Race Report – IRONMAN African Championship 2017

Race Report – IRONMAN African Championship 2017

Race Report – IRONMAN African Championship
Gavin Bell - Race #1180
2 April 2017

They say it’s all about the journey; it’s about patience, believing in the program and allowing it all to come together on race day.  This was my 2nd IRONMAN, and it exposed me to a whole new way of training compared to my first IRONMAN in 2015 when I had my own time, being able to wake up at a normal time of 7h00 and start training at 9h00 was certainly the more civilised way to train.  2017 on the otherhand brought a whole new dimension and many 5am wake up calls to get the first set of training done before work, and then get through the day and complete the second session after work, getting home many a time around 20h00 to having to cook dinner, go to sleep and then repeat the process again the following day.  It was rough, especially since I don’t take fondly to waking up early, but I had a goal in mind and that was simply to beat my time from 2015 – 13:04.  There was a period of about 2.5 weeks where I was truly grumpy, irritable and just an irritation to society.  I was nicknamed GrumbleBearAngryBird.

I had the luck and fortune of having two coaches looking out for me, one who gave me my program, and the other who monitored my Training Peaks.  There were many times I cursed, the swim sets were from the devil himself.   Some weeks I splashed out 18kms, it was rough and there were many days I loathed the swim training, but I did it, I stuck to the program and moaned - a lot.  From January I had racked up 118km’s in the pool, the longest set was 5,000m – that’s 200 laps in a 25m pool – insanity is the only word that comes to mind.  The bike has always been a love of mine and I racked up 1,600kms during my training sets since January.  Coming from a running background it was always easy for me, and I clocked 470km’s since January.  My earliest run was at 3am when I was woken up at 2am and couldn’t get back to sleep, so a lot of calculations were done regarding sleep hours, I thought the best thing for me to do was to do my 2.5hr run, have a nice hot shower, get back to bed and then head to work – the plan worked well and it was absolutely awesome running at that time, however chances are highly unlikely I’ll ever be running at 3am again in the near future.

Come race day I was as ready as I could ever have been.  With IRONMAN “Anything Is Possible”, so I didn’t want to go in cocky, it was just me going out for a swim, cycle and run and I would take whatever the day dealt me with.  The swim started off with a chick giving me a massive klap on the head which made me take a good mouthful of water, not even having swum 200m yet I was not charmed and had visions of a horrid day ahead.  Luckily there were not many other incidents like that again, the sea was relatively choppy at times and the swell was fairly rough, but it was still calm in comparison to other races, but I enjoy those conditions as it makes the swim so much more fun.  It felt like an absolute eternity to reach the turning point, that red buoy was never in my sight, so I couldn’t have been happier when I did eventually see the big red buoy and was able to start the return journey.  My right calf decided to go into cramp, but with a lot of mental work it subsided and I was able to continue with no problem, until my left calf decided to do the same thing on the final turn towards the beach.  Luckily my mental power was strong enough to sort it out, and was able to run on the beach towards T1 with no hassle at all.  I improved my time by a whole minute, and finished the swim in 1:18:43.

Next up was the bike, the two loop course of 90kms is absolutely beautiful and I loved every minute of it.  It’s incredibly beautiful, and my favourite area was around Seaview where there were green bushes and little yellow flowers, it was truly a stunning setting.  I can’t fault my bike at all, everything went smoothly and I shaved a nice time of 1h05 from 2015 and finished the bike in a time of 5:52:10 which gave me a decent 31km/h average.

The run didn’t go as well as I had expected, the first two loops went according to plan attempting to keep an average of 6min/km, however on reaching the third loop I went into a very dark place wondering how on earth I was going to complete the remaining two loops.  My quads were also taking a beating, but I stuck at it with a lot of walk / run, mainly aiming to walk at the water stations; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but I didn’t let it get to me.  Strangely enough on my 4th and final loop I got energy again, I felt alive and amazing and was running at a 5:15 pace, it felt good, really good.  I was monitoring my Garmin constantly and thought a time of 11:30 was possible initially, but my maths wasn’t so good at that point and then after running back from the university I realised it would be near to the 11:50 mark – however when I came on to the glorious red carpet I saw 12:22 on the screen, that was disappointing, I really thought I was 11:50ish, but if the screen said 12:22 then my Garmin was giving me the wrong time, something must have gone wrong.  So I crossed the finish line at what I thought was 12:22.  It was better than 2015’s 13:04 but I wasn’t so happy.  Bernard called me about 45min after I was done, and asked me what I thought of my time – my response was it was ok, but I expected better, I mean 12:22 was not something I was too thrilled about, and that’s when he changed my day – “No,” he said, “that’s not your time.  Your official IRONMAN time is 11:53:55!”  That changed everything, and I was super chuffed! 

Sub 12, couldn’t be happier. 

Div Rank : 138   /   Gender Rank : 614   /  Overall Rank : 702
Swim : 01:18:43  /  Bike: 05:52:10  /  Run: 04:30:53


My Gear:
Orca Transition Bag – without it, it wouldn’t make packing for a triathlon so simple and easy, with everything so clearly marked it’s absolutely impossible to forget anything for the race, an absolute necessity for any triathlete!

Orca flip flops – nothing beats these light comfy flops for walking around race village!

Orca Sonar wetsuit – The buoyancy and flexibilty in this wetsuit is amazing.  Its incredibly comfortable and allows me the ability to focus on the rest of the day ahead, and not even be concerned about the swim because it has the right amount of buoyancy to make the swim seem effortless.

Orca Killa Vision Mirror goggles – I love these goggles.  They look amazing, and they also look racey.  They never leaked or fogged up on the swim, and it was one less thing to stress about on the swim.

Orbea Ordu Di2 – This bike is fast, unbelievably fast, hence it’s name “Bullet”.  The Di2 is incredible, the Ultegra parts make everything effortless, and the design and dynamics of the bike make for a truly comfortable and enjoyable ride.

XLAB Torpedo Versa 200 – Every bike that has a set of tribars needs an XLAB Torpedo.  This is the one product that every bike should have, as it makes drinking so much easier.  There’s no hassle of getting out of the aero position to fumble for a bottle, it’s a matter of sipping from the straw, and with it’s stop valve you don’t need to suck up all the liquid in the straw to get liquid, it’s brilliant.

XLAB Stealth Pocket 500 – aerodynamically designed, it has enough space for all my personally made date balls to get me through my ride, as well as the odd gel or 2.

226 Short Sleeve Race Suit – this has to be one of the comfiest race suits I’ve worn.  There is absolutely no restriction on the arms in the swim, the chamois is incredible for 180kms on the bike, and is incredibly comfortable on the run, the compression works like an absolute charm.

Orca Speed Laces – Every triathlete should have these laces, it saves valuable time in T2 and the laces never come undone while on the run.

Orca mesh trucker cap – keeping the rays out of my eyes and protecting my head from sunburn, this cap helps me keep cool and focused on the run.

(Photo by Chris Hitchcock/Ironman via Getty Images)


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