My Totalsports Challenge 2013

My first experience of the Totalsports Challenge was when The French persuaded me to join her as a team in the 2010 Terra Firma event. I loved it, and I see from my post that I already had my sights set on entering the full Challenge as an individual: I remember drooling over all the gear the Challenge competitors had on their support vehicles in the Gordon’s Bay parking lot! I completed the 2012 Terra Firma as an individual, and absolutely loved it.

Firstly, some thank you’s:

  1. My amazing second, Leanne, whose day was just as tough as mine, and definitely more stressful. I could not take part without her amazing help, and she took care of every detail we had planned, plus some I had not thought of
  2. The race organisers, Stillwater Sports: an amazing achievement again to pull off this behemoth of an event
  3. To all the competitors who took part, no matter which event or in what format: well done and thank you for sharing in this amazing day
  4. To the random people who Leanne seconded to help carry my gear: thank you so much for being awesome sports

Here is the official highlights video from NewsportMedia which will give you a good idea of race-day conditions!

We woke up at 03h00 to pack all the gear on the car, and sped through to Gordon’s Bay. There was no wind all the way down the N2… until we reached the outskirts of Gordon’s Bay, and I felt the wind buffeting the car. We arrived to find that a preliminary decision to cancel the surfski leg had been taken, and that the swim leg still had to be decided. This meant prepping my road bike in transition, and getting into my Orca Wetsuit ready for a swim start at 07h00.

Leg 1: Surfski

So the first leg of the race, the Surfski leg, was cancelled due to high wind. Naturally there were a lot of disappointed paddlers, but ultimately the race organisers must make these decisions with the safety of competitors of all levels in mind.

Leg 2: Swim

The swim was 3 laps with a beach exit between each. I can remember swimming here during the triathlons that took place at this venue in the 80’s, and it was just as I remembered it: warm water with poor visibility, shallow enough that at places you touch the rocks and sand on the bottom.

I would be interested to know what kind of distances other swimmers recorded for this leg. It was supposed to be 1.5km, but my Garmin Forerunner 910XT registered 2.4km. My tracking seems bad on the map, and although the wind chop was pushing us around a fair amount, I don’t think my lines were that bad!

2.4km in a time of 00:37:41

A quick transition out of the Orca S3 wetsuit and into helmet, Rudy Project Rydon sunglasses, Specialized cycling shoes and race belt and I was off.

Leg 3: Road Cycle

The road cycle from Gordon’s Bay Beach to Kleinmond on Clarence Drive is truly magnificent. As usual in multisport events I came out of the water ahead of my cycling capabilities, so was able to relax on the first, hillier section of the bike, taking my time to ease into it, and patiently allow the stronger cyclists to ride past me so that I could wait for a bunch to draft.

This strategy worked perfectly for me, and a pack started to form on the only significant climb out of Rooi Els, and by the time we reached Pringle Bay we were about 8 strong. Surprisingly it seemed to be other individual Challenge Individuals who were doing the work up front against a fairly strong headwind.

Conrad Stoltz and the lead Terra Firma cyclists blasted past us as we were leaving Betty’s Bay, with my bunch jumping on their slip. I tried to go as well so as not to lose the bunch, but the pace was blistering, and about three of us dropped off almost immediately. Although we now had a smaller bunch, we worked together well and continued at a good pace, picking up another two cyclists further on. A big thank you to the competitors that worked in the pack against that headwind!

44.97km in a time of 01:36:45 (2012: 01:19:58)

My time was a bit slower than my 2012 Terra Firma time, which I think that can be contributed to the headwind, and a slightly more conservative approach. A quick transition had me into my New Balance road shoes and peak instead of helmet, and I was off on the road run.

Leg 4: Road Run

This is a hot and flat run through Kleinmond to the Bot River Lagoon next to Arabella Estate. The route left the road a little later than in previous years, and took some soft, sandy single track through the fynbos to join the jeep track that then leads to the water’s edge.

If memory serves, in addition to the watering point where the course leaves the road at about the 9km mark, there was a new, very welcome water point at the 6km mark that was not there in previous years.

I ran comfortably, and had a chat to schoolmate Malcolm Hall as he cruised past on his maiden Terra Firma individual performance.

13.15km in a time of 01:15:43 ( 2010: 00:54:19 / 2012: 01:05:32)

The transition from running gear to paddling gear was fairly quick, and I was looking forward to being cooler on the water!

Leg 5: K1

I completed the canoe leg in my Fenn Swordfish. The leg on the Bot River Lagoon started by heading upwind to a turn buoy before taking a long downwind stretch all the way to the coastline where we rounded the turn buoy to head back upwind to the starting point. I believe in some years weed in the lagoon has caused some difficulty (especially for the skis with under-stern rudders) so I was pleased to see that there was none around. I did hit some shallow water a couple of metres from the shore at the start, and had to hop out the boat to walk to deeper water.

I passed @bryanallott as he headed up the lagoon in the opposite direction, a good 45 minutes ahead of me and looking strong!

On the long upwind stretch to the finish I had time to look at the mountains on the left where I knew I would be heading on the MTB leg, thinking: “I am coming for you”!

9.51km in a time of 01:07:55. This is an average of 8.5km/h and I had planned on a 10km/h average speed.

The transition to the MTB was long as I tried to eat a sandwich, and I needed to apply more Island Tribe Clear Gel Protection sunblock.

Leg 6: MTB

This is where my race started!

By this stage of the day the temperature was well into the 40’s. I was really battling, and walked a lot of the uphill at the start, feeling that the small increase in speed gained by cycling was not worth the effort, and that I couldn’t afford to smash my legs or over-heat. This is not a route I would choose for a fun day out, and the infamous downhill section still scares the living daylights out of me. I had my tires pumped-up pretty hard and my kidneys were actually aching after the descent.

Despite feeling that I really blew this leg, my time was surprisingly not much slower than my 2012 Terra Firma time.

The finish of the MTB leg had a tiny adjustment which avoided the tricky crossing of the road.

24.08km in a time of 02:02:06 (2012: 01:53:35)

Leg 7: Beach Run

There is very little I can say about this run, other than go and try it for yourself! 9 kilometres of soft, sloping sand, with the tide grabbing at your feet and legs trying to drag you down into the waves. It’s not fun.

This really became a trot-walk affair, and although I had no pain or discomfort, there was simply not enough left in the tank to overcome the draining effect of the soft sand. I had opted to run in my FiveFinger Spyridons: quite a bit of sand got into them, but they remained fairly comfortable. I really need to experiment with shoes versus barefoot as I am still not convinced which option is best.

9.43km in a time of 01:30:56 (2010: 00:57:33 / 2012: 01:05:23)

So, a long tough day in hot windy conditions. Highlights included:

  • seeing Dan Hugo (@dghugo) warming up looking very determined (read his race report here)
  • passing Stuart Marais (@stuartmarais) in the parking lot chatting calmly
  • having The Caveman (@ConradStoltz) blast past me on the road cycle
  • seeing Ryan Sandes (@ryansandes) fly by on the road run
  • passing Lezandre Joubert (@LEZANDREJOUBERT) as she finished the beach run and I started it — she had a tough race but held out like a true champion (read her race report here)

I had my usual ice-cold Strawberry Recoverite, and then thought it would be decent of me to shower before having a great rub-down in the REHIDRAT® Recovery Zone.

There were 60 Individual finishers (44 Male & 6 Female). There was a total of 118 entries, including teams of different formats. Only 3 teams managed to beat Stuart.

Overall Place Male / Female No Name Gender Division Surfski Swim Road Bike Road Run Canoe MTB Beach Run Final
1 1 62 STUART MARAIS M IND 29:30 1:40:59 2:29:35 3:26:12 4:32:24 5:13:22 05:13:22
2 1 1 DAN HUGO M IND 28:53 1:41:01 2:31:53 3:25:02 4:30:35 5:16:37 05:16:37
3 3 59 GUSTAV HEFER M IND 39:23 2:03:51 3:08:00 4:09:10 5:24:37 6:16:37 06:16:37
32 1 52 JEANNIE BOMFORD F IND 35:28 2:03:49 3:07:15 4:13:17 5:35:10 6:31:57 06:31:57
44 2 34 JANE SWARBRECK F IND 34:35 1:59:21 3:03:55 4:07:07 5:46:55 6:46:44 06:46:44
59 3 63 MARTHA KOEKEMOER F IND 38:24 2:03:48 3:06:14 4:24:09 6:02:25 7:04:47 07:04:47
106 35 45 DAVID FOX M IND 37:13 2:17:02 3:34:31 4:46:12 6:57:38 8:33:46 08:33:46

Totalsports Challenge sponsors 2013

David

Outdoor adventure enthusiast living on the Garden Route.

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