Race report © John Pendergrass:
Last November, I got a call from Ken Glah of Endurance Sports Travels (www. Endurancesportstravel.com) telling me that I had won an expense paid trip to the Ironman South Africa Triathlon held on April 13, 2008. I don’t enter a lot of contests and this is by far the best thing I’ve ever won.
After many 100 mile plus bike rides, a lot of Sunday morning 15-20 mile runs, and too many 5:30 AM swim sessions – plus a 20 hour plane flight from New York, my daughter Patricia and I arrived in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Port Elizabeth is a city of about 1.5 million people on the Indian Ocean at the tip of the African Continent. South Africans are very friendly and they love the outdoors. Soccer is popular (the World Cup comes in 2010), but rugby is king. They are proud of hosting the only Ironman competition in Africa.
The 1,600 entrants included only 27 from the USA but amazingly three others were from Mississippi – George Russell, Larry Cresswell, and Stephanie Robertson, all from the Jackson area.
We arrived in Port Elizabeth just two days before the race, but had enough time for a practice swim and a short bike ride. Two things stand out about South Africa – the Indian Ocean is cold (the Atlantic is even colder) and the wind blows a lot. We were fortunate on race day to have 10 mph winds instead of the usual 20-30 mph.
At 4:30 AM race morning I hopped out of bed, ate a small breakfast and caught the shuttle to the transition area. Fairly quickly 7:00 AM rolled around and we were off on a 2.4 mile swim. The water was cool and refreshing and the two loops went quickly. It’s interesting how fast the swim goes in open water as opposed to the interminable laps in a pool. I was out of the water in 1:28, a good time for me.
The bike course had three loops with a six mile, 600 foot climb into the wind to start each circuit (2000 feet total climb in 112 miles). The down hills with a tailwind were superfast. The temperature was in the high 70’s and overcast so I was able to make it to around 90 miles before I started checking my odometer every 30 seconds and counting down the final miles. Part of the course was out of the city in the bushveld and part was along the rugged Indian Ocean coastline.
I was out of transition 2 at 8:30, a good half hour faster than my two previous Ironman Triathlons. Two miles into the run I became nauseated and spent the next 6 hours in a survival march, unable to take any fluids. At race registration my weight was 80 kilograms (this weight is written on the back of your race number), but by the time I entered the medical tent after the race for some fluids I had slimmed down to 71 kilograms.
In any case it was a great event and anyone who can finish an Ironman Triathlon in the time limit (17 hours) can be justifiably proud. After being sidelined a couple of years ago with a broken hip and elbow, I was happy to complete this race.
Patricia and I spent another 10 days in South Africa after the triathlon. It’s a country where the dollar still goes a long way. Capetown is one of the world’s most beautiful cities with a dramatic coastline and wonderful food. We toured the Cape peninsula down to the Cape of Good Hope, sampled the wine country, spend a couple of days in Johannesburg, and finished with a three days stay in Kruger National Park.
Endurance Sports Travel is a great company that takes athletes to Ironman races all over the world. They know the needs of the triathlete and are a pleasure to travel with.
South Africa is the star of the African continent. Most of the black majority-led countries of Africa are marked by violence, brutality, poverty and corruption. South Africa is a notable exception due in large part to Nelson Mandela, a man greatly admired by all South Africans.
The fourth Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa started off with a bang this morning, sending close to 1600 eager participants into the icy Indian Ocean of Nelson Mandela Bay, in an attempt to prove their capabilities in the intense Spec -Savers Ironman South Africa.
The crowd erupted as a sea of yellow caps entered the surf; thousands of athletes determined to get a good start to their race. The only waves seen were those made from the helicopter above. The conditions are ideal for an Ironman – perfect weather, flat water, and a vibrant crowd cheering aloud, spurring their favourites on.
Congratulations to Pine Belt Pacer John Pendergrass for
Triangle held a press conference this morning from the Courtyard Hotel, with the top winners of the 2008 Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa. New Champions Bella Comerford (GBR) and Stephen Bayliss (GBR) were joined by Edith Niederfriniger (ITA) and Raynard Tissink (RSA) of second, Lucie Zelenkova (CZE) and Peter Schoissengeier (AUT) of third, Cordula Moller (NAM) and Francois Chabaud (FRA) of fourth and finally Kathryn Cronje (RSA) and Steffen Liebetrau (GER) of fifth, and John Pendergrass (USA) of first Mississippian.
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