After nine months of continuous hard training, Barriere’s Dr. Cornel Barnard was ready to take part in the Ironman in Nice, France, June 24. Accompanying him and also taking part in the event were his wife Stefanie and his best friend Dr. Johan van Heerden. The Ironman race was the focus of a two week holiday, but they also wanted to visit the South of France; something Cornel said has been “his life’s dream”.
What is an Ironman? It is a long distance triathlon event combining the world’s three most popular sport disciplines. Beginning with 3.8 km of swimming, the athletes then have to bike 180 km and run a marathon of 42.195 km before crossing the finish line. The first Ironman held in France was in 2002, and in three years, France-Nice became the heart of the European Triathlon. A better location as Nice would be hard to find, with the swim in the clear waters of the Mediterranean, the bike ride through the French Alps and the run along the world famous Promenade des Anglais, The Ironman – France is doubtless one of the most beautiful race locations in the world.
Cornel was a long distance runner, but became bored with that and soon switched to running triathlons. He is no stranger to the Ironman; he entered in the 2007 event in South Africa, and the 2009 race in Canada, before deciding to sign up for Ironman- France. But for Stefanie his wife, France was the first time she took part in an Ironman race. Asked if she was eager to join him he said, “no, not really, I bullied her into it, and then we trained together.” The couple started training in November 2010; they swam at the Kamloops pool, and used stationary bikes to train for the bike discipline. Stefanie ran indoors, but Cornel ran outside in the snow. He said “I could not do it indoors, running outside, even in the snow, worked much better for me.” To make sure Stefanie would not back out Cornel said “I entered her in the Ironman as surprise.” That could have gone very wrong, but after an initial ‘discussion’ Stefanie decided that she was ready to join her husband, and take the challenge of the extreme endurance event of the Ironman.
The Ironman event was a gigantic challenge not only for the athletes but also for organizers, the town of Nice, and the 1500 volunteers. If there were problems, they did not disrupt the amazingly well organized mega sporting event. 8000 spectators crowded the courses and the area near the finish line, and of course the media was present in every genre, and in contrast to some other sporting events, no outbreaks of bad behavior or violence occurred.
When Cornel, his wife and their friend entered the Ironman race, it was their personal goal to finish the race in all three disciplines. Cornel stated, “we were not concerned about placement in the race, we wanted to experience crossing the finish line, and we did that.” The last 100 yards before the finish line were covered with a red carped, and along that last stretch was a raised, narrow stage with groups who greeted the athletes with song and dance, but best of all, as with each individual athlete, was when all those people shouted “Barnard you are now an Ironman.” He said “it was an indescribable, exhilarating experience, worth every afford that went into being able to participate in the event.
A Barriere resident, after hearing Cornel had finished the Ironman race, noted, “we are proud of Dr. Barnard, when he came to Barriere, he was a smoker and his ambition was to ride a bull, and look what an inspiration he is – he set a goal to be an Ironman, and succeeded.”
Cornel stated that “having a lovely holiday in France, with the Ironman participation for the three of us as the highlight of it was amazing; finishing the race is a great accomplishment, after that everything else becomes a little bit easier.” Cornel plans to sign up for the next Ironman games in Brazil in 2013. Will Stefanie take part again too? He said “she did not commit to anything, but told me that she thinks of doing it again – sometime.”