As part of my charity drive Tri-ing for the Sunflower Fund I took part in the Totalsports Challenge as a pairs team with Dave Bucklow. It was back at the Tsiba Trail Run in Constantia in October last year that I was asked by Dave to team up with him and do the Totalsports Challenge as a pairs team. I did question at the time what I had let myself in for but I was excited about trying something completely new and the opportunity to put in some time on my Mountain Bike.
The Totalsports Challenge takes place between Gordons Bay and Kleinmond. The event comprises of two events the 7 leg Totalsports Challenge and the 4 leg Totalsports Terra Firm. The Challenge comprises a 12km Surfski, 1.5km Swim, 50km Road Bike, 13km Road Run, 13km K1 Canoe, 25km Mountain Bike and 9km Beach Run. The Terra Firma comprises a 50km Road Bike, 13km Road Run, 25km Mountain Bike and 9km Beach Run. The Challenge event can be entered as an individual or as a team of pairs, trips or as a seven member team. Dave and I split the legs between us with Dave doing the Surfski, Road Run and K1 whilst I did the Swim, Road Bike and Mountain Bike. We both had to do the Beach Run at the end as you must finish with your teammate. The race briefing at The River Club on the 12th January seemed to arrive much too early and I hoped that Dave was a nervy as I was after looking around the room and seeing such a fantastic assembly of many world class athletes. I was feeling ever so slightly overawed at the prospect of taking part in an event that featured household names like Jan Frodeno, Kevin Evans, Christoph Sauser, Jodie Swallow, Conrad Stoltz and of course the 5 times defending Totalsports champion Dan Hugo. GULP! Of course we were not there to compete for podium places or headlines but rather to challenge ourselves, have fun and get The Sunflower Fund out in the public eye by representing them in the Totalsports Challenge as their team for the day.
I was up at 4am and @beanker and I drove through to the event start at Gordons Bay without any hassles. We arrived at the venue with plenty of time and so I racked my bike in T1 and then hooked up quickly with my race partner Dave and his wife Cheryl before he headed to the start line. It was great to see so many friendly faces at the event and it was fun chatting with @kez_delport and @Alexa_Obviously and share our obvious excitement about the day ahead. I managed to wish @mytrainingday ’s @clairehorner and @kenthorner good luck and then the Totalsports Challenge started with a flurry of activity as the paddlers started at a frenetic pace as they battled for position.
The out and back 2 loop ski leg took place in the calm morning waters of the False Bay. It was going well for Dave as he came out of the water on the 1st loop with the 2nd large group. He ran out of the water with his ski to round the flags and go back out for the 2nd loop. I was happy for him that he was looking strong and I headed off for a brief swim to warm up before he finished the 2nd loop. Dave exited the water literally on the hour and flew across the sand to pass me the blue bracelet in transition. I was a bit overexcited (as always) and sprinted across the soft sand for the swim leg literally flying into the water. The water was murky and unfortunately quite littered with plastic bags that was disappointing to see and quite disgusting too. I had an okay swim and was happy to do some overtaking on the 2 loop course that had only 2 buoy turns. I exited the water and headed from the beach into transition to begin the bike leg.
I was un-racking my bike when I saw @bryanallott come into transition. Bryan was doing the whole event solo and I shouted some support as he was getting changed before I exited transition and got onto my bike. The ride out of the event area onto the road was lonely at first but the breathless conditions and beautiful vistas across the False Bay made the cycle leg such a pleasure. It was the first time riding this road and I found it quite smooth with slight undulation for the first 10kms or so. It wasn’t too long before I picked up a passenger and then a short while after that I got passed by a strong looking member of a 7 man team with a trips team member hot on his tail. I chased them down and then hung on behind them as we continued to take the coastal road to Kleinmond. We worked well together keeping a good pace at just over 40km/h. We picked up a number of other participants as we passed them on our approach to Pringle Bay.
At Pringle Bay there was quite a steep climb and our healthy sized peloton trimmed back down to 4 of us as we attacked the hill. I had no intention of getting dropped and was hanging on for dear life up the hill. I felt I had claimed a small victory as we crested the hill and they hadn’t left me behind. As we approached the Harold Porter Botanical gardens I heard the familiar sound of an approaching peloton and glanced back briefly to see the Terra Firma participants (that had started much later) closing in on us. I made an error by not peeling off and jumping onto the back of their peloton and then stupidly nearly blew my quads trying to hare after them when they passed us. I had to drop back and rejoin our group that had now become 3. We were only a few kilometres out but I was looking to make as much time as possible to give Dave a good start on the run. @beanker passed me in her car just before the bridge over the Palmiet River and I could see the flags of the next transition leg less than a kilometre away. I bid the other 2 cyclists farewell as we headed into transition and then looked for Dave but he hadn’t arrived yet. Time was ticking and I felt a bit foolish for underestimating my arrival time to Dave by over 15 minutes though I hadn’t planned on riding those 50kms in 1h15mins. After several minutes waiting I asked the commentator to announce his name in case I had missed him and shortly after that he came sprinting down the road to head onto the run.
I thankfully had a bit of time to recover from the cycle before the mountain bike leg and we headed over to Arabella to rack my mountain bike and wait for Dave. We drove passed him on the run and he was absolutely flying on the flat tarred course despite the searing heat. I was a bit worried he was going too hard and I tried to tell him to relax a bit but he was having none of it and he finished the 13km run in 50 minutes. He came in and headed straight out onto the K1 still looking surprisingly strong. @beanker, Cheryl and I sat on the banks of the Bot River in the ever increasing heat and were enjoying the slight breeze coming off the lagoon. It was pretty awesome watching “the Caveman” Conrad Stoltz head out onto the Mountain Bike after his wife and pairs teammate had passed their bracelet to him. I was feeling pretty well recovered as Dave made his way out of the water and passed the bracelet for me to head off on the mountain bike.
Being a very new mountain biker I was excited but quite nervous about the course ahead of me. The 12km of climbing was tough going and quite sandy in places but the course was also incredibly beautiful with some great scenery. It was a relief to reach the top or rather halfway point and then exhilarating as we made our way down some long descents that literally flew by. It was through one long downhill that went through a pine section that I heard a tapping sound and my front wheel felt quite shaky. I peered down at my wheel and saw that the quick release lever was spinning wildly. My heart jumped into my throat and I came to a grinding halt to ensure that the lever was well tightened before I continued my descent. Shortly thereafter we hit a very rocky descent with some big cracks that I would describe as quite technical. I looked ahead and saw others pushing their bikes down the hill I decided I could do it and pushed on….. I was wrong! I hadn’t even gone a couple of metres before my front wheel got jammed in some rocks and I went straight over the handlebars landing with a couple of expletives and a thud. The lady a few metres in front of me looked concern and asked if I was ok. I smiled picked up what was left of my ego and soldiered on gingerly. We had one long climb after that that I just couldn’t get all the way up and got off and tried to run with my bike to the crest. As we crested I could see Kleinmond from the rather steep descent ahead of me. I pushed over what felt like the edge of a precipice (I get vertigo sometimes) and hurtled downhill. I was very quickly down at the last transition point where Dave was waiting for me along with @beanker who had my hydration belt and cap ready for the last leg.
I was quite tired at this stage but surprisingly felt like I still had some legs in me to see out the 9km out and back run along the beach to the finish. We both ran barefoot along the soft sand until we reached the water’s edge and then hugged the Ocean as we looked for some compact sand to run on towards the turnaround point in the distance. Dave and I chatted and laughed as we recounted our stories from the day. About a kilometre from the turnaround point we greeted the pair’s team ‘Jaded Candy’ comprising of Jade de Hutton and Candice Davison whom we had seen much of out on the course during the day (and won the ladies pairs). Only a minute later Dave spotted some paddler friends of his from Fish Hoek who passed us and were full of banter. We turned around at the halfway point and took some water for the return leg. We were running nicely and being able to see our goal in sight made the going easier. I asked Dave to give me a countdown on each km of the final 4kms and a pace time as I was determined to catch his paddler mates before the finish. It was at this time that I noticed a grinning @PaulIngpen approaching in his usual exuberant mood striking a ‘hulk’ pose mid stride before he passed us with a high five. That moment gave me another boost of positive energy and Dave and I cracked on increasing our pace slightly. It wasn’t long before we saw the Fish Hoek Paddling crew a couple of hundred metres ahead of us and Dave got audibly excited geeing me up as we started running a 4:40 pace. We caught and passed them soon after with Dave dishing out a healthy return on the banter we had received earlier. We chuckled as we headed onto the soft sand for the final couple of hundred metres to the finish. It had been a long day but one filled with so many highlights. As we ran across the bridge and then the grass chute to the finish I high fived Dave and thanked him for being such a great partner and that it was an honour to have been able to share the experience with him.
Our pairs team The Sunflower Fund finished in a time of 7 hours and 33 minutes. A big thanks to New Balance and to Katharine Tromp for sponsoring kit. We were really so blessed to have taken part in such an incredible event and in such a perfect outdoor arena. The Totalsports Challenge on 14 January attracted Olympians, World and National Champions and allowed us mere mortals to share and enjoy our love of multisport on the same stage and with an equal footing as our sporting heroes although just quite a bit slower than them.
For full results of The Totalsports Challenge 2012 click here
Dan Hugo won his 6th Consecutive Totalsports Challenge Mens Individual Title
Lizandre Joubert taking part in her first Totalsports Challenge won the Ladies Individual Title
The Mens Team title was won by Totalsports Champions comprising Herman Heerden, Gary Cromie, Darren Lill, Jane Frodeno, Heinrich Scholms, Christoph Sauser, Tim Don
The Womens Team Title was won by My Training Day/JAG comprising Donia Kamstra, Marie Rabie, Claire Horner, Jodie Swallow, Amy Hare, Sam Sanders, Robyn Woodward