Category Archives: Offroad triathlon

#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 RiskCafรฉ 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.

ย 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!

Mad, muddy fun at Woolies Tri

Last year I got chatting to an old friend Francois-Jacques Malan of Simonsig Winery. He kindly agreed to have me race for Simonsig at the 5th annual Woolworths Trust Charity triathlon. I won the race and so enjoyed it that there was no way I was going to miss it this year! Again, I had the privilege of racing for Simonsig.

The race is held at the Paul Cluver estate in Grabouw and if you’ve ever done Wines2Whales or ridden in the area you’ll know what fantastic MTB trails they have on the property.

Word got around that the recently crowned World Xterra Champion, Flora Duffy, would be racing. This meant that everyone else would be racing for second place.

The weather forecast for race day was looking pretty gloomy with lots of rain predicted the afternoon before the race and showers on the day. This was in holding with tradition as last year the race was scheduled to take place the weekend that the Cape flooded in November and Woolies had had to postpone their event.

The morning of the race was pretty dreary and I drove out to Grabouw in some heavy showers. The air was icy cold and it was reported on the radio that there was snow on the mountains somewhere. You could feel it.

I got absolutely drenched getting my bike down to transition, but luckily it stopped raining for long enough to allow us to set up in transition and warm up.

I was ready to race at 8:00. Unfortunately there was lots of traffic making its way along the narrow dirt road leading to the race and the start was delayed by about 30min. The water was 18.5 degrees and the air temperature was just 10 degrees. I did my warm up for an 8am start and then I started to get really cold.

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I always think there is almost no point in racing unless Chris Hitchcock is there to capture it

I am never able to start as fast as the guys and they always sprint off, leaving me to fight my way forward again. The swim was short – only 800m. This didn’t allow me much opportunity to make time on the other girls, but I had a fast transition and left on the bike leg just behind Flora.

The bike route was super fun and muddy, with more singletrack than any other offroad tri I’ve done. I was feeling strong and seeing some good power numbers on my PowerTap Joule. Definitely impressed with how my coach had enabled me to get to the race feeling strong even in the middle of some very tiring training for DC.

There was absolutely no point in not embracing the mud! I had so much fun!
There was absolutely no point in not embracing the mud! I had so much fun!

I took a bit of a tumble down an incredibly muddy, slippery switchback. After that my whole right side was just brown with mud. There were some rain showers on the bike. Try cycling in a wet trisuit when it’s cold and raining. Chillos!

1025364_10152510041898963_9194193727938248388_oI almost forgot to take my gel, but managed to get it down just before taking my feet out of my shoes. I was stoked to get off the bike ahead of my biggest competition (after Flora) who I knew was super strong on the bike. If I had my running legs I thought I could hold on for 2nd.

The run was slish-sloshing through very slippery mud that was made worse by lots of bikes and runners having churned it up further. My legs felt good on the run, but I was still running scared. Katharine Wilson had also just returned from Xterra Worlds and was in good shape.

We ran some nice hills and then hit the most amazing, flowing singletrack. I was loving every second of the race and grinning like a Cheshire cat as I jumped puddles and navigated switchbacks. I don’t think I could ever say the same thing about a road triathlon. Having such fun definitely takes away from the pain of racing!

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I hand washed my trisuit after the race. The amount of mud that came out was amazing!

I finished strongly and was super happy with how the race had gone and how I had performed. Unfortunately I then heard that Flora had gone wrong on the bike and the run and hadn’t finished officially. So I ended up winning the race, although under the circumstances I would have preferred to come second to a world champion.

I would go so far as to say that this is the best offroad tri of the season. The only not so fun thing was having to clean my bike and dirty kit once I got home. I don’t think that my bike will ever be the same again…

Woolies also put together the best prizes. This year I won a very appropriate and extremely comprehensive Mediclinic first aid kit. Most of you will know what an #uberklutz I am. Between my G-Form knee pads and my new first aid kit I should now be able to sort out any damage I inflict on myself ๐Ÿ™‚

Not often that one gets to celebrate a win with some Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel. Now that's winning in my books!
Not often that one gets to celebrate a win some Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel. Now that’s winning in my books!

The following day I did my final long ride in preparation for DC. My legs were a bit dented and it was a loooong 5hrs with lots of climbing, but was made easier by some good company and finished off with some great coffee at Ride In Cafe.

Now it will be a bit of a chilled week before heading to Swellendam on Friday with my Velocity Sports Lab Ladies team for 202km of fun on Saturday morning.

Huge thanks to Simonsig for having me race for them! And to Woolies for such a great event – best route and goodie bags ever! Over 2 million was raised for charity!

And a final thank you to my awesome sponsors: EnduroHub, Bicycle Power Trading, Virgin Active, 32Gi and G-Form. It is a privilege to represent such great brands.

 

Robyn races TriRock Robben Island

Please excuse me, but how often does one get to do a triathlon on an island named after you? Sorry, I mean an island with the same name as you.

Robben Island is the island, 7km away from Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27 year prison sentence, and, as such, forms an important part of South African history.

At the last minute I got an entry for TriRock Robben Island. A once in a lifetime opportunity to race on this iconic island in the only sporting event that takes place on the island.

A triathlon on an island makes logistics incredibly complicated for the organisers – everything necessary to hold the race needs to be transported to the island by ferry. The trip takes one hour.

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The afternoon before the race athletes had to drop their bikes at the waterfront. They would be transported to the island that evening and unloaded into transition area.

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The ferry left the dock for Robben Island at 6:15 promptly the next morning. An hour long ferry trip would be a bit too long for those who suffered from seasickness, but thankfully I was able to hold on to my breakfast and enjoy the views as we left Cape Town.

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Arriving on Robben Island, we had to find our bikes which were already on the racks, set up our transition area, get body marked and into our wetsuits all in a fairly short amount of time.

RobbenIsland2The water in the harbour was a fresh 16 degrees. A bit chilly to get in to, but lovely once you got swimming. It was a 2 x 400m swim course. As per usual the guys sprinted out, but by around the 200m mark I was where I wanted to be – clear water ahead of me.

RI5Apparently the spectators were quite shocked that a girl lead out the water, but it seems that I’ve done this so often that I can do it with my eyes closed.

RobbenIsland4Bounding to my transition area.

RI8The bike leg was a mix of thick sandy sections and old dirt roads with amazing views like these!

RobbenIsland1I knew that I was on the island for reasons more than just a race and as strange as it sounds, on the bike leg I tried to reflect on all that had happened on the island, the unjustice and what it represented in our country’s history.

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I rode hard and managed to finish the bike leg uneventfully, although others were not so lucky and fell victim to the many many devil thorns of the island. This is not a race for tubes!

RI6Thank you to BMT bike shop and the songo.info guys and girls who were in charge of the marshaling. Top effort and great refreshment provided on route, although I didn’t stop for any ๐Ÿ™‚

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The run was 2km out, then 2 x 2km loops and 2km back to the finish. It was fun to win on the island!

RobbenIsland8The very novel medals

After the race we had the opportunity to be taken on a tour of the prison by a former prisoner.

RI7The awesome Western Province race referees. No triathlons would happen without them. And I think that red suits them.

RI2And then it was back to the main land. We picked the faster ferry the second time around.

TriRock Robben Island was a fantastic event and an absolute must for all those who have never been to the island! Huge thanks to the organisers for having me to race and for a very novel triathlon experience!

All photo credits to Chris Hitchcock and Dylan Haskin

Enduroman. And the best pulled pork burgers ever

Enduroman. By far the toughest race I have ever done. In the event I did my longest ever MTB and trail run. Needless to say that although I prepared as best I could I was not quite ready for the distance. But that’s okay. It’s good to get chucked out of one’s comfort zone now and then. I am super keen to go back next year and give it a better bash!

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In June when I signed up for the race it sounded faaaaar away on the 27th of September, but the time flew and before I knew it I was having to taper. I thought that it would be a good challenge and a way of keeping me motivated through a long, wet Cape winter. My longest race up until this point was Xterra Grabouw which was a far cry from what I would now attempt and I was properly daunted to tackle a 2.5km swim, 80km MTB and 21km trail run.

Something that I didn’t factor in was the weather. We arrived in Franschhoek in freezing temperatures and icy rain. All of a sudden I was a bit stressed, I wasn’t prepared for this and I didn’t really have the necessary gear. My hands were so cold that I couldn’t even squeeze lube onto my chain while setting up my transition area. The rain made getting ready difficult and I scrapped any kind of warm up. The water was also pretty cold so I decided on a dry-land warm up.

My best discipline is the swim. This would take me around 35min. In an 8 hour race that is really not much and I didn’t really feel that much would be won or lost here. 2 min gained or lost was neither here nor there.

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I swam at a steady pace for the 2.5km. I had Raynard Tissink touching my toes for the first lap before he blew past me at the start of the second. During the second lap I saw a rainbow over the water and was extremely relieved to realise that it wasn’t going to rain the whole day.

I exited the water 5th overall and 1st lady
I exited the water 5th overall and 1st lady

I struggled with cold hands in transition and took my time getting ready for the longest leg. Gloves, socks, G-Form knee pads (there was money on the fact that I would fall somewhere in the 80km and I decided to mitigate losses and wear them. Plus I just feel more confident with them on), waterproof gillet and hydration pack.

Straight out of transition we were sent up a mountain. Anyone who has done a triathlon will tell you that the first 5 kilometers on the bike are super hard. It’s like all the blood is in your arms from swimming and suddenly needs to redistribute to your legs. So being sent up a loose, rocky mountain with no legs in icy rain is a tough ask!

Seeing the pictures after the race I realised what a beautiful setting it was. Not that I checked out the view for one second in the race
Seeing the pictures after the race I realised what a beautiful setting it was. Not that I checked out the view for one second in the race

At the top of the climb was a long singletrack along a contour around the dam. I was fortunate in that no one caught me on this section. As a strong swimmer and “weaker” MTBer I always stress about having to let better riders through.

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Modeling the stunning new Endurohub kit

The first 20km to the first waterpoint was fairly uneventful aside from me checking the depth of a huge boggy pit with my shoulder, but I could feel that the cleat on my right shoe was coming loose. This has kind of always happened to a small degree, but has never been serious – I normally just tighten the screws every two weeks or so. But I did know that it was an issue and so I replaced the metal plate that the cleat screws into thinking this would fix the problem.

Alas, if anything is going to go wrong it is going to go horribly wrong on race day. So shortly after the first water point the screw came out entirely and the cleat was stuck in the pedal as I could no longer twist my shoe and cleat together. This made portages (and falls) (and there were a number of both) incredibly interesting as I had to take my foot out of the shoe to get off my bike.

This was taken just before I hit a massive low
This was taken just before I hit a massive low

And I’ll quickly summarise the rest of the bike: I lead until 43km when Hanlie Booyens sped past me. This should probably have told me that I went too hard to start as I never thought I would have the lead for so long. I hit a huge low right at the start of the 3km forest climb and lost quite a bit of time from there on. I really just didn’t have the endurance (and could probably have paced myself a bit better). At the final water point my coach took a crow bar and got my shoe out of the pedal and a friend who was spectating gave me her shoe. Thanks Vera! I rode the final 15km a lot happier knowing that I could uncleat.

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The bike route

In transition I swapped my soggy socks for some fresh ones and headed out onto the run in 5th position. I was really happy to be off the bike and tackling the final leg. The run route was quite retarded, comprising a stupid climb at the start of each of the 3 laps that wasn’t runable (at least not for me and 98% of the competitors). The rest of the route was a bit of an uphill drag along a contour, a rocky descent and then zig-zagging through vineyards and up draining, sandy pieces between them. There was no rhythm to be had and was more of a slog than a run. A 21km slog.

The run route profile
The run route profile

I started feeling not so lekker towards the end of the second lap. 2km into the second lap I really wasn’t feeling well and was struggling to keep moving. I stopped and did two whole body gag/throw up things and then felt like a million bucks and stormed (at this point in the race moving forward was deemed “storming”) home.

"Storming"
“Storming”

I crossed the line and my first overwhelming feeling was that of relief. And then came the hunger. I suddenly realised I was ravenous and my dad rose to the occasion and dashed off to find real food (I was so sick of bars and gels). He arrived back with two mini pulled pork burgers which I attacked while sitting on the grass just past the finish line. That meal definitely ranks up there in my top 5 all-time best meals!

I finished in 7h46 which was enough for 6th place overall and 3rd in my age category. I am super keen to come back next year, knowing what I am in for, and do it a whole lot better.

Massive congrats to all those who tackled and conquered Enduroman! It was no mean feat!

This inaugural race was absolutely fantastic and I believe that it will go from strength to strength in the coming years. Well done to Glyn Bloomberg and co.

A huge thanks must go to all those who are involved in getting me to the start line:

Endurohub

Bicycle Power Trading

Virgin Active

32Gi

G-Form

My training buddies, coach and support crew

My parents who just shake their heads at me and wish I’d focus on my thesis

Oh, and I just turned a quarter century old. Here’s to the next 25! Scary stuff!

Birthday included bikes, friends, coffee and good food. As all good birthdays should
Birthday included bikes, friends, coffee and good food. As all good birthdays should

Until I race again! ๐Ÿ™‚