Athlete vs Analyst

Sitting here post two hip operations I had an epiphany. When you hear what made the light bulb turn on you’re probably going to say well “Duh, Robyn, that was pretty obvious” and in a way it was, but it just wasn’t very real to me.

I read an article about a British badminton player who had represented her country at the London Olympics and won a silver medal. The article told how she now had bills piling up and had to resort to selling her possessions on eBay to make ends meet. The reason for her not being able to earn a living was put down to the fact that her CV listed a Sports Science degree completed in 1998 and “professional badminton player for 10 years”. She had initially done motivational talks, but they had dried up and it appears as though she has no usable skills with which to find a job. She has an MBE, an Olympic medal and is struggling to put food on the table.

Wow, just wow. Eyes opened. And yes, I always “knew” this, but I didn’t KNOW it. Professional sport has always seemed like this amazing ideal. Something to aspire to. And yes, for some athletes it works out – the highly-paid rugby, cricket and soccer players will probably get to retire on the money that they made during their athletic careers. How many people in South Africa might that be? 100, 200 people? I’m guessing. Then for the smaller South African sports like triathlon or athletics how many people might it be? 5 or 10? Doesn’t sound like good odds to me. A sporting career is generally not that long. For rugby players it might be as short as 5 years. For triathletes and other endurance sport athletes it might be a bit longer, let’s say 15 years. So you might find yourself retired at age 25 or 35 and then what? What’s next? And I think that that is the question that gets ignored. And maybe it needs to be ignored if one is to make it as an athlete. I am guessing that one needs to commit whole-heartedly if one is to really make it.

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A few amazing South Africans who have made it in “smaller” sports

For me ignoring that question was never an option. Maybe because I didn’t display the raw talent or maybe because my folks didn’t have the money to send me to race overseas from the age of 15 to gain the required experience. But what my parents (and grandparents) did was ensure that I received the best education, because to them that was what was really important.

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My cousin, Dominique, and her proud parents (she got a degree and the support needed to make it big time while running for the University of Arkansas in the United States)

A bursary helped me through the Western Cape’s best all-girls school. I then received a sport and academic bursary to attend the University of Pretoria and pursue my triathlon career. Sports Science was the degree of choice for most of the student-athletes – most likely because it was what they were interested in and because it allowed them ample time to train. I had other ideas. In my mind Herschel girls were expected to become Engineers, Doctors, Actuaries or Scientists. Playing small or taking the easy road was frowned upon. At least in my head it was. I wanted to study mechanical engineering, but was talked out of that due to the hours that the course required. Instead I settled on mathematical statistics. As if the hours required were any less. I often found myself in class from 07:30 until 17:30, missing scheduled training sessions and then having to study in the evenings as well. But through it all I pursued triathlon and I loved it. I got to race for a team in the BSG Triathlon series, race as an Elite at nationals and even represent my country. I also got a degree. And then an honours degree and then I decided that I still wasn’t ready to face reality and get a job so instead I did my Masters and did triathlon a little longer.

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If pride is a sin then my folks were guilty on this day

Professional sport had never really been an option for me, but it was still the fairy tale, still the dream – no matter the fact that it would never happen. And now I have a full time job and I do triathlon on the side. And I love triathlon, but I suppose I’ve realised that I am also thankful that I have the skills to hold a good job. Because I am now sitting unable to do sport, but still able to earn a living. I can only imagine how stressful an extended injury would be for the professional athlete whose livelihood depends on him being able to train and compete. Plus, I’ll still be able to do my job when I’m 55.

Moral of the story: stay in school kids! Professional sport only works out for a teeny tiny percentage of the population and it would be wise to have something to fall back on. But if you have the financial backing and feel that creating a backup plan based on education/ real world experience is going to detract from your sporting career then by all means take the bull by the horns and go for it. Just try and keep in mind that “professional badminton player for the last 10 years” might not read too well on your CV when you need that job.

 

 

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Last chance saloon

I am now at 5 weeks post hip operation. I am walking a fair bit without crutches, swimming with a pull buoy (no tumble turns or kicking allowed) and able to sit on a stationary bike for 20min. I had a labral repair of the hip (the cartilage surrounding the hip joint had torn), an iliopsoas tendon release (they cut into the tendon to allow it to lengthen a bit) and a herniation pit deroofed (don’t even ask – I almost passed out watching the surgery video). And so began the long road to recovery.

But wait! Hip operation you say? You’ve been complaining about knee pain for the last 2 years? And therein lies the problem. The reason why my injury took so long to properly diagnose was because the pain I was experiencing was in my knee. The knee doctor was contemplating finally operating, but decided to send me to have my hips looked at before going that route. Lo and behold an MRI revealed a labrum tear and tightened psoas tendon. I’m no doctor, but the way I understand it is that the tight tendon was causing my femur to rotate internally which was causing the maltracking of the patella in my knee. No amount of glute strengthening exercises and rehab could get my body to hold my femur in the right position.

People always say that surgery is your last resort and only now do I understand why. It just completely floors you. The fact that I was told that the focus of the first 6 weeks post surgery is just healing and range of motion and only very minor rehab exercises was quite a shock. The first few days after the surgery I was in a fair bit of pain. The iliopsoas muscle is a muscle running down the side of your stomach and attaching near the hip joint. The doctor cut into this tendon and every time I did some movement where my stomach muscles wanted to engage I would experience a searing pain. Try doing a movement without using your stomach muscles!

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Pre-op: Lying in bed reading a book on a Wednesday morning felt like pure bliss

I think most people think that I’ll be racing to get back to full activity and I am constantly warned by well-meaning friends to “take it easy”. The reality is that I will not allow anything to jeopardise a positive outcome of this surgery. I’ve struggled for too long to cut the recovery time short. I have made peace with the fact that my 20min on the stationary bike is not training – it is just getting my leg moving again.

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STOKED just to be outdoors!

Apparently after 6 weeks most of the healing will have happened and I will be able to start doing some proper rehab and a little bit of training. Full healing is supposed to be complete after 3 months. I have never done so much of nothing in my whole life and I am busy watching my muscle waste away. It’s quite scary and depressing.

And on that note, do you know what’s depressing? An athlete who can’t do sport. I am so used to getting endorphins on a daily basis and the withdrawal symptoms have not been pretty. It makes for a rather ratty, unfriendly Robyn. Like an addict I’ve been on a low with no means of getting high. Not to mention that all my mates are out cycling for hours and I am unable to be a part of the activities.

But as “they” say, this too shall pass and I’m already dreaming of the day that I can run and ride pain free. It’s been so long since I was last able to.

Unfortunately I have no nuggets of wisdom to impart on you. No lessons learnt (apart from impatient patience). I listened to my body. I stopped when it told me to. I did my best to get a proper diagnosis and treat the knee accordingly. I went for countless bank-breaking MRIs, arthrograms, physio sessions, doctors appointments, cortisone injections, grucox sessions, shock wave therapy and spent hours diligently doing my rehab. But I am sure I’ll come out of this stronger, albeit slowly.

Anyway. As the aspiring pros say, “Onwards and upwards!”

Joining the 5 Mile Club

Well that’s it – the Cape Mile done and dusted.

This is a story about going into a challenge under-prepared. Or maybe it’s about never underestimating nature.

Now if you know me, you’ll know that I am a lot like my mom in a lot of respects. Nature or nurture I’m not entirely sure, but I am at least slightly OCD and I like to be prepared and in control.

This year my mom convinced me to join her and some friends doing all 5 events offered at the Cape Mile on 19 Feb. It sounded doable. My mom had done it the previous year and had coped just fine. But then again my mom is a machine.

We decided to try and raise money for a good cause: the Philippi Children’s Centre new learn-to-swim pool.

The new pool came about due to two drownings on the farm lands last year. The farmers excavate small dam-like structures, using DPC (black plastic that is slippery when wet) to line the dams. The children go in to cool off and then cannot get out as they cannot swim.

The money raised would go towards learn-to-swim lessons for the children as well as the running costs of the pool. By teaching these children to swim we could literally save lives. Our cause was noble, but unfortunately I soon learnt that trying to raise money is not particularly easy, but nevertheless we gave it a good bash – sharing our story on social media and telling anyone who would listen.

I didn’t start training particularly early, but with about 5 weeks to go I started to put in some serious swimming mileage. Coming from a swimming background, I generally find it quite easy to pick up my swimming (this probably has something to do with 6 – 8 swimming sessions per week from age 8 to 18). I need to thank Stuart Marais for always getting me to Virgin Active to do a session. I hate swimming alone and so really need the help of swimming mates.

Two weeks before the event I joined some of the “5 Mile Club” up at the Silvermine Dam and did 4 x 1 mile with 5 – 10min rest in between each one. It was super chilled. On race day we’d be starting every 45min. That meant around 25min to swim the mile, walk the 300 odd metres back to the start, maybe have a bite of a bar, a sip of Skratch and then line up for the next mile. I thought I was ready.

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Ready? Packing light in comparison to a triathlon

Race day dawned and driving to the event out at the Grabouw Country Club it felt as though we might be blown off Sir Lowry’s Pass. The wind was gale-force. I didn’t think too much about it. It was only when the hooter sounded for the first mile and I started swimming that I realised that the wind had turned the dam into what seemed more like the sea. An angry sea at that.

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Before the fun began – in our snazzy matching TYR cozzies

The first 650m or so was directly into the wind, which was kicking up waves such that whenever I tried to sight for the first turn buoy I would either just see a wall of water, get a face full of water or 1 time out of 10 attempts I’d actually be able to see ahead. The waves were short and fast which meant that I had to adapt my stroke as I tried to roll with the water instead of fight it. It really was a challenge getting to that first turn buoy. By then I’d already swallowed copious amounts of water and was almost feeling sea-sick. Then it was 100m swimming almost parallel to the waves before turning for the final 800m back to shore. You’d think that having the wind behind us now would make it easy, but instead of pushing us the waves just seemed to wash over us, also creating a bit of a suck and push feeling. I was quite relieved when the finish arch was in sight and I could put my feet down! One down, four to go.

My mom was quite rattled after the first mile and was almost adamant that she’d had enough already, but I knew that she’d put on her big girl pants and continue. Of course she would.

Number 2 was just as tough and by the time I started number 3 I was feeling pretty drained already. This was not how I’d expected it to go down. I was upset with myself that I wasn’t coping better. I always like to be so prepared and well-trained that when the actual event comes it’s almost a breeze.

To give you an idea of how tough the conditions were, I’ve been holding 1:20/1:21 in my hundred repeats and about 1:23/24 in my longer sets. Obviously this was in the pool and with tumble turns. Now I was swimming around 1:36/1:37 per hundred. Eish.

My hip flexors started hurting quite a bit during the third one and I was getting progressively slower, even if it was just by 20-25sec per mile.

I gritted my teeth. Tried to ignore the pain in my hips. 4 down. Just one left. And suddenly the wind died down a bit. The fifth mile was the easiest and I clocked my fastest split of the day!

Exhausted euphoria! At the end all the 5 Mile Club swimmers waited for each other just under the finish arc, hugging and high-fiving. We’d done it. Some slower than others, but we all suffered through our own issues and hiccups on the day to finish rather triumphantly!

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The 5 Mile Club

I was a bit disappointed with how I’d coped. I felt like it should have been easier. But then again, I set high standards for myself. And I can’t control the weather. It was probably good for me to suffer a bit, to remember that one can only control the controllables and that nature can be a tough opponent.

Really looking forward to my Cryotheraphy session later this afternoon. Don’t know what this is? How does going into a chamber that’s -120 degrees Celsius sound? It’s really not that bad and it really helps with a myriad of medical conditions, recovery and acute injuries. I’ve been using it for recovery and to help with the dodgy tendon in my knee.

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Stu and I after our Cryo session

The Cape Mile has grown tremendously in just the 3 years that it has been around. From a small event they now need to split up age categories to accommodate all the swimmers. A big thank you to the Sillwater Sports team for accommodating those of us crazies wanting to do all 5 miles and also for putting on such a well organised event. We know you can’t control the weather. Unfortunately.

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It was very special doing this with my mom – she managed to come 2nd in her age group in the process of swimming all 5 miles!

I also need to thank Karen Graaff for all her organisation, TYR South Africa for helping out the 5 Mile Club with some gorgeous cozzies, Virgin Active for the best training facilities and Skratch (Puremotion Sports) for fueling my adventures.

If you’d like to donate to the cause that we swam for you still can. Just a little bit could save a life.

https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/5-x-cape-miles-to-teach-children-to-swim

 

 

 

Oh the places you’ll go (on the CycleOps PowerSync)!

It was a long, dark, wet winter in Stellenbosch, but I made it through without too much serious damage to my waistline and I’ve regained my motivation mojo!

The reason for my sudden increase in motivation is that I realised that Double Century is just around the corner. This is a 202km 12 person team race and it ranks very highly on my list of favourite events. Only 6 of the 12 riders need to finish together and it is not nice being the nail for 202km. I’d much rather be the hammer.

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That’s me on the pumpkin coloured bike at last year’s DC with my amazing Velocity Ladies team

So with this new motivation and it still being August and wet and dark in Stellenbosch I twisted Bicycle Power Trading’s (BPT) proverbial arm and got them to send down a piece of equipment that I’ve been dying to try – the CycleOps PowerSync.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that they enjoy cycling on an indoor trainer (IDT). In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard a luke-warm response to the suggestion. Most people hate it. And let’s be frank – who enjoys sitting in their living room, going nowhere and sweating up a storm? Minutes pass by like hours as the sweat pours off you like a river. Add to the fact that I don’t own a TV and you’ve got yourself a real fine time ahead when you need to do an indoor training set.

I much prefer doing my training on the road and when my coach suggests an IDT session I normally do everything in my power to make the same session work outside. But sometimes it is just not practical due to the weather, time restraints or lack of proper male cycling partners to act as crime deterrents. Deep down I know how beneficial an IDT session is – there’s no stopping at robots, no cars, no wet, dangerous roads and no freewheeling – but to get me to do one is just torturous.

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As you can see, my pain cave is very bare

So when I realised that I needed to get my ass into gear and get training properly I first called my coach and put him on the payroll again and secondly, I wrangled a demo PowerSync from BPT.

So why did I want this piece of equipment? My training time is severely hampered now that I am doing this 8-5 thing and I need to make sure that every minute that I spend training is quality – so using an IDT makes a lot of sense to me. But the boredom! And that’s why the PowerSync is just so cool. It is Bluetooth enabled which allows it to connect to a laptop, tablet or phone and from there it is controlled by an application called Virtual Training.

The advertising blurb (cos they just sum it up best): No matter the time, weather or traffic, CycleOps’ virtual bike training app lets you get out and ride—even when you can’t get out. So you can reap the benefits of a full workout paired with the excitement of riding a virtual bike trainer along real routes all over the world as the app tracks your training data.

Virtual Training costs $6.99 (+/- R100 at the moment) per month or $69.99 per year to buy a subscription for your tablet or phone. You can then download and ride any route that has been created by users. Many of the routes also have video which is super awesome and engrossing as you can meander through French countryside or take the scenic route from Somerset West to Hermanus!  The trainer is controlled by the app so as you hit a hill, you’ll feel it and need to gear down appropriately.

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I’ve been to Italy, France and Gordon’s Bay without leaving my living room. I also now lie on the Strava leaderboards of the segments that I rode while there. Seriously! How cool is that?

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Where shall I go today?

But that isn’t the only feature of the PowerSync – it also allows you to race your friends. So if your mates also use Virtual Training then you can set up a race and show them who’s boss.

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You actually don’t even need to be in the same country as your friend to set up a race 

One of the features that I really liked was the ability to set up my own sessions, such as 8 x 5min threshold or 7 x 10min tempo. You can set the watts, the trainer controls the resistance and boom – perfect sessions.

Then on the other stuff – it’s super easy to set up. Being a demo unit that was sent to me the instructions had gotten lost (I think BPT did this deliberately to test me  😉 ), but using just a little bit of sense and a spanner I was able to put the trainer together in no time as well as set up a Virtual Training account and there you have it – ready to ride!

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Where the magic happens

The trainer is also very quiet. Living in a block of flats I was quite nervous of waking up my neighbours at 5:30 in the morning, but when I asked them they said they knew nothing of my early morning activities!

The PowerSync is also compatible with 3rd party applications such as Zwift and TrainerRoad. If you’re looking to revolutionize your training and make the most of your time then I could not recommend the CycleOps PowerSync more highly!

Oh, and I quickly finished writing this review (it was sitting in drafts) because Bicycle Power Trading are now running the most insane special on this very special trainer – it’s now just R8 495.00! A seriously amazing deal!

DC – I’m coming for you!

Trail bike love – Specialized Rhyme Expert

When it comes to mountain biking I can hold my own, but I will be the first to admit that I am not the greatest on the technical MTB stuff and I’ve always wanted to know what a trail bike has to offer someone like me. Would it suddenly improve my technical skills? Help me conquer my fears? Make me feel more confident? Well I finally got to try the Specialized Rhyme FSR Expert compliments of Specialized Bicycles South Africa and I’ve come to my own conclusions.

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First the basics: The Rhyme is a women’s specific trail bike with 650b fun-sized wheels. I had been expecting the bike to be heavy, but was super surprised to find that it wasn’t at all. I didn’t weigh it, but it didn’t feel much heavier than my Era. And I was pretty happy taking it up to Saaltjie in Jonkers. The tires are pretty chunky as it comes standard with the Specialized Butcher (front) and Specialized Purgatory (rear). So I’m pretty sure that the rolling resistance was more than I’m used to, but I can’t say I really noticed it and I kept up just fine on all the group rides that I did on it. And on the plus side, the beefy tires provide so much traction and confidence.

The fork has 150mm of travel which is heaps when you’re used to riding 100mm. I would just lock the fork out when I was climbing – the trick was to remember to open it again for the descent!

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Proof I took it to the top of Jonkershoek

I don’t think I’ve ever had such fun on a bike! So. Much. Fun! It just floats over rocks and roots and braking bumps (of which Jonkershoek has many). I was less inclined to brake as much as I usually do and was definitely quite a bit faster (Strava told me so). I got to the end of each section of single track and could not wipe the smile off my face. Like grinning. From ear to ear. The dropper seat post also helped a great deal as it allowed me to move around the bike a lot more than I usually do.

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Trail bike love #girlswhoride. Photo: Johan Badenhorst

Now I can’t say that it made me a better rider. If I got scared, I’d still uncleat at a section I thought was dodgy. But I do feel that given more time on a trail bike I would have loved to go and sort out those sections that are problematic for me as I gained a lot of confidence on the bike.

If I had to buy my own bike then it would be a seriously tough call between the Era and a trail bike like this. If I had to just ride for the love of it (not compete) then the Rhyme is the bike that I would want to have. Or if I was a billionaire and owned as many bikes as my heart desired then a trail bike would be in my arsenal. Without a doubt. It is the most fun bike I’ve ever ridden.

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Photo: Rae True-Brown

I really struggled to return the bike and it had to be prised out of my smutty hands with much unhappiness.

I think there is a lot of scope for trail bikes in South Africa and they just look so good when matched with baggies 🙂 The Specialized Rumor is a great trail bike option for the ladies and the Camber or Stumpjumper FSR are rad men’s trail bikes.

Head to your closest Specialized dealer to arrange a test ride. You won’t regret it. Or maybe you will – because it will make you want one 🙂

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Rhymes and Rumors – How rad is the new Specialized ladies trail apparel???                                  Photo: Johan Badenhorst

 

 

 

Weekends to look forward to – the Cell C Arabella MTB Challenge

So the World Triathlon Cape Town race, which happened this past weekend, marks 2 years since I started this blog. It began as a means of documenting what would be a very unique experience as I “went pro” for three weeks.

I was given three weeks notice that I had gotten a start slot for this prestigious race and I stopped all my studies for that short period of time and got myself into the best shape that I could. I dove into the icy waters of the Waterfront alongside my heroes and will forever have some pretty rad memories and pics to document the event.

Fast forward two years and my knees are too much of a mess for me to run. I decided I didn’t want to be around tri folk all weekend having to explain why I couldn’t race.

Instead the inaugural Cell C Arabella MTB Challenge jumped at me! Two days in a beautiful part of the world doing what I love with like-minded people. I was sold!

I begged and pleaded to get off work a bit early to allow Ila and me to drive out to our accommodation in Hermanus on the Friday, but a monsoon arrived and we decided that it would be wiser to drive through the next day.

An early alarm, some peanut butter and banana toast forced down and we were on our way. Despite the darkness of the autumn morning we could tell that the weather was going to be beautiful.

Day 1 was 52km with around 1200m of climbing that would take us from Arabella to Wildekrans Wine Estate. The route was not particularly technical apart from some rutted and washed away descents and we were seriously thankful for the huge amount of water that had fallen the night before which helped to compact the many sandy patches.

Day 1

I have really been struggling with my knees and at around half way my left knee started to hurt. I got slower as it got worse. I am used to pushing through the pain that comes from pushing your body faster and harder, but injury pain seems to be a different story. I eventually dragged my sorry, sore ass across the finish line in 10th place.

We had our bikes washed and stored them in the bike park at Wildekrans before being bused back to Arabella for the most amazing lunch spread at the pool. Ila and I decided to pack up early and head through to Hermanus for a nap before our friends, Lara and Maria, arrived.

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Ila and Marianne taking their post-race stretching/ yoga very seriously

We spent the evening having drinks in town (milkshakes for the racers and wine for the non-racers) and making homemade pizzas with dough from Gino’s. Perfect between stage food! 🙂

The following day was another early alarm. Today’s stage would take us from Wildekrans to Arabella over 42km – much of it singletrack. After popping a myprodol (or two) I was keen to race again. I always say that one should never underestimate a MTB race. 42km can be deceptively hard, with lots of ups and downs. This proved to be the case. I was quite motivated to try and make up for the previous day’s ride and was quite happy with how I maintained focus for the whole stage – I had really struggled in the final 10km the day before so I made sure to stop and throw back some Coke with the last of my Skratch Labs at the last waterpoint.

I crossed the line in 10th place again as I was surprised to be pipped at the line by a fast-charging motivated woman! Love the aggression and competition!

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GC results

Again, I am just seriously annoyed at my technical skills (or lack thereof) which I feel hold me back so much. It’s an irrational fear and I haven’t yet learnt how to conquer it. But I’ll keep on working at getting better.

Another lovely poolside lunch was followed by prize giving – we had to wait because Ila had come 4th overall and 1st senior lady. So in awe of how much she has improved on a bike since I met her last August as well as her mad tech skills!

The race was incredibly well put-together and applause must go to the Stillwater team who, without fail, put on arguable the best sports events in the country – maybe even the world! The tricky logistics of two venues were nailed-down, the food was amazing and most importantly the MTBing was fun and the race was a vibe!

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Had such a rad time with an awesome bunch of girls

We dashed back to Stellies, I flew through a shower and then Maria and I were off to Cape Town to watch the elite men’s triathlon. The mad rush was worth it as it was amazing to watch the best triathletes in the world battle it out through the Waterfront.

Dinner with the family in Rondebosch and then back in Stellies by 22:00. So much for a relaxing weekend – what is that even?

At work at 7:30 the next day and it begins again.

I think it might finally be time to give some serious attention and rest to these poor knees of mine. I’ve been fighting it for so long and I can’t really stomach the thought of a proper break. What does one do if one can’t train? What do normal people do? I hope I never have to find out.

A massive thanks to everyone who enables me to do what I love – Specialized Bicycles for my lovely, capable Era Expert and the best kit and gear in the business; Bicycle Power Trading for the PowerTap that enables me to do the specific training that I need to when pushed for time; Skratch Labs for the no-nonsense nutrition that goes down a treat; Virgin Active for their amazing training facilities; TYR for the best wetsuits and swim gear and  G-Form protective gear for keeping my skin intact.

 

 

 

 

#WorkingClass

Wow. Just wow. What a crazy few weeks it has been! I actually don’t even know where to start.

I started my first PROPER 8-5 as a quantitative analyst for a company called RiskCafé that does risk valuations for the hedge fund industry. They are based in Joburg, but have just opened an office in Stellenbosch (seriously, could they have chosen a better location?). While it is a great job that I am very grateful for, I miss my old (flexible) life SO much. These hours are seriously restricting my training. Okay I’ll be honest, very little training has happened since I started working, but I can’t blame work entirely.

I have just completed 3 weeks of antibiotics – firstly for a chronic sinus infection and then for an ear infection which I developed while on the first course of antibiotics (I personally think this is quite impressive). I have a knee injury, cracked a tooth and needed a crown, have had to find new accommodation at very short notice (thanks Steve for taking me in) and had to have a CT scan of my sinuses. So my first few weeks of work were packed with doctors, dentists, ENT and physio appointments – all quite draining on one’s first salary!

Throw in a work trip to Joburg and 2 Xterras and I’ve had myself quite an eventful and stressful few weeks. A huge thanks to my family and friends for putting up with miserable Robyn and helping me through this relatively rough period of adjustment! The no training thing has also been getting me down. I’ve realised that it a serious endorphin releaser and stress-management tool!

I was in Joburg for a few days for work at the end of January and decided that there was no way that I could be up there and miss out on Fedhealth Xterra Buffelspoort. So of course I flew with my bike, cycling shoes and high heels, dragged the whole load through airports, onto the Gautrain and across Joburg all because I didn’t want to suffer from FOMO.

The 12.something km run marked my longest run since June last year (!! – yes, this knee injury has plagued me since then). But, Russell Looms from EPT strapped my knee up and off I went. And I managed to finish. Which was the goal. I will say that I really struggled on the run – again not being able to breathe and getting incredibly sleepy (I’ve seen a physician and ENT about this issue. Next up is a pulmonologist at the end of the month).

 

Okay this pic was actually from the Cape Mile last weekend, but let’s pretend it was from Buffelspoort – Love my TYR Torque swim skin!

Did I mention that I really wanted to finish because those hardy few who do all three Stillwater-organised Fedhealth Xterras are going into a draw to win a trip to world champs in Maui? I’ve qualified for worlds 3 years in a row now and have never been able to afford to go. Yes I want my name in that hat!

The following weekend I flew to PE for the inaugural Mandela Bay Xterra. Stillwater had set out an interesting urban jungle route that included man-made obstacles, beach sand, train tracks and singletracks. A sea swim was a first for a South African Xterra event and made for an interesting 2 lap swim with a long run back to the start in between laps.

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I think red is my colour. Photo credit: Matthew Daneel

I was absolutely drained and just had no vooma for the demanding sea swim. In retrospect I don’t think I should have been too surprised as the hectic weeks must certainly have taken their toll. On the plus side my breathing on the run was better! I finished 8th which was an improvement on Buffelspoort.

Stillwater really do organise the best events. The lap format run in Happy Valley was fantastic with a great water point, music and cheering at the turn around. I didn’t even mind trudging through the sand as the Fedhealth cheerleaders were there shouting me on.

 Quick little story – during the race I fell off a bridge and into a river on the bike route (please don’t ask how I managed this). By the time I had dragged myself and my bike back onto the course I realised that I had lost my Joule GPS+ in the fall. I spent the rest of the race stressing about how I was going to tell Bicycle Power Trading that I had lost my beloved device. After the race I did tell them, but they were more concerned about me after my dumb fall. Even though I thought it was a lost cause, I couldn’t not go looking for it, so after prize giving I tried to make my way back along the course to find the bridge where I had fallen. Of course they had already taken down the route markings. Luckily Matt has a better sense of direction than I and was able to get us to the right spot where we found the Joule where it had been floating in the reeds for the past 6 hours. And it still works! Hardy little thing!


I flew home on Sunday morning at 8:30, my dad picked me up at the airport at 10:00 and we went straight through to Stellenbosch to move me to a new place. Back at work at 7:30 the next morning. Fun times.

I do not for a second regret having studied for a full 7 years. In retrospect I should have gone on to do my PhD just to avoid working for a bit longer. This work thing is tough right now and I have a new respect for those who “balance” work, training, family and everything else. Not sure what exactly “balance” means just yet, but I’ll continue on my quest to achieve it.

I really must say a huge thank you to the people who make my crazy lifestyle possible – I could not do without my family and friends and some awesome sponsors. I am thrilled to be riding the ladies-specific Era Expert this year. Huge thanks to the Specialized family for backing me again!

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Isn’t she lovely?

Bicycle Power Trading, Virgin Active, Skratch Labs nutrition, TYR, Enduro Hub, G-Form and Syntace – you guys rock!

Things fall apart #gutted

This is not how things were supposed to end.
I haven’t run in 6 weeks due to a knee injury. I’ve done my best to sort it out. I’ve spent so much time in the gym doing rehab that all the Virgin Active receptionists know me by name. I have exhausted myself in my quest to make it come right, but after an absolutely excruciatingly painful attempt at a run this past Sunday I am resigned to the fact that my first attempt at a half Ironman is in tatters.
I am absolutely gutted. I invested so much training, time, planning, thought and energy into this race and the thought that it is coming to nothing kills me. Apparently I’ll see the bigger picture at some point in the future, but right now I am quite upset.

icing
I am still going to go to Durban. I’ll do the swim and the bike and I’ll try and gain some experience for when I do get another go at this. And I’ll try and run. I can’t not try. My coach is not particularly happy about this. It’ll be a toss up between doing serious damage and damaging my ego. I’ve never not finished a race.
A huge thanks to my wonderful family and friends for their support, as well as to my amazing sponsors who have been unbelievable in coming to the party. I am still going to take the Shiv for a spin around Durban!

A Body Geometry Fit – the best thing you can do for your cycling

I had the supreme privilege of having a full-on Body Geometry Fit on the Specialized Shiv that I am getting to use at Durban 70.3. I am so ridiculously stoked about getting to ride this fast bike and I just hope that I can do it justice!

The BG Fit was nothing like anything I’ve experienced before. It was an incredibly thorough process and I left feeling that no stone had been left unturned in the process of optimising my comfort on what could be a very uncomfortable bike to ride.

And I was pretty nervous about trying out the TT bike. I once borrowed my mom’s one for a race. I just used it for the week before the race and was just so uncomfortable that I couldn’t produce any power in the race. Neither could I run off the bike after being in such an uncomfortable position that I wasn’t used to.

The BG Fit is designed to make your bike and gear fit you, not the other way around. The aim is to optimise comfort, endurance and power on the bike. This is done in a few steps.

Peet le Roux, a professional Body Geometry fitter, did the fit at the Revolution Cycles BG Fit studio in Cape Town. He started off by asking questions about my cycling background, my goals, previous injuries and any discomfort that I currently feel while cycling.

Roby Williams BG Fit Revolution-49
How gorgeous is the Shiv? Pretty in pink

This was followed by a physical assessment that checked my flexibility, leg length discrepancy, spinal curve, knee position, feet arches, the strength of various muscles, range of movement in my neck and shoulders and various other things.

Roby Williams BG Fit Revolution-24
This angle will partly determine how aggressive my TT position can be without causing fatigue or discomfort
Roby Williams BG Fit Revolution-25
Not so good at the one legged stuff

Next Peet checked the width of my sit bones to determine what saddle width I should be riding.

Roby Williams BG Fit Revolution-7

The Ass-o-meter recommends a 155 width for me
The Ass-o-meter recommends a 155 width for me 😉
Roby Williams BG Fit Revolution-12
We then checked my feet aches to determine what insoles would be best – I have high arches
We tried different options just to be sure
We tried different options just to be sure which would be best

My knees are very sensitive to cleat position. Peet used various observations to set up the cleats initally and then we fine-tuned them once on the bike.

Roby Williams BG Fit Revolution-52

Finally it was time to actually get on the bike. Again, all sorts of angles were checked and rechecked, but the most important thing was how the adjustments felt.

Roby Williams BG Fit Revolution-36

We tried different saddles, which then altered saddle height and angle.

My favourite road bike saddle - the Power saddle
My favourite road bike saddle – the Power saddle

Peet explained each part of the process with the goal being to make me comfortable. Even a little bit of stress on the body over a 90km TT can cause serious fatigue.

Roby Williams BG Fit Revolution-28

Roby Williams BG Fit Revolution-34
#aeroiseverything – well in this case comfort is everything because I am such a novice on a TT bike

And the end result:

Happiness
Happiness

Now I need to spend quite a bit of time getting used to riding in this position. I’ve been doing some solid tempo rides on my road bike so it is going to be interesting to see if I can attain the same power in this new position. It may take a little while, but I am super confident that this is the best fit that I am going to attain!

Thanks to Johan Badenhorst and Specialized Bicycles Africa for the photos.

TORQ Nutrition

In an industry full of purple and blue coloured drinks that are full of all sorts of heaven knows what I was looking for something more natural.  I am becoming increasingly aware of what I put in my body and have made a conscious effort to try and reduce the amount of processed nonsense full of preservatives that I consume.

Cue TORQ nutrition. It just landed from the UK and it is something that I am very excited about. I was drawn to it instinctively because they use natural flavours and it contains no colours, preservatives or artificial sweeteners. TORQ also provides detailed peer-previewed evidence for their unique blend of carbohydrates, something which I haven’t come across before.

Torq3

Oh, and did I mention that the Topeak-Ergon professional MTB team and Sally Bigham used TORQ at the Cape Epic?

TORQ offer a wide range of products and a huge assortment of awesome flavours. If you don’t like the apple crumble gel then why not try the banoffee flavour? Bars, gels, energy and recovery drink – they’ve got you covered for however you prefer to take in your calories during training and racing.

TORQ have also made it very easy to work out and stick to a fueling strategy. One TORQ unit is equal to 30g of carbohydrate – or 1 gel or 500ml drink or 1 bar. Your carbohydrate intake should be between 60g and 90g carbs per hour and as such, TORQ recommend consuming 2 – 3 TORQ units per hour. It is suggested that you start with 2 TORQ units per hour and experiment with a third. I like the way they think because it makes it easier for me not to think while out training or racing. The maths is simple. Just do it.

TORQ gels

The best thing about TORQ gels is that they don’t taste like energy gels. They are absolutely delicious and there wasn’t one flavour that I tried that I didn’t like (and I tried all the flavours). The texture is light and easy to get down while racing hard – I actually looked forward to taking my gel at AfricanX (there’s a first for everything!). They contain electrolytes and a 2:1 combination of maltodextrin and fructose for increased energy uptake. Two of the gels also contain 89mg of natural caffeine which comes from natural guarana. I am a big fan of caffeine during racing and loved these! Flavours include:

  • Strawberry Yoghurt
  • Rhubarb & Custard
  • Raspberry Ripple
  • Apple Crumble
  • Forest Fruits (with Guarana)
  • Banoffee (with Guarana)

Torqgelgcomp

I took a TORQ gel 10km in to Two Oceans Half, finished strong and ran a PB on the course by 3min. It is hard to attribute a good performance to any one thing, but I was definitely happy with the amount of energy it provided and how easy it was to consume when my heart rate was sitting at around 187.

TORQ bars

The TORQ bars are moist and chewy and are packed with fruit and oats. It doesn’t feel as though you’re chewing on plastic, but rather eating real foods. They provide a mix of simple and complex carbs for instant and sustained energy and contain less than 1g of fat The flavours available are: pineapple & ginger, raspberry & apple, tango apricot and organic mango. My mouth is watering just writing this!

One of these bars taken halfway through a long ride sustained me long past when my riding partners started looking for an emergency Coke stop.

Torq bars

TORQ performance energy drink

I can not handle sports drinks that are too sweet and changing the recommended mixture to reduce the sweetness is definitely not the way to go. I really liked the lightly flavoured and refreshing sports drink. They definitely tasted naturally flavoured to me. The flavours available are: lemon & lime, pink grapefruit, orange and vanilla pod. In particular I liked the pink grapefruit flavour, but wasn’t wild about the vanilla pod flavour, although I am sure that this will appeal to some athletes.

It delivers TORQ’s unique blend of carbohydrates and 5 electrolytes.

The nitty gritty:

Typical Nutritionals (All Flavours) in 500ml (1 TORQ Unit):
Energy (kJ/Kcal): 500/120
Protein (g): 0
Carbohydrate (g): 30
Sugars (g): 10
Fat (g): 0
Fibre (g): 0
Electrolytes:
Chloride (mg): 470
Sodium (mg): 275
Potassium (mg): 65
Calcium (mg): 25
Magnesium (mg): 6
Everything you need in an energy drink and nothing you don’t! I never experienced energy slumps while using TORQ energy and I enjoyed drinking it which is very important to me or else I just won’t drink.
Torq drink
And finally for dessert:
TORQ recovery
I could definitely consume too much of this product as it is absolutely delicious, but I limited myself to using it only after extreme sessions and races. I tried the cookies & cream flavour, but it is also available in banana & mango and chocolate mint.
There is not a single ingredient in TORQ recovery that isn’t derived from a natural source, or doesn’t occur naturally within the body. Glucose polymers, fructose and whey protein isolate stimulate the rapid absorption of carbohydrate to re-stock glycogen stores. The active ingrediants are D-Ribose, L-Glutamine and a blend of vitamins and minerals that work to repair muscles.
I used TORQ recovery after each stage of AfricanX. While I was always going to feel pretty buggered after around 34kms of trail running each day (where my longest trail was 20km prior to the race), I did feel as though the product gave me that extra little bit that I needed to get myself to the start line the next day.
Torq recover

If you’re looking for great-tasting, no-nonsense, scientifically formulated sports nutrition then you’re looking at TORQ.

It gets a big thumbs up from me!

For now you can order online at: http://www.torqfitness.co.za and soon you’ll be able to find the products at your local bike shop.

Follow my journey as I prepare to race the biggest race of my life