In early February I received a Facebook message in broken english from Yannick asking if I would like to take part in an Xterra he was organizing on the reunion Islands in April. I was thankful for his offer but embarrassingly had no idea where the Reunion Islands were. Before responding I did a quick search online and stumbled across some of the most beautiful images I had ever seen. I was hooked and determined to get myself to this start line. The dates worked out favorably and soon I had confirmed my entry and would be on my way to a new race venue.
2nd - 6:20 behind Ben Allen
Photo Credit: Rich Cruse Photography
Crossing the line 6 weeks ago in Grabouw at the SA Xterra National Championships I knew I had a hard road ahead of me and was doubtful to when I would be racing again. The chronic ITB syndrome in my right knee had progressively gotten worse with each race and once I had cooled down following my second place in South Africa I could barely put any weight onto my right leg such was the damage I had caused. The pain I was feeling was mainly just inflammation and my body doing all it can to immobilize the knee in an attempt to heal itself. I of course was being the stubborn athlete refusing to admit I had a serious problem and racing anyway despite many warning signs.
Returning to the Philippine Islands for my third consecutive year I was thrilled to learn about the new race location of Legazpi City in the Albay province of the Philippine Islands. Albay is most well known for Mt Mayon, standing at an immense 3000m above sea level this highly active volcano would provide a dramatic backdrop to this equally dramatic event. Mt Mayon albeit mightily impressive dwindles in comparison to the love and affection us as professional athletes and any foreigner for that matter receive from the Pilipino people upon arrival and throughout our stay. Nowhere else in the world do we get treated as well as we do in the Philippines and much gratitude must be sent towards Sunrise events who host a truly unparalleled professional racing experience. From the moment we land in the Philippines we are treated like royalty, from airport transfers to beautiful hotels and multiple pre arranged course viewing opportunities allowing us as the professional field to compete at our true potential.
The race itself would be a 1500m one loop swim in the dark Pacific Ocean blackened by the lava rock sand. A 32km grueling mountain bike leg high up against Mt Mayon providing some serious elevation gain would follow and as with most Xterra races would prove to be the deciding factor on the day. Finally a 9km run mostly on thick lava rock sand stood between the athletes and the eventual finish line at the historical landmark of the Legazpi Church ruins, the remains of a church demolished by a volcanic eruption 150 years ago.
It is with pride that I announce my partnership with NUUN Hydration for the 2015 Triathlon Season. With the ever evolving hydration industry it is becoming common practice for those striving for a more balanced athletic lifestyle to opt out of the high sugar high calorie sports drink we have all become familiar with and rather chosen the more simple, healthy and smarter approach of optimal hydration. Nuun is brand new to the South African market place but I am well aware of its tremendous success within the USA and making use of the product on a daily basis while traveling in America has sold me on the products quality and immediate impact on the bodies hydration levels. Modern athletes tend to forget there is I direct correlation between hydration and the bodies ability to perform at its optimal physical capability and this is what NUUN offers, optimal hydration without the monotonous mundane taste of water. With this in mind NUUN has been an easy and obvious inclusion in my sports nutrition formula. Nuun has created a range of effervescent tablets with essential electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals. Offering a light, refreshing taste, NEVER using sugar and in this way NUUN is revolutionizing hydration.
19 FLAVORS • NO SUGAR • LESS THAN 8 CALORIES • PORTABLE, EASY TO USE
FULL OF ELECTROLYTES & VITAMINS • ECO-FRIENDLY
Please help spread the word of this great new product to the South African market and do not hesitate in getting your hands on your first tube of NUUN tablets, you will not regret the decision. Being hydrated has never been so easy and enjoyable.
The saying goes hind sight is 20/20 and it couldn't read more true for myself over the week past. I would have done many things differently given a second chance but regardless I am thankful for the life lessons learnt, however EXPENSIVE they might have been. Sitting down after all the chaos and trying to figure out just where things went wrong is tricky... Just how far do you go back? Is it as easy as identifying one bad decision which led to the seemingly endless string of problems? How do I avoid similar mistakes in the future? What is the road map moving forward?
Often times when things start going wrong in life there is a very brief window of opportunity where taking a stand of strength can correct your current trajectory and keep damages to a minimal. I would like to believe this past week has helped me to more easily identify this brief window and given me the courage to make that tough decision with more confidence in my own abilities. If that is all I took from this experience I would consider it a success and a necessary chapter of my journey. But I have taken away so much more!
Our final race on the Northern Mariana Islands took place on the tranquil island of Saipan. Just a short 50 minute flight from Guam, both US territories yet a totally different feel. From the air Saipan reminds me of what I believed an island should look like as a kid, lush green vegetation surrounded by lily white sandy beaches leading into cristal clear turquoise ocean waters. Really is a place I believe many would be happy to live out their last days. However at the tender age of 25 I still naively crave the frantic high paced life many of my peers enjoy or perhaps endure on a daily basis while commenting on how jealous they are of my island hopping. Funny that.
Whatever the reason be it blessing or curse here I was for the second time in my short yet colourful life and very grateful to be back. Was great reconnecting with old friends and catching up on all the events of the past year. At times the progression of others can seem like stagnation in your own life but regardless it's important to celebrate the victories or growth of friends however big or small the accomplishment may be.
With such a tightly packed racing schedule it doesn't allow you much time to correct the mistakes of a previous race but merely identify the shortcomings and plan to prepare better next time around. With Xterra Guam, Saipan and West Championships in Las Vegas spread over just a two week period the days in between are few and usually spent out on course refreshing the memory and trying to get the body to bounce back as fast as possible. Tapering correctly for each event would quickly result in a serious drop in overall fitness so it is very important to identify your key races early on in the season and try your best to manage the training volume or fatigue surrounding the rest. I can't say I have found the ideal formulae yet and with Dan able to handle a slightly bigger training volume than myself it does leave me guessing at times. Still whatever way you break down it's been a fantastic start to my season and one I am excited to continue learning from.
With two weeks on the Northern Mariana Island of Guam between Xterra Philippines and Xterra Guam Dan and myself were motivated to set up a micro training camp and take full advantage of our mini oasis. Peter Lombard is a Doctor on the Island and has an amazing ocean view bachelors pad and after much convincing agreed to host the two Africans for a second year, much gratitude must be sent his way in aiding with our preparations for the next block of racing.
After what seemed like the calmest and most focused two weeks of 2014 thus far we were a little fatigued but excited to be racing soon with another opportunity to test ourselves against some of the World Tours best athletes.
As with almost every event we travel to, Xterra Guam has its own unique set of challenges. The majority of the bike course is smooth, fast and has the distinct feeling of an endless pump track! Lots of fun! However at the mere mention of precipitation the infamous 'red dirt' becomes a total nightmare for anyone on two wheels. So much so that locals are known to carry ice cream sticks with them in case it begins raining and they need the 'tool' to help remove the red clay/mud which brings any bike to an immediate stop within minutes. Needless to say we kept a very close eye on the weather forecast. Race morning arrived and we were blessed with the most beautiful day! Clear skies with no chance of rain, time to go racing!
Departing Cape Town on Tuesday bound for an 8 week/6 race international campaign with another incredible Stellenbosch summer behind me it seemed surreal that we are already in March! Where did all the time go and who has their finger on the fast forward button? A month on the islands of Philippines, Guam and Saipan should hopefully bring with it the calmness we have been searching for. After a fantastic start to my 2014 season (Xterra Grabouw race report to follow) I am excited to be on the road again and look forward to all the adventures and challenges 2014 will no doubt offer up.
From previous experience I was well aware of the chaos which lay ahead of us when landing in Cebu, Xterra Philippines is by far the most unique and diversely challenging course I will race all year. The race is held in the town of Liloan just 17km from our beach front resort, the Crimson hotel. Sunrise Events once again being very generous hosts to their professional field. One would presume a 17km trip from hotel to race venue should take no more than 20minute but in reality it is close on an hour due to the most radical traffic and road conditions I am ever likely to experience anywhere else in the world. Cats, dogs, chickens, goats, bicycles, cars, busses, trucks all seem to share the same small piece of unfinished road connecting our hotel and Liloan. Sitting up front during the commute was never a recommendation.
My second adventure out to the USA in as many years has been as exciting and stimulating as the first if not more so! Boulder, CO is again my base and living with Dan has brought even more colour to this awesome experience. He has traveled here enough to regard it as a second home so allowing him to show me around town and treat me to his favourite 'Boulder experiences' has been a lot of fun as well as meeting a whole new group of people who I now consider my friends. Shortly after our arrival in Boulder and being welcomed with open arms by our gracious host Shelby Katz we made our way up into the intimidating Rocky mountains to try and survive a race both these Africans were entering with serious reservations as previous attempts had not gone as planned and both had sworn never to return! Xterra Mountain Championships. I will keep the explanation brief as a wise man once told me... "When you win say little and when you lose say less" I lost this battle so all I shall say is altitude is a bitch! Thankfully the beauty of this amazing location in the mountains made up for another two mediocre performances up in the heavens and we returned to Boulder with renewed motivation to get this next block of training right.