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Parys Edwards’ South Africa 70.3 race report

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The crosswinds were not fun

Parys Edwards exploded into the sport of triathlon in 2008 finishing 9th in her first Age Group World Championships while competing in only her 5th triathlon.

Since then she has climbed to the very top of the amateur rankings and is a double World Champion having won at both the Olympic and 70.3 distances in the past 2 years. Added to this are European Triathlon and Duathlon Gold medals, a European Middle Distance silver medal and the British and English National titles.

Parys has written this guest blog on her journey through the SA70.3 race:

The 2015 season has started well for me with an early race on the calendar. This time last year I didn’t even know I would take the step up to the pro ranks, so it’s an accomplishment to get to the start line of the SA70.3 with some semblance of race fitness.

After racing in Phuket at the end of November I took a complete break from training for 2 weeks. This allowed a rare opportunity to enjoy some social time in London and although I got very twitchy after a few days of no exercise, I felt it was important to give my body (and mind) a rest.

I then travelled to  Zimbabwe to join my family for Christmas and restart some training in the warmth and altitude that is Harare. At the start of January I spent a few days in the Drakensburg mountains, my first visit there, not great for swim and bike (still packed) but great for running and a truly beautiful part of the world. A week of training in Cape Town with my training buddy Paula (who always manages to push me even though she does less than half the training I do!) was good preparation. It also afforded exposure to strong winds, similar to those that would greet me in East London (EL) which hosts the SA70.3.

The two weeks pre-race I based myself in EL and was very fortunate to be staying with friends Janice and John Williamson who looked  after me so incredibly well (I cannot begin to describe how amazing Janice’s cooking was!).

So yet again I felt well prepared, I had swum the race course at the Siyakula Open Water Swim the weekend prior. I’d gone off course and this taught me to sight landmarks rather than buoys as the swells made it impossible to see the buoys – something that would help me on race day when the swells were even bigger!

I hadn’t ridden the bike route as it is mostly on a national highway, but I had ridden a nearly parallel road with a tougher profile which gave me a good idea of how the course would feel. Unfortunately, the setup on my new bike was far from ideal and even in training I could feel lots of discomfort and had real issues finding a way to fit my front water bottle and garmin on the tribars. I made the adjustments I could but wanted to wait until getting back to London to let Richard Melik at FreeSpeed sort it out properly. The run route was 2 laps which was flat along the beachfront but then cut inland and up a very long hill!

Race day dawned fairly cool by EL standards but windy– the sea swells were daunting! I lined up on the far right of the start line (my preferred position as I breath to the left) and this put me next to Jodie Swallow…gulp! One of the worst swimmers in the sport lined up next to the best – it would be the closest I would get to her during that race!

Captured on telly (M-Net SuperSport) lined up next to Jodie- despite appearances at that moment I can assure you I was more nervous then she was!

Despite the big swells I felt good in the water and sighted well off the landmarks I had noted, keeping a pack of girls in view about 100m ahead of me until the last third of the swim. I was very disappointed with my swim split when I glanced at my watch coming out the water, but considering the conditions it was to be expected.

Always chuffed to have the swim over – now for the long run up to transition. © FinisherPix.com

Onto the bike course and I quickly started passing some of the girls who had swam quicker than me. At about 3k along the course I saw Lucy Reed by the side of the road. She was obviously withdrawing from the race and at the time I thought it was due to a mechanical issue but later learnt she had been vomitting before the swim start and felt she could not continue. All credit to her for even starting, and I felt for her as she was a real podium contender.

Soon after that I passed 2 more girls and I calculated I was in 4th place, this is where I would stay until early on the run course.

Early on the bike course and setting my sights on those ahead of me. © FinisherPix.com

About 4km before the bike turn point I glanced across and saw Jodie riding back among the pro men- wow she had made up 3 minutes on them and was holding her own – what a class athlete! Shortly after I was able to estimate that I was about 4 minutes behind Susie Cheetham and Emma Bilhma as they rode back from the turn round point and this was encouraging.

The crosswinds were not fun, and my shoulders and right thigh started cramping badly due to the bike position, but I pressed on knowing that I needed a good bike split if I was to make it onto the podium.

Coming into T2 with legs cramping and very tight shoulders due to a poor bike position. I am hoping I can run my way to 3rd! © FinisherPix.com

Off the bike and my legs felt awful, and already I was worried about that hill! I was thrilled to catch up with Emma after about 2k, and with a quick word of encouragement to her I pressed on to the hill where my R leg proceeded to cramp really badly.

This terrified me as I knew with a decent run I had a claim on 3rd place, but if my leg spasmed totally and I was reduced to walking then where I would end up? Unknown to me, Emma cramped just as badly behind me so I never lost any time to her.

Early in the run- I would feel my legs cramp constantly throughout the race. © FinisherPix.com

I had great support along the run course – friends who had come to cheer me on as well as new friends I’d met during my stay in EL and it really gave me a boost. Janice and John went wild whenever I passed them. I also had to smile each time I was near the finish area where Paul Kay was commentating due to our standing joke about the pronunciation of my name…needless to say Paul was great at rallying local support for me and afterwards Susie mentioned she could hear him teasing me about my name and thought ‘don’t make her run faster!”. Susie had nothing to worry about as she maintained her gap ahead of me. In fact Jodie, Susie and myself each ran fairly similar splits- all credit to Jodie, she was flying and I am sure I would have taken my foot off the gas with such a lead!

The last kilometre into a headwind was the toughest! © FinisherPix.com

The last kilometre back along the esplanade towards the finish was torture due to the strong headwind and this was actually my slowest km split on the course.  Finally I made it over the finish line delighted to join such incredible athletes on the podium and start the season off with a great result.

Happy days- thrilled with 3rd place!! © FinisherPix.com
A privilege to be on a podium with these two athletes. Jodie taking her 5th consecutive SA70.3 title in style!

Next stop Johannesburg and then London for a manic 10 days before 7weeks on the road, travelling to the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia for my next 5 races.

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