Race report Race2Stanford: Claire Winterton

Race 2 Stanford 2019 – Brutally beautiful indeed!!
Race week arrived a lot faster than I anticipated and the usual pre-race butterflies started to creep in. Am I ready, did I train enough, the water is going to be freezing, what about Great White sharks as this is Hermanus after all where people pay money to see Great White sharks!!
Friday afternoon came and it was time to head off to registration and race briefing at the Birkenhead brewery in Stanford. The brewery was a buzz with eager triathletes awaiting race briefing. It was a small field of athletes, one hundred and ten, which added to a lovely relaxed vibe and atmosphere which was carried right through the race from referees to volunteers to athletes.
Paul Ingpen began the race briefing by telling us how he likens the bike route and spectacular views and climbs to that of the Tour de France. Immediately I realized I was definitely under prepared for the bike course. Needless to say, this did not really assist with calming the nerves. I decided right there that my road bike would be my weapon of choice and I would forego my “pro triathlete” look on my TT bike. The good news was that the sea temperature was an exceptionally warm 18 degrees Celsius (I didn’t mention I get cold in the gym pool at 24 degrees).
With race briefing completed, I handed in my run bag so that it could be taken to T2 which is in Stanford and racked on my behalf as the race start is in Hermanus (point to point race). That was it, no turning back, unless of course I never wanted to see my running shoes again!
Race morning arrived and what a beautiful morning it was. Light to moderate breeze and to my absolute surprise the sea’s temperature at 18 degrees was perfect. With bike racking complete, wetsuit on and warm up swim done, it was time to swim out to the start buoys for the wet start. At 7:30am we were sent on our way.
The sea conditions were a bit choppy and some big swells to deal with, but all in all the sea was very kind to us on the morning and provided us with a lovely 2 lap swim.
Onto the bike, the part we have all been anxiously awaiting. We left Hermanus and entered the Hemel en Aarde valley. The name quite appropriately meaning Heaven and Earth. There the relentless climbing started. The hills are monsters and the downhills are exceptionally fast. A moderate SE headwind added to the difficulty of the bike course. We were told at briefing that the SE wind would blow us home, but what Paul didn’t mention is that only happened in the last 10km. It was a headwind for the other 80km!!
Climbing Shaw’s Pass and seeing my GPS showing 13% gradient with over a kilometre still to go was questioning my sanity. We were not even halfway and had climbed over 1000m. Many times, on route I considered phoning a friend, but 92km later, up and down relentless hills, I finally reached Stanford. By that time, I promised myself I would never do this ridiculous bike course again.
It was quite hot, but the water points on the bike and run were well stocked and manned by super enthusiastic volunteers to keep you hydrated and cheer you on. The run course was mostly off-road, which I did not know what to expect. But it was a lovely run course with a mix of dirt roads, paths, single tracks, river paths and tar roads. This made for a run that kept you guessing and interested and not monotonous at all which also helped the 3 laps to pass quicker. All the trails were smooth and no need for trail shoes.
7 hours and 26 minutes after starting I finished, feeling tired but so happy that I had conquered the race. I did not think so, but according to Paul my time was pretty good for a course as difficult as this which just added to my happiness. By the time I had walked from the finish to the car I was already planning next years race (with a lot more training of course)!
This is truly a different and unique half-ironman distance race that tests you from start to finish but leaves you with a huge sense of achievement. It is a small race that is well worth the effort to make the journey to the whale watching town of Hermanus.
By: Claire Winterton

Author: Tissink_Admin

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