Afriman Duathlon 2012 – NICO STERK 2nd overall. With a very strong men and women’s line up for top honours it was unfortunate with the turnout of entries for the race. Still the level of competition was fit for a 1000 plus entries.
Afriman is something else. Those of you who have done it will understand. It is a true test of a person’s character and mental power. The heat, the off-road run and format is a killer. If you can finish this race you will finish any 70.3 Iron Man event in the world – guaranteed.
The race format was a 12 km off road run followed with a 70 km on road, non drafting cycle leg and finishing off with 6 km off road run. The last leg of the event looks on paper as the easiest and shortest. Unfortunately in reality it does not work out like this. The last 6 km of the race is the hardest and toughest section of the whole day. Some athletes run the 6 km almost the same time as their first 12 km. Bear in mind this is in 35 degree heat after a windy and deceptive 70 km cycle and a 12 km run.
On Saturday I picked up a stomach bug. I felt terrible. I did not believe on Saturday when watching the Springboks lose another game, that I would be able to finish Afriman. It made common sense to realize that after I picked up the bug, that I will not recover within 24 hours. Saturday night was a new experience for me. I slept in total 2 hours max. The rest of the time I tried my best to fall asleep and avoid going to the loo. Waking up at 04:00 am yesterday morning I was convinced I would pull out of the race. My body was sore – especially my arms and I felt sick. I decided to go through my normal routine and focus on what I can control. That led me to take two Grandpas’ and one Imodium pill.
I felt flat and weak on the 1st lap of 4 laps of the 12 km run. I lost 45 seconds, more or less, on the top men. The second lap I did not improve and actually lost almost a minute on the first 5 men. At this stage I believed that I might stop somewhere for my stomach was upset again. But for some reason I had faith and I decided to at least finish the run. On the 3 rd lap I managed to pick up my running pace and I started to feel much better. Then only did my racing mind-set kick in and I was busy calculating and planning how can I win this race from my current position. I am not sure exactly how far I was off from podium position after the 4th lap on the run, going into T1. But I am sure that it must have looked as if I am completely out of the race. The gap was anything from 4 – 6 min to the front end of the race.
The bike leg went flawlessly. I was extremely focused and managed to catch up unto the leaders. I rode 95% of the time in my TT position (I am extremely comfortable on my Velocite Helios – pain free) pushing the gears as hard as I can comfortably manage. I came through the 2nd lap of 3 laps in 3rd position trailing Freddy and Tiaan. I slowly managed to reel in Tiaan on the last lap and managed to pass him with 8 – 10 km before the finish of the bike leg. I went into T2 in 2nd overall position with a small lead over Tiaan. He had an extremely fast transition and we started the run together. Tiaan comes from a running back ground (me on the other have no real back ground, except for common sense), so naturally he started to push the pace in the beginning to try and shake me off. By this time in the race I was committed not to mess around like at 5150. I told myself my body is better prepared for this race than anyone else here and that I am tired not to capitalise on my current form, when racing. These thoughts went through my head after 1.5 km into the 2nd run. We were running in the beginning around 4:20 min/km and I probably picked it up to 3:5 min/km. I couldn’t believe how much easier the faster pace felt for me and within 30 seconds Tiaan started to fall back. I finished the race in an extremely happy and satisfied mood. I was more or less 3 min behind Freddy who recently came back from a 3 month training camp in Colorado USA. I cannot help to think that if I was feeling 100%, what might have been…