Thursday, 23 June 2016

One Photo, A Few Words 9.0


Bonsai trees, soul surfers and half-pipes

There is a tendency to assume world-class athletes are slaves to numbers, graphs and all things science. While that may very well be true for some, many top-class performers I’ve known over the years actually follow a far more “low tech” approach to their chosen sport. Little known fact: many amateur athletes/weekend warriors are far more “scientific” when it comes to training. Racing is a different story though and however unscientific some elite athletes might, one thing that stands out as commonplace among them is their knowing how to “go to the brink” on race day, training – or lack of – be damned.

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On any given early-Saturday morning the small seaside village of Simon’s Town would be quiet and the local beach empty, save for a few fishermen or dog walkers. The naval base would be on weekend “stand easy” as the local cafes would open their doors to local customers and the odd cyclist stopping for a Bar One and Coke.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Doug Bird: Behind the Voice

Of flow, value and self-discovery

It had been a long day when Doug Bird got an unexpected call. The setting was the 2008 edition of the ABSA Cape Epic and a youthful Bird, along with his fellow Epic staffers, had finished up their task of sponsors branding for the day. Bearing in mind that this was back when the event moved town daily, making its way from Knysna all the way down to Cape Town - a travelling roadshow par excellence and a challenging one for the organisation at that.

Katie Csak called and asked if I could take the evening presentation. Dan Nicholl was ill and they were desperate so I found myself on stage soon after. Needless to say I was rather nervous – the evening presentation is a serious event in itself - but just went with the flow. I’m not sure if the Europeans really “got” my sense of humour though.”

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Doug Bird’s voice is synonymous with endurance events in South Africa. As race MC for events such as Joberg2C, Sani2C, Dusi2C, Dusi Canoe Marathon, Berg&Bush, Red Bull Lionheart, Wings for Life World Run and the Nedbank Green Mile and the Comrades Marathon, the man from Pietermaritzburg is well known for is witty and informative commentary. Race and event MCing is not a role for the fainthearted and the lanky Bird fulfils this function in an extremely professional and adaptable manner.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Nick Bester: Kamikaze Pilot

Bester's Bigger Picture

The header image is an extract of an article that appeared in the now defunct SA Runner/TriCycling magazine circa July 1991. Nick Bester had just won the Comrades Marathon and journalists were keen to get an insight into his preparation. One key factor was a Pretoria psychologist, Dr. Andre Roux, who was profiled in this interesting piece by Ross Fraser entitled "It's All in the Mind."

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As 2016 Comrades Marathon champion David Gathebe was reeling off sub-3min kilometres into Durban, Nick Bester was interviewed by the SABC Comrades Marathon commentary. As a former winner of the world’s most prestigious ultra-marathon, Bester was quizzed for insight on his own experiences of "low-flying" into eThekwini, in particular his memorable 1997 duel with Charl Mattheus.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Forest

For the love of trees

I recently came upon a YouTube video channel that I enjoyed several years ago. Set in Belgium's Meerdael Forest, three short movies show an extremely lean and fit fellow named Pieter put himself through the paces in a simple and primal way. The background music is upbeat as Pieter goes about jumping, lifting and running barefoot through the trees due east of Brussels. He even includes his young son in this simple yet demanding regimen, proving that workout time and a young family can be combined in wholly creative manner.

Watching these films again reminded why I love a forest. Together with a beach, a forest is simply one of my favourite places no matter what the activity. Whether running, walking or just being among the trees, there is a solitude and energy like no other, a special feeling that is difficult to actually describe.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Idiosyncratic Athletes

Of cuts, bruises and defending last place

Daniel Lloyd gave viewers a great insight into the ways of the pro peloton yesterday. As the Giro d' Italia wound it's way towards Benevento, the former professional cyclist turned TV pundit related an interesting observation of his days with the now-defunct Cervelo Test Team

Working primarily as a domestique, one of Lloyd's key responsibilities was to deliver team leader Carlos Sastre to the bottom of an important climb in a good position. This function is easier than it sounds, where the domestique's role is to shield their GC rider from the wind and elements all the while providing bottles and whatever other assistance the team leader requires. Conventional wisdom and logic dictates that being towards the front of the peloton is pretty much a given in order to go with the main breakaways. Not so for Sastre who insisted on staying towards the back end of the bunch literally to the foot of a key climb, providing Lloyd with a few butterflies to say the least. The fact that Sastre literally rode through virtually the entire field once the road veered upwards might seem surprising. That he was in the top three over the summit is simply astounding. Or is it?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Joy of Racing Shape

The Ebbs and Flows

Being in race shape is a great feeling.

On form; in the zone - call it what you like but being in state of peak physical and mental fitness for competition is truly wonderful, not to mention intoxicating. Everything feels easy and just seems to fall into place, true synchronicity on a personal scale if you like where flow predominates over any type of ebb.

Whenever I think back to my own periods of peak running fitness I'm initially left with a feeling of happiness and sheer exhilaration. The deeper reflection that often follows my "head in the clouds" nostalgia tends to bring me a little closer to earth, with memories of the little niggles, morning tightness and the sheer intensity of race pace flooding back into my conscious. Those fast 10km times or freakishly fast cross-country races look great on paper, but there is always a price to pay leading up to or immediately after such super-efforts.