The Clanwilliam Fitness Festival Phenomenon.

05 October 2013

The Clanwilliam Fitness Festival Phenomenon.
Article by: Frank Smuts

Till dust us do part…

The annual Clanwilliam Rooibos Fitness Festival sets off a rare social phenomenon . Like the yearly migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti, ten million tri-athletes, bi-athletes and du-athletes from the Western regions of Africa, mostly Cape Town, migrate to Clanwilliam for a weekend of multi-sport over-indulgence. Much like the wildebeest get eaten by crocodiles, the triathletes sacrifice their bikes. The bikes get impregnated with red dust. Forever. But still, they rock up with the best they’ve got. A R70 000 Specialized Venge, suffocating on a ton of red dust had me choking back tears this year. But it says a lot about the spirit. Best option is to slap two wheels onto a farm gate, and voila!

The Team Tri-Plex Multi-Sport Binge…

The swim, du, bi and tri disciplines are set out so that you can string them up like a multi-sport sosatie, and kill yourself with an endorphin overdose. Team Tri-Plex was there in full force to flex every muli-sport muscle available. Tiaan, Manus, Morne, Philip and Eugene got the first of their planned pain parties in the morning with the 1,5 Km swim. Just when cold turkey was kicking in, the biathlon and duathlon got them high again at 13H00, with Tiaan and Manus clinching 1st and 2nd for the biathlon. Morne finished 2nd overall in the duathlon, with Henry Wolstenholme as always fetching 1st for the 40+ title, as well as 3rd overall. Like father like daughter, Anja Wolstenholme took the girls triathlon title earlier in the morning.

Me, myself and many…

I rocked up to represent Tri-Plex Sport in the 40 to 100 age category of the triathlon discipline. Competing in my usual 50+ category is somewhat less stressful, because I am one of only seven people in South Africa above the age of 50 that is not on a ventilator. So, simply showing up usually puts me on the podium and turns me into a superhero for my kids. On the other hand, one big 40-100 age category leaves me at the mercy of a horde of “youngsters”, all of 13 years younger than me, riding out the last bit of testosterone they’ve got. Also on the triathlon start line was Cornel Herbst and Robyn Williams from Tri-Plex, serious contenders for the overall titles of the triathlon.

THE SWIM: drink all you can!

At 15H00 the triathlon got underway. An onshore wind generated waves that jumped right down your throat if you breathed “right side only” like me when racing! I drank half the Clanwilliam dam by myself. That’s why my swim was fast. 750 meters later the dam was empty behind me. I could walk.

THE BIKE: draft all you can!

Tiaan and Eugene, my team mates entered T1 with me. We formed a peleton of three on the bikes and set off to get the 20 Km done as fast as possible. 5Km into the ride, I rode up to Adrian, a super swimmer and my main 50+ age group rival! I told my team mates that he was the bogey man to protect me from. Since this was a “draft legal” race (meaning we could ride on each other’s back wheels to decrease wind resistance) team support was a vital factor. But Adrian, an old hand at this, simply joined the peleton and enjoyed as much drafting. He stuck like a crocodile to a wildebeest’s neck!

2 Km before the end Tiaan created a gap! I crossed over to him, expecting the peleton to come with, but somehow they did not! I charged into T2 with a slender lead but took the longest ever to get my shoes on. In my mind’s eye I saw my gap on Adrian disappear faster than money out of the Road Accident Fund.

THE RUN: dig as deep as you can!

I dug deep and grunted up the hill like a wounded wildebeest to get to the 2,5 Km turn around point as fast as I could to gauge my lead, or the lack thereof. I only saw people looking way younger than 40 years ahead of me, including Raynard Tissink, SA’s top Ironman, lying 3rd overall. I started to believe that I just might have secured a podium.


As I crossed the finish line, the announcer happily proclaimed me as 3rd in the 40+ agegroup. I was ecstatic. I started to think my kids are right: I am a super-hero!! However, it was not to be! Raynard Tissink, in all humility, (for which he is truly known for) raced for the first time as a 40+ age grouper and not in the open category. Not even the announcer knew this! And so, actually, I was 4th. My ego got deflated faster than my bank balance on debit-order day. But getting beaten into fourth place by youngsters, including Raynard Tissink was probably better than a kick in the teeth. My ego was very much restored by getting a snapshot with Raynard himself, still one of my childhood hero’s. If he was a rugby player, in monetary terms he would be a billionaire. But triathlon just does not pay that well. Still, having won 8 Ironmans a.o. makes him a very, very rich man in terms of being up there, where few of us belong!

Robyn and Cornel secured 3rd and 5th in the triathlon, an awesome achievement! All the other Tri-Plex teamsters finished way above the pleb-line, making it a good day at the office.

All in all Tri-Plex Sport had an above average performance as far as individual and team performance goes. For that we thank our sponsors: 32Gi, 2XU,PUMA, Virgin Active and Cape Auto Centre.

For now, upwards and onwards! The quest for super-hero status goes on…

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