First Week in South Africa

10 days ago I left Seychelles, eagerly anticipating 4 weeks in South Africa ahead of the race on 14th April – so far I have not been disappointed!  After chatting with my friend Kyle Buckingham in Kona last year, we decided to try to train together before the race, and fortunately everything worked out, so here I am!  It’s been great for me to have someone to train with again, having done all my training solo since leaving the US in November last year.  So, here’s what we’ve been up to in the last 10 days:

I was a little tired from arriving late on Friday evening, so the only training I did on Saturday was a run.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing, rebuilding the bike and getting to know Hout Bay – my new home for the next 10 days.

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We decided that for our long rides we’d drive to Stellenbosch, a town more known for its wine than anything else.  It also happens to be a bit of a training mecca in South Africa, attracting some of the best domestic and international triathletes.  The riding routes are seemingly endless with quiet roads, wide lanes for cycling and almost no traffic lights or intersections.  On Sunday morning we had a long ride planned, which turned out to be 190km – a nice way to get introduced to South Africa.  Having ridden on the indoor trainer since December, you can imagine how happy I was to be outside training!  Not content with nearly 6 hours of riding, we had an evening swim when we were back, and somehow I set a new 400m PB (although I won’t tell what it is as it’s still slow)!

On Monday morning I awoke to steady drizzle, which wasn’t what I’d hoped for with a 2 hour run planned.  There’s such a big difference between running in cold rain and warm rain, and the latter turned out to be quite enjoyable.  After an easy ride and swim I had the second run of the day, a steady 30 minute session where the legs weren’t feeling quite as fresh as they did 10 hours earlier.  On Tuesday we had a slightly easier ride, staying together and enjoying the Stellenbosch scenery.  We took a different route, heading through Franschhoek and climbing Franschhoek Pass, where once we reached the top we took a quick pic and headed back down.  I’ve seen some different things on rides, but dodging dozens of baboons crossing the road on the descent was pretty crazy!

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This turned out to be one of the most enjoyable sessions of the week.  Whilst the feeling of pushing yourself in training is great, sometimes it’s nice to be able to take it a little easier and it’s much more enjoyable to have some company on rides like this.  We spent the whole time chatting which made the long ride pass very quickly.  Once we were home and refuelled, it was time for a short nap before a run in the evening to finish off the day. 

Wednesday’s schedule looked like an easier day compared to the last few, meaning I ‘only’ had 3h45’ of training for the day – it’s amazing how your expectations change.  We got the swim out of the way early in the morning, after which I had some vo2 intervals on the bike.  I did these on the coastal road towards Camps Bay, which has some great views.

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I surprised myself with the power I was holding for the intervals, increasing throughout nicely.  In the evening Kyle had a track session with his coach Raynard Tissink, although my schedule called for a steady 10km run.  Rather than take to the track, I ran trails through the TOKKAI forest, which was 5km up, then 5km back down the mountain.  When I got towards the top it was sunset and I was looking at one of the most amazing views – I immediately regretted not having the camera with me!  Feeling absolutely starving by the end of the day, we decided to break from the healthy eating and get take-out pizza.  But one wasn’t enough.  We ordered 3 between the two of us, demolishing them in record time!  We figured we’d need the energy for tomorrow, and we were right.

On Thursday morning we were up early again at 5am, ready for another drive to Stellenbosch for a long ride.  There was a bit of early morning mist which hung around for a while and delayed our start, but it was another beautiful morning and promised to be a great day.  Fatigue had taken over even before beginning and at 6:30am I found myself with a can of Coke, mentally preparing for a hard day in the saddle.

After 2 hours of riding at a solid average pace we turned back, soon finding ourselves battling against a headwind for the next 70km.  For this ride our sessions were slightly different, so even though we were both riding the same route, we weren’t riding together.  This made for a tougher ride, although despite having some very hard training days in my legs, I felt fantastic and really pushed for the final hour.  It’s always a great feeling when you’re able to finish a ride strongly.  Kyle was back a few minutes later and we both downed multiple bottles of chocolate milk, cursing the headwind on our return trip.  Although we were tired from the ride, it was a public holiday and we’d planned to go up Table Mountain that afternoon – something that I hoped we’d be able to do before leaving Cape Town.  It turned out to be the perfect day for it - not a single cloud in the sky and perfect views of the city.  One of the highlights was the cable car ride up the mountain, which rotated as it ascended/descended. 

By the time we were home in the evening I was absolutely spent and didn’t have the energy to move, let alone drag myself to the pool.  I decided to skip the workout, favouring a lie down before another big dinner and early bed.

Friday was the first easy day of the week, giving me the chance to catch up on some much needed rest.  I took advantage of not having to set an alarm by lying in and getting 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep, a sure sign that the day before left me very tired.  I also needed the easier day to prepare for Saturday’s ride, which was another long one with multiple intervals.  For the final time, we left the house at 5:30am for the 45 minute drive to Stellenbosch.  The weather looked a little threatening and for only the second time in 8 months, I put on my rain jacket expecting the worst.  Fortunately luck was on our side and we escaped the forecasted rain.  Conditions were cool, which was ideal as I had 4x 15 minute intervals at threshold - a tough set within a long ride.  After warming up I was again surprised by how good I felt, averaging 97% FTP for the intervals.  The hard work wasn’t over though, as I had another solid 30 minute effort before the ride was done.  That ended a hard 7 day block in which I’d accumulated a whopping (by my standards) 450 miles of riding.  Again, a nap was required as soon as we were back, before another evening run to end the day. 

On Sunday we planned to ride out to Chapman’s Peak, but unfortunately the road was closed due to high winds and we had to plan a different route for the ride.  We were able to get as far as the lookout point, with Hout Bay in the background.

Today’s run had a tough 30 minute effort in the middle, where I averaged 5:56/mile before cooling down for a few miles.  As with the riding, it had been a decent running week amassing 60 miles. A swim workout rounded out the week, although I must admit I jumped out slightly early, much to the amusement of Kyle and his friend Brad.  I have no shame in admitting that swimming in a 16 degree pool is WAY too cold for me to handle.  I’m already looking forward to the warmth of the indoor pool in Port Elizabeth!

It’s been a great first week, filled with fun and some fantastic high quality training.  A scary amount of food has been devoured this week, even by my standards!  I’ve loved staying in Hout Bay and discovering Cape Town, which really is a great place.  I’m now excited for the next part of the trip in Port Elizabeth, where we fly to this afternoon to spend the final 3 weeks before the race.