It’s good to see tri in South Africa growing. We love to witness young ambitious athletes race with the seasoned pro's, promoting our sport to new generations as they chase their dreams.
We chatted to neopro David Sher after his first pro race this past weekend at IRONMAN 70.3 Mossel Bay.
Here are his reflections:
Pre-Race: Embarking on my inaugural professional race, I must confess that labelling my feelings as mere nervousness would be a definite understatement. Though I like to think I'm keeping it relatively well hidden, the reality is that the last time I raced was 6 months ago, tackling the 70.3 Ironman Durban as an age grouper.
Now, I find myself taking a big step forward into the world of professional racing, where on Sunday I will be surrounded by the likes of Javier Gomez, Matt Trautman, and Brad Weiss, who are all World-class triathletes.
Reflecting on my past races, I've decided to approach this Sunday's event with a fresh perspective. Instead of fixating on my position in the race, fretting about my performance, and worrying about what others might think, I've opted for a different strategy. Where I have decided to treat this debut of mine as a race against myself, analysing my previous times, focusing on power, and learning as much knowledge as possible. As well as a test to see if I'm cut out for this, a learning experience where I can take home the areas for improvement in the coming year.
As of now, the weather forecast for Sunday looks perfect – cloud cover and minimal wind. I'm crossing my fingers it stays that way; as last year’s Mossel Bay 70.3 was quite a brutal race with some serious condition as most know.
The Mossel Bay course is no walk in the park, especially with a climb halfway that makes Everest seem like a speed bump (at least on the graph). Despite being one of the smallest compared to my competitors, I'm banking on my size making those climbs feel a lot easier on my body than on my competitors.
My excitement levels are through the roof, racing alongside triathlete legend, Javier Gomez, it honestly is just something I never thought I would be doing. Watching him since the beginning of my triathlon journey and now sharing the same start line with him is nothing short of surreal. Yet, I have to acknowledge the unique resilience of us South Africans. If Brad Weiss runs like he did last year on this hilly run course, it might be game over for everyone. After the Rugby World Cup triumph, we're on a winning streak, and extending that momentum to the triathlon podium in Mossel Bay wouldn't be too shabby.
There's one dark horse in the mix, and that's Matt Ralph. Only his second professional race, he's cut from a different cloth and might just leave the field in the dust, especially on that bike of his. Alongside me on my debut are also Michael Hesse and Timmy Hayward, who are two class age-groupers now making their way to the professional scene and adding to the excitement, knowing that they also feeling those nerves as I do.
Well, that was nothing short of incredible! The atmosphere toeing the line with these legends was absolutely amazing. Waking up on Sunday and hearing it was a non-wetsuit swim threw me off a bit. I usually love my Sailfish wetsuit, but hey, at least it meant faster transition times.
The swim, although being an extra 200m and battling against the current, was surprisingly enjoyable. I found myself in the chase pack with Matt Trautman and Matt Ralph, an awesome experience leading those two with Matt Trautman tapping my feet for just over 1.9km.
The bike course played to my strengths, but fatigue set in halfway through, and my power levels took a dip. Something to work on, for sure. Starting the bike in 7th place, I slipped a few spots, ending up in 11th.
The first lap of the run felt great, but then the stitches hit, turning it into a mental battle. Somehow, I pushed through the pain, passed two competitors, and finished with a solid 9th place in my first professional race.
After the race, it took a moment for everything to sink in. Reflecting on the race, the times, the power – I was pleasantly surprised by the progress made in the past few months of training with my coach, Viv Williams. Lots to take in, lots to learn and lots to improve on.
For now, just two more weekends of racing ahead before taking a brief break to reset both mind and body. After that it is head down and a dive back into the full swing of things, gearing up to focus on the challenges 2024 has to face.