March 2009

Taper Madness

Week one of my taper is a thing of the past and if I’m honest I can’t say I’m particularly looking forward to weeks two and three. All of which is a 180 degree change in direction to how eagerly I was anticipating my taper period.

The problem I guess is that I don’t trust myself. I prevaricate on an hourly basis between being convinced that I have done enough training, and being 100% sure that I am so undertrained I will fail to complete even half of the cycle leg. This apparently is classic taper madness.

Sitting at home on a Sunday with the prospect of a mere 18km run to keep the legs ticking over was pure torture. I wanted to do at least 30km but knew that if I did my wife would be on the phone to coach Claire and my life would be made a hell of SMS messages and an e-mail box containing lots of exclamation marks and capital letters. (Note how I am more scared of my coach than my wife)

The good thing about my taper is that because I am doing less distance I can start my Tuesday and Thursday morning rides at 5:00am instead of 4:30. And I’ll tell you something strange that I have noticed happens at such an hour. The suburbs are clouded by the overwhelming reek of women’s perfume.

There must be gallons of the stuffed poured over the female form every morning, and half of it ends up evaporating into the air, wafting out of open windows and polluting my lungs. It’s actually nauseating and really is such a huge waste of money.

Surely a good old fashioned shower and some deodorant would solve the problem far easier and for far less money. Makeup as a masking technique for physical flaws I can understand, but really ladies, when you walk into my office reeking of Eau de Brothel, my immediate instinct is to assume you haven’t showered lately.

Anyway, two weeks from today I will be sitting in Port Elizabeth and IronMan 2009, the one thing in my life about which I have allowed myself to obsess this past year, will be over. Will I be happy or will I be sad? I don’t know but I know that I am going to give it horns.

Frozen Eyeballs!

Have you ever had frozen eye balls. Neither had I until last weekend when I competed in the 11 Global Triathlon at Blouberg in Cape Town. Anyone who has ever swum in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Town will tell you how cold it is, and I have even scuba dived there in the past, so it should have been no surprise to me. So why I entered an event that required me to voluntarily enter the frigid water of Big Bay and then swim 1.5 kilometers in it is quite beyond me. I need to employ a man whose only job is to hit me on the head with a plank of wood when I make silly decisions.

Half an hour before the event started I was urged by my training buddies from to go for a swim to acclimatise to the cold water and warm up. With hind sight this was obviously a wind up. I dived into the water and immediately some cruel and vicious animal hiding below the surface punched me so hard in the stomach that it drove the air out of my lungs and then painted me light blue. Luckily the water was still knee high so that I could immediately stand up, shake my hands like an effeminate spastic and scream for my Mother. Which is what I did. Then I levitated to the shore to be met by howls of laugher by all those who were watching the show. It. Was. Cold.

After the race briefing we all went and stood at the shore waiting for the start. I placed myself right at the back in the hope that those in front would pee in the water and warm it up before I got there. The crack of the start gun saw the top guys sprinting into the sea and me recoiling in the opposite direction away from the frigid pond, hoping that in the nanosecond between the start and me plucking up the courage to get back in the water, the organisers would cancel the event. The reality of the situation had me realising that I had to do the swim if I wanted to finish, so against my better judgment I again dived in.

I have to be honest with you when I say that for the first 10 minutes I seriously considered giving up. All my swim training went out of the window, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see and I couldn’t think straight. My overriding thought process was to get out of there. NOW! Classic fight or flight stuff. I persevered only because I couldn’t give up in front of the cute young surf lifesaver chikkas who weren’t even wearing wetsuits. It was a classic case of ego triumphing over common sense.

It was at the first buoy that I first felt my eyeballs were freezing up. I couldn’t understand it until I realised that in the excitement of the start I had left my goggles perched on top of my head. Placing them over my eyes relieved the problem and I could concentrate on breathing and surviving. Surviving one minute at a time at least. It really was desperate stuff.

28 minutes later I staggered out of the water, a frozen, half drowned and very relieved man. But my problems were not over by a long shot. I was so cold that I couldn’t grip the zip cord to take my wetsuit off and I had to ask a marshal to assist. When I got onto the bike my hands couldn’t grip the aero bars, they just slipped off the ends forcing me to sit up for 10 minutes until circulation had been properly restored and I could ride properly.

The day got a lot better once I had thawed out. I overtook a lot of riders on the bike leg and only one overtook me on the run ,so I had a positive gain on the field. A final result of 73rd overall out of 116 finishers and 11 non finishers was better than I expected given my performance in the swim leg.

There are some positives to be taken from the race. This was my first long triathlon swim in the sea and I survived. The swim at IronMan will be in much warmer water so will not be such an intense physical jolt to the system and on top of that I didn’t get sea sick which was my biggest worry.