The Ironman African Championship 2017, a D-day filled with PBs and exceptional racing.
The day started off with perfect weather conditions, the Ironman hustle, bustle in the air with a slight chop in the sea but nothing for athletes to sweat about, giving the start of the African Champion a no less that perfect beginning to race day.
It seems for two years running, mother nature has been kind enough to release the windy city of its duties to provide the best conditions needed for speed, sweat and an electric atmosphere amongst supporters for the day of the Ironman. This year, the athletes were set up with perfect swim conditions onto a familiar, and if not the most ideal cycle course consisting of two laps with 49% uphill climbing versus 51% downhill which leads onto a run course that was made for breaking PBs. ENDURADE athletes, Kyle Buckingham and Richard Lawrie were nothing short of promising to do exactly this. Pro-athlete, Buckingham racing his best race to date and Richard Lawrie dominating the age groupers.
“On Sunday 2 April was the performance of my career! It was my ninth consecutive Ironman South Africa and my fourth year doing it as a pro. The field was stacked with over 40 male professional athletes as it was African champs and lots of points on the line to kick off the year. It’s in my home town so the decision every year makes it very easy to choose.My lead up to the Ironman was fantastic, I had a great off-season in November 2016 and started my build in early December. I raced Ironman 70.3 East London and finish 3rd in late January and another 70.3 in the Philippines three weeks before Ironman South Africa.Living in Port Elizabeth definitely makes things a little bit easier knowing the course and what the weather can do on different days. I trained a lot on the course but also mixed it up in the hills around my home, I love training at home definitely one of the best places I’ve ever trained.For a early season race and a big year ahead of me, I went into the race with relatively great fitness but far from where I will be come October.My swim was nearly perfect except for the beginning when I dived in and my goggles popped off my head, that was definitely quite a shock but didn’t waste to much time getting them back on and sitting in the group. The whole swim I felt very comfortable and tried to stay out of trouble wasting to much energy. I remember just feeling great the whole time, except for maybe swallowing about a liter of sea water!
I exited the water in just over 49min with the main bunch but still 1min behind the 2 leaders. The swim has always been something I really put a lot of emphasis on and I’m glad I saw the hard work paying off.”
“I got on the bike with the main bunch and I remembered my legs just feeling great from the start. The first hour is always a little bit move higher in terms of pacing but I felt comfortable and decided to go with the pack. I constantly made sure to always listen to my body if I needed to take fuel on, and always making the right choices early on to hold back a bit. There was one point in the race at about 92km when I went off the front and gapped the group with knowing it. I felt comfortable doing it but at around 130km the pack caught back up to me. I made probably the choice of the day right then to stay with the group and save my energy for the marathon and I think this my my turning point for a great day.”
“When I jumped off my bike and ran to trainsition 2, I just remember my legs feeling so light and in great form. My plan was to run the first 2km a little bit slower than my intended marathon pace, it was a bit quick but I felt so good and in control. I started to get in a great rhythm and probably running about 10sec per km than intended. My fueling was in check the whole way, and I even decided to be a lot smarter and run with a fuel belt . I remember getting to around the 30km mark and my pace was hardly changing. With around 5km to go I tried to up it a bit and catch 3rd which was around 2:30min ahead, unfortunately it wasn’t enough but incredibly happy to run down the red carpet in 4th setting a PB with a 2:47 marathon and a finish time of 8:08hr in front of my home crowd and grab so great points early in the year leading towards Kona. Thanks to all my amazing support along the way reaching my goals.”