His relationship with his chariot on the rocks, Oli makes a change to reignite the passion.
I have no doubt The Cape of Storms will rear its head in the coming days and weeks, but for now, we can truly bask in and brag about our crystal clear sunrises and sunsets and pretty much every moment in between. And with weather so inviting, it is no wonder that I spent the better part of the past two weeks on the Zaskar racking up some quality training sessions, as well as racing this past Saturday’s Die Burger 75km Mountain Bike race in Stellenbosch.
With the 2012 South African XCO session having drawn to a close, it is time for me to shift my focus to marathon racing, both one day and stage. As a result, over the past two weeks, I have considerably upped my weekly hours (and by default my mileage) without massively compromising the quality sessions. The shift in focus has ignited a fire in me. The move to marathons couldn’t have come sooner. I have been finding XCO racing was draining me mentally and in the end it wasn’t working for me. It got to a stage where my chariot and I weren’t schmaaking each other very much. When this carbon fibre-infused relationship is on the rocks, it takes a change to reignite the passion.
For me, this change has been shifting my focus and attention to marathons. While the chariot and I were having our domestic, I really couldn’t imagine doing a 20 hour training week … the motivation just wasn’t there. However, having made the conscious decision, it was as though Cinderella had shed her ugly sisters and transformed into a belta … I was suddenly looking at my GT through different eyes! A fortnight ago, I was able to shed my mental ‘baggage’ and have subsequently put together a 25hr and a 22hr training week without once losing my mind! I am properly stoked to be happily pedalling a bike again.
Having had a coach for the past 10 years and our relationship coming to a very amicable end in December 2011, I have been getting to grips with understanding the various mechanisms that an athlete needs to master, in order to arrive at major races in peak condition. While I need to tick the mileage box for marathons, my legs still need to be fresh enough to punish the intensity at the target powers: hard must be harrowingly hard and easy must be ‘wheelchair-power’! Balancing freshness and fatigue is crucial.
The upped mileage doesn’t mean I am neglecting the quality. With or without a weekend race, I am able to schedule in a minimum of 1 interval session a week as well as some motor-pacing – Swen Lauer is my pilot of choice and is more than capable of ‘making my eyes water’ with the twist of his wrist!).
Those sessions can hurt! Without the active recovery days, I wouldn’t be able to hit the higher wattages. Thus, the key lies in learning about your body and understanding what makes it tick. It doesn’t sound like rocket science and is really nothing new but putting your training schedule into practice requires discipline – you can’t follow the flock just because bha-bha black sheep and his mates are running in a particular direction. If you have a specific session, stick to it!
This weekend saw a stacked field line up for the Die Burger 75km marathon, on a very fresh winter’s morning. Meurant Botha’s route was in mint condition with slippery but certainly manageable conditions. After the usual lung and leg busting sprint up the first climb the race settled into its rhythm. I found myself riding alongside my cousin, Stuart Marais (RSA Web), the ferocious Xterra terror, who has taken SA multisport by storm! We rode solidly in about 7th and 8th position. After what seemed like an endless onslaught of short and steep climbs, we reached the long slog up to the top of the Koppie on Delvera Farm (the home of Dirtopia). On the technical descent I dropped Stuart and passed David George (360Life). I rode a consistent pace on the undulating terrain that would take us to the finish in Stellenbosch. On the final climb I managed to pass Craig Boyes (CycleFunatic), who was looking for parking, having burnt all his matches during the early stages of the race. Up front Jacques ‘Big Blade’ Rossouw (USN) took a well deserved win (having ridden from 9th position!), Ruan du Toit (Blend) rode a solid race to finish 2nd while Renay Groustra (RSA Web) pinned it into 3rd. After a strong 2nd half of the race, I was stoked to have crossed the line in 4th. The podium was rounded out by Craig Boyes.
Well done to the thousands of riders who rode the various distances, especially the longer route’rs, those climbs hurt! After such a rad weekend, here’s to keeping it pinned on many more summery days in winter!
Did you do Die Burger? Rate it here.
Oli is currently living the dream as a professional mountain biker, racing for the GT squad based out of Cape Town. Keep up with Oli on his blog http://olivermunnik.wordpress.com