The POA to tackle the MiWay Midlands Ultra Triathlon Course
By Glen Gore – Former pro tri champ, current coach and owner, triathlonpluss.co.za
It goes without saying that the MiWay Midlands Ultra Race Course is tough, very tough. That is why most triathletes use this event to gauge their fitness levels heading into Ironman South Africa in just over a month’s time.
Athletes start with an “easy” 1.9km dam swim. The Midmar Dam is at less than 50% capacity which means a relatively long run from the swim exit to transition. Fortunately, the Midmar Mile hosted their event just 3 weeks ago and the entry and exit points of the swim have been nicely cleared of any debris with some nice beach sand covering the muddy bits. Let us hope the organisers get the swim distance accurate this time. For the last few events, the swim has always measured a distance of between 1.5 and 1.6km.Great for the non swimmers but for the guys and girls who like to swim, that extra 400m could mean an additional lead of around 60 secs if they swim it fast enough. The swim route will take a triangular routing with athletes heading out into the dam, turning right and then across, with 1 final turn-buoy turn to the right as they had back to shore. This is the easy part. Even if the wind blows, the chop will not bother you that much.
The only bone of contention is the possible mist that often frequents the midlands area. At its worst, you cannot see 100m out into the dam but the safety officers are well at hand to delay the start if necessary to ensure the safety of all swimmers. It will be wetsuit legal more than likely but the water temperature is around 23-24 degree’s so more than warm enough to swim in a tri-suit alone. The days of swimming in a wetsuit because the water is cold, are long gone. They make wetsuits to make you swim faster these days. The unfortunate spin-off from this added advantage is that most triathletes who are weak swimmers, cannot swim without one. They are too accustomed at swimming in their wetsuits only so they better hope and pray for cold water come race day
The bike course is a tricky customer and if you race it wrong, you will end up with a very long day at the office. Too hard, too soon and the course will chew you up and spit you out on the run. This time of year, the heat is a big factor at the dam venue and event itself, with temperatures hovering around 35 degrees if the sun is shining.
The bike is a 3 loop 30km affair. The 1st 3km are slightly up-hill. I suggest taking this very easy until you are nicely settled. Take in some food and fluids as the body will have used some stores over that tough 1.9km swim. After 3km, you hit an undulating section for 5km where you can open up the cyclinders a little, but not too much. At 8km you turn left onto the dreaded DARGLE road. This is where all the action takes places on the bike loops. From the turn-off at 8km you will head out 6km that will see you tackle 3 climbs to the 1st turning point. The 1st climb is a short but gradual climb that eventually turns into a false flat section until you hit the 2nd climb. This already becomes a bit steeper as you crest the 2nd of the three climbs before the turning point. The steep downhill section after this will see you hit speeds of over 60-70km/h before tackling the last of the three climbs. Lap 1 will not feel too bad but this climb will eat your legs on the 3rd lap so don’t kill it 1st time up. The turn- around point will see you once again, quickly hit speeds of over 60km/h before it heads up again at the Il Postino Pizza Restuarant land marker. This is by far and away the toughest of all the three climbs on the way back to the main road from the Dargle area. Don’t forget, you will be doing this particular climb 3 times , so take it easy on Lap 1 & 2 and if you have anything left on Lap 3, hold on for dear life. Once you have crested this climb, the course heads down hill and you can easily reach 40km/h without even trying. This is where most athletes will make their 1st mistake. Here is not the place to hammer time on Lap 1. You need to almost hold back the reigns with the idea that this section will be done another two times after lap 1 on Lap 2 and 3. Those triathletes that try and make up for time lost and go too hard over this section will pay dearly on the last lap and then for sure, on the run section.
The out and back hilly section totals 12km – multiply that by three loops and you have well over 1000m of climbing just in that little valley section. Take care, and save some energy my dear triathletes. Crank this section too hard too son and you will quite possibly end up in the medical tent after the run. The last 10km back to the dam is relatively flat and fast with some up and downs past the dam wall area. As long as you play safe on lap 1, even lap 2, you should have enough reserves to tackle lap 3 with confidence. You need to retain some energy for the tough 3 lap run if you are to have a great race. Empty the tank on the 90km cycle and the legs will have nothing left for the 21km run
The run is 3 loops of 7km, relatively flat with a few up and down sections. The major factor to take into consideration on the run loops is the heat. Drink loads, eat plenty and pace yourself for three hard laps of grind.The MiWay Midlands Ultra course is tough but if you race it smart, you will fly!! Race it wrong and you will cry!!