Wintergreen® sponsored athlete and ambassador Miguel Netto in the IronMan World Champs in Utah.
By: Miguel Netto
I’ve taken a few weeks to digest and think about the entire experience and race of my IronMan World Championship race in St George 4 weeks ago… It’s been one of many mixed emotions and as the weeks have passed and I’ve reflected, I’ve gone from disappointment to actually being pretty proud. Knowing what I know now!
Long story short, coming off a very good race two weeks earlier at IronMan South Africa where I managed 6th overall and 2nd age group – Body recovered very well and I felt like heading into IronMan World Champs in St George, I was probably in the best shape of my life, to tackle what was undoubtably the toughest IronMan course they’ve ever put forward.
The travel to St George, was nothing short of nightmare, with cancelled flights and being stranded in Amsterdam airport for a day and a half, to then arrive in St George to find out my bike didn’t arrive… All this aside, its just part of the journey to overseas races and taking these setbacks in your stride pre-race is all you can do – By Wednesday pre-race (3 days out) I just felt a bit sluggish but not too bad and bike finally arrived! Not thinking too much into things and with the hype of an IronMan World Champs week, I just focussed on taking it all in and ticking the boxes I could!
Pre-race day (Friday) arrived and from a logistics point of view, all was good and I racked my bike and finalized last minute aspects with no problems at all – This was a major positive after the week that was, however if I’m completely honest with myself now in hindsight, I still wasn’t feeling great but chose to ignore it and get excited about racing in the hope that with the hype of race day and adrenaline of racing, my system and body would come back to me and it would be a great day.
Race-day arrived, and we were greeted with a warm, dry, humid morning, which judging by the previous few days, meant we were in for a very hot and dry race-day, which was quickly followed by the whistling winds of the Utah region…
These conditions on toughest IronMan course ever were always going to be a very honest day out BUT when you are feeling terrible from the very start, I can without any doubt and hesitation say that, this would prove to be the hardest day, feeling wise, I have ever had in my endurance sport career (not just the 14 IronMan’s I’ve raced, but all my races like Comrades, Epics, Ultra’s, etc etc). It was simply the worst day to be feeling so bad! My chest was completely closed from the first 500m in the swim and my body just completely flat. I just kept telling myself, to keep going, your body will come round, but this never arrived for 10-hours… There was one moment on the bike, where I honestly stopped peddling and thought, I need to stop, something is very wrong but kept going in the hope that once I start running and do the discipline, I know I’m best at, all will be fine – Well… I got onto the run and when I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did – My chest became increasingly tighter and more closed. I couldn’t regulate my breathing and every time I tried to push close to our planned race-pace, my system would just push back at me, and I would need to back off to avoid complete shut-down.
It was about 15km’s into the run when I really hit the lowest point of my day – The realization of everything and disappointment and frustration, mixed with the suffering I had gone through already in the day and the monumental task ahead of me still hit me like a brick wall – All the work and effort I put in to get there and knowing how well prepped and ready I was to seriously race this World Champs, yet I just couldn’t prove myself feeling like this… The goal was to go sub 9h30 and with this out the window, the only thing I could do was set another goal in the moment to motivate myself to keep going – I didn’t come this far to not leave give absolutely everything of myself (even if it wasn’t the strongest me). Thought about everyone back home and the people that have backed me to get this far – Really drew on this for some motivation!
I dug seriously deeper than I ever have mentally and physically before in my head just kept saying to myself – “keep on keeping on!” I crested the last climb on the course, after which, I had 4 km’s down to the finish-line in St George – 2km’s to go, the entire days struggles come out in emotions and whilst bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t show just how ready I was to race this World Champs, I felt probably the proudest, I’ve ever felt from a race, knowing that I pushed harder than I ever have and went to the darkest place, I’ve ever gone in a race on the most brutally challenging course but yet I DID NOT STOP racing and I finished!
I knew all day, something was wrong and not normal with my system and in my chest – Some of you may have guessed it already, but yes indeed I tested positive post-race for COVID. I raced IronMan World Championships with COVID unknowingly – I tested negative to leave South Africa and must have picked it up on the travel to St George in the week before the race. Whilst this really does explain a lot, I am bitterly disappointed that it happened at this time and “during” such a huge event for me. I suppose this is the “new world” we live in.
Yes, I didn’t get the top 10 I know I had in me and wanted, and I didn’t go sub 9h30 – This obviously leaves feelings of disappointment BUT I can without any doubt say that I am actually more proud than I would have been if I did achieve this, knowing how much I had to push and fight when feeling awful. If I look back - 10h20 / 151st out of 3000 overall / and 33rd in my age group at a World Champs, now knowing I had COVID is a result I will keep with me forever!
I took the rest and time-off I needed post-race and we have monitored and tested to see if any damage was caused racing an IronMan with COVID. I have all clear, and had had 3 weeks of good training, as we now set our focus to the rest of the year and season – Some big work ahead over the next few months but I am more determined and more excited than ever for what lies ahead!
So, what lies ahead… Comrades 2022 on 28 August and my attempt at the all elusive sub 7 hours and a silver medal! It’s been a bucket list goal that I’ve had for many years but racing triathlon has meant that this has taken a back seat, until now! My late father, who past away just over a year ago from Covid asked me to race a comrades and see what I could achieve from this awesome race and I always told him, I’m sure I have a good shot a silver medal and I promised him one day I would give it a go and what better time than now, to pay tribute to him, so 28 August 2022 we will line-up in Pietermaritzburg. My coach Ernie Gruhn and I have been working super hard in planning and preparation to date and we have some big and exciting weeks ahead until race day.
Six weeks post Comrades, on 8 October 2022, we back on the big island of Kona, Hawaii for the 2022 IronMan World Championships! This will be the first year in the over 40 year history of IronMan, that they will have two World Championships in the same year – This being as a result of Covid and postponed 2021 event. I will have the very unique opportunity to not only race my third IronMan World Championship BUT also be the first ever South African age-group athlete, to have qualified and raced two IronMan World Championships in the same year! Something I am extremely excited and proud of!
All this is simply just not possible without my support structures around me – My friends and family are a huge part of my journey and I am truly grateful for the never-ending and unwavering support – I am sorry I couldn’t bring it home in St George, due to Covid but I promise to make the rest of the season (Comrades and IronMan World Champs in Kona) a massively successful one.
To my amazing sponsors, you are the driving force behind everything I do and achieve in the sports – Product partners, Puma South Africa, Maurten, Compex, Rush Nutrition, Pave Custom, Carrick
To Wintergreen, my partner as well as sponsor, a massive thank you! None of this would be possible without you! Your product literally keeps me going in every aspect of the sport – From preparation, to recovery, to comfort and even clothing care, it’s incredible – Thank you for your support and getting me to the races and allowing me to represent you on the big stage! Here’s to many more successful years together!
For now, its head down and all systems go to August and October – I look forward to sharing the journey ahead with you and hope you find value in following along!
Thanks again to everyone!
See you on the other side - Migs