More than a month has passed since the African Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay / Port Elizabeth. What remains?
First of all, I finished the race. Redemption of sorts, after the DNF in Langkawi. It was also my fastest race to date, a PR. Still not a finishing time to write home about – the swim and the bike were flat and messy performances, but the run was encouraging. Not a whole lot more of the race remains in memory, maybe with the exception of big, heavily bearded men beating me by miles on the bike. The picture of them flying on the bike course stays with me, not sure why…
This is now my third year in the sport, and SA was my ninth full distance race, most of them in remote places. There is some calm settling into my race travel and onsite protocol. The madness of airports excluded of course… Because of that calm, I get to experience more of the location. So what really remains of this African race are the memories of brief encounters with locals, short sequences of them doing whatever they do every day. Through these encounters I got a feel for where SA is today, where it is heading, how some people feel… Not that these are necessarily correct, balanced views. But they are personal, conveyed in private dialogue and therefore carry weight.
I have also memories of even briefer encounters involving some of the reigning kings and queens of this sport. Crossing paths at airports, on training runs, during the race… These remain just curiosities.
The most important thing coming out of SA is a decision to not go to far away races without family. I missed them dearly in SA. This is a decision that has been brewing for a while, and now I am making a commitment to share these experiences with them in the future, because what is most memorable about these races is also shareable. The race itself contributes a tiny amount of the memories, most of which come from “being there” which is easy to share. So I will, from now on. With that, I pulled out of the next race planned in Australia, replaced it with a late season “racecation” in a beach location south of the border. We may even have snow on the ground by the time this race rolls around – same as with this beautiful race in SA. It will be good to get out of the cold and go to Mexico, together.