01 Aug, 2013

Chasing the Big 5

Chasing the Big 5

By the time my accommodation was confirmed in Knysna, entries for the half marathon had already closed, so I was unable to enter the Big 5 officially, but I contacted the organisers and they suggested I enter all the other events individually, and thus I still got to be part of the Big 5 vibe.


Day 1: 80km MTB Race

What a magnificent day in the forest. My first official mountain bike race was pure bliss! Technically treacherous downhills, long climbs, mud, drifts, bridge crossings, mini rock-gardens and the occasional drop-off – I was amazed to stay upright through it all, and my legs had never really felt anything like this before.


Day 2: 100km Road Bike Race

Terrain-wise, the route from Knysna to Sedgefield and back was just up my alley: Big, long, rolling hills for basically the entire distance made for an ultra-challenging ride. The previous day’s mountain bike race provided extra muscular 'lactate' burn, making this my most intense bike race this year.


Day 3: 14km Trail Run

The Featherbed Trail Run started on the Western Head of the lagoon and wound steeply up along the headland, then came down just as steeply. Beautiful scenery en-route, with some short zippy climbs, meant the 14km passed super quickly and an enjoyable time out in Mother Nature was had by all.


Day 4: 5km Fun Run
With a scheduled rest day in the Big 5 programme, I thought it a good opportunity to run the Knysna Marathon Club’s 5km Development Run. I ran a solid target time, and next was XTERRA. I couldn’t wait!



I knew my first full XTERRA (3km run, 23km MTB, 7km run) would be tough, but nothing could have prepared me for that sloshy bike leg. Once inside the forest, it was one messy hippo slide, and the general consensus was, “Never seen so much mud in my life!” Hands down the toughest event of the Big 5, but spectacularly scenic throughout.


Day 6: 22km Paddle
With Friday being another Big 5 rest day, I decided to turn this Knysna experience into a 'Big 6.' The previous Sunday I had chosen the 100km road bike over the 22km paddle, even though paddling is my favourite, so with my GPS-enabled surfski, I circled the Waterfront area, then headed upstream into an amazingly tranquil estuary, flanked by steep cliffs and the hazy green Phantom Forest. Eventually the river meandered to a point too shallow for my surfski, so I returned to my launch point, clocking exactly 22.5km.


Knysna Day 7: 25km Forest Run

Not being able to run the half marathon, at 8am I strapped on my GPS and set out for the Phantom Pass for my own 21km run. I’ve seldom experienced so many different shades of cooling greens as the road meandered upwards, and the views at the top (8km) were sensational. At the scheduled turn-point at 10.5km, I still felt good, so I decided it would be a 25km run.


The week in Knysna was tough, yet memorable, because I thrive on outdoor physical challenges, just me and the natural elements. So until we meet again, Knysna!




For the Big 5 Challenge, athletes must do five of these seven Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival events:

?         Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour – 80km MTB race

?         Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour – 100km road race

?         Knysna Lagoon Challenge 22km Paddle

?         Salomon Featherbed Trail Run presented by GU – Coelacanth 14km

?         Totalsports XTERRA presented by REHIDRAT

?         Pick n Pay Cape Times Knysna Forest Half Marathon

?         Pick n Pay Cape Times Knysna Forest Full Marathon


Points are calculated for each event by taking the overall winner’s time and dividing it by the individual Big 5 competitor’s time, and then multiplying that by 1000 to give a points value, so each athlete ends with a total out of 5000.




1 Stuart Marais                 4753

2 Kent Horner                   4697

3 Matt Trautman               4561


1 Carla van Huyssteen      4581

2 Marilyn Fischer              4281

3 Candice Davison           4230