Race Report: Chrissie Viljoen – 2017 Maserati Big5 sport challenge

The BIG5 multi-sport challenge is one of the highlights on the annual Pick ‘n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival programme and includes The Momentum Knysna Cycle Tour MTB Race (80km), Dragons Featherbed Lagoon Mile Swim (1.9km), BayportTrail Run (17km), MTB-X (32km), and The Momentum Knysna Forest Marathon (21.1km).

On Saturday 8 July we lined up for the 80km mountain bike race. Of the five events, I thought this one was the most challenging of the week. The first 20km felt mostly uphill and surely different to most mountain bike courses in the Gauteng area. Managed to finish in 4:03.

The next day greeted us with windy, rainy conditions and due to very low water temperature and dangerous swimming conditions, the swim was postponed to Monday afternoon.
Despite sunny conditions the next day the water temperature was a mere 13.5 degrees (in Ironman triathlons this would have meant halving the distance due to low temperature), but alas, the show must go on.. Thank goodness for wetsuits!! The swim was a 1.9km loop from the Cruise Cafe in Knysna with a loop through the harbour area. It was nice to see so many spectators coming out to support the swim. My finish time for the swim was 36:45.

Tuesday morning was time for the much-anticipated trail run. The normal Featherbed route had to be changed due to fire damage. Taxi transfers took us to the start on the beautiful beach of Buffels Bay. A very welcome 9:30 start helped a lot in chilly morning conditions. A good percentage of the run was done along the beach as well as a single-track trail section with lots of loose sand, something my itb’s certainly did not appreciate. The climb over Brenton on Sea was brutal, after which we followed the railway bridge over the lagoon to the finish at Cruise Café; my time for the trail run 1:37.

The annual Dual-X duathlon was replaced by a new event on Thursday, in the form of a ‘cyclo-cross style’ mountain bike ride of 8km containing 8 obstacles. The Big5 competitors had to complete 4 laps of the course. All went smoothly until I gravely mistimed a bunny-hop over logs and spectacularly flew over the handlebars in the most crowded spectator spot (Haven’t seen any photographic evidence, so in my books it didn’t happen! ;-))
Otherwise it was thoroughly enjoyable and short enough to not hurt the legs too badly. Finish time 1:34.

And last, but not least was the Knysna half marathon on Saturday, 15 July. By far the most popular of the events, capped and sold out at 5000 runners, we had to get to the start early to get a decent position on the line.
The start was in the middle of the forest and freezing cold! The Momentum blankets given out was a real lifesaver to keep warm until the 8:00 start. All the blankets and extra clothing being donated to worthy causes.
About 70% of the run was on gravel and rather undulating until a proper decent at Simola golf course. The last few kilometres were agonizing on legs duly tenderized by the week’s event. I was really happy to see the finish line in 1:43.

Finished with five consecutive 2nd place podium finishes in the vets category and fifth overall position for the Big 5 challenge. A wonderful week of racing in (still) one of the most beautiful areas in South Africa. Will be back next year!

Maserati Big5 challenge – vets podium:
1. Fienie Barnard
2. Chrissie Viljoen
3. Kim Tracy Brown

Maserati Big 5 challenge – overall podium
1. Vicky van der Merwe
2. Kate Dodds
3. Fienie Barnard
4. Johandri Leichester
5. Chrissie Viljoen

Big5 podium – 2nd veteran, 5th overall

Big5 challenge – MTB-X

Big5 challenge – Bayport trail run