Cape Point Challenge winner Kenny Rice on the benefits of knowing race conditions

By Chris Knight | 5 Minute Read

South African Kenny Rice won the Cape Point Challenge on home 'soil' (well, tehcnically on 'home water') - a race known for being the most gruelling surfski event in the calendar - for the second time in three years in 2019.

Kenny has been a long-time PH drinker, so we had to find out how he approached hydration and nutrition for a 50km race that takes in the picturesque Cape Point near Cape Town, South Africa...

 

Hi Kenny, firstly, congratulations on your win at Cape Point. How did that winning feeling to sign off 2019 compare to when you first won the race in 2017?

It was very unexpected when I won in 2017, so I was in disbelief and on a huge high. The conditions were fantastic and I had the two best boat handlers at the start - Andy and Jonny - to make sure my hydration building into the 2017 race was 'on point'. This resulted in my body hardly feeling fatigued!

This year was another story... Coming into the finish at Fish Hoek Bay I was hurting big time, but I knew I was far enough ahead of Nicky Notten that I could reflect and soak up the win and the 2019 season as a whole.

 

Jonny said it was hard keeping up with you in the pub after your 2017 win... were celebrations as big in 2019?

Well I do thoroughly enjoy post-race celebrations, especially after CPC as it caps off our year.

2019 was a special year for me, but celebrations were slightly more subdued due to the outrageously tough conditions we had for race day. It just meant the celebrations carried on a few days later...

 

This was your 10th appearance at the CPC, did you plan anything differently in your strategy this time around? 

Right from the start I tried to stamp my authority on the race, and even this didn't really work, it did mean I was solidly at the front of the bunch.

A race like this is purely about using as little energy as possible by being well positioned and confident when people make moves. 

Tactically, I didn't plan anything as 4 hours in such tough conditions means 'survival' is the priority.

 

Kenny Rice PaddlingSource: Zsuzsanna Vekassy (CanoePhotography.com)
via Kenny Rice ©

 

The testing weather conditions meant the race course was changed before race day. Did your local knowledge help you deal with the change?

To say the conditions were 'testing' would be a huge understatement. Anyone who finished the CPC in 2019 really overstepped their limits and did incredibly well.

Mentally knowing you're in for a big day normally means you prep yourself for the worst and I prepared by expecting far worse than what we eventually faced. 

My favourite place to paddle is between Cape Point and Miller's Point, as well as the Miller's Run, so knowing that the race sticks mainly to those runs gave me a lot of confidence.

In previous years, I've always seemed to feel strongest on the way home from the Point - normally when your body hits that, "oh no, I can't even see the finish and we've already done 2 hours 30 minutes" mark - so I try take advantage of that.

Paddling out of Fish Hoek most days, as well as around Cape Point, really gives me an edge as I know which direction to head when coming home in this tricky wind, or what runs not to chase when I'm hurting.

This year I can safely say that my own knowledge and experience at these points helped make a difference.

 

With that experience in mind, did your past races help inform how you approached hydration and nutrition for the Cape Point Challenge? 

Thanks to PH I've learned a ton about how to hydrate myself pre-, during and post-race.

I'm pretty big on always staying hydrated, so pre-race I'm just following my normal day-to-day drinking, but I'll throw a PH 1000 effervescent tablet into my bottle during the day.

I'm sure to have 1 x PH 1500 sachet in the evening and eat properly. I'm not big on morning eating so I don't change that, I just try force to force down two boiled eggs and 1 x PH 1500 sachet with water.

During the CPC I had a 750ml bottle on my chest with 1 x PH 1500 sachet in it as a quick-access drink for the first 10-15kms. Up front I had my normal 2 litre bottle with juice pipe and 3 x PH 1000 sachets.

I make sure I start drinking after around 45 minutes and sip every 10 minutes or so.

Food-wise, I carry four energy gels (+ one spare) which I space out on the course at my normal mental 'check points' to reward myself.

A habit I started at my first CPC (the 2019 event was my 10th CPC) is that I always carry a man-sized Bar One chocolate in my PFD (life-jacket) as you never know when you may need it in times of distress, or as a well-earned reward at the finish line... Fortunately, I'm yet to need it until the finish!

 

 

That's a top tip! The race is known as the most gruelling surfski event in the world - does it live up to its reputation when compared with other races during the year?

I'm yet to do Molokai but I'd struggle to believe it's more challenging than this year's CPC - to get to half-way you need to paddle 27kms into a headwind. This year I'd say around 40km of the 52kms was side headwind, with the rest being side on. Seriously tough.

Compared to other races, CPC is more mentally and physically fatiguing than others.

For example, if I compare it to '20 Beaches' in Sydney, which I raced two weeks earlier. My average HR was 17 beats lower in Australia and I felt like I had just finished off the biggest gym session of my life! At CPC I was spent - I had a sore bum, sore shoulders and sore hands from being out there so long!

 

Ouch! Can it be quite a lonely experience during a brutal event like this? 

CPC is normally a very lonely race from Cape Point towards the finish line as the last half involves battling your mind and pushing to make every opportunity count.

I remind myself that everyone is hurting just as much as me - a good confidence-booster if you're ahead of the field is to tell yourself that the effort they have to put in to try and catch you is likely to hurt them a little too much for comfort.

The REALLY big motivational aspect for this race is knowing you're literally counting down the minutes to the off season and a good couple of beers with mates and family!

 

Fantastic! You were able to reflect on a brilliant 2019 as you secured 2nd spot overall in the World Surfski Series. What are the goals for 2020?

Thanks! 2019 was a really good year for me. I achieved my goal of staying as close to the podium as possible, and this year I have three main targets: 

1) A senior world title. Last year I came so close but my big brother was just too strong!
2) Win one (or both!) of the major Aussie races in November.
3) Consistency. Not just in results, but rather in training when trying to find day-to-day small improvements, while not dropping the ball health, nutrition and recovery-wise, so that I'm 100% ready at every start line.

 

Thanks Kenny, it sounds as if you're building towards another very special year. 

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