As I stood on the start line for yet another 70.3 East London event I looked back at all the millions of athletes anxiously waiting to start and I wondered if this could possibly be my last 70.3 event as a pro. Don’t get me wrong - I am definitely not writing this story as a farewell to triathlon – but more a story of how things have changed for both Kent & I.
I will never do the grand “retiring last run on the red carpet” announcement because how on earth could we ever retire from a sport when our daily jobs are literally coaching athletes on how to get to that red carpet as fast as possible?! Even though we might no longer be racing in the pro category or starting the race at all – we are still very much a part of this incredible sport we all love & hate so much called triathlon!
2017 was a strange year for me. I think I gave my husband many grey hairs as one moment I was racing triathlon & the next moment I was selling my bike! When we heard PE was awarded World Champs in 2018 I had made up my mind that this was me for the year – I would race pro for 1 more year, go overseas, qualify for Worlds and make the grand “retirement” exit in September of 2018. I had my entire speech worked out for September 2018!!
Unfortunately though – as we all know – life doesn’t quite work out like we plan it. Out on a training ride we had a pack crash and I landed up messing my knee up quite badly. Long story short, 2 MRI scans, 3 cortisone injections, many trips to physios & 6 months later I was finally able to run again. This did however mean that I had now missed an opportunity to do 3 overseas races and it left me with only 10 weeks before 70.3 South Africa. Kent & I decided we would give it our best shot and go for 70.3. I did what I could with the little time I had to train and off to East London we went.
The gun went off and the pro ladies sprinted into the water. As I sprinted into the water my thought was – oh my word – these legs better wake up otherwise its going to be a rather long day! Half way I turned the buoy and headed to what I thought was the next buoy in line. Busy thinking about Logan and his new school, I suddenly felt a BUMP! Flip what was that? I stopped to look and there above me was a lifeguard whacking me on the head telling me I was going in the wrong direction!! In 15 years of racing I have never done that before! But I guess I am usually fighting to stay on someone’s feet and not drifting off thinking about my 2 year olds play school!
I made it to transition in 1 piece, & onto the bike. Watching the guys race unfold whilst riding on the wide open roads of the N2 was quite awesome. I had very little racing “fight” in me and I watched as the girls in front of me slowly pulled away. I was more interested in our athletes who came past me 1 at a time all looking incredibly focused and fast.
I was excited to finally be on the run and in my happy place. But what I experienced was something I’ve never experienced before in all my years of coaching. It was a feeling of immense proudness as I watched in utter amazement as all our guys came flying past one at a time.
JP Burger in the lead, Ryan Schmitz, Chris Bruchhausen, Rohan Meyer, Bryan Difford, Brad Birkholtz, Cameron Macnair – all MTD guys and all looking amazing.
In the ladies Eulali Gouws was storming through the field whilst Mariella Dierks who managed to scrape a 7th place in 2017 was now fighting for top 3 and she was literally kicking the girls off the podium one at a time!
Whilst I plodded along, I came across coach Trav who was hurling his lungs out on the side lines – not a good day for him! Shortly after I saw my husband looking rather green and kind of running from one side of the road to the other! Coach Rowland was quite a bit further back high 5ing everyone and generally having a great day but looking smashed nevertheless, with coach Rich & JD on the sidelines not even making it to the start!!
All the coaches were having an overall kuk day, but MAN our athletes were cooking and that’s what counted! Although Kent, Travis, myself & Rowland were pretty much each making a fool of ourselves whilst on the race course – we all seemed to have the same goofy grin on our faces – a grin of immense proudness – the hard work that our athletes had put in, the hours of training was paying off, and the athlete comradery that we all work so hard to install was finally paying off. These athletes were working together to have the best races they could have and it gave me goose bumps to watch. When I think back to meeting Chris – helmet too small perched on the top of his mop of curls and toppling over on his bike when he joined the group for his first ride, or Rohan who named himself “total newbie” only a few months ago!!
Whilst watching the front boys & girls fighting for podium spots I could also see all our #unrushed ladies jumping off their bikes and onto the run. All looking fresh with lots of smiles. I got goose bumps all over again as I watched our ladies tackle the pretty tough run course with absolute ease. These ladies –Annemarie, Sam, Di, Clare, Janine, Lindsay you ladies are the perfect example of what can happen when you put your mind to something. I’m sure I speak on behalf of all our coaches when I say – it makes us so proud to watch a newbie plough head first into the daunting task of tackling their first 70.3 Ironman event.
So yes, another 70.3 East London has come and gone and I can honestly say it was such a special race with a perfect finish winning the Tri club Div 4 category to top it all off.
I think back to 2006 when Kent & I started MTD on a green plastic table & chairs & 2 athletes to our coaching name. I am so thankful that it has grown to include some amazing coaches on board with us not to mention some truly incredible athletes – both Elite & newbie!
The day after race day we climb in the car to make the 12hour trip back home (because a flight is too expensive). We have to leave at 3:30am for me to make coaching a squad of 5 year olds in time that afternoon. It all starts over again! Tonight as I write this story, I see an email coming through from coach Travis. It is 11:30pm.
Yes, we don’t make millions, we work many late nights, we fight suppliers for custom made kit to arrive in time, we fight for pool space & we answer many disgruntled emails from various people all wanting their say whilst still attempting to do our own little bit of training in between… but – on a day like 70.3 EL when it comes together it all seems worth it.
At the end of the day, this is not about 14 podiums. We have most probably had our most successful results in MTD to date, & this may never happen again, but, what stands out for us is the humility in how it happened. These athletes have had to train together every day- they have become close friends and then on race day they need to race against each other all with a bigger vision of being better than themselves. This was amazing to watch from sharing water sachets on the run and at the finish line great big bear hugs and tomorrow they will be equals again on the track & in the pool striving to become even better…. This is what racing is all about.
I want to also commend our coaches who are outstanding athletes themselves and work tirelessly to help others pursue their dreams. Richard, Travis, Kent, Rowland, Clinton to name a few - have put their own racing aside in the hope of getting their athletes the best possible result.
These athletes & coaches did not have an overnight success or a fluke race... this was months & years of preparation from both coaches & athletes alike. The MTD coaches have a vision & it takes time & plenty of team work to execute. By working together one day at a time we manage to be our best.
Thank you all MTD coaches & athletes. You guys & girls make it all worth while.