After two months of vacation traveling all over Europe without a bike, here I am in the ‘Friendly City’ of Port Elizabeth ready to race IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. My summers are always busy with traveling around the world and I can’t properly train during those hot Floridian months. However, I cannot miss the chance to participate in a prestigious event like World, where more than 4500 athletes compete representing over 90 countries. The rotation of this event has elevated the race and allowed athletes from all over the world to experience the event in fantastic locations.
I had the fortune that my friend Elizabeth came with me to cheer me on at the event and tour South Africa after the race. We had many other fellow athletes from Tampa in town.
Me and my dear friend Elizabeth arrived to Port Elizabeth on Wednesday night without our luggage. Fortunately my bike was already at the Tribike Transport tent. Many athletes didn’t get the bike until one day before the race. Smarty I had all my race gears with me.
It was cold, freezing cold, and it was very very windy. Our hotel was in the perfect location across from the beach, transition 2, the finish line, and the Boardwalk. The next day I joined the escorted group ride. It was pleasantly sunny, but cold and windy. On Friday we swam with the other Ironman participants on a shortened version of the swim course on Kings Beach. The water condition was almost perfect. A few waves at shore allowed us to play. The water temperature was 59 degrees. It was freezing especially for us that are used to warmer temperature. I was excited to try my new Maverick X wetsuit and my new neoprene swim hood.
It took me one loop of 800 mt to warm up, but the new wetsuit felt great with no restrictions at all.
We had 2 transition areas. T1 was at Kings Beach where I checked my bike on Friday. It was so cool to meet my friend Yelena and Nicole in a World event. T2 was just close to the hotel where we checked our running gears.
I was ready to start.
It was cold, but not rain as predicted. It was windier than expected. I would call Port Elizabeth the ‘Windy City’.
The iconic swim beginning at Kings Beach in the Indian Ocean was a roll start. Water temperature was 59 degrees. It was sunny and a few waves to the shore made a relaxing sound. I started my swim with a short calm sprint into the waves. I was in no rush to dash into the cold water. I knew I needed a calm start to acclimate to the cold temperature. I plodded along, aiming to swim in as straight a line as possible. I warmed up probably after the second buoy and I was comfortable. I felt fast and smooth. It was nice to see one of the race divers underneath me at the first turnaround.
After the second turnaround it was hard to sight due some choppy waves, but it could have been much worse. The swim was good.
As I run out of the water to T1 one of the stripper helped me to quickly take the wetsuit off. After grabbing my transition bag from the rack, I quickly wore arm warmers and ran to the bike.
Time to concentrate on nutrition and hydration. It was cold, so I had to make sure I would drink even if I didn’t feel the need for it. I didn’t want to focus much on power, but more on feeling because for the past 2 months I haven’t biked much. I knew that my threshold power was lower than usual. The challenge started already at the beginning with a steady climb and a strong head wind. My avg speed was incredibly low, but my avg power was at 85%. Finally we had some flattish segments but the real challenge were the climbs leading to Maitlands. We had head wind for about 40 miles. The sky became cloudy. There were some rain drops. My gluteus were tight. I was feeling my lack of training, but I was so happy to be there. The scenery were breathtaking. The spectacular views through town heading towards Seaview with picturesque rolling hills, pristine coastline and world-class beaches were worth the pain. The most scenic part of the course was the most challenging. I could not stay in aero position anymore because my gluteus and my back were very tight, so I just enjoyed the ride looking for dolphins 🐬 and whales 🐳 playing in the bay. I was extremely surprised and amazed at the turnaround. Giant sand dunes appeared in the unspoiled coastline. Finally after the steepest climb going back to town we had tail wind 💨. My bike time was definitely longer than expected, but it was an amazing experience. Lots of ShutUpLegs feelings were involved...
As I reached T2 a volunteer grabbed my bike and I run to get my final transition bag. Quickly I was ready to run.
This is where I really appreciated Port Elizabeth. Hundreds of spectators brought an amazing spirit and pushed me to the end.
The scenic seaside streets and the crazy atmosphere made me forget about my gluteus. I was so happy to see Beth, Terrance and Paul cheering on the first loop. I was expecting to PR on this course because it’s relatively flat and cool, but my legs were not there (nor my butt!). So I just embraced the moment and run relatively slow where my legs took me..... to the finish line.
Beth, Yelena, and Terrance were waiting for me to go to Addo National Park. Another great adventure was about to start….touring South Africa!!
I was honored to race again with world class athletes. My plan was to finish strong and enjoy the friendly atmosphere of South Africa.
South Africa found its way to my soul with its rich culture and diversity, revered heritage, and friendly atmosphere.
This was one of the best championship experience I ever had. There were more than 4000 volunteers and supported along the way. Special thanks to my wonderful friend Elizabeth Cupari who came with me to support and cheer.
I highly recommend this destination. Wild life, nature trail, adventurous hikes, and breathtaking oceans and mountains will make your destination unforgettable.