Overdue Update

Wow! It has been far too long since I was last able (or should I say somewhat interested) to sit down and type-up a report on the events that have transpired in recent months. Logging onto my blog I became aware that my last post was my race report from Geneva, in July! So here is my attempt to briefly recap the events of two months or so.

After my race in Geneva I returned back to RSA and decided to take the first week of varsity off to have some down time at home in Pietermaritzburg. This in hindsight was not the wisest decision as it mean that two weeks later when I jetted off again the Europe I would miss another two weeks or so of varsity making it that I missed 3 of the first 6 weeks of the semester. Nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed my few days at home and then reluctantly made my back to Pretoria to get in my final prep before I left for the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in Germany (notice this time was dedicated to race prep and not catching up varsity work!). These World Champs would be my 3rd World Champs event I have attended but my first off-road triathlon World Champs. Having only done one Cross Triathlon (the qualifying race) in the last few years, I had no idea what to expect but I was determined to have fun while obviously trying to have the best performance I could on the day. The conditions on race day made for a very interesting race, there was some mud and then whole lot more mud… pretty much just mud along the whole course, but then what is mountain-biking without mud?? I feel that I executed well on race day though I probably could have swum and run a bit better. I ended up 8th in the World in the u23 category and managed to sneak a top 50 overall in the elite men (43rd). I was satisfied with my result but I was really hoping for a top 5 in the u23 category, though with the build-up I had and very limited opportunity to ride my mountain-bike in preparation for the race it was a solid effort.
After Germany I came back to Pretoria and went straight into a demanding test period at varsity and I think all the travel and stress got to me and ended up getting sick and having to withdraw from the 5150 Bela Bela race the weekend after Germany, never a nice feeling having to withdraw but that’s the way it goes and it reinforced the fact that I needed a break, so I did just that. I took a week of and then another week to just ease back into training. The easy week culminated in an off-road duathlon where I managed a 7th overall which I was happy with.

I am now 4 weeks into a controlled base training block where I training religiously according to heart rate on the run and then power (with use of my Powertap products, thanks Bicycle Power SA) on the bike. This is to ensure I am either training aerobically or anaerobically (mostly aerobically at this stage) so as to avoid the ‘grey zone’ of training which has no benefit for either your aerobic or anaerobic capacity.
I am working towards my first 70.3 distance race at the end of November, Midlands Ultra at Midmar resort. This for me is purely a testing of the waters when it comes to long distance racing. With it being at Midmar which I consider to be one of, if not my favourite training/ racing venues, I am super excited for what should be a tough but memorable experience.

So for now it is back to the books but I’ll be sure to make a concerted effort to update my blog on a more regular basis in the future.

Until next time

ITU European Cup, Geneva

This past weekend I was lining-up on the start line in Geneva, Switzerland. After a fairly mediocre race in Holten two weeks before and not getting to race in Hamburg last weekend I was excited to have one last go at the European racing scene before I headed back to SA.

The field was pretty strong and the course was demanding. The swim taking place in a very scenic Lake Geneva and mostly into a strong current. The bike course consisted of 6 laps with a 1km hill climb on each lap. The run was a moderately flat 3 lap course that would be challenging after the bike leg.

The swim start was fast as usual but to add to the situation I was caught up in a lot of ‘fighting’ but that is all part of Triathlon. With my swim being pretty weak compared to the standard in Europe I got out the water a fair way back from the leaders. As it turns out, there were only 2 packs out of the water and then a a couple of smaller groups of us stragglers. This is pretty unusual for european races as there are normally at least 3 main packs and this just shows the quality of this field was pretty high. On the bike I struggled a bit but was strong enough to hang-on up the hill until the second to last lap where I just didn’t quite have the power and dropped off. By this stage there were quite a few athletes dropping out of the race and it was on the last lap that the sweeper motor-bike was behind me indicating I was last out on the course. Getting onto the run I knew there were a couple of guys just ahead of me and I set-out to catch them. I found a good rhythm pretty quickly and just tried to maintain the speed as best I could. The guys I tried to catch pulled out at some point on the run so I ended up running by myself which can be pretty tough when you are behind and tired. This year I have struggled to maintain my speed through the second half of the run and this past weekend I was able to keep going which is a major positive for me in a otherwise disappointing race. In ITU racing, the swim is super important and I will now have to seriously work hard on improving my swim to make sure I am not so disadvantaged from the start of the race.

My trip to Geneva was an incredible experience and it ended a great 4 weeks overseas where I got to see and do much more than I hoped to. I am now back in SA and getting in a final block of trainig before the Cross Triathlon World Champs in Germany next month.

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MTN National MTB – Van Gaalens

This past weekend I took part in the MTN National MTB series held at Van Gaalens cheese farm in the North West. Due to me having an exam on the Saturday morning I had to opt for the half-marathon race on the Sunday morning. The 46km route was very dry and dusty with quite a few sections that had loose rocks which made for a some technical riding but in general it was a pretty straight forward routes with only two climbs worth any mention. Not being a regular rider I was put into C batch and caught the back end of B batch after about 8km and then lost a lot of time trying the fight my way through the crowds and nervous riders on the single track. Once we hit the district roads I was able to put in a consistent effort and for about 15km rode pretty hard to try and not lose too much time to the front riders. I ended up crossing the line in 2hrs 9min and some change, quite a bit slower than the winners. Hopefully I my seeding index will improve so next time I can start closer to the front and hopefully eventually have a go at riding with the front guys in the future. For now I am just riding for the enjoyment and taking the opportunity to ride my MTB when I can.

Long Overdue Update

Wow! So it has been a long while since I updated my blog and I don’t even know where to begin but judging from my last post being SA Champs in March I will have to do a quick recap of the last few months.

After SA Champs in East London I headed to Nyanga Reserve in the Zimbabwe highlands to race Africa Champs at altitude. I didn’t have the race I was expecting and finished 6th U23 and 9th overall. All in all I had a decent race where there were more positives than negatives and this is always nice.

After Africa Champs I was given the opportunity to race the World Series race in Cape Town. This would be my first time racing with the best triathletes in the world and it was everything I expected it to be… a wake-up call! My swim was not good enough and that meant I was lapped out of the race during the bike leg. As disappointed as I was, I had no expectations going into the race and I am happy to have given it a go and I now know what the level at the top is like and how much work I need to do to get there.

After WTS Cape Town, I regrouped and got in some good training for a few weeks before swopping my road bike for the mountain bike and having a go at the off-road triathlon scene. I raced the SA and Africa Cross Triathlon Champs at Buffelspoort where I managed to take 2nd place overall and 1st U23 (my first African title). This was a great way to race and have a bit of fun with there being pretty much no pressure besides my own to perform. I got selected for Cross World Champs and will being going to Zittau in Germany in August to race against the fast Europeans.

I am now finishing up with mid-year exams before I fly out to the UK on the 22
June where I will be based for a month while I travel to Holten in the Netherlands and Geneva in Switzerland for two European Cups. I am looking forward to the trip and racing as I last raced overseas in 2012 as a junior so now racing in the elite category is going to be a great experience.

ITU Africa Cup, East London (Incl. SA Champs)

 

This past weekend was our National Triathlon Champs, held in East London. The SA Champs for U23 and Elites forms one race with the ITU African Cup as well, which means that there are always a few international athletes. This year, being Common Wealth Games, meant that SA’s top athletes like Richard Murray, Henri Schoeman, Wian Sullwald and Wikus Weber would be fighting for their slots for the Games. Raising the profile of the race considerably.

For me it was about having a good day and not being nearly strong enough at the moment to race with the front guys, to just go out and have the best race I possibly could. I had a good block of training leading into the race, a little disrupted with varsity tests but I was in good form nonetheless.

The days leading up to the race I was really nervous, this being due my DNF last year. I knew I was in much better shape going into the race this year and that my swim had improved a bit as well. Everything went smoothly leading into the race and come race day I felt ready but overwhelmed by nerves.

The swim turned out to be a non-wetsuit swim which usually is to my disadvantage but this time I was positive it would help me for some reason. The first lap saw a group of 5 of us form the chase pack and we held a nice tempo and it was only in the run up to transition that split us up a bit.

On the bike, I felt below par. The first half lap I was struggling to work and felt like I had no power in my legs which saw me drop out of the chase pack with another athlete, Dylan Pivo. We then bike well together to limit the damage but lost time nonetheless. We rode the next three laps together and also caught a Russian athlete who just sat at the back for a free ride and not willing to help us.

Going onto the run, I started hard but in control and for the first 3km I was feeling good. Then I faded quite a bit for the 2nd and 3rd lap. Going into the fourth and final lap, I gave it everything and found a nice rhythm again which I feel I lost after the first few kilometres. A strong finish saw me hold onto 13th overall in the ITU Cup race. I was also then 4th in the U23 category for SA Champs and 8th SA Elite. Overall I am a little disappointed but also I feel that I had a good race with only a few negatives, so with the time I had to prepare I think it quite well.

Now it is a little over two weeks until Africa Champs in Zimbabwe, where I hope to build on the bit of momentum I have gained since the season started.

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Race Recap

So I realise I have been slack with putting up race reports in the past but this year I decided to make sure I got them done as soon as possible after the races. It’s the 3rd month of the year and I have already fallen behind. This varsity thing is no joke and is taking up more time than I thought it would this year. Luckily I am on track to finish my degree at the end of next year which is a powerful motivator.

To get to the more important details… I had what I would say a rather mediocre race at the ATU African Sprint Cup in Cape Town two weeks ago. I lost contact with the pack at the last turn buoy and just never really recovered after that. A terrible bike leg and then pretty torrid run saw me lose time and a lot of it. From this I lost a bit of confidence but I knew that at least my swimming is starting to take some form and trying to balance varsity and training in the first few weeks has been quite a challenge but I’m slowly getting into a good routine.

I had two weeks to re-group and then I was able to head home to KZN to race at what I call my home venue, Midmar Dam. It was the Midlands Ultra Sprint race, which I have been doing since I started triathlon so it is a special race to me and I love being able to race so close to home. This time I had a training partner Drikus Coetzee racing alongside me.

My race plan was to push the swim and then take it as hard as I could until I felt I couldn’t sustain the effort any more. I exited the water 3rd, on Drikus’s feet, about 35s down on Jeff Norton. We swam really well together coming out the water in 10:04 for a non-wetsuit swim. I was happy. Going onto the bike I knew I would struggle to find the power and with it being a non-drafting race, all I could do was push whatever watts I could and see what happened from there. I sat 2nd on the bike behind Drikus for about 14km and then I broke a spoke on my front wheel. I managed to keep holding a decent effort but then going around the last turn point and about 2.5km from the finish of the bike, another spoke went and my front wheel was very unstable and was moving from pad to pad in the brake housing. I dropped back into 3rd and had to take it easy into transition.

Going onto the run I knew it take a great effort to catch up to Jeff in 2nd and a huge effort to catch Drikus in 1st. so set out at a maintainable pace and hoped to build it from there but unfortunately I just didn’t have the legs on the day and crossed the line in 3rd.

Overall I am pretty happy with the result, still on the podium even with a mechanical on the bike. Always nice to finish near the top at one of my favourite races and venues. Big congrats to Drikus for a dominating performance on the day and to Jeff who held me off on the run for 2nd. 3 weeks to go until SA Champs in East London and lots of work, both in training and varsity but always a good thing to challenge yourself J

 

A few pics of the race.

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2014 KZN Triathlon Champs

It has been a while since I have been able to blog about a triathlon race, in fact almost ten months to the day. 2013 turned out to be one heck of a year and unfortunately as it happened I just didn’t race.

So KZN Champs was the perfect way to get back into racing. I have completed a really good base block over December so I knew that I would at least be above to cope with the race. The race was set at Midmar dam, probably my favourite venue to race as I have spent many hours there and in the surrounding countryside training.

Onto the actual race. I had a very mediocre swim, I really strugled to get going in the first lap but I seemed to find my rhythm on the second lap and reduce the deficit a bit. I exited the water in 5th place but managed to get out of transition and onto the bike in 3rd. After the first 5km on the bike, everyone had sort of either dropped back or made their way towards the front so it was myself and Glen Gore chopping and changing at 2nd and Gian-Nicola De Dominicis in the lead. I had to work really hard on the flats and downhills to stay in contact as I was on a road bike without aero bars and had to keep up with the guys on TT bikes with deep section wheels. So in that regard I think I over cooked the bike a bit but that’s also because I felt pretty good. Going onto the run was a nightmare, my legs were on the verge of cramping badly for the first 2.5km. After about 5km my legs started to feel better and I was able to open my stride a bit but it was too little too late and I had to settle for 3rd.

All in all I can’t really complain about the race, it was a shock to the system but it was the wake up I needed early in the year before the real racing starts.

Thanks to KZN Triathlon and Glen Gore for putting on a great and well organised event. Also I need to thank Trevor Rowe from Pro-Lite SA for giving up his Friday to build my new race machine. To PowerBar SA, Powertap SA, ASG Sports and Speedo SA for their support.

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Until the next race, cheers.

Sunday Tribune Hill2Hill

This past weekend I took part in the Sunday Tribune Hill2Hill mountain-bike race that goes from Hilton to Hillcrest and is around 100km in distance. Previous years saw some bad weather but this year the forecast was for 30 degree plus temperature and some berg winds to help push us towards Durban.

I have wanted to do this race for many years but due to me being too young and other commitments I have somehow managed to miss it every year. So this year I was pretty determined to make a plan and enter.

So I found myself making to trip down from Pretoria to Pietermaritzburg (home) to see what the fuss and hype was all about. I haven’t been riding much in the last month or two so I didn’t have any great expectations but I had some personal aspirations to achieve but I would take the day as came.

I was seeded into C batch as B batch was for the pro/elite women. After arriving a bit late I ended but having to start at the back of the batch and got caught up at a bottle neck just after the start and the batch split quickly and I was unable to bridge back up to them through town and then just had to race my own race and settle down into a good rhythm and hammer out the kilometres. Before I knew it I had reached the 50km water point and I then made the decision to tap off a bit and try and get to the finish in one piece, especially as I was not fit enough to have raced to 50km and then still have another 50km to ride. So I continued on and slowly built my effort back to a hard tempo but I paid for it at about 90km where I started getting some cramps going up the last big climb of the day and had to take it fairly easy through the finish, because if I tried to put any power down, my legs were on the verge of full blown cramp. I crossed the line in 04:32:35 which is a bit quicker than my 5hr goal that I set for myself. I was quite happy with the race as it was a pretty decent for my first one and I will be back in the future to try and improve my time.

Until next time…

Burry Stander Sardine Classic

This past weekend I rode in the Burry Stander Sardine Classic mountain-bike race which has been dedicated to the late Burry Stander, who was a cycling legend in South Africa for those who do not know.

I have bee riding quite a lot of mountain-biking these past few months and this was the first race that I have done where it has not been a team event but rather a individual race. As I have not raced since 2010, I was btached quite far back but managed to organise to get myself in B batch. This still meant that i would be racing the clock to get a good position and not against the guys in A batch.

I started quite hard to get to the front of the batch and after a couple of climbs into the race I found myself alone and y chase to catch up to A batch continued as I picked up my effort, I needed to ride hard as they started a good 7min ahead of us and it was only at around the 15km mark that I caught the back markers of the front batch. As I continued my relentless slog up to the top of the gorge I was reeling in quite a few guys but was still unsure of how I was doing compared to the leaders of the race. So my plan was to ride as fast as I could until I hit the wall. In the last 8km or so I started feeling the effects of riding at 185bpm heart rate for the good part of an hour and a half and faded a bit. I ended up riding 02:04:10 for the 42km route. I wanted to ride 2hrs flat, so I was just outside that time. Overall I am quite happy with the way the race turned out as I finished 27th overall and had a lot of fun while doing it. This result has improve my seeding index which should mean I can start in A batch at the next race and hopefully improve.

It was definitely good to back racing on the mountain-bike and I am wanting to incoporate more of this into my training to get stronger on the bike leg of the triathlon.

Cheers.

Dusi2c

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to take part in the inaugural Dusi2c event. It is a two day mountain-bike race that starts at the Natal Canoe Club in Pietermaritzburg and ends at Blue Lagoon in Durban. The race follows the famous Dusi Canoe Marathon race through the Umgeni Valley with the overnight stop at Mfula Store in the heart of the Valley. This race was different as the race organisers diverted from the traditional marking of the course and we had to guide ourselves using a GPS bike computer with the route map uploaded onto the device.

Again I rode with William Stubbs and after a very successful and enjoyable Sani2c not too long ago, we were set for a good weekend on the bike. As the numbers for the race were quite limited, the batches on Day 1 were quite small and William and myself found ourselves in C batch. We started the day quite slowly but we were quickly jostling for positions as we hit a stretch of single track quite soon after the start. the route was very interesting as we had to make our way out the middle of town and we did this by not even crossing over a main road. Soon we found ourselves heading into the outlying areas and it was here that we overshot a turning for the first time. With the GPS delay and high speeds on the flat roads we ended up doing this about fives times during the course of the 65km first day but luckily my CycleOps Joule GPS quickly alerted me whenever we left the route and we could quickly rectify the error and resume on the correct heading. we had a good day one and ended up 37th overall and crossed the line in 03:34:33.

Day 2 saw the number of batches reduced and the number of teams in each batch increase which meant that William and I started in A batch. Day 2 was dubbed a fast day that would suit the stronger riders on the roads as it was not too technical but still a great amount of single track. William and I slogged on at a solid consistent effort and slowly reeled in many teams that raced away from us in the first few kilometers. We ended up 41st on Day 2 in a time of 3:07:31 for the 58km route.

All in all it was a really good weekend of bike riding and I really enjoyed catching-up with some friends who I have not seen in quite awhile.

A big thanks to Bicycle Power Trading (CycleOps SA) for organising the Joule GPS for me and there help to get the routes onto the device, couldn’t have asked for a better unit to use for this type of racing.

Also to William who organised the entry and made it all happen. Lastly, to Farmer Glen and his team for putting together another class event.

Until next time…