IRONMAN African Championship 2018 : Race Report

IRONMAN African Championship 2018 : Race Report

IRONMAN African Championship 2018
Race Report
Gavin Bell

The IRONMAN African Championship held in Port Elizabeth on the 15th April 2018 was the 3rd full Ironman I had competed in. This time round I found that I had gone through a lot more of an emotional journey with having to fight off feelings of doubt, incredible lack of motivation at times, wondering what on earth was I thinking for doing 3 insane distances in one day, learning to curb my anger in the swimming pool, and there were those times of sheer bliss where everything was going well. Luckily 10 days before race day my mind had settled and I was mentally ready, and in a good space - I was ready to race. My goal : simply to beat 2017’s time of 11:53.

Standing on Hobie Beach on race morning, I was really looking forward to the 3.8km swim in my Orca 3.8 wetsuit. I have thoroughly enjoyed swimming in this wetsuit, and raced with it only on half Iron distances, so this was going to be my first long distance swim in it. On turning left past the first buoy heading towards the cranes I never had any feelings of wanting to stop and letting the ocean take me, this time round I felt like I was flying, I felt like Richard Murray at one point – he too is swimming in the 3.8. I had no cramps on the return leg of the swim and by the time I heard the cheering at the peer I knew the swim was over, I was slightly disappointed as I really enjoyed the swim, but as it was only a 3.8km swim it was time to exit the swim and hit the bike. I had improved my swim time by 2 minutes and felt like I hadn’t even done anything, I truly believe that this wetsuit assisted me in getting me my fastest IRONMAN swim time yet, it’s the most comfortable, buoyant and flexible wetsuit I’ve swam in, and truly is in a superior class of its own. I finished the swim in a time of 01:15:40.

Heading out on the bike I was feeling good as I had had a great swim and the day was working out well so far, however 15km’s into the race things took an interesting turn when an athlete decided to overtake me on an incline and then move directly in front me which made me have to brake as he wasn’t going much faster than me. While I was determining how I was going to deal with this individual a referee pulled up alongside me and give me my first ever blue card for drafting. I was speechless, there were so many athletes up ahead of me that were bunched up together and I was merely deciding how I was going to pass this certain individual. I am totally against drafting and I was unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time. I served my 5min in the penalty tent at the first turn-around point and made friends with the referees in the penalty tent. To be honest I would have preferred to have been given this penalty after 90km’s, not at 45km’s when I was still feeling so fresh! I knew I had to floor it even more now as I had to catch up on lost time. So battling headwinds and the knowledge that I was 5 minutes behind time I pushed Bullet a bit harder, and before I knew it the bike was over and I had to get ready for the run. I now race in the Orca Dream Kona aero trisuit which is an incredible suit to race in, and certainly the most aero suit I have worn, it certainly made my cycle (and later, my run) even more enjoyable. Little did I know, that even with the 5min penalty I still managed to beat my bike time of last year, and finished the bike in a time of 5:50:54.

The first lap of the run went off strong, I was feeling good and ready to conquer all the hills that the course lay waiting for me, just after the second lap was when things started to get real and thoughts of how I was going to manage those two hills two more times was something I honestly had no idea how I was going to do it. By the third lap I started to dig really deep and concentrate on not walking any of the hills and only at the water points, this worked out extremely well for me, and by the time the 4th lap came I was feeling even stronger than the first lap. On my home stretch I knew I was doing a good time – the sky was still light and there was a dark orange/red band on the horizon from the sun slowly setting, this made me incredibly happy as I knew that if it was light I was definitely improving my time from last year. On hitting the glorious red carpet and crossing the finish line, I improved my run time by 21 minutes, completing the run in 4:09:43, and an overall 31 minute improvement from last year, finishing in a total time of 11:26:52.

My gear that got me through the IRONMAN African Championship:
SWIM: Orca 3.8 enduro wetsuit / Orca Killa 180 goggles.
BIKE: Orbea Ordu M20i aka Bullet
NUTRITION BAG: XLAB Stealth Pocket 500
TRISUIT: Orca Dream Kona
RUN: Orca peak cap
COMPRESSION: CEP Ultralight calf sleeves and CEP Ultralight low-cut socks

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