Triathlon Chris

Over the past year and a half, I have become steadily more excited about being healthy. Lots of people seems to think that being vegetarian means that you are automatically more healthy: they forget that vegetarians are allowed to consume their body weight in cheese every day.

Since August 2013, I have lost around 18% of my body weight (about 16kg) and have become steadily more enamoured with cycling.

I’ve even started running: not exactly frequently, but somewhere in the middle ground between regularly and occasionally.

As part of this exciting new me, I signed up to do my first ever Sprint Triathlon, the XTERRA Buffelspoort LITE


I decided firmly to do the triathlon in around mid December, giving me 6 weeks to train. And I kinda did, vaguely racking up some time in each of the three disciplines:


Ultimately, doing 80 lengths of a 5 metre long pool feels a bit ridiculous.

My swimming training was pretty rubbish – I only managed around 4 swims in my 6 weeks. I did a few practice swims at Sodwana Beach, but the current there is insanely strong, and the waves are pretty ferocious, so it wasn’t the best preparation for a flat lake swim of 400m.

I also tried to do some practices in local lodge swimming pools – but these ranged from 5m to 10m wide, making them not very practical for working on my front crawl. Ultimately, doing 80 lengths of a 5m pool feels a bit ridiculous, and I got more tired from constantly turning round than from swimming.


wpid-1421077162864_fact_1.jpgThis is definitely my strength – as you know, I love cycling. In the tri, I need to do 19.6km on tricky off-road hills. I bought a second hand Rocky Mountain Element 50 in Paarl, and it flew with us back to KZN.

I’ve had some lovely little rides on it, up Paarl Rock, Table Mountain, Signal Hill and a few decent ~20km trips around Mseleni. I also went after work on day to False Bay Park and spent a few hours rocketing around, as you can see in the picture on right.


I’m steadily starting to appreciate running more in my life, and I went on around 1-2 runs a week. The triathlon involves a hilly, off-road 6km trail run: a good fit for the undulating off road territory around Mseleni hospital.

I generally aimed to do runs around 6-8km, although I think doing a few longer ones would have been a good idea. My favourite run was probably the one up Paarl Rock, where I was able to sprint back down the hill at a ridiculously fast pace.

The Big Day

We are staying with our lovely friends, Paul & Debbie, in the exciting township of Soshanguve. Buffelspoort is around an hour’s drive from Sosh, so we ended up leaving horribly early – 4:40am. Whilst my friends took part in the trail run, I had several hours in which to fix a rather annoying puncture of my back wheel. After a rather exhausting hour scrounging tools (and experience) from some helpful strangers, I finally had a fully inflated back wheel.

By 8:30am, we were at the starting point, and by 8:50, I was in the water surrounded by nearly 400 other men in leotards. Soon the ten second countdown began, and off we went!


It turns out that swimming in a tight triathlon suit for the first time, whilst surrounded in every direction by hundreds of other swimmers, is quite stressful. I struggled to get my breathing rhythm sorted, and then, when I tried to stop, had people trying to clamber over me.

I actually began to panic a little, but after a minute or so, I switched to breast stroke, and made my way forwards. After the initial crush, the field thinned out, and I was able to get some space, calm down, and switch back to front crawl again, overtaking some of the people who had shot past me.

Getting out, I nearly tripped over a few times, but soon got my balance and jogged into the first transition.

Time: 400m in 10:21

Transition 1

Putting on tight cycling socks with wet, sandy feet is always a challenge. I was still a little disorientated after the near drowning, so somehow I wasted nearly half the time I spent swimming just getting changed over.

The guy who won the event did both his changeovers in around 40 seconds! Anyway, soon enough I had my bike, and was off past the start line.

Time: 4:37


Buffelspoort-XTERRA-LITE-MTB-ROUTEIt felt good to be in the saddle. The first half a kilometre was on a sandy road (see route on right), and I began to relax.

Just as I was starting to focus on my cadence, we moved onto some tricky singletrack, and there was a traffic jam. Everyone had to stop and shuffle along for a bit until the crowd had dispersed a bit. During this time, the leading girls (who set off ten minutes after us) overtook, which was a little depressing.

After a few minutes, things had thinned out again, and off we went. Generally I found the terrain quite tricky, but only had to dismount briefly maybe 20 times over the 19.4km, pretty similar to many of the guys around me.

When we went onto the smoother tracks, especially uphill I was pleased to find I was much more bike fit than the group around me, and was able to power past people, overtaking a lot. Sadly, on the technical downhills I was much too much of a wimp, and a fair number of people overtook me each time (but less than I was passing on the uphills).

I suspect this is probably a result of lots of guys enjoying a little Saturday afternoon MTB, where they drive to a tricky trail and whizz around for an hour, but they don’t do very much long distance: the complete opposite of me.

Cycle Triathlon

Anyway, after a nerve wracking technical descent, I completed the bike course, and went into transition 2.

Time: 19.4km in 1:13:52

Transition 2

Second TransitionThe automated chip on my ankle didn’t record my entrance time into the transition, and combined it with my cycling time, so I guessed that I made better time than the first one, given that I wasn’t wet, and didn’t have to change my shoes.

I did apply lots of sun tan lotion, but managed to forget to put it on my back, leading to a nice burn that has left my race number, “1505” in white skin surrounded by tan on my shoulder. I was a little disorientated, and initially tried to apply the sun lotion as a deoderant, since it was in a spray can. Needless to say, my armpit did not get sunburnt.

Time: 3:00 (probably)


Run RouteShortly after leaving the starting line, I started to get a pain in the left side of my chest, with a very rapid heart rate, around 180. I decided it made more sense to walk for a bit than to die, so it took me a few minutes to get going again. Most of the runners around me were in a worse state than me, and after my myocardial infarction had settled down, I began to pick up the pace.

To my surprise, I had a lot more energy left than the people around me, and I was able to steadily overtake for the rest of the run.

There was a very steep gradient on one uphill, which I walked part of, but aside from this, I didn’t need to stop for the rest of the race (except a brief moment to eat some fruit gums and grab a glass of water from a refreshment stand).

The last kilometre was very enjoyable, and my pace picked up more, the closer the finishing line came.

Running home

And then I was done, the race complete!

Time: 5.8km in 37:28


Winners MedalMy overall time was 2 hours, 9 minutes, 19 seconds. I came 173rd, out of 585 racers (29% centile), or 144th out of 389 men (37% centile). Given that I was aiming for 60% centile, I’m pretty happy.

Given that running is really not my forte, I was very happy with that side of things: compared to the Puma trail run results from earlier in the day (which did the same route), if I had entered that and run the same time, I’d have come 20th out of 234 runners (9% centile) – and I’d already done the first two parts of a triathlon!

All in all, I had a fantastic time, and definitely plan to do lots more of them. I think I need to get a fair bit more training in, but just on the swimming, cycling and running parts.


At the moment, myself and the lovely Katherine are on holidays in the Canaries. Much as I would like to write more here, for now (its €1 per half hour in the internet cafe) I will just leave you with a picture of me having fun.

And, no, before you ask, I didn’t beat the tide.

Day Thirty Four – Prayer and Inefficiency

The following post is from a series of emails I wrote to my girlfriend at the time, whilst on a trip to Africa. She is now my wife, so I did something right.

As you are hearing, I had a bad week, this week. Today we had a meeting with a woman from the Health Department. We wanted to say to her; if you could have money in any area what would it be. This was so that we could prepare a proposal that addresses the areas that need work in our district.

We did ask her that question. Unfortunately, she didn’t listen. After 20 minutes of her telling us that the Health Department will never give us money to employ staff, despite the fact that we just had a briefing meeting with them, where they explained what they want to do is give us money to employ staff. And she just wouldn’t listen.

It was annoying, but welcome to officialdom within Africa. We actually found out the next day that the compulsory meeting regarding the proposal had been moved, without anyone telling us, from the 23rd to Friday! So the woman, instead of lecturing us on rubbish, could actually have shared the information that she definitely knew.

This afternoon, Grant came round to play Splash, which I won very narrowly. First game I failed at, but the next two were fine, taking me to a great victory. Unfortunately the weather here has not been very sunny, so the pool is freezing. It needs three or four warm days to become warm. On the plus side, if you have have 4 hot days, then the next is cold, all day the water is still warm.

In the evening I went to cell group. Rather than any program, tonight a woman shared her pain. Her husband has been an alcoholic for 12 years, and her life is misery. It was a hard evening, but everyone shared her pain, with prayer for the both of them, with advice and with love.

I spent at least an hour afterwards just lifting up the husband to God, going over and over the qualities of an elder from Titus, asking God to bring those qualities forward.

This is the verse the lady shared, feeling that God was using them to allow her to go away for a month, to have a break:

“As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”
Titus 3:10-11

On the way home, wearing no shoes, I got trapped by a Bull Mastiff standing in the middle of the road growling. My only option was to walk an extra 2 blocks in order to avoid the dog. Still, I got home with all the skin on my legs and face still intact.

Much love,


Day Twenty Three – A well earned day off

The following post is from a series of emails I wrote to my girlfriend at the time, whilst on a trip to Africa. She is now my wife, so I did something right.

Today was Saturday, my day of Sabbath. I started off with a nice lie in, right up until 8:10! Reckless, eh? Then I read my book a bit, and lazed around the house.

About 10, Ian’s parents popped by, on their way somewhere else, and it was interesting talking to someone with a West Country accent out here. After that we took a ride to the rubbish dump, to unload an entire trailer full of waste. They don’t have binmen in this town! There were people living at the dump, sorting through rubbish, hoping to find things of use. I’ve seen worse in Mozambique, but it was still sad.

At 12 I discovered that people were going to the dam again, and it seemed like a good time to go. Luan (I finally learn his name the day he leaves) is going off on a 7 month gap year extreme sports thing – learning scuba diving, sky diving, etc. It is costing a bit over £10,000! But yeah, he’s a fun bloke to be around, and so he had a “Let’s go to the dam party, then a braai at my house”.

The dam was fun – even though I got neck ache. I managed to successfully dive off the one and a half storey cliff, without any damage, disembowelment of accidental castration. We all even managed to jump off the three storey cliff as well. That was amazing. I also ran into Faye’s parents, and found out her dad is off to Joburg on Tuesday, so a lift is organised. We drove home, me rubbing my neck ache, which I hadn’t noticed up until that point.

Back at mine, me and Grant invented the greatest game known to man – Splash. You stand either end of the pool, with a table on its side behind you. Your job is to stop the ball hitting the table. However, the ball can bounce on the water, and you can change its weight with absorbing water in it, changing is speed and stuff. First man to ten wins. We played for an hour and a half, leaving me with a sore arm, to go with my sore neck. [NB Two days later I STILL have arm ache from that rubbish game]. Needless to say, I won 4 games, two sets, and thus the match.

Next I went to the braai with Grant. It was okay – I swum in the pool there, and beat off three challengers on the pool table. I also managed to find veggie hot dogs in spar, despite being told by a senior member of staff there that they don’t sell them. Soon I was knackered though, and bed was very welcome. As I lay there, arm and neck aching, all the rest of my muscles complaining, I knew it had been a good day.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

Just thought I would drop in some Jesus there. Do we observe all he has commanded us? Hmm.
Much lovings,

PS. Okay, okay! It wasn’t neck ache, it was neck burn! I forgot to put lotion on my neck. I did everywhere else though! And it wasn’t that bad anyway, its gone brown you BUMFACE!

Day Seventeen – If I told you to jump off a cliff, would you?

The following post is from a series of emails I wrote to my girlfriend at the time, whilst on a trip to Africa. She is now my wife, so I did something right.

Church was first on the list today. This time, I wasn’t fresh off the mountain, smelling like a bonfire, so I could put on my shirt, shave, and smell nice. Twas good.

The main focus from today’s service was the vision of the church. There was a presentation, with a detailed explanation of each part. It was good, and also kind of showed me why the split isn’t such a bad thing; the two churches have two very different aims, and modus operandi.

The worship was good today, with a song from the News Boys, the one that goes “And all God’s people sing, Glory, glory! Halleluyah, He Reigns!”. The Spirit was there.

Afterwards, with the tea and coffee, I got talking to Pat, who helps out in Mokgolokoeng each weekend. It turned out that her kids are always messy, and that it drives her up the walls, so I came to her house in order to do washing up and ironing. Sadly, when I got there it turned out that her son had done it all (maybe not sadly, that’s actually a good thing), so I just hung out with Grant for a short while.

I gave him a copy of my cd, and we put it on loud. It sounds good on a stereo, even if the bass was way too high.

He then mentioned how he loves going to the Strurkfontein dam (literally “strong fountain”), to go swimming and jumping in off cliffs. I was intrigued, and a few phonecalls (and the inevitable “I’ll be there now…” wait), we were on our way.

In the back of the car we had a CD player with Aqua’s album blaring out loud. We had coke, sprite, nik naks, peanuts, and splenty of sun tan lotion. We nearly all had dark glasses. It was very Californian.

When we got there, it was ridiculously beautiful. Think fifty times larger than Ladybower. Probably more like hundred – its fourteen kilometres wide at points, and nearly a km deep in the middle. And warm, on top, anyway. Full of huge fish. With cliffs of various heights, from half a storey, upto three. We all chickened out of the three-storey one, but did the one and a half one several times.

After several happy hours, the time came to go home again. Now 37 was blaring on the stereo, really odd to hear music from 2003, what the radio was playing in Year 12. The soundtrack to today, sung with passion by us all as we passes through amazing vistas, and wide, sweeping views, was “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got, til its gone”

That’s basically it, except for dinner I had 5 pancakes. Yum.

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:48

After a day like today, of such perfection, seeing God’s world, even if it was through a manmade dam, I think God’s perfection is clear. Ours, lol, is a little lacking.

Love you,


Day Sixteen – Too much meat

Hey there lovelyface.

Today was kicked off with a lie in until 8, then work at 9 until 1. Never a fun thing to do on a Saturday, but at least it meant there is less to do on Monday. We spoke on the phone for a bit, which was nice, and I read you some of my proposal. Your talk sounds good too. Interesting how a talk on being veggie linked into my day… Anyway.

On the way back from the office, I popped to Franna’s house – you remember him, he’s the guy with the Afrikaans worship cd I like, the one who has always very supportive of my Christian punkness. Well, sadly, he was out. In fact, they are moving 400km on Monday, so I’m going to pop in then. I left his wife a copy of our new EP. What do you think of the name “End This World EP”.

Anyway, it was back to mine and preparing for the Braai! Celebrating my birthday in a true South African way, was nice, and it was great to see so many people turn up. I have some real friends here, and its nice to be with them.

It started at 2, and my main job was to cook a huge vat of maize meal to go with the meat. I also played some cricket (badly), and supervised swimming in the pool. This was fine until I ripped my swimming shorts (I don’t know how) and had to leave for the sake of a) my modest, and b) the innocence of the 5 year old girls in the pool.

I also cooked my meat, and ate it. By the end I was sick of it, and didn’t want any ever again; hence this linking in the talk earlier. Mohau eventually arrived 6 and a half hours late, just before the fire had completely gone out.

I ended the evening chatting with Hloni about the Anglican church until past midnight, sitting on a chair in the dark, after everyone had gone home. I think, all in all, the Church of England does more damage than it does good. There is no solution, aside from disbanding the church entirely, and that’s not feasible. However it was a good chat, and you know how I like to argue stuff objectively for hours.

Can a man be profitable to God?
Job 22:2

Short but sweet. And deep.

I love you,