After a gruelling 10km swim (Race Report) on Friday, the remainder of the day was spent recovering and refuelling. Glycogen stores had been severely depleted and the only way I was going to perform on Saturday in the 5km was if I was able to recover in time. I spent the afternoon doing as little as possible. I began eating as much as I possibly could. I ate 2 packets of biltong, 6 muffins, 2 ham and cheese rolls, 3 big plates of spaghetti bolognaise as well as pasta salad throughout the afternoon and evening.
In the late afternoon Vanessa, James and I took a drive down to the dam, where I swam for about 15 minutes to try and loosen up my shoulders and get the blood flowing through my arms. We followed the swim with a drive through the game reserve, just before sunset. We were fortunate enough to see some amazing wildlife, Springbok, Kudu, Wildebeest, Zebra, three beautiful Giraffe as well as monkeys.
I had a great sleep on Friday night and woke up feeling fresh and raring to go on Saturday morning. The race was set to start at 09h00, so we were off to the dam early for a warm-up and race briefing. Brendon joined me for the warm up swim, and we swam at least a km. My arms were feeling a bit tender but I was ready to race. In the 5km race there is no feeding, you can take gels with you in your swimsuit, but no outside assistance. After having raced the day before, I placed a GU gel in my suit, incase I needed it. The pace of a 5km is generally a lot faster than a 10km and often doesn’t allow you time to feed either. Today I was wearing the full body Arena Powerskin open water swimsuit, only legal in FINA rules open water swims.
Again, the announcer introduced each swimmer by name and province, all 48 of us. As you are introduced, you walk down to the waters edge, passing a timing mat that tests whether your timing chip is working or not. In this championship event we were wearing timing chips on both our wrists for all of the races. Upon finishing the race and touching the finish pad, there is a sensor which automatically stops the clock, getting exact timing per finish placing.
The start of the 5km was a lot more aggressive as there were a lot more swimmers all heading in the same direction. There was contact being made with swimmers on all sides. I had a good start and found myself in 2nd or 3rd place after about 200m. I stuck behind Matt Pike, a fellow Western Province swimmer, heading towards the first turn buoy. Chad Ho, Danie Marais and Abdul-Malick Railoun moved around Matt and I from our right hand side and into the lead. There was a distinct group forming in the front of about ten swimmers. Around the turn we headed across the back straight. The group stayed close together throughout the first lap, rounding the last turn together and heading towards the halfway mark. I found myself in fourth spot heading around that turn. On the last stretch, two or three swimmers forced their way past me to sit on the leaders feet. Once on the leading trio’s feet, they seemed to pull up the handbrake. The three leaders surged and I was left in 6th place trying to pass and catch onto the leaders feet.
It was this moment where the three leaders got away and I saw my medal chances literally swimming away from me. I passed the other swimmers but by this stage there was already a few metres to the three leaders and as I tried my best, I was unable to close this gap on my own. The remainder of the pack stuck on my feet. Through halfway in fourth spot with a group of four other swimmers, we were now trying to limit the damage to the leaders and race for places in the top five.
We were onto the last lap and I continued to push the pace. I was leading the group and was trying not to over exert myself. One or two swimmers in the group tried to break off the front allowing us to fall in behind them and utilise the slipstream. We soon rounded the first turn and again I pushed the pace hard. Our group was now down to four swimmers, Chris McGlyn, Andries Schoeman, Jan van der Merwe and myself. Chris moved up alongside me and was pushing hard along the back straight. With about 800m to go Andries pulled up alongside Chris and myself at which point we both increased our pace. As we approached the last turn, with 300m to go, I managed to get slightly ahead of Chris as Andries dropped off slightly. I again pushed through the turn as fast as I could and began sprinting for the finish line. I put my head down and opened up a gap of 2m or 3m. I was hanging on for dear life but managed to finish in 4th place and finished 5km in under an hour for the first time, 59m22s. Chad Ho finished 1st, Daniel Marais was 2nd and Abdul-Malick Railoun 3rd.
The afternoon was spent relaxing with Vanessa, James and my coach Brendon. We had a great braai that evening with the WP Open Water team and shared stories about everyone’s swims over the weekend.
All in all I am extremely happy with how things went. It was great learning experience and it was fantastic to get the opportunity to mix it up with the best in the country. Now, it’s back to training, onwards and upwards.