The Dual X series is slowly becoming the premier Duathlon/Triathlon series in South Africa. The turnout of athletes from all age groups and levels ranks among the highest currently. With this specific race I had one of my better racing results for the past two years. I had way too many (60% rate) 4th/5th place finishes in my last 10 races. I realized a while ago that the difference between finishing 4th and finishing on the podium has to do with an attitude problem. The athlete wanting it more on race day will finish on that podium. Thus my main focus for this race was to convert my energy and motivation to really wanting to finish strong and on the podium.
The past 5 weeks have been challenging for me with all the traveling and racing I have done. I have been traveling the country to almost all the major cities in pursuit of my own racing endeavours and supporting Sterk Span and Plavani athletes.
In total I took part in 5 major sporting events in just 5 weeks. I have seldom been so tired going from one race to another. There were days that I had to train but instead I rested and got in much needed sleep and nutrition. I have learnt to get by with very little training but still keeping up a high training stimulus and neurological activation.
Back to the race – The morning was the usual waking up getting ready for the race and working on a strict time schedule to fit in everything before the 8:00 am start for the A-Batch athletes. I did not feel fantastic during my warm up and I struggled to run under 5 min/km over my 4 km warm up session.
The race itself started at a frantic pace which is customary by now in the Dual-X series. We ran the first 2 km at around 3:05 min/km pace and then the speed dropped to around3:30 min/km except for one athlete – Brand Du Plessis who is simply untouchable in this series and the best off-road Duathlete ever to have lived and raced in South Africa.
By the end of the 6 km trail run Brand managed to open up a 2 min gap on myself running in 5th place overall. To be honest I was not at that moment even bothered about catching Brand. As he is also an ex Marathon Sub-Vets MTB World Champ. I know this sounds like giving up or not being professional about racing. But the reality is all of us (Even Bradley Weiss who has won 4 Xterra races in a row this year) are miles behind Brand in this format of racing.
The only way any person can beat Brand Du Plessis in a Dual X event;
You have to run with him on the first leg of the race at around 3 min/km pace on a trail and not a tar road surface. Then somehow open up a 2 min plus lead by the end of the Mtb leg. This will allow you to have a realistic chance in beating him. As he will be steaming down upon you on the final leg of the run if you are within sight….
Back to the race – I managed to pass Wilhelm Steyn within the first kilometre of the MTB leg in thick sand – a surface terrain that is uncommon here in Gauteng – to move into 4thplace overall. At this stage I was trailing Ian Peterkin in 2nd and William Mokgopo in 3rd place with less than a minute behind them.
Ian and William formed a two man group ealry in the bike leg and for most of the 30 km MTB leg I trailed them by around 30 – 40 seconds. I just couldn’t close the gap but neither could they cycle me away.
At more or less 20 km into the MTB Leg of the race I realized that if I did not do something about my current situation I will finish for the third time in a row at a Dual –X series event in 4th overall position. I then decided to go as hard as possible for just a few minutes and see what the effect thereof will be. At the same time Ian and William started playing cat and mouse with each other helping my cause. Ian ended up being so focused on William that he completely missed a right hand turn on an open gravel road. He lost in total about 40 seconds. At that very same moment – unknowingly to them – I managed to real them in to under 15 seconds….
With Ian missing the turn-off…William lost some focus and immediately dropped the normal power he would pedal at (William Mokgopo is the current u/23 SA cross country MTB champ). Resulting in me catching him within a couple of 100 meters. At that very same moment even more drama unfolded with William experiencing a problem with his chain (not breaking it – one of the links just seized). With all of this action happening in a very short space of time it gave me the opportunity to attack both of them.
I rode with all the power and stamina I could muster within myself and the effect was positive. I opened up a 1:30 min lead on Ian and 2 min plus on William. Not that the time gaps was purely down to the mistake of Ian and the technical of William they both experienced. Both of them in reality lost maximum 30 – 45 seconds due to their misfortune! The rest of time lost was purely down to attitude from all of us. That shows you how much a difference the winning or losing mind-set can have on a performance based athlete.
I went into Transition in 2nd overall position trailing Brand by more than 4:40 min. But this did not matter for me at all. I still had to run as hard as possible for respect and fear of Ian’s running prowess. I did not at that moment realized how much time I have managed to cycle out of him. (I received a time gap update with 2 km before the finish of the MTB leg that Ian was 30 seconds behind me. Thus I thought I would only have a few seconds on him starting the run and I did not dare to look back to confirm the time gaps as I was too focused on the job at hand).
The last leg of the race went by flawlessly for me and I managed to do enough on the day to secure 2nd place overall. I was more than satisfied with my race and performance as most of that week I struggled with my training and form.
Later that afternoon I left for Pietermaritzburg for the Midmar Mile Swim and the Monday I headed down to Cape Town for Xterra Grabouw on a super high and confident mind-set…Unfortunately Xterra Grabouw turned out to be a massive disappointment.