Being asked to write a review on a set of wheels meant I would have to sit down in front of my lap top, switch off my phone and focus on my experience of IRWIN wheels to date. So here goes.
I am a triathlon coach and have been since 2005, when I started helping youngsters get into the sport I fell in love with. The approach was simple. The more you train, the better you will become. This is true still today, although I have grown wiser and learnt a lot more on how to assist athletes in becoming better at this sport through a conservative and longer reaching approach.
I often get asked by athletes, “What can I do to make me faster?”, or “What equipment upgrades can I make to go faster?” Now, having completed my first Ironman on a Raleigh Hybrid, my initial response leans toward, “Take a few cement pills, listen to what I told you the first time, sessions you post on social media don’t count and I don’t care what Google says. Oh, and sign this drug-free form before joining” I think this friendly approach might explain why my tri club is pretty small J
In all seriousness, after my first Ironman, I maxed my credit card and went and bought what my tri hero, Raynard Tissink was using, a Cervelo. Only for him to change to a Scott the following year! Anyways, I am still grateful to him for his influence he had on my upgrade decision. Don’t listen to people who say it’s not about the bike, I promise, changing from a delivery to a tri bike helped a lot!
My new bike came standard with a set of training wheels that were handcrafted in the USA. I was sold on the brand from then on and have always recommended them to anyone feeling my opinion was worth anything. Two of my athletes I coach, whose opinion I respect, have also used the same brand, from training aluminium clinchers, to racing carbon tubbies and discs. One a top age grouper competing in long distance and the other an elite at the shorter distances, both were happy that they had the best wheels available for their money.
Until IRWIN came along and messed up the thinking.
Out on a training ride one day, one of my newer athletes says, “Coachie, these are those wheels I was telling you about.” I look across at an unbranded, carbon 58mm, in my opinion, messing up the look of a beautiful Cervelo P3. Thinking they were much the same as the other “creaky carbon concoctions” to come out of the East that seemingly every second bike fundi with a bit of extra loot was trying their hands at importing, I dismissed my wheel enthusiast with “Cool” and focussed more on how hard I’d have to go to stay with the group that day. Into the ride, I noticed the wheels were quiet, except when he freewheeled, when they produced a very distinctive ratchet whirrrrr. I started to pay a bit more attention. He is a big fellow, this 96kg wheel enthusiast, and he has been blessed with calves to match. No creaking at all, even when he put the power down. We eventually stopped and the group all went off on their brick run. I went over and inspected. The first thing I noticed as I touched the wheel was it was solid, strong! I then lifted the bike and spun the rear wheel. It rolled nicely, for ever. Then I tried the front. It rolled, for ever and ever! I was keen to try these!
I have since tested the entire road range, except the disc. I will hopefully be strong enough again one day to attempt the 180km SA Ironman route on one. I cannot rave enough about these wheels. I am of the old school, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” mentality, but I am really happy to have been upgraded onto a set of IRWINs. I rode the 94.7 on the entry level IA-22mm alloy clincher and managed a top speed of 92km/h! Not bad for a lightweight, low profile wheel that shouldn’t be high on the aerodynamics ratings.
There are a number of features I like about the IRWINs. They look good, with a stylish logo, not too loud, but still distinctive. The ceramic bearings used in the hubs make for an extremely smooth rolling wheel. The 60 teeth ratchet system puts power into the back wheel more efficiently. My wheels arrived in a stylish double wheel bag, with quality skewers, brake pads, cassette spacer and extra skewer springs. The feature for me though, that is the most important, is the overall build quality. You can feel the strength of the wheel when you fit the tyres and the stiffness when riding. You feel confident to push hard and corner fast, which I believe gives the IRWIN range a bit of an edge over more established brands.
My answer to the earlier question about what can make you faster has changed from taking a few cement pills to getting a set of IRWINs. You won’t be sorry.
I convinced Johan Dorfling of this grand plan of competing in a triathlon. This to my surprise took a lot less effort than I thought. The weeks flew by and there was swim training and running and a new bike. We managed to swim 40 lengths in the Virgin 25m pool, could barely run 5k without stopping and I could manage a trip around the airport on my bike. Albeit without drinking water as the drinking and riding stuff was too complicated.
Bela Bela arrived and so did reality. It made its appearance about 2 seconds into the swim when suddenly I was in a washing machine and no one was my friend. Three hours 45 minutes later Johan uttered to me the unrepeatable and threatened my life once or twice. I was well and truly buggered, dehydrated and sick to my stomach. Johan looked like he had been dragged backwards thru a mile long sauna.
Monday morning came and for some reason I was Googling Tri Coaches. There was something about this sport that hooked me. I wanted to get better and knew I was totally out of my depth. I phoned a Mr Mike Moriarty who’s surname did not bode well for me. But the call was made and the meeting was set. The bleep test was done and I was introduced to a girl with a very strange name. At least now I could get some proper training. It was however not sunshine and roses. It was tuff. The run was problematic as I trotted like a wounded buffalo and was convinced that minimalist shoes were the thing for me. Hello Planter injury.
My bike was ridiculous and weak. The swim was epically bad. Panic attacks in the dam with coach having to come in and calm me down. I didn’t know that you float in a wetsuit. Stupid boy. Coach only mentioned that later. Funny sense of humour that guy.
But it got better. The run improved and the bike improved. The swim even got better when I stopped comparing myself to other faster swimmers.
The Germiston 5150 game and went along with a bunch of other olympic distance races. There was an awesomely horrible 70.3 at Midmar dam that involved a lot of walking in the run. Before I knew it a year had passed. I was better but had a small base to work off. My base had been sitting on the couch for 38 years ballooning to 120kg with an awesome waist size of 42. Fat boy. That was me. So doing this still seemed unreal and it felt like I didn’t really belong with all these race snakes.
The funny thing is that no one ever made me feel out of place. This sport I discovered is for the lunatics out there. Those who feel that one sport is not quite enough and who thrive on doing what others deem ridiculous. Nice people I liked them.
Ironman and 70.3 East London was entered. There was also this crazy lottery for a race called the Celtman. It was a 3.8 swim in freezing water, a 202k bike and a 42 k trail run. Sweet, I entered the 200 person worldwide lottery, cause what’s the chances of getting in? I got in. Coach was phoned and asked if he had a kilt as I would need a backup runner. The focus was moved to the Celtman with all other races becoming brick sessions and learning sessions.
December 2014 was spent training like a mad thing. I biked, swam, ran and tested Doret’s (my wife) patience to the limit.
January came and so did the 70.3 in East London. I had a shiny new 55 ring gear on my bike and was planning on killing the bike. The swim went fantastic and I died on the bike. I can’t do a 55 ring gear. Think coach knew this too but thought it better that I found it out myself. The run was a walk because I had run into a tree a few months ago and hurt my Planter. Minimalist shoes on a trail run are not too smart.
Ironman was awesome. Lots of hype. Lots of corporate. Clinical and meticulously organised. A must do for any triathlete. The vibe was fantastic and the support on the run simply amazing. The red carpet experience and emotions afterwards unbelievable. I had done it. I was an Ironman. I could wear the shirt and pat others on the back reminiscing about our awesome day.
Now the work really started. Graskop was done twice on the flipping tri bike. Everything went well. There was still this nagging of are you good enough.
Can you do the Celtman?
The Sun City Ultra was done and Celtman was in sight. I had to do it. I had committed, planned and spent a lot of loot.
The sendoff to Scotland was fantastic. My tri mates were there and a card with the blue shirt on. Best wishes and “bring back the blue shirt” all over the card. I doubted myself. I don’t think I can. I am not a race snake. I am not built like a triathlete at all.
The trip to Scotland was a blur and before I knew it we were there. Torridon is really a one horse town. A petrol station shop here is like a supermarket compared to their one little shop.
There was however a difference to this race. It felt very very special. I couldn’t put my finger on it. If was more like family. 200 odd people sitting on the floor of the town hall, which is tiny. Paul the race organiser standing on the stage in board shorts. The brief was short but very serious. Care was to be taken on the mountain as it could become extremely dangerous, with cloud cover and high wind speeds.
Race day arrived. I was nervous. I had no business doing this type of race. My emotions were in turmoil as I had been shown a video by Doret where people were wishing me well. We were bussed over from Sheildag to the other side of the loch. There was a lot of nervous chatter followed by silence as we disembarked. This was it. A quick photo and everyone went in. Surprisingly the 12 degree water felt ok. I started at the back and we all went at the sound of the hooter.
The swim was fantastic. The water clear and towards the end we swam thru a school of jelly fish. They were not the stinging type and it felt like we were swimming through a sea of lights. Poor Doret was a bundle of nerves on the other side. Mike, cool and collected. The hot water gathered to dump on me was not needed and before I knew it I was on the bike.
There was a problem. My wheel was jamming. The tyre was catching on the body of the bike. I stopped once and couldn’t sort it. The second stop Mike was behind me in the backup vehicle. He sorted it quickly and off I went. This time biking properly. The miles shot past and I was having an extremely good ride. The first time I stopped for support was on the start of the return leg. A quick coke and some sweet stuff and off I went again.
Everything was going great until I hit a dip and snapped the left bolt off my tri bar. With the tri bar off I had no stability in the drop position and had to balance myself while holding the bar in place. Fortunately Mike came past in the support vehicle again and we taped it up as best we could. I now had to ride either sitting up sloped totally off balance in the drop. This is where the mental part started. The road got crazy ruff and the wind came up. The last 40 odd k’s was pain. I couldn’t ride properly and I had never experienced a head wind like that. My average speed of 30k dropped to 26 and I was running out of time to make the blue shirt cut off. I eventually limped into the transition area and was highly upset. I had left myself with 2 hours to complete what I thought was a 15k run with a 380m gain. It was impossible. I was fatigued and didn’t believe I could pull off the run in time. I left transition in a bad way. I was fighting my biggest battle. I knew I had to run, but the hill was steep and cruel and carried on and on. A quick chat about the distance with co runners revealed that it could be anywhere between 15 and 18k to go to transition 2A. The blue shirt seemed lost. I carried on. I didn’t stop. Suddenly I was on top of the hill and could start running properly. I heard Bryce in the back of my mind telling me to stop not believing in myself and to back myself. I put it all in. I held nothing back. I ran like a runaway slave. If this shirt would be lost it would be by minutes and not because I gave up.
I have never been so glad to see Mike in my life. I had made up time and thought I had 10 minutes in the pocket so started walking as I saw transition. To my surprise Mike ran like a mad thing to me and said “run boykie, dont stop, run”. So I flipping ran.
I made it by two minutes. I had got my time wrong. Mike hugged me so hard I thought he broke some of my ribs. Poor Doret was emotional and I was tired beyond what I had felt ever before.
“Ok Boykie we have to move” uttered coach and I had to get up to prep for the trip up the mountain. I was buggered way beyond what I have ever been. Change of top, hiking sticks out and something about we being back in 3 hours to Doret and off we went. The climb was relentless and the angle severe. The view was spectacular, with streams of water everywhere. Twice I wanted to stop the race and twice coach waited till I made my mind up to carry on. The fact being I knew I wouldn’t surrender.
We got to the top and coach sat down like a trained pup. Fear of heights is a terrible thing. We spent about 5 hours on that flipping mountain. The going was not easy and the climb down was crazy technical and steep. Doret was not too happy when we appeared at the bottom. She had visions of me lying dead on the mountain or something. Apologies were made and it was time for the last 9k into town. Flat road. Fantastic! I started a little trot and eventually was within sight of another athlete and his co runner. It was getting as dark as it could get here. Because we were so far up north in Scotland it never really gets dark.
I really tried to catch the guys ahead of me but found myself jogging when they jogged and walking when they walked. One of them looked back at me and made a motion with his arm for me to catch up. Fantastic. I could catch up.
The conversation was that of brothers. We spoke about family and friends. About home and past races. We were complete strangers. This race brings that out of you. It is a totally different experience to any other race I have done.
I let my new friend Joop finish ahead of me. It didn’t matter who finished first. At the finish I got a “well done” and a beer. I posed for a photo with Joop as if we had been mates for years. The feeling of having done the race was surreal. There were groups of athletes chatting and laying into food. I myself wanted to eat but found I couldn’t. I had a short chat to Paul the race organiser and we left.
I had done the race. I settled into a calmness of knowing that it had been done and that I had achieved what I had set out to do. I didn’t need to wear the blue finisher shirt and I still don’t today. This accomplishment is not like an Ironman. You don’t want a medal. It is special, even magical. It needs to be experienced and can’t be fully explained. It is a race in the spirit of endurance. Untainted by corporate hype and marketing it stands separate, along with a handful of other similar races.
I maintain that there are three types of athletes. Comparable to horses. You get a race horse, a show horse and a farming horse. When compared to those three I am a donkey. Out of place when compared to the race snakes but able to take part in a sport where talent is never enough.
|Juan Carlos Villamizar:||40:48||2:55:03||1:48:59||5:37:14|
Patrick is a well known vet runner around the East Rand who was part of M.A.D. Multisport’s running club and M.A.D.’s first ever Comrades Marathon finisher.
Patrick was tragically killed in a car accident over the festive season, leaving behind a wife, three children, a club and a running community that will miss him dearly. Patrick will be remembered by his fellow runners for his bright smile and personality, his passion for running and life, a humble man who was always looking to help people and be involved where he can.
Saturday 3rd January 2015
The St Dominic Catholic Church in Boksburg
Service starts at 9am.