You Can't Keep an Ironman Down

You Can't Keep an Ironman Down

Ciovita athlete and former Sharks Academy rugby player Alwyn Uys’ dreams of playing for the Springbok team was shattered in 2014. (read more here).

That was half a decade ago and since then his sporting discipline may have changed, but not his love for sport, so when the Ironman Africa Championships were indefinitely postponed due to COVID-19 he decided to hold his own Ironman simulation event. We got in touch with him to find out what inspired him to do this and how he overcame some of the logistical challenges of replicating the grueling Ironman disciplines at home and in the neighborhood.

When lockdown was announced it seemed like most South Africans were heading for the couch, but you decided to use the last available day to replicate the Ironman event. What inspired you to do this? 

With the news being sent to us that Port Elizabeth Ironman is being postponed, my heart dropped for a moment. Years of hard work and dedication kind of feels like it’s going to waste but more than that, now I have to wait another 6 months+ to prove myself. And that really got to me. I’ve never been in better shape in my life and was looking forward to punishing myself on that course to ultimately seeing how far my mind can push my body passed any perceived boundary that I have. That’s what I love about Ironman, you learn so much about yourself and the power of your mind, it’s incredible. And now I was being robbed of that opportunity mere weeks before the event.

So how did you go about organising you Ironman simulation?

After hearing the news probably within an hour I jumped on the phone with 2 mates and we started talking about doing our own Ironman right here in our neighbourhood while we still can before Lockdown starts. We chose Thursday the 26th and as lockdown starter the same day at midnight it was perfect because Ironman rules stipulate that we must finish before then. So the scene was set!

Ironman features three very different disciplines and long distances. Can you explain how you pulled off each discipline?

For the swim, which was logistically very challenging due to every beach, pool and dam closed already we had to improvise and swim 3800m in my 5m pool. Not ideal and definitely the most challenging, mentally. We used a rubber band and attached it to my waist and the other end to a pole outside the pool as to keep me in one position the whole time. To measure distance, we worked on time – from my swimming experience I had an estimated time which I wanted to swim the Iron swim in and we added an extra 20min to that just to make sure we aren’t cutting any corners. I swam a total of 01:50 continuous swimming to make it as credible as possible.

T1 and T2 took place in my indoor gym where all my bikes and racing chairs are. There was no breaks between disciplines and only nutrition from my stash that I put aside the night before, as in a normal Ironman.

The bike route was from Durbanville to Stellenbosch and then from Stellenbosch to Malmesbury and home again. Nice even rolling hills and covering 180km. We had a support vehicle following us all the way that also served as aid station on selected parts of the route. My two mates alternated on the bike section and when it came to the run, I was on my own there once again because a racing chair is must faster than anyone can run for that distance. Was extremely happy with my marathon time (02:14) which was just a few minutes slower than my PB marathon time and that was after 9 hours of hard grafting.

Wow, you really went the extra mile to create an authentic experience. Was there anything you took away from this achievement, that you would like to share with our fans? 

This self-simulated Ironman was a major mental win for me going into lockdown. I achieved what I wanted with a 11:07 Ironman time for my first attempt at those distances (I was aiming for sub 12). Now I have a solid point of reference when the actual event comes in November 2020. This also proved to me that I genuinely just like to do the sport. I’m in love with it and if I did not have such a great passion for riding this wouldn’t of have been possible. There were many times that I thought this is kind of ridiculous and I should probably go buy groceries and get ready for lockdown but I just kept on telling myself that you’ve worked way too hard for this to give up right now. This is how I want to spend my last day of being outside! Fulfilling a dream. Doing an Ironman. And thinking back on this day, it’s ironic that my very first ironman was completely private and on my own with only a few close friends spectating but I guess that’s what it’s all about. No crowds, no vibe, no medals. Just passion.

Do you have any lockdown training tips or advice for other Ciovita fans who are also stuck at home during this time?

I see the world is going crazy at the moment with indoor setups and pool swimming at home. Luckily, I’ve always been a huge indoor training fan and have a whole indoor gym setup already so when I heard of the lockdown happening I took the decision to stick to my bike workouts for these 21 days and fully focus on getting stronger there. It’s perfect, instead of training 2 or 3 disciplines per day as I would in the past, I can now do 2 solid bike workouts per day, focus on my nutrition and sleep and come out of this lockdown period a honest man. 

Do you have any thoughts on the world after lockdown. What will be the long term impact on professional sports?

As far as event and races go after the lockdown, we all are in the same boat with no definite answer as to when we will have the privilege to compete again, as an athlete this is very worrying BUT It’s not the reason why we do this sport or why we started it in the first place. It reminds me of the sating: “remember why you started”. This time is crucial to get your mind together and remember why you train. It’s not for the medals. And if it was, you weren’t going to last long anyway. #LoveToRide

Thanks Alwyn, it's been great chatting to you as always. Wishing you all the best for Lockdown, may we all come out the other side stronger and fitter.

Thanks guys, keep well.

Follow Alwyn on instagram @alwynuys

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