My XTERRA Grabouw 2012

I last took part in XTERRA Grabouw in 2010. I only know this because I still have the T-shirt. I took part as the runner in a team, but just like the Totalsports Challenge, I dreamed of returning as an individual entry. Interest in the event has grown significantly: XTERRA Grabouw is the largest XTERRA in the world, and is spread over two days.

I spent most of Saturday supporting a whole lot of friends at the XTERRA Lite, most of them taking part in their first triathlon. It was inspiring to say the least to see them getting all excited for the race, and then witness the smiles afterwards: they all had a great time! I also took the time to check out the exit from the water: I saw some competitors stumbling on what I assumed were submerged rocks, so I swam out after the race and practised exiting a few times to check. There is quite a bit of rock and rubble on the sandy floor of the dam, and I am surprised that the organisers haven’t cleared 10 or 20 meters closest to the water’s edge (which would be a simple task).

I got up at 04h00 on the Sunday for an early feed, and set out down the N2 at 05h30, arriving at the Grabouw Country Club nice and early to avoid having to park far away. I have not had top set up a transition area properly for over 10 years, and it took me a few trips back to the car before I had everything in place. I admit to spying on a father-and-son team setting up next to me, and picking up a few forgotten tips from them: baby powder in cycling and running shoes, taping energy gels to MTB top tube.

It was great being early, and being able relax and take my time, soaking up the building atmosphere of the day. I got to see some of the world’s best athletes getting ready to do their thing as well: Conrad Stoltz, Ryan Sandes and Jodie Swallow amongst them.


I was looking forward to a pretty quick swim that would get me ahead of the masses in the MTB leg of the race. I somehow had it in my head that the swim distance was 800m, so was somewhat surprised to hear them announce it as 1.5km. This didn’t bother me at all, as this was intended to be my strongest leg, and would get me a head start on the MTB leg, and I usually go into these events not knowing the distances in any case. Despite the water being reportedly close to the 20°C mark, I naturally opted to wear my Orca S3 wetsuit.

I had indeed forgotten how much mayhem was involved in a mass, dry-start open-water swim and the ensuing struggle for the first buoy. I was a bit worried that the extra size of my Speedo Rift Pro Swimming goggles would put them at extra risk of being knocked off in the fray; they were fine, and provided excellent sighting through the course.

I managed to get a decent stroke going, and by the time we hit the first buoy, I was in fairly clean water, and had settled down nicely (I swam intentionally wide from the start — though not as wide as the Garmin track below might suggest!). After the short leg to the second buoy, it was a 700m+ straight stretch to the beach and the transition area. I came out of the water in 24 minutes, so I am super happy with what for me was a super fast time!


I specifically needed to take it easy on the MTB leg: I cannot afford an injury at this stage, and my single-track skills are not the best.

I had a fairly quick transition, sitting down to finish removing my wetsuit from the waist down, putting on my helmet, race number belt and cycling shoes. I grabbed my cannondale 29er and trotted out of T1.

The course started out on good wide plantation roads, but started climbing way to soon for my comfort. There was plenty of loose sand, and of course the single-track with the legendary Rock Garden to contend with. It took me more than 5km to recover from the swim and start getting into the cycling. It is a truly amazing course, with the international athletes rating is amongst the best.

I was expecting water points on the course, as was every other competitor I spoke to. The only stop on the route (and I am not even certain it was a water point) was on a long downhill section. No-one is going to stop on a downhill, and it would quite frankly be extremely dangerous to do so.


I was expecting to really hurt on the run, but ended up having a comfortable time on the trail, even if it was a bit slower than I had hoped for. I had a super-quick transition, racking my bike,  swapping my helmet for a peak cap, and my cycling shoes for my Salomon S-LABs. While I was sitting down putting my shoes on, Conrad Stoltz, the day’s champion, was already being interviewed about his win! Whilst I half expected to be disheartened that I could be so far off the pace, quite the opposite was true, and I left on my run feeling motivated by his success. I guess for me it’s not so much about the competition as it is about what is possible for the human body, for my body.

The route was slightly different to the one I ran in 2010. There were no technical sections, and I was able to run at least 95% of the route. There was one river crossing where I intentionally jumped in for a swim, and near the end when the course first came down to meet the dam, I ran into the water again. Although the weather was nowhere near as hot as it was in 2010, I still found it hot. I seem to battle with the heat.

In contrast to the MTB leg, the run leg had numerous well-placed water stations serving water and Coke.

Provisional Results
Position: All Position: Cat Position: Sex Finish Time Name Sex Category Swim T1 MTB T2 Run
1 1 1 02:26:02 Conrad Stoltz M Pro M 00:19:09 00:01:02 01:14:00 00:00:56 00:50:55
23 1 1 02:50:28 Carla Van Huyssteen F Pro F 00:19:45 00:01:39 01:34:04 00:01:01 00:53:59
24 1 20 02:51:14 Chad Gordon M 40-44 M 00:20:57 00:01:50 01:32:10 00:00:57 00:55:18
36 8 27 03:00:11 Ryan Sandes M 30-34 M 00:25:56 00:02:33 01:39:05 00:01:52 00:50:44
171 22 114 03:36:06 David Fox M 40-44 M 00:24:01 00:02:39 02:00:09 00:01:54 01:07:23

I have included the results of the overall winner, Conrad Stoltz, the first lady home, and the first place in my category. I have also included my hero, Ryan Sandes’ results. I was secretly hoping to beat him, but as you can see, this man’s talents know no boundaries: look at that MTB time! You can also see from the results that I got seriously “chicked”: it would appear that some 58 ladies beat me. Excluding DNFs, I came 20 out of 64 in my age / sex category, and 114 out of 328 males, and 172 out of 492 finishers (including teams). There were 124 DNFs and 2 DQs.

I am super pleased with my transition times. Even though I had not practised, I did prepare fairly carefully, so I am pleased to see they were quick, and I know with practice they will be even quicker. All-in-all a spectacular weekend of sport!

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Outdoor adventure enthusiast living on the Garden Route.

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