About 10 months ago, sitting on the back of a truck during a team build, I had an idea. The idea was to do the Grabouw XTERRA Full individual entry and to get as many people to join me as I could. I then decided why not raise money for Songo.info at the same time and get teams together with young adults from Songo.info to do the mountain bike leg of the relay. I started making inquiries and approaching every business and brand I could think of to get involved. Go Multi came on board straight away, and set up a blog on their site for me to encourage people to join the team or to donate, or to do that “something that they’ve been meaning to but haven’t yet got to”. There was little to no interest from every other business or brand that I spoke to, and I spoke to a lot.
There were some guys and girls who were immediately keen on joining me in the individual event and a few for the run part of the relay. The team from DirectAxis started training during lunch breaks in October, with a run on Monday and Wednesday, and swim on Tuesday and Thursday, and where family commitments would allow, a cycle over the weekends. I still had no luck with finding a sponsor to supply the kit needed for us and the children from Songo.info or to make any form of donation. At this point there were four individuals who were keen and three teams. I set ourselves a huge goal of raising R15,000 and continued trying to find swimmers to pair up with the runners.
Time went on, the athletes became more dedicated and the training sessions became more intense. While the time allocated to lunch remained the same, the run and swim distances got further and with more volunteers on board my excitement was growing. Before I knew it I had more swimmers than runners, and shortly after that I had 11 individuals and 13 teams, 12 of which would have guys from Songo.info taking part on the mountain bike leg!
At the last minute First Ascent saved the day, thanks to their long term relationship with Songo and Songo.info, and offered to sponsor the vests and the T-shirts for the teams and the individuals. This came just in time as I was about to lose hope that we’d be competing looking like a team. Thanks to Andrew McTavish from TAO.inc we got a rush order through to have the Songo.info logo, Go Multi logo and First Ascent logo printed on the back. Thank you Deon Braun, from Go Multi, for your contribution to the printing.
All the hard work was paying off. The training crew was going strong, the merchandise had been ordered and confirmed and the entries were in. Thanks to Stillwater Sport and Entertainment for their sponsorship of 10 Songo.info team entries, we were getting organised.
I registered at Canal Walk on the Wednesday and I got my race pack. Number 66. Not a great number, I would have been happier with 99! I didn’t get a good vibe from that number!
Friday came and a runner dropped out. Saturday came and another runner dropped out, Sunday and a swimmer dropped out. Thanks to my teammates who very quickly managed to find replacements and to Agne du Plessis from Stillwater Sport and Entertainment for allowing them to step in at such short notice.
We arrived at the XTERRA village at the Elgin Grabouw Country Club with lots of people milling around. We found our teammates and saw theSongo.info guys arrive. Their enthusiasm was instantly contagious. They were raring to go, quite literally. One can clearly see how much they love mountain biking and what a massively positive influence it has had on them.
The swimmers suited up as did the full individuals and off we went to the race briefing. The dam level was reasonably low so the swim route was out, across and back. Not quite finishing at the same place as the start.
The atmosphere was awesome, the race organisation was fantastic.
The gun went and the nerves settled for most of us. It took me 35 minutes to tackle the 1,500m while the leaders did it in a mere 19 minutes! Transition 1 was five minutes long as I took in some fluids and caught my breath.
I realised I would get stuck in traffic on the bike but felt my mountain bike is definitely my strongest discipline so I should make up plenty of ground. Then I hit the first section of singletrack where I had to dismount and walk because of the traffic. I had to make up time and positions as soon as I got to the jeep track at the top. The top of the first section of singletrack took us to about the 5km mark and I took off on the rough side of the jeep track as soon as I could. Jumping drop offs and hopping the odd rock. The guy behind me had the same idea whooping all the way down. Then disaster struck as I crashed into the cliff side! I came around a bend and miss judged a rock getting my front wheel around it and I think my back wheel went over it. I had no time to react and crashed to the ground up against the cliff. I jumped back up and on the bike and got about ten metres trying to change gears and get pedalling before I realised that my rear derailleur was hanging next to my wheel. My right arm and leg were bloodied from the fast, hard impact with the ground and I had the sick realisation that the bike was not going to be the fun part of the race. I could not believe my bad luck. Five kilometres into the mountain bike and my race was over. This was the XTERRA I had been planning since last year April.
I was not going to give up and walk my bike back to the start. I was going to finish.
I pushed and free wheeled my bike for the next two kilometres. Craig, one of the team riders, and a fellow rider caught up with me. The other rider gave me a rear derailleur hanger just in case I could use, unfortunately I couldn’t but still have his hanger. Craig gave me his chain breaker to rig a single speed conversion. The medics on the route cleaned me up at this point too and thank you to the two of them for their sense of humour. This made the remaining 22km far more bearable, pushing only where I absolutely had to. My BB or hub eventually gave in at the 23km mark leaving me pushing on any little uphill as I could pedal but there was no forward drive.
I was one of the last mountain bikers to come into transition 2 and get out onto the run. I had to finish this XTERRA and anxiously asked one of the officials what the time cut-off was. He smiled and said that I had plenty of time, so off I went.
The run was great. The water points were awesome. The route was fantastic for tired legs after that ride. Most of the climbing came from a single 1.5km up a hill that gave views of the full race village and run route below it.
I finished in 5:33:13. Not as fast as I was hoping, but I’m over the moon to have finished. There is always next time to better my time!
I would like to make a heartfelt thank you to my fellow individual team mates as well as the individuals who made up the teams that made it possible to get the guys from Songo.info involved! The warriors that took part on the day are:
Team Mountain Bikers:
|Helen Wilson||Siphosenkosi Madolo (Songo.info)||Derek Gardiner|
|Graham Muller||Azukile Simayile (Songo.info)||Ashlene Petersen|
|Stuart Bartley||Luyolo Dunga (Songo.info)||Karin Bartley|
|Keelyn van Breda||Siyabulela Mabaso (Songo.info)||Megan Davis|
|Maria Hill||Sandiso Xetu (Songo.info)||Catherine Holland|
|Samantha Berry||Luyanda Thobingunya (Songo.info)||Angelique Tostee|
|Reinaldo Do Rego||Elton Pomer (Songo.info)||Kirsten Norris|
|Michael Addinall||Bongani Bhusakhwe (Songo.info)||Francois Roux|
|Corne Nagel||Lwazi Tshakaza (Songo.info)||Kate Martin|
|Meggie Johnson||Sikhusele Bhungane (Songo.info)||Duncan Beckerling|
|Robert Morrison||Loyiso Gaba (Songo.info)||Herman Geldenhuys|
|Ilana Steenkamp||Baphelele Mbobo (Songo.info)||Darren Robertson|
|Ashton Atkinson-Hope||Craig Howe-Watson||Monita Zeterberg|
|Jade De Hutton|
Some comments from the guys that did the XTERRA:
Catherine Holland:What a rewarding day in so many ways! It felt good knowing that we helped Songo out and hopefully we can continue to do so. Great way to bond and get to know people. Shot to DVT for the tent, snacks and cold beer afterwards! It is these kinds of events that make you feel proud and happy to work for DirectAxis – very grateful to have been a part of it.
Daniel Bailey: Loved doing the mountain bike riding and struggling on one of the up-hills had a Songo rider ride past me and could almost feel his enjoyment coming from him as he rode past with ease and even managed a little hop over one of the rocks. Helped me realise that the money and effort is going to a great cause if that is how much enjoyment one person gets.
So how much did we raise in the end? Well at last count it is just over R36,000. If you would like to contribute, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love for us to reach that R40K mark!
You can watch the full XTERRA highlights video here.
Follow me on Twitter – @steve_bryant
Next up is my first ever Two Oceans half marathon!