Ironman, iron maiden

By JC, Germany, June 2011

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Eastern Cape’s Port Elizabeth is one of South Africa’s most attractive cities, known for its excellent beaches even before it was spruced up as a host city for last year’s World Cup.

But the inviting golden sands was but a brief blur for thousands of participants in South Africa’s Ironman competition in Nelson Mandela Bay on 10 April. While the Ironman competition is technically a triathlon, it made the Olympic version look like a walk (and ride and swim) in the park. After a 3.8 km ocean paddle, there’s a cycle of 180 km (that’s almost the distance between Seattle and Vancouver), and then a marathon-length run. All with a wild boar strapped to your back (OK, I made that last bit up).

Altogether it’s a full weekend of activities: the day before the big race, pint-sized overachievers have their chance at glory in the abridged “Ironkids” event. In the afternoon, the Corporate Triathlon Challenge gives careerists the valuable opportunity to add “triathlon” to their résumés under “hobbies”.

Despite the name, women have been competing since the very first Ironman event in Hawaii in 1978. The Ironman’s extensive course offers numerous vantage points from which to witness the lean, sweaty hordes, and traditional dancers will entertain, traditionally. But if you’re thinking “well actually, I’m more the cerebral type”, stick around until 27 April, Poindexter. That’s when Nelson Mandela Bay hosts the South African chess championships, a six-day event with separate men’s and women’s events.

Hang on…what? Since when has chess been a contact sport?

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