Ironman South Africa

As we made our way to the beach past drummers and dancers

The Test

As if training for your first Ironman isn’t stressful enough; try traveling half way around the world with your future in-laws without your fiance to go fulfill your childhood dream…this isn’t the way I had pictured it would be.  This wasn’t my first international race if you count 70.3 Cancun, but definitely the furthest place I had ever traveled.

They weren’t athletic, they had never seen a triathlon before nor did they really know what it entailed.  But my fiancé insisted that I not go alone and thought it would be a perfect time for us to get to spend time with one another.  It is not the easiest traveling to races with people who don’t get it.  My in-laws were stressed out, stressing me

out, it was a bit of a mess; I didn’t get to do proper race preps, go over the course or anything I would normally do.  I got in an argument with my future father-in-law over my bike; he thinking it needed to be loaded in the car one way and me the other.  (One thing you don’t do is try to touch my bike and tell me what to do with it…he didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day.)  It just wasn’t how I had pictured it to be.

The race was tough; tired and jet lagged, and training indoors through the winter didn’t help.  The swim was on Hobie Beach,

Finishing the Swim

swimming out to Shark Point Pier for two laps.  The start was off the beach; I remember looking out into the Indian Ocean and watching the sun come up over the horizon while hearing the African drums in the background which sounded like my death march and thinking to myself, “this is going to be a long day.”  In the first 200 meters I got punched in the mouth and my lip started to bleed and the burning sensation from the salt water didn’t make it feel any better for the next 1:15 I was in the water.

My first bike ride of the year was the day of my race.  Now there is good and bad to that; it felt liberating, so it went by fast psychologically, but physically it was harder.  The ride was a 3 loop course with an immediate 10k climb at the start.  The reward though is an incredible descent that zigzags to the oceanfront and you ride along the waterfront for about 10 miles and back to the beginning and repeat.   The run was 3 loops as well; with people lined up for most of the

course.  People come out and set up grills and party all afternoon, cheering on all the athletes.  It was a lot of fun.  The food on the course – I have never seen anything like it in the U.S., sandwiches, potatoes, cookies, fruit, it was quite a spread.  The water is served in these little plastic pouches that you can shove down your shirt and store for later.  I had these in Mexico as well and have always wondered why I haven’t seen this in the U.S.

It was a fun race, but my downfall was using Gu…the worst G.I. issues ever, and instead of enjoying each minute and embracing the running portion of the race, I was looking forward to the next port-o-pot which were few and far between.  But as I came to the end of the race and through the shoot I got to hear those words…”Kimberly Barnhart, You Are an Ironman!”  I cried all the way down the shoot, I had done it.  It over; my body hurt from head to toe, I couldn’t hardly walk and then my mother-in-law to be told me she was sleeping with me that night…WHAT?

When we got to our cottage house she helped get into the shower, she helped me get dressed, rubbed my feet and slept with me.  She helped me out of be when I needed to go to the bathroom, she was there to put aloe on my African sunburn (that left a mark for a year and a half); she was there for everything, and I could not have been happier she had come.

Riding along the Indian Ocean

No, going to Africa for my first Ironman with my future in-laws was not how I had pictured it would be, but it ended up being one of the best trips of my life.  The race was great, I had a good time.  If it had been my one and only, I did it in a really cool place.  I did it just to finish and got to do something amazing with my body that very few people in the world have done.  But I got so much more out of traveling with my future family; it was a very unique bonding experience not many people get to have.  We joked this

would be the test and if we made it back to the States and still liked each other; my fiancé and I would set a date to get married.  Within five minutes of being back home my mother-in-law told her son that if we didn’t set a date by the weekend, she would.

If you really want to get to know the person you are about to marry; travel half way around the world with their parents, without them…and make it a three week trip.  That was a test far greater than the test of strength and endurance of an Ironman.

There really is no greater feeling than coming down the finish shute!

Crossing the finish line


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