Durban Half Ironman - 2nd August 2015

Usually I wouldn’t insult my readers (hello to both of you!) with a race report on a Half Ironman race. The distance is just so - how do I say this without offending anyone - it’s so 2005. However I am reminded of the promise I made to myself some time ago: “The RobbyRicc Race report is not for the current you, but the former you who might be out there getting used to the idea of triathlon and all its confusions (including its use as a vehicle away from sloth and towards enlightenment) and is for the-former-you who has no idea what’s going on”.
If you’re interested in numbers, here’s what happened:

Swim (1.9k’s): 27m06s
Bike (90k): 02:33:03
Run (21.1k): 01:34:50
Total: 4h42m

I was first 40-44yr old guy not in the top ten. Position #11. Which if you exclude the first ten athletes, means I actually won my age group! Remarkable. As for the ladies against whom I am always racing, you’ll be pleased to note I was first 40-44 year old female. This is great news for me as the fastest chick regularly crushes me without mercy. That’s a story for another day.

For those out there who think your heart rate (measured in beats per minute) diminishes with age, you’ll be pleased to note that for me, especially in the last few k’s of the run, it did not. My watch was pushing out numbers in the 180 bpm range which for me is an indication that there’s life in the old engine yet.

RobbyRicc and
The Feet (check the length of the guy's femur) 

I lined up with the 29 minute swimmers. They’re a feisty bunch made up of Johnny Bravo jaws and Hulk Hogan neck veins. I’m not certain if it is intentional intimidation, but they made me want to shrivel up and bury myself in the beach sand. The start was a feeder system where a group of resilient volunteers channelled groups of about 10-12 into the water. The pros went off and the age groupers shimmied their way through the sand to the start line, not unlike cattle gearing up for the stampede.

As I see it, the trick in sea swims is to accept that the sea is stronger than you’ll ever be and will crush you at the drop of a hat. Once you’ve accepted that, the thing is not to fight your way out or be a hero but to take it easy and dive under the waves and exhale. Always exhale.

I made my way beyond the breakers without issue and found a pair of shoulders ploughing the sea before me. I fought the entire way for the bubbling pair of feet until the final buoy which turned to the beach. Heading for land felt as though I was swimming on the spot, when all of a sudden, the sea sucked me backwards and rose underneath me like a behemoth raising itself to its feet. Thankfully the behemoth missed me and I saw its aftermath tumbling and smashing its way to shore. I’ll get the next one, I thought. After missing a few more waves, my wave finally arrived. I relaxed before it reached me and then, as I sensed its rollercoaster energy welling up behind me, swam as though my life depended on it.
At first, the wave was quiet. Like a giant taking a deep breath.  My legs rose with the water which swiftly jettisoned my body down the ribbed back of its wave. Wetsuits, it became apparent, are way faster than human skin and board shorts. I rocketed down and through the water and froth emitting a primal scream festooned with quotes from Avatar and its crazy Colonel Quaritch. As my speed topped out, the wave caught me and avalanched me into the sand. A fair trade for the free ride.
Col. Quaritch: You are not in Kansas anymore. You are on Pandora, ladies and gentlemen. Respect that fact every second of every day. If there is a Hell, you might wanna go there for some R & R after a tour on Pandora. Out there beyond that fence every living thing that crawls, flies, or squats in the mud wants to kill you and eat your eyes for jujubes. They are very hard to kill. As head of security, it is my job to keep you alive. I will not succeed. Not with all of you. If you wish to survive, you need to cultivate a strong, mental aptitude. You got to obey the rules: Pandora rules. Rule number one...

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The Mount
Normally mounting your bike while your shoes are in your pedals and elasticated to your bike is an informal affair. This time proved different.
As I moved towards the mount line, for some reason I thought the marshal shouted that we had to mount before the line. This turned out to be exactly 100% incorrect.
As I began to straddle the bike, not unlike a lion trying to get a grip with its hind leg on a sprightly gazelle, the marshal hollered “Athlete! Do not get on the bike! Only AFTER the mount line! Cease! Desist! Verboten!”
This caused me to panic and I start hopping on my left leg with my right leg in a straight ballet-stretch above my back wheel making me look like I was the last in a long breed of randy horses trying to mount a wee-young-mare to prevent extinction. My left leg weakened with all the bounding and on breaching the mount line I Iunged – not unlike the last jump permitted to triple jumpers – and prayed that my nuts were sufficiently tucked out of harm’s way in my tri suit. The crowd sensed it too. I could hear their gasps as my groin area floated upwards almost willing the seat to lower itself beneath the under carriage to avoid the crushing of the crown jewels.
 “Not the nuts. Not the nuts.” I could almost hear the crowd whisper in unison as they squeezed their eyes.
Gasps turned to cheers as my scrotum slid ever so gently over the seat like a starship berthing with the mother ship. I smiled nervously with the knowledge of how close my life had been to being changed forever. A tear may have been expended, I can’t be certain, and I channelled the relief and thankfulness into my quads.
 The Bike

The bike course hugs the coastline and gently takes you over its fleshy curves forcing every ACDC fan to hum the tune from “Whole Lotta Rosie”.
‘Ain't no fairy story
Ain't no skin and bones
But you give it all you got
Weighin' in at nineteen stone
You're a whole lotta woman.’
The first stormtroopers came by after ten k’s. At first the occasional firebird, then a few tag team riders, and finally the crack commando team they call “The A–Team”. With each attack came an injection of pace. I quickly succumbed and resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t strong enough to pace off the riders legitimately. Not even close.  At the Ballito turnaround point, I traded a limpet mine explosion for a slow controlled underwater type implosion.
“No-one here knows me and if they do they don’t care. Only I care. I need to really care. But not now. Just a few more minutes to gather the pieces and rebuild. I’ll come back. And then they’ll rue the day. Oh yes, they'll rue the day.”
Aside from the odd ball of tumbleweed and being surpassed by my Apocalypse Cow protégé, Ty Walker, the road back was uneventful and painful. With about 15k’s to go, I found myself overtaken by a woman. Her name read “Kendra”. Excellent, I thought, she’ll lead me home, as I tried to slot behind her legally. The next moment, a team of riders slotted past me and into Kendra’s slipstream. Team Kendra could smell the stables, I thought.
I sat up as the team sucked me along until all its riders went by. As they did, I bit down on a cement pill, and rode around the riders. The increased effort fired me up but as soon as I made my way to the front, the rider behind me went by. And then the next. Always with Kendra at the front. My legs were sputtering and I tried the same tactic over the next few k’s with little effect. I could smell T2 and my running legs stirred. Stuff this cycling malarkey I thought. Bring me my running shoes. Bring me that promenade. 
The Run and The Old Gel from Arkaitz
After a quick tinkle at the portaloo, I exited T2 in good spirits. The Achilles felt lousy but it’d loosen up. I ran up to Kendra and piped up “Go Team Kendra”. Kendra turned to me, read my name on my number and said “Looking great Roberto”. What a nice gesture, I thought. She had an American accent so I thought it best to be polite and share my running intentions in case she was interested. “I’m aiming for a 1.30-ish if you’re keen.” “Me too” she said and gently let me go ahead, constantly giving me shouts of encouragement at every turn. Class act, I noted.

The ground couldn’t come to me fast enough and I enjoyed the thrill of seeing if a kid or lost cat would stray across the promenade. In anticipation I’d gently swerve my missile guidance system around the unsuspecting victims. If they were a bit skittish and jumped into my path, there’s very little chance that I’d be able to avoid them. As the thoughts of pedestrian prangs crossed my mind, I realised I had a caffeine gel snuck in the back of my triathlon suit. That bad boy had been waiting for me all day and it was time to take the hit and unleash several flavours of hell on my competitors.

I tore at the packet and sucked on its contents. The gelatinous jelly squirmed its way down my throat. The gel seemed off. It reminded me of ripe cheese from mouldy basements. I smacked my tongue around in my mouth in resigned disgust. I looked at the packet. It said “Bolt” or “Jolt” or “Jazz”. Something short, sharp and forgettable. Where the hell did I get this gel? It soon dawned on me. My good friend, Arkaitz Poncela, a Basque missile of an athlete and great friend, had given it to me with all his tri nutritional gear before leaving South Africa for Al Ein in the Middle East. In 2012. I did the maths. The gel I had ingested was older than Arkaitz’s daughter who is about 3 by now.

My kidney choked and popped against my ribcage. I laughed and grimaced at the same time. What a chop. What a cheap-skate unorganised chop. The feeling of nausea brimmed at my throat and in my gut for the next few k’s.

At the half way mark of the run, Kendra, who it turned out was one of the 4 female professional athletes, came by me as though she was an heiress chasing a diamond thief. She juggernauted past me and put 2 minutes into me in the last half of the run. I ran a 1.34. She ran a 1.32. Her closing speed was pretty incredible.


I’ve cracked a 4h30 and a 4h35 for Half Ironmans however I always disputed the other highly improbable and shortened distances so those don’t count. At this race, the distances seemed just about right. So I’m happy with my new PB of 4.42, which is 7 minutes faster than the 4.49 from Florida 70.3 World Champs ten years ago where I finished alongside Keeto. On that day in Florida, Keeto, Blur and I all cramped from the Jakey-lurgy and endured horrible races so we always knew there was unfinished business.

There’s still lots more under the tank. The will to commit (to what I think is required) has been lacking of late. The extra time is out there on the bike and the run, waiting to be extracted in buckets of sweat from the salt-mines.

Never a better time than right now to begin the extraction,

RobbyRicc, The Feet, Jester and Pat The Divine
pilfer the lady's 25-29 age group trophy 

The new Team Kendra


  1. Result! My readership has gone up 33.33 points in an hour. Fame awaits. Cheers Werner.

  2. Keith and Werner - I think you guys are "my two blog readers". Excellent!