A Conversation With Triathlete Cameron Schafer

Up-and-coming Cape Town triathlete Cameron Schafer (20) has had a stellar start to his South African triathlon season with a few wins in the Sun Coast Triathlon Series followed by a “baptism of fire” in the 2009 BSG Energade Series.

Due to the fact that he only returned to South Africa in July following a two year stint studying in the USA, not many people know too much about this pleasant young man.

CRANK recently pinned him down on a Sunday afternoon for a chat about the busy last 3 months of travelling around the country pursuing his goal of reaching the top level of triathlon as well as his plans for next year.

CRANK: Cameron, you look pretty tired – what have you been doing this morning?

Cameron Schafer (CS): Oh, I just did an easy 10 km run this morning – I’m just feeling tired from the cumulative effects of the last few months of training and racing!

CRANK: You won the Jailbreak Olympic Distance Triathlon in Paarl last week – could you tell us a little bit about how that went?

CS: The race took place at the Ashanti Wine Estate near Paarl. There was a stronger-than-gale-force wind blowing on the day, so the organisers decided to cancel the cycle leg for safety reasons – obviously I would have preferred to race because cycling is my strength. The course was nice and rolling with a fair sized hill as well so it was unfortunate.

CRANK: So the race became a swim-run biathlon?

CS: Yes, the swim was fairly choppy but not too bad and the run was on gravel and quite hilly, so it was still a tough race.

CRANK: You competed in most of the BSG Energade races around the country – how did that go for you?

CS: That was a baptism of fire! So competitive. Not just the racing, but with all the travelling around the country plus organising flights and accommodation for each race combined with juggling training between the races was a great learning experience.

I found that I was consistently in the second group out of the swim so I would have to chase like hell to bridge the gap to the leaders who of course are on a different level – this is what motivates me to improve.

CRANK: Do you have much interaction with the other triathletes before and after the races?

CS: With a few of them, yes. Especially Richard Murray and Michael Davidson – we were more often than not in the same group coming out of the swim and would work together on the cycle to make up time. And Richard is an exceptional runner.

This made for a good camaraderie between us.

CRANK: With all the travelling, do you have any sponsorship support?

CS: Yes. I was very fortunate to get Orbis Security Solutions as a sponsor for the Energade Series – they provided me with flight costs, covering entry fees as well as racing kit.

CRANK: Could you tell us a little a bit about ORBIS?

CS: Orbis are a security firm based in Cape Town. They provide security and guarding services to shopping centers, residential and business estates etc.

I also received shoes from New Balance as well as support from Dad and Mom.

CRANK: You raced in a vest and speedo in your first couple of races in Durban – why is that a fashion crime among today’s triathletes?

CS: Ha,ha,ha. The new tri-suits are made of material that is both aerodynamic and and streamlined for the swim!

Fortunately, Orbis provided me with a tri-suit for the Energade Series, so I fit in better now!

CRANK: Your Dad, Mitch Schafer, was a South African Powerlifting champion back in the day – how much of an influence does his sporting background have on your own career?

CS: A huge influence – my Dad is actually a competitive cyclist now so we ride together often.

Even as a laaitie, I was in the gym with him and had the proper technique drummed into me. I still maintain 2 -3 core/gym sessions per week nowadays – I love the gym!

CRANK: Could you describe your training to us? Do you have a coach or are you a lone ranger?

CS: I work with Claire Horner of My Training Day – she sets out my program for me which entails a combination of group and solo training.

Her husband, Kent, is a top triathlete so I am very fortunate to train with him several times per week – his experience and professionalism definitely rubs off and is something to aspire to.

My training is structured as follows:

Swimming: 3-4 times/week with two hard sessions in there with Kent.

Cycling: 3-4 times/ week which would include one hard interval session on the indoor trainer. Cycling is my strength so this would be amongst my favorite training sessions.

Running: 4-6 times/week.

CRANK: Could you tell us what a hard running session would consist of?

CS: I run with Claire’s group on Tuesday evenings in Tokai, Cape Town. We usually do hard stuff like track work or fartek on the road – it varies.

The track where we run is tough as it is a soft grass track in the beautiful setting of the Chrysallis Academy – we are sheltered a bit from the wind though.

Last week we did 20 X 400m on a 2 minute interval. I was broken afterwards.

Running is tough for me as I’ve had a bit of a stomach problem which limts me to morning running.

CRANK: So how do you get through the Tuesday night session then?

CS: Well, I ate 10 slices of dry white bread during the day and that seemed to work for me.

CRANK: Cool – maybe you should approach a bakery for sponsorship. What are your plans for next year?

CS: I am going to Stellenbosch University next year to study Sports Science, so I’ll have to see how balancing studying with training and racing goes.

I plan on doing Western Province Champs, SA Champs in Gerimiston and the 11Global race in Cape Town in the first part of next year – these are all non-drafting races, so I am excited about these.

Also, I’ll be working on my swimming in Stellenbosch with Pierre de Roubaix and Brett Wood.

But everything depends on the workload at varsity. We’ll see how things go.

CRANK: You’re part of a mixed team for January’s Totalsports Challenge – tell us a bit about that.

CS: Yes. I am doing the road cycling leg for the New Balance Pro Mixed team.

Nikki Mocke is our surf-skier, a top German swimmer for the swim, me for the road ride, Claire Horner for the road run, Shaun Rice for the K1, MTB is Dale Kennedy and Kent for the beach run.

A lot of top athletes are taking part like Olympic Triathlon champion Jan Frodeno, MTBer Kevin Evans etc.

CRANK: Thanks for talking with us and good luck for next year.