what makes multisport cool?
In South Africa, the term multisport may consist of any combination of canoeing, trail running and mountain biking. Or like Duesouth XTERRA, it may replace the paddle with a swim, but having it first, just like in triathlon.
Multisport revels in the outdoors; it’s normally held far away from the concrete jungles of planet Earth. If you’re scared of creepy crawlies and getting dirty, multisport may not be for you. Longer events like the Totalsports Challenge (Gordon’s Bay, Cape Town) include swimming, surfski paddling and road cycling. Unlike adventure racing, navigation is not a factor, as routes are marked, and ‘short cuts’ are not an option. Mass-appeal multisport events usually start with a 5km run, then a 20km mountain bike leg and finishing with a 5km canoe leg. Longer events may include surfski paddling, road cycling, swimming, and road and beach running.
Trail shoes, a mountain bike, and a river kayak or surfski mean you have the essential toys to train for multisport. To race, you’ll need a life jacket (now called a personal flotation device or PFD, preferably with a fitted drink bottle), hydration pack or water bottles for the mountain bike leg, which takes the most time, and mountain biking shoes or if on a budget, a shoe cage so you can ride in your running shoes. You can do an entire multisport race wearing standard cycling kit. If you have a choice, use a sleeveless MTB top to keep your shoulders free for the final paddle. See Safety for required equipment at certain events.
Then there are the small useful items like sunblock (you’ll be glad the day after), energy gels (gulp these down with water should you go through a low blood sugar dip), a cap or peak for the paddle (the sun will be higher on the final leg and you’ll get less glare from the water too), and of course a spare tube and a bike repair kit.
For events like the Powerade Triple Challenge, which have lots of portaging (Triple has 4km) a heavier, harder to carry surfski will prove to be a liability, especially to the singles paddler. The only benefit of a surfski is that it is easier to get going should high winds and swells result in a swim. The lighter kayak is easier to carry on your shoulder, and with a pull rope you can drag it on the downhills a lot faster – and save energy too!
training for novices
Compared to triathlon, multisport is nearly always off-road and paddling replaces the swim, although several events offer options of swim or paddle. Since you’re doing several events and getting the cardio benefits from all of them, it’s easy to overtrain. Keep this in mind and for the first few months don’t get carried away with euphoria.
A lifejacket (PFD) is compulsory during paddling stages at events. It’s a good idea to train with a PFD too. It’s not advisable to train alone, even if you are experienced. A helmet is non-negotiable when mountain biking. (South African law actually makes wearing of helmets while riding any bicycle compulsory). If you are training alone, make sure someone knows where you are running or riding but training with a partner is safer.
Staying hydrated during a multisport event is a little more involved than other sports. During the paddle you can have a water bottle with a hose in your PFD (personal flotation device). Make sure you have another bottle on your bike (if not two) ready to go as you will need to get hydrated after the paddle. At the majority of events you won’t need a hydration pack during the run but it is advisable if you take two hours to do 10km.
contacts & events
Like many other countries internationally, there is no official multisport body in SA.