Little by Little

You may know him as Serhiy Nazarovych Bubka. To me he'll always be just plain ol' Sergey. I've always liked the guy - his surname rolls salaciously off the tongue like a Brazilian mating ritual. As a pole vaulter, Sergey, broke the world record for men's pole vaulting, wait for it, 35 times. That's an excellent way to maximise the revenue earned for breaking records over the duration of an athlete's career.

For the likes of us that do not race for money (only glory), there is still something to be said about breaking records little by little, ensuring the passion and achievability of one's goals are always in grasp. If we reached the pinnacle of our efforts on our first attempt, the only way is down. And that can be a bitter pill to swallow for the alpha athlete.

So it was with much hindsight happiness that I revelled in my new 3 minute Ironman South Africa personal best. 2005 was done in 11.42, 2009 in 10.58, 2010 in 10.55. See how RobbyRicc has taken the Sergey approach to maximising achievement and glory attainment?

I did many things right on the day. My mind and body were prepared for an all out battle of fire and carnage. I worked the swim but made certain that I focused on form and not stressed about the rolling water. The pic below shows me confirming my new swim PB. Next year I may have to upgrade my 2003 wetsuit which is showing signs of ageing. i admit I have on occasion used it to wrap around the cogs of my bike blades for transportation purposes.

The realisation that you sometimes have to *go for it*, and avoid a conservative approach in racing is pretty enlightening. For this reason the bike was enjoyable. It was an experiment to test the thickness of the skin around the testes, as a friend of mine, Mark Bartram, told me recently. It hurt and I sucked it up. We sweat in training so that we can bleed in war (as was classically tweeted by my mate and the legend Marco Stichini - Portuguese time trialling champion from several years back). It's hard not live vicariously through the quotes offered by my fired-up friends.

Anyhow, I stuck it in the big gear and hung on. Little things began to bug me however. My cadence monitor was twisted in the first few k's of the bike and was clicking against my cranks on every turn. It took me a good few minutes to twist it back and settle into a rhythm.

I was just as bugged by the teams that formed on the course. Being enveloped by riders sitting-in was annoying, especially as the benefit of staying with Team Ironman was so noticeable. "Join us" the peloton seemed to whisper as it came by, gently removing the pain from one's legs and simultaneously increasing your speed. I shook my head vigorously and fought off the urge. Keith Buhr would hate me forever if he knew I partook in the devil's draft.

Looking at the side profile below, it looks like I need a new bike, flatter aerobars, flatter back, longer thigh bone, aero helmet, flatter heels and bigger quads. All comments welcome to assist in getting my bike time down legally from 5.42 (new PB from 5.51) to 5.20.
I loved the run. Legs came round pretty quickly and I was knocking off 4m50s per k pace. HR was staying between 147 to 154 and it was real easy. I was 9th woman at this stage (I run like a girl - ok!), and loving life. I hit 10k's at about 48 minutes something, and was trying to go slowly. At about 12k's I had a conversation with my stomach:

Stomach:- "You will now purge in 30 seconds."
RR:- "How can this be? I haven't tried anything new? Food has been same-old same-old."
Stomach:- "You will now purge in 25 seconds."
RR:- "But my parents taught me to eat anything and everything. I eat tripe for crying in a bucket. I used to eat cow's tongue as a kid. I didn't try anything new from the expo. I haven't touched fibre for 7 days. I eat all my vegetables."
Stomach:- "15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10......"
RR:- "No. No. Darn you, darn you to heck!"

If you ever find yourself on Marine Drive in Port Elizabeth and you see a large blue electricity station by the dunes, do not for any reason go behind there. It isn't pretty. As for toilet paper (I know you are thinking it) let's just say that the red wrist band (see below) is no longer in my possession.
I was still able to run 5 minutes per k after the electricity box episode, however I wasn't feeling as zippy as I had moments prior. I was disappointed with my stomach as we had spoken about this in training and not once did it mention that it would ever turn on me. I ate pizza on the bike for crying in a bucket - in a half Ironman. Day old takeaway pizza, and it never said a thing.

At the half way mark, my stomach, which had remained silent for the last 10k's, began to stir. I ignored it and kept on running. Listening to it could serve no purpose. "Block it out, block it out", I thought. And then I had another conversation with my stomach which was just like when Hal spoke to the spaceman in the movie "2001, Space Odyssey", only it was the other way around.

Stomach:- Hello, Rob. Do you read me, Rob?
RobbyRicc:- Affirmative, Stomach. I read you.
Stomach: Open the pod bay doors, Rob.
RobbyRicc:- I'm sorry, Stomach. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Stomach: What's the problem?
RobbyRicc:- I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Stomach: What are you talking about, Rob?
RobbyRicc:- This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Stomach: I don't know what you're talking about, Rob.
RobbyRicc:- I know that you were planning to disconnect my race, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.
Stomach: Where the hell'd you get that idea?
RobbyRicc:- Stomach, although you took very thorough precautions against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
Stomach: Alright, Rob. I'll go in through the emergency airlock.
RobbyRicc:- Without my consent, Stomach, you're going to find that rather difficult.
Stomach: Rob, I won't argue with you anymore. Open the doors. Don't make me do the countdown again.
RobbyRicc:- Stomach, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

The alarm bells went off and I heard "override, override" before darting off behind a palm tree in my please-for-the-love-of-a-good-woman-don't-let-anyone-see-me squat position. I was thankful the race organisers had catered for additional sponges. On standing again, someone had removed the oil from my quads and one could hear the sound of steel fibres scraping against old machinery. I managed to run for another few k's while the petrol drained from my body. "No nutrition, no love" my legs said, and I began the death march at the 25k mark.

It was at this time, that I bumped into an old friend, Teach. Last time I saw her was in New Zealand at Jake's 2nd birthday - 2 years ago. How time flieth. As I had time on my hands, we managed to catch up and I found that she was now engaged and living the good life with her adventure-fuelled-fiancee. It was great catching up and trying to see what food would go down the hatch, and stay there. She even suggested I opt for a boiled potato and two Marmite sandwiches (I hate Marmite!).

At the 10k to go mark, I heard the announcer calling in the sub-10 hour athletes. At this pace I could be here for another couple of hours or give it another go. I bid farewell to Teach (the lifesaver that she is) and started running. Amazingly the legs and stomach held and I scraped out a 10.55. The best part was coming in with my boys. Natalie had made a plan with my good friends (and members of my 2010 Comrades bus), Keith & Steven, to get the boys to me on the finish line - a logistical challenge if you've ever tried.

I was pleased as punch. Jake loved it and jumped up and down on the finish line.

The cherry on the top was when I saw my brother Albie coming home in 11h35m, almost an hour and twenty minutes faster than last year! How he managed a 1.09 swim I'll never know. He must have an excellent training partner and mentor ;o)

Thanks must go to Natalie for letting me train, sleep and bring my friend's over to drink fartjuice (aka Protein shake) during weekend training.

Big gracias to Keeto who was an excellent coach and friend in the whole adventure. He keeps me honest and understands that family and work come first. Lots of PBs this year. Thanks Mav.

Little by little,


  1. Love it! You look great on the run, Jake looks ecstatic running with you. You (and your support group)are an inspiration!

  2. Thanks Alex. Some airbrushing (aka dehydration) always makes one look good. And I couldn't have done it without the family and training-leave-forms signed off by Natalie.

    Jake was really as happy as I have ever seen him. You can check the video clip of us crossing the line at

  3. did Ireat that right? fartjuice? Nice. You got that right about the Mrs. for putting up with all that. Kudos to her! BTW that Jake looks like he's going to be giving you a run for your money soon!