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The Slanghoek Triathlon: racing beyond the shelf life of your life…

27 October 2013

The Slanghoek Triathlon: racing beyond the shelf life of your life…
Article by: Frank Smuts

At this year’s ITU Triathlon World Champs, Xavier Gomez and Johnny Brownlee had to execute a sprint finish for 1st place. That is how close the good guys are after 1.5 Km swim, 40 Km bike and 10 Km run. With age group triathlon racing, the gaps widen a bit, to the point that most often you don’t even see your rivals. Mostly, to assert whether you might be on the podium after finishing, you stagger around asking bystanders if anyone looking older than you stumbled over the finish line prior to your own bedraggled arrival. And also most often, with hands clutching plastic cups containing warm, flat beer, they look back at you as if you’ve asked them the stupidest question they’ve ever heard.

Team Tri-Plex arrived in all its glory at the Slanghoek Triathlon. A road, as well as an off road version was on the menu. For reasons unknown to us, some songs, like Liewe Lulu, becomes a hit. The Slanghoek Triathlon however, became a hit in 4 years for very tangible reasons: the greatest venue and great weather. And Pieter, top dog at Iqela Events makes it work! This year even world class race commentator Paul Kaye, fresh from the European Ironman Tour, showed up!

So, with 800+ athletes, the start took place in waves: four start groups for the road, and two for the off road event.I opted for the off road version for two reasons: 1. To improve my chances to podium as a 53 year old ballie. After all, we’re not there to enjoy it. It is an ego thing.I am just brave enough to admit it. And 2. For the same reason. It is that important. There were two age groups: 19-39, and 40-dead. Once again I was denied the 50+ agegroup category. The 13 years deficit. Again. No easy pickings.

The swim…

Cornel, Henry and Olga and the other athletes were already sweating it out on the road event as we got started on the lovely swim, consisting of two laps, totaling 1,3 Km’s. For lap two we all ran out of the water and jumped back in off a pier. I lost my goggles, just like I said I wouldn’t, and lost about 2 hours trying to de-water it several times.

The bike…

After exiting the dam, we had a very long uphill run to the transition area. I had my usual very clumsy transition. (I’m gonna start bringing a gas stove with for making tea in T1 and T2.) As I started pedalling, I saw Gustav, ex-XTerra SA agegroup champ in front of me. He is an animal. Just to be with him gave me hope for the elderly, represented by me. Tiaan, Morne and all the over 19-39’s, started in the earlier wave and were way ahead if us. We, the 40+ agegroup, and the female contenders made up the last group. Somehow it had a psychological effect on me, as if we were sort of “last… and least”. Where are gender and geriatric activists when we need them the most?!

After what felt like a millennium Gustav and I cycled up to Robyn Williams, top female Tri-Plex team mate. She is a super swimmer, and must have exited the swim 3 hours ahead of me to have had this much of a lead. But somehow, to perceive such beauty amongst a horde of beasts, ups the energy levels in its very own way. And it did, till we struck the single track. With Gustav’s technical riding ability and back markers not making way, he slowly but surely started dropping me. And my legs were also starting to drop me.And I dropped my chain at some point. Begging for space to pass, one girl shouted back at me “ I AM on the left…DUDE!” To be called a “dude” at age 53: what a bargain! She obviously did not see my face. The usual soul destroying “uncle” would’ve been slung at me. 24 Km’s later I cycled into T2 to start the run.

The run…

Heading out of T2, the legs were not firing much. Someone shouted at me: “He’s just left!” I was wondering, “Who just left? My mind? Anything else? Probably Gustav as well.” So, in effect I was urged on to, actually, race! The route was changed to one loop of 10 Km. 9 Km’s of what felt like beach sand. I ran for ever and ever, wondering who “has just left” and of what concern is it to me? With 1,5 Km left, none other but Gustav came into view. And it dawned onto me, I am about to have my own baptism in fire: a sprint finish it would be. Boys will be boys. I ran him down, and with a heart rate as high as that of a humming bird, (about 9000 beats per minute) I snuck up onto his shoulder. In his own state of survival he did not recognize me till I pulled up next to him with only 600 meters left. Seeing me, he jumped as if he’d seen a ghost. He was right, I was but a ghost of what I am supposed to be.

The sprint finish…

With my heart rate down to about 700 beats per minute, shoulder to shoulder with Gustav, I had to make the critical decision: when to initiate the dreaded sprint finish! With about 400 meters left I put the hammer down! Flat out. And Gustav charged like wounded buffalo. 100 Meters into the sprint he was still next to me! Plan B kicked into my befuddled brain: bring the pace down, tuck in behind Gustav, get your breath back and then launch a desperate attack from about 200 meters out. A “do or die”!

A split second before my insipid plan B was to be launched, Gustav just disappeared! He gave up. Just like that. I could not believe my luck. I kept the pose for the last 200 meters with an Oscar winning act! The crowd was going wild! NOT! With Gustav starting to blend in with other finishers, I looked like some forlorn old ballie trying to live out his own version of “Chariots of Fire” as I went over the finish line. All I remember is the commentator mentioning something about a podium and blurred visions of a little girl dangling a finisher’s medal in front of me, deepening my post-race fatique induced hypnotic state. But, as always, I was…fourth! And I realized I am unique. Like everyone else.

A good day at the office after all…

Team Tri-Plex had a good day! Cornel was 6th overall in the road tri, Henry 1st Vet. Olga Koorts, despite a dangerous virus (to be diagnosed the next day) 6th in open ladies and 10th lady overall! In the off road race, Robyn took top spot as per usual. Morne van Greunen had an excellent 4th overall and moi a 4th in vets and 9th overall. Tiaan finished 6th in his agegroup as well. 6 Top 10’s in a massive field: an awesome day at the office!

Massive thanks to 32GI for nutrition, PUMA and 2XU for making us look beautiful and fast, Virgin Active for making us sexy and Cape Auto Centre for being the backbone of it all.

Till next time. Veni, vedi, weetie!

http://tiaanpretorius.weebly.com/index.html

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