The power to persevere

15 October 2018 | Story Sarah Middleton. Photo Supplied. Read time 5 min.
UCT cyclist Megan Anley on the road enjoying the sport she says is as much about competing as it is about chasing your best time.
UCT cyclist Megan Anley on the road enjoying the sport she says is as much about competing as it is about chasing your best time.

Disappointment is inevitable in all walks of life, and athletes must cope with their fair share of it. Whether it’s the result of under-performance in respect of personal expectations, or from external factors such as crashes or technical issues, these challenges can however sometimes spark new priorities and serve as a reminder of our most powerful motivations.

That’s exactly what University of Cape Town (UCT) athlete Megan Anley experienced after she’d spent hours training for the gruelling Ironman 70.3 in Durban earlier this month. The race comprises a swim of 1.9 kilometres, a cycle of 90 kilometres and finally a 21-kilometre run. Anley had already completed one Ironman 70.3 earlier this year, in East London, and was determined to beat her previous time.

She was well into the cycle course and on her way to what she hoped would be a personal best when disaster struck for the UCT Cycling Club member.

“I had finished my first loop and had just come around the corner. I was doing really well for time and was really happy with where I was, so I put my head down to pedal through – and that’s where the on-ramp from the swim transition is. A guy arriving from the on-ramp rode into my back wheel.”

Anley crashed onto the road.

“I got such a big fright, so I was angry, and hyperventilating.”

Although she wasn’t badly hurt, her gear chain had snapped.


“I got such a big fright, so I was angry, and hyperventilating.”

“I tried to get back on my bike and carry on riding, but my wheels wouldn’t roll.”

Realising that her hopes of a personal best had been dashed, she sat down on the side of the road and considered her options. Having already lost a significant amount of time, all those hours of training and mental preparation seemed wasted.

“I seriously considered taking the off-ramp back to the transition zone and stopping the race there. I was in tears; it was awful.

Deep disappointment

“I had put in all the work, and now my goal was unachievable – because of a stupid accident that was not even my fault. I just wanted to give up and go home,” Anley recalled.

But after a roaming bike mechanic stopped to help get her bike back into working order, she decided to continue and complete the course.

“As I passed the off-ramp to go back to the beach and the transition zone, I thought it would be so easy for me to just turn down there and go home. The wind had just picked up, and I was struggling into a headwind.

“Then I thought about how much time, money and effort I had put into this. And then I thought about my mom waiting for me. That’s when I realised that even if all I do is struggle through this thing, that’s more mental gain than anything else,” she said.

In it to enjoy it

With all the pressure off, Anley put all her effort into enjoying the experience of being out there, and racing.

“I sat up on the bike and chatted to other athletes out on the road. I even stopped to dance a little at one of the aid tables on the run course. It made me remember why we go out there in the first place.”

Anley finished the race comfortably, and even beat her previous time.

“Yes, of course performing well is great – don’t get me wrong; but it was a very humbling day out for me.” 

Ultimately, her experience reminded Anley to not take herself too seriously, and to remember why she’d started the sport: to empower and challenge herself, to set goals that seemed impossible then, and to embrace all of which her body is capable.

“While that day panned out far differently to what I had planned, I think I walked away from it richer than if I had simply achieved my goal. In a weird way, I’m almost grateful to the guy who knocked me off my bike,” she said.

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