TSC victory - credit Peter Kirk
TSC victory - credit Peter Kirk

A time to look back & reflect on all that goes into a single day, 7 disciplines, 6 hours & lots of fun, racing & challenging the daunting Totalsports Challenge 2013.

Being a multisporter & passionate sucker for punishment, I arrived back in Gordon’s Bay for the annual TSC, a world class event organised by Stillwater sports. My preparation was short after a niggling injury towards the end of last year. I did what I could in the build up, trying to balance the quality & quantity over 4 very different & challenging disciplines in just 2 months. It was a very daunting task & knowing that my competitors were doing their best was pretty frustrating at times. Nevertheless, I made the most of the time I had & in the final week, I felt reasonably confident that I could challenge for the top step on the podium.

Raceday. Early start & we (my seconding team) set off to Gordon’s Bay, amped for a big day. It seemed all our prayers for calm conditions had come true… until we arrived in G’Bay, to gale force SE wind! YR had been correct & my nerves were wrenching. I gathered my thoughts & reminded myself that it is what it is & that conditions were the same for everyone on the day. I was ok.

The husstle & bussle of nerves in the parking lot were tangible. A whisper that the first surfski leg would be cancelled raced through the competitors & the rumour was true, the race would start with a 1.5km swim leg, 3 x 500m laps in a hazy, choppy G’Bay.

In a way I was relieved to hear this news, also somewhat bummed that our race would be cut short. However, this wouldn’t make things easier. Dan is a very strong swimmer, so to limit the time losses here & to have any chance before the run leg & heading towards the paddle on Arabella. I quickly needed to adjust my race plan- I knew what lay ahead.

We set off with a blistering start & as expected, Dan was on the front. I found myself settling into a good rhythm about 30sec back in a group of 4 swimmers. We constantly jossled for positions around the many turn bouys in the 3 lap swim. I was comfortable, but knew the hard work was still to come. I quickly ran up the beach & tried to focus on time splits being shouted from supporters on the side. I heard 30sec, so felt comfortable that I would bring this back, especially in the windy conditions. I slugged down a Gu Roctane & settled into a good tempo. Up the road I spotted Dan, so I slowly closed the gap & at around 15km we were together. I went straight to the front & we worked well together. Very soon James Cunnama caught us & us 3 made pretty efficient riding against a very persistent SE headwind.

The next leg I would need to make a move. A smooth transition at Kleinmond & Dan & I set out together. I would have enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the town before the frenzy began, but thoughts of a rough 12km paddle leg dazzled my mind & because paddling is one of Dan’s many strengths, I needed a gap. I opened up a gap quickly & then settled down, slowly turning the screws to a 2min30sec gap heading to the paddle at Arabella. The run was hard & the wind wouldn’t let up. I tried to keep composed, not wanting to spend all my energy in a single leg, having learned the hard way in 2012.

555380_484148388291186_689826521_nArriving at Arabella to a turbulent lagoon, I was well treated by my team & hastily sent off by a large crowd gathered on the shore. Everyone understood that this could well be the deciding leg as it was in last years battle. I found good rhythm again, trying to iron out some cramping niggles around the first 2 bouys. I was unsure about the route & turned too early. Fortunitely a team paddler spotted my mistake & helped me back on course. I lost time, but limiting the losses now was key. I tried to stay in my bubble, controlling what I could. Dan was coming, but I felt good. He went out wide to my left as he caught & I knew this needed to be his move. He paddled hard past me as I relinquished his wave. The gap was out to 50sec before i knew it, but then he eased. I tried to pick up the tempo without spending too much. I knew in my mind that I would need one last big effort if I really wanted to win, which I did.

I exited the water 1min20sec back, but I felt like my body was falling apart. hands, quads & forearms were cramping. I shouted to Bethie that I was in trouble, but tried to block out the negative & set off ono the mtb.

I quickly found my rhythm & climbed steadily up the Highlands road. I felt pretty strong & knew Dan wasn’t far ahead, so I kept pushing without over doing it. One last ascent before a 3km descent to Kleinmond. I arrived to my seconding team who were prepared for the worst. The glow in their eyes when I arrived gave me an extra bit of strength. Bethie poured cold water over me before I headed out for the most challenging discipline of the day, a 9km beach run on an in coming tide. The split was 1:45. On any day I could close this down in a flash, but I was now nurturing thoughts of another possible 2nd place. I quickly closed the gap to 50-55sec, but the following minute would seem like eternity. At the turn around, we got a quick glance at each other & I knew I could do it. I started to find good rhythm & soon the gap was a mere 30sec. We hit a hard section of sand & I dug deep & closed the gap. I knew this was it & smiled as I moved into the lead for the final time. I kicked again & moved the gap to a further 30sec. I had it now & tried to savour the moment of winning the Totalsports Challenge.

Dan is an incredible athlete. He has what it takes to win big races. He is a fighter & the race is never over until it’s over. He is a pioneer & I as honoured to take on the challenge, head to head with one of the worlds best multisporters.