You know that thing where you are working hard for something, over months or even years, and you keep imagining it in your mind, in pieces, like what you will wear, and just how hard will you have to push your legs, and what will the expression be on your face at that particular moment—and then it happens, you really live it for 4 hours and 35 minutes, and you’re just like, Wow.
Of course you do, you’re a triathlete. Or a parent. Or someone who starts preparing for Christmas in July. Or just like any person who has ever really wanted something and given up a lot and done even more to get there. And then it’s over in a flash.
For me, triathlon is and always has been a way of living a fuller, more joyful life. So what to say about competing as a pro athlete at Ironman 70.3 Worlds except that it brought me so much joy, just to be there, and I will carry that gratitude and joy forward into my life forever. The race is past, but I get to carry this amazing accomplishment forward—23rd in the entire world!!—for all my life.
The race is branded as “the fiercest race in the friendliest city” and it’s true. The pace of living seems slower in Port Elizabeth and people all over town were so helpful. Even on the local radio station, they kept making announcements encouraging folks to come down and support the athletes! I really got the sense that Port Elizabeth is proud to host Ironman.
The swim start for the wave of female pros was intense. Most races don’t have so many women in the pro wave, let alone so many women near each other in abilities, and let’s just say I took some fists and elbows. But that’s why adrenaline!! With as choppy as it was in the bay, we were pretty spread out after the first 200 meters and I was able to settle into a pack.
The South Africa bike course is the way I wish all Ironman bike courses could be!! Fierce, for sure, with some decent climbs—but also beautiful as much of it traverses the pristine and craggy coastline, where you can gaze out across the turquoise waters while you’re legs are burning. With a larger pro field, I also got to chase and be chased by more women than I’m used to. I love that, it helps me stay engaged and competitive!
The run is two loops through Port Elizabeth’s hotel zone right on the coast. I love two-loop courses, it buoys me so much to hear the crowds! I think I ran a minute faster when I was running through the section where the crowds were the thickest and loudest. I loved hearing the shouts of, “We love your kit!” and, “Go USA!!” I was proud to be able to represent Tri Sirena in the “Rainbow Nation” kit they designed for this race; Stefani and I definitely made the right choice with adding a custom screen print of “USA” onto the sides!
I thought about slowing down on the red carpet of the finisher chute to savor the moment, but I really wanted to break 1:30—and also, the idea of not racing on a race course seems foreign to me. But I did stop underneath the arch to try and take it all in. I remember oscillating between joy and exhaustion and tears. The first volunteer who came up to me, I found myself saying over and over, “I am so proud, I am so grateful. I am so proud, I am so grateful.”
(And a special shout-out to Rafaela and Manuela, who are two AWESOME young ladies; they raced the Ironkids and were handing out medals at the finish. if these girls are the next generation of leaders in our sport, we are all in good hands.)
I care about this sport and those who participate in and around it so much. We are all connected through this magical medium and I am grateful to have a place where I can express myself.
So if you ever get the chance to do something for yourself, something no one else can claim or take away or maybe even understand, take the leap. It may be something small. Yesterday I learned how to climb up a rope, something I never thought I’d do, and felt such a sense of accomplishment from the ceiling.
You can’t always predict what will fill up your heart, what will make you feel strong, so try everything. And you will attract people around you who want to be a part of that energy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from training and competing in triathlon, it’s that whatever limits you imagine for yourself, they’re just that, imaginary. Most of us, I’m certain, never find out what we are fully capable of. So dream, live, work your hardest, and then take the leap.
An addendum about traveling in and around South Africa:
If you’re thinking about traveling to South Africa—for triathlon or for tourism—my advice is just go. I was pretty nervous about the travel to get there, but it was actually pretty seamless and not nearly as onerous as I’d feared. I took two ten-hour flights to get to Johannesburg, spent the night in the airport, and then took a short flight down to Port Elizabeth the next day. Using TriBike Transport was well worth it, especially because it enabled me to tour around after without having to worry about a bike.
In Port Elizabeth, I stayed at an AirBnB well away from the tourism area and it was incredibly cheap. My hosts were very clear about parking in the locked garage and not on the street, but I never felt unsafe—even running alone around the neighborhoods in the evening.
Traveling outside of Port Elizabeth after the race was a different story. I was strongly advised by multiple people to not drive from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town alone because, if I had car trouble and broke down, it would not be safe. When in Cape Town, I did stay in a nice hotel in the “Waterfront” tourist area. It was made very clear to me that I should not be downtown alone after dark as theft is extremely common: I was told to have the restaurant call me a cab and then get dropped off at the hotel. (Except in “the Waterfront” area, which is heavily patrolled by police and very safe.) The entire time I was in Cape Town, because I was alone, I had a guide—had I been with my husband or with my friend, I would have opted to skip the guide and explore on my own.
From Cape Town, I flew to Krueger National Park and spent a couple nights at a safari lodge. The lodge was absolutely the most luxurious place I’d ever stayed and super safe. The only reason to lock your door is to keep the monkeys out!!
Please comment below if you have any other travel questions and I’ll get back to you <3
Written by Kyra Wiens, Tri Sirena Professional Triathlete
Follow Kyra on Instagram! @kyrawiens