Slanghoek is one of the races on the local calendar that ALL Cape triathletes look forward to. You need to enter as soon as entries open or you might miss out. Slanghoek is sold out every year.
Usually the road and the MTB tri are held on the same day, but with so many athletes wanting to race and a relatively small dam, it is necessary to start the races in waves.
For the first time, the race organiser, Pieter du Plessis of Iqela Events, decided to hold the MTB tri on the Saturday and the road tri on the Sunday. This would enable some crazies to do both events. Initially I planned to do both, but between Enduroman, an easy week, a hard training week and a hard gun run, I managed to overdo it and with a strained immune system I picked up a bug that kept me from doing any training in the two weeks leading up to Slanghoek.
So I pulled out of the road tri and just hoped that I would be able to compete in the MTB tri. The MTB tri is not quite as popular as the road tri. The roadies clearly haven’t yet seen the light. Offroad racing is around 1073 times more fun than road racing. And more challenging in my books 😉
I was really not feeling confident about racing, but didn’t want to let my main competitors know this. I decided that sitting at home and not racing would be more torturous than actually racing and perhaps not having a good race. So I decided to suck it up and do my best.
Slanghoek is really one of the most gorgeous race venues in the Cape. The swim is 2 x 650m laps and you need to run up and over a grass embankment and dive off a platform between laps. Points are awarded for the best dives.
The women and teams started together. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel, but easily made my way to the front of the field and started pulling away. I do like not having to fight with anyone in the water, but it also means there is no one around to push you. I didn’t exert myself, but extended my lead steadily throughout the swim and had a healthy gap on the next lady at the end of the swim.
I had a quick transition and was onto the bike in no time. The bike route was very different to last years; starting with a fair bit of up and down singletrack. I took around 40km to cover the first 10km of the bike leg! After that there was some nice flat jeep track and some of the men’s teams passed me. It’s always a bit unsettling being in front. You have no idea who is behind you and if they are catching you or not. You just have to ride your own race and hope that what you’re doing is enough and hopefully being smart enough to leave something for the run. It was imperative that I didn’t kill myself on the bike as I was going to struggle through a 10km run on two weeks of illness.
Then it was back into some more up and down, sandy singletrack, some climbing through vineyards, back onto the road and then some really mean and sandy tight switchbacks which I had to run.
I finally got back to transition still lying first lady, but with no clue as to what was happening behind me.
This year the run was 2 x 5km laps which I enjoyed much more than just one big 10km loop. It is really nice, after one lap, to know what you still have left to do and it also means that there are more people around you on the route. The run route is just sand. Sand, sand and more sand. The only thing that changes is the depth of the sand.
I had already started to tire towards the end of the bike leg and I knew that the run was going to be tough. I just had to try and keep a maintainable pace and hope that that would be enough for me to hold on to first place. The sand was incredibly draining and the end couldn’t come soon enough.
I was super relieved to get to the finish. It definitely wasn’t a pretty win, but I got it done with the fastest swim and, very surprisingly, the fastest run as well.
Apart from the awesome trophy made out of a wine barrel, the other souvenir that I took home from the race was a strange cut (from a little fall) in the crook of my arm that ended up getting a bit infected. Fun times.
I seriously hope to convince more roadies to give the MTB tri a go next year!
Thank you to Iqela Events for another fantastic event. Next on their calendar is the Liberty Duo Challenge on 22 November at Blaauwklippen. This is a seriously awesome event. Check it out at their website: http://www.iqela-events.co.za