19 Duathlons – 19 Days – 1845km = #WheresWillie

every now and again, one of our readers contacts us with a great story, they and we think should be shared amongst the TRI FRAT. Here goes Willie’s story which is typical of the mad loving ultra endurance junkies we find in this great country of ours


here is his story in this own words

How do you train for a multiday ultra-distance duathlon. I don’t really know. All I know is what I have learned from my previous #500kmplus adventures and the races which I have competed in. In 2008 while taking part in my first multi stage race called the Cape Odyssey I discovered that I enjoy that feeling when you must dig deep for that last bit of energy to pull yourself through. I think when you prepare for a single day event you train the distance or try and mimic the conditions you might experience on race day. Preparing for 19 days in a row of abuse, I really think it’s a mind game. One thing I have learned though through the years that we are very adaptable creatures. Once you are in a routine, everything is doable.

As always, I do all my trips for a reason and this time around I partnered with African Tails to raise funds and awareness for them on their ongoing project called Mending Mamre http://www.africantails.co.za/whereswillie/ . My duathlon a day was to kick off on October the 13th from Blouberg Namibia and to finish if all goes well 22 days later in Blouberg Cape Town. I had no idea when planning what the conditions and end mileage would be. That is what I love about these little adventures. That element of not knowing what will be thrown at you.

Day 1 started off with my 1st Half marathon which would lead to the bike leg and then finally the last running leg of the day to finish off the first duathlon a day for this trip. While planning this trip – I were asked how much mileage would I be aiming for each day? Initially I was aiming for 70 to 80 km’s a day and then upping the mileage until I have reached a 100 to 110km’s. Day 1 saw me completing a 100km’s in good conditions which set the bar for the rest of the trip. At that moment I was unaware of the conditions and issues that would follow which made a 100km’s a day hard work from here onwards.

Day 2 after completing my half marathon I transitioned onto the bike not knowing that I already would be carrying my bike 15km’s into the bike leg over my shoulder as the sand was so thick that I was getting no traction and it was nearly impossible to cycle. The sun was beating down and I knew the trip just got real that high from the previous day was gone. Now the real work would start, and I had to constantly look for a better surface to cycle or run on. I struggled and every now and then the surface would change but in the end, I had 70km’s of cycling in the bag all that was left was the last bit of a running. Yet again I managed to get a 100km’s and I knew from here onwards that I had to stick to a 100km’s a day.

Injuries is always a huge concern you can try and minimize them, but certain issues will always rear its ugly head. Prior to starting this trip, my biggest concern was a torn-up bottom end of being in the cycling seat each day for too long. As I had this issue before when a friend joined me through the Karoo on a bike packing trip along the R355. Low and behold this issue started to rear its ugly head already from day 3 onwards. Blisters and chaffing and no amount of udder cream or baby cream could keep this at bay. I was concerned about my feet, but they were perfect it was my bloody bum that was blistered. This made for agony each day on the bike. I would wish each bike leg over and the constant corrugation also did not help at all. There were long sections where I would stand and cycle which is not ideal as I would burn more energy. Looking back now I’m not sure how I pulled this one off. I just kept on soldiering on. As stopping was not an option at all.

With injuries you also have equipment failure. This trip saw me go through 2 innertubes, one front tyre and one chain replacement close to home. The massive Kameeldoring thorns take no prisoners with bicycle tyres. I cycled a custom build steel frame hardtail build by Ian Janisch. I have always been using a 26” wheel size but the new bike called Ferreus(Latin for steel) was a 27.5” wheel size. The bike was perfect for this trip and it took a hell of a beating. We also opted only for 11 gears and single sprocket up front. To be honest the gear ratio which Ian choose was spot on, there was no other gears needed for any of the steep climbs along the way.

Doing such a remote trip there were numerous days that we would finish far from any town, so much of the trip we camped and made use of farmers generosity along the route by pitching our tents on their property just to get away from the road after each day’s leg. Not once did any farmer say no to us. We truly live in a wonderful country with great people.

Although I was nursing my backend each day, I quickly settled into a routine and kept at a half a marathon each morning, then the cycle leg varied between 60 to 70km’s and the last running section anything from 5 to 10 km’s to round of the total for each day. If I felt strong on the bike I would normally push an extra km which made for a shorter afternoon run. This was always the hardest part of the day when my legs would be tired and energy levels would be at an ultimate low. My transitions were always swift with the help of Deon Maartens and Alfred Benz. They were always ready to get the bike of or on the rack and sort out my hydration and snacks. Personally, my trip would not have been successful if it was not for my great support team. We have now 5 adventures under the belt together – http://www.intrepidexplorer.co.za/2017/06/man-on-a-mission/

Day 10 saw me reaching a 1000km’s which was a major highlight for me. We reached this milestone just past Karasburg in Namibia. At this stage we were officially a day away from crossing into South-Africa at Velloorsdrif border crossing. The next great milestone would be only achieved 6 days later. This was a 1600km’s or better a 1000miles. I have not yet done any distance to this extend and it was really a great reward for me knowing that I have pulled of 16 Duathlons in 16 days. Home was also getting closer now and I knew it.

Due to that I was running for African Tails I had to pump the brakes a bit as I had a commitment with the Primary kids of Mamre to run with, this was such a great experience. An emotional experience to say the least. They were so amped to see me arrive in Mamre. Obviously, they just wanted to race me. I had to laugh at their great energy they had which I had none left after 19 days of abuse. The last 3 days we started to reduce my mileage each day, so I could time my arrival perfect at Big Bay Life Saving Club in Blouberg. But I kept to my half a marathon each morning. I can honestly say that I have ran 19 half marathons back to back. Cycling distance varied each day the final day only saw me cycling 36km’s and finishing of with a 7km beach run from Melkbostrand to Big Bay. Here I was welcomed by son Liam on the beach for the last section of running into the arms of my loving wife, African Tails, friends, family and the West Coast Athletic Club members which I am a member off. Looking back now I still can’t believe that I pulled it off 19 Duathlons + 19 Days = 1845km’s executed over 92% of dirt roads from Blouberg Namibia to Blouberg Cape Town. Would I do it again? Hell yes!