Beaten by the heat

My Ironman Adventure ended last night about an hour earlier than last year after just eleven and a half hours. Some early morning bungles on my part left me starting stressed after leaving my one bag at the guest house and having to drive back to get it and rush in for the start.

Then great early morning conditions and faster swim than last year left me climbing on my bike confident of a good day. Three punctures in the first and second laps of the cycle leg left me humbled and contemplating whether the gods were telling me something.

I stared fate in the face by leaving my pump and last tube with another contender who was walking back from the 20 km mark with a flat tyre and no other options.

I tentatively rode the last leg waiting to see if fate wanted to chat. She was clearly on a tea break as I made it back to town and the transition without a problem. I was about an hour slower than last year and the heat of 35 degrees had taken its toll.

I managed the first 14km’s of the run with severe exhaustion and dropped to a walk run for the next 5km’s before sitting down to take a rest and passing out on the side of the road with nausea and a lot of dizziness.

When I woke I did the sums and realized that to walk the second half at roughly 9 minutes a km would take three hours and I wasn’t motivated to do it just to say I’m an Ironman for the second time.

I wandered, I would like to say walked, but it was more of a wander, the 2 km’s back to the medical tent where they helped me with an injection for the nausea and some fluids to restore a rather depleted body.

It’s never great not to finish a race and while I will push hard at times, today I walked away before I did any serious damage. Considering I got further into the run than SA champion Raynard Tissink (admittedly he got to his fateful point a little quicker than I did) and last years woman’s champion Bella Bayliss who both baled out with heat exhaustion, I was at least in good company.

On being a recovering racist

I have had a few cathartic experiences living in this beautiful country of ours. One of them was in 1989 sitting in a room full of fellow students debating issues which to us at the time were very important for our organisation, AIESEC. We were gathered from 20 or so campuses around the country in a meeting room at Wits. At a point I looked around the room and realised that everything I had learned about race until that point was a lie. I think I’m still processing that experience. It was emotional because it meant that my schooling, my parents, my peers, my family and almost every influence that had formed me into the 22-year-old that I was, was so obviously wrong, on the count of race.

The stereotypes based on race had built on themselves and become stronger over the years. They were embedded in me and on that day they were shown up for their inadequacies.

The subtle, “them and us”, “they and we” in thousands of conversations with family and friends stood in stark contrast to my experience that day.

The less subtle history lessons at school which told stories with a perspective and with omissions that sharply influenced the meaning.

The not at all subtle experience of the army, sitting in townships and Namibia “defending our country” from the “dark communist forces who wanted to overthrow it”.

I know now that I was fortunate to sit in that room and experience that a person’s race was in fact a very poor way of describing and judging them. It occurred to me that I had a lot more in common with some of my black friends in the room than I did with the white folk. The whole stereotype of “them and us” fell apart like the reality that emerges after a bad dream.

More recently I was visiting with black friends in Graceland, a suburb of Khayelitsha, outside Cape Town. We had a braai on a Saturday night and were then wandering between shebeens in the neighbourhood. I realised that I was going to be late and phoned my wife to let her know.

“Careful when you come home” she said, “a man was hijacked and shot up the road last night”.

I put the phone down and was left thinking that surely the townships where I was pub crawling should be the dangerous place rather than the ADT patrolled “white suburbs” of Cape Town where I lived. Again my stereotypes that were so fixed, were being challenged.

Often I have taken Margaret, the lady who helps us bring up our children, to her home, also in a suburb on the Cape Flats. We chat about our different worlds. My children live in walled gardens and we have little daily contact with our neighbours and almost no sense of community.

Her children walk freely on the streets in a community which stretches for blocks. Everybody knows everybody else and mothers keep an eye on not only their children but also those of neighbours as they play in the streets.

I’m sad for the financial poverty of her world while I am envious of the strong sense of community. Her neighbourhood is opposite to mine.

I share these experiences because I believe I have been lucky. I have been forced to see that all is not as it seems. My stereotypes on race were strong from growing up in the 70s and 80s. These experiences have challenged them and made dents in them. But only dents. What we look for we see, and I have been forced to look for more than what is on the surface.

The world I grew up in was one where whites feared blacks and possibly the other way round too. The fear was encouraged and used to prop up a system we knew as apartheid. Then in a few short years it all changed. We put aside that dark past and live as if there was never an issue. We’ll just forget apartheid ever happened. “It was wrong,” I’ve heard whites say, “but now it’s over, let’s just move on”. Black and white overnight became equal. Or did they? The psychologists would say that we as a nation are in denial.

Ask a South African over 35 to describe an unknown person and listen how often it starts with, “He was a white guy…”, “that coloured oke”, “a black woman on a taxi”…

I’m pleased that my children don’t have race as a primary differentiator as I did and in fact still do. They will seldom use race as a way of describing someone. This gives me hope.

I sometimes challenge myself to describe someone without using race. My experience is that it is hard. This tells me that despite my best efforts and a huge amount of awareness over many years, I still have work to do.

My quite profound experience in the room at Wits where I sat with a bunch of blacks, whites and every shade in between — seeing so clearly the similarities rather than the differences between us, has helped.

That experience and others that were similar were early in my life. Over time, lots of time, the stereotypes slowly break down. They also stubbornly hang around. It feels like it is easier to perpetuate and build on a stereotype than it is to break it down.

If only as humans we could unlearn things easily. Imagine being able to hit our own internal UNDO button for something like racism. Twenty years after my experience in that AIESEC meeting, I feel like I am still a student learning about how not to be a racist.

I do and say all the right things but still need to catch myself on occasions. I wonder when people tell me so emphatically that they are not racist how they can be so sure. I find my subconscious, or is it my unconscious, pops up with all sorts of awkward things, learned in my childhood and stubbornly still present despite years of attempted reconditioning.

So I’m not sure. I wonder how other people cope with this. Is it just me that has this affliction, or are there perhaps others? What about the journalists who write newspaper columns and the people who decide what to put on the news. Advertisers, possibly even cartoonists. How do politicians and judges make decisions, setting aside this built-in programming?

Based on my experience I can only imagine it is hard. Logic is seldom involved. This is not something which is rational and easy to grapple with. I find it at times downright confusing. It feels like a lifelong challenge for me and possibly my generation. Or maybe it is just me.

This post was originally published on Thought Leader.

Listen to your body

“Listen to your body”, they say.

The two weeks when I was sick, and that sounds a lot worse than it was, I certainly listened to my body. When my eyes opened in the morning, I was sure I could hear my body saying, “stay in bed…. stay in bed…”, so I listened. I wasn’t majorly ill, a sore throat that took five days to develop and then migrate northwards to my sinuses for another – well if truth be told they’re not exactly clear just yet.

After some time of listening to the call to stay in bed most mornings, my angst about a little Ironman event coming up on the 5th April started shouting louder than the stay in bed cry and I started to train again. My knee which felt like it was about to break in two like a chicken bone in my first run after the illness certainly made its voice known. I wrote about that in a previous post.

As I pushed through the barriers to training and started to build momentum again, I did start to wonder about this ‘listen to your body thing’. Anyone who has trained half seriously for something will know what I mean about the initial push to build momentum and then at some point you wonder, how it was that there was a time in your life when you weren’t training as hard as this.

It feels like the most natural thing in the world to be climbing out of bed at some ungodly hour and heading out to do your exercise. Even if in a group it is a very personal thing. Likewise a break in training will have you wondering if it is ever possible to get back to the levels you were once at. I’ve certainly experienced that often enough.

If truth be told I think if I were to sit down and have a heart to heart with my body it would probably say, “do some yoga”, or perhaps “Pilates is good”. I don’t think it would ever say – go and do an Ironman – because no matter which way I look at it, it is quite hard sell – for a body that is.

I have some very specific reasons for doing it and my learning has been immense. I’ve enjoyed the discipline of the training over a long period of time – now for the second year, I have much greater awareness of my body and I know things about cycling, swimming, running and weight training which I would not ever have known had I not taken this on. I really believe I am a better person because of it as all this learning is against the backdrop of my mid-life which has made it even more significant.

Despite all this, I’ve had to refine the “Listen to your body” – mantra to include all aspects of my body – my mind, my psychology, my spirit and my physical body, in order to make it true for me. If it were purely my physical body, I’m sure that most of the time it would say – “stay in bed”. It is after all warm and comfy compared to the bike saddle, the pavements or the cool water of the swimming pool.

Five weeks to go on Sunday.

I am training for Ironman South Africa on 5th April 2009. This blog posting reflects on my experiences in training. This is for my benefit and also for anyone contemplating the Ironman. I completed the Ironman in 2008 for the first time. My primary goal is to finish, to have fun and learn. I’m a seriously social competitor.

"Don’t Panic"

I found myself struggling through my run this morning thinking about the “Don’t” word.

They say that often in a motor car accident, things will go pear shaped and the car will be skidding and while it is skidding there will be one object which the driver will absolutely not want to hit and by focusing flat out on not hitting it, staring it down to make sure they avoid it all costs, concentrate so hard so that they don’t hit that tree they of course drive straight into it.

Two weeks ago on a friends farm, one of their staff drove their Land Cruiser over a minor cliff. When I spoke to the driver later that evening he told me he had dreamt about driving off that very piece of road a year ago. I don’t know what he was thinking as he drove spun out of control and went over the edge, but possible it was “don’t drive over the edge!”

Some of the work my partner Paddy Upton has done with cricketers around the world has centered on this very thing. His discovery is that by concentrating on anything you bring it into the forefront and then it has more chance of becoming reality. “Don’t go out” (in cricket) becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. “Don’t get nervous (when you walk out in front of 30,000 people and you’re opening the batting)” is quite hard to do.

It seems that by thinking about something we bring it from our periphery vision into our line of site and it becomes something that we focus on.

Let me try out an example on you that I use in workshops.

Close your eyes and what I want you to do, no matter what, is “Don’t think of Pink Elephants”. Ok what are you thinking about?

I see it with my kids and I have no consciously changed my language (whenever I remember). Instead of saying ‘be careful don’t fall now’ when they are climbing a tree, I instead encourage them with positives such as “There you go, I knew you were a great climber.” It’s amazing but they fall less when I say that.

So I’m writing this because I started to panic on my run this morning. Just over five weeks to go to the Ironman and while I’ve done some great work to date, and I believe more than I did last year, I headed out for the first real exercise in about 14 days after being sick and hoping of course I would feel like a stallion. Not. More like a crippled donkey with a really sore knee. So I found myself thinking “Don’t panic” which brought up the string of thoughts above – as I of course panicked.

So instead I’m now saying to myself, one day at a time and enjoy the journey. Follow your training strategy and all will be good.

Let me try that one more time…
I am training for Ironman South Africa on 5th April 2009. This blog posting reflects on my experiences in training. This is for my benefit and also for anyone contemplating the Ironman. I completed the Ironman in 2008 for the first time. My primary goal is to finish, to have fun and learn. I’m by no means a serious competitor.

James Peterson – An Amazing Man

I met an amazing man today. Despite the insinuations from some of my facebook acquaintances, I find him amazing not in a romantic way, but rather that he puts into perspective the real world that I sometimes loose touch of in amongst debt crises’ and internet billionaires.

On Monday as I drove out of UCT, I saw him standing on the on ramp to the freeway hitch hiking. He looked a little out of place in a smart suit on a 35 degree day. I stopped to give him a lift and he told me his story.

That morning, it was now midday, he had got up at 2am and left home at 2h20. Home was Retreat in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. He had walked, yes walked along the main road, through town, Sea Point and then Clifton to Camps Bay and the Bay hotel for an interview to be their driver. He arrived on time for his interview at 7am. He was now on his way home and had walked as far as Rondebosch (about half way) before resorting to hitch hiking.

We chatted in the car and he told me that his family hadn’t eaten since Saturday and that he and his wife hadn’t eaten since Friday. He had been looking for a job since March last year (11 months ago). Clearly he was prepared to go to great lengths to stand out and to get a job. It really humbled me in that here was an older gentleman who hadn’t given up in the face of adversity.

He had worked out what he could do, what was possible, and he was out there doing it. He clearly didn’t have a lot of resources available to him, imagine if people with resources had his attitude.

Loving Life

So I think I am really privileged. I get to do some really interesting things in my life. I do love diversity and the contrasts that a day brings. I started my day at 5.30ish this morning in the pool at the local Virgin Active where I swam 140 lengths as part of my training for Ironman. I had a fresh carrot juice and cookie while I checked my mail and then headed across the floor to do some gym for about an hour with my iPod blaring The Script. Can’t be much better ways to start the day.

I was running a little late by the time I got to my local coffee shop / restaurant Nino’s in Dean Street Arcade to meet with my colleague Ryan and our guest Simon Jackson, a director of Sportstec who is in Cape Town for the week.

Ryan is doing a great job finding new customers and fans for the Sportscode video analysis software which we are the distributors of Africa (except Egypt). Simon is here to help us learn more about the software. They have a fantastic business with more than 4,000 clients around the world and more than 60 medals associated with teams and individuals using the software the Beijing Olympics.

Gary Gold discovered the software while he was coaching at London Irish some years back and became a real expert on how to use it to improve rugby performance, in the process becoming a very accomplished coach. When he returned to South Africa he involved Alan Goldberg who runs the Apple Store in Claremont Project 3 and then later myself in what would become the African distributorship. We’re starting to get some real momentum with the business and it’s an exciting time.

I dropped out to pick up my two darling daughters Amy and Nina from Springfield at lunchtime. They were heading to their cousin (well kind of) Jamie’s birthday party in Greenpoint with Dee, so I dropped them at Dee’s office. We marveled at the progress of the new Hospital Bend interchange as we drove into town – every day there is something added. Always great to see the world through young eyes.

I’ve been exchanging calls with a lovely lady since December who has been wanting to chat to me about executive coaching. It has reached such an extreme stage I left her a message saying that I felt like we had a long distance voice mail relationship as a result of the number of messages we have left for each other. We finally spoke to each other today, first with me catching her in a meeting on my way to pick up the girls and then her phoning me back as I was dropping them with Dee. We finally had a chat with me pulled over on the freeway and will meet up next week.

I spent more time with Simon and Ryan this afternoon and then met up with my brother in law Marc and school friends Craig and Rob to chat about a young man who we support at Wynberg Boys High. He is in grade 11 and we’re keen that he gets the best education and opportunities as possible.

Our plane (ZU-EPL) which is hangared out at Stellenbosch Airfield is going through the process of an annual renewal of it’s ‘Authority to Fly’. This is a piece of paper issued by the Civil Aviation Authority stating that the plane is airworthy. It’s been a bit of a process and I spent some time on the phone with my partners sorting through how we move it forward. Will hopefully get it resolved in the next few days. Which reminds me that I need to do my annual pilot medical before the end of the month.

Back home Dee and I caught up about our trip to Australia later in the year. It feels like we have been passing in the night the last few days as things have been really busy. We have a friend Thomas (met Thomas in 1988 when he presented AIESEC at Cape Tech where I was studying) staying with us from Ghana. I’m now relaxing at the end of the day chatting to Thomas and writing this blog.

I’m tired and need to get a ride and run in tomorrow for my training. So time to sleep and let my body integrate my training from today. Good night.

9 weeks to go

Woke up tired this morning. Fridays fast 10km, followed by Saturday’s 30km run and Sundays 150km ride took it out of me. My focus of this week is getting enough sleep. I noticed a big difference when I was away facilitating for three days and slept at 9pm every night compared to the last few where I have been up late with parties.

When I’m sleeping is actually when I am getting fitter. The exercise is just to tell my body how much is needed and then I rest and it prepares me for next time.

I am training for Ironman South Africa on 5th April 2009. This blog posting reflects on my experiences in training. This is for my benefit and also for anyone contemplating the Ironman. I completed the Ironman in 2008 for the first time. My primary goal is to finish, to have fun and learn. I’m by no means a serious competitor.

Kenny Lah and Me

Reading an article on Slow Twitch web site about Kenny Lah. From the web site

“Ken Glah has won six Ironman events, finished ten times in the top 10 at the Ironman World Championships, and has raced well over 50 Ironman races and countless other triathlons in his career so far. Meet the legendary athlete with the flowing hair.”

“He had 10 Top 10 finishes in Kona spanning from 1986 through 2000, truly amazing.”

I was most interested in the amount of training he does. Asked about what his typical week looks like now versus 10 or 15 years ago he answered.

Ken: Well with my travel business the busiest time of year for me is from mid January until mid July so I am in pretty bad shape when I get back from Europe. After a month of trying to get some training in I can maybe be doing 300 miles (480km) on the bike by mid August, 55 miles (88km) running and 12,000 to 15,000 (19km to 24km) swimming but the quality is not very good until mid September so maybe I get 2 weeks where I feel like things are going well before heading to Hawaii. I am hoping to stay in a bit better shape this year in the spring and early summer so that I can get things going a bit quicker when I get home from the tours to the European Ironman races.

In years past when I was focused just on racing I was doing 500 miles (800km) or so on the bike, 70 plus miles (112km) running, 18,000 to 21,000 meters (28,800 to 33,600 metres) swimming and strength work 2 or 3 times a week for about 5 weeks before I would start my taper for Hawaii. During those big weeks there were some very good quality workouts with rides of 160 miles (256km) at 22 miles an hour (35.2km/h) followed by either a track workout of 4 x 1 mile (1,600m) in 5:20 and a total run of 10 or 12 miles (16 to 19km) or just a straight hard run off the bike of 12 to 17 miles (19 to 27km).

I’m now starting to get it why with my 210km riding, 40km running and 8km swimming a week I am where I am and he is where he is. I suppose another way of looking at is that I’m halfway there.


I am training for Ironman South Africa on 5th April 2009. This blog posting reflects on my experiences in training. I completed the Ironman in 2008 for the first time. I am incredibly social with the goal to finish primarily, have fun and learn. I’m by no means a serious competitor.

Confidence Builder

My long ride on Sunday (yesterday) was as good as last weeks was bad. Great weather, very little wind, and a route which was much more conducive to a long time trial ride (well almost).

We had a 40th on Friday night (we’re in that season with one or two every weekend). I didn’t really drink anything and got a lift home with friends leaving Dee to dance while I rested my legs. I got up at 5.30 and managed to hop into the pool at Constantia Virgin at 6ish for a 4km swim.

It was a great session and something I really like about the Mark Allen programme is that they make the swim workouts interesting. Every one slightly different and really brings out the best in me. Here is the programme that I did:

Warm up 300 swim, 200 kick, 4×50 on 30 sec rest. Main Set 1×1000 swim on 2 min rest, 5×200 on 30 sec rest making sure total time for the set is faster than the 1000 straight, 10×100 on 20 sec rest alternating between rest of 30 sec/15 sec. 200 kick. Warm down 100 easy.

I managed to take 10 seconds off the 5×200 which was a big push in the last set. The exercises are always designed in a way to push harder and faster which is great. I did a gym session after that. Gym consists of 12 exercises to work the muscles that I need to swim, cycle and run and then I do some situps and push ups to finish off.

Saturday night was another 40th which was quieter but I was exhausted by 10.30pm when we left after having filled up on some delicious food. I managed to get out on the bike at 5.30am and headed out towards Somerset West via Voortrekker Road.

Once through the built up area of Bellville / Parow the road is fantastic through Kuils and Elsies River. At Somerset West I took the back road up to Sir Lowry’s Pass village and then crossed the N2 down to Gordon’s Bay, Strand and back onto Voortrekker to head back into town.

I did one short stop after about 4 hours to refill my water bottles and eat some food. I had a craving for something salty so ate a packet of chips and drank half a Lucozade. I normally have Game in my water bottles which I refilled as I had some powder with me.

It was great to get off the bike and stretch. Overall I still felt quite good. Up until four hours I was averaging 30.2km/h which is a good average for me. That average is always keeping my heart rate below 138 which is my ideal fat/carbo burning ratio.

Hours four to five were fine but things did deteriorate in the last hour as I got back onto the Peninsula and did a loop down to Sunrise Circle and back to Wynberg to build up the km’s.

The packet of chips and Lucozade came back to haunt me and I had severe stomach cramps for the last hour and a bit. It was really painful but then probably good training as I’ll be prepared for a little unexpected pain on the big day.

My programme wanted me to do a 6h15 ride and I was wanting to fit 180km’s into that time. I managed to get through 180km in 6h11 which was great. This is a faster time than my Ironman time last year. More than the time though, last year I hadn’t done a ride as long as that ever before so this is a great confidence booster for my training.

This week-end I do a slightly longer run and a shorter ride 5h30 and 30 min run in a brick session.

I am training for Ironman South Africa on 5th April 2009. This blog posting reflects on my experiences in training. I completed the Ironman in 2008 for the first time. I am incredibly social with the goal to finish primarily, have fun and learn. I’m by no means a serious competitor.

Bush Running

This week was a bit different as I was away at a game farm with a client. I only had my running shoes with me so resorted to doing my short, long and one extra run. The short run was a 10km / 50min run which went well on Tuesday morning.

Wednesday afternoon I did 35 mins just to clear my head and stretch my legs after an intense day.

On Thursday morning I woke early and headed out at first light for a 26km 2h20min run. It went well and my recovery wasn’t bad either.

To manage my rehydration, I left some bottles of mineral water outside my hotel room and then did 5 laps of a route through the bush stopping to drink each time. After the run I drank loads of juice and water to rehydrate – I stupidly hadn’t brought any rehydrate powder with me.

It was a bit hilarious when all the liquid starting working through my system. At 11am we had a tea break and I started doing frequent toilet visits. This is quite hard when I’m in the front of the room facilitating a conversation. I eventually made a comment like, “I had far too much tea at teatime” and excused myself.

The runs were great in the bush. In the early morning I had a few standoffs with some Wildebeest (Bison I think they would be called in the US), some Zebra’s and even some Giraffes.

I didn’t get any swims or cycles in but will make up for that on the week-end.

I am training for Ironman South Africa on 5th April 2009. This blog posting reflects on my experiences in training. I completed the Ironman in 2008 for the first time. I am incredibly social with the goal to finish primarily, have fun and learn. I’m by no means a serious competitor.