5150 Triathlon African Champs

Fame -
being photo bombed by the announcer, Paul Kaye
I wasn't certain I should do the 5150 Triathlon. It's rather expensive (exploitatively so), crowded (over a thousand athletes), and the swim takes place in the shadowy waters of the lake belonging to an ex-gold mining town. Locals fear what lurks beneath Victoria Lake's green waters. Some say the dumped body count is low only because of the preferred option of using Bruma Lake as a disposal site. I joke. Sort of.
It then occurred to me: I am little distressed by exploitation of the poor. I remember London Traders dropping photocopied fifty pound notes onto heads of anti-Capitalism protesters. Instead of reeling from the shock of the disparity between the classes, I snorted aloud into my skinny no-sugar double-shot latte, leaving splodges of froth on my George Soros-replica tie.

Likewise, if anything, the hints of agoraphobia in my psyche need to be tempered down, so a congested race would only do me good.

As for murky waters, they have a saying in these parts "Boet, I'm from The View". It's like saying "you don't mess with Texas" or the equivalent. I pay Ekurhuleni Municipality rates and taxes. This is my lake. No-one comes to my lake without paying dues. Everyone pays the ferryman.

So I decided to race the 40-44 age groupers.

Bedfordview Athletics Triathlon Team

The first three guys out the blocks are all mates. Johan "The Fish" Terblanche trains with a bucket tied to his ankles. He should be left unprovoked, regularly placing in the top 10 out the water in Ironman South Africa. He was gone before you could say "Total Immersion". The other two, Hugh Basel and Piers Pirow, are two old school racers constantly fronting the South African 45-49 age group. I thought it time to see if I could hang with these seasoned veterans.

Hugh was leading Piers and myself with the gap to the main pack growing steadily behind us. At the first buoy, Piers fell off Hugh's pace allowing me to weasel my way around to link onto Hugh's feet. It stayed like that until Hugh and I biked out of T2 together.


After hammering the quick course, and with 9k's to go, I punctured. After an aptly timed expletive, I attached a foam pump to the tyre valve, and with the gusto of a seventeen year old boy on prom night, began to spew foam all over the place. Try as I might, the globules of white froth would not go into the tube and gushed out coating the valve, wheel, my hands and side walk. Sniggering out loud, I reattached the mini pump and repeated the exact same scene of sending suds and bubbles everywhere, eliciting fond movie memories of the disintegrating marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.

Time was running out and I sensed the competition going for the jugular. With no time to replace the tube, and after making a diagnostic assessment of a faulty valve, I unloaded the contents of a CO2 canister into the tube. To my elation, the wheel inflated. However the valve, now frozen, would not close and hissed out air. Donating bits of finger flesh, I twisted the valve closed, wiped away the foam from my wheel, hands and legs and remounted the pedals.

The rear wheel was holding but I could feel it softening with each pedal stroke. I was standing over the handle bars hoping the forward lean would alleviate the weight on the rear wheel. As planned, I dropped to my smallest gear and began to increase my cadence. Without warning, my rear wheel jammed and skidded the bike to a halt. Managing to unclip and thwarting a faceplant, the dread in my stomach confirmed that my chain was caught between the rear cog and the wheel. After realising the rear wheel needed to be removed, I yanked on the chain and set it back on the right side of the cog. I remounted and 20 metres later after building up to speed repeated the entire process exactly as I had the first time reminiscent of a cycling version of Groundhog Day. 


The rest of the bike was like riding in sponge cake. The thought of how I would crush anyone and everyone on the run, was the only thing that kept me pedalling. I hit the run at full tilt and immediately felt the heat working its way into my sockless feet. The wet skin started to shred as I repeated my cycle of "hammer/breathe for 30 seconds/hammer" to the finish line squeezing in a sub-40 minute run.

The 2nd fastest swim, 24th fastest bike and 2nd fastest run in my age group earned me a bronze on the podium. Even now, I snigger at those who shied away from the money, crowds and murky waters.
Henri Schoeman, the overall winner and future ITU World Champion, and me
What I learnt
To be a champion like Henri (pictured above), check your equipment, test your equipment, and above all else, wear socks. The swelling in my infected feet began to deflate after 3 days. What a toffee!
Age Group of Death - the 45-49s. Piers is far left. Hugh (with the swim cap) is far right.
It's hard to tell who came first and who came third
Whether you win or lose, to keep coming back, it's easier to pretend you won,

(aka 3rd fastest middle aged triathlon guy in the whole of Africa - including all African islands)