is out of any athlete’s control, preparing best for it is not. Rotterdam was a chilly 10°C on race day and in similar conditions after a hard swim you can use the next hour on the bike to wave your feat goodbye. You will be ice skating the run. Have toe caps? Great, use them! You don’t? Buy! A wise man once said that your feet is quite important to run. Ha-ha! I say shut the front door! Over Olympic distance racing you only have one match to burn… Make sure the lighter lights!
Coming in for a landing I give you something for free. Chris McCormack, one of the greatest triathletes to have ever walk the earth, says in his book “I’m here to win!” that racing solely for results will deaden your love for the sport and ensure that the passion for triathlon is short lived. It is then about the above mentioned “named and shamed” lessons we learn and what we can take from it. He argues that evidently it is about learning and growing to become a better athlete, it should be about the quest to be a better racer and a faster snake. It isn’t for no reason that Albert Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result”. I say fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, once on shame.