2 years ago The French and I entered the Totalsports Terra Firma 2010 as a team,with her completing the cycling legs, and myself the running. I totally loved the race — despite the nightmare that is the 9km beach run — and knew that one day I would want to compete as an individual and complete all 7 legs. This year, however, I decided simply to settle our argument: which is the toughest leg: the beach run, or the MTB leg…
The 2010 race was held in windy, hot conditions — so windy that the swim and surfski legs of the Totalsports Challenge event were cancelled as the wind tore through Gordon’s Bay. The morning of 2012 saw calm conditions: no wind and clear skies.
Leg 1: Road Cycle
Lining up at the start on the road in Gordon’s Bay was fairly nerve-wracking as I has not raced on the road since the 80’s, and I had only been out for one or two shortish training rides on my new Scott. The route is from Gordon’s Bay to Kleinmond along one of the most scenic coastal roads in the world. There is only really one small hill coming out of Rooi Els.
I was extremely happy with the performance of my new Scott Addict, and was super comfortable on my Profile Design T3+ bars. I did experience cramp in my right calf as we passed through Betty’s Bay, but was able to work it out by dropping my heel at the bottom of my stroke. Some practice needed here.
Leg 2: Road Run
The road run was hot, flat and fast. The course follows the quiet seaside streets of Kleinmond before joining the main road heading out-of-town towards Arrabella. Towards the end the course turns onto some dirt road as it heads down to the next transition.
Leg 3: MTB
The MTB route left the transition and headed out on some sandy, dirty track which made it extra hard for me to find a comfortable pace. It headed up a small hill past some young ladies practicing their show-jumping skills before following a narrow little single track onto the road. The tar road was something of a relief, and allowed me to relax a bit, drink some water, and get find my pace.
Dan Hugo rode past me during the big uphill in the MTB section at such pace that I had to get off my bike and walk for a couple of minutes to recover. He went on to win his 6th consecutive Totalsports Challenge title: what a machine!
Once the long, sustained climb was over, the downhill section was somewhat interesting, and included a super-hairy section which claims a few victims each year. I was very cautious, and made it through unscathed.
Leg 4: Beach run
The beach run. What to say. The tide was not as high as it was when I ran it two years back, but it was fairly high, and there were long sections where the soft sand and steep camber could not be avoided. I ran in my New Balance Minimus MT00’s. There doesn’t seem to be any consensus as to whether running barefoot or running in shoes is best, however, I was happy with my choice. The super-lightweight Minimus shoes allowed me to run in the water when a wave washed up high, and were comfortable when wet. I am sure that the unbroken surface of the shoe offers better traction in the sand than bare toes.
And the verdict? I concede: the MTB is by far the toughest leg of the race. I finished in 5:24:28 (1:19:58 road cycle, 1:05:32 road run, 1:53:35 MTB, 1:05:23 beach run).