Shooting Ms Annah

One of the things I love about what I do, is that occasionally I get to hang out, one on one, with some really cool peeps. No big productions or corporate constraints, just good company and (hopefully, if I can keep my end of it up), intelligent conversation.

Give me a relaxed early morning with a camera, the company of a kindred spirit with a zest for life, and feed me the occasional coffee, and you will find that I’m one very happy camper indeed.

If we can laugh to the point of giggle fits, talk about conquering (and saving the world), discuss athletic goals and dreams, and maybe, just maybe, get some great images, then the day is a definite winner.

Thanks for ticking all of those boxes and for keeping it very real Ms Annah Watkinson. Read her bio here…

Now if someone will give this chick a set of decent carbon wheels, the next shoot will look a lot more bling

This was shot from just above the surf line beyond what is known as Schoenmakerskop. I wanted to give some idea of how rugged the shoreline is along Marine Drive. Just 7 km later, riders would be riding through the bustling metropolis of Port Elizabeth

Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championship.

The 2015 edition of the Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championship was held, as usual, at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
This year the event pulled more pro racers from around the world than any other IRONMAN event except the world champs in Kona. T

That’s a tesament to the quality of the race and the people behind it.

Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa

Athletes compete in the Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa Triathlon, held at Buffalo City, East London, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa on January 25 2015. The mens event was won by Matt Trautman after a ding dong battle with Stuart Marais, while Former World 70.3 champion Jodie Swallow destroyed the opposition to win the race for the 5th consecutive year, posting a record time in the process.

IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa: One Month and counting.

It’s long distance Triathlon time. Who is doing IRONMAN South Africa 70.3 in East London in a Months time?
Here are some of my images from last year to get you in the mood, and to make sure you are motivated to get that last bit of training done. Nerves anyone?

IRONMAN South Africa

It’s an event that is so big, so popular and so special, that the entire word is capitalised. And while the word iconic is overused and has become hopelessly clichéd, it’s surely permissible, just this once, to use it to describe IRONMAN South Africa.

I am sure that when the organisers of the first IRONMAN event on African soil first sat down to plan their inaugural race, way back in 2005, they fully expected it to be a success and to still be an annual event ten years later. I’m also pretty certain that in their wildest and most ambitious dreams, they didn’t have a clue how massive IRONMAN South Africa would become. Massive not only in the number of competitors entered but also how big the IRONMAN brand and sport of long distance triathlon would become in our country.

To give you an idea of the scale of this event, ten years ago there were 786 competitors. This year there were 2,371. And there could have been plenty more had entries not been capped for the sake of safety and sanity. Of those entrants, 519 (22%) were international visitors. And a massive 2,085 (88%) were from outside the Port Elizabeth area. It’s small wonder then that given the massive cash injection the event gives to the area that the Nelson Mandela Bay authorities give such great support to this race.

For the uninitiated, an IRONMAN distance triathlon comprises a 3.8 km swim, 180 km cycle and 42 km marathon distance run. While other major South African sporting events may have more competitors to deal with, they don’t have three disciplines spread over a 226 km route, some of it in the sea. It’s a logistical nightmare and requires the kind of planning and attention to detail that would scare NASA mission planners.

There is a group of 21 athletes who have travelled the ten-year path with the race, having entered and finished all ten events. Most IRONMAN athletes ‘do’ one or two events. Some even enter five or six. To do ten is very special. The amount of training and dedication required to achieve that is simply astonishing. Being a lover of stats, let me share these numbers with you.

In the ten events to date, the ten-year athletes would have each covered the following distances:
Swim – 38 km
Bike – 1,802 km
Run – 422 km
Total – 2,262 km

To give this some context, these distances are equivalent to:
• Swimming, cycling and running from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and back.
• Swimming, cycling and running from London to Barcelona and back.
• Jumping down the Bloukrans Bungy 10,472 times in a row.
• Scaling 5,937 Empire State Buildings.

And that’s just the race distances. Training for an IRONMAN is where the real distance and time is put in, and you can safely multiply those distances by 50. It truly is exceptional.

To celebrate their 10th anniversary, IRONMAN South Africa shuffled things around a bit to safely accommodate the number of competitors on the course. The swim went from two laps to a single, big 3.8 km slog around Nelson Mandela Bay. The big change though was to the bike leg, where it went from being three relatively flat laps in the past, to two longer laps that included the very hilly new section out to Maitlands and Seaview.

The new course may have been jaw-droppingly beautiful, but the combination of the newly introduced elevation gain and a strong headwind, which is now famously known as the ‘beasterly easterly’, would combine to turn many a racer’s day into a localised version of hell on earth. Athletes who previously had planned to return a personal best in their race were now changing their goal to finishing before the dreaded psychological moment; when light turns to dark and the organisers hand out glowsticks to those still left on the course. When the glowsticks come out, there are still 5 hours left for athletes to beat the final 17-hour cut-off.

It’s a very long day out on the road for the athletes. It’s been an equally long ten-year road for the race organisers. For both, there can surely be very little to beat the feeling of satisfaction and achievement that they must feel.

Happy Birthday IRONMAN South Africa. May you live to be a hundred years with one extra year to repent. – Irish

1. Nils – FROMMHOLD – Germany
2. Kyle – BUCKINGHAM – South Africa
3. Faris – AL-SULTAN – Germany

1. Simone – BRANDLI – Switzerland
2. Lucy – GOSSAGE – United Kingdom
3. Jodie Ann – SWALLOW – United Kingdom







IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa: A fairy-tale ending.

A triathlon is a triathlon, is a triathlon. Except it isn’t.

In the same way that a fish isn’t a dolphin and the 100 metre sprint isn’t a marathon, all triathlons are not the same. All triathlons have a swim, bike and run section, as advertised, and all of them run those disciplines in the same order. The difference, obviously, is in the distances involved.
Starting at sprint distance, they get progressively longer (Olympic distance), until at the extreme end is the longest event of them all, the Ironman, which with a 3.8 km swim, 180 km cycle and a run of 42 km, is a beast of an event to conquer.

Sitting firmly between the shorter races and Ironman distance event is what was originally known as the Half Ironman, but is now branded as Ironman 70.3. (70.3 refers to the sum of the distance in miles of all three disciplines). In the past, Ironman and Ironman 70.3 were often compared with each other, and fanatical proponents of the longer event loudly proclaimed to anybody who would listen that the 70.3 race wasn’t a proper distance. But that really wasn’t true. It was simply a figment of someone’s testosterone fuelled ego, a case of mine is bigger than yours, so it must be better.

The 70.3 has blossomed into a unique discipline of its own, with specialist training and professional athletes who dedicate their entire lives to the race. Events are held all over the world and the top racers, both male and female, travel the globe earning a living (often a meagre one) competing against each other.

In South Africa, the Ironman 70.3 event is held every year in late January, in East London (Buffalo City), in the Eastern Cape. The 2014 race saw a glittering array of top 70.3 athletes assembled on our shores. World champions, ex-world champions and stars of the future were all here to battle it out. Topping the list was three-time winner of the South African Ironman 70.3 and former world champion in the distance, Britain’s Jodie Swallow.

The top male contender and favourite to win, James Cunnama, is a local boy and being Jodie Swallow’s boyfriend, he was also the crowd’s emotional favourite. Everyone loves a fairy tale. The trouble is, he has never won an event on South African soil, despite coming very close, and this year he was hoping to get the monkey off his back. James wasn’t going to have it handed to him on a plate though, and he would have to work really hard to beat some of the best in the world who were here to beat, not help him.
Race day dawned to what couldn’t have been better weather. There was no wind to speak of, the sea was a calm 17 degrees Celsius and the skies were cloudy, which would help keep the temperatures down.

At 6:45 a.m. the Pro racers left in the first of the start waves. Marko Albert (EST) was first out of the water in 23 minutes and 39 seconds, with Will Clarke (GBR) and Faris Al-Sultan (GER) breathing down his neck and only lagging by a couple of seconds. In his first race as a professional, South African Olympic distance proponent Rudolf Naude was also in this leading group. In the second bunch out of the water, Romain Guillaume, Andreas Giglmayr (AUT) and James Cunnama (RSA) were getting ready for a ding-dong battle of note.

Clark was first out of T1 on the bike after a blistering transition, but was soon passed on the road by Guillaume, who had taken off like a homesick angel in an effort to cement a solid lead going into the run. After only 12 km, ex-Ironman World Champion Faris Al-Sultan also passed Clarke to take over second spot. But it was back in the pack where war was starting to break out. Six or seven of the top guys were busy destroying each other in an effort to catch the leaders.

Local boys Cunnama, Kyle Buckingham, Matt Trautman and Stuart Marais were giving no quarter to Bert Jammaer of Belgium, and Brazilian Igor Amorelli. Trautman was first to break away and hit half-way in third place, in an attempt to reel in the two front runners. However, after the turnaround the cyclists were riding directly into a headwind and Cunnama put the hammer down to power past Trautman into third.

Into T2, Guillaume was leading by a massive 2:11, with Germany’s Al-Sultan, then Cunnama and Trautman over a minute behind. This left the little matter of a 21 km half marathon run to decide the race.

Guillaume continued to hold his first place, but Al-Sultan was slowly slipping back into fourth, allowing Cunnama and Clarke to take over second and third. Guillaume must have known he was in trouble when he looked over his shoulder and saw the Brit and Safa charging into view. With only 4 km to go, Cunnama finally took the lead from Guillaume and very shortly afterwards Clarke moved into second. The two leaders were neck and neck and almost sprinting, and there was still 1.5 km to go.

It was shaping up to be a monster battle on the red carpet, but Cunnama put in a last kick to move into a lead he wouldn’t lose. Clarke never gave up, but ultimately he had to concede 23 seconds to Cunnama on the line.

But what of the women’s race? They were still out on the course and deserving of our full attention, so eyes down and keep reading please.

Swallow, the three-time winner of this race was doing her usual thing. Beating the course and her competitors into submission. To start with, she was the first woman, and fourth overall, to exit the water. In other words, she destroyed most of the Pro men in the swim. Astonishing. Having 47 seconds shaved off her time in the swim certainly wasn’t what Lucie Reed (CZE) was hoping for.

Poland’s Maria Czes’nik and Simone Braendli of Switzerland found themselves 2 minutes further back and must have been devastated.

Lucie Reed is made of sterner stuff though and renowned for her bike power, and she was giving it her all. At the turnaround she was still 70 seconds back, but now Czes’nik and Braendli had been joined by Susie Hignett (GBR), although the three of them were making no progress on the leaders. It was at Hallway that Swallow made her move, putting herself two more minutes ahead of the chase group by the time she got off the bike to head onto the run course.

It was now just a two-horse race, but in the real world there is no athlete on earth who was going to catch Swallow, and despite her best efforts Reed was never going to take the win. She knew it, we knew it, game over.

At the line, Swallow took her fourth consecutive Ironman 70.3 South Africa title in 04:37:00, a massive 3 minutes and 47 seconds ahead of second-placed Lucie Reed. Simone Braendli took third in 04:42:39.

The result meant that the fairy-tale script had finally been written. Cunnama and Swallow. Boyfriend and girlfriend. Together on the podium.

To read it, it seems trite, but to have been there and witnessed the pain and raw emotion of the moment is to have understood just what it takes for these two young athletes to live, train and race 70.3 all day, every day. It certainly put a tear in this romantic’s eye, and I’m supposed to be an impartial observer.

More information

Top 10 men
1. James Cunnama (RSA) – 04:05:00
2. Will Clarke (GBR) – 04:05:23
3. Romain Guillaume (FRA) – 04:06:23
4. Stuart Marais (RSA) – 04:06:37
5. Igor Amorelli (BRA) – 04:07:57
6. Faris Al-Sultan (GER) – 04:08:41
7. Bert Jammaer (BEL) – 04:10:56
8. Johannes Moldan (GER) – 04:12:37
9. Kyle Buckingham (RSA) – 04:13:41 1
10. Marko Albert (EST) 04:13:55

Top 10 women
1. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 04:37:00
2. Lucie Reed (CZE) 04:40:48
3. Simone Braendli (SUI) 04:42:39
4. Camilla Lindholm (SWE) 04:48:14
5. Jeannie Collogne (FRA) 04:51:08
6. Maria Czes’nik (POL) 04:51:51
7. Lynette Van Der Merwe (RSA) 05:00:00
8. Jeanni Seymour (RSA) 05:01:08
9. Edith Niederfriniger (ITA) 05:02:24
10. Claire Horner (RSA) 05:09:35

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Ironman South Africa 2014

I’m sure that it’ll come as no surprise to you, that I am an Ironman addict. Not to the fanatical level of my mate, Paul Kaye, but I enjoy a good sufferfest all the same. Especially when I’m not the one doing the suffering.

I competed in IMSA back in 2009, and it was a blast. I trained for 9 Months and finally gave birth to an overdue 14 hour race. Labour, like with a fat kid I’d imagine, was long hard and sweaty. It was also incredibly rewarding.

Nowadays, my weekends are all about capturing special moments at events like Ironman, and the opportunity for me to train and race just isn’t there. I’m not complaining though. How many people get to do what I do on race weekend?

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