Interview with Kenny Rice
We caught up with Kenny after his fantastic win of the 25th FENN Cape Point Challenge. It was an incredible race with the weather gods delivering the ideal conditions for the event. The morning dawned with a light to moderate 10knt South Easterly wind blowing that was set to drop off during the early part of the morning and then pick up as we approached lunch time.
It was setting up to be a gigantic battle between the new and old guard of this race with three long-time campaigners lining up on the start line. On the starting line was Hank McGregor who had won this race 7 times and remained undefeated since 2011. Next to him was Jasper Mocké who had come second in 2015 and 2016. The big question here was: is he finally going to take the win that had eluded him for the last two years. Just to their right was Kenny Rice who had steady been working his way up the ladder from 11th in 2012 to 3rd in 2016 – could this be his year. The speculation was rife! With KZN having taken home the spoils for the last 6 years could the Western Cape finally keep the cup at home? On the Atlantic side it was too close to call as the leaders came past us.
We were delighted to hear that in the men’s race it was 1st Kenny Rice, 2nd Hank McGregor, 3rd Nicholas Notten, 4th Jasper Mocké. So we went off to chat to him and find out a little about his awesome year.
TPM: When did you decide to start racing competitively?
Well I guess that I started paddling when I was 9 in the vlei and lasted about 2 years of doing sprints but found it a bit boring. I then moved onto other sports like rugby and hockey. It was only when I was 14 that my older brother, Sean Rice, suggested that I should come down to Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club and try paddle during the winter. I remember watching the older boys from the pool table room because I was too scared to go in to the T.V room where they all were.
Slowly I started Sunday training which then included Saturday and then Friday afternoon training. Suddenly I was coming home from school, grabbing my kit, jumping on the 16:15 train to Fish Hoek, in order to do a session and spend as much time as possible at the beach every day. I then started training with Nikki Mocké and attending her Monday, Wednesday and Thursday training groups. From there I joined the Orka training squad under Pete Cole and started paddling on the vlei. In 2007 Sean (Rice) did his first Cape Point Challenge (CPC) and that really inspired me to want to do it once I was old enough. I did my first Cape Point Challenge in 2010 with Justin Maddock – He really dragged me around the point ha ha.
TPM: What about your training programme do you have a specific race lead up or do you follow a more general programme?
The beginning of the year was intentionally quite slow with being unsure of what I wanted to do and really just wanting to focus on having fun after a bit of a demoralising 2016 in terms of results that I expected of myself. Just before CPC 2016 Jasper also came back for his 2016 tour in a similar mind frame and we started knocking out a few Millers Run together and these really ignited my spark again. With his motivation and positive outlook it really changed my frame of mind and allowed me to get into a good, positive and productive space leading into July.
Initially I did not want to race as there is always the stress of getting ready for the April races and never actually 100% believing I was fit enough. So my focus shifted onto having fun and enjoying every session here with my mates. Our training was geared more at World’s initially but by the time Worlds came around it more like an opportunity rather than a goal after having such a great July North America tour with THINK Kayaks. At the beginning of the year my goal was to win the U23 title but by the time Worlds came around it became more like an opportunity to see how well I could do at the Opens level and upset the ICF system of not being allowed to medal across two age groups, unfortunately this was not the case however I achieved my goal and a solid 4th place in the Opens which I am stoked with!
TPM: But you also won at Breizh (France) and the Gorge (USA)?
You want to be paddling well in the middle of the year because that is marathon season and the sessions are such quality with everyone being fit. I wanted to make the marathon team with World Champs being in SA but whilst I was in Canada coaching I realised that I just cannot do the last couple of weeks of build up to selections overseas so I just had to accept that I’d give it my best shot after trying to see how well I could do in North America.
My race in France was more of an attempt to see how fit and race ready I was in the build-up and it proved to be spot on. The race had fantastic conditions which really helped the good vibes and it was great to see my brother again and spend some time with him! I also got an opportunity to train with the French National Team which ended up being great fun!
TPM: Do you follow a particular diet?
Yes, when I am hungry I eat ha ha! But I really try not to eat too badly but sometimes you cannot help it especially when you are travelling, however what I eat usually depends on what my body is craving. Last year I was quite good about taking in the right things and I learnt a lot about myself through this. I thoroughly enjoy my pasta and garlic broccoli.
Precision Hydration has been great for me recently with learning what I need to eat and drink; when and what, the PH team has taught me so much – I love the stuff! I do keep an eye on a diet plan that was handed down to me from my brother but saying that I had sushi and a beer at the market down the road the night before Cape Point Challenge!
TPM: Talk us through Cape Point Challenge – Did you do a recon of the route beforehand?
Yes we did the race course about three weeks before the race and I spent a few early mornings in the reserve just cruising around looking at the kelp beds in the weeks before CPC.
TPM: Did you have a strategy going in to the race?
Nope! I find it tough to have a strategy in such a long race because I’m usually very unsure where I’ll blow or start to deteriorate and there are so many variables during CPC with reefs and not being able to control other people! Obviously this year was a lucky year and I nailed my hydration and pre-race nutrition so I hardly felt tired at any point, which was so great and such a change to previous years! The biggest variable this year was, and as always, “Is Hank going to go hard at the start?”. I have never thought about a race plan but I know somehow the race always happens from the South Western Reefs to Millers. Chances are you are going to have runs home, you may still be in a bunch but if you can get the jump on someone there it will make a difference. By the time you get to Millers it is a straight line so if someone is 50m behind you at the start of that they are going to stay 50m behind you unless you mess up drastically.
TPM: So at which point in the race did you realise that you had it?
At the lighthouse I was loving every second of the runs and I knew I was in such a happy space surfing it would be tough to catch up any significant time over 20 minutes of runs! At the start I knew that if I got to Millers first, I would win however getting there first would be the tough part! There were a few significant moments early on where I thought, “Okay I could come first or second” but I kept in mind that a lot could change going through South Western reefs with you still having to get through the kelp beds where you use a lot of energy for almost no reward.
TPM: Looking to 2018 what is next?
This year I would like to improve my average results – I don’t want to come first on a good day and come sixth on a bad day. I would like to be coming first and if I have a bad day, come third. Saying that though, I don’t ever want to make winning everything but rather learn from ‘bad’ results (no result is ever bad) and reflect on what was learnt positively so that when you do win you can really appreciate the moment and value what it means. Maintaining the fun aspect and just trying to be one tiny step better than what I was the day before will be my main focus!
The races: Manly Wharf Bridge to Beach on 25th February (Sydney). Eurochallenge Surfski 28 – 1May (Alicante). Canadian Surfski Champs 14th July. Gorge Downwind Champs 16 – 21 July and anything else I can fit in-between!