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Garden Route Cross-Triathlon

This past Saturday, the 14th of November, was the first triathlon of the season in the Garden Route, at the Swartvlei Equestrian Estate, close to Sedgefield.

It was a Cross-Tri, which is an off-road triathlon, with mountain biking and trail running, as opposed to road cycling and road running. We swam in the Wolwe River, which feeds the Swartvlei Lake.

For the Cross-Tri-Full, it was a 1.2km swim, 20km cycle, and a roughly 10km run.

The Cross-Tri-Lite was a 300m swim, 10km cycle, and 5km run.

I'm still a newbie in the triathlon world, am not a strong swimmer, and while I've been doing a bit of road cycling this year, I am no mountain biker.. yet!

I therefore opted for the "Lite" version. The distances seemed manageable, and I was excited to take part.

I've been working on my fitness this year, and am no doubt stronger than I've personally ever been. That alone is a win for me, but of course, come triathlon time, it's a race after all.

I will admit to hoping to have done a wee bit better than I did, in terms of timing, but overall I'm chuffed for simply having taken part and finishing it.

It was tough. The distances don't reflect that as one imagines a 10km cycle to not be too challenging.

Well, not when about 8 of those kilometers are a continuous mountainous uphill (perhaps a slight exaggeration).

The run wasn't exactly smooth sailing either, as a large portion of it was on extremely soft sand, that at one stage swallowed my foot.

That may not sound like fun, but oh - it was! Here's how the day went, for me:

I left my house in George at about 05h20 to get to the Swartvlei Equestrian Estate at 06h00 to register and collect my race number.

After parking, I was greeted by the cheery faces of the other triathletes, as well as Janine, the bright-eyed and on top of it all organizer of Chain Gang Events.

She explained all of the details to myself and some others who were registering at the same time as me.

We were to put our running shoes in the T2 (transition zone 2), which was on the tennis court close to the registration station.

Then we were to cycle our bikes and swimming gear to the T1, which was about 1.5km away, at the entry point to the Wolwe river.

There, we set up our bikes and geared up for the swim. Some wore wetsuits, I chose not to.

The staff check our bikes, helmets, and swim caps - making sure the brakes work, that we have a helmet, and that our swimming caps have sufficient visibility for safety purposes.

I had learned from previous triathlons to lay out a towel next to your bike, along with your helmet, cycling shoes, and socks. That way, when you exit the water, you run straight over to your bike, dry your feet and try to get going as quickly as possible.

Every minute counts in a triathlon, the seconds too, so the aim is to move through each transition as quickly and smoothly as possible. Swim, get out of the water, run to your towel, gear up - go!

Juan gave us the race briefing and the Full distance triathletes set off at 07h00, with those of us doing the Lite distance starting about 10 minutes later.


The swim went well. I was slow, but that was to be expected from me. I wasn't out of the water last though, and felt confident that I could make up some time and catch a few of the people in front of me during the ride leg of the race.

I now have to ask myself where that confidence came from (LOL) as I have no mountain biking experience, and to add to that, I literally just got cycle shoes and had not yet mastered (still haven't) the art of clipping out of the cleats on time.

With that being said, you may have guessed that I took a tumble.

I was approaching a hill and was committed to tackling it, but needed to go down a few gears - I didn't do it in time before I slowed down, and I was still clipped in.

My legs were tired, I couldn't clip out fast enough, and I had no leg to put down and stop myself from falling over.

This probably sounds very confusing for people who have no experience with cycle shoes and cleats and you are surely wondering why a 30-year-old woman can't ride her bike without falling over, haha.

Well, let's just say, the shoes take some getting used to, and some falls are to be expected.

Fortunately, I was just dirty, not hurt.

Up I got, and up the hill I went.

Some people passed me, and one came up and joined me, a sunshine of a woman who introduced herself as Maggie.

We rode together for quite a while and chatted, almost forgetting we were in a race. We were both just grateful to be out and active on such a gorgeous day and felt thankful for our spectacular surroundings.

We completed the hill together and then started riding at our own pace again.

I was excited to get onto even terrain and loved zig-zagging through the forest area, and then flying downhill.

That was my absolute favourite part of it all, the downhills on the bike - what a rush!

The cycle route took us down to the registration point again, where we have to get off our bikes, and push it into the T2 (transition zone 2), there we rack it and then put on our running shoes. Once again, as fast as you can, before setting off on the trail-run.

To start with, I felt pretty strong on the run and not too fatigued, however, the soft sand soon got to me and I struggled to keep jogging on the slight uphills with my feet sinking, so I had to slow down a bit for certain sections.

5.5kms later, and I was all done!

In total, it took me 1hr48mins to finish. That includes swimming, cycling, running, and the transition times too.

I ran over the finish line with a huge smile, a happy heart, and some cheers from Janine and some triathletes who had finished before me.

The Triathlon community is truly something special and I urge anyone with even the slightest interest to join in.

There are stages for all levels of fitness, from the "super-sprint", which is a short distance, to the "sprint", which is medium distance, and then the "standard" - which is a slightly longer distance, but not quite "Ironman" distance.

I'd encourage anyone completely new to it, to start with the super-sprint, even if you feel you can handle a longer distance, simply for the first introduction to be a smooth and pleasant one, not a shock to the system, as even though the distances don't seem long, doing three disciplines directly after one another is a challenge.

A tough, fun, and rewarding challenge.

The next triathlon will be hosted by Eden Triathlon, our local Triathlon club in the Garden Route, on the 6th December 2020 in Groot-Brak. It will be river swimming, with road cycling and road running.

See you there!

For more information, join the Eden Triathlon and Chain Gang Events Facebook pages.

More pictures from the event:


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