Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cholesterol and Heart disease

Lately I've come across a few articles that question the relationship between Cholesterol and Heart disease. I've also read some articles which states that Statins (Cholesterol lower medication) are not necessary a good thing.

Below are some links to articles about these topics.

The reason for my post is that before my heart attack I didn't have high Cholesterol and even now after the attack my cholesterol is low but I am on statins. The Doctor prescribed it as a precaution after attack and not because I have high cholesterol. 
My question is just why take medication if you’re not sick, only for precaution? Isn't a healthy diet and exercise the medicine you really need?

The other day I was at the doctor and suggested that I want to stop using the medication as what I've read and understood from the articles I am doing more damage than good and it is also now proven that if I should have had high Cholesterol it is not necessary a bad thing or the cause of heart attacks. Needless to say the Doc said no, I must still use them.

My question is who to believe? Do I stick with “old school” believes and studies or go with new studies and believes

Would welcome your comments and opinions

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Starting all over Again

It’s been a week since I’m back at training and trying to make some sort of comeback.

So last Saturday I started training again and it’s been going well. Kim reminded me that I must “start over” and not try and start where I left off, end of February.

After my visit to the Cardiologist beginning of August when he told me no more competitions and only training socially, I totally lost interest. Think I was mad and disappointed at the same time with this whole situation. Leading up to my visit I was training strictly according to his guidelines and was waiting for the green light come August to get back at racing.

When he gave me the news I didn’t want, I continue training but slowly lost interest and skipping the one session after the other until I wasn’t training at all.

Almost two months later and one month of NO training at all, I decided it can’t go on like this. Must also thank Kim for keeping me motivated to get back at it and help me going through this bad patch. Besides used bikes don’t have any value so I can’t sell them and I hate seeing them just stand there.

Thinking back, my biggest mistake was I thought I can just continue where I stopped in February. I do realize now that it’s not the case and I must start over again, from scratch. Recovering from a heart attack ain’t no easy job, much harder than Ironman training itself.

Needless to say I’ve done more swimming, biking and running this past week than the past month and I love that feeling again, being tired and on a “high” after a training session. Something you can’t explain and need to experience yourself.

Hope to be back at it soon and to do a triathlon, even thou it would be a short distance Tri and not at the pace I am used to, I am looking forward to doing a Triathlon soon.

Pic at top is one of my runs this week, happy to record a 5km, sub30 in first week back at it, and that with heart rate sub 130bpm
"If you don't want to take me for a run, I'll go on my own" -Eddy

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Endurance Athletes and the signs of a heart attack?

Whenever people and especially athletes discover I had a heart attack when they talk to me, the first two questions that pops up every time are.

“How will I know when I am having a heart attack” and
“Are there any long term symptoms leading up to a heart attack”

Getting these questions all the time I thought it might be worth writing a post about it.

I am not a Doctor and my advice is not based on medical evidence but it’s my personal opinion and what I've experienced.

The first question I did answer in one of my previous post heart attack symptoms and won’t go into detail now. 
But the symptoms are basically feeling dizzy, nausea's, pain on the inside of the arms (biceps), having heart burn but higher up than the usual heart burn. Eventually breaking out in a cold sweat and not able to walk up straight and going into a fetal position due to the extreme pain.

What I’ll try and answer today is how you know if the heart is not functioning as it should be and are there any medium/long term signs. Personally I don’t think there are definite signs but thinking back to the time leading up to the attack and what I've experienced I came to realize that I was not my usual self. I didn't take note of it and thought it was just part of endurance training.

What I've noticed is that it felt like I had asthma and I even complaint to Kim, saying that I must go to the Doctor (which I never did). I struggled to breathe (tight chest), especially on my runs and also just as I started running. This would then go away later during the run. I also struggled to do my once a week fartlek session and could do it but was the odd 30 seconds slower than my usual rate and going slower as the weeks tick on.

The advantage of training with a power meter is that I've noticed that I was losing power during my bike sessions especially when I was doing the shorter interval sessions. When I was doing my endurance rides or recovery rides I could hold my target power zone without any issues but when it came to the short all out 1 minute sessions or the 5 minute sessions above threshold I just couldn't hold the numbers. My power was steadily declining with each session and nothing helped no matter what I tried doing to improve the numbers.

Thinking back I am sure that those sessions where the heart need to pump extra hard were the ones where the heart showed that there is something wrong and just could not perform at that high level.

One other thing I also noticed was the week before the Xterra race when I had the attack, I did a half Ironman and after the race I had some heartburn and pain inside my arms. No issues during the race. The energy drink supplied during that specific race was not what I was using and I thought that was the reason why I experienced the heartburn. The pain inside my arm, I thought was my lack of swim training the past couple of weeks. 
How naive of me but an issue with my heart never crossed my mind, never did I know that it was a heart attack on its way.

I've read lately that a lack of sleep over a long period can also lead to a heart attack. With me having a full time job and not neglecting my family my day started at 4am and ended at 11pm. My typical day was training before work, working long hours in a stressful environment, spending time with the family after work and then training again until late at night. Getting 5 hours of sleep a night and some nights less over the past 6 years must have taken its toll on my heart.

They've said it many times in articles but only do I realize now that sleep is very important and one thing one can’t neglect.

This week on Twitter I saw a lot of tweets from people entering Ironman South Africa and for the first time the event is sold out long before entries close. This is great news and I am glad that Triathlon is growing at such a rate in South Africa. It’s great being caught up in the moment and entering Ironman or being challenged by a friend to do it but training for and racing an Ironman is very demanding and puts your body to the ultimate test.

One concern I do have is that a lot of entries are first timers and when I look at some of these people’s tweets they haven’t done a long distance triathlon before and some are new to the sport and haven’t done a triathlon at all. I would urge these athletes or for that matter even the seasoned endurance athlete to go for a proper medical exam once a year which include a proper scan of the heart (EKG, Sonar, etc.) This might not help everybody but will show any defect there might be that you are not aware of.

In my case they might have picked something up or maybe not but now it’s too late to know and all the “what if’s” can’t turn back the clock.

My conclusion is that I don’t think there are specific signs leading up to a heart attack but listen to your body. What I do believe is that every endurance athlete should do a proper medical exam once a year to prevent any possible issues to ensure that you can do the sport you love for many years to come. 

Never think that this won't happen to you, that's what I thought.

Oh and get enough sleep every night!

And what would a post be without a pic of my buddy, Eddy

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Heart Attack Check-up: Not the news I wanted

It's been almost six months, (23 weeks to be precise) since my heart attack and last Friday I visited the Cardiologist for my check-up.

Going to the Doctor, I was very positive and believed that I would get the green light to up the training and even get the go ahead to return to Ironman racing or at least Half Ironman racing. The week before I had some blood test done for him to get the results in time.
Since the attack I followed the Doctors orders to the T and taking my meds without missing one tablet.

(Picture above is what the meds do to my Blood pressure, my new low BP, day in and day out. Some days it drops to 90/60) 

Training wise I also followed his orders and didn't go over (the ridiculous low) 130bpm that was set as the maximum.

When I got there he did a resting EKG as well as one while I was running on the treadmill. When the Treadmill test was at it's peak my heart rate was peaking at 159bpm. I was a little worried but thought if the heart should stop now I am at the right place, at the Hospital in the Cardiologist consulting room, not in a car on my way to the airport. After this he did examine me and also did a Sonar of my heart.

While doing the Sonar he told me that there is some damage to the heart but it is very little. Then it was back to his office where he studied the EKG and giving me the feedback.

According to him I must be thankful that there is almost no damage to the heart. I thought that here comes the good news but instead he told me that his advice to me would be to never do racing again.

He said I can continue the way I am training now and can slowly increase the time/distance but very slowly and he would advice me to stick to 130bpm but can go to 135-140 max but just for short stints and not often. But no more training/racing as what I was used to.

That is not the news I wanted to hear, I was there to get the green light. What I don't understand is that he said he is very happy with the blood results and the EKG looks very good and there is almost no damage to the heart. He even reduced my medication but no more endurance Triathlons or racing!!

When I asked him if I can up the heart rate to the 150 range and if I can do at least a Half Ironman in the future his words to me was, "Now don't be silly"

I suppose that is reality, training 3 to 4 times a week at 130bpm max, become a social jogger, biker but that is not me. He is a very good and well respected Cardiologist and I have a lot of respect for him and he is probably right but I don't want to believe him.

This weekend I've decided to get a second opinion. I know you don't get Cardiologist specializing in athletes with heart issues but I am going to see if I can get one who might be working closer with athletes with heart issues. One thing I noticed at the consulting rooms was that my age must have brought the average age in the room down by about 30 years. I was the only "young" guy there, all the other patient looked 70+. Not saying that this is influencing his decision but surely I am in better shape than his average patient.

For now I will stick to his advice and enjoy our Holiday to Norway coming up end of the month but will then see if I can find another Cardiologist for a second opinion.

The hardest part now is to stay positive. Leading up the the check up I believed that I would be 100% but not getting good news is a big blow. Triathlon is not everything in life but it is something I enjoy immensely.

 The important thing however is that I am still alive and enjoying my family everyday and is Blessed by their love and care.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

14 weeks of Ups and Downs

It's been 14 weeks since my heart attack and just a quick update on how things are going. To say that everything is 100% will be a lie. I have my ups and downs but luckily I've had more ups than downs.

Like I said before the Mental side of the recovery for me is harder than the physical side, maybe because I was very fit before the attack and the physical recovery is going well. Mentally it is hard not to train like I used to train and also the mind games and all the "what ifs"

I had three anxiety attacks during this time and with one I ended up in Hospital as I thought I am having another heart attack. Only to be assured by the Hospital that my heart is fine. You see the problem is with any chest pain or something feeling weird, your mind start playing games with you and you think you're having another heart attack and the more you think about this the more you start to panic.

The Doctor did give me medication to take if I feel that I am starting to panic but I don't like to take the medicine. Don't want to become dependent on it.

That's the negative, on the positive my training is going well and I struggle to keep my heart rate below 130bpm during training. I feel so good, I just want to go out and train like I used to, very frustrating training at low heart rate.

Another positive during the past week weeks is me and Kim could celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary end of May. I am so thankful for having her and motivating me and looking after me, not only after the attack but for the past 19 years.
On my bike ride today, going outdoors

Like I said training wise it is going well and I do all of my training on the treadmill and on the indoor bike trainer (Computrainer). I've seen that I can control my heart rate better indoors than if I go outside.
I did however went out for an outdoor bike ride today. Indoor training can become boring/frustrating and Kim told me today, why don't I take you outside and you can bike outdoors. Must say it felt great and although I had to take it easy to keep the heart rate down, it was great cycling on the open road again.

Pictures above is of my view on trainer and treadmill, just not the same than outdoors but will have to do.

I've also decided to finally work on my swim technique, seeing that I can't swim endless laps at this stage. I bought a swim program and is starting to swim from scratch. At this stage it is only drills and very basic drills.
And what would my post be without a picture of my best friend, Eddy. Always happy to see me and never a dull moment in his live. Just want to play. Here he is ready to chase Kim

Friday, April 12, 2013

TSA Medical commission response

Here is a copy of an email I send to TSA (Triathlon South Africa) regarding the issue whereby a medical commission will propose measures to prevent deaths in endurance triathlons

The link to TSA website article:

Good day

Hereby my response to the TSA website bulletin regarding the investigation by the Medical Commission relating to the recent deaths in Triathlon and proposed plans to but safety issues in place.

I appreciate the effort TSA is putting in to prevent future deaths in triathlon races, especially due to heart related issues, but I believe that the new proposal to implement a rule that one must qualify at an Olympic distance race before participating in an endurance triathlon event would not add value or prevent future deaths. In my view this will only enrich race organizers and put a financial burden on athletes to enter races of which entry fees are already very high.

I am a competitive endurance athlete who have done six Ironman events and also completed in more than a dozen half Ironman events over the past seven years. This year alone I have done two half Ironman races and two Xterra off-road triathlons. I specialize in long distance triathlons and do not compete in sprint or Olympic distance races. In the majority of these endurance events over the past couple of years I have finished in the top ten of my age group and have also competed in the Ironman World Championships in 2009.

My reasoning behind this is that I suffered a heart attack just after finishing my last race (Xterra Grabouw, 24 February)

I would propose that in order to "qualify" to do an endurance triathlon an athlete would need to produce a doctor's certificate after completing a medical/physical exam to clear the athlete to participate in such an event.

In my case this wouldn't have help as they still don't know what caused the heart attack as I don't have a heart condition, history, any medical condition or high cholesterol but in many instances through an exam, ECG, etc. it may be determined if an athlete do have a medical defect and if such athlete will be capable to participate in an Ironman race.
Most athlete’s do have a medical aid and this won’t put any additional financial strain on the athlete. One might see a drop in participating numbers but it might just save a live or two and might make a specific athlete aware of a medical condition they might have.

One might consider the following criteria whereby an athlete must qualify for an Ironman event by doing a Half Ironman distance race as there is a huge jump from a half distance race to the full but to do an Olympic distance race to qualify for a Half Ironman distance race won’t prevent deaths in my opinion.

Johan Stemmet

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How do you feel?

Me and Eddy, my training partner on our walks

 Lately I've been asked the question a lot. "How do you feel" and I appreciate every one's interest about how I feel after the heart attack. It's already been four weeks since the mishap and there's two parts to this, one is the physical side and the other the mental.

Physically I am doing great and I am glad that the recovery is going well. The Doctor told me that I will recover faster than the average person due to me being very fit and healthy and I am glad he was right. I've started walking with Eddy the week after the heart attack and started with 100 meters a day and slowly building it up and is now up to 2.5 km. I must constantly remind myself to walk slowly and take it easy.

Physically I feel like I can almost start running and need to force myself to walk slower than what I want to. According to the Doctor I can start training again after six weeks (two weeks to go) but only at 70% of max heart rate. Can't wait!

Picture above is my Training Peaks performance management chart and the blue line is the Chronic training load (CTL), [basically it is my fitness level and it is quite disturbing seeing the chart taking a nose dive the past four weeks].

Even with the alarm switched off, the body clock still wakes me up at 4am after all these years

Mentally it is not going that well. Being used to train twice a day for seven days a week most of the time and now only walking once a day at turtle pace for half an hour is hard. I really miss the training and that feeling you get after a hard training session or a race.

My emotions is also divided in two. One moment I am so thankful that I am alive and been given another chance. The next moment I am upset that this has happened to me and ask the question, Why?
Living healthy, being active, no health issues, no signs of an attack coming and then Bam!
Cancelling all my flights, accommodation, race entries etc. for upcoming races I've already booked was also not helping.

So unfair but then I think back to that day and am thankful again and realize that this will be a long road to recovery but I must enjoy every day being alive.

Tomorrow I am going back to work after my forced "holiday" and am exited to be back at the Dealership again but am going to miss the extra family time with Kim and DJ which I got so used to

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cervelo P5-six review

Recently I've upgrade from my Cervelo P4 to the P5. Been riding the P4 for three years and to be honest I wasn't that happy with it compared to the P3. So when the P5 became available I had a good excuse to upgrade.

Initially Cervelo SA decided to only bring the P5-three to South Africa with no option of the "six". The main difference between the "Three" and "Six" is that the "Three" is UCI legal. The "six" comes with an integrated Anduro aero bar and stem, a deeper fork with the front brakes inside the fork. It also have the carbon option Magura RT8 Brakes and the front brake is covered by a faring.

Seeing that I don't participate in Road race events and prefer long distance triathlons I decided to rather get me the "Six"

Only problem, it wasn't available in SA but thanks to Marco at Cycle Tech, with whom I've been dealing with for almost ten years, he made a plan and got me one.

 I've done a  fair amount of training on it and also two Half Ironman and must say it is just superb. Much better than the P4 and remind me of the P3. One thing I like about it is that it is a solid bike and I get the feeling that you won't ride this bike to pieces, not like the P4 which I felt was a bit too "fragile"

The Bike is very stiff but at the same time it is a very comfortable ride. There is also very little flex and power gets transferred better. Handling is also great and when you point it into a direction it goes with a twitch.
With all the different options on the handlebar I could play around with the setting without too much change to my initial set up. What I also like about it is that Cervelo made sure that one can add components and accessories to the bike without compromising the aero, set up or look.

One thing I am very glad about is the Magura hydraulic brakes. The brakes are potent and worlds apart from the P4. It was something to get used to applying the brakes, been a while since I could lock my rear wheel as the P4's rear brake was just pathetic. Choosing a crank I opted for the Rotor Flow aero crank with 54/42 chain ring.

 I've opted to go with the Shimano Dura Ace Di2 group set. At first I had them build the Sram group set over from the previous bike but the angle at the stem is very tight and I found it difficult at some stages changing gears. The Di2 electronic system is flawless and I am very impressed with it. I haven't had any issues with it even under load and shifting gears rapidly.

After riding with a Fizik saddle for all these years I took a chance and swop to the Adamo Aero saddle. Best move I've ever done. The saddle is so comfortable and I can stay in the aero position much longer. No more shifting around on the saddle during my long rides.

As I said before one thing I am very impressed with is how one can add accessories without an issue. The Xlab stealth pocket uses two screws to fix it to the top tube. The Di2 battery is also stored within the frame close to the rear brake and it is easy removing it to charge it. I've decided to hide the Di2 indicator inside the stem. Only disadvantage is I can't see when the battery needs to be charged.

The Aero bar also has a base plate on which one can add a water bottle holder without adding extra brackets to fix the holder to the bar. Fitting a rear bottle holder to the seat post is also no problem as the seat post has a hollow "tube" whereby the water bottle holder "rot" slide into.

In Summary the Pro's and Con's

The whole bike, no seriously this is the best TT bike I've ever ridden
Stiffness and handling
Power transfer and the frame not flexing
Magura brakes
Making provision to the frame to add accessories without issues

With the performance and handling of the bike I couldn't find any faults yet and the only downside is the Matt finish to the paintwork. It does look good but keeping the bike clean can be an issue

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I think I'm Dying, No Really, I am

Just need to apologize in the beginning  for this long post. Like to keep things short and simple. Promise the future posts will be short again.

Picture above, my home for three days, the Medical ICU.

How many times have I said it, " I think I'm dying" especially after a hard race or tough training session but Sunday after the race I really meant it.

So what does it feel like having a heart attack. One thing I can say, it is the worse pain I've ever experienced. Not even breaking two ribs and my collarbone at two places last year when I had my bike accident can come close to this pain.

As I was driving back to the airport after the race we stopped at the" Petroport" on the N2 towards the airport and I went in to buy some water as I was very thirsty. While standing in the queue to pay I started sweating and was really feeling bad with the heart burn very intense. When I got to the car I asked Kim to drive as I couldn't.
 Just after coming out of theater 

While Kim was driving I had this immense pain all over my body, as if my body can't get oxygen and is suffocating. My arms were numb but at the same time had this intense pain. My calf muscles were trembling and I tried to feel what my heart rate was but couldn't get a pulse. My whole body was in pain with the heart burn just out of this world. I stuck my head out of the window just to get some air.

We don't know the area and instead of looking for a Hospital, Kim drove to the airport as they have medical staff on duty, or so we hoped. When we arrived at the drop off zone at the airport Kim ran inside looking for the emergency people. Some friendly porter guided her to their offices. While she was doing that I got out of the car and laid on my back outside the airport entrance. I was feeling terrible and people came to ask me what's wrong but I couldn't even answer them.

It felt like forever but Kim came back and said she found them and an Ambulance is on it's way. How many times have I heard an Ambulance siren but hearing it after a while was the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.

They got me in the ambulance and started assessing me while driving to the EMS offices. There they started treating me while they waited for another Ambulance to take me to Hospital. Can't remember how long it took but while we waited they treated me and gave me tablets under my tongue and put me on a drip.

 The day after the heart attack

The Ambulance came and took me to the Hospital's ER. It was quite scary as the ambulance drove and the guy working on me was talking on the two way radio (I think so), saying to them "We have a code red" and they must be ready this is critical and keep asking if the doctors are ready. That was scary, hearing all this and in all this pain.

As we arrive at the Hospital they were ready and the ER doctors and staff were amazing. The treatment was just out of this world, giving me tablets, pumping, I don't know what, into the drip and eventually got me stable. They kept telling me to open my eyes and not fall asleep as I just wanted to close my eyes and rest. I can remember at one stage the pain was so intense that I started crying and they told me to take it easy, my heart is taking strain. They kept giving me all these medicines and looking at the heart monitor that was hooked up on me. They also kept Kim in the loop of what's happening and comforted her.

They then got me into theater and inserted a stent into one of the arteries. Coming out of theater I felt much better and was already eating something that evening. One of the ER staff came to visit me that night and also the ER Doctor the next day, saying that people don't survive such massive heart attacks and I can be very lucky.

Can't remember every one's name but to the Paramedic, Mbuli, keeping me alive in the EMS rooms and to the ER doctor, Dr Karin, thanks for saving my life. Also to Dr. Pillay doing the surgery. Thank you so much!
Also, Thank you to Dirk, helping me and Kim at the airport to check inn and to get my bicycle on the plane.
 Kim's gift to me 
 Xterra race organizers gift 

The race organizers of the event came to visit me and Kim and gave us these gifts. The first three days I felt very tired but better everyday from then onwards. It's been almost two weeks now since the little mishap and feeling much better. 

I went for a follow up at one of the best Cardiologist in the country today and he did some tests. He say he can only say after six months if I have permanent damage but everything looks good and he feel comfortable to say that I should recover 100% and return to Triathlons. Say my heart is looking good, pumping as it should be, with no blockages or issues (firing on all cylinders, haha). I am not allowed to do any activity (high heart rate) for four weeks but can go for walks. After that I can start training very slowly but nothing over 70% of max heart rate.
Flying back home on the Friday (5 days after the attack) and waiting with the "silver brigade" to be "loaded" into the airplane. Just didn't feel right but I was too tired to walk and I just wanted to get home.

Me the night before the race, relaxing and talking to DJ. Unaware of what would happen the next day and who knew, maybe the last time I would have talked to my daughter without realizing it.

So why the heart attack. That was a mystery to the Doctors as I don't have Cholesterol, Sugar, any heart conditions or family history of heart attacks in the family. They did a lot of tests in the Hospital and everything came back negative, just couldn't pick up anything.
The Doctor said going on medical terms I shouldn't have had the attack. I am super fit, eat healthy, don't smoke or drink a lot.

One would never know but after today's visit to the Cardiologist he gave me two possible reasons after I told him exactly what happened and both make sense to me. Maybe it's not the reason but I will take it to put my mind to rest and move on, not going to stress about why.

Reason number 1
I told him that I was fine until the 3 km mark on the run. It was very hot and taking a look at my Garmin, my heart rate at that stage was 172 bpm. What I never thought about was at the 3 km mark there is a river crossing and seeing that it was very hot, I dived into the river cooling my whole body with the ice cold river water and not running through it only for my legs to get wet.
He say the sudden cold water could have let my heart go into a spasm (compared it with getting a cramp in your calf muscle) and that triggered the attack. The reason why I had the heart burn, dizziness and arms full of needles and pins directly after crossing the river make sense now.

Reason number 2
It could have been that one of my arteries had a small tear from all the endurance training/racing and this caused the artery to block temporarily and not supplying blood to the heart also causing the attack.

Well that's it, now on the road to recovery and back at a Triathlon soon, I hope.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Xterra SA Race Report

Next race was Xterra SA in Grabouw, which was also the South African Championships. For those who don't know Xterra is an off-road Triathlon and the distance was a 1.5km swim, 27km bike and a 11km run.

Finish: 3h38:50
Swim: 32:30
T1: 2:07
Bike: 1h50
T2: 1:25
Run: 1h12*
Age Group: 16th out of 72
Overall: 136th individual out of about 600

* Walked from Kilometer 3 to 5, (19:30 minutes for 2 km's). First symptoms of heart attack, Heart burn, dizzy and arms full of needles & pins
 With a 8:30 am start the day started quite relaxed and no rush to get things ready in transition. We stayed at a Guesthouse in Gordon's Bay and it was less than a 30 minute drive to the event. The swim was a fresh water lake swim and lucky for me the water temp. was 19c, so wet-suits were allowed.
 According to my standards I had a great swim. I started to the far left of the bunch and although it was a little further to the buoy, I had no "fighting" at the start, which happen quite often at Triathlon swim starts. I exited the water in just over 30 minutes and then had a longish run to T1
 The Bike was very good from the word go and I overtook a lot of athletes as the beginning of the bike course was uphill with no scary downhills. Just as I thought that this course is great with no downhills or rock gardens, I quickly realized this is no easy course. Had my ION camera rolling on my helmet and will post some footage later. Funny to see yourself overtaking a lot of people only to be passed again going down the rock garden. Apart from that the rest of the course was great with a little bit of everything.

 The run started very well and I was maintaining a 4:30 min/km pace for the first 3km. At the 3km mark I started getting heartburn and didn't know why as my nutrition was spot on and I felt great on the bike. I also felt dizzy and thought it must be the heat, as it was a hot day. I also had needles and pins in my arms. I slowly walked for 2km until I reached another water point. I felt better and started running again. Little did I know that that was the first signs of a heart attack on it's way.

The remaining 6km to the finish was good and I felt "normal" again and could maintain a good pace, passing a lot of athletes again. After spending some time re-hydrating in the athlete zone, I went to collect my bike when transition opened and wanted to start packing the bike in my bike case as we had a 17h00 flight back home.

My heartburn was back again and I said to Kim I need to get something for it at the Medical tent. They gave me something and said I could lay on one of the beds for a while. The medical staff took my blood pressure and after about twenty minutes I felt better and went to the car to pack everything.
Picture of Grabouw dam from air

After packing we left the venue on our way to the airport. I started to feel worse and I asked Kim to drive as I couldn't drive anymore. As we drove my whole body was in pain, sweating heavy, and muscle trembling with no vain in sight and I tried to feel my pulse but couldn't get a pulse. That's when I told Kim I think I am having a heart attack and she must get me to a Hospital.

More on this in next post

Friday, February 22, 2013

Prestige Ultra race report

 Three weeks of hard training and it was time for the Prestige Half Ironman*. Took the decision not to taper for this race and rather build mileage for Ironman in April.

Time 4h28:57
Swim: 42min
Bike: 2h15*
Run: 1h29*
Finished 7th in age group 40-49 (not the usual 40-44 group) and 28th overall

* Don't know why but race was not full half Ironman distance and bike leg was 83 km and run 20 km. 8 km short in total
The whole race was a two lapper, two swim laps, two bike laps and two run laps. Not bad.

 Swim was again a non wet-suit swim. Was actually hoping for a wet-suit swim just to prepare for Ironman and see if i could sort out my breathing. Took my old wet-suit, that is one size bigger than my current one, but obviously couldn't try it out. Swim was super slow but nothing new. One thing I can say is that although swimming is not my favorite leg of a triathlon, I just don't like swimming in the Vaal river. Super dirty compared to Buffelspoort dam or the ocean.

Onto the Bike and was keen to see if I could manage a good pace on tired legs. One thing about being a slow swimmer, you get that extra motivation overtaking loads of athletes on the bike. My legs were screaming from the start to finish but I was happy with the power output and could almost manage the watts I aimed for.

The run was also hard but luckily it was not a hilly route and I could manage a decent pace. Just before the start of the second lap I had to do a pit stop and lucky for me the whole run route was through a neighborhood but just before the turn around there were some bushes. Lost about a minutes there, but hey, had to stop. Runners know that feeling when you have to go and actually struggle to run. From then on-wards the second lap was actually faster than the first, haha. One thing about doing a Half Ironman on tired legs is that it takes a lot out of you. Felt so tired afterwards that Kim had to drive the odd 250 km home as I just wasn't up to it, doesn't happen that often.

Happy with my race and now it's another hard week of training before Xterra South Africa in Grabouw this weekend. Haven't mention it but I'm with a new coach. Made the switch just after Iroman 70.3 SA. Happened by accident (if you can call it that) but more about that later.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Xterra Buffelspoort race report

Well it was only a week after Ironman 70.3 South Africa and it was time for Xterra Buffelspoort. I knew that it would be a difficult race, first of all I'm no off-road expert and obviously because it was only a week after a 70.3. Luckily, or so I thought, the distance was only 1.5 km/27 km/12 km but to my surprise it was very hard and a very warm day.

This was my first Xterra race and I must say I was surprised at the relaxed atmosphere compared to Ironman racing. I've done some Mountain bike races and some Trail runs before but never an Xterra.

Time: 3h22
Swim: 35 min
Bike: 1h28
Run: 1h16

Finished 8th in my age group and 48th overall.

The swim was a non wet-suit swim and do I need to say more. Luckily I didn't get a panic attack again or ran out of air but decided to just get through the swim even if it was slow.

Onto the mountain bike and I must say I enjoyed it. Not too hard with some amazing singe track and most importantly I didn't fall. Overtook a lot of riders on the bike which gave me some extra motivation. One thing when you don't have the technical skills and have been involved in a big accident is that I overtook a lot of people going uphill but then all of them overtook me again going downhill, and there were some serious downhills. One thing I realized again is that I will never be a downhill racer, don't have the courage for that. 

Then things became ugly on the run. Not nice running on tired legs after the previous week's race and also if the run route is going up a mountain twice.

First I had to negotiate running down next to the Dam wall over the low water bridge and then up again at the other side of the dam wall. OK, not running, actually walking when the gradient is 22% for 150 meters with the gradient as some point 45%

From there on it went OK until we hit the mountain. Only 2.3 km at 8.5%, with the last 1 km at 12.5% gradient but on tired legs that is brutal. Down the other side and before I could recover it was another uphill. This time it was just short of 1 km but at 13%.

Luckily that was the end of uphills but then the dreaded downhills on tired legs. At the end I finished and was feeling great finishing my first Xterra and more importantly not injuring myself.

Now it's three weeks of hard training before another Half Ironman, the Prestige Ultra

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ironman 70.3 South Africa report

Ironman70.3 South Africa didn't turn out the way I wanted but I know I gave it my all. My time was some 14 minutes slower than last year and I finished in 14th position in my age group and 105th overall from about 3000 athletes, compared to last year's 5th in my age group.

Time 5h12:26
Swim: 39:50
Bike: 2h48
Run: 1h38

 My preparation up to end of December was perfect and I was really looking forward to the race as I was hitting the numbers in training and was feeling good. The new Cervelo P5 also added to this and all I can say is that this is an awesome bike. Will do a review on it some time later.
Just more than a week before the race I started having a stuffy nose and scratchy throat but thought it was the usual taper effect after all the hard training. After a few days I realized it was more than that and went to the doctor. It turned out to be flu and he put me on a very strong antibiotic for five days, but advised me not to race as it was too close to race day.

 Closer to race day I felt better but wasn't 100% but decided to race, not the right decision but tell that to an athlete. As this setback wasn't enough, I decided to test the wet suit out the Thursday before the race as the last time I swam in it was at Ironman 2012 and soon discovered that the extra pressure from the wet suit was very uncomfortable to my shoulder/collarbone with all the plates and screws in it.
 I was thinking of swimming without a wet suit or get a sleeveless one but at the end of the day decided to go with what I got and not try something new. The swim start was not good and apart from the constant pain in my shoulder my chest tightened up again after about 400 meters (just like last year at Ironman). I had to take it easy for a while before starting to swim slowly again. Don't know what it is with this, if it is the wet suit or some problem with my breathing.
 Luckily I survived the swim and was onto the bike. I felt good on the bike and was passing a lot of athletes. Starting in wave 4, some 45 minutes behind the first wave also gave me extra motivation passing people from previous waves. At the end my bike time wasn't the greatest and it was actually very slow by my standards. I was riding according to my power meter and was a little bit down but didn't think it would have such a great impact on the time. After the race I had a look at my file and after discussing it with my coach, we realized where I went wrong.

The run was the best part of the race, little bit slower than last year but I felt good and after the swim and bike disappointment I was happy to post a decent run split.
Last year when I finished 5th I was lucky enough to get a slot for Ironman70.3 Worlds in Vegas but after my bike accident couldn't go. After the race I decided to go to the slot allocation but wasn't very optimistic to get a slot. Luckily for me there weren't a lot of athletes taking their slots and 14th place was good enough to get one.

Didn't feel right finishing that low down the order and take a slot but I see it as unfinished business and doing something I was suppose to do last year.

Now that the first race of 2013 is under the belt there are a lot of races and training to come before Ironman on April 14