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February 28, 2011

Xterra Grabouw 2011 Race Report

It’s 4am and the alarm goes off. 4am. I am wondering how I am going to drag my tired self out of bed and across to Grabouw to race the best guys in the world. A cup of Brazil’s finest coffee gets my system purring and a big bowl of cement cereal settles the hunger for a while. Car is packed and gear is loaded and off we go for the 50min drive to Grabouw, where it’s time to let it all hang out and see who has the mostest on the day. We carpooled 5 of us into the car to keep out footprint down, something you can read more about on Pure Planet Racing’s Website.

I count the names in my head that should be ahead of me. Stoltz, Hugo, Murray, White, Boonstra, Horner, Pfitzenmaier, Porteous. That leaves me in 9th on a great day. 8 top level pro’s at a South African Xterra. It’s a growing sport, thanks to Stillwater Sports and the team. Cracking a top 10 will be a great day for an age grouper like myself. I like that people still think I am pro, that at some stage I must have been pro. It’s proof that doing the work means you can feature with the pro guys, even if you are working 9 to 5 within a high pressure environment. While I have never been pro and never will, I like that you think I am.

Back to the race. It really was a glorious day in Grabouw. Essentially a little moody, with that hint of excitement and notion of adventure in the air. I got set up next to Stoltz, greeting familiar faces and a few new ones who read Urban Ninja. Thanks to all who come to say hello. I can be very much in my own space on race days. I appreciate your efforts.

Warm-up went well and the legs feel a little less than spectacular after another wonderfully busy week, but I am ready to rip. A year ago I had been on the MTB for 2 months. I lost 23minutes to Dan Hugo on the bike a year ago. This year I wanted to improve that. Into the wetsuits and down to the swim start, where emotions are worn on sleeves and a pat on the back can make your day.

2 minutes before the start I opt to move from far right to far left, the best decision I`ll make all day. The gun goes and the pace is not mad, I can hang on and manage to hang feet until the first buoy in the top 6 guys but have to let the first 4 go on the return journey. I swim with a small crew including Stoltz on the return journey, trying to minimize damage and maintain form, saving the legs for the rest of the day. I hear 60 seconds down as I exit the water in 19:30, which is not a great swim for me. In the last year, I have let it slide and it’s something I have to work on, I tell myself.

Stoltz powers past me in the run up to the bikes and before I have my wetsuit off, he is out of T1. As I exit T1 I hear it’s now 2 minutes down. Clearly, transition is not my forte and I curse myself for not doing some practice. Onto the bike and the legs feel great. I catch Wood at 2km and go by, riding sections of tight trail and sand that a year ago would have cost me major discomfort and walking. The course is beautiful, lots of 90 degree turns in sand, fun single track and amazing views. Ty White comes by like a freight train around one of the corners and I know he is never to be seen again. The kid has class and he is going to have an amazing year. At the top of the hike-a-bike I hear I am 7 minutes down, not at all suprised to hear Dan is tearing up the course. I see Boonstra and Pfitzenmaier has come past on the hike-a-bike actually riding his bike. Porteous is just behind me and I attempt to follow his wheel when the road is open but as soon as we hit the single track, he is gone.

The rock garden is epic and slow going for a guy like me just trying not to fall. I manage to not put a foot down and get through the rest of the ride without issue. Into T2 I lose a shoe and have to go back to get it. More wasted time. It’s 2:30 down to Porteous, 3:30 to Boonstra and 11minutes down to Dan after the ride. I pat myself on the back for being relatively 14minutes faster than last year on the ride. Time to hit the run with gusto as its a tough one and I have seen some guys implode horribly on this run. I am in 7th and I know that with a perfect run and some luck, I could run myself into 5th. The run is brutal and your legs need to be perfect.

At the 5km mark, I count my split to Porteous at 1:30 (love the big boulders as time reference points on the route) and my legs are done. My hope is fading of catching him. I go into survival mode, happy with my 7th until I hear someone behind me at the top of the hill, not 15 seconds down. Sneaky russian! I have a quick overview and decide that I am going to hit the downhill with everything I have, letting age and experience (and some weight advantage) plus a little gravity give it one last go. I am operating on 100% instinct and 0% control as I blaze down the hill. He is nowhere to be seen as we hit the beach and I judge Porteous at 1min ahead of me. I am not going to close it in the last km as he is chasing Boonstra so I ease up and run home with a little grace, a little finesse and with a smile on my dial.

7th, just shy of 13min down on Dan, the winner. Stoltz out on account of a bronchial infection. Horner 2nd, Pfitzenmaier 3rd, White 4th and the do or die battle between Boonstra and Porteous for 5th and 6th. I am very happy with my performance. Last year, I was just shy of 40min down on Dan who won then as well. The sun is blazing and the rest of the Xterra Warriors are coming in thick and fast after me. We sit in the spectacular Rehidrat Recovery Zone, drinking jugs of the electrolyte mix, eating bananas and talking war stories in the shade. This is what it’s all about. The stories, the tales, the excitement, the adventure. From the slowest people doing the Lite version in a team to the fastest guys at the top of the sport, world wide, we are here to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, to prove to ourselves that we are able to conquer convention and overcome ordeal to walk victorious into the afternoon with a sense of self worth, of achievement.

A big thank you to all who made the event possible, to everyone who came out to be their best and to my incredible crew of sponsors who make it all worth while. Pictures a little later in the week…

2 Comments on “Xterra Grabouw 2011 Race Report

Ronel
February 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Great race!

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Kay
March 4, 2011 at 1:26 am

Well done.

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