Looking to do an international 70.3 Half IRONMAN?
After a very successful tour to 70.3 Croatia, Pula in 2016, we have decided to head to Portugal to do their race on Sunday 3 September. The tour will be from 31 Aug – 4 Sept 2017. The tour includes accommodation in a 4 Star hotel in Cascais, breakfast included daily, your race entry, Embark/ATC co branded touring kit. Please see flyer below for more details or get in contact with us through the contact page.
Here is the tour that went down in Croatia!
By Lara Brown-
Tamsyn and I decided we weren’t going to last the whole of winter and needed some sunshine with no rain, plus a reason to keep fit and train through the day mornings so that we would be fit and ready for Cape Town summer beach season, I mean Tri-season! And so, on 9 September we Embarked on our first international IRONMAN 70.3 race holiday…Pula, Croatia watch out…Here come’s the Red and Black Embark Army in full force!
We were lucky enough to spend some time at a friend’s house in Italy prior to the race. This definitely helped with getting into holiday mode, rid us of any nerves and allowed us to do our tapering while exploring another country.
Right, time to head to Croatia. Rental car, tick. Bike pick-up and set-up with Track & Field in Basovizza, tick. Fitting bikes into rental car, thanks to a whole lot of bubble wrap…tick. Driving on the right-hand side of the road, priceless…well more like very close to an endless price! But we managed, so killer play-list on, vocal chords ready, we were on our way!
We arrived in Pula on the evening of Thursday 15 September very excited to meet up with the rest of our Embark Family who flew into Croatia that afternoon and the following morning. Once everyone arrived it felt like home with 30 plus Embark Team Mate raring to race around Pula and then explore the country in summer sunshine!
The Friday before the race, 16 September, consisted of similar pre-race schedules to back home. There was an organized swim in the morning, this was exactly where we were going to be starting and swimming. The water was perfect, calm, about 22 degrees, you could see all the fishes swimming below you, just splendid! Plus we got to meet up with Graham Gordan who would be announcing the race on race day, plus a Saffa which is always cool!
We then headed to race registration…WOW! Right next to the Pula Arena which is the second biggest colosseum, after the Roman one, we stood clicking away and could not get enough photos! This was also going to be our finish line…I mean could you get more epic! Race registration went according to plan, all smooth sailing, until we got to the IRONMAN 70.3 apparel and I pretty much bought the shop but all the gear was too awesome not to and what’s a race without the gear!
Registration was done, but it wasn’t quite feeling as scary as any of my other races…maybe my super Coach STeve Atwell of Embark was right, FTP (or Follow The Program) and race day will be a breeze! The next list on the agenda was the International Club Flag Parade. The IRONMAN 70.3 Pula race was the Tri-Club Championship and ATC was competing as the top Triathlon Club in South Africa and Africa. This was something out of a fairytale, the Arena was lit-up, our ATC and Embark Team were first in line to walk in with flags blazing! Queue music, queue goose-bumps, queue Graham Gordan the announcer… “Welcoming our very first team to the parade, from South Africa, ATC” and in bounced 30 plus over excited, Saffa triathletes, flags flying, singing louder than the speakers, doing what we do best…making an entrance! The Flag parade was great fun, this was followed by the pasta party, as you do…chilling eating your pasta in a 2000+ year old Arena! Needless to say the excitement levels were at an ultimate high, nerves…still nowhere to be found!
Saturday, pre-race rituals begin. Race-briefing in the language of your choice! I think they did the briefing in about 5 languages. The great Embark Army got a few mentions at the briefing which made us all feel pretty special and elite, but who wouldn’t feel elite if you were racing with number 1 as STeve Attwell, our Embark Coach, was going to be doing, setting a great example there coach! I was race number 2 and was informed that the key to a race was to ensure you beat your race number. As I always joke about the fact that I will ‘podium from the back’ one day, I promised my Embark Team mates I would do my best to match or beat my number, from the back of course! Once race briefing was done, the usual rush to get everything done started.
The best part about this trip was doing it with the Embark Team, having a group and leader like STeve kept us inline and ensured we had all had our race prep covered. We met up for a group cycle to test our bikes and that all was in order, any adjustments or mechanicals…Coach STeve to the rescue!
It was then for obligatory race bags and gear photo before packing them and heading for check-in. Another very key element is to ensure you book a hotel close to transition. Bike, bags, all that stuff…not so much fun when staying far away! So our bags were packed and off we walked to check-in, still no nerves to be seen. Not going to lie, check-in feels pretty cool when you are race number 2. I felt like a celeb, I was walked to my bike rack position, offered help to carry my bags, race-day, here I come! With everything racked and packed, transition all sussed out and routes chosen it was time for dinner and some carbo-loading.
As we had experienced the whole time, service in Croatia, not their top skill and dinner went on quite late. Fortunately though, in Europe they do not care for early starts, they do not see the point of waking up at 3am to start a race by 7am and miss out on a beautiful day of sunshine! So we were good, race start 10am.
With no alarm required on race day, the nerves still hadn’t appeared, this FTP seriously was a thing, I was feeling strong! Up we got, a good strong cup of coffee, breakfast, packed our race food, on with the Elite Embark Spandex and we were off! Transition had the same buzz going as any other IRONMAN 70.3, everyone busy checking tyres, bikes, shoes, helmets, and just a hive of athletes getting into Race Mode! Once again, I cannot stress the how great the support of the Embark Team were, I think I would have been lost and felt quite overwhelmed had I have done this alone. Once we were all set it was obviously time for many photos! Embark Team photos are a ritual, I think it takes about 10 minutes and 30 shots before we are done as each time we click, one more person jumps in and insists on another photo! Photos done and we head down to the swim start.
Now for some race perspective…at IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa East London this year, I cried so hard from nerves that Paul Kaye told me I was going to dehydrate before the race even started! I was an absolute wreck. Now, here I was ready to race, wetsuit on, sucked in like a seal and I was grinning from ear to ear I was so excited. The weather was perfect, blue skies, flat sea, sun shining and I was ready to go…because hey I had finished the second hardest IRONMAN 70.3 in the world, I had done what coach had said FTP and I was going to smash it!
And we are off…The swim started and as always I felt good, I love the swim. Fast forward about 15 minutes and the biggest storm Croatia has ever seen in September begun to brew and so the ocean begun to churn. The swell was ridiculous, it felt like I was swimming backwards but at the same time bopping up and down like a nodding dog. Seasickness is something I suffer from badly and about 35 minutes into the swim I was ready to quit. Feeling absolute shocking I stopped for a moment to decide whether I was going to call a lifeguard or not, up popped Tamsyn and down and up and down, she looked at me and shouted ‘swim!’, I responded saying ‘I just can’t any more, I want to stop’ and she looked at me and said ‘you can’t stop you nearly there, just put your head down and go’. So off I went, but when I took my next breath she was heading in the completely wrong direction, the thought to stop her crossed my mind but right now, it was every man for himself, I had to save myself! Turns out Tamsyn was also dreadfully ill and didn’t want me to see her having her ‘moment’. She was then back on track and the two of us made it out the water in record slow time but together.
I have never been more excited to get out of the water and onto a bicycle, which would be very should short lived excitement. Transition navigation was a dream, remember ‘pro-number status’ you could never lose your bike! I was thoroughly looking forward to the scenic bike route. We had been told of the stunning little villages we would ride through. The locals would be out in full force supporting, cheering and showing us their beautiful country, this is why we race in other countries. We get to see so much more and go to and through many places we would never see or experience just by car. Saying this, about 10km into the ride that storm I eluded to earlier, it broke…I have never seen rain like that in my life! Torrential rainfall is an understatement, rivers began to flow over the road, lack of vision was scary and the only scenic view was the guys bum I saw when he went crashing down in front of me! Every corner I turned I looked to the sky hoping I was going in the direction of the sun, the rain would ease up for about 5 minutes and then down it would come again! Jokes aside, the route was great and from the scenes I could see it was exquisite. We were very unfortunate with the weather but I totally get the excitement of going for a 90km cycle in a whole new country and experiencing all the little towns along the way, just incredible.
So cycle done and time for the run, I was however FROZEN! I had packed a South African flag into my Run bag hoping to have it at the finish line but had no idea where I was going to carry it for the 21.1km. Thanks to the rain and me being frozen, I needed a blankie…my flag became very handy! Around the shoulders and off I went, but I was exhausted. The rain and cold had taken it all out of me and I just could not run, walking became the name of my game, but remember I had a goal achieve…race number or better! Luckily by the time I got onto the run the rain had run out! The run route was great, again getting to actually see areas of a city one would not normally venture to or would just simply drive-by. The run for me was a great struggle, I was exhausted, not many people left on the route and I was still cold. About 11km in I suddenly hear my name being screamed…there he was, the dedicated Coach STeve plus my Embark Family, I’m pretty sure I felt a few rain drops at this time, but they only landed on my cheeks! So onward I ran with my energy lifted and ready to get this thing done! I could see there were not many people left out on the course but I wasn’t too sure where I stood, especially considering it was a rolling start, you never quite know. I picked up the pace, a little, and finally I was in the last 1km stretch, again my ‘rent a crowd’, my loving and enthusiastic Embark Family were all there, waiting for me and supporting me across that line, I couldn’t have been happier. Running into the Arena, gladiators lining the red carpet, Gordon Graham calling my name…I will never forget it! Medal and finishers shirt…tick!
So the nerves never came and nor did the summery, sunshine but the race was the toughest race of life so far and I can honestly say that the only way I got through it was the fantastic program and training both physical and mental from the Coach and Race Number 1 himself, STeve and Embark. I did achieve my goal, I came second to last by 50 seconds and I am super chuffed! I finished an international race which I will have memories for life and experiences of a country you couldn’t pay to get! Plus ATC placed second overall in the European IRONMAN 70.3 Club Championships!! So, here’s to the next one…already planned and booking has begun, Team Embark are going to IRONMAN 70.3 Cascais, Portugal in 2017 and I cannot wait! Portugal watch out, the Red and Black Army are coming for you!