The Covid-19 lockdown has inspired some extreme exercise measures from cyclists, runners and triathletes. In a series of Home Challenge stories, we look at a few FNB Wines2Whales legends’ backyard adventures. Second in the series is the back-yard 70.3 distance triathlon completed by Cally and Bianca Silberbauer.

Bianca and Cally on the charge during the bike leg of their at home 70.3

Cally and Bianca Silberbauer are no strangers to the FNB Wines2Whales. The sisters are the daughters of Trail’s End owner Pieter Silberbauer and if you’ve bought a bottle of Oak Valley wine in the race village in the last two years, you’ve probably been helped by one of them. Aside from being purveyors of fine wines they are both FNB Wines2Whales finishers in their own rights, and endurance sport junkies.

Unable to take part in any ultra-distance sports events during lockdown, the Silberbauers, or the Sillies as they are affectionately known, devised their own challenge. With their garden bordering on Trail’s End’s grounds and having access to a 25-metre pool made the task of setting out a 70.3 distance triathlon course a little easier than it would be for most. They also decided to take on the challenge for a good cause; raising funds for songo.info, a Stellenbosch based cycling and education charity, while they cycled, swam and ran.

For mountain bikers unfamiliar with triathlon’s 70.3 distance, the event entails a 1.9-kilometre swim, a 90-kilometre bike and a 21.1-kilometre run. In miles those distances add up to 70.3-miles. It is, in short, a challenging event; especially when undertaken off-road, as the Silberbauers did.

“At the beginning of lockdown, our Dad started clearing a route in the garden which we later connected to the flow trail at Trail’s End via a loop around the house, dodging the washing line and swings, around the pool and off the deck and into our more technical section of the route: the rock garden” Cally Silberbauer explained. “The whole route wasn’t exactly what you’d call ‘manicured’ but after 70 plus laps we forged a pretty compact path through the pine needles.”

“The lap distance for the cycle was about 1.3 kilometres and our run lap was about 1 kilometre” the elder sister elaborated. “It was a gruelling course that required a lot of leg power and concentration for every metre. There were also five gates which we had to open on the first lap, which kicked off at 7:30 am. There were also a few large rocks that were relocated to make ramps and to create space for a more flowing (kind of) ride.”

“We started with the cycle because we knew it would be the toughest aspect of the day, what with such a short, technical loop and many laps to make up our 90-kilometre target” Cally revealed. “We had also hoped that the day would warm up making the 1.9-kilometre swim a little bit easier, as neither of us have wetsuits. Bibs (Bianca) didn’t even have a costume at our parent’s house. By the time we finished the cycle, at around 3:30 pm, the weather had barely warmed up. We even had a bit of rain on lap 60.”

“In total it took us 12 and a half hours to complete the 70.3” Cally said. “We definitely did stop for food and water breaks; as well as for our sanity. We also had to warm-up with a Trail’s End coffee post-swim. Our total moving time was about 10 hours. Food is important okay,” she laughed.

“Our parents definitely kept us motivated” Cally continued. “My Mom, Brenda, supplied us with whatever food we wanted, while my Dad documented our every move on the socials. When we stopped for too long, they’d send us back out onto the course. After 50 plus laps of the cycle, it did seem to take forever to make up any distance. With the weather being quite icy, it was a huge effort to get into the pool. We both sat there for a while mustering up the courage but once we got in, the cold definitely motivated us to keep moving.”

“The run was tough from start to finish; and just got progressively worse” Cally added. “Especially when the light faded and we had whip out the headlamps, all the while smelling homemade soup and being taunted by our parent’s G&T’s. The thought of beer definitely kept us going; that and a shower and food!”

“We decided to do this challenge because we know just how privileged we are in this lockdown” she reflected. “Not only do we have a family for company, enough food to enjoy wholesome meals. And not even just the set three, there has been plenty of snackage in between. But we also have a garden, that we’ve subsequently proved is big enough to complete a 70.3 in. This is definitely not the case for the majority of South Africa and we wanted to use our privilege for good and to inspire others who are in similar circumstances to give to those less fortunate than ourselves. The lockdown sure has a way of pointing out the imbalances in society but rather than feeling guilty about it, or simply not caring; we wanted to make a difference by doing something that might be a bit extreme and uncomfortable. However, not having food for a couple of days and not knowing how you’ll be able to support your family is a lot more extreme and uncomfortable.”

“We contacted songo.info to see whether we could partner with them to ensure the money we raise gets to the people that need it most” she stated. “They were more than happy to have us on board and helped us set up the donation links and communication. We’ve raised R6 350, which the charity has used to create food parcels for the families in Kayamandi, and we’re hoping to see that figure rise with a few people still wanting to donate.”

The Covid-19 lockdown has inspired some extreme exercise measures from cyclists, runners and triathletes. In a series of Home Challenge stories, we look at a few FNB Wines2Whales legends’ backyard adventures; starting with Matthys Beukes.

 

PYGA Euro Steel’s Matthys Beukes is one half, along with Philip Buys, of South Africa’s most successful stage racing team; in recent years. Among his illustrious list of wins is the 2017 FNB Wines2Whales title. For a man used to going on long training rides and spending weekends away racing, the lockdown has been particularly tough.

 

“After Cape Epic was cancelled and I got back home I was severely depressed. The reality of what was going to happen hit me hard” Beukes confessed. “After 3 or 4 days I realised that I had a decision to make. I could take control of how I handle the situation. I started working on the lap around our house to get it ready for something special, exactly what I didn’t know at the time; but I knew it would have to be something that would push my boundaries and hopefully inspire other people in this tough time.”

 

The origin of Beukes’ idea for a 24-hour challenge came from Netflix. Fortunately, he found inspiration from Carroll Shelby rather than Joe Exotic, or the challenge could have been very different. “One night my wife Michele and I were watching Ford vs Ferrari on Netflix” Beukes explained. “It’s about the battle to win the Le Mans 24 Hour race between Ford and Ferrari. I thought it must be so cool to do something like that, the rest is history! I highly recommend watching that movie too.”

 

“The lap is around 400 metres long, super technical with loads of twists and turns, stairs up and down, and a bridge up onto a wall that I built from a piece of fence I took out” he pointed out. “At best I can average 14 kilometres per hour on it, so the going is slow. My lap times vary from 1.5 to 2 minutes per lap. I also didn’t have a 24-hour solo ride in mind when I set out the course. It is probably the hardest course I could design around our house. When the 24-hour idea came up I knew doing it on this course would be a challenge, but that was what I was looking for so I didn’t change anything.”

 

The ride itself turned into a test of psychological endurance rather than physical, Beukes revealed: “The craziest thing about that experience, for me, is how mental it was. I’m always very aware of the mental side of things and how important it is but doing this just highlighted what I’ve come to learn very, very, clearly… Once you are in the right state of mind, pretty much anything is possible. I found the hardest part of the 24-hours were the first 20 minutes.  It really felt like a massive weight on my shoulders. In both the days leading up to the ride and especially during those first 20 minutes; but once I tuned into the right mindset, it was plain sailing all the way through to the end.”

 

“That was the mental side of things, but physically I struggled with severe pain in my hands for the last 8 hours. The mental/physical battle was never going to be lost though. So, I knew the pain was just something that I was going to have to accept, manage it if I can (which I never could) and deal with it. That physical challenge was minor compared to the mental battle of the first 20 minutes.”

 

“It is ok to feel overwhelmed by the mountains we face and if it gets us down, that is ok too” Beukes philosophised. “The human mind is way more powerful than we think and anyone has the ability to tune into a better mindset to turn things around; it’s not easy but it is possible. When I struggled during those first 20 minutes, a metaphorical mountain loomed over me, I started thinking about how beautiful the mountain is and how I’m going to enjoy climbing it. I tried to look forward to experiencing the ups and downs it was going to give me. It’s difficult but you should try to find the positives in every situation; and when there are none, embrace the challenges.”

 

Family has proved to be more important than ever during the lockdown and Beukes feels fortunate to have the support of his wife, in lockdown and beyond. “The people in your team can make or break you, my wife, Michele was super supportive of me and that meant the world to me. Also, my neighbours came out at 2am to give some support and the boost that gave was really important. This made me realise the importance of giving people more love and support. If it’s free to give, why not?”

 

“It really is about the journey and not the destination, I never really went anywhere but I loved it” Beukes concluded.