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Dave Weber's Enduroman race experience

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...and so many hours spent in the trails with Andy Chase looking for the elusive 'bonk'...many hours spent on cold mornings swimming 100's with Ryan Skinner...many icy mornings spent running the trails around Avis dam...always reminded what Patrick de Goede says 'run, but appreciate your surrounds'...and so the months of preparation started!

 The week before the race saw me not sleeping...late nights in hospital...early morning run turn nasty, when I rolled my left ankle...but all was booked and planned..so regardless of the unplanned taper...to Franschoek we travelled....the weather the day before was cold and I was hesitant of my form...the reception at La Roche was breezy...and so a warm up swim was canned...so I rode the first 10 Kms of the MTB with Genevieve Weber Michel and Vera Adrian...the race was gonna be tough!

  The hype around IMSA makes everything on the morning 'larger than life'...not so at La Roche...everyone of the 200 plus athletes looking around tentatively...are we really gonna swim to that far buoy? The one you can barely see due to the persistent rain....we all pack out at T1 reluctantly...peering over at who looks fittest...as old friends smile and wonder if today is a good idea?! The warm up swim is a shock to the system...as the numerous holes in my suit remind me that my wetsuit needs replacing...and that TSA won't let us swim 2.5 Kms if the temp is under 14 degrees and for good reason...the swim start is underwhelming...as apprehensive triathletes try to negotiate with their senses...I struggle the first 400 m! Grasping for air due to the sting of cool water in your face and mouth...I reprimand myself and suppress the panic as I traverse the painful pyramid swim course...only about to finish the first lap do I get into rhythm...and start focussing on the race at hand...Dave, you're here to race not just to participate...get your head in the game...oh how I wish I'd also brought a neoprene cap! The second lap goes well...but my suit fills up with water and becomes cumbersome! I'm grateful to get out of the water since I'm at about 50 mins...as planned! But suddenly the numbness sets in...I'm lethargic and disorientated...knowing I must transition only makes me more sluggish...so I stop at my bike and breath...I go through the routine I've practiced so many times in training...this brings me solace...since I do it without thinking...I'm glad I'm so protocol driven..it's means I do exactly the same routine regardless of race or conditions! Now to bike in the rain!

 Genevieve Weber Michel and Marco De Vincenzo and Natalie Tissink shout at me...dress warm...put on more clothes..so I don a cycling top and waterproof jacket I purchased in Norway...I can't seem to drink or eat but know I must put in some nutrition...I haven't eaten since 04h30 this morning...!

The initial climb I overtake walking/slipping athletes and am so grateful for our terrain in Windhoek...we're comfortable in anything rugged...the rain makes me smile since for us it's a novelty and it'll distract me from the pain...I eat a date bar...and concentrate on keeping my Epic 29er upright as every branch grabs at me in the wet...I've gotta pace myself...1500 m of climbing left on the bike...join a bus and stick with them...the special needs Water point comes all too quickly! My cleat has come totally loose on the last long downhill...so I try not to panic and get it tightened by Gen before I speed off with pizza and hot cross buns and Perpetuem on board...we're doing way too little single track...and way too little climbing! I'm anxious as we go through the Kms...either I've got the course wrong...or I'm over cooking it...the climbs are steady...but manageable...I must drink cos the cold weather makes the thirst stay away...no sweating in this wind...but I've got to get calories on board...the mud makes the braking hazardous and the steering precarious...but here is where my strength lies...and I take a biker every few Kms....the rivers we cross break the monotony...but the many road and fence crossings don't add to the challenge...eventually we're at 78 Kms and I can hear the music of T2 in the distance...the sun is coming out...I'm an hour faster than I planned..but I'm feeling good...hopefully the ankle holds on the run!

 ...and so into T2 I ran...under the ever watchful eye of TSA...the rain fell softly and was a relief as it kept the afternoon cool! I was proud that I'd remained disciplined on the bike and shoveled down the nutrition...too many IMSA lessons lighting up in the back of my mind...the top guys will be finishing soon...man, how they've conquered this course...all the time keeping it 'in the red'!

3 loops Dave...keep focussed...concentrate on landing properly on that left ankle...and so I donned my Saucony peregrines...well used to the awesome trails we have here in Windhoek...I just started at a slower cadence...focussing on my form instead of the fatigue...remembering what 3 times IM World Champion Crowie Alexander says' you WILL feel like giving up somewhere on the run...but you MUST push through and surprise yourself with your finish'...and so the climb/scramble up 'the wall' to a district road atop La Roche Estate...from there it's a slow uphill drag for a Kay before a precipitous 3 km drop into the vineyards below over loose gravel...which I traverse carefully BUT roll over my ankle AGAIN! The pain makes me wince and grind my teeth but I push on...endurance events have taught me that pain/discomfort is relative...it's a chess game between what your body can throw at you in chemical signals vs what your frontal lobe can suppress with reward or manipulation! It makes any painful sensation seem like par for this course! And so I push to the water table and reward myself with a minute's walk...

I slowly complete the lap through the vineyards...but fear the climb up 'the wall' as the cramps start to threaten their arrival...all the time grateful for the friends and my wife climbing to the lonely corners of the run course to cheer and offer distraction...the weather changes between rain and sunshine...and so do my emotions...focus...there are still guys out on the bike...maintain perspective....!

I use the time to pray..to be grateful to my Creator..for my wife...my kids...my friends...my health...my vocation...the water table comes quickly now...only sponsored drinks...a 'no fly zone' for me...a lesson learnt 2 years ago at IMSA when my stomach imploded..and almost left me crawling! So I just drink water and eat a banana...wishing for the magical Coke I use at most endurance events...

We get rubber bands on our wrists after completing every loop...little armbands of triumph that we ALL treasure..they are not bright like at IMSA but skin coloured...so I surreptitiously glance at the wrists of every athlete I encounter just to check! That competitiveness never leaves...it helps drive us on!

On my final lap I'm encouraged by a hand on my back..just keep going he says...I check his wrists and see NO bands...he smiles and asks what lap I'm on...I say LAST...and feel energy surge into my body as I accelerate ahead of him...no guilt felt here...I just swam and biked harder, that's all...

The last few Kay's are tough...the ankle is really throbbing but numbed by that sense of accomplishment that overwhelms every endurance athlete heading down the home straight...I've exceeded my expectations...and smile as I finish the last Kay...as I scan the crowd...I see all my fellow gladiators that step into the endurance arena again and again...we see each other at the start line of impossible events that fill us with fear, trepidation and angst...events that make you taste mud, sweat, blood and tears...endurance adventures that make you get up early on cold mornings months before...that make you sacrifice carbs and endure through injuries...so we can share not in a podium, but in a mutual respect...built on pushing your mind past what your body can perceive possible...built on a camaraderie of suffering through whatever gets thrown at you..built on a brotherhood of reliance on bone,muscle, talent but ultimately on a stubbornness that drives all of us endurance athletes to conquer ourselves...and so the acknowledging nod...no times matter in this space...no excuses either...the stripes are testament enough!

Will I be back...definitely! Will I hurt and struggle...most probably! Will it break me...never!

Dave Weber


Annah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017

After a great first year racing in the professional category in 2016, I was amped for the 2017 season. Feeling stronger and fitter and more in the "right head space" - I had done some great training over December spending many many many (and many more) hours on the bike - I loved it. My swim was starting to click, I was starting to understand the phrase "feel the water", and my running was strong

READ ONAnnah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017
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