It was late Thursday afternoon when Ash and I decided to change our flights from a 6am Friday morning flight to an early afternoon flight on Friday. I was determined to get to Buffelspoort dam on Friday morning to be able to ride the bike route and get a feel for it. Ash on the other hand wanted the much-needed sleep on Friday morning as well as an easy spin in Cape Town before catching our flight to Johannesburg. Looking back now, I realize how experienced Ash is with these sorts of pre race situations and how narrow-minded I can be at times. Changing our flight to a later time was certainly the right decision, as one was not allowed to see the bike leg in advance.
The start of the Totalsport Buffespoort Xterra was only at 9:30am on Saturday morning. This gave us some extra time to sleep in and make our way to the Buffelspoort dam from Pretoria, where we had spent the night with family. Ash had to be designated driver as my credit card had expired and the car had to be rented out in her name. Its not often that I get to sit back relax and enjoy my lunchbox porridge while my beautiful wife drives me to my race start. It felt strange that she was the one that would be supporting and I would be the one that would be racing, however it was the best feeling to have her by my side for my first comeback in multisport.
The morning was perfect and the water was like a mirror, reflecting its beautiful surroundings. There were over 1400 participants lining the waters edge, ready to tackle the 1.5km swim, 27km mountain bike and a 12km trail (rock climbing) run. I was surprised how relaxed I felt and how ready I felt for the race. It was a fast start as always and I soon found myself just off the feet of Conrad Stoltz and Dan Hugo. I settled in and soon found some good rhythm alongside fellow competitor Stuart Marais. I exited the water in 7th place, 1min down on the likes of Stoltz and Hugo. After only a month in the pool I was certainly happy with my swim and I know it can only get better from here.
After exiting transition 1 for the bike leg I felt great and slowly began to catch guys up the road. Before I knew it, I found myself in 3rd chasing Stoltz and Hugo. With the top five athletes all on 29er bikes, I felt a little out on my well worn in 26er. The terrain was best suited to a 29er bike and while battling over the loose rocky climbs I had lost a few minutes to the leading two. I entered transition 2 with Tyronne White and just over a minute behind us was Stuart Marais. I knew it would be difficult to hold off a fine runner such as Marais.
I exited transition 2 in 3rd and from the start struggled to find the rhythm I was looking for. We were soon greeted with great scenery and steep embankments, as we had to make our way up and down Buffelspoort Dam wall. The run course was grueling and represented a typical Xterra run route. There was very little opportunity to find rhythm on the two-lap 6km run route. After lap one Marais had passed me and I kept him in sight. With 3km to go in the run I hit a real bad patch and soon was passed by White. In the last km I found my feet again and soon a few meters separated Marais, White and myself. It was however to late and I finished in 5th.
The race is certainly one to remember and I will definitely be back to give it another bash. I learnt a lot from the race and now have a better idea of what is needed to be even faster. The Totalsports Xterra at Buffelspoort Dam is definitely a race that an Xterra warrior should put on their race calendar for 2013.