Enduroman – the numbers

ESA map

route map

Some of you might be more interested in the numbers around my race on Saturday. I am rather pleased to be placed 11th in my age group and 26th male. full results here

ESA overviewThe swim was 2,5 km which I completed in 52 min. (4 minutes in T1: wetsuit off and to get my head into the game)

ESA altitude

altitude profile. note the big climb and then the three ascents of the run course with the three sandy climbs towards the end of each run lap

The 74 km bike took 4h26 with me keeping the effort pretty constant except for a bit of a surge after WP1 to try and catch a wheel. This was a waste as they rode away from me and I burnt a match. I lost a few places here but made them up in the last third of the route. The longest hill took well over 20 minutes of mostly granny gear! There are some fast sections towards the end where you can make up time. I fueled well on the bike, I consumed 4 X 750ml bottles with 1 scoop each of 32Gi powder in them. I had a total of 3 sticks of Landjaeger (go and ask a German Butcher), 2 hot cross buns, 1 banana, 1 32Gi bar, 1 packet of 32 Gi chews.

I hit T2 with nobody else in sight. I had no idea where anybody else was placed except that they were announcing Stuart who had finished already. My aim was to run each 7 km lap in 45 minutes. I was conservative on the first. the second finished in 82 minutes and I knew that it was race on. I tried to break 2h05 for the run but just did not have enough gears to push hard. I passed a lot of other runners but had no idea if they were in my age group or on which lap they were. I am glad that I biked relatively conservatively so that I had enough in the tank to run well.

The hunger games (return): a race report of sorts – from a while ago

The gun goes off and we dash off like our lives depend on it. The crowd, sipping early morning espresso cocktails cheers. Having placed bets on their favourite twitbook hero. They know more about our bike set ups, training and run splits than we do. Some of us are just here because we are here. With our quirky bikes, little rituals and lucky charms
Some have forgotten life in the journey. Some have made this their journey. Some can’t wait for the finish line. I hope to be ready when it happens. And when it does it is completely left field, unexpected and unplanned for that it takes me by surprise for almost 30km. Figuring out what to do now. The figuring out what happened will take much longer. Days at least if I ever find the answer.
The first sensation I feel when I get off the bike is relief. Running shorts on. Take my top off and then I try to run. Instantly my feet are sore. The cramps are not far off. Coke is all I can stomach and I can not take too much it seems. I run as best I can and try to work this out. Too cautiously at first I guess until I throw caution to the wind and stop at every table to smash the black liquid. More and more. The crowd goes wild in waves and I crave their cheers but I grimace inside and out
(Good luck to all those that are trying to regroup after IM 70,3 and do the final few weeks for the big one at IMSA)
Oh and for a proper race report check this out:

Terra Firma Race Report:

terra firma

One of the iconic multi sport events of the Cape. A must do.

 Outline:

The Terra Firma is all the land based activities of the 7 discipline of the Total Sports Challenge.

50 km Road Bike

13 km Road Run

25 km Mountain Bike

9 km Beach Run

My Race:

We arrive in Gordon’s Bay and the wind is blowing. Not desperate but strong enough for me to think that my sub 5h might not work out. We will have to wait and see how conditions change. Logistics is sorted out and I go for a 10 minute warm up just to feel the legs.

The siren goes off for the start and I find myself in a group of about 8 including HAnlie Booysen and Ann Harrison. I am by no means the most experienced in pack riding so I keep my wits about me for what is going on. I make some mistakes and touch somebody’s wheel. This is definitely something I will need to work on! I feel strong and do my bit of work. I am pleased that I can match the pace and am strong on the hills. 1h24 and we turn sharp right into transition. I have a 6 minute lead over where I thought I would be. Pleased but too early in the game to celebrate.

T1 is madness, Sean Falconer’s words are drowned out as I grab shoes and hand over bike to Roger. I settle into a nice pace for the run. Initially I have to throttle back and I sit on a guys heels and we run at low 4 min kays. There are a couple of teams that pass me but otherwise things seem to be ticking along. I settle into between 4:30 and 5 min pace. We hit the dirt road towards the end of this section and I am looking forward to the MTB. Gloves on while I run and then into T2 with a 55:26 split for 13km. Quite pleased with that too.

I hop on the saddle and cycle out of transition only to be faced by a monster hill. Dismount and push. Then cross the road and up Highlands. Head down and give it what I can. I don’t have the power I thought I would and as Roger said this is where the race starts. I get dropped by a few guys but I do what I can, the turn off gazebo is in the distance. Now onto jeep track and more up! Nothing technical but we follow a trail of oil. Obviously somebody has broken their sump and left a black line up the middle mannetjie. Tony had warned me about the descent so I was cautious and two guys flew past. Glad that I knew about it as consequences of getting it wrong would be nasty. The route is very well marked and I recover a little before the final sting. Grossvater gear is used and then the view to Kleinmond. I love the last km or so into transition. Such fun!

T3 in 1:25. By now I have 15 min in the bag. I feel I might need it as my calves are fried. I am over sugar by now but grab a gel anyway and head out onto the beach. I look for the hardest sand immediately, others run in the soft sand. I manage to hold onto slow 5min pace. Keeping cadence up is all I can concentrate on. The turnaround comes very slowly. I struggle to hold a sub 6 min pace and it drops to below that for a couple of km’s. I see the end and claw back. Finish in 53 min and total time of 4:38 and 11th overall!! See results here.

Very pleased with the outcome!

I sit in the Rehidrat zone for a while and drink the lovely ice cold juice.

What could I improve on:

My nutrition was always going to be tricky with the fast pace and high effort from the start. I stuck to my plan but having a gel so early in the day made me not want to touch anything sweet by the time I hit the beach. I would like to experiment a bit more with 32GI and see if I can use it in a more concentrated form instead of a gel. I think this might stop my stomach turning against sweet things early on.

I was strong on both run sections but I lacked power on the MTB. I would have to train this more and by getting stronger on the road bike. Not to get faster here but to feel fresher!

The beach run is always hard. Practicing this a bit more might help.

Useful info:

* You will need at least one dedicated person to second you. We initially thought that one person could perform that task for two of us but this is not possible. Traffic is busy and parking at transitions is not always super convenient so this puts a bit of pressure on. Get your second to leave Gordon’s Bay BEFORE the race starts to avoid having to drive past all the cyclists.

* The Terra Firma is no easier than a 70,3 event. I spent a similar amount of time on the combined bike as in 70,3. The combined run legs are harder.

* The road run is hot: hydrate and cool yourself down appropriately.

* The atmosphere is very relaxed and certainly more easy going than WTC events, especially in transitions.

You will have a blast! I will certainly be back to see if I can break 4:30!!

In search of a hill aka Brain Fry: The Lesotho Ultra Trail 2013

LUTMy brain has finally returned and taken residence rather than gone to a sleepy place for the last few days since the Lesotho Ultra Trail.

I have a certain fascination with hills (probably from my climbing days). The Lesotho Ultra Trail came along promising a brand new event and plenty of hills. I was in!

This trip was more about new experiences than anything else but more of that below.

First I picked up two fellow competitors in Sandton. We look quite out of place squashing duffels into an i10 and generally getting in the way of Gucci clad BUSYness people. (I guess Linda brought here laptop in an attempt to blend in).

We zoot off. Ok we are stuck in traffic for 90 min after which we increase our overall speed, following the guiding star to Bethlehem, and on to the border. At the border Linda is asked if she is also here to run! The countryside is pretty, the hills bigger as the road starts to wind into the valley. We sign in three times. “You can check out any time but you can never leave….”

After gear check we find our various homes for the weekend. Andrew has scored luxury in Adolf’s bunker.

Race briefing and formalities with empty stomachs. But the wait was worth it. We dig into the buffet and catch a few hours of sleep.

At some point I get a lift in a Cayenne. I always wanted to drive in a Porsche, never imagined it would be in Lesotho!

Next morning I have a small breakfast of eggs and greasy potatoes about 1h before the gun goes off. This is going to be more of a mountaineering day than running at full pace so I approach it as such. The tops are under clouds, no problem.

The AJ Calitz Safety Car is out for the first 500m as I joke to those around me that this is the last we will see the front bunch. Little do I know.

Soon the first big climb arrives and I slow to a walk pretty early on. Easy does it. Way too early to push. Revelation number 1: I get my nutrition right.

The mist closes in around us on the ridgeline. I continue at my own pace. As I briefly retrace my steps to find the next marker I see AJ and Ian come towards me. (So they were the voices I heard in the wrong direction.) We navigate together for a few km until we join another group and I drop back.

Descent into heat and sun and to the main checkpoint in the valley, we see it a long way below us. The guys open a big gap on my conservative legs. Dreaded jeeptrack (the only 4km of non single track of the day) then the ridge climb. Crest the wave and after a quick coke, more down. Quads hurting. Still I dare not go 100%. Finally the river and I push as much as I can. I pass Buff® boy and another.

I am pleased to hit the final descent and finish. I have not done much since then, just letting my fried brain and tired body come back. After 6 days of chilling I am psyched to climb on the bike and put in some miles this weekend!

Thanks to Andrew and Linda for sharing this trip!

Thanks to the organising crew and Maliba lodge for a great event.

Thanks to my team I have run my first ultra in 3 years completely pain free! Onwards…

Matroosberg Trail Challenge Sky Marathon 2013

In 2012 I entered the event with the hope of having snow en route but sadly it was cancelled two days before due to too much of the white fluffy stuff. I put it out of my mind until the newly formed South African Skyrunning Association announced its first Sky Marathon to be held at Matroosberg!

To be honest I did have high expectations as the organisers are new kids on the block and this was a pretty ambitious project. Oh well I thought at very least I hope to get to run in a new area and visit Matroosberg for the first time AND get some valuable altitude training for Lesotho Ultra Trail (the second Sky Running event in Southern Africa) later this month!

Wow what a surprise when we hit the course!

The route was well marked, well thought out and tough for my legs that had not raced in 2 years. I loved every minute and truly enjoyed the whole experience. I was also testing the brand new Garmin Virb action camera for Go Multi Magazine and hence I took this opportunity to shoot some footage. (Yes a review will follow shortly!) I hope this gives you some idea of what you missed!

Addo Elephant 100 miler May 08

Addo 100 Mile Trail Run race report or surviving in the bird cage

I was stunned, completely stunned. I could not believe it. Was this a dream, or had I actually just been run over by an ostrich? This tall bird (at least a foot taller than me) had run into me head-on and floored me. I don’t remember falling, or how long I was down or how I got back to my feet. I just remember having to dust myself off and staggering on. I was 40 km into the longest event of my life and certainly did not expect this! Here is a shortened version of the article which appeared in SA Mountain Sports issue 25.

The Addo was to be over double my longest run ever! I had planned meticulously. Nutrition, timing, where I wanted dry socks or a fresh pair of shoes (one size larger than my normal shoes because your feet swell over these long distances) was thought about and planned weeks before I set off. I was to travel from Cape Town to the race in the Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape with a merry crew. The 1st of May saw us arrive in Addo at the briefing. I certainly was nervous about the task which lay ahead the next day. My aim was 1) to finish and 2) to finish in under 24h and earn the silver belt buckle.

The start was at 6h00 outside the Kirkwood Hotel the next day. A short section of tarred road lead us into the hills and phenomenal surroundings. There were some pretty serious hills from early on. Estienne (the RD) had warned us that the early section followed an old fence line (in other words take a straight line between two points come hell or high water). I soon found that I was running by myself. Walk up the steep, steep hills and down the other side just to do more of the same. There was mist in the valleys and the sun was not making itself known yet. Magic to be out in the hills.

All went very well until CP4 at 34 km. 3h38 into the day and I was going strong. We had a short flattish section of out and back. This was the first time I got a chance to see the other runners. I had never met Bruce Arnett before but he was looking strong in first and AO Okreglicki in second. Jo Mackenzie and Mimi Anderson were chatting away a couple of minutes behind me. In fact they would catch me at all CP’s and I really enjoyed having them around. They were having fun and that really reminded me why I was there.

Then suddenly the ostrich got the better of me. It happened so quickly that I had absolutely no time to react. (Apparently the thing to do is crouch down and make yourself as small as possible. Ostrich’s can cause serious injury with their claws. I am told that I was lucky.)

Forests and rivers followed that were real pretty. Sneaky detours spared wet toes. The going underfoot was serious 4X4 stuff with quite rough rocky terrain. Just what we had signed up for!

Out of the foothills it was. Up, up and more steepness until we finally got onto this amazing ridge and CP 8. 70 km and 7h33 into the race my pace was good. I changed into a fresh pair of Continental Divides at this point. A quick check on all toetsies did not reveal any immediate issues. We followed this blunt ridge for 15 kays or so. The views were magnificent. Then down steep dirt roads. Too steep to run so a shuffle was the best in saving the quads. I was glad to get down to the farm at CP 10. 88km and 11h36 down. A couple of slices of orange was a refreshing change from the Hammer gels, bars and Perpetuem I had used up to then. Suddenly the light started fading quickly as I entered the forest on the river trail section. Mimi and Jo caught up to me and it was a real motivation to hear their chatter in the darkness. Steep switchbacks took us over 300m of altitude gain up and into the darkness to Zuurberg Inn (CP11, 96 km and 12h49). We had finished the technical section (thank goodness) and the rest of the run was on dirt roads (some only passable by 4X4). The night was quiet and not too windy as we headed up the Zuurberg Pass. The first bit of nausea hit me somewhere around here. Just too much effort to get a gel down. Squeeze, swallow quick, rinse mouth, spit, psyche up a couple of minutes for the next mouthful…

CP 13 (110km and 15h36 down) arrived not a moment too late. I had left my Nano here as a treat for the night section. Plug it in and turn up the volume. Oh and espresso gels kicked in and gave me a much needed boost into the night. I tried to run for a whole song and then walk one. That did not last for very long. Made myself another deal. Run for a minute, walk for a minute, run… that just got me more tired and I slowed down. Darn! I had 9 ½ hours to cover 50km. I thought I would just have to walk at an average of 6+km/h including stops if I was to make my goal of finishing sub 24h! We headed up onto the plateau. There was a little wind and the temp was cool, conditions were perfect! Off in the distance I could see the lights of towns below us.
Finally I spotted two lights, they were close. That must be the turnaround?! I hoped and wished. I will be there in minutes!! On and on along this dirt road, on and on into the night, tunes and scattered thoughts my only companions. Minutes seemed longer than they should. Finally the lights rose onto a hill (oh no) then I saw AO’s headlamp bob toward me. My greeting was unanswered. A final hill and then I heard the voices cheer me on! Brilliant to see friendly frozen faces out here in middle earth. A quick drink of water and turn around (CP 14, 118 km and 16h49). Homeward bound! On the plateau I met Jo and we swopped encouragements. So where had Mimi gone? I had no idea, did not think to ask at the time.

The tricky stuff was all over and it was just a matter of beating the clock now. Could I maintain my walking pace of 6km/h or so? Running was proving to be too much effort for my brain and body. Just before the first of the long downhills. Jo caught and passed me easily. I thought of trying to put up a fight but realised that she was way stronger as she headed off into the distance. Minutes later I gladly accepted a cup of warm tea from her at the Zuurberg Pass Road (CP 12, 133km, 19h09). Tea has never been more welcome than this! Down the steep pass to Zuurberg Inn (CP 11, 140km, 20h17) and a refreshing snack of orange. I had 3 ½ hours left to do the last 20km’s give or take a couple minutes. (Not exactly a PB I thought) This was going to be close. On and on into the colder depths and finally some more lights. The mind playing tricks again telling me that Wellshaven (CP 15) was just around the corner. No just keep going. I was keeping a close watch on my pace and time to make sure that I was on target. Finally cheers out of the darkness and car headlights flashing at me. CP15 and 8km to go! (5 km to cross the main tar road and then 3 km to the finish at the rest camp in Addo) 1 ½ h to go! Focus and keep going. Whatever you do don’t slow down!

The medic drives past me. “You OK?, Just tired?” I nod.

The tar road. Look left, look right, look left again. Not so much. There is not a car in sight.
A minute later panic!
Somehow I have drifted off and missed the course and am not sure which way to go. Time is running out with 40 min and 3km to go to finish in sub 24h. Slow down, think! Retrace my steps to the last point I was on course. Then I remember the instructions of Estienne at the briefing to just run along the park fence. The marking tape appears again. Keep up the pace up this unending hill! Suddenly I turn a corner and am in the camp. I hear the cheers and clapping hands before I see them. I hug Jo, Bruce and Nadia and almost forget to cross the official finish line.

I am done! 23h39 and 3rd place in the men’s.
Smiles and several cups of tea.

The short walk to our chalet as the sky is infused with some colour seems to drag on for ages. Nothing hurts in isolation, my whole body is just very, very tired. After a short shower I crawl under covers and try to warm up. This takes most of the morning. I am drained.

All in all this is a brilliant event, one of the best I have done. Well organised with well marked paths everywhere. A nice mix of terrain underfoot. All of the folks involved were super friendly and very encouraging. I can only recommend it to anyone wanting to take part. Next year there will be a 100mile, 50 mile and 40 km events all on the 1st of May.