Aug
2

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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