2018 – How not to execute a year plan. Part 2

2018 – How not to execute a year plan. Part 2

On the eve of New Years eve, lets finish the 2018 story and pick up where I left off (if you’re confused please read my 2018 Part 1 blog).

September the plan…

Utilise my hockey fitness and test the waters back in the world of swim/bike/run.

The Reality…

If my sabbatical into hockey taught me anything, its that sometimes following your heart and doing something that really doesn’t make sense can be just the right decision. Freshly back from the tournament I’ve got strong legs and a renewed spirit. The break from triathlon training was much needed and I restart with the keenness of a newbie! My hamie tendons are still pretty grumpy with me – mostly my left one (not the right side that I had surgery on in 2015), and my plantar fascia whilst not ‘healed’, is certainly less painful then before. My wrist is agony and work is awkward for a few months, but I marvel its the only bad injury I could have sustained that still allows a return to triathlon (though I cant lift myself out the pool or change gears with my left hand). Hockey has given me a robustness and power that is evident from my first few sessions back on the bike, and I cautiously lengthen my runs and increase my swim volume. I join Lucie Reed’s Trifactri group on the weekends for long rides, thanks guys for keeping me sane. I commit to strength training with the exceptional Rohan Lloyd at the Emperor in Sandton, and regular yoga classes. I’m meticulous with my diet and get weekly massage, chiro (Simon Lawson at Morningside Chiropractic) and help from a brilliant kinesiologist (Adrian Stevens at My Physio’s Fourways). I leave no stone unturned in my transition back to triathlon. If I can manage 4 weeks of solid training I’ll book my flights to Malaysia and commit to the race


October the plan…

Commit to Ironman Malysia

The reality…

I achieve my most consistent block of training and enter Ironman Malaysia. (Hang on is this my second month of things going to plan?) I know the mistakes I want to correct when I did this race in 2017, and I begin to feel cautiously excited about tackling this brutal event again. My health is good, my fitness is picking up steadily and I live like a monk. It sounds romantic to be so focussed towards a race, but in reality it’s selfish and for me an unsustainable way of life. I literally trained, worked, slept, ate and squeezed in a tiny bit of family and church time. There was space for nothing else. It was only possible because I knew it was finite and would end after the race. The sacrifices would be worth it I told myself. This is how I finish on a high.


Nov the plan…

Finish higher then 5th (preferably on the podium) at IM Malaysia. I’m determined to go better then the previous year. I’ve managed my niggles but its been painful and a real struggle alongside my physically demanding job. I’ve poured everything into this and I don’t miss a single training session in 3months. I step onto the beach on race day in the best health and fitness I’ve had in 2 years! This is it!! Time to race hard and show what I can do.

The reality…

Despite my grimace, I’m grinning inside after seeing my swim split. My worst discipline is done and I feel great. I’m right on target!


After a promising start it turns into a nightmare that unfolds in slow motion. I have a good swim, running out the sea bang on the hour (a great time for me in a non-wetsuit race) and feeling super comfortable. I was justified in thinking this is going to be a good day. I hop on the bike, tighten my shoes, change up to the big ring and hear a clunk followed by a constant rattling noise. I can feel the bike isn’t working but I can’t see the problem.  How can this happen now? The bike was working perfectly yesterday! I’m moving forward but at what expense? A crazy storm blows over, absorbs all my focus and drowns out the noise of my malfunctioning bike. I press on riding hard and inefficiently. My heart rate is too high and yet I’m not hitting the average speed I was targeting. My mind is a mess with ‘do I stop/dont I stop questions’, and ‘how many watts am I wasting here?’. Logical thought in a race is never easy.

Putting in more then I’m getting out…zooming in on this photo I can see the chain fully visible and off the rear jockey wheel. P.S Yes I’m not very aero, but this is best position I can hold for 180k!


Finally 115km into the race I flag a mechanic and decide to try sort the bike out. I stand roadside for 16 minutes while he attempts to find the problem. The rest of the pro field rides past me. Please Lord this isn’t happening! Finally after dismantling my front derailleur without improvement, he sees that the chain was off the rear derailleur jockey wheel and stuck between it and the derailleur cage (please note dear reader, I have never had this issue with my bike before and likely never will again…it was just one of those things!). It cost me significant effort to ride like that, and now my legs stiffen after standing roadside so long. I eventually complete the bike course and begin to run.

The run route is 2.5 loops with ample opportunity to see your competitors. When I realise how much time I had lost my heart simply broke. My spirit crushed. I’m ashamed to say I stopped trying and walked along in a world of self-misery. I don’t understand why the race had to pan out that way, but I do know that God allowed it and gave me the only verse that kept me going instead of quitting. That morning I had tweeted the verse 2 Timothy 4:7 “For I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. I’d said I would finish, so finish I did.

I chat to Norhayati as I walk past, I might look cheerful, but I’m completely crushed in spirit and grudgingly putting one foot in front of the other until I cross the finish line.


Malaysia is the final Ironman event I planned to race and I desperately wanted to finish well. But sport can be brutal and you must accept that or it will crush you. I’ve massive respect for Romain Guillaume, the 2017 men’s winner, for walking a 6 hour marathon to finish. I have no idea why his race imploded but it reminds me that sport shows no partiality. The experience taught me many things: Don’t take yourself too seriously (sure a terrible race time isnt great for the ego, but its not the end of the world!). Don’t ask ‘why me?’ Don’t let a setback create bitterness. Stay cheerful by looking at the many things you do have and not the few things you don’t have. Perspective is everything. Let go and move on.

A wonderful lunch with other athletes, some tasty local delicacies prepared by Norhayati Abdullah who looked after me and Eneko so hospitably…its experiences like these that have made the journey so special.

Dec the plan…

Race Sattahip triathlon, expecting to be slow as a tortoise on tired ironman legs.

This is the stunning venue of Sattahip Triathlon, taken the morning before at the fun run.

The reality…

I absolutely love the hilly 40k bike course. I race at threshold and embrace the ‘short-lived’ pain.


Storm round the Olympic distance race on fresh legs and win with quite a margin. Silver linings! My brief trip to Thailand was so good for my heart. I have many fond memories of my time training and racing in Asia and it reminded me how rich the last 5 years have been. Its easy to focus on the things that didn’t go well, but that leads to discontentment. Better to recount all the small miracles – the new friendships, the beautiful places travelled, the life lessons learned.


Scripture is my constant companion in every race. I look heavenward and thank God as I get the win and take the tape in this race.

I’m incredibly grateful to my family for their unwavering support. To my sponsors BlueSeventy and 32Gi, my coach Tom Bennett for staying calm when I went off piste, and to the following people for their generous help: Julie Dickson, Arthur Goldberg, Rohan Lloyd, Adrian Stevens, Dr Simon Lawson, Dr Rob Collins, Tenielle Reeve and my colleagues at Bryanston Physio for their support and treatments.

Thailand tri league organisers Ben and Tom have been so good to me and I feel privileged to have raced with them for the last few years.

Samir Samara – you made this whole journey possible helping me get sponsorship in 2014 so I could turn pro. You changed the direction of my life and I’m so thankful our paths crossed in that way.

If only this was in USD not Thai Baht…but hey I’m not complaining, quite the opposite actually!


Finally as always, I acknowledge God to whom all glory belongs. This verse is written in the front page of my 2018 journal, an apt reminder of the most important ‘race’:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever”.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25


2019 The plan…

Against my better judgement (but learning from my hockey experience that sometimes the crazy decisions are good) I’ve committed to one final ironman distance race – Israman on the 25th January. I can’t think of a better place as a christian athlete to finish my pro journey. That said, the profile of the race is terrifying, with over 3000m of elevation on the bike and a steep 12k descent to kick off the marathon. I’ve already had a few hiccups in preparation and I’m genuinely not sure if my body will be up to the task. However, everything was spot on for Malaysia and that didn’t go to plan, plus I think we are most alive when we are out of our comfort zones. I’ve learnt I cant control all the variables, so I won’t even try, but I can control my attitude and my effort in the race regardless of how it unfolds. This is it, everything in and finish racing in the same style I had as an amateur – not much finesse, but heaps of heart and a never say die attitude.


I promise to blog after my final race, I’m just as curious to see how it unfolds!! Thanks for reading. Wishing you all a very blessed 2019, and if things don’t always go to plan, I hope the journey is still fun and rewarding.