Friday, August 30, 2013

So.. you wanna be a triathlete?

Its been a while sice I blogged, and to get back into it nothing better than a few lines from on what our sport is really about:

Fact: you will not become efficient at swimming, biking or running over night. Sorry to burst your bubble. This is NOT an easy sport.

Check your ego at the door because chances are someone fifty pounds heavier than you will lap you in the pool. Not to mention she will be ten or fifteen years older than you.

You will be passed on the bike many times and you will never be the fastest runner in your town.
You will have early morning workouts. Really early.
You will plan your weekends around your swim, bike and run.
You are up while others are sleeping.
You are training while others are sitting.
You will discover others who also follow this blood, sweat and tears cult.
You will eventually get a flat tire... and have to change it all by yourself.
No matter what you hear, triathlon is NOT an inexpensive sport.
Warning, it is extremely addictive, hence the impulse spending on wetsuits, bikes, running shoes, aero bars, aero helmets, speed suits, power meters, GPS heart-rate monitors and many other ‘gotta have items.’
You will hate swimming more times than you like it for the first year.
You will suffer through road trips with whiny fellow triathletes.
You will suffer set backs.
You may experience an injury.
You will develop a love/hate relationship with a foam roller and ice baths.
You will at some point realize you need a coach.
You will hate swimming for the first year.
You will wear tight clothing.
You will not like how this tight clothing fits or looks.
Your age will take on a whole new meaning.
You will discover a whole new meaning for tan lines.
Food will become an extremely important part of your life.
You will learn new words such as GU, cadence and brick.
You will hate swimming for the first year.
You will spend more time on your bike than on your couch.
You may lose a friend or two because you spend too much time swimming, biking and running, and they could careless about your heart rate training, foam rolling pain or 20 mile bike ride.
You will learn patience.
You will be humbled.
You will start to realize you are paying money to put yourself through pain and suffering, but for some odd reason, you LOVE it.

This sport called Triathlon, becomes a part of you. You start to plan your entire year around sprint, international, half-iron or full-iron distance races. Your vacations become racing, and you start to realize that this sport called triathlon could become a life-long adventure.
Many people settle for things in life. They settle for a crappy job, marriage, friends, food, place to live and overall fitness and health.

Those who desire more or those who want more out of life than a drive-thru window and boring sitcom, will choose triathlon or an activity that makes them happy. An activity that will change their life. Triathlon will change your outlook on life, your career, your marriage, your goals, your friends and many other things you thought you had figured out. It’s not just crossing a finish line or a boring finisher medal. It’s the countless hours that got you to that point. A moment in time that you will NEVER forget. A moment that you will discuss with your family and friends for hours if not days after the event. These discussions will most likely be about how you could have done better. At what point could you have swam faster, biked harder or ran more efficient? This is what will go through your head everyday until you get the opportunity to suffer again.

So you wanna be a Triathlete? Enjoy the ride and train hard!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ironman South Africa 2013 - Report

Wow, I did it! I still remember the day I woke up in March 2010 and told my wife I was going to register for a triathlon to lose some weight, and now, three years later, I finished my first Ironman race!

A few days after we got home from the race my wife hugged me and asked me if I felt any different, if I felt anything had changed, and I asked her what she meant! She said, “Miguel, you have accomplished something not many people are able to accomplish. Many only dream about it or watch it on TV, but you did it… don’t you feel any different? How does it feel?” That was an interesting question from the person who has been affected the most by my training and dedication. Let's look at my experience in detail before I answer that question for you guys.

Thursday, April 11th
Our flight was planned for Thursday at 4pm and we got to the airport with plenty of time.  As we checked in there was an issue with my wife’s ticket, and they weren't going to allow her to board the plane.  This was going to be the worst start to what was supposed to be a great family weekend experience.  I was with the airline for close to one hour and they eventually fixed the issue with her ticket.  

As we all get on the bus to take us to our plane, my wife notices she had left the baby bag with her purse, all of the baby’s nappies and clothing by the airport x-ray scans.  I jumped out of the bus, ran up the escalators, got to the police x-ray scans and, luckily, the bag was there with everything still intact.  I ran back to the bus and off we were to the plane.  Those of you who follow my Instagram account will remember I had sprained my ankle three weeks before the race and I hadn’t ran since.  Well, this little exercise made my ankle hurt and I was starting to have second thoughts about my ability to do the run on the weekend.  I didn’t make a big deal out of it and I shook it off.

We landed in Port Elizabeth and there were massive Ironman posters on the airport and all around town.  We got our stuff and our transfer was waiting for us outside to take us to our Bed and Breakfast.   As we got to the BnB we met up with my Spanish friends, and I realized the BnB was a bit further away from the beach and race than I thought, so we decided I was going to head back to the airport and rent a car so we could get around.  I went to the airport, got a car, and went to get my bike from FOTFL.  I assembled the bike that night and then we went to dinner somewhere nearby. 

Friday, April 12th
Friday morning Guillermo, Toni, Pablo, Pedro and I woke up early and went out for a swim on the course.  We did an easy 1.9Km (1 lap) and then went back to the hotel for breakfast.  After breakfast Pedro and I went to register at the Expo quickly so we could meet up the guys at the BnB for our morning ride.  We got back on time,  jumped on the Argon18 bikes and headed out for a 60Km ride on the course.  It was fun going out with the Argon18 Mafia guys from Barcelona.  We all took our turns up front, Guillermo got away for a while then he slowed down, but it was a great opportunity to ride the course, feel the road, which was very rough, and have a feel for what the toughest parts would be out there on Sunday.  

After the ride I headed out to the beach with my wife, sister and children as both my wife and sister were running the IronGirl fun run with 1500 women.  It was a very, very colorful race with women of all ages, shapes and nationalities.  My wife finished the race in 12th position overall, 2nd in her AG, and my sister finished 48th overall and 8th in her AG.  I was very, very proud of both of them, and it was great seeing my daughters cheering their mummy and auntie on during the race!

Baby got BACK

Sonia coming in on 12th position
My IronGirls with their well deserved medals! And our parking attendant on the background

Saturday, April 13th
Saturday morning we headed out again for an early morning swim, but as we got to the beach we realized there was a sprint triathlon going on and the beach was swamped with triathletes.  We decided to head down to the beach anyway and we swam away from their course.  This time Pablo, myself and Pedro did a short 700m swim, basically an out and back to the first race buoy, but Tony and Guillermo did a few more and we headed back home.

No more training at this point, and since I hadn’t been to the race briefing before, I decided to go to the 11am briefing on Saturday.  Butterflies all over my stomach from the moment I stepped in the auditorium! Hundreds of people from all over the world were in that room, and that was just one of the many race briefs over the weekend. After the race briefing I went to the hotel, picked up the bike and racked it for the following day.

Race Day - Sunday, April 14th
Me and the boys got up and met by the pool at 5:30am.  We headed out to the transition area and we each went to our bikes for final check ups.  My wife and sister were going to meet up with us at 6:30am by transition.

As I go to my bike I placed all my nutrition in my nutrition bag, and then..FUCK!! I forgot my drink to put on my Speedfill! "Damn, damn... ok, ok calm down" ... "FUCK, FUCK.... calm down" I thought to myself. I remember seeing on the race briefing that the very first aid station was 1Km from the bike start, so all I had to do was remember to get my water at that station!  I placed my bike shoes on the bike and secured them to the bike with rubber bands, ready to fly onto it on T1.

I took a bit longer to get to the beach than planned as the mandatory toilet stop took a bit longer than expected due to a quite long line as you can imagine!  When I finished pooping I went looking for the guys but they were already by the beach, so I called my wife, met up with her, my children and sister and we said our goodbyes! As my wife was helping me put my wetsuit on and as I was pulling the left sleeve up...... "rrrriiiiiiippp" a big rip on the sleeve! I could not believe that! A ripped wetsuit 5 minutes before the swim start on my first Ironman! My wife looked at me, I looked at her and she told me "You'll be fine baby, you'll be fine, just don't think about it". I was scared shitless at this moment as swimming is my worst discipline, and I was imagining the rip extending down and up my suit creating drag and letting loads of water in!!! "Time to man up... time to man up!" I thought as I headed out to the beach to start my swim. "It is what it is, so just deal with it" I thought!

3.8 Km SWIM
I placed myself towards the left, about three quarters of the way back of the pack.  The first 300ms were a bit choppy as it was 1800 of us, but, to be honest, I felt quite comfortable and didn't feel a bad punch or kick at all.  As we got to the first buoy it must have taken us about 3 minutes to go around it because we were just so many swimmers out there. I took my time and after the first buoy I was off.  There was another buoy half way to the end of the first straight line, and I made sure I was in line with it all the time.  I went around the first lap in 42 mins, and as I exited the water I didn't see my family so I jumped back in for the second lap.

The second lap was fine with no problems at all, other than making sure I was in line and not swaying to the sides as I had done before at other races.  Sighting was not an issue as there were hundreds of swimmers around me, so I made sure I was always near someone. I chatted with a guy on the last 400m as we both stopped to sight, and we pumped each other up with a "C'mon, lets do this", and we were off!

I exited the water in 1h:28mins, which was 15 mins ahead of my planned time of 1h45mins. I was happy the rip on my wetsuit didnt make a difference and didn't extend any further, but not too happy about the fact I need to "invest" a substantial amount of money on another one!


As I exited the beach and went up the steps I was still feeling a bit dizzy, as you do, but managed to get my wetsuit out and get my bike bag from the rack.  I didn't rush out of transition and I actually took a bit of a breather before heading out on the bike, chilling a bit while I put my Quad and Calf compressions on. Transition 1 time was 05m:39s

180 Kms Bike
As I head out of transition and hear my family cheering for me on the sidelines my adrenaline levels shot right up to the roof.  it was great seeing and hearing them cheer from me!  I jumped on the bike on the move, placed my feet in the shoes, and made sure I grabbed a drink on my way past the first aid station.  

The way out of town is uphill and a bit of a challenge at this point given we were all still tired and dizzy from the swim.  Nonetheless, I kept on going, ramming those gears on my way up the hill.  I remember what Guillermo said when we went out on the course recognition ride on Friday,"This is the typical course where if you go too hard on the first lap, you reach the last lap completely dead", so I made sure I was going fast, but not too fast to ensure I still had something left in the tank for the last lap.

My pace was good and I was averaging 32Km/h, with a few stints over 70Km/h.  I was not looking at my wattage at this point as I was aiming for a 6h ride avaring 30Km/h, so I knew I was ahead of schedule with this average.  I passed hundreds of people, and I was only passed by two guys, who obviously had paid quite a lot of attention to their leg strength as they both had MASSIVE legs! Note to self, improve leg strength next season!

I was taking my Gu gels and my saltsticks every 30 minutes as per plan, and I was feeling fine, with no tummy issues, no cramps, and my ankle was not bothering me at this time.  On my second lap I starting taking some pain killers as I was expecting my ankle to start hurting on the run, and I wanted to delay it as much as possible.  I cramped a little on the last 50Kms but I was able to shake it off by standing on the bike and slowing down the pace a bit. 

Following my cramps, the 
unthinkable happened! 
I started having issues with my gears and Iwas not able to keep the rear derailleur on the little chain-ring to keep the speed up.  It slowed down my pace and two guys managed to pass me.  I couldn't believe it, mechanical problems on my first IM!! Everyone's nightmare!  I kept playing with the gears and I realized that it was my Di2 battery which was dying on me, so I tried different combinations between the front and rear rings to keep my speed up, but at this point I was riding at 27Km/h and I was not a happy man!  The last 30Kms were the longest, as I was expecting the worst to happen, but I managed to reach T2 in a time of 5h:29mins, half an hour ahead of schedule and with plenty of energy still left in the tank.


I was happy to be 45 minutes ahead of schedule (15' on swim and 30' on bike), but the hardest part was still to come.  As I got my run bag I went to the medical tent and told them about my ankle injury three weeks before the race.  They applied some cold spray, tapped me up gently, and sent me on my way in 07m:14s

42Kms Run
Before the race Guillermo told me that an Ironman doesn't really start until Km 28 of the marathon, and I remembered those words as I exited T2.  I was praying for my ankle to hold up, and really looking forward to that finish line... but I still had 42Kms to run!

I ran the first lap with no issues and very little pain, but I was still taking my pain killers, which ran out on me in the middle of lap 1 of the marathon.  as you can see from my GPS below (click for details), I managed to run the whole of the first lap without stopping once, BUT  I ran out of saltsticks on lap 1, and I knew cramps were about to kick in at any minute, but that was due to a dumb mistake by me, having placed my saltstick tube in my run bag with no pills inside it! Dumbass!!

I went around the first lap in 1h:24m, meaning an average pace of 6m/Km. From the second lap onwards it really was downhill, with lots of pain on my ankle.  I managed to hold on to the pain by walking the aid stations on the second lap, getting me around in a total run time of 3h:48m, lowering my average to 6m:48s/Km. But it was the last lap that killed me. At this time I was walking most of the way around, and my ankle was not having it any other way!  My total running time was 5h:20ms.

Post Race
When I crossed the line Paul Wolf, the race director, shook my hand and asked me if I wanted to give my son back to my family.  I handed Angelo back to Guillermo and Monica and asked them to find my wife, who was about 20 meters away from them on the stands.  I then headed out to the massage tent where I had a 10 minute leg and back massage which, at that moment, was the best thing I could wish for!  As I am getting ready to get up form the bed I hear my wife shouting my name at the entrance of the tent so I go towards her and she hugged me and kissed me with tears in her eyes! "You did it baby, you did it!" she said to me! I hugged her and thanked her for having been there and having put with all my training to be able to reach this goal!

Although it was not the sub12 time I was looking for, I am still happy with my time taking into account the fact that it was my first ever IM, and I raced it with a recently sprained ankle!  It was a bitter sweet feelinb, but as one of my Instagram and Tweeter followers said, "there will be other days to chase times, you are an Ironman Miguel".

I get emotional when I think about what I have achieved with my training and racing.  People who don't share this sport and lifestyle find it hard to understand, and many think we are crazy for doing what we do... putting our bodies through the long and tough hours of pain on our training and racing, but they don't have to understand it, as long as we do!  

So what did I tell my wife when she asked me what I felt like that morning a few days after the race?  I told her I didn't feel particularly different.  I told her I felt the same, apart from, obviously, still feeling a bit sore from the race! I told her I was now even more hungry for Kona because I had a taste of what racing IM was like.  Because of the bitter sweet feeling from having had to walk the best part of the last 14 Kms! Because I knew I was on pace to go sub11, but my ankle made me add an additional 90 minutes to my time!  I told her I felt the same, just a bit more hungry for the goal we all have, which is to go to Kona, at least once in our life!

Lessons Learned
  1. No more running in the dark on training days. That's how I sprained my ankle three weeks before the race.
  2. No matter what, always recharge my Di2 battery prior to race day!
  3. Make sure ALL my saltstick tubes have salt pills in them, specially my run tube!
  4. Pay more attention to strength/core training next season. Definitely not enough done this year!
  5. Continue working on my swim, as I need to get closer to 1h swim time

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ironman South Africa 70.3 Race Report

The road to Ironman got a little bit shorter this past weekend in Buffalo City, South Africa, as I completed my first 70.3.  After my DNF at Jailbreak, I must admit I was a bit nervous about this race, specially the week following Jailbreak, but it all eased off as time got closer.

Weeks leading to the race

For those of you who do not follow me on Instagram, I was pulled out of the water on the first lap of the swim with massive cramps on both legs! My coach says it was a severe case of starting a race already dehydrated on a very hot day, but that just put more doubts on my swimming ability with little over a month till IMSA70.3.  So much so that on December 10th I withdrew from the full Ironman South Africa taking place in April in Port Elizabeth.

In order to improve my swimming technique and confidence I started swimming lessons with a private coach at 5:30am three times a week at my gym, and I noticed the changes immediately.  The cycling and running had been progressing nicely, and I was feeling very confident on all three disciplines with two weeks to go.

Race Week

On race week my wife and I left with the children on the Wednesday before the race. I sent my bike with Paul Kaye's company, Focus on the Finish Line, and I picked it up on Thursday at the official bike shop in East London.  Took it back to the hotel and assembled it carefully.

Thursday night I went for a gentle run and my right ankle was hurting me a little bit so I stopped right away and ended up only running 4Km. 

Friday morning was the official swim practice so I went out to Orient beach with the wetsuit and did what most people were doing, a short and quick lap around the first and last buoy just to get a feel for the water temperature, waves, and just to have a swim in the ocean really. It felt good and I was relaxed and, most importantly, I did not cramp, which was a relief given what had happened at Jailbreak! That afternoon I went to race briefing and noticed how big this event was going to be! A packed theatre with capacity for 1500 was completely full, and this was the first of three planned race briefings.

Saturday morning I went for a 1h ride and explored the run course on my bike. Boy this was going to be a killer! Nice and flat at the beginning, with a pike at Bunker's Hill, then flat again at the top and a descent back to the beach! "No problem" I thought... "I got this".

After the bike session I went out for a quick 20min run and called it a day. Went to the hotel, had lunch with the family and took the bike to traisition before I went back to the hotel for a nice, long nap in the afternoon.

Race Day

I woke up at 4:15am as I planned to be at transition at 5am.  Good thing I got there early as I needed to inflate my disk and I didnt have a disc adaptor for the pump.  I went to the official shop and they had one, which I bought.  I took my bike to the top of the transition area where they were inflating people's tyres, but my front 808 wasnt taking in any air, and although it was still hard, it surely wasnt at 140 which is what I like them to be at.  Oh well, I was gonna have to race it like that, but I did get the disk inflated.

I placed my bike shoes on the pedals with the velcro open and hung them with some rubber bands I borrowed from another athlete since I had forgotten mine.  At this point I thought I had everything ready so went on the mandatory trip to the loo before putting my wetsuit on and heading out to the beach.

I was feeling very calm, and at the beach I met my wife who had arrived at about 6:20am.  I gave her my swim bag and went on a quick swim to feel the water and waves.  We then waited for the pros to go and we kissed goodbye so I could go join my wave (3) which was leaving at 7:15am.


I placed myself towards the left (facing the ocean) as there were a lot of people bunched up on the right hand side of the starting box.  When they lifted the rope, we started running, but I took my time getting in the water, placing myself at about the middle of our group.

There weren't really many elbows or punches, at least I cant remember getting hit, and the swim to the first buoy was quick and smooth.  At this point is where I started following some guys but decided to not look up and just swim, which was not a wise decision.  I kept swimming, assuming I was still following that group of guys I was with, but the swells had taken me towards the third buoy, and when I realised I had to retrace back to the second buoy, but this time against the swells!  My mind started going at 1000 miles/h and all I could think of was "what a fuck up, what a fuck up"!!! Nevertheless, I kept going and thought to myself, just get out of the water!

I had told my wife I was going to be about 35 mins, but with this stupid mistake I ended up getting out of the water at 47mins. This was 11 minutes quicker than at Half Challenge Barcelona, but slower than what I had planned on doing.


I jogged up from the beach to the tent, but then I did take my time at the tent putting my socks and compression on. T1 time was 5m:38s


I jumped on the bike and purposefully did not push until we got on the highway.  As we got on the N2 and I saw those rolling hills I about shat myself on my lycra! I was not expecting those hills for 45Kms. I did know what the course was like, but I hadn't driven the course, I had only seen it on paper. Anyway, I knew I had to push hard on the bike as this is my strength, but when I looked down at my Garmin I noticed I was only going on BPMs as my Garmin 910XT was not picking up speed or my power! FUCK! This was the second race where this had happened! Not acceptable from a $400 watch! GARMIN, I hope you're reading this! NOT ACCEPTABLE!

Ok, so I could only go on BPM so I tried to keep it at about 165-175 depending on whether I was climbing the hills or not. I was able to keep a good pace, and got to the half point pretty fresh, but pretty pissed off as I couldn't see any of my readings or averages on the Garmin.  I was drinking my electrolytes and taking my staltsticks so my legs were fine and I was not cramping at all.

I passed 250 athletes on my age group, and I was only passed by 5 guys, all from the 4th wave, meaning they were all older than me and were racing on the 40-45 AG. I'm not sure what that says but, I sure hope Im that strong when Im on that AG.  Overal bike time 2h:50m:30s. 


I handed my bike to the volunteers and headed out to the tent only to realize I had left my watch on the bike so I quickly went back to the bike, got the watch back and quickly got on the tent. Changed in 3m:14s and headed out to the run.


As I exited the changing tent and headed out to do my run, I started feeling my legs cramping a little bit, but it wasn't much so I kept going.  I wish I could tell you my pace throughout the first lap, but, again, my Garmin was only going on BPM, so I tried to keep it high but comfortable, pushing it when I could, but I had to walk a bit on my first time up Bunkers Hill. 

As I went by the hydration area on Bunker's Hill I walked up for about 20 meters just to catch my breath, and them I kept going at a slower than normal pace.  Once I got my first bracelet and headed back to the beach, I was passed by a speedy girl and for about 2Kms I kept up with her and that helped my average.  When I got to the bottom I followed another guy and was feeling quite well at this point. At the beach I was passed by another quick girl and I followed her all the way up to the turn around point then she was gone! 

I pulled myself all the way home and made it through.  As I went by Paul Kaye he announced me as the first Angolan to EVER finish an Ironman sanctioned race. Although this is a half Ironman, I am still very, very proud of my accomplishment.

It started in Triathlons back in January 2010, three years ago, when I took on triathlon as a means to lose some weight. Today, I am here writing this post on how I finished one of the toughest Ironman 70.3 in the world. My overal time was 5h:39m:41s, and I finished in 45th position within my Age Group.

Race Stats
Race Time: 5h:39m:41s
Gender Position: 241
Age Group Position: 45
Swim: 47m:24s
Swim Position in AG: 279 
Swim Position in Gender:1616
Bike: 2h:50:30
Bike Position in AG: 29
Bike Position in Gender: 132
Run: 1h:52m:53s
Run Position in AG: 41
Run Position in Gender: 239 
Official results can be seen here.

Now, I know I can tackle this course, and I have already registered for the 2014 race with a plan to qualify for the 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas.  I know I can improve 30mins on my time, putting me within the top 10 in my age group with a chance to qualify. All I have to do is train hard, put in the hours, and hope for the best job on race day.

As a consequence of having had a relatively good race, I decided to re-enter the full Ironman in PE as Im confident I can take it on. My swimming has improved dramatically, my bike is still my strength, and my running is solid. The aim this year is to just finish the races, time to think of qualifying will start in 2014.


The tragic and negative aspect of this race was the death of two young men on the swim portion of the race.  This was kept from all the competitors during the race, but they both died of cardiac arrest during their swim, and one of them was on my wave.  Two young and apparently strong an healthy men died competing in the sport they love, in the sport we all love. It just goes to show we cannot take anything for granted as we are here today but gone tomorrow. My thoughts are with their families, and I ask everyone who reads this blog to please try and stay safe out there, whether on the road riding our bikes, running, or swimming, please be careful.  

Lessons learned form IMSA70.3
  • I didnt have a drink bottle before the swim. Thankfully my wife was there with some money and we bought a drink. In the future I need to carry something with me.
  • I didnt deflate my tyres when I racked the bike. Newby mistake. 
  • I didnt carry a disk adaptor for the trip, NOR did I have one on my saddle bag in case of a flat.
  • I only left one of the velcros opened on my bike shoes, I had to open the other one when I got on the bike. Obviously not ideal!
  • Garmin 910XT malfunction. Cant do much about this one! 

  1. What was your toughest race to date? What distance was it and what was so tough about it?
  2. Have you raced IMSA70.3 before? What did you think about it? Will you do it again?
  3. What race mistakes have you made in the past? In which of the three disciplines were they?
  4. When is your next race? What distance is it?
  5. Do you have any questions for me? Shoot!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Finisher at Ironman 70.3 South Africa

After my DNF at the Jailbreak I didnt really feel like blogging much and didn't event post a race report as you can see.

Now, having finished Ironman 70.3 South Africa with a time of 5h:39m, Im very confident I can tackle any course as this was a toughie and is considered one of the top 3 toughest 70.3 courses in the world.

Here are some photos of me when I finished, and when the official photos are our I will post a full race report.