Knysna Lite - Dylan van Zyl

Road to the podium:

Recently I competed in Knysna at the Big 5 Lite Challenge held during the Oyster Festival. This same event last year is what sparked my triathlon journey to life. Since last year I have joined MTD and competed in numerous triathlons in the past year, and seen what I am capable of with some hard work. Last year I placed 4th in the Big5 Lite missing the podium by a few points. This year I decided I needed to go back, properly trained and see where I end up at the end of the week.
This year I returned to Knysna feeling ready and a lot more trained than last year. The week consists of 5 predetermined events that are part of the Knysna Oyster Festival. These events are over a total of 8 days.

Event #1 is the 50km MTB race. This is probably the toughest race of the week as you need to go hard to get a good position for the rest of the week but also need to leave a bit in the tank for the event on Sunday and the rest of the week. Having said that the plan for the week was go hard and see what happens. The course itself was very dry after the recent fires which made it very dusty at times. At the end of the day I managed to take off more than 40 minutes of my time from last year and managed to grab a top 20 position overall and a spot on the Big5 Lite podium. This was a big surprise as I am not fast on the mountain bike by any means. I knew this was the going to be tough week ahead after the first event.

Event #2 was a choice between three events for us Big5 Lite athletes. The choices were 50km road race/ 11km Lagoon Paddle/ 1.85km Lagoon swim. Being a cyclist from a very young age I went with the road. It was a very interesting race with the juniors racing for honors. So the rest of us just sat on the wheel and let them drag us to Sedgefield and back to Knysna. That’s not to say that we didn’t try mix it up and get off the front. I managed to drop my competition on the back to Knysna and claimed the top spot on the Big5 Lite podium and another Top 20 overall. This set up a very exciting week ahead with me now lying 1 point behind the leader of the Big5 Lite. The first two days of racing are always important to get your position but can also cost you your position on the podium at the end of the week if you go too hard early on.

Event #3 was a 11km trail run. This year, due to the fires in the Featherbed Nature reserve earlier in the year, the route was changed. We ran from Buffalo Bay to Brenton-on-Sea along the beach then down onto the railway line across the lagoon and to the finish at Cruise Cafe. It seems like a fairly easy day out but running along the beach for 5km followed by 2km of constant climbing does hurt you on the tracks in the last 3km. I started the run knowing I needed to finish on the podium and hopefully second to put myself at the top of the leader-board. Game plan was go hard from gun to the finish, well that might have not been the best idea but hey it’s what happened. It put me in a good position going into the climb. I knew the current leader was hurting behind me on the beach, and was hoping i was hurting him enough to stay ahead on the hill. Just before we finished the long drag he caught up and passed me. Unfortunately that was the last I saw of him until the finish line. I knew if I could keep him in my sights I could possibly close him down on the railway line … didn’t work out that way … but it did get me a top 10 position overall and 3rd in the Big5 Lite for the day. Keeping myself in second on the leader-board and extending my lead over 3rd place.

Event #4 was a new event this year. It was the MTBx. Basically a MTB crit with various obstacles along the way that could either be ridden or walked through with your bike. Each lap was 8km. By now the legs were getting tired and could do with an extra rest day which wasn’t coming anytime soon. This new event was a lot of fun for all and accommodated for all levels of mountain bikers. Very tactical race for those of us going for the podium. There weren’t many places to overtake and keep that position so you had to be ready at any time. This made it more exciting. Unfortunately I got caught in the wrong position going into the last overtaking opportunity which cost me the position on the overall podium. This still gave me a second place on the Big5 Lite podium which was good enough but unfortunately made 1st place unreachable going into the last event.

Event #5 the final event of the week is the forest half marathon. Knowing that first place was pretty much a done deal I went into the run with the plan of using it to see where my half marathon pace was. The aim was to get a sub 90min which was going to be a push seen as my last half marathon I had 3 months prior was 5minutes off a sub 90min. Anyway the plan stayed with going for sub 90min and running a constant pace all the way through the run. Started off well but the legs weren’t happy. This meant easing off the pace for a few Km’s and getting into my own pace. The plan worked well and managed to get to squeeze in at 90min setting myself a new 21km PB. At the same time telling me I need to get faster still. This gave me a 3rd place on the Big5 Lite podium and just outside the top50 overall.
These results gave me a second overall on the Big5 Lite podium which I was happy about and gave me a good gauge to see how my winter training has helped me improve my performance going into the new season in a few months time.
However a special thanks needs to go to my coach Mandy as well as Claire and Kent who continuously push me at the group sessions. Without these people none of these results would not be possible. Thanks also goes to my parents who have supported me in this new sport that has taken up most of my free time. These results don’t come without sacrifice which make them even better when they are achieved.


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