We chatted to Wane Rossouw, who has done every full IRONMAN (South Africa's only full IRONMAN event) in Nelson Mandela Bay. Despite being clueless on his first outing, the red-carpet magic ignited a crazy passion to keep on tri-ing.
My first IRONMAN South Africa, way back in 2005, was nothing short of horrible. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. The event was new, and very few Saffas had done an IRONMAN race before. I was young and dumb. I thought I was bulletproof and that asking for advice would be a sign of weakness.
I rocked up for the official swim practice in a shorty surf suit. Bernard from Orca looked me up and down and said ‘no’! How rude, yet so honest. A few minutes later I was fitting a new wetsuit in some side alley. I still have that P-Flex to this day.
The path to tri
At school, I never quite understood team sports. I took up cross country instead, and enjoyed the thrill of being able to explore new routes, go further, higher and faster. Often, after a good run, I would take a detour across town on my BMX to see if I could make it home before dark. Failure would be dad’s belt or my bike being locked away. These innocent challenges excited me no end.
It was around about then that one of my sports teachers suggested I skip cricket and go for a
cycle ride instead. He was on a fancy Alpina and I was on my dad’s Western Flyer. He didn’t say much but afterwards he handed me a Battery Centre Triathlon Flyer. Something was brewing that would change my sporting path.
Fast forward a few years and a cycling mate mentioned this new triathlon in Port Elizabeth
and asked if I was interested in joining him at the event. I had done a few sprint and standard
distance triathlons, nothing too serious, but I thought, why not? I’d have three months to train, so it seemed doable. Spouse A agreed, providing we made a holiday around the event.
It was only when I entered that I realised that this wasn’t a normal triathlon, but one that was a lot longer, and pricier. I clicked on the title sponsors option, which offered me a 50% discount if I raced in SpecSavers kit. My inner Durban guy was happy with the bargain – despite the kit being a nasty little unisex sleeveless number.
Race day magic
On race day the vibe was something else. There was a hum as, through a series of bag drop-offs, bike checks and toilet stops, athletes lubed up and said goodbye to family. We tip-toed down the starting ramp, minding not to bump our toes, and lined up for the start. I slithered my way to where I felt comfortable between a mass of neoprenecladded athletes, so glad I was not in my shorty.
Then the African drummers started, and ‘The Voice’ welcomed us to the event. I couldn’t turn back now! The national anthem was played, we turned to face the sea and, as the sun came up over the horizon, the countdown began. The starting cannon fired and it was go time. It was a mass start, with 2 000-odd ‘seals’ entering the water. I swam blindly, but I wasn’t last, and I didn’t feel afraid.
My T1 was slow – I was asked to leave after hanging about for nearly 25 minutes. I couldn’t
stop eating, my socks wouldn’t fit properly, my cycle top was stuck around my neck and wouldn’t slide down, then just as I was ready to go, I needed another toilet stop. Shirt off, bib shorts down (you know the drill). How embarrassing!
I rocked a road bike, with no aero bars and 23mm tyres, and had only water as hydration with
just a few snacks in my cycle top. When I came back into Summerstrand after 180km Deon was already on the run – in a speedo with chafed arm pits from his sleeveless wetsuit. After a ‘fast’ 12-minute transition, I started the run at lightning speed. I was going to catch Deon and pat him on his Speedo.
Boom! That lasted exactly 2km. I hit the wall so hard! The rest of my shuffle walk took me well into the night, glowsticks substituted the 8pm movie and all I could think of was getting another whitebread marmite sarmie at the next aid station.
However the vibe along the route was electric! All of PE was down on the course to party,
support and shout your name. I had many screams from big smiley faces telling me how well
I was looking. Liars! Spouse A had found a party along the side and was having such a good time that taking photos of me was forgotten.
The last kilometre was pretty special. In the distance I could see the M-Dot arch and flashing
traffic lights. I found another gear and decided to run, hooked a right and hit the red carpet. The feeling was something words cannot explain. I had actually done it! I had a little cry before being rushed off in my new silver space blanket to find my streetwear bag.
I slept for two days afterwards, waking only to eat, and missing part of the holiday. Oops!
Crazy for more
Since then I’ve been back every year. I did a quick search for the meaning of ‘crazy’ and
this is what the internet spat out: a. distracted with desire or excitement; b. absurdly fond, infatuated; c. passionately preoccupied, obsessed. I like that word.
So why do I return each year? For me, the answer always changes.
In that first experience, no matter how horrible I thought I felt, the positives totally outweighed the suffering. I wanted more, I wanted that feeling again. Maybe I could go faster? What if I ate better, trained smarter? What if I shared my experiences and in return learnt from others? The what ifs never cease.
Then there’s the support leading up to the event from family and friends, the idea of taking
a holiday afterwards. The friendly people, a lovely city, the bad radio adverts once you hit Algoa country that make you laugh as you drive up from Cape Town. The organisational team that puts this amazing event together, the camaraderie on the course, new and better gear each season and then, of course, the finish line. Those experiences have become part of me, they can’t be taken away.
I don’t allow the event to define me. I do it because I get so much more out of it. I enjoy
seeing new and old faces on the day, how things change each year. Hopefully somewhere out there is a little guy who says ‘wow, he’s cool’.
Motivation from Coach Wane
A few years ago I started Move Multisport, taking everyday heroes and providing them
with a personalised guide to competing at an event such as IRONMAN African Champs. My aim when working with any athlete is to create a space where negative noise is abandoned. I help them get moving, feel special – and tap into their inner beast.
Here’s what I tell them:
• Adopt a mindset of goal-making and goalsmashing daily.
• A one-size-fits-all training program does not suit everyone – work with me to create a personalised programme that suits you.
• Life happens, work gets in the way, you feel ill or just have no mojo. Accept that, recalibrate and then focus on what works.
• Go into this event in a positive space, there are things you can’t control, accept that
and focus your energy on what you can.
• Treat it as a long day out, embrace the vibe from the people around you, and recognise your mini achievements.
• Treat yourself to cool stuff, massages, new kit, new bike or a fancy place to rest and recover – you’ve deserved it.
• Don’t ever forget your support crew.
• High-fives are mandatory all day! Especially with your coach.