10 days of awesomeness during the Knysna Oyster festival.
The Knysna Big 5 challenge consists of 5 races within a 9 day period.
30 June - Knysna 80km Forest MTB
2 July - 1.85km Lagoon swim
3 July - Featherbed 16km Trail run
5 July - MTBX 32km (Cross country)
7 July - Knysna 21km Forest half marathon
We had an excellent turn out from our MTB athletes at this years challenge with some serious contenders. Keegan Cooke, Dean Hopf, Dylan Van Zyl and Gary Marescia all showed up to the challenge with great form and fitness and I knew it was going to be an incredible week of hard racing.
The total outcome of the challenge is based on an accumulative time structure over the 5 races. The athlete with the fastest combined time at the end of the week will win. Having done the challenge twice before I realized just how important the first event - 80km Forest MTB is going to be. In previous years I have let myself down in this race and lost too much time on the rest of the field. This year I went into this race knowing that I was going to leave it all out there and hopefully it would be enough for me to minimize the gaps to those that are more inclined to MTBíng than this Roadie.
I managed to have what I felt was a great race and finished as the 5th Big 5 athlete home in 3 hr 36 minutes. This was a great confidence booster going into the rest of the week and I knew that if I could be consistent throughout the next 4 races that I would have a great chance at getting my 1st Off road Multi-sport podium. I followed up the MTB challenge with a solid PB swim in extremely cold conditions and this was enough to lift me 2 positions in the standings into 3rd which is where I stayed.
My goal for the week was to finish in 3rd as I knew that I was up against the likes of Keegan and Dean who are both exceptionally strong athletes. Once again they represented MTD extremely well and led from the front in each event. Dylan Van Zyl and Gary Marescia were both in phenomenal form throughout the week and they proved that they really meant business by finishing the week off in 7th and 8th position overall.
Keegan put the hammer down in each of the 5 events and was pretty unstoppable having led the competition from the first day until finishing off the 21km with a 1 hr 12:55 half marathon. Dean proved that he is currently at his strongest (well at least I think so) by demolishing each of the 5 races and finishing in a very solid 2nd overall. I'm really excited to see this man deliver the goods at IM 70.3 Worlds in 7 weeks. I was fortunate to do enough to complete the podium this year but it turned out to be a very tough battle in the end. 3rd and 4th position being separated by a mere 1 min 18 sec at the end of the week. Definitely too close for comfort.
It was really great to get the engine revving again after some good time off. The challenge was amazing this year and I will definitely look forward to going back next year. For now it is time to keep the head down and continue working hard for what I hope will be a good performance at Ironman 70.3 Worlds on 2nd September.