Infallible faith in my coaches – Mischelle Jolly


I nervously looked back at my coach Natalie, her calm smile was so reassuring. I gazed forward, Durban 70.3 banners flying high, I looked around me and smiled.  I was smack bang in the middle of my fellow Team Tissinkers.  Safe, happy and content. Today was going to be a good day.  Our rolling start coming up, hugs, good lucks and I stepped forward……


Difficult to believe that it has only been 16 weeks since joining Team Tissink.  16 weeks surrounded by positive, happy kindred souls.  One of the best decisions I have made in a very long time.


46, overweight, overcoming some health issues and a lack of self- esteem is what I brought to the party when joining Ray and Natalie.  When folk hear you have done Ironman or planning to do it you inevitably asked “so which discipline is your strong one?”  My very quick reply is usually “uh none”.  So Ray and Natalie did not have much to work with….or so I thought.


Years of experience, and my fellow Team Tissinkers will testify to this, has honed Ray and Natalie’s programs to perfection.  Yes, you are tired; not tired enough not to get up and train the next day.  Improvement, especially at my level is weekly, sometimes it felt daily.  Apart from a tummy bug, my immune system was never compromised by overtraining.

It took a lot for me to attend the group running sessions at first.  I knew how slow I was and walking up to these lean mean athletes gathered I was sweating profusely, cursing myself.  The warm up was just over 1.2k and that was done at just over 6km per minute with a whole lot of chatting and laughing going on.  I did not even run that fast when doing speed work I thought puffing along. The session went well with Ray obviously taking into account that a few of us were starters.  But as usual, I was back of the pack. I realised very quickly that these sessions were crucial to my running improving.   Swimming was good and it felt like saying hallo to an old friend.  Of all 3 disciplines cycling is the one I love.  Not good at it but in love with it.

16 weeks of training flew by.  Throw in a gruelling training camp and somewhere along the line my self- confidence started building up, my weight was dropping and I was happy.  Tired happy sometimes but happy nonetheless.  Two weeks prior to 70.3 Durban seemed to be time trial week in Tissinkland.  Warming up at St Georges reminded me briefly of my first run with Ray 16 weeks before.  I felt nauseas and nervous.  Off we went.  A 6km time trial for us newbies and an 8km for the fasties.  Now, my husband will attest to this, I do not push myself to puke moments.  Not in my nature….or so I thought.  I had the run of my life.  At the 5k mark I realised it was the best 5k I had ever run and I yelled out loud.  Helder, an amazing 64 year old hero of mine, and just ahead of me realised what was happening, slowed down, waited for me to catch up and then pushed me to have the fastest run I have ever had. 9 min off my time trial I had done 16 weeks before.  That is huge!  Did I want to puke, yes….and I loved it.  My cycling had come along, not as well as my running or swimming but valuable Thursday IDT sessions had made me stronger on the bike than ever before.

4..3..2..1 and we were off.  40 meters into the sea and I had a panic attack and couldn’t breathe.  This had happened on both my previous Ironman races years before.  It is awful and breathing feels impossible.  I did not even breaststroke to the first buoy I doggie paddled.  Funny now, then not so much.  Got to the first buoy, calmed down and started swimming.  In the pool I breathe every third stroke but quickly realised that that wasn’t going to work for me.  Back to every second stroke, breathing right side which then had me pull to the right. I sighted and corrected and had good swim to the last buoy.  Turned in and swam, remembering Ray saying you have to look back.  I looked back, saw the wave about to crash down on me, tried to go under and got dumped.  By the time I got back up the second wave was on top of me and I was dumped again.  It was like a washing machine and I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to get out of this mess.  Hearing Natalie yell “go Mischelle” was so awesome but no way was I running to transition until I had my breath back.

Getting on my beauty I felt happy again.  Settled in and close to Ballito I realised that I had not been passed once but that it seemed as though I was doing the passing. I looked at my watch and realised I had an average of just over 31kmph.  Results later showed I had passed close to 1000 athletes by the time I racked my bike.  I had the bike of my life.  2:47. I loved every single second of the bike.

The run, my Achilles heel and one I am going to work extra hard to get better at.  Started off okay but as the kilometres went on I slowed down considerably.  Having said that, I stopped several times to hug my son, take a selfie with a friend, talk to my hubby passing me on the opposite side of the race course and at one point I distinctly remember Natalie yelling at me to stop chatting and run.  A slow run but I smiled every bit of the way.  Cheering on my team mates, sending kisses to my coach, hugging my hubby and high fiving awesome little supporters on the route.  I ran the last 5 kilometers with a very good dear friend and team mate of mine, Erik Hansen.  Thanks to him we managed a 6:30 finish.  All I wanted after crossing the finish line were my coaches.  Of course they were there with huge hugs.  Today was a good day.

I cannot wait to see where I will be in my training in the upcoming year.  My gorgeous coach says to “watch this space”.  I think I will do just that. This back packer might just move forward closer to the front.

My faith in Ray and Natalie is, as I said in my title, Infallible.

Author: Tissink_Admin

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