Winter Indoor Training

With winter fast approaching, the pleasantries of waking-up hopping onto your bike to join your regular group to ride around the quiet streets are radically diminished by the on-set of the less than ideal morning temperatures.

In winter I choose, out of safety and comfort, to rather to spend some quality time turning out the watts on my indoor trainer (IDT). Now this may seem like a boring way to complete your session but get a desk fan, set-up shop in front of your TV or somewhere where you can look out onto some sort of scenery with some music and you can actually turn your dreaded IDT sessions into something far more bearable. I am one who would much rather be out on the road or trails than on the IDT but with the morning traffic and time constraints that varsity puts on me, it is quicker and far less hassle to jump onto the trainer than to put on layer after layer and head out the door to fight with the cars on the road. Another great advantage of an IDT session is you can control just about all the variables (except your legs inability to perform!). No need to stop at traffic lights, puncture or run out some gradient mid-interval. You can just keep pedalling on.

I have been using the CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer for the last 3 and a bit years. This is a great entry level trainer by CycleOps. It is pretty robust, so it can handle being bumped around a bit but the true beauty of this IDT is that you do not need to adjust the resistance while you ride. The resistance runs on an infinite curve which means that the harder you pedal the higher the resistance will be from the trainer. This is a fantastic concept as there is no need to spend any time worrying about what the correct resistance level is for any particular interval or session you are doing. The resistance is smooth and caters for just about every type of rider and training you will need. It is incredible quiet so it doesn’t seem like you are parked out on the runway at the airport every time you smash out your sprint intervals. I have loved using this trainer and it has great rubber feet caps that you can twist to stabilised the unit on just about any surface.

As with all CycleOps trainer, the Fluid 2 comes with a lifetime warranty so you can have peace of mind that should anything be faulty with your unit, they will repair or replace your unit without hassle.
So before you decide to quickly go out and buy the first trainer you see, take some time to have a look at the extensive range that CycleOps has to offer and rather make an investment in a valuable piece of equipment that will last you your cycling career to come.

For information on CycleOps, Powertap and Saris products, visit http://www.bicyclepower.co.za or stop by the Bicycle Power SA showroom on Rivonia road in Joburg

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The Fluid2 trainer as it comes out the box.

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The perfect entry level power training combo. Fluid2 trainer with the Powertap Joule head unit and Powercal HR belt.

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Innovative rubberized rear feet, makes it easy to ensure that your trainer is level and does not rock and tilt while you ride.

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The easy lock mechanism that allows you to set-up your bike on the trainer in a matter of minutes.

Xterra SA Champs, Grabouw

This has been a race I have wanted to do for a long time, but due to me pursuing the ITU calender for the last few years I have just never got around to travelling out to the Elgin Valley to compete in the world’s biggest Xterra race.After having had some bad luck at Xterra Buffelspoort a few weeks ago, I was determined to have a good race here in Grabouw, to try and redeem myslef. At first I thought I would just need to have a similar performance to Buffelspoort and I would be sure to have a good result. As the race drew nearer I started to become aware of just how strong the pro field was going to be. With Conrad Stoltz, Brad Weiss, Stuart Marais and Roger Serrano all set to fight for the win, I started to doubt myself a bit, as my lead-up to the race was far from ideal with just having started varsity and my training hours being cut in half. From the outset, a top 10 was my goal, but the underlying reason I chose to race this race instead of the ITU sprint cup race the previous weekend, was to qualify for ITU Cross Triathlon World Champs later in the year.So I made the trip from Pretoria through to Grabouw where I stayed 2km from the venue in a quiet, simple, yet ideal garden cottage. I got to pre-ride the route which meant there would be no suprises come race day and on the Saturday before the race I made sure I had a good understanding of the infamous rock-garden nestled in the hills of Grabouw. 

On the morning of the race, the nerves really kicked in and I was not feeling ready to race some of the best Xterra athletes in the world and to top it off I did not manage to get in a swim warm-up, so standing in the water I was not happy. Though the wind made the water quite choppy, and being a stronger swimmer in this field, meant it was a bit more to my advantage. I went out hard so that I could try and get my heart-rate up and then settle down before the other guys got going, this seemed to work as I got out the water in 4th and I could see the other guys in front of me.

Grabouw is renowned for its tough bike course and it definitely didn’t dissapoint. I droppd from 4th to 5th on the first climb when Nico Sterk came past me. He was riding a good pace so I just tried to hang onto his wheel to the top. I lost his wheel on the first tech descent and then just tried to keep him within sight on the road. At the back end of the course I was caught by a group of athletes, including a friend from Austria (a swiss athlete), and local powerhouse Antoine Van Heerden. I jumped into the group and we then rode back up to Nico and then the pace picked up some more and we caught the back of Theo Blignaut. At this point I was not sure how my body was going to respond to hard riding and I soon found out when we hit the rock-garden and my quads started to cramp up. This meant I had to back off a bit so that I didn’t cripple myself with cramp going onto the run. I sat up a bit, took in lots of fluid and this seemed to work. Going onto the run I was lying 9th overall.

I started the run pretty conservatively to make sure I had something in the tank for the last few km’s in case I needed it. This was the right choice because I ended up running from aid station to aid station to get fluids to keep my legs from full blown cramp. Luckily I had a big enough gap to the next guy behind me to not be pressured into pushing too hard, though in the last 3km I saw Flora Duffy charging in my direction and I was determined to not get ‘chicked’! Coming onto the final, famous, beach section, I could see 8th just in front of me but I had nothing more to give and I was happy to cross the line in 9th overall and 1st u23.

Stillwater Sports put on an incredible event. Probably one of the best events I have done. Nicola Collins and her team made it a great and memorable trip and us pros were lookd after like kings! I would recommend this race to anyone and I will definitely be back in the years to come, hopefully a few steps closer to the podium.

I now have a few days to chill-out before I head to East London for some fast ‘n furious racing at SA Triathlon Champs, this coming Sunday.

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Xterra Buffelspoort 2015

Xterra Buffelspoort would be my first Xterra franchise race. Though I am not new to off-road triathlon, I have never done an infamous Xterra. Buffelspoort was set to be a tough race with most of SA’s top off-road athletes there to race.  

The 1.5km swim was fairly comfortable and I managed to get into a good rhythm early on the first lap and then exited the water in 4th, about 1:30 behind the race leader. Going into the bike I was feeling calm and ready to push hard to stay in touch with the leaders. Unfortunately I got a side-wall cut about 5km into the bike. I stopped, plugged the tyre, bombed it up and then jumped on and continued riding only for the plug to burst out 100m down the road. So I set about re-plugging the tyre, but without a bomb or a pump it was useless. I started walking back to the race village slightly depressed that my Xterra debut was short-lived, when a kind fellow competitor stopped and gave me one of his spare bombs. I quickly inflated my tyre, jumped onto my bike and threw caution to the wind to try and make up some of the lost time (8mins or so). After catching up to my race-saving-bomb-donor, I quickly thanked him for his generosity and then continued my efforts to salvage my race. The 29km bike leg flew by and soon I found  myself in the familiar motion of dismounting and frantically transitioning into my running shoes and setting out on the 12km trail run to complete the race. At this point I was well down in the field and much to my dismay I was being ‘chicked’ by teammate and ladies race leader Carla van Huysteen. Soon the run course made a dramatic drop in elevation and immediately it kicked up again in an equally dramatic fashion and I then began to question my choice to ride so hard and wondered if I had enough in the tank to hold onto the finish; only time would tell and I decided to keep pushing as hard as possible and deal with ‘bonking’ when it happened! Fortunately it only happened in the final kilometer and I was able to run myself back into 10th place. The run course turned out to be the hardest run course I have done in a triathlon and next time I will definitely managed my efforts better.  

After a bit of bad luck, I am pretty happy to come away with 10th and I will definitely be gunning for a top five placing at Xterra Grabouw next month – the biggest Xterra in the world, or so I have been told.  

A big thanks to Saucony SA for getting me a pair of the Exodus 5.0 trail shoes, incredible shoes that ate up every part of the trail without a problem. Also to Powerbar SA and Bicycle Power Trading for giving me the tools to execute my races to my best possible ability.

Until next time…

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Coming out of the water

                                                                          Coming out of the water.

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                                                                         Chasing hard on the run.

2015 KZN Triathlon Championships

KZN Champs is generally the first race on my calendar every year, as it falls mid-January. It is normally quite a tough race due to the fact that I am always coming into the race only having focussed on base training through November, December and beginning of January. This year was no different, but after a season of racing the Olympic distance races my body has adapted to the 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run a bit better. I have had a teammate, training partner and friend, Drikus Coetzee, from Namibia, staying and training with me for the past few weeks and we have been pushing each other quite hard, so training has been going well. I picked up a foot injury towards the end of 2014 so I was a bit doubtful in my running form as I have only been running for two weeks prior to the race, but I was keen to have a good go at the race and get rid of any cobwebs hanging around.

With the race being at Midmar dam, practically my back garden, I was excited to put my early season form to the test. The swim went a bit better than expected as I managed to get out of the water with Drikus, who has been pushing me to my limits in training, with a group which made up 3rd place. Going onto the bike Drikus quickly opened the gap and went blistering up the road while I struggled to find my bike legs which seemed to have deserted me. Thanks to Bicycle Power Trading I had Enve/Powertap race wheels to give me accurate racing power data and I was watching the numbers as I didn’t want to go out too hard and have nothing left for the run. Soon I was averaging around 85% of my Functional Threshold Power (the maximum power you can sustain for an hour). Unfortunately I never felt any better the whole 40km and just had to hack away at the pedals and see what would happen on the run. On the bike I dropped from 4th to 7th and had a lot of work to do to pull back the guys in front of me. I quickly caught and passed 6th position and then over the rest of the first 5km lap I set out to catch 5th, which happened around the 4km mark. At the 5km turn point I saw that 4th was within reach but would take as a big effort to catch, especially in the condition I found myself – tired and frustrated. So I put in some surges whenever I felt my legs could handle it and gradually pulled 4th position in. I made the catch and pass at the 8km mark and then my only focus was to make sure no one made a move my position (3rd was too far up the road). So I crossed the line in 4th with a 37:53 run split after only two weeks of running and one tempo session. This also meant that I was 3rd in KZN overall and 1st U23 in the KZN Champs.

I’m happy with a few things that went right for me, namely that my foot held out in the first race in many months and that I was still able to maintain a consistent pace on the run, even after having a dismal bike leg. There are generally always some positives you can take away from a race and today, even though it didn’t go anywhere near to the plan I had for the race, I can take some positives from the day and hopefully improve on the races next time round.

A big thanks must go out to the guys at Bicycle Power Trading for their support, Trevor Seinen from Powerbar SA for providing me with arguably the best sport nutrition products on the market, Saucony SA for putting world class running shoes on my feet and last but not least, Time Freight for providing the platform for me to do what I love to do.

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Coming out the water.

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Heading onto the bike leg.

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coming through the turn around point on the bike leg.

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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