The Knysna Oyster Festival Big 5 Race Tips from Tim Ellerbeck – Velocity Sports Lab

Tim Ellerbeck is resident Sports Scientist at Velocity Sports Lab in Hout Bay. He is running a focussed training program for aspirant multisporters to prepare them for the Knysna Big 5 Challenge. Below he shares his top ten tips for the event:

As a Big 5 participant, you can choose to do either the road cycle (100km) or paddle challenge (22km), and between the half or full marathon. There are three further events which are compulsory, namely the 80km MTB race, the trail run (which has the option of 3 separate start times) and XTERRA… so 5 events in total – hence the title of the Big 5!

Firstly, you need to make a decision about how you’d like to approach the festival and what resources you have available. If you’ve got a canoe / surfski and don’t own a road bike, then the choice between the road raceand paddle challenge will be a no-brainer… If you consider yourself better at shorter distance running as opposed to the marathon distance, then you need to commit to the half – these choices will influence your training and tactics employed for the eight days of racing.

Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with the rules of each event as they do vary! Below are 10 tips which should come in handy to help make your adventure a little more pleasant. Don’t hesitate to contact me for a fully personalised training program

  1. Make sure you have the correct gear for races.The festival is held over winter so you need to equip yourself accordingly. The weather can and often does have four seasons in one day.
  2. Train and nail your nutrition plan in the weeks leading up to the festival — this is of huge importance for the longer events(MTB and road race), the more accurate your nutrition strategy, the better you will perform and the faster your recovery for the next event.
  3. Make sure you have a change of clothes easily and quickly accessible. Change as soon as is possible after your event, dress warmly and take in a recovery meal / drink asap (definitely within 30min post exercise) — Big 5 competitors tend to hang around after events to share war stories, which is fine, make sure to take care of “housekeeping” first though — it’s a long eight days and you don’t want to pick up a cold. Alternatively drive back to your accommodation to shower and eat, if close by…
  4. There’s a ton of spare time between events, take a good book to read on your off days. Make sure to drive to a restaurant or rendezvous point to meet mates – avoid walking too much, you want those legs to work during racing and not during recovery days. Some athletes may benefit from an easy spin on the bike between events though. DON’T forget to catch up on the Tour de France, it’s always inspiring to watch these super athletes (hopefully 2013 will be drug free!)
  5. Many athletes take part in the festival to let their hair down and have a good time, if you want to party, keep it mild during the festival, alcohol is a diuretic and will exaggerate dehydration — stock upon rehydrate sachets and use them. Have a few drinks but avoid going hard the night before a race. You can make up for the restraint by going large at the official after party on the 6th of July…
  6. Clean your gear asap after each event — especially your mountain bike. Racing on Saturday and then leaving a muddy bike until Wednesday to clean before XTERRA on Thursday will cost you money! Get it clean, lube it up and relax knowing that your equipment is taken care of.
  7. For those of you not familiar to riding over tree roots, make sure to ride over them at a right angle (approach at 90°) — there are plenty of roots on the MTB course and they are often covered in slimy mud or moss. The XTERRA course is always wet in the forested areas as the sun can’t penetrate, so get accustomed to mountain biking in wet and muddy conditions too.
  8. Pack some compression gear, it will help speed recovery during days when you aren’t racing and can also be really useful to put on when waiting around at the trail run and XTERRA prize giving. Both events have particularly long wait times — it is however worth it as the lucky draws are quite substantial and you can share war stories with fellow competitors during the prize giving…
  9. Refuel your body with more than what you’d normally eat during the day, not only will you be burning a massive amount of calories during each event, but because it’s winter combined with extended periods spent outdoors your body will burn even more calories to keep your core temperature up.
  10. Make sure to enter the Big 5 with some mates, there’s nothing worse than doing all these awesome races without being able to shoot the breeze with someone about them! It will also add an incentive to make sure you’re competitive — there’s nothing better than kicking a mates butt…

Sign up TODAY for the Velocity Sports Labs Knysna Oyster Festival Big 5 Training Program (starts 28 April 2013)

Cell: 071 1727911


Outdoor adventure enthusiast living on the Garden Route.

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