My Journey to Ironman 70.3 Nelson Mandela Bay by Sarah Irwin



I began training with Embark at the end of my Grade 11 year in 2020. Before the start of COVID-19, I had completed a sprint triathlon on my own. Never having been a particularly athletic person at school as well as never having excelled at team sport, my experience at my first sprint tri had opened up a door to a potential new hobby. Never did I think that when I joined Embark that I would be one of the many athletes who have trained with this community to have completed an Ironman 70.3. What started as a way to get fit turned into a journey of not just finding joy in endurance sport, but also finding a place within a community of uplifting and supportive athletes. Embark is truly a club which is dedicated to taking any athlete of any fitness level and challenging them to be the best athlete they could possibly be. The guidance and mentoring under Coach Steve was not only centred  around fitness but in finding a space to build confidence, perseverance, and grit. Training with Embark pushed me to challenge myself beyond what I ever thought could be possible in my journey with fitness and sport. Not only have a made and developed friendships throughout the training process, but also developed a deeper understanding of myself and that I can do hard things even if it seems impossible.


 Surprisingly, I was not filled with any anxiety or nerves right up to the race start. The training program and support system Embark had cultivated for me on my way to Nelson Mandela Bay had ensured that by the time I needed to race, I felt fully in control and confident in my abilities on the course. To stand at the start alongside the same people I had been training with for months was truly a special experience. To finally be at the edge of a goal I had been working towards for so long filled me with so much joy and happiness that I did shed a tear right before the swim, not because of fear, but because of an overwhelming sense of gratitude and gratefulness

The swim was the toughest open water experience I’ve ever encountered. I felt like I was being thrown around in a washing machine! Thankfully the water temperature was not as cold as Cape Town’s icy beach waters, but I was very happy to be out of the water upon reaching the beach shore.

After being tossed around in the ocean for 50 minutes and swallowing mouthful’s of sea water, it was time to face the ride. I had been warned about the wind conditions in Gqeberha but it was far from what I expected. Coming from windy Cape Town, I thought I’d be used to the wind but it soon became clear I was naively mistaken. After a glorious tail wind for the first 40km, the last 50km of the ride felt like dying a slow death. A brutal headwind the whole way back to transition was enough to force a deep moment of reflection on the whole race, not to mention a moment of realisation that I still needed to run a whole half marathon. Despite the severe weather conditions, I was lucky enough to not encounter a puncture or any mechanical issues on route .

 After nearly collapsing to the ground and saying a prayer of thanks that the windy cycle was finally over, it was time to face the biggest challenge of the race: the half marathon. I was pleasantly surprised by my lack of troubles on the run. Taking a slow plod through the whole ordeal, the overwhelming amount of support on route and passing my teammates as we looped around the course was just the motivation needed to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To know that at the end of this I would have completed a 70.3 was enough to keep my head held high and determination unwaivered towards the finish .

Crossing the finish line was in many ways a mixed experience. After nearly 8 hours of swimming, cycling, and running the relief of finally being able to sit down was the only thing I could think about. It didn’t quite hit me until the next day what I had done and what crossing the finishing line meant to me. The hours and months of early mornings and hard training sessions had all been worth it to know that I had completed a goal I had promised myself I would do no matter what. Completing a 70.3 truly showed me what my body was capable of doing. To think I went from barely being able to run a 5km to completing a half marathon after a 90km cycle and 1.9km swim is truly a bewildering and humbling thing to comprehend.

Well Done Sarah that is Amazing ! ! Congratulations on your achievement and all the hard work to make that a reality  ! So What's Next ? 

If you are looking to tick that race off your bucket list or just wanting to get get in the shape of your life why not join us and find out more

Contact us  for More information . 





Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published