Epic….what a ride? Literally….

by Adéle Niemand

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It took me about a week to get to my senses and organize my thoughts to express what it’s like to do the biggest, most brutal mountain bike race in the world. The ABSA Cape Epic. One thing is for certain, when I was asked by my partner to do this, I never would have imagined how deep I had to delve into my soul to finish the race.

During the 8 days of many ups (mountain upon mountain) and many downs, I managed to get a finishers medal after a very tough and brutal week of #untamed mountain biking.

Several times during the race I thought “no amount of my training has prepared me for this“. Especially when I lost my partner on the Prologue. Being part of a team my whole life during my time as Netball player, the toughest decision was accepting that she had injured herself bad enough to not complete the race but to leave her to be attended to the medics and chasing to make the cut off time on the first day.

The implication of this would mean that I could finish the Epic as an individual, basically doing it alone.

Standing in the starting shoot that Monday morning (Stage 1), I would be lying if I did not say that I was scared, scared of being alone, scared of how I would approach it by myself.Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC3

As the first day started I decided to stay with the group and my approach was to conserve my energy. 20km into the Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC4stage I had a fall and buckled my front wheel. I found truth in what everyone tells you about the Epic about the camaraderie of fellow riders but it’s only until you experience it that you truly understand what it’s all about. Team Marius & Marius (yes they have the same names) saved me and tried to bend my egg shaped wheel straight. Riding to the first water point I was praying for a miracle. I had a 40min wait at the water point and knew that I was running out of time. After WP1 I was riding for kilometres without seeing a soul, I was quite emotional when I got to WP2 and thereafter yet again attending to my wheel I started up Haarkapper’s. I saw about 6 people delirious with heat exhaustion, broken collarbones on the way down, broken bodies. In my mind I was just saying, keep on MOVING! The officials at WP 3 said I had enough time to finish but with the blistering heat and all the emotions of the day, I was starting to doubt my chances of completing the stage before the dreaded cut off horn blows. I made it with 9 minutes to spare, tired as hell and fully aware of what the week could bring.

Stage 2 was shortened to 64km. I welcomed this, because I saw enough carnage the previous 2 days and was worried about my own abilities at that point.Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC5

A friend of mine also lost his partner during Stage 1. He showed remarkable sportsmanship and stayed with her as she cramped and was struggling to finish Stage 1, this meant he could continue the race but as a blue board rider, therefore not getting an official finishers medal. I was inspired by this and he really pulled me through the Epic, just someone to ask “Are you OK, Della?” and making sure you get through the toughest climb is sometimes all the motivation you need.

There is definitely a reason why this is team event, it tough if you’re a team, even worse when you are faced doing it alone. I don’t know how I got onto the bike each day, my body was bruised but my mind was strong and I was determined to finish the journey that Elma and I started. Even if it was just to do it for her, for her to know that I did not quit, give up or give in. I resolved that the only time I would consider doing this would be when the medics told me I couldn’t and as this did not happen I just put my big girl cleats on and challenged each day.Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC6

Except for stage 1 my toughest day was the long stage from Greyton to Elgin, there was a stage when my body did not want anymore, and I was tired beyond words. It was when Fritz took my bike and pushed it up yet another Hill that I took a deep breath, composed myself and focused on the finish line.Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC7

With the Queen Stage looming I decided not to think about it and tackle it on the day.

Groenlandberg is not a joke and when I approached the end of the climb I was in tears as in knew this would be the climb of climbs and I had made it.

I have allot more that I can share, but I will need a bigger space to do so. Waking up on the final day was the best feeling, I knew it was short and the end was near. I knew that if I was focused I would get there, I had made it so far all ready.

Crossing the finish line at Val de Vie was one of the best feelings of my life. I have won many awards as a netball player, but putting that medal around my neck was one of my proudest moments. I definitely need to thank a few people for this Epic experience, to SPC Bloemfontein, Morne Castelyn thank you for the training programs, it was tough but with good reason, to Raubex our main Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC8sponsor if it wasn’t for you this would have only been a dream! Our nutrition sponsor, Biogen. I can highly recommend Cytogen, it fuelled me every day. Elma York my partner, I salute you and I know one day you will challenge this race and conquer it. My supporters that kept me going, every chilled water bottle, recovery drink, every wet wipe, and every person that called my name. Renee van Zyl, you were an amazing second. Alet, that pink towel made the world of difference, words of encouragement from my Epic updates WhatsApp group. Those messages gave me new strength every day. Our physio, Estie Potgieter for getting my body in the best possible condition before I had to get back on the saddle the next day. Fritz Greyvenstein thank you, if I could I would give you half of this medal. And last but not least San, I would have been lost without you, you kept me going when I did not have direction and was just there when I needed you. You are the ultimate supporter and kept me strong. They are not lying when they say this is a bucket list race, but be prepared and know that your mental toughness has more worth than you physical preparation.

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SPC and me

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by Ad Saffinator Saffy

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So 2017 is in full swing and my year jam packed with events and races and its up to the SPC team to keep this body functioning to do what I love doing.

I am quite stubborn and don’t always listen but I have learnt to try and bend the rules to the max but at the end of the day Ad Le Roux is mostly right in his training approach especially with me relating to recovery.

The weekend of the 9th April 2017 saw me competing with my Adventure Racing team “Team Castle Lite” at the 150km Transkei Tuff Adventure race starting at Wave Crest Resort in the heart of the Wild Coast. My team have been training like mad and have done a couple of events together without me and were firing on  all cylinders so I was worried that I would be the weakest link and that I didn’t like.SPC_Adrian Saffinator Saffy_Transkei Tuff3

Adrian (Le Roux) and Helena put me on a training schedule and this included Wattbike sessions core sessions functional training sessions and brutal break me sessions and although I was doubting in my own fitness their preparation was spot on.

We started the race with a brutal 64 km cycle leg which included an abseil and kloofing section. When the gun went I found myself in the front of the leading pack powering up the hills and I know that the Sufferfest sessions on the Wattbike were to thank.

We hit the kloofing and anyone that has done this know that core balance and stability are needed to prevent yourself slipping and sliding on every moss covered rock in the knee deep river.SPC_Adrian Saffinator Saffy_Transkei Tuff1

I made a bit of a navigation error on the ride home so that allowed 2 teams to pass us just before we got into transition after the long cycle so to say that I was “flippen” angry with myself was an understatement. We transitioned rapidly after plotting the new points on the map and left in front of one of the teams determined to catch the other team that slipped past us previously. Sunset had arrived and we could see the other teams headlights to our left on the coastal path so we switched our lights off went into stealth mode and ran the next leg collecting points and doing a “kloofing” section before returning to the transition.

Next came the paddle leg and seeing that I am in Bloemfontein and not doing allot of paddle training I rely on the strength and core training with SPC to get me through and our team rocked this leg.

Lastly came the long trekking leg and we hit this in beautiful weather with a full moon making the use of our headlights not required. We hit a swim across a tidal river at around midnight and the thoughts of Zambezi sharks swimming underneath me in the murky water made my swim time a lot quicker.

We finished the race with a run along the moonlit beach and a final swim across the river to finish as 2nd official team home.

I can honestly say that despite getting on in years (hahaha), SPC keeps me healthy fit mobile and able to do these races and do them consistently throughout the year. I am forever grateful.

Now up next 36One MTB challenge and the Expedition Africa. Good luck guys in keeping me in the game 🙂

Batrun and other things…

by Chris Strydom

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Batrun…a training run with the Cape Doctor at night

On the evening of 18 Feb myself and 129 other eager mountain runners got together at the Gardens Tech Rugby Club for a 30km race in Table Mountain National Park. The race takes you up and down Devils Peak, Platteklip Gorge all the way to the highest point on Table Mountain at Maclear’s Beacon and finally up and down Lionshead. As always Table Mountain knew it was the evening of Batrun and threw some epic weather our way, this year it was in the form of gale force Southeaster winds better known as the infamous Cape Doctor.

I started off quite conservatively and formed a small group at the front with Edson Kumwamba, Lucas Adams and Michael Davidson. Heading up Devils Peak me and Edson took the lead about halfway to the top. As we reached the saddle of Devils peak we started to feel the strong winds as we left the cover of the mountain behind heading up the front side of Devils Peak. We were the first runners to reach the checkpoint at the top with Michael and Lucas trailing just behind. This was where the fun started for Edson and Lucas as they attacked on the downhill and it took a lot of self-control to stay with my race plan of taking the whole race easy and not take even the slightest risk on the downhill, this was super hard because running technical downhills fast is my biggest strength and I absolutely love it.

Reaching the bottom it was time to head to Platteklip for what I believe is the hardest climb of the race, still taking it easy I caught up with Lucas in the early stages of the climb and passed Edson near the top, this was where I had to take out my Adidas Terrex Agravic Alpha wind jacket as the driving cold wind cut through to the bone (this was the first time I ever took a jacket out of my pack to put on during a race). I stayed in the lead all the way to Maclear’s Beacon and back. Descending Platteklip I once again had to force myself to keep things easy as Edson and Lucas came past.

Going up and down Lionshead we maintained our positions and it was time for the last undulating 4km back to the finish line. I was almost blown of my feet by the wind a few times during the last few kilometres.

I finished the race in 3rd place with just a few minutes separating me and Edson with Lucan claiming 2nd place. I finished feeling strong and able to run another few kilometres, it was back to training on the Monday after the race. The race was a good test of my fitness heading into the final few weeks of training leading up to African X a month later. My strong climbing legs during the race was a true testimony of my strength training programs by Sports Performance Clinic.FB_IMG_1489926834900

Fast team format racing at African X

With African X being South Africa’s premier trail stage race and due to the fast nature of the race this year’s edition drew the best trail runners from all around South Africa to race against each other in a team format like they do at the Cape Epic mountain bike race. I teamed up with Rory Scheffer for team Adidas. Due to the fast, flat and non-technical nature of the race, it suits the faster athletes and always draws a few fast road runners as well. This year was no different with former road runners turned trail blazers Givemore Mudzinganyama and Edwin Sesipi teaming up for team Asics Boys Gauteng. As well as 12th place finisher at the 2015 Comrades Marathon Ben Matiso teaming up with Reptsile Khotle for team Edunova. Other top teams included: Kane Reilly and Thabang Madiba (Team Salomon), Kent Horner and Chris Bruchhausen (My Training Day), Jonny Young and Nicholas Rupanga (Asics Vets) and Brendon Lombard with Rohan Kennedy (GEL Asics Frontrunners). With such a big and strong field we were up for three days of fast racing.

Day one took us on a 35km route from Trails End all the way to Houw Hoek Inn. We started off quite conservatively with all of the top teams running together trying to see who is the strongest on the different sorts of terrain and waiting to see who will be the first team to make a move. At the 15km mark the team of Timothy Chambers and Robert Rorich made the first move and the pace started to build a bit, the main pack including all of the above mentioned teams quickly caught up with them after about 2km and then the racing started. Team Endunova and Asics Boys Gauteng started pushing the pace quite a bit with team Salomon following close behind. I felt strong during the first day but Rory had some problems and we ended up racing team Tim-Rob (Timothy Chambers and Robert Rorich) for 4th place, we switched places quite a lot with them between the 20km and 30km mark but we proved too strong for them over the last 5km to take 4th place, 5min in front of team Tim-Rob and 5min behind team Salomon in 3rd. FB_IMG_1490133757671

Day two would prove to be our day as we tackled the 33km route from Rooisand Nature Reserve to Wildekrans wine estate. Once again we started of conservatively until the 5km mark where the biggest climb of African X started, me and Rory along with team Salomon made the first move as both teams are climbing and technical specialists, the climb were unfortunately to short, runnable and not steep enough to have a big impact and once again team Asics Boys Gauteng and team Endunova took the lead. The next few kilometres would once again be flat and fast until the last climb at 12km, this was where the battle between the two mountain specialist teams began as we chased and passed team Salomon on downhill only to be chased again by them. Both teams reached the bottom together with tired legs and the last 15km would prove to be a race for 3rd place along fast and flat jeep track. The battle was intense with team Salomon dropping of the pace a few times only to catch up again. At around 10km to go they dropped from the pace for the final time and we tried to make the time deficit between the two teams as big as possible to see if we can take over 3rd place on the general classification. We ended up crossing the finish line 1min behind the 2nd place team of Ben Matiso and Reptsile Khotle (team Endunova) and 6min in front of team Salomon in 4th to take the 3rd spot on the general classification. With the time deficit being only 1min between us and team Salomon, day three would prove to be a race for 3rd place.

Day three followed a 23km course from Wildekrans Wine Estate back to Houw Hoek Inn. This day would prove to be another tough day for Rory. Things started differently, everyone was willing to give it their all and the race started fast. The first 9km were going good and we managed to easily stick to our race plan of staying ahead of Thabang and Kane. They however wanted to close the 1min lead we had over them and they found a new source of energy as they passed us around the 12km mark. We ran with them for a couple of kilometres but Rory found it difficult to breathe and we had to drop from the pace in order to make it to the finish line. We tried to keep the gap between us and team Salomon as small as possible to fully utilize our 1min lead. The last 3km I pushed Rory hard and he put in a tremendous effort. This unfortunately proved just too little as we crossed the finish line in 4th place 2min30sec behind team Salomon in 2nd place and 1min behind team Endunova in 3rd. We finished African X in 4th place only 1min30sec behind Kane and Thabang in 3rd and 15min in front of the 5th place team of Kent Horner and Chris Bruchhausen (My Training Day).

African X didn’t quite suit my style of mountain racing as the route is extremely flat and fast to what I am used to but I ended up adapting to the route and my training at SPC definitely made me strong enough to race hard and fast for three consecutive days. The race gave me a proper confidence boost knowing that I can race with the top senior trail runners in South Africa and I am looking forward to the rest of the year.

Uitkyk Trail Run as my weekly long run

Back to training after African X and I felt like running another race so I decided two days before the 25km Uitkyk trail run to use the race as my weekly long run. I went into the race with an all or nothing approach and put the hammer down right from the start. I took the lead from the start and stayed in front for the remainder of the race taking a comfortable win. The race was really enjoyable and although everything was easily runnable we did a proper amount of climbing on the lower slopes of Simonsberg, followed by a fast downhill and ending with a fast section running through the vineyards to the finish.

 

Racing in Zimbabwe

by Jayme Vermaas

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This past weekend on the 1st April 2017 I had a fantastic race in Troutbeck, Zimbabwe. The event formed part of the Zimbabwe National Triathlon Championship of 2017.

I was selected by Triathlon South Africa to represent SA at this event, which contributed to my preparation for the upcoming Africa Championship, to be held in Tunisia, in May 2017.

The ZTA (Zimbabwe Triathlon Association) set out a very tough course for us as athletes with a super hilly bike course with a very demanding run route.

I have been training hard over the last 4 months with SPC for the upcoming triathlon season. With the committed SPC staff and specific SPC programs, I was well prepared for any situation that was set in front of me this year. My results at SA Champs and the Zimbabwe race proves that I was well prepared by SPC and conditioned for tough race conditions.

At SA champs I won with more than a minute in very tiring conditions and was able to control the race from start to finish.

The training at SPC does not only prepare you on a physical level but also allowed me to trust the training I have done in order to know that I am prepared to execute good racing tactics.

During the race in Zimbabwe, I knew that the course was a very demanding course with a huge amount of climbing on both the bike and run-leg, and that I have to be wise with how I approach it. I decided not to push at the max on the swim, and allowed my SA team mate, Shanae Williams to lead out of the swim. Once on the bike I past her within the first 100m and kept the pressure on the rest of the field. (Thank you to SPC for all those intense interval and power and conditioning sets on the SPC Watt Bikes. This came in very handy this past weekend).

I felt strong on the bike, and at the end was able to have a 1 and half min lead on my nearest competitor.

During the run I found my rhythm fast and really felt in control of my pace, on the steep sections of the run I was able to hold my form. (A special thank you to SPC for all of those one -leg squats and core training)

The gap just kept on growing and was able to put another 1and half min into the field.

I won the overall junior u/19 race and very pleased with the improvement and gains I have made in my overall racing.

A big shout out to the Sports Performance Clinic family for helping me prepare and gain strength for a solid race and my current season.

Now it’s back to the drawing board and SPC helping me prepare for my up and coming races.

SPC the place to go, to be and to improve…

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