Words by James Knipe
It’s the windiest place on earth, the swim will be a nightmare… The roads are so rough, it’ll be a tough, slow ride… The verges are covered in thorns, you’ll spend your day fixing punctures…
Boy-oh-boy how wrong they were. Port Elizabeth put on a show for the many North Coasters who travelled to the stunning city of Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Easter Cape Province – talk about perfect race weather? It surely couldn’t have been much better?
The training was all done, and the team consisting of Lisa Hitchcock, Barry Silverlock, Stuart King, Brodie Hunter, Alan Hartley, Gary Hardman, George Funk, Brendon Clark, Mike Bosch, Scott Bedforth and James Knipe packed their bikes and headed off to Boschie’s home city. How fortunate we were to have such a great host while we were there; Boschie just couldn’t do enough for us and made the whole week extra special.
The first few days there were spent getting acclimatized to the course, and the fears increased with the wind, as we progressed towards what seems like a white-knuckle ride trying to hold onto the bike in the strong PE winds. “It’s always like this here” we were assured by the locals.
But as the week leading to race day progressed, the winds suddenly began to ease and our nerves settled. The true beauty of PE started to show itself, and the excitement built to overload. Boschie had shown us the bike course, we’d swam in the stunning shores of PE, and ran most of the run course. We all felt good.
The excitement around PE was building as competitors flooded into the city. Ironman put on a stunning opening ceremony with local performances, and speeches which were thankfully kept brief…although the local mayor took this to the extreme…”Thanks for coming!…Bye!”.
Saturday arrived with clear blue skies and not a breath of wind, and temperatures in the low teens rising to low twenties through the day – perfect race conditions. Lisa was up first, and boy-oh-boy did she set a target for the men following. Such a strong and consistent performance, a real credit to herself. In-between our warm-up brick session, the guys got a chance to cheer her on during the run, but regardless of the she seemed to have it all under control on the stunning yet challenging PE course. Lisa, what a champ.
Saturday night arrives, and it’s the final get-together before the big dance for the guys. Extra incentive was provided by Lisa turning up with her medal and finishing gear, which really got the adrenaline going early. She was also a little more red than the previous day thanks to the sunshine! Relaxed and sporting a smile worthy of her performance. It was off to bed early for the guys…and another drink for Lisa?
We’d convinced ourselves that the ladies had got lucky, surely they had the best of the weather? But opening the curtains on Sunday was were greeted with calm waters, not a breath of wind, comfortable temperatures and overcast skies…I think the guys won in terms of race weather. The scene was set for a hard days work.
Down to transition and the nerves were building. Bike? Check. Tyre pressures? Check. Transition bag OK? Check? Remembered not to wear thongs to the start line? Check…for almost all of us.
Into the chute we’d go, spread out over almost 2 hours to get the age groups off. Swimmers were, like the ladies, sent 15 seconds apart in groups of 10. 5…4…3…2…1 and we’re off into the water. Cool but not cold. Flat and fast. Great marker buoys…this was good. And like Lisa before, we all swam strong and exited the water happy.
A long run through T1 and onto the bikes. An initial climb about 8 km long got us away from the shoreline and out into the countryside. And what a stunning countryside this is. The adrenaline settles and its on to another 25 km of rolling roads to take us out to the dreaded Maitlands, a series of two climbs, one of which is crossed both ways, which are sure to sap our energy. But thanks to Boschie, we knew the score…keep it cool here and smash it home. We’re blessed in Perth with a stunning coastline, but this course certainly gives Perth a run for it’s money. It was hard to concentrate with such a view!
Pushing hard and PE suddenly arrives around the corner with only about 4 km to go to T2. Chuck the bike to the bike handlers and grab our kit bags, and before we know it, it’s onto the 21 km run along the streets of coastal PE. The crowd was incredible, and as promised the local Braai’s were in full flow (it’s a kind of BBQ). The smells from the Braais offered us more encouragement to finish strong and do our club proud…wow, it really got the taste buds going! Crossing the finish line was a hugely proud moment for us all, and every North Coaster finished what was a tough course. We were all proud and happy, and it was time for a beer.
A massive thank you from the NCTC crew to Mike Bosch for his colossal amounts of support both in the lead-up to the event, and also in PE…he’s a star and not just for his performance in the race!