9 Tips For Knysna’s Big 5 Challenge

Do you believe that “Life’s too short for one sport“?

If you do, you’ve probably done a whole stack of different activities in your life already.

2heads Knysna Pic 2Slowing down, getting old, playing it safe – these are not options for you and you find even thinking about them repulsive!

We’re betting that you are very similar to the vast majority of visitors to this site. You’re one of those sorted people that likes to take active holidays in fun places and push yourself outside your comfort zone. A contradiction in mindset to the ‘average’ Joe/Jane but you’re not aiming for average.

If you haven’t been to the Knysna Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival, we’d be surprised, but we think that you will make the trip to South Africa’s picturesque Garden Route some day soon.

You’ll think you’ve died a good death and gone to a special kind of heaven.

It’s a special kind of experience. The crisp clean winter air smells unlike anywhere else – a combination of fynbos, salt, Knysna Seahorse essence, oysters and a dash of sweat left from last year’s athletic activities.

The atmosphere is jovial. The people are friendly.

Did we mention there’s a lot of the best South African wines and just as many places to go drink them?

But enough of the side show, you’ve got some athletic challenges ahead of you if you’re in Knysna this July!

The Big 5 Sports Challenge (and the shorter Lite option) at the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival has grown fast, just like the oysters in the magnificent lagoon. At its launch in 2010, there were 53 entries, the following year that ballooned to 105 and in 2012 that more than doubled to 225. Try to beat that, Stock Exchange!

Here’s how it works There are seven races over an eight-day period of the Festival, and you need to complete five of them to earn bragging rights for all eternity. There are two days where events overlap, so you have to choose them wisely to play to your strengths. You need to choose between the road cycle or canoe race and the marathon or half marathon at the end.

Plan your week with the 2014 schedule to the right.

Big 5 Challenge 2014 schedule

Big 5 Challenge 2014 schedule

You can do fairly well in the Big 5 by being a two-sport athlete

There’s nothing like the Big 5 in all of South Africa and the atmosphere at Oyster Festival just heightens the sense of magic. It’s a unique challenge that takes you beyond your comfort zone, but also gives you an immediate payback. All participants receive a 10% reduction on race fees as well as discount vouchers at participating restaurants, activities and shops for the duration of the Festival. All races count towards the end result, and points are issued on every result, calculated as a percentage based on the race winner’s time. So you might find that the athlete who is first in the Big 5 category in the marathon will get more points than the athlete who is first in the 21km Big 5 category. This is because there are fewer competitors in the marathon and the Big 5 marathon runner’s time is a better percentage to the overall winner.

Big 5 regular JAMES ‘LETTUCE’ STEWART suggests nine ways to make your Big 5 experience even better:
1 Play to your strengths. There may be options to score a high percentage of the winner’s time if you do a smaller event like the Knysna Lagoon Challenge canoe race.
2 The MTB is very often muddy, so take a small bottle of lube or prepare to suffer the creaking of a chain in the second half. Eat a little on the first 18km of uphill. It will help later. An energy gel at the top of Simola Hill should keep your energy topped up until you get past the King of the Mountain point at 18km.
3 Eat immediately after finishing your Salomon Featherbed trail run and get into compression tights or socks to give your legs more recovery time before the gruelling XTERRA on Thursday. Immersing your legs in the cold water of the lagoon will speed your muscles’ healing too.
4 With all the events, recovery is the most important aspect to enjoy the Big 5. You need to use all the tricks in the book as you would in a stage race. Compression socks, recovery drinks and food, rest and massage.
5 You will be sore by the last weekend, so if you have limited resources put them into recovering from XTERRA to get you home on the marathon or half marathon.
6 You can do fairly well in the Big 5 by being a two-sport athlete. But if you can paddle, you will be able to give your legs a rest after the MTB race and have much fresher legs for Featherbed.
7 In theory, you shouldn’t be able to benefit from the lower numbers in the full marathon as the front runners still run very competitive times. The longer you’re out there, the bigger the gap becomes.
8 If you’re competitive, know who you are racing against and watch them carefully. Don’t let them get away from you, especially in the big events like the half marathon and bike races.
9 Don’t forget it’s a festival week, so enjoy the vibe and discover the training grounds used by Pennypinchers Adventure Racing Team – the Harkerville Forests, Nature’s Valley and Diepwalle. It’s much more than competing. It’s living and experiencing.

Enjoy!

To enter and for more info, visit the official Big 5 Challenge page.

Follow the Festival on Twitter

Originally published in the March/April 2013 issue of Go Multi.

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About Go Multi

If you love fitness, the outdoors, good health, nutritious food, travelling to new and exciting destinations, then Go Multi is the magazine for you.

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