My goal became bigger than my fear – Vuyo Bongela


Most times we read motivational quotes but they are just that, motivational quotes.  It’s rare, for me at least, to feel the words. Well, that was until Sunday the 2nd August 2015. What started out as a far-fetched dream, became reality on this day.

Reflecting back on the journey travelled to the moment I crossed the finish line in the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Durban, emotions rush in, tears flow – happy tears of cause! When did it all start you might think?

In 2010, after being in the company of Ironman finishers, I made a silent promise to myself that one day; I too, would be a finisher. There were two problems though, I didn’t know how to cycle nor swim. I was terrified of swimming until less than a year ago. This was owing to a near drowning incident when I was a teenager; this memory still lingered. I can’t profess to be a dolphin, but at least I am no longer terrified of the water.

I registered with Aqua Zone, Jane and Georgie and I became more confident in the water.  I met Natalie in August 2014, she asked to see my stroke, I got into a deep pool (my definition of deep) I realized it was deep and I froze. I couldn’t let go of the stairs and I exited the pool. She watched me swim in a kids shallow pool and said my stroke was better than four or five people’s strokes swimming in the deeper pool. I started crying because I realised that I can swim, I just had to believe it.

She then introduced me to someone who possibly had more sleepless nights about my swimming than I did, Marisa. Marisa spent Sunday afternoons and any other day she could find with me in the pool, even in her private pool at home. She would correct my stroke and build my swimming confidence and it wasn’t child’s play. The biggest deal for me though was the sea. I made an appointment with Paddy Cloete who took time to take me into the sea, her patience and constant reassurance that I can swim was what I held on to.

Marisa would take me to the sea and give me a “pep” talk but minutes later I would want to come out. I had registered for Ironman 70.3 Bufallo City in Jan 2015 but two weeks before the race I had a chest infection and wasn’t cleared to race by my physician. I was devastated but I quickly realized that God had another plan, when they announced the Durban 70.3 I said I will do it because I have a score to settle with myself.

I joined the Tissink Team weekly coached sessions and that was the best decision I made. Training had its ups and downs but logging onto Training Peaks at the end of the day to mark as completed was what I looked forward to. Training through winter is not for sissy’s though. I quickly had to deal with that fact.


So the race was approaching and I tried keeping myself calm and with positive thoughts but I had trouble sleeping. I was playing the day in my head, please note this is about a month before the race. One thing I noticed though about my thoughts, they were of me crossing the finish line. This meant I had finished the 1.9km swim, the 90.1km cycle and the 21.1 km run. I didn’t doubt these thoughts. I wrote reaffirming quotes in my office and at home where I could see them every day.

On race day morning I realised I must have had one hour sleep, I was tired but I knew the nerves will keep me going. When I was set to go into the water, I started my watch to check how much time it will take me to finish the swim. The waves pushed me back so much it took me 18min to get to the first bouy which was 300m from the start. I called a lifeguard before getting to the bouy, why? I don’t know. But I can’t say I wanted to stop, the 1.3km was long but I was warned it will feel like I’m not moving.

By the time I got to the last bouy to turn to shore, I had been swimming for 1:01:35 and I thought – well you have less than 9 minutes to swim 300m. I don’t think I have prayed under water like I prayed that day. I was tossed by waves three times and called the jet ski twice, when it attempted to come me and a lady who was screaming behind me there was a wave,  I caught the wave and I was told by the life guards that I can walk now and ran as if my life depended on it. I saw Ray and Nat with their arms ready to hug me but I thought if I stop for a second I might not get on the bike. I crossed the timing mat at 1:09:55, with a cut off time of 1:10. I learnt the importance of a second that day. As they say, the rest is history.

For some it was just a swim, cycle and a run, for me it was facing my greatest fears and insecurities head on. I have so many people who have contributed to this journey and to all of them I am eternally grateful. Ray and Nat, the skill you’ve given me is life altering and I thank you! My Tissink Team fellow athletes, it felt great sharing my accomplishment with all of you. Marisa, Paddy, Greg, Jane and Georgie, thank you for your time and patience.  My Vukani family includes people who taught me how to get on the bike and move it forward – I thank you and lastly to my family spread all over South Africa, I felt your love on this journey… Nangamso (do the same to others)

The journey continues…

Author: Tissink_Admin

Share This Post On

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2017 | Designed by Frenzy Designs