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An ‘X’ for Xterra – How not to do it!

Author mtbguy    Category Xterra     Tags

xterra startSaturday saw my first ‘B Race’ of the year from a triathlon point of view – Xterra Grabouw. I’d had some chronic health issues over the last few years, so every time I’ve ever competed at the event I’ve suffered, and never done anything near of what I believe I’m capable of. But, I’m in a great place health-wise now.

My swim is better than it’s ever been, and still on the rise, even though swimming is my weakest discipline. I’m feeling better on the bike than I ever had too, which says a lot because cycling has always been my strength. The run has been on the back-burner, but the little running I have done has felt good. I don’t feel fast, but I felt like I had a good rhythm, which is more important for a tough course like Xterra.

All-in-all I felt really good going into the race. I even thought to myself “what could possible go wrong”, which lead my mind to jump to the tricky MTB course, and I’ve mostly been on the road bike, so my technical skills may have been a tad rusty. The thought “I’m going to have a really good day” went through my mind so many times that week, not because I was trying to convince myself of it, but because I truly felt great.

My first challenge of the day was avoiding the debris of broken glass on the N2 caused by a beer truck losing its load. There was glass everywhere and cars were rerouted onto the grass to avoid the glass, but we were all still riding over it. I knew that a puncture in more than one tyre would leave me stranded and would spell an end to my day, but I was fortunate enough to get through unscaved, which was just a prelude to what was to follow.

During bike racking I took my watch out of my bag, and half my strap broke. I didn’t want to lose the watch on the course, so I decided not to use it, and to race blind. I knew that the MTB course is where I’d really miss it. Time and distance provide me with good markers to manage my effort and progress. But I didn’t have it and standing at the swim start I’d come to peace with that.

I felt pretty good to start with on the swim. I felt like my rhythm was good, and I was sighting more regularly, and therefore my line was pretty straight. As I started to warm up I started to feel even better. It was feeling hard, yet controlled and comfortable, which is where I wanted to be.

Then came the swim exit. I always swim until I feel my hand touch the ground. I could see people around me standing, but I kept swimming. Then I felt something on my hand and popped up. The water seemed to even deepen slightly, so I did three dolphin dives, swam some more, and then stood up again, and in knee-high water started to power-walk through the water. Suddenly I felt a thud on my left foot. I’ve kicked my foot before, and this felt different, this felt more damaging. I lifted my foot out of the water, under-side facing down, didn’t see any blood, and thought “I think I might be OK”, more in hope I think.

I continued to push to the shore and actually fell over another rock, also underwater and not visible, which actually caused me to lose my balance. This was more of a trip than a kick of the rock. Once I was out the water and slightly hobbling I paused momentarily, but didn’t look underneath my foot. I now know that subconsciously I was procrastinating my assessment of the damage – I think deep down I knew it was bad. I said to myself “I’ll assess it when I get to my bike”. When I got there I lifted and twisted my foot. The underside of my left toe was completely lacerated and there was a gaping hole in it – I immediately thought “This is going to need stitches”, but then “No, just get on your bike”, followed by “But I’m going to lose so much blood, and this could get infected”. I decided to run and find a medic.

I clearly watch too many movies, because I was looking for a guy with a ‘+’ sign on his chest. Anyway, I run up to the announcer, tapped him on the left shoulder, rudely cutting him off mid-sentence, and belted out “Where do I find a medic”. He then announced “we need a medic in transition, a medic in transition”, after which I did a slow 360° spin to see if I could see anybody running towards me…as if it could happen that quickly, right? The announcer then pointed me to where the medical tent was and I ran over.

The doctor said that it needed stitches, but if I really wanted to continue that he could freeze the toe to stop the bleeding. At this point I’d accepted that this had happened, and really just wanted to sort my foot out and get on the repair path so I can race properly again. I said to the doctor, that I’m not a pro, and that I do it because I enjoy it, and even if I could grit my teeth through the MTB ride, it wouldn’t have been enjoyable, not to mention what a nightmare the run could be. I told himthat my day was done and to stitch me up. In went the anaesthetic, followed by 8 stitched, and I was soon walking around the race village and actually quiet enjoying myself.

When I returned to transition I saw my bike – It was the only bike in transition. It looked like a dog waiting for its walk. But it was the only dog not getting its walk that day.

It was a great event put on by the Stillwater Sports team – I was just unlucky. The bottom line is that in the event of something like this happening, there was a doctor at hand to attend to my needs. Jaco (the doctor) was great. He always gave me options. I can see he understands how important races are to athletes.

It’s now down to a quick recovery this week, and then I need to be on my bike with the Argus two weeks away. Then the focus is Ironman 70.3 in Durban in mid-June, with other triathlons in between to test the body. Hopefully my bad luck is behind me.


Sean Tait


Totalsports Knysna Xterra feedback

xt 1I arrived in Knysna on Sunday afternoon, 5 July and was surprised how dry and pleasant the weather was. On Monday I took part in the ASWD cross country league, the Featherbed 15km trail run on Tuesday and the Knysna Marathon Club’s 10 km street run on Wednesday. Throughout this time there had been a few drops here and there and some cooler weather but really nothing like I have experienced in Knysna before.

That changed when the rain came down hard on Wednesday evening and again for a short while on Thursday morning. What was this going to do to the single track trail run sections as well as the mountain bike trail out at Pezula, was all I could think.

Like most other trail runners and mountain bikers ( I guess) I dont mind riding or running in or through water and mud. I can handle running and riding while it rains too. It is having to start an event in the rain that ain’t really that much fun.

Well, how blessed we were with excellent riding and running weather on the day. Cool, at times overcast with a few drops here and there but no rain when the event commenced and no rain throughout my time out there doing the full Xterra.

This was my 4th event at Pezula and every time I have such fun and always feel that it is over too soon. The registration on the day, goodie bag, start area, coffee station, transition area, track out there and  overall vibe was one of great excitement and enjoyment.

The first 3km trail run always gets a bit crowded at the first turn from the concrete road onto the single track, causing a huge bottleneck with no choice but to walk (unless of course you are in the very front!)

Knowing this from previous years I took it easy, aware that there would be plenty of other opportunities to catch up ( should I indeed wish to do so.)

The transition from run to bike went smoothly and it was great to be back on a bike again ( have not done much of that lately).

xt 2

Sure, there was mud! It was however not as much as I had experienced in previous events and it was above all, rideable! Once again the ride was finished before I was ready to end it. Fun all the way.

The last leg, the 7km trail run, is the best part of the lot. It starts with a nice slow ( for me) and steep uphill on the concrete road to the top where it joins the entrance to the Pezula estate. A fast downhill section to a welcome water table awaits before you join a muddy single track after another section of concrete path. The ultimate fun and way too short section is what I refer to as the canopy section. Ultimate trail running through trees on a very narrow single track over roots and dodging low hanging branches. Give me a whole day of that, please!

Back to the concrete track for the last 2km or so and I was home! A nice medal, big smiles and a cup of REHIDRAT Sport awaited me at the finish. All and all, a great experience.

xterra partyYet, it was not the end. All full Xterra participants were invited to a Hawaiian after party on Thursday evening at Cruise Cafe, Knysna. Windhoek light sponsored every one with 2 beers and tasty food was served throughout the evening. All on the house.

The big announcement of the evening was the fact that Fedhealth will be the lead sponsor of Xterra come 2016.

xterra party 2I even walked away with one mighty powerful headlamp courtesy of Extreme Lights as one of the lucky draw prizes of the evening.



Knysna Oyster Festival: 2015 edition


I have been visiting Knysna on and off during Oyster festival week for many years now. In the initial years always for just one event: the mountain bike event on the first Saturday of the Oyster festival. I think my first one could’ve been in 1994. Since then it has been hit and miss. Every HIT has been a most enjoyable experience and every MISS a sad memory…

Four years ago I entered the Totalsports XTERRA Pezula for the first time, my first XTERRA ever, and loved it. That same year I also particiapted in my first Salomon Featherbed trail run and enjoyed the experience very much.

In 2013 I thought I’d give the BIG5 SPORT CHALLENGE a go and did not know that one can have so much fun ( in such miserable weather ) in one week. Sadly 2014 was a miss again.

Not so 2015! This year I decided to order my own list of events from the big event menu. It turns out that I will be doing 4 such events between Monday 6 July and Thursday 9 July. Yip, an event a day keeps the doctor away ( or something like that!)

Here’s what I have selected from the great Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival menu:



The Athletics SWD & KMC Cross Country League 5: If you’ve never run a Cross Country (XC) event, you may want to try this one. It starts at 10h00 ( what a great time while on holiday) and consists of 5 diferent races between 10h00 and 13h00. Runners participate according to theiur age category with the maximum distance being 10km for senior men and women. I am in for an 8km run. It is not quite trail running but definitely not road. “Off-road” would be my best description.

See here for details:



The Salomon Featherbed Trail Runs provide much enjoyment. Sure, when you look at the entry fee you may feel that you can do a whole lot beter for that fee. If you take into consideration that you run through a private nature reserve, not otherwise accessible, that you enjoy a cruise across the lagoon on one of the Featherbed ferries and that besides a great run, you are rewarded with a meal at the end, it seems worthwhile to enter.

There are three time slots to choose from ( morning, lunch time and afternoon) and 2 different route options. I’ve opted for the long run ( 15km Coelacanth) and the midday run. I’ll enjoy a hearty Chef’s beef lasagne with a side salad at Cruise Cafe, where the run ends. I may of course have some refreshing beverage to go along with my meal. See here for all the info :



Some road running on Wednesday to let the trail shoes dry out! The Athletics SWD Knysna Marathon Club 5km & 10km run. Registration takes place at 13:00 at the Knysna Festival Grounds (Knysna High School)
5km – R10 pp
10km – R40 pp
Temp license – R35 pp

The 5km run starts at 14h00 and the 10km at 17h30. No early Wednesday morning for me!

Go here for an online entry:




My favourite event of the week: the Totalsports XTERRA Pezula presented by Rehidrat Sport. This is the only XTERRA event I’ve done to date and that’s only because it does not contain a water discipline. Well, that depends on the rains the weeks and days before the event, I guess. I suppose what they mean is that you dont need to swim. You may however see a lot of water ( or more like mud) while running and cycling. It is the type of mud you embrace, rather than cringe about!

The FULL event follows a Trail Run/MTB/Trail Run format. Run 3km, ride 26 km and then run another 7km. There is also a LITE version and several kids events on Wednesday, 8 July.

This event is a must and one that I simply don’t miss when I go to Knysna for the Oyster Festival. There is a great vibe at event venue. Last year I arrived in time for breakfast cereal and coffee. After the event I stayed for a beer and something to eat and just to soak in the vibe. Over the years I’ve been participating I was there on the start line with professionals such as Conrad Stoltz, Dan Hugo, Stuart Marais and Kevin Evans.

I’ve heard that there may be a great post-event party on the Thursday evening. Once I have the details, I will post it on twitter at @mtbZA

Go here for entries:

I have previously participated in the Knysna Marathon’s half marathon and love that one. The marathon itself is always a favourite and also gets fully subscribed in a matter of days. I will be missing those events this year in favour of the Salomon Bastille Day Trail Run 2015 on Saturday 11 July. This time I will be attempting the 35km run. More on that at a later stage.

So, what will you be doing in Knysna between all the craft beer tastings and oyster shucking this year?


Knysna Big 5 Challenge 2013

big 5

So, in January I entered for the Big 5 without really knowing how I will cope with 5 events over a an 8 day period during a traditionally cold and wet Oyster Festival in Knysna.

Let me just put it out there right away: It was an awesome experience and I really loved most minutes of it.


Event 1: Pick ‘n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour MTB race: 80km, Saturday 29 June

My biggest fear was the MTB event. I’ve heard many stories of 5 to 6hr+ finish times, plenty of mud and stuffed up bikes.

Well, we were very fortunate to have a dry ride. Yes, it was freezing at the start, but there was no rain during the race and the mud was really almost non-existent, from a Knysna-in-the-middle-of-the-winter point of view.

The trail, though mostly jeep track offered a great deal of forest, lots of single track, fantastic scenery and not much uphill worth talking about. I made a point of stopping at every refreshment point and enjoyed the Bar-ones, coke, banana bread and other goodies on offer.

The route was a new one and we looped back to the start without having to cross the N2 as in previous years. This race is a must for any mountain biker.


Event 2: Pick ‘n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour Road Race: 80km, Sunday 30 June

road race

About a week before the event I received an email to inform me that the route has been cut short from 100km as planned to 80km due to road works. For me this came as a welcome relief. This was the first time I did the ride towards Wilderness and I did not know what to expect. Though the route profile showed lots of ups and downs, I just could not envisage it having travelled that route by car many, many times.

Once on the road, it quickly became clear that it was a seesaw route. The first major uphill (and biggest hill of the race) starting just about 6km from the start. That climb out, once over the bridge was long and tough. As for the rest, it was a case of trying to stay with a bunch and pacing myself. Though I finished in a faster time than planned, I was still in the bottom half of the finishers.


Event 3: 15km Salomon Featherbed trail run: Tuesday 2 July

trail run

Because of the popularity of the event and the limited access to the Featherbed reserve, the race is split in 3 different start times: morning, afternoon, evening. Upon entry, you get to decide which run you wish to enter. Having the opportunity to arrive at a race venue at 12h30 for a race that starts at 13h00, really appealed to me.

From the Cruise Café on the Knysna Lagoon we boarded a flatbed steel cruiser that took us across the Lagoon to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. There we were briefed and eventually started running at about 13h30. The start was on a path along the lagoon followed by a steep “staircase” up the mountain to the top of the Featherbed. The view from there made it all very worth it. A good deal of the trail on top was single track on sandy paths an under the cover of trees. We then ran a short portion of road before once again hitting a single-track trail down the mountain toward the railway track across the lagoon. Running along the track is certainly very interesting and a bit taxing. There is no way to pass anyone and one has to concentrate very well in order not to hurt your ankles (or fall into the lagoon)

This goes on for about 3 km with another 500 m or so after that to the finish at Cruise Café.

The afternoon run had great weather and no rain. Included in the entry fee was a delicious lasagna lunch with a great greek salad.

trail 2

Event 4: Totalsports XTerra Full : Thursday 4 July

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 8.48.51 AMScreen Shot 2013-08-02 at 8.49.02 AM

This was my 3rd Knysna Exterra, so at least I knew what to expect. Well, that excludes the cold weather and mud. Lots of mud!

The first 3 km trail run was quick and fun. Except for the first single track section where there was a huge bottleneck, the rest went smoothly.

At the transition, I strapped on my helmet and exchanged my running shoes for my cycling ones. Here, during the MTB ride (of about 24km) I experienced hectic mud right from the start. Not having any type of mudguard on my bicycle or wearing any glasses, I frequently had to slow down to try and get the grit out of my eyes. The route was great and mostly in the forest on the Pezula side of Knynsa. The last 5 km or so was really muddy and I was sliding from side to side on the jeep track.

Back at the transition area it was off with the helmet and on with the running shoes again. The last 7km trail run also had very muddy sections, lots of single track and an excellent section through a canopy of trees. If, like me, swimming is not your thing, then this really is the Xterra for you!


Event 5: Cape Times Knysna Forest half marathon: Saturday 6 July

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 8.47.45 AM

For many years I have heard about the Knysna Forest Marathon. Now I finally had the opportunity to experience it.

Though the half marathon only starts at 08h00, one has to line up for a taxi into the forest from 04h30 onwards.

The night before a friend invited me to join him and 2 others for a comfy Land Cruiser ride, right to the start at 06h00. It turns out that he befriended a member of the event’s TV crew with access to get close to the area. A stroll along a well-lit path in the forest led us to an open patch where fires were warming up 1000’s of cold runners. Pick ‘n Pay had a huge Bedouin tent, serving tea, coffee, hot chocolate, rusks and energy bars. This was a great way to warm up and pass the time while waiting for the half to start, once the full marathon runners had left.

The event is well known for runners donning old warm clothes and then discarding it at the start or along the route. These clothes are then donated to the locals.

The run itself was great and no real tough sections, except for that downhill. Running through the forest (parts of it at least) is a great experience and really something that one should be able to enjoy and not race.

At the 10km mark I realized that the 4 previous events that week were starting to take their toll and that I was not going to meet my own goal time.

Although I had heard a lot about the downhill section through the Simola Estate, I had no idea that a downhill could be that taxing on your legs, knees and feet.

The run ended at the school grounds in sunny weather with clear skies.


The Big 5 was a great experience and really worth being on my annual event calendar.

Hanging around in Knysna when you know the bulk of the people are there to compete in some event or another, being able to enjoy cheap oysters all over town and sampling (though it tends to be more than mere sampling) local brews, make for a great 8 days in the winter in the Garden Route.

Road ride and trail run pics courtesy of Magnetic South and Jacques Marais








Totalsports Xterra Knysna 2012

What a great day out in Knysna! The sun was shining and the skies were clear. For the duration of the event, anyway.

This was my second Knysna Xterra event so I had some idea of what was lying ahead. Of course I knew there would be mud out there, as it had been raining in Knysna the few days prior to the event. Running and cycling in wet and muddy terrain is not as bad as actually having to participate in the rain.

The set-up at the Pezula field of dreams was excellent once again. Various stands for coffee and drinks, a Facebook photo booth and a Bokomo breakfast stand offering free cereal set an almost carnival atmosphere on the day. It is of course great to start an event at 12h30 on a winter’s day.

Off we went on the first leg, the 3km trail run. After about 1km on a concrete road, we were funneled into a single track. This was a mess. Trying to push about 300 runners into single file so soon after the start just does not work! After the quick 3km run we were back at the transition area where we picked up our mountain bikes to head into the forest.

The only comment I have about the mountain biking ride is AWESOME. Sure, there was mud and lots of it. The vibe in the forest and the actual route itself made for an amazing experience and I loved every minute of it. The cool but sunny weather together with the beautiful scenery made for a ride that is difficult to beat. I did not want it to end and was surprised when I was back at the transition area sooner than expected.

Off with the helmet and bike shoes and on with the muddy trail shoes again. The next run was a 7km one and even more muddy than the first one. This time, however, we got to experience more single track and some serious trail sections through a canopy of trees with protruding roots that called for some careful footwork.

The last km or so was on the concrete road again with a nasty short little uphill just before hitting the soggy field towards the finish line.

That welcome voice of Paul Valstar at the end made for a great finish. Two cups of Rehidrat later and I could catch my breath again.

Yes, the Totalsports Xterra Knysna 2013 is on my list of “must-do” events.

Great to also be in the company of pro’s such as Stuart Marais and Kevin Evans.

Thanks to Michael Meyer and the Stillwatersports team for a great event, once again.

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