Archive for March 2009

DUESOUTH XTERRA – Offroad Triathlon

Nhlanhla claiming it – “Duesouth,”

XTERRA – 1.5km swim, 28km mnt bike, 10km trail run.

 Diving down into the Valley of a Thousand Hills early yesterday morning to fetch Nhlanhla Cele (32nd in Dusi, injured his shoulder swimmimg at Earnie Pearce), I couldn’t help thinking that possibly this time I was allowing Nhlanhla to take on more than he could handle. His furtherest he had ever swum in one shot was 375m, now he was about to swim 2 x 750m laps to kick start this Duesouth Xterra at Albert Falls Dam.  Richard (13th in Dusi) was super keen to observe his brother take on the impossible, so too hopped in my Landy.

 Ten minutes before the start, it was announced that ‘Ryan’ was looking for a team. Asking Richard if he was up for a hard 10km run, he put on the biggest smile. I signed up for the cycle and suddenly there was another ‘Change a life’ team in the race.


Nhlanhla swam at a diesel engine steady pace for the first 750m lap. Early into to the second lap his body was tiring – head staying above the water turning from left to right, legs dropped well below the surface, yet he persevered.

Ryan was in great shape for Ironman next week and came out the water 5th. I scampered onto the bike and gave it all for the next 28km, sneaking past the first team rider ¾’s through the bike. Richard gallantly held off a strong charge from their runner and was delighted to cross the finish line as first team.

Having just received his new Shwinn mnt bike three days ago, Nhlanhla rode brilliantly, albeit conservatively, not taking any chances with his shiny metal steed. For the record, his transitions were lightning fast as he wore his Hi-Tec Stingray running shoes for both the cycle and run. My decision not to give them clipless pedals and mtb shoes just yet is so they can get familiar with the ‘workings’ of the bike and not have their feet complicating things. Plus the ‘Change a life’ bikes will be better off from less falls.


I was impressed that Nhlanhla mastered the technical parts of the course and didn’t get off his bike. He set off on the run without the usual spring in his stride. Come ½ way, he said his legs were like jelly, couldn’t feel the power. But come the finish line, his arms were raised in victory and there was a smile on his face. Very well done Nhlanhla.


What a fine performance – first black person ever, to finish a full distance Duesouth Xterra Off-road Triathlon.



My plan was to get my two strongest athletes to complete two seemingly impossible races – to redefine their limits. Lucas having tackled the extremely tough WarTrail (60km mnt run, 135km mtb, 60km river paddle) last week and now Nhlanhla finishing Xterra yesterday.

So now when we start training hard for the ‘normal’ multisport races, they will constantly be reminding the others that ‘this is not hard, let me tell you what hard is’.

Mission successful, I think.


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…running 60km with only ever having run 15km.

Imagine cycling 135km only ever having cycled 30km.

Imagine paddling 60km only ever having paddled 38km.

Such was Lucas’s preparation. His tenacity to finish, ‘never give up’ attitude, saw him paddle across the finish line under the Hertzog Bridge, Aliwal North, laying claim to 6th position overall and becoming one of the elite few that have completed the Garmin Wartrail Extreme Triathlon solo. Respect!

To gently introduce more of my Change a Life guys to multisport, I joined Thomas Ngidi and Tom Ngcobo in the team category. Thomas had an incredible run, finishing 3rd overall. Dancing over the technical route like it was the N1 hwy for the first 30km, then changing stride to a shuffle as the legs started crying ‘that’s enough’. My cycle went smoothly but it was a long and lonely ride, with a headwind in the last 60km making it that much tougher. Luckily the climb up Lundeans Nek to 2350m was on fresh legs. The 10km switchback descent on the other side was undoubtly the highlight. Having been an observer/seconder the previous two days, Tom was like a coiled spring just waiting to be unleashed at the start of the paddle. He expertly negotiated the ‘gorge section’ and finished upfront with Graham Bird, comfortably placing our Team ‘Change a life’ on the very top of the podium.

Lucas hobbled across the finish line of the run in just over 13hrs, broken. Such was his fatigue that I said to him that I completely understand if he does not want to do the 135km mountain bike the next day. Without hesitating he responded “I want to finish this race”. That made me happy. “Okay, let me go find some anti-inflammatories”.

That night local farmer Margi Frost, fed us the most delicious potjie, koeksisters and ice cream nogal. I was concerned that Lucas was still feeling the effects of over exerting himself  that day and had no desire to partake in the feeding frenzy, instead he was horizontal in his tent, but had managed to down a “chocolate milkshake” (Muscle Fuel shake).

 Gearing into survival mode, Lucas soldiered on the following day. Starting  conservatively, he was able to up a gear later in the ride. He arrived at the tented camp at Mdlokovana, on the banks of the mighty Orange River in high spirits. Enjoying the gourmet dinner served that night, nothing was going to prevent him from finishing now. Paddling was his speciality. Crossing the finish line he was estatic. And so he should be. It’s one hell of a race to have on your CV.

Reflecting back, he said to me, “Mart, this was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but I liked it very much. Thank you.”   


The boys from the Valley of a Thousand Hills performed way beyond themselves considering how little preparation they did. Both Thomas & Lucas agreed that the run alone was 5x harder than the Non Stop Dusi. 

Photo: Lucas, Tom, Thomas & Adrian Saffey (race director)Imagine the war stories that will flow in the Valley of a Thousand hills when the boys return to their homes today.

                 GARMIN WARTRAIL


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It’s Friday. Our weekend started early. On the road in my 90 Defender, trailer and all and packed to the roof. Heading to the Eastern Cape/ Southern Lesotho.

Exciting, because I have three of my ‘Change a Life’ athletes about to experience their first real Multisport adventure- The GARMIN WARTRAIL. This 3-day extreme triathlon starts Day One at 4am from Lady Grey, with a 60km mountain run (ave. elevation 2300m), along a ridge line and finishing at Balloch. The overnight camp is an incredible setting. A ‘banquet dinner’ is served beneath the overhang of a cave.

7am and the start of a 135km mountain bike leg, the athletes head off fast and furious till they hit Lundean’s Nek pass, climbing to an elevation of 2400m, then with a radical 12km winding descent to an undulating dirt road along the Telluride river, which separates S.A from Lesotho. The remote tented camp awaits riders at the Mdlokovana, on the banks of the Orange River.

At first light on Day 3, paddlers set off and are entertained for the first 8km as they snake through the gorge. There after it’s a true Wilderness experience. No farmers pumps, no fences, no people along the way until the finish under the Hertzog Bridge in Aliwal North.

Lucas, (top ten Dusi), is doing the event solo.

Thomas (15th Dusi), the runner and Tom, (43rd Dusi) the paddler, are doing the team relay option with myself taking on the cycle.

I know the race hasn’t started yet, but I can’t wait for when we get back to the Valley of a Thousand Hills when these guys tell their friends about their epic adventure. This race will redefine their limitations and expose them to what makes me tick.

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TASTE FOR LIFE – Spur, Port Elizabeth


Going to Port Elizabeth and surrounding area always feels so familiar, as these were my stomping grounds where I spent my High School years at Woodridge College. This past weekend I raced with Merilene Janklaas from Knysna in the Spur Adventure Charity Challenge  at Happy Valley. As with the Adv Challenge I did with Rosalie a couple of weeks ago, 100% of the entries go towards feeding hungry kids – proceeds are managed by JAM (Joint Asset Management). Not often does one get to take part in such a worthy initiative. My application is a huge gamble, especially my essays?


The race blasted off with a mad dash to the mountain bikes. With our bikes strategically placed, we made a speedy getaway (top five). The 14km route was technical enough to keep you concentrating throughout with some soft sand sections where even the super skilled athletes had to get off and push. Merilene had the most spectacular wipeout – aero-dynamically tucked in on a downhill, her left handle bar clipped a bush which sent her hurtling over the handle bars (luckily the landing was into soft sand). Not a second was wasted and she was back on her bike.


Having cycled with running shoes, we passed the fourth team in transition changing for the run leg. Steep single track sent the heart rate towards max, and the well marked course through the ‘bush’ gave the athlete a sense of being ‘outthere’. The final surprise leg, had teams (armed with a tube for safety) swim through the surf around a buoy and back. Thanks Merilene for giving your all.

The little toddlers had the Bushbaby Trail and Nature Hike to keep them busy. All in all, was a great family fun filled day. Thanks to Magnetic South, as always, for a very professionally run event.  



Video 1- Fixing boat after wrapping between 5 & 6

Video 2- Mark Perrow and Olympian Carol Joyce upside down in No 5

Video 3- Bird and Dreyer shooting No 1

To check out these video clips click on the following link:



Day 1 – 9am start (Josephine’s to Riverside)

A-batch blasted off in a frenzy of paddle spray, as paddlers jostled for position going into the first rapid. You have to paddle this big volume river to grasp the might of the Umko and the pristine beauty of the untouched valley it flows through.

With Dusi close to my heart, Non Stop always took preference over this legendary A+ River. However when Graham Bird phoned me on the Thursday before the race looking for a partner, the answer was a definite ‘yes’. I was very excited at the prospect of doing my first Umko, albeit unprepared.

Paddling with the attitude that we were there to enjoy ourselves, allowed us to ‘smell the roses’. Graham’s splashy popping 10 + times, keeping our day honest as we bobbed & weaved our water laden ship down the spectacular river course. The water failing to drain under his seat (schoolboy error – sealed) through to my pumps at the back. Perfect weather, nature at its best – what a lekker day’s paddling. Afterwards, we hitched a ride on the back of a bakkie back to the start to collect our vehicle. 

Deon and Ant finished on Grant and Hank’s wave, with evergreen Biggsy and Michael Arthur third. Carol and Alice having swum, regained their lead from Hillary and Kate near the finish. 

Pic –       Shaun Biggs & Michael Arthur

Day 2 – 8:30am start (Hella Hella to Josephine’s)

In all paddlers’ strategy, the first objective is to survive the notorious Number 1 to Number 8 rapids, then start racing the competition. The approaches to No 1, would warrant a ‘real name’ in any regular canoe race, but not in Umko. We sailed through 1,2 and 3. The boat feeling solid and good friends Beetle Bailey & Traut the target up ahead.

Trying to sneak down the right of No 4, we bumped a rock at the top and suddenly we were over. I got pulled towards the main drop, thumping rocks enroute and then disappeared in the whirly turbulence as the Umko worked me over in the wave train below. Tweet tried to give the boat direction but in an instant it wrapped around a rock. He managed to claw his way to the bank and avoid the ‘bump and grind’ down the rapid. For the record, there are no crayfish at the bottom of No 4.

Ropes and all, we battled with the sweeps to get the K2 loose but to no avail. The campfire stories you hear of crews having to walk their way out that wild overgrown valley are infamous. Whilst contemplating the problem from an adventure racer perspective, wishing we had a map and compass to find the passage of  least resistance, Steve Butler and partner came floating down in a four man raft. What luck, we hopped aboard and had the most laid back cruise down to No 8.

As they say all good things come to an end, nonetheless we had an incredible weekend.

In front Grant and Hank took no prisoners, claiming their first Umko title, with Deon and Ant finally relinquishing their strangle hold of dominating the race in years gone by, coming second. Biggsy/Arthur third. Carol/Alice 1st, Hillary/Kate 2nd.

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