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SA’s Tenacious Adventure Racing Teams – World Championships 2023


Ready? Set! Race! The air horn blasts, and immediately everyone sets off to begin one of the most thrilling experiences in the great outdoors.

Trekking, cycling, climbing, kayaking, outdoor navigation, and running; are simply a few of the many sports that are combined into one big adventure with the added aspect of competing against other athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. This, in essence, is what defines the sport known as Adventure Racing.

If you're looking for a quick crash course on what Adventure Racing entails, then check out last month's blog, “Trailblazing Through Nature: Adventure Racing in Mzansi Afrika” where we delve into all the details.

But for today, we’re getting to know a few of South Africa’s amazing teams; Cyanosis, Merrell Adventure, Mountain Mammoth, Pinegold, and Team Songlines a little bit better. That means learning about what drew them to this sport, how they train for races, and what they are most looking forward to!

1. Tell us about your training regimen leading up to the race (diet, hours of training, etc.).

“As a non-professional team with young families and mostly self-employed, the demands of a structured training regimen vary significantly between team members. As a team, we rely heavily on individual training during the week and focus on long sessions over weekends, where we actively try to train a planned route with navigation included. In the weeks leading up to the race, strength training, flexibility and HIIT training are the focus during the week. Weekends are focused on the longer sessions to access gear, body conditioning, meal strategy and the occasional sleep-out. Heavy packs for longer foot sections, bike packs for overnight sleep-outs with a few late-night river crossings have all been part of our training. Having completed a few expeditions, we recognize that fitness can only take you so far, so working on weak areas and body conditioning is critical on an individual level so that we can work better together collectively as a team.

Understanding each other’s signs of fatigue, strengths and weaknesses is essential for us to move collectively together and maintain morale during the race. Active communication is always a key element within our team, as well as trust in the navigator's decisions and the captain's ultimate authority to determine what is best for the team.” – Russell Meyer-Wilson from Mountain Mammoth

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2. Did you always know that you wanted to be involved in such an intensive sport?

“Our paths to adventure racing are quite similar in the sense that none of us set out from an early age to become adventure racers. Adventure Racing all found us quite organically and, inevitably. I say inevitably because we all share a passion for going far and long, but also because the performance and survival skills needed to conquer an adventure race seem to neatly coincide with all the things we have learnt over the years from competing in other outdoor sports. It’s like adventure racing is this perfect outlet to express who we are and what we enjoy most.” – Kelvin Trautman from Team Songlines

3. How did you first hear about adventure racing?

“I found Lisa de Speville’s website around 2003 and wanted to get involved in AR at that time, but it wasn’t until after Ironman days in 2009 when she put me in touch with this guy in East London (Donovan Simms) who was taking someone out over the weekend to teach them how to use a map. Me and Trace (now wife) drove up to East London and experienced orienteering with Don, all a couple of months before the Swazi Extreme 2010 – a beast of a race, which broke us, but got us hooked on AR.” – Russell Meyer-Wilson from Mountain Mammoth

4. What made you decide to compete in this sport?

“Firstly I am a jack of all trades but a master of nothing, merely because I love so many

different sports, so I can never fully focus on only one. This amazing sport brings them all together which is just the best.” – Clinton Mackintosh from Cyanosis

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5. Are there any challenges/fears you had to overcome when deciding to participate in sport?

“I never had any fears or challenges with regards to AR. Sleep deprivation and how my body would handle it was an obvious concern when I started taking part in multi-day/expedition races. But it’s incredible how one’s body adjusts to lack of sleep and constantly being on the move.” – Shale Bigs from Merrell Adventure

6. Did you work with any coaches when training for this event?

“When it comes to training and preparing for big races like World Champs, we are all quite different really. John, Lance, and Jeans prefer a less structured approach, focusing on getting miles in when it suits them. They’ll seldom take a watch to measure heart rates and pace, and much prefer exploring new places and going far to build fitness. I prefer a more structured approach. I enjoy numbers and stats and my brother Matt Trautman, has helped put training blocks together. Something we have collectively focused on prepping for Worlds is nutrition and we are keen to see how this may help our performance in October.” – Kelvin Trautman from Team Songlines

7. How do you handle/manage sleep during these races? Do you prepare beforehand and practise any sleep strategies?

“Sleep management is a huge component in racing and can really make or break a race for a team. We generally like to start and go for 36 to 40 hours before our first sleep of 2 to 4 hours (only sleep in the dark never waste daylight). Thereafter we will sleep 2hrs a night until we are done.

To prepare for sleep deprivation is difficult, one has to basically go out on training camps and put yourself in the situation.” – Donovan Sims from Pinegold

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8. Can you take us through some of the gear you find essential for Adventure Racing, and why?

"Firstly, invest in a pair of comfortable hiking/trekking shoes (preferably Merrell's). Avoiding blisters is crucial. Next, ensure you have good base layers; opt for quality thermal tops and pants to keep warm. Select a backpack that suits the distance, ideally, one that can accommodate all your essentials with a little extra space. Lastly, don't skimp on rain gear. Opt for a proper waterproof kit (not just water-resistant) to keep you completely dry." – Clinton Mackintosh from Cyanosis

9. We know that no two Adventure Races are the same, but what part of it do you always look forward to?

“Races are never the same, but the one thing that always stands out and is a highlight for many racers, is the time out there when it's just the 4 of you, and there’s not a living soul in sight. Sometimes, you can be alone for days, and that's always special for me.” – Donovan Sims from Pinegold

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10. What are your goals, as a team, for this race?

“To compete to the best of our abilities and have fun, while enjoying our beautiful country. To mix it up with the top teams in the world.” – Graham ‘Tweet’ Bird from Merrell Adventure

So, there you have it! Dedication, concentration, and a whole lot of perspiration are required, however, that does not stop these teams from doing their best and enjoying the experience.

From Merrell South Africa, we would like to wish them all the best in the upcoming World Championship Race. And, if you would like to stay up to date on race information, then head on over to the ARWS page.

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