Tuesday, December 19, 2006

UGE 150km, Botshabelo/Loskop Dam, 16-17 December 2006

Team: Lickety-Split (Fast and Quick)
Members: William Cairns, Carine Reyneke, Ian Brown, Con Loubser
Seconds: Mike and FannieAuthor: William Cairns

This was an amazing environment in which to run a wonderful race. The race was advertised as a "step up" from the sprint races to real adventure racing. In my mind a step up would have been a 90km race. This was like taking a step up from a road race to a manathon without doing a half marathon in between!

Our team consisted of two AR novices, who had done 3 or 4 sprint races only, one with more experience at longer races but with no official finishes and one experienced Adventure races with a couple of 100km and 150km events behind him. Basically a good complement of experience and youth. The team goals were pretty clear, firtsly to be official finishers and secondly to finish in under double the winners race time.

A lot of planning went into getting ready. With some members owning practically no required gear, and none owning the required paddling craft it wasa bit of hit and miss between the team members to get everything require. It was only the weekend before the race that we finally had two canoes and some frenzied activity went into making sure we were stable enough in the canoes and that we had the right partners for the race.

The team left randburg at 3pm on Friday, getting to the race start at 6pm just in time to register and get our gear sorted out before mandatory kit inspection and race briefing. After plotting all the points, and making the relevant route choices we were left with only about 3 hours to sleep. But the time spent making the route choices turned out invaluable as the race progressed with all the navigational mistakes made in the second half of the race when we had to plot new points.
As a team we did really well, the team dynamics worked out fine, Ian continually played a lead role pulling the team all the time with Con navigation exceptionally well and William and Carine talking all the time and keeping everyone smiling. Even once the length of the race started impacting the novices and the chaffing really started hurting the team was continually smiling, joking and pushing ever onwards.

Due to some superb navigation in the first Leg, Lickety-Split entered the second leg of the race in 5th position. Basically we just never got lost and Con had an unfailing ability to choose the quickest and shortest routes between two points. Even right through the second leg we remained in 5th place with Team Foodstate only catching up during the hike up into the mountains for the Abseil. The trip down the kloof was fantastic (even if I dont like the heights) and the scenary was spectacular. Ryno se Gat was really tricky getting down, absliding down the wet water falls.

The canoe leg was expected by the team to be the real challenge as only two of the team emmbers seemed to have the required balance and a serious lack of balance by certain other members of the team. Fortunatly the time spent before the race working out the right partners and boats paid off and the canoe leg went by without a single problem and was actually for everyone in the team and opportunity to rest and recover. Which was certainly needed before the ice cold cannal swim. We went from almost suffering heat stroke to almost suffering hypothermia within a three hour period. It took some team members over an hour to warm up sufficiently after the canoe leg to continue.

At "the haystack" the storm really came down. We all felt sorry for everyone stuck out on the dam and we were really glad to be out of the water. Our race nearly turned for the worse when we were told that the race organisers were unhappy with us continueing due to safety concerns. We as a team were insistent that we were to continue so agreed to sleep and continue when it was safe. A lot of miscommunication seemed to happen here with the move of the TA back to the dam wall, us expecting to sleep till morning and the race director overriding the decisions made. Needless to say (after convincing the navigator to continue) we headed off on our bikes for the final two legs of the race.

Some bad plotting by a tired team captain due to a tired and frustrated navigator nearly cost us hours of cycling. Fortunatly Ian had read the instructions properly and found a Check Point about 10kms before the position it was plotted. Just goes to show how everyhitn needs to be double checked by a backup in this sport. The sleep monsters were rather viscious that evening with three of the team members insisting on a two hour sleep at the unassisted transition. Trust it to rain as we lay down to sleep and to stop raining as we got up to continue.
The bad plotting was to continue being a problem with the third last checkpoint miss plotted and the navigator deciding to replot everything and then he himself plotting the next point incorrectly and costsing us a 2 hour detour up and down the last hill of the course, and letting the only other two teams still on the course over take us.

In Adventure Racing its easy to know if you are the last team on the course, everyone waiting for you at the end claps you in. Luckily for us the two teams that overtook us at the end each got a 1:30 hour penalty and left us in 6th place overall. As far as I know we were the first team in that included people stepping up from the sprint races to the longer length events.
Its clear, after the race, how much experience counts in a race like this. The two novices really suffered in the race due to bad equipment choices while the other two members could easly have finished the race in a good six hours less. Team dynamics and team work are also so important as "a bad team is as slow as its slowest emmber, but a good team is slightly faster than its slowest member"!

Our thanks to UGE, Nick and all the other people involved in organisting the race. And special thanks go to the seconds Mike and Fannie who were always ready with a smile and a cheerful word even though they had to continually clear up after us.