RACE DAY – Sunday 20 November 2011

November 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

I was woken at around 3am by tremors. The music was gone but was replaced by the howling of gale-force winds. I have no clue how fast it was blowing, but at times the wind was shaking our little cottage – hence the tremors.


I started to panic when I thought of the wind blowing up waves in the dam. The not-so-good swim on Saturday has rattled my confidence and I was convinced that I would drown if I had to attempt a swim in choppy, tumultuous water. So I lay awake listening to the wind and worrying until my alarm went off at 5.30. Time to get ready.


By the time we reached the race venue the wind has calmed down from hurricane to gale-force. The venue was also in a protected little bay, so although far from being calm, the water wasn’t too choppy either.


The bad weather cooled down the water from the balmy 22 degrees of the previous day to 18 degrees. Therefore wetsuits were allowed – which was no help for scantly-dressed me braving the water in no more than my Speedo, goggles and swim cap.


It was a swimming start and athletes had to enter the water at a certain point and bob around for a couple of minutes until it was time for the race to start. Great for those in wetsuits, not so great for me and scores of others just wearing swimsuits.


Minutes before the start of the race it started raining, and as the gun fired it really came down in buckets. But we were wet already, so whatevs… The beginning of the swim was very much, like I imagine, it might be in a washing machine on the spin cycle. There were lots of people vying for the same spot of water and you really have to keep your cool and remind yourself not to panic. I just tried to focus on everything Coach Lezandre told me in the training – arms wide, stretch them out in front of you, bum up, don’t stop kicking… Over and over again, all the way to the first buoy, then the second and then third and then the exit.


Then I found myself in T1 (or “transition 1″). That’s when you transition from swimming to cycling. It was time to dry off, put on shorts, a shirt, shoes, cycling helmet and off you go.


The cycle was wet and windy. The first 13k or so was into a head wind. A frickin’ gale-force head wind, I kid you not. It was pretty tough on my knobbly-tyre mountain bike, and people on road bikes with their thin, sleek wheels passed me effortlessly – or at least that’s how it looked, I’m sure they were also peddling their butts off in that wind.


On the way back, the cycle was, well, a breeze… at least until the sky opened up again and it started pouring with rain. I was soaked to the bone, and actually had a little chuckle at just how ridiculous these conditions were. The coaches did a hell of a job preparing us for the race, but they didn’t prepare us for doing it in a storm. What a crazy day!


Next up was T2 – changing from cycling to running. Jumping off my bike and running to the transition area was scary. My legs felt like they weren’t my own. They felt like jelly and were buckling under the weight I was putting on them. And the condition didn’t improve as the run progressed. My legs worked harder than I realised on the cycle and they were protesting. My calves cramped through most of the run, and on two occasions I had to stop and walk for a couple of meters. But eventually the finish line was in sight and I was inspired by spectators cheering me on, so I ran to the finish as fast as my tired legs would carry me – which really wasn’t very fast at all…


I couldn’t believe it was over. Three months of getting up early, training twice a day, six days a week, getting to know my team-mates, getting to know the limits of my own body, and how far I could push it. Everything culminated into 1 hour 51 minutes of racing. It felt… awesome.

The race weekend

November 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

Sorry for the long wait for the update folks. I didn’t drown, fall off my bike, or get hospitalised because of the triathlon. For the most part I was pretty lazy, but I was also a little intimidated by the idea of fitting this enormous experience into a single blog – it wasn’t just a race, but the culmination of months of training, a hellishly hot day in Worcester, and the karaoke wedding party. Let me try and explain:

Friday 18 November 2011

I shacked up with teammates Crispin and Lorian Barrett and Coach Kash at a resort called Nekkies next to the Brandvlei Dam just outside Worcester. It was a lovely wooden cottage overlooking the dam with a backdrop of beautiful Cape mountains. Although the race was only Sunday, we set out on Friday after work to make a weekend of it.

The outdoors, a braai, socialising with cool people – that spells only one thing for me: drinking wine! A look saying: “serious athletes don’t drink before a race” came over Coach Kash’s face when I cracked open the bottle, but I worked through the shame and endured, it was, after all a coffee/chocolate Pinotage.

Luckily Crispin followed suit and also had a few beers, albeit “light” beers, and even Lorian got over her no-booze-before-the-race nonsense and also had a glass or two.

Saturday 19 November 2011


I actually had a good night’s rest considering the mattress was a bit thin and the bed a bit short for my 1,76m frame. I just had a terrible headache – must have been the Pinotage.

My roomies couldn’t say the same – they were kept up all night by the neighbours two chalets down’s Mandoza. I slept right through it – I think it must have been the Pinotage too.

We had a lazy Saturday morning, chatting and reading the newspaper on the balcony while the temperature rose to a hellish 38 degrees Celsius by midday. You were fine as long as you stayed still in the shade, but the moment you moved you broke out in a sweat.

At 15:00 we met the rest of the group at the Brandvlei Prison – that’s were the race was held – to go over the race details – where to park the bikes, exits, entrances, where to get on and off, etc. We also swam the race route, and at one point there was talk about a run too, but it was soon forgotten in the excruciating heat.

I was feeling excited, because the heat has warmed up the dam, and if the water temperature is over 21 degrees Celsius on race day, you can’t wear a wetsuit. The reason why that was good news for me is a) because I didn’t have a wetsuit; and b) wetsuits make you buoyant and gives you an advantage, if nobody could wear wetsuits it would level out the playing field for me.

But I forgot my swim cap and goggles at the cottage, and had trouble staying on course during the swim. My hair was in my eyes, and I felt a little anxious swimming in the deep, brown water. What’s more is that I was falling way behind the wetsuit-donning crew. I realised 600m was crap-far and I wasn’t sure how I was going to complete the distance in “race mode”.

My anxiety-levels were building up for the upcoming race.

After a shower we met the Tri-FIT team mates and their significant others at Panarottis for a carbo-load dinner. It felt strange seeing them all dressed in normal clothes, not sweating profusely, and able to complete full sentences without gasping for air. Some of them are actually quite coherent and somewhat good-looking too… who knew?!

Beers were had, pasta was eaten and by the end of the evening, even a few bets were made. I won’t go into the gory details, but threats of shaven heads and… well… other body parts came up in the conversation.

We left the restaurant at a very respectable time, only to arrive back at the cottage where a wedding party was in full swing literally 25m from our doorstep. The resort has a hall they rent out for events, and on Saturday night, the night before the BIG race, there was a very-very loud wedding party taking place.

We didn’t want to be spoil sports, so we waited and waited for the racket to die down, but when 11:00 came and gone and the music was just getting louder, we tried to phone security… repeatedly. We don’t know if they were doing their rounds, asleep, or also at the party, but there was no answer. So we went to bed and tried to fall asleep. Keep in mind that the scorcher of a day has turned our cottage into a sauna, but we also had to keep the windows closed to try and control the noise levels.

So it was hot and it was noisy when I went to bed on Saturday night. The race a mere 10 hours away. I would read my “whodunit” until my eyes didn’t want to focus anymore, then I put out the light and try to fall asleep. But then the music would sound even louder and with every passing minute sleep would slip away. So I put the light back on, read until my eyes couldn’t focus and then try and sleep again. In about my third cycle something strange happened. The music was still playing at full blast, but it wasn’t the original artists singing it anymore. Horror of horrors! The wedding party has gone karaoke and the guests, some of whom could actually hold a note, and others not so much, started to sing over the microphone… in the middle of the night… hours before the race.

Day 30 – Monday 14 November 2011

November 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

I am super stoked about Sunday’s race and Monday’s transition training just added to the excitement. ‘Transition’ refers to the change in discipline – for instance, when you come out of the water and have to get onto your bike, and when you have to get off your bike, and start the run. I didn’t realise this was such a complicated thing until the coaches laid it out for me.


In pure SSISA style, everything has to be done at flat out speed. Once you finish your swim, you have to run out of the water while ripping off your swimming cap and goggles, find your bike, put on your helmet, takkies and other gear as fast as you can. Those wearing wetsuits have to wiggle out of them too at this point. Then you can’t just jump on your bike and go, you have to push your bike to a certain point (obviously running at top speed), and then you can only get on your bike and ride. If you get on your bike before this point you are kicked out of the race, and if you get onto your bike without a helmet, or your helmet isn’t fastened, you are also kicked out of the race.


Then you do your 20k cycle ASAFP until you reach another point at which you have to get off your bike and push it (at a run) until you reach the spot where you can park it. And you can’t just throw it down, you have to park it neatly. Or else, I guess, they will kick you out of the race.


So on Monday night we were practicing all this devilish detail: Running barefoot through SSISA’s parking lot; whipping on helmets; tying shoelaces in record time and running with our bike to the cone where Coach Kash was yelling: “Get on! Get on! Get On!” Then riding a small loop on the bike until you’re back at the cone where Coach Kash is now yelling: “Get off! Get off! Get off!”


So although it was more about the technique than the exercise, after a couple of these rounds I actually built up a bit of a sweat. It also made me realise that it is going to be a hornet’s nest of bodies and bicycles and shoes and whatnot. But I guess that’s all part of the experience.

Free stuff!

November 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

Hi there blogosphere!

I have a copy of Prof Tim Noakes’ new book, Challenging Beliefs, to give away.

It only arrived on my desk yesterday afternoon, so I haven’t had the chance to read it, but the good doctor is very respected in sports circles, so it should be pretty interesting.

I’ll give you a taster from the book’s jacket:

Tim Noakes is one of the world’s leading authorities on the science behind sport and a successful sportsman in his own right. Through a lifetime of research, he has developed key scientific concepts that have not only redefined the way elite athletes and teams approach their professions, but challenged conventional global thinking in sport.

In Challenging Beliefs Noakes gives his views on evertyting from the myths perpetuated by the sports-drink industry and the dangers of overtraining and overdrinking to the prevalence of banned substances and the need to make rugby a safe sport. The teams and athletes with whom Noakes has worked make fascinating backdrops to these topics, highlighting the importance of science in sport in human terms. In providing an intimate look at the golden threads running through Noakes’ life and career, this truly remarkable book reveals the groundbreaking theories and principles generated by one of the greatest minds in the history of sports science.

To stand a chance to win the book, tell me where the triathlon will take place this weekend in the comment box below.

First come first serve, so hurry up.

Day 29 – Saturday 12 November 2011

November 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

Saturday morning was the dreaded assessment again. First was the heart rate, weight and cholesterol test, followed by the cycling PPO (Peak power outset – or something of the sort), and then the 200m swim.

As far as preparation for assessments go, I think I did everything wrong. I had too much wine and too little sleep the night before, I had a strong cup of coffee (we’re not supposed to have coffee because it affects the resting heart rate), and I didn’t have any breakfast besides a tiny banana.

But despite my poor preparation, the news was mostly encouraging: cholesterol down a notch or two, blood pressure is on the low side, resting heart rate down (which means I’m fitter than before), cycling PPO improved by almost 10% and I knocked a whole 40 seconds of my swimming time. The only thing that worsened was my weight – I’m a whole 500g heavier than before! Honestly I didn’t expect to lose weight, the programme definitely had me eating more, and don’t forget those 10 days in France where I did little more than munch croissants and tarts.

The lady who did my assessment said that very few of the women actually lost any weight, and most stayed the same, or also gained a few grams. I am feeling a lot less wobbly in general and although my weight is the same, I think a lot more of it is muscle than when I started out. So I am satisfied Smile

Tonight (Monday) we’re practicing the transition – that’s the period when you go from swimming to cycling, and then from cycling to running. Apparently it’s very important to know exactly what you’re doing there as you can waste a lot of time, or even get yourself disqualified, if you mess it up. The group actually did some transition training before, but I was away, so this really is a crucial session for me.

The race is on Sunday and I’m getting super excited. Apparently the Western Cape is in for some HOT weather this weekend, and WeatherSA is predicting something like 33’C! Whoohoo! It’s gonna be great in the water, but murder on the run…

Day 28 – Wednesday 9 November 2011

November 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Wednesday was our last group swim before the actual triathlon next Sunday. So to ensure that we can cover the distance (600m) on race day, our coaches had us do 800m without any rest breaks. 800m is a pretty long way to drag yourself through water. 800m is twice around an athletics track and 32 times up and down the 25m pool at the SSISA gym – I counted it!

It’s sure as hell not an easy thing to do, but once I got past the halfway mark and that second wind set in, my arms and legs fell into a comfortable rhythm and I just kept going and going. And going and going and going… 18minutes and 30seconds of non-stop swimming. For me it was somewhat of a feat, and now I’m stoked knowing that I can do the race distance and then some. Bring it on Brandvlei dam! Just please don’t be too cold on the day, because I don’t have a wetsuit!

Tomorrow (Saturday) is our next assessment. Remember we had the run and then the cycling PPO and swim at the beginning of the programme. That’s the one that said that I wasn’t fit at all! Well tomorrow is the cycling and swim sessions and then on Wednesday we do another run at the Rondebosch Common. It will be interesting to compare my new stats with those from the beginning of the programme – geez, I hope they’re better. If it tells me again that I have the fitness level of an untrained person I’m going to… well, I haven’t decided what I’ll do, but it’s not going to be fun.

I can’t believe the programme will be over in a week. Three months, finished, in the blink of an eye. Sure was hard work, but a lot of fun too. Maybe I should sign-up for the next one too… OMW what am I saying?!Cool

Day 27 – Monday 7 November 2011

November 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

The group went for a run in the Newlands forest on Monday evening. Although the first part is mostly uphill (and quite staunch ones at that), the forest beats loops around Newlands stadium any day. A note to all Capetonians: never forget how lucky we are and make use of our wonderful mountain(s) as often as possible – the views never cease to amaze me, and the dopamine-high afterwards is always worth the effort!

It is probably just an excuse, but I felt a bit pooped after my trip. I mean, I am always at the back of the pack, but on Monday I just couldn’t find the energy to even try and keep up Cry But with Coach Kasha cheering me on, I finished the trail, even if it took a little longer than the rest of the group.

The race at Brandvlei Dam in Worcester is next Sunday, and that is all everyone is talking about: wetsuits, transition, race numbers and Spray-n-Cook. Yes, you heard right. Apparently Spray-n-Cook is a wonderful lubricant that helps triathletes slip out of their wetsuits in no time at all. Who knew?!

This week is the last hard push to try and up our fitness levels, and next week, the coaches promise, we will be slowing down, a.k.a. tapering, to get our bodies fresh and strong for the race. Hope the tapering week isn’t like our supposed “rest” weeks, and that there is some actual rest in sight. Holding thumbs to see what the programme for next week looks like, but before then I have some runs, a 1.5k swim, a cycle, and an assessment to go through…

Day 26 – Wednesday 3 November 2011

November 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

Guess who’s back! After 10 days of conferencing and croissants (and no exercise whatsoever) I was back at training on Wednesday night to do the group swim – all 1.8km of it!

I was fearful to go back after not training for nearly two weeks. I was sure that my fitness was all gone and that by now I was so far behind the others that I’ll never catch up. But they all said that they feel dead tired after all the training and that the “rest” probably did me a lot of good. I think they were just being nice.

Coach Lezandre had no intension of easing me back into training, and drilled me just as hard as everybody else. About 20 minutes of warm ups followed by 3 x 200m laps with only 30 seconds rest in between. Then 4 x 100m laps, with only 20 second rest in between. For cool down we had some fun laps with the pool noodles Tongue out

Today, Thursday, we don’t have any group training, but I have to do an hour’s cycle and then 45 minutes of strength training on my own. Friday, thank goodness, is the rest day. And then we’re doing a brick session on Saturday morning at 6.00 – 1h30m cycle, followed by a 30-minute run directly afterwards… What a way to start the weekend…

So glad to be back Wink

Day 25 – Wednesday 19 October 2011

October 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

In store for us on Wednesday were a 30-minute run and a 1.7km swim. The weatherman kept me from my morning run, so I had to fit it in just before the swim – which is not really advisable, because I was positively pooped 5 minutes into the swim.

And boy, what a swim it was. Coach Lezandre was relentless. Sprints, drills and 100m-repeats to name but a few. And to finish us off completely, we had to do a relay race in which each one in the team had to do 4x25m sprints. In my first lap I got a mother of a cramp in my left calve muscle. If I was swimming just for myself I would have stopped right there, but I had team mates waiting for me to finish the lap so I soldiered on through the pain. Even after the cramp subsided the calve stayed sore and I had three more laps to do… at full speed. It was tough!

I’m jetting off to a Lung Health Conference for 10 days and won’t be updating my blog for a while. But between all the training and conferencing I will try to get in a run and hopefully a swim too, to not waste away completely.

I’ll be thinking of my team mates who will be doing a mini triathlon on Sunday. The folks at SSISA is staging an indoor mini event to give the TRI-fit group a taster of what awaits them at Brandvlei Dam in November.

Keep it up guys! Sorry I’m missing out on all the fun Laughing

Day 24 – Monday 17 October 2011

October 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

This is our actual “rest week”, so instead of the normal Monday run AND swim, we only had a group running session in the evening. However, it was a “hills” session, followed by a core-strengthening workout, so it’s not like we actually got any rest in.


We ran from SSISA to Westerford, where we did a couple of laps around the sports field. Next were some sprints up and down the field, and then came the hills. The group moved over to Mount Road where we did three 1-minute sprints up the hill – which was quite flippen tiring!


Then we took an easy run back to SSISA where Coach Kash made us do some core-strengthening exercises: 1-leg bridging; plank; crunches; lunges and 1-leg deadlifts to name but a few.


This is our coaches’ idea of a “rest week”! See what we have to put up with Wink


Tuesday I was supposed to do a 50-minute cycle on my own, but the Cape Town weather put a stop to that idea. And the same for my 30-minute run scheduled for this morning (Wednesday) – it was pouring with rain when I wanted to go for my pre-work run on the Promenade. So this afternoon I’m heading to SSISA a little earlier to do a back-to-back run followed by a 1.7km group swim. No rest for the wicked!Tongue out

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