Thursday, December 31, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

A tale of Franschoek & wine

Since the images coming back from the Cape were so inviting, I was eager to join the 'travelling' half of team lickety split in Cape Town. So far the exercise which I have been getting, comprises digesting Christmas lunch and then subsequent masses of leftovers, with frequent forays on foot up the mountain, behind Somerset West. A trip to Franschoek led over the mountain pass to Betty's Bay, with a long walk in the Fynbos along the coast. Franschoek wine route and free wine tastings are to be recommended!

The Annual Orienteering Sprint Cup

For the past few years, whenever we have been in Gauteng for Christmas my family has made the effort to attend the Annual Sprint Cup. The vent has normally been held at the Witwatersrand Botanical Gardens but this year was held at the Kloofendal Nature Reserve.

This year my family, parents and one brother attended the event. None of us had previously been to the Kloofendal Nature Reserve so the terrain was new to everone. Our family entered myself on the mens course, my wife (Yolande) and daughter (Loreley) on the womens course and the reset formed into two teams.

I took the first leg very easily, unsure of my true level of fitness I walked as much as possible, and ran only when the paths were clear and easy. A lot of the route required trips accross country off the paths and in some sections the undergrowth was too thick to get through. I twice stopped and helped Loreley work out where she was, and Yolande also had to backtrack and assist Loreley with 2 points. Other than that she did quite well.

I finished the first leg in 50 minutes. It didn't feel that long but it had been a long time since I last did an Orienteering event.

The second leg of the event was started as a chasing start - so whoever finished first was the actual winner. I would have started some 30minutes behind the leader but the lower starts were changed to 1 minute apart. Coming to the second checkpoint I saw the two people who had started just before me, the had gone off the path too soon and I was able to catch up to them. The 3rd checkpoint was well hidden and I was able to get ahead of another 2 competitors, the 4th and 5th checkpoints seemed to be well of their actual plotted points but I was lucky to find them early and get ahead of yet another 2 or 3 competitors. Unfortuntly I overshot point 7 by quite a bit and lost most of the places I had taken.

The race got quite fierce with 3 of us (Craig Ogilve, David Pilling and myself) racing each other for the rest of the course. Slowly Craig and I dropped David and were purely racing each other to the end. On one of the very last points Craig made a navigational error and dropped back from me - needless to say I was looking over my shoulder for him right to the end anyway.

At the end of the second leg which took me 54 minutes, I had moved ahead David Pillign having caught up 6 minutes on him, and was just behind Craig having caught up 7 or the required 8 minutes on his time.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas all crazy Adventurers!

Let us savour every bite taken in the next 48hrs! This trifle is tradition and serves up to 20 people. Luckily only 7 of us this year! Looking forward to an eventful 2010 to burn off the wonderful festive foods! Merry Christmas Lickety Split! Shalom

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dark n Dirty - Thursday 17 December

I don't mind falling, well not that much. I dont even mind getting hurt (I have walked 8kms on a broken ankle before). But tearing my cycling pants I really really dislike!

On thursday night 7 of us got together to do a Dark n Dirty ride. With a brave trail meister, a sweeper, 2 newbies, 1 nearly newbie we had a Dark n Dirty group. I left my light at home and had to buy a super cheap Pic n Pay special headlamp. The usual warning was given about first one to climb off their bike without meaning to gets to write the report.

Off we went into the dark... and the brave trail meister got lost, with a sudden stop he started looking around for the path. While everyone was trying to help find the path nobody saw me half fall off onto my knee.

So once the path was found we went peddalling off into the dark. But on the wrong path. This time I was seen to land on my knee. It wasn't so obvious as nobody really suggested I write the report. The brave trail meister realised he had the wrong route, and stopped to find the right route - over I went onto my knee again - my knee by now was sore from three gentle falls onto it - even the blood streaming down my leg didn't really let onto anyone that I had fallen.

So off the brave trail meister went - on the route he was originally looking for - and he fell badly, upended the bike, feet in the air, bike light disconnected and everything. "Oops" he says.

Down past cornwall hill we went. My not-so-super-bright light made it a ride of note - 30km (yeah brakes on) down a vertical slope when you cannot see the angles makes it a lot of fun!

Our super trail meister gave us a running commentary of what each hill was called (but I have forgotten most of them) so I sort of got to know which hill was which. With 3 pretty much newbies in the group we had to do the 'sprint to the light - it is only about 200m away' which is actually a 2km sprint but catches the newbies every time!

I now know which hill is the mine shaft - not nearly as bad as it sounds, the python - which we did as fast as we could, Look Ma no Brakaes - where I went straight over the handle bars, bike following until my foot slipped out of the shoe - by now I was getting tired of falling.

Then on the last simple little single track back to Moo Mall I fell again, smashed onto my elbow and shoulder BUT my shorts caught onto the sadle and ripped a hole the size and shape of Zimbabwe in my shorts. (Carine took a rude photo of my bum as proof - and there is far too much bum showing for a civilized race report).

So let me repeat, I dont mind falling (though 5 times in one night was a bit much), I dont mind getting hurt (blood running down my leg is fine), but I really object to getting my cycling shorts torn!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Scouting the winelands.

Must add that i miss team. Know they would've loved the hills & sandy roads.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Merry christmas

William is behind Adri, as usual!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

24 Hours of Rietvlei - Official Race Report

So, team Lickety Split decided to do "24 Hours of Rietvlei Farm". It was to be last team event of 2009 and everyone rocked up with varying expectations. Emails flew around during the preceding week detailing plans and strategy. Key phrases in said correspondence ranged from ‘social’ and ‘taking it easy’ to ‘military precision’ and ‘tactical advantage’. Mostly, though, catering and gazebo decorations were discussed in the finest detail.

The racing team consisted of Mike, Nando, Adri and myself with William, Sue and Trish in support. Mike volunteered to arrive early and secure real estate for our camping effort. He did a sterling job of getting a prime spot with a massive front lawn thrown in to sweeten the deal, and only a stones chuck from the transition area. It sure beat camping out in the windswept sticks as many latecomers had to endure. As the team started to arrive our camp soon resembled a medium sized Bedouin village rounded off with Christmas lights.

Soon enough, thoughts turned to the task at hand and I went for a quick warm-up ride before the race briefing. I got tangled up in the twisty track purpose cut across a dry (for now) vlei and, when I finally found my way out, missed most of the briefing.

The start was of the Le Mans variety and bikes were positioned about 200 meters from the line. I positioned myself near the front of the bunch thinking the sooner I get to my bike the better to avoid the consternation and chaos that’s bound to happen. It worked well. I picked up my bike in the first group but was so winded from the flat out sprint that it took me half a lap to recover.

The course was nice and varied. After the somewhat pointless meander across the dry vlei the track headed up a short, easy (for a while) climb to the first bit of twisty single track. I never tired of this section and it was nice to try and negotiate the sweeping turns and energy sapping bumps faster and smoother every time. A fast, technical section followed that took the course behind the original farm building and down some fast and rocky single track into the first forest section. This section was perfect to catch ones breath as you could only go so fast between the trees. A short, brutal climb out of the forest lead to a nice, smooth road that delivered you to the crux of the course, an uphill section that just kept coming at you. In the heat of the day it was highly unpleasant as there was no tree cover. Soon enough, though, the course turned and started heading for home with a blistering downhill that put a smile on my face every time. Fast flowing single track lead to some more twisty forest sections. When you eventually popped out of the forest the camp and transition area seemed tantalizingly close but a ‘sting in the tail’ style climb and meander had to be dispatched of first before the super fast descent into transition. All in all it was a course I didn’t mind riding repeatedly and it was one that the solo competitors would feel in their legs for days afterwards.

After handing the baton over to Nando, I sat down for a well earned rest and discussed tactics with William. We agreed to best course of action would be to rotate on a single lap basis and only switch to double laps during the late night and early morning to give everyone a chance to get a bit of sleep under their belts. After Nando, Mike went out on a super fast lap and bettered my first lap time. This inevitably sparked an internal fastest lap contest that simmered all the way to the end. William, in his new role as cycling team manager, wandered around with a stopwatch, scribbled notes and muttered to himself while planning the demise of all other mixed teams on the roster. He predicted that our individual fastest laps would only come on Sunday morning. I disagreed stating there’s no way I can go any faster and that fatigue will surely slow us down steadily during the course of 24 hours. Sure as not, the whole teams’ final laps proved to be their fastest. The human body continues to marvel!

The rest of Saturday afternoon disappeared in a blur of riding, eating, resting, eating, lying down, eating, resting a bit more and doing the odd lap trying to better our personal best times. We’ve been eyeing a band of thunder clouds and for a while I thought it would bypass us to the south but by about 17h30 it was clear that we would be receiving some form of precipitative offering! And offer it did! I was on my third lap when the heavens opened and a storm of epic proportions presented itself. Lightning crashed all around and contemplated the isolating properties, or lack thereof, of rubber bicycle tires. Luckily, I avoided in-depth empirical research on the subject and found myself in transition where race organizer Dimitri told me the race has been suspended until the lightning subsided.

Back at camp the rest of the team also had epic tales of saving our encampment from blowing to downtown Alberton. We decided to make the most of the lull in racing by exchanging Christmas gifts and singing some carols before getting busy with the most important part of the day: Dinner! William, cycle manager and chef extraordinaire, prepared perfect roast chicken and vegetables on the Weber. Before it was 100% done, though, the race was restarted and Nando had to go ride on an empty stomach. We sent him off and tucked in only to be surprised twenty minutes later by a returning Nando dragging something that resembled a bicycle behind him. Apparently the (used to be dry) vlei had turned into a quagmire that severely impeded forward progress with the stickiest mud imaginable adhering to all moving parts of the bike. Some people apparently took half an hour to do the 1.5 km vlei section. Nando gave up the good fight and returned in order to save his bike from certain demise. As Nando sauntered off to find a tap to clean his bike, we stood around looking at each other sheepishly, wandering what to do next. I sat down and opened a beer while contemplating the situation. No one wanted to go out and wreck their bike. An announcement that the offending section of the course was to be cut out didn’t spur us into action either. We all knew those forest sections would be as bad as it gets. I opened a second beer after dinner and severe nafi-ness kicked in big time. Members of the team that hoped for a more social event had their wish granted for the next hour or so while we sat around goofing off and chewing the fat. Mike worked his way through a few Savannahs, secretly building courage. At some stage Adri realized that the course was actually open and rideable and confronted us with the inevitable question: “Why are we not out there…riding?” This simple yet eloquent question had the desired effect on Mike. He finished his ‘how-many-th’ Savannah with a deep swig and loped off in the direction of his bike, thus ushering in the late night part of our race……

As our esteemed manager and fearless leader William rightly noted, 24 hour races are won or lost during the night. The ability to efficiently circulate at a consistent pace and smoothly rotate in the dark quickly separates the experienced teams from the wannabees. We did OK during the night, doing 2 laps each before handing over and going for a well earned hour or two of sleep. The amount of mud on the course, and the sections in the forest especially, slowed us down considerably. Soon enough it was getting light and I had the pleasure to do the sunrise lap. I’m sure it would have been more pleasurable if I had actually been awake. That only happened after Sue handed me a cup of steaming moerkoffie and I could dunk a few of Francina Kruger’s finest.

The stage was set for a showdown of OK Corral-like proportions. We were lying in sixth position and realized we could make up some positions if we put our heads down. Adri passed Team Bravo soon after breakfast to move us up to fifth. We decided to set our sights on fourth place as our goal for the morning. If nothing else it would keep us out of mischief. We started chasing and raced hard all morning, bettering our lap times all the time as the course was drying out nicely by now. Fearless manager William devised a strategy for us to get the maximum amount of laps by allowing me to ride a fast lap after Mike and coming through the timing tent with about 2 minutes to spare. This allowed Adri to do a leisurely final lap as this would still count towards our final total. Well, no-one told Adri that and she proceeded to better her best lap by almost 2 minutes. We still ended a lap and a half behind fourth place but this also meant that we had gained a lap and a half since early that morning. A job well done, even if I had to say so myself.

We spent a full day riding in circles, created nothing of any worth, spent calories unnecessarily, our productivity index hovering around zero. To most people on the sidelines what we did must have seemed like a complete waste of time and they would surely ask: “but.… why?” My philosophical answer to this would be simple: “If you have to ask, you’ll never know!” Of course there is a more practical answer: “Because it feels so good when you stop!” In the end it is all about hanging out with good friends and celebrating with some not-cake! Thanks to the team and supporting cast for a great weekend!

Team Results:

Pos Laps Time Team

1 39 2009-12-06 12:12:22 Team Teen

2 38 2009-12-06 12:24:48 Goldfish and the Bowls

3 33 2009-12-06 12:19:15 Full-of-Beanz

4 32 2009-12-06 12:03:40 The Good The Bad The Old And The Ugly

5 31 2009-12-06 12:35:04 Lickety Split

6 28 2009-12-06 11:17:21 Team Bravo

7 24 2009-12-06 12:16:34 JMBC Blue

8 20 2009-12-06 11:21:06 Rhino-Soreass

9 20 2009-12-06 11:45:13 4 of a Kind

10 16 2009-12-06 12:26:06 Glen Fowler and Team

11 15 2009-12-06 11:19:47 JMBC Virgin Shock

12 13 2009-12-06 11:51:59 N.O.W (NIGHTMARE ON WHEELS)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

24 Hours (Race Report) - Nando

Hi all,

It’s been a hectic Monday for me hence the non response.

I was so overwhelmed from our wonderful weekend together that to come back to the “real” world always comes as a big bang for me, and today was no exception. From a leaking pipe at home to the horrid traffic trip to JHB. Anyway enough said about my start of what will be my last week at the office for 2009.

To our weekend. Let me start with a big thank you to :

Sue and William for looking after our needs. I kept thinking how difficult it must have been for you to be there and not be participating with us. You actually showed no regret and only received so much positive support from both of you. You both deserve a medal for spoiling us with your time and efforts in looking after us.

Trish, I did not know you that well until this weekend. Mike has always mentioned you and I am very pleased that I got to know you a bit more and that you were able to join us on our “crazy” weekend. Thank you for your support and contribution to the team spirit and especially looking after Mike’s needs as he can be a handful. Oh, how can I forget, thanks for giving up your 5-man tent. I did not want to question how of you both fitted inside the “hankerchief “ but it must have been snuggly. Although I did notice Mike having difficulty getting out of the tent at 02h30 in the morning!

To my fellow teammates (Mike, Con, Adri), you were just awesome and am proud to have shared this experience with you. I will definitely not forget this experience we had together….as mentioned afterwards, please warn me if you want to race a race and not just go for a finish. I was pleasantly surprised by all your abilities although I knew inside all of you, you have this “killer” instinct. Adri, you constantly surprise me in your abilities and growth in MTB. I am also pleased that I was able to see you grow from a very weary rider to a now gutsy one. Well done and may you continue to inspire others around you. Con and Mike you have proved your point as strong MTB’s and will sit back and wait for the right moment to surprise you again…just joking!

Con, there must be so much “pressure” on you to write a report. With the photo’s that have already been sent already and others still to come, I can’t wait to hear your side of the story. Some of my memories were:

· Setting up camp and especially my gazebo which took a brain storm to get it up.
· The storm that came and almost blew my gazebo away and getting wet holding it down.
· Con being out there in the storm and wondering how he was doing under those conditions.
· The long wait for the race to re-start after the storm.
· Me being the first rider after the storm and riding in thick slosh of mud bringing back memories of Bonamanzi only worse. The worst was to have to resign from riding further to save the bike from destruction. However was pleased that the organizer decided to cut out this 1.4k section as it was actually a boring section.
· Sharing a Christmas song and gifts to add to the occasion.
· All the wonderful food that was available however my appetite was somehow missing!
· My last of the 2 laps at night with my headlamp power diminishing rapidly.
· The sunrise lap after having a cup of coffee which gave me lots of energy.
· Attempts at beating Con’s and Mikes lap times and having to resort to excuses that I had "heavy” traffic…actually it was partly true but honestly could not match their performances.
· 4 of us sleeping in the tent of which some had snoring competitions…no jokes!
· Trying to sleep and always thinking of the time factor. Need to practice more on those power naps.
· Driving home afterwards that took forever as my sleep factor was catching up to me and resorting to opening car windows and loud music to keep awake….scary moment.
· Arriving home unloading bike (only) seeing the family for 5 minutes, promising to take them for a waffle at 6 to make up for last time as I needed to sleep…which I did and actually worked!

Thank you all for another memorable event. I am truly pleased and honored to have shared this experience with you and mostly for the great teamwork we had together. I have always wondered how a team can get together and just work out as well as we do. It feels like I am in a dream world but actually I can pinch myself and know that its real and hope that whatever happens in the future, we will always remember what we shared and gained from our experience together.

On a final note, I left my ARKZN white bandana on a chair after my night ride which was wet with sweat. If any of you would be so kind as to check if by mistake got into your baggage would you be so kind as wash it and let me know so I can thank you for it.

I am away for the day to Durbs tomorrow…again so chat to you when I get back.

Boa noite, goeie nag, good night,

Via con Deus,


Monday, December 7, 2009

A few thoughts re the past weekend's 24hr MTB

few thoughts re the past weekend's 24hr MTB:

  • I was still doing rolling hills and muddy corners until I eventually fell asleep last night
  • I feel like I made my own "This Is It" movie
  • My mind is willing, but body very weak today
  • Appetite is completely out of sync
  • Appreciating everyone in the team's hard work
  • Happy to have no bruises, although it could've served as proof for my "condition" today
  • Race box never made it upstairs yesterday
  • Off naartjie flavour for a while
  • Laughing as thoughts about every team member randomly pops up
  • Missed sunrise completely this morning
  • Like the team photo
  • Looking forward to our report & pics
  • Thankyou again, my life is richer knowing everyone of you
  • Cant seem to change the font on this post (William Edit - I can :) )
  • Mike: I suggest we save the 3-bean salad till after the race next time
  • Thankyou William for pushing our bikes to & from transition everytime

24 Hour - Christmas Team Photo

The team photo from the 24 hour. Only Mike is wearing 'official' team gear. The 24 hour was the team's Christmas event and some of us still have our Christmas hats on.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

13:30 - Christmas not cake

The team's traditional Desert - not-cake (look on this blog for the recipe)

07:00 - Early morning

Mike looking good after a good nights sleep.

02:00 - 2am

Mike on his way out

Saturday, December 5, 2009

22:15 - William killing time at 24hr MTB.

So we each did about 2 laps at Rietvlei farm and then the heavens opened on us. Now waiting for officials to open altered course. Dinner was super. Exchanged Christmas gifts with the team, even mince pies.

20:00 - 24 hours in the rain

Con got caught out on the course in the pouring rain!

13:54 - 1 lap each

11:45: Team Lickety split is at it again.

Doing laps.

09:00 Its busy and getting crowded quickly

Narrow muddy beachhead established.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

10 tips for passing Nando on a mountain bike.

Nando can be very difficult to pass and even more difficult to beat on a mountain bike race. Here are some tips on how this may be achieved.
1) Tell him it’s your birthday. Tie as many balloons to him and his bike as you dare. Nando the party animal will play along. Ride away from him as wind resistance takes its toll.
2) Pretend you’re riding as a team in a group. In casual conversation mention how nice it is to be part of the team. On a narrow track create an instant bottle-neck group of cycling traffic by riding more slowly than usual. Nando the team player will stick with the group, not wanting to break the comradeship. Ride-off from the group at your leisure.
3) Point out someone who needs help. Assist someone to need help if necessary by swerving in front of them and putting on your brakes. Nando the gentleman will stop and help. Ride off.
4) Pour water on the track before a race or do a rain dance to make a muddy patch. Nando the high flyer will fly off his bike and roll in the mud. Pass him while he cleans up.
5) Race at night. Nando the cool will be wearing his racing shades. In the dark he will not be able to see the track. Pass him as he rides off in the wrong direction.
6) Sneak up behind and ride behind in his blind spot. Listen to Nando sing Afrikaans Liedjies. Nando the trusting will be happily content and unprepared for your well timed surge past onto narrow single track.
7) Falsify a weather report and mention rain and cold. Nando the prepared will opt-out of the race for trail-running. Enjoy a ride without competition.
8) Create a long list of “Race Instructions”. At the starters gun give the list to Nando. Ride off while Nando the planner is reading.
9) Pretend you need help with planning. Say you’re not sure what to take with you on the race. Nando the organized will write a list for you. Pump. Water bottle. Buff. Shades. Maybe shades will be first on the list. Ride off while he is writing.10) Mention how Giant have developed a new type of cleat. Watch Nando the techno-junkie struggle with his ‘old’ technology. Ride off on your normal pedals.

The Not Lickety-Split Race

Urban Kinetic 4

2 separate teams were there, the Goofy team (Goofy Mike and Con) and The Rock and Rollers – as pictured (Stef, Nando and Sue).

The weather was mild, expectations high and the venue not terribly well marked from the road. However, Stephan Muller had sent us all detailed directions, so I don’t think anybody had too much trouble finding it – the field was a mass of sponsors flags, easily visible from the road. The Waterfall Estate in Midrand, is currently mostly undeveloped and a perfect venue for a Sprint Adventure race.

The Mullers are experienced organisers and everything ran like clockwork, from the registration to the race briefing. The only thing he could not organise, was the level of water in the river – unfortunately the usual Highveld thunderstorm had not materialised the previous day and so we were informed that the paddle leg was to be scrapped – at least that was the initial briefing in the race instructions.

Nando was being his usual efficient self and ran through the instructions very carefully and more than once, so that we did not make any nasty errors out on the course. Some of the legs could be done in any order and some had to be done exactly in numerical order. Also carefully discussed was when to don wigs and the possibility of heatstroke on the course. We elected to wear our ‘fun gear’ only on the last leg.

Unfortunately, the venue has no toilet facilities either, so we were told to exercise our adventure racing skills and ‘find a bush’. This was when we discovered that they were inflating dozens of crocs behind the obstacle course, so it looked like we were going to be doing a paddle leg too – much to my delight. Con just looked inscrutable at this development.

Actually the Goofy team were so inscrutable that I have no idea of their race plan or which legs they were going to do when. We never even passed them once on the course – just a casual hello when they had finished and we were transitioning for the final canoe leg.

Our race plan was to do the long (difficult) run leg followed by the long MTB leg, then move onto the easy legs. In reality the legs seemed almost the same length and skill levels, but maybe I was just getting tired towards the end? I overheard somebody say that Sprint races seem more difficult than a multiday event, because you go much harder – I think I have to agree with that!

I have no intention of dealing with the race blow-by blow, only proportioning high praise to my fellow team mates. We had some serious team work going, with members working together to get bikes over the barbed wire fences (seriously missing William’s skills here!) and taking turns to hold up spiky wire, to avoid damaging tender posteriors, going through! The transition was located on an oval rise, high above the road – leaving the option of either going around by road - some 500m or straight up the grass embankment – something I cannot do carrying a bike! Thank you Stef for coming back to fetch me each time.

The venue is also grazed by cows and it amused me to blow/MTB past Nando and Stef gingerly picking their way (on foot) through a stinking ditch of manure and mud and who know what else, to cries of “Go Sue’ from Nando. There was no way I was getting off and putting my feet in that water – better by far to have it spattered all up my back – maybe if I went fast enough, I could be off before it landed! Anyway, the second time we passed by that hole, everybody rode through it without a second thought!

When I envisaged the team ‘tasks’, I saw Nando as the Beagle, plotting out accurate courses to each checkpoint, Stef as the dependable Rottweiler and myself as the cheeky Chiwahwah. Always behind, running as fast as my short legs could carry me (I’m coming!). In reality, the men took turns to navigate in excellent fashion, while I was left with the important task of just being there every time Nando checked over his shoulder with a cheery ‘How are you doing Sue?’ Aah! The position of the pacemaker – probably the most important task in adventure racing. It fell to me to keep the men to a comfortable pace (mine) so that they could be fresh and ready to be able to handle any unexpected surprises, like being trampled to death by stampeding Wildebeest! Oh! wrong race – that was a couple of weeks ago, trail running at Groenkloof!

We had been warned by other teams at the transition that the canoe leg was actually a porta-croc. Luckily team Rock and Rollers had a lightweight weapon in their arsenal – I was small enough to canoe almost all of the way, so the men waded while I enjoyed a light paddle. Even managed to avoid a large tree with hanging branches in the riverbed, too! The Bonamanzi fright was not going to be re-enacted.

Nando and I still managed to have a watery ‘moment’ however. While the rest of the group we were with chose to use the drift crossing of the river, Nando and I elected to cross over the dam wall, little realising that there was a broken section in the middle, with the full force of the river running through it. While it is not difficult to wade through knee-deep fast moving water, it becomes a problem when your bike floats free and tries to force you off the 3 metre high wall! Luckily Nando and I are both experienced racers and with level heads, rose to the occasion and pushed through without incident. ‘You OK Sue?’ ‘Yeh, I’m fine thanks, Nando!’

The obstacle course was as always, a bit of an obstacle! Some of the places I shot over with William’s help last time (Kinetic 2 - sometimes a handy shoulder and William insists I actually used his head!) became a bit of a nightmare. Our shoes were wet from the river and the vinyl was slippery from the teams before us. Once again team-work came to the fore! Nando with a broad back and Stef hauling from the top, got us all over without disgracing ourselves! Those of us from the ‘top teams’ prefer to leave that to the novices!

The Mullers get only praise for the whole event. Well thought out routes, maps you could follow easily and support from the announcer at the finish. The cream on the top, is the generous sponsored prizes and lucky draws, where (nearly) everybody went home with goodies ranging from hard drives valued at over R1000, to good quality waterbottles. Nando stayed to the bitter end in spite of having other plans, in the hope that he could be the lucky winner of the Meridia bicycle. Well it will have to be next time Nando – we were rooting for you!

Now for the next Lickety Split event – 24 hour MTB!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nissan Series: Pecanwood Race 21 Nov. 09

3 teammates (Nando, Mike and Adri) from the now famous Lickety Split team decided to take on this eventful/challenging MTB race. This is a report of three gutsy team mates, whom took up this challenge.

This report starts with an email I sent out earlier in the week asking my teammates who did not have enough from Bonamanzi to come and enjoy this race with me at Van Gaalens. I wanted to do this race as I have missed all the Nissan series races (mainly due to AR races) although I did have the opportunity to do two of the pre-race rides with fellow FPC riders from Irene who form part of the club organizing this race. I also had to give my boss’s wife a lift to the race as she was ranked 4th in her category in the Nissan series competition and needed to do this race to maybe obtain a podium finish in the series and my boss was going to be in Durban to attend a function.

After receiving confirmation from Adri and Mike….with some comments like….what have I done?.... Eek 60k!....we made a commitment to this race. I picked up all our numbers and gave them theirs at D&D on Thursday night.

Now for the day of the event “drama”. The heavens had opened up all week, and Adri’s weather report on Friday indicated that more rain and cooler conditions were expected on race day. On Friday night I sent an SMS to Adri making a statement that if it was raining in the morning I would definitely take a “rain” check. Well after getting up at 05h30 and “rushing” to the window I was “disappointed” to see it was still drizzling and cloudy. Now I had to make a decision but did not want to do it alone, so I phoned boss’s wife to get some positive reaction however she immediately said that she was not up to racing in these wet conditions. One down two to go….phoned Adri and Mike. Superman Mike seemed less perturbed about the fuss and was not bailing out and Adri was playing yoyo with her decision making, which left me in a confused state as to what to do. I had a sudden memory of Bonamanzi and after many words I decided to call it quits and Adri seemed unsure if she was still going or not! In my sorry state, I did not go to bed but decided to watch Eco Challenge instead which I have been recording for the past couple of weeks. I cannot explain this but whilst watching the teams go through some really harsh conditions, and thinking why am I still sitting here when I could be experiencing the same….crazy but true!…. the skies suddenly opened up, sun was starting to shine and I had this urge to get up and stop feeling sorry for myself. It was O6h30 and I still had enough time to get ready to leave at 07h00. Quickly phoned Adri to find out where she was….”on my way to take my dog for a walk at Emmerentia”. Well it did not take too much convincing, I think, as she decided to take up the challenge. I think she felt the same as me…guilty… even it meant that we just do a trail run instead. Superman Mike was already in flight to the venue. He probably thought we are just some crazy and indecisive teammates and probably shared this with his family in the car….don’t blame you if you were laughing at us!

Traveling to Van Gaalens I noticed that in Irene the weather was clearing and the sun was shining but towards Hartebeesport area it was still covered. Is it the Jukskei river that sets us worlds apart...or what! Anyway, I was now committed to the challenge come rain or shine! On arrival Adri asked if we were going to do the MTB or a trail run and decided to ask the race planner Pierre…whom I know well…. to tell us a bit of the course and he told us that the distance was cut short to 52k’s instead of the 60k cutting out some of the river sections due wet I thought!. This did however seal our decision to do the MTB race. Adri quickly changed into her cycling shorts and I put on my old cleats. At the start I saw some familiar faces including Brendon from D&D. We were meant to start in 3 groups but it seemed that the organizers decided to start us all together…probably due to the low turnout.

Our first “mud” section was not even 100m away. We had to cross a river which had a steel bridge across it with a bit of a rise to the top. With a bunch of riders next to you, this was hectic. That overcome we all came to sudden stop at the top. I saw the camera crew on their quads watching us sickling and laughing inside…i am sure…at our heroics to overcome the sludge. They had thick tyres with farmland track to ride which but we had no choice but to ride a very muddy section instead. I had mentioned to Mike at the start that mud and me are not good friends and had still fond memories of falling in a mud puddle at Bonamanzi.

After surviving this muddy section we went onto a single track and then onto a dirt road towards the “mountain”. It was at this single track section, which co-incidentally was next to an old railway track, that Superman Mike passed me. He caught me unaware as I did not know he could ride so fast. Before I knew it he was gaining speed and momentum and vanished out of site. I still wanted to ask him what he had this morning to eat or drink but he just too flight. I must have caused a bit of a stir in the team in earlier MTB events as recently I am experiencing them sneaking past me without saying much. That’s fine guys we shall put our friendship aside at these races. I also had the feeling that Mike would come back to earth at some stage in the race….which I am afraid later he did!

Up the mountain we went. Now this mountain brought back memories of the Magalies monster. It was steep had some concrete and rocky sections, but luckily not as long. Once over the top we had some sweet single track down to the dirt road which also went into some very rocky sections. Once out of the rocks I remember this single track next to the road which went up and down like a roller coaster. Now a lot of concentration was required here as if you went off track you would come off badly, which the guy in front of me did except that he managed to control and come out of it unscathed…we applauded him for his skills. Shortly after this roller coaster ride we had another single track along another old railway line. I noticed that most of this course we were riding was marked with white paint on the stones indicating that it is a much used MTB trail. So we stayed dry for awhile until we reached another river again! What started off as a nice single track became hectic as the mud was getting the better of us. It was also at this point where the 30k sprinters caught up with us and demanded that we give way to them. No problem initially except that it was frustrating me to get off the track, off the bike until they all passed us. The only advantage was that you could see how they handled the mud and tried to imitate them. A MTB friend came from behind whom I had seen earlier changing a flat tyre giving me advice on riding the mud sections. Well it was hectic, slippery and sliding is all I can say. More so than Bonamanzi. We went through a low tunnel which for the shorties like me was ok but in knee deep water it made it tough to pull through. By the time we got out of this section our bikes felt like lead, and plastered in mud. At the next river section I was about to clean my bike when I noticed that the color of the water was black and an awful stench coming from it which would probably make me sick and rust my bike further. So with sticks in hand we cleaned what we could off the bike.

The next section to the 30/60 split was again on a single track next to the farm road. At this point I was wondering where Superman Mike was. Could he have had so much energy to go all the way at that pace. Actually I did not care as I had just overcome my adventure in the mud and came from it unscathed. I also wondered how Adri was doing on her new cleats and if she was regretting having me convince her to use it on this race. She also had a choice here to do the shorter route should she find the race too much on her cleats. From this split suddenly I was on my own most of the way. The route then took us towards another mountain but this time on a rideable single track section to the bottom of the mountain (fortunately). We then had a nice downhill to the dirt road. It was about 35k into the ride when on my way up to the mountain I saw Superman Mike. His bike was turned upside down and he had a tube and tyre in his hand. I asked him what happened and he showed me a nasty sidewall which had exploded. I asked him how long he had been here and he said over half an hour….half an hour to change a tube I thought…well ok Mike…I will give you the benefit of the doubt here! I did however offer my assistance and comfort to stay with him however he said he had everything under control and urged me to go on! Well off I went thinking and hoping that Mike will make it to the finish. The next section was tough although it had some downhills and then the last uphill to the Church which I distinctly remember doing in reverse on the Trial run Adri and I did a few months ago here. This old white church must have some history behind it and is such a land mark as it can be seen from afar. The downhill from here was just awesome and fast. The fun ended though when we got to the river section. This section for me was mostly not rideable and after seeing a few guys ahead of me come off second best, I decided to walk this one out as much as I could. There were also a lot of sty ramps and one floating bridge which was not rideable. After walking most of this technical section, we were on a single track close to finish which I was pleased I could ride. We carried our bikes across the water up an embankment and almost on our way to the home straight when we all followed a bunch of riders away from the finish. I questioned this as we were close on 51k’s and we should be finishing, not doing another loop. Thankfully they all decided to turn back to the section we deviated from the course. It was actually funny to see how many riders actually followed us. Then we all had a sprint to the finish which was such a welcome site. After 4hrs08min of just a 52k ride, it felt like one had accomplished much more than just the distance. I was now anxious to see when Mike and Adri would come in. I did not see Adri at the finish area indicating that she managed to carry on with this grueling race. Much to my amazement I saw Superman Mike come in 4hrs 41 min. Not bad going Mike and finishing on a flattish tyre, you are admired for your efforts to finish the race in these circumstances. Next wait was Adri, was she out there alone I wondered! Knowing her she would hook up with someone who was doing much of the same pace as her and probably stick together to the end. Well I was not far out. 5hrs 25min later she appeared out of the trees with another rider. Amazingly it was Brendon from D&D with her who had a gash on his head from a fall and Adri had a very bruised hand from her experience. We gave them a standing ovation for their efforts and congratulated Adri for completing her first MTB race with cleats. Just to boost everyone’s ego, we were informed that the famous Robert Hunter did not finish the race, in fact bailed out after 20k’s due to a technical problem!!!

Will I do this race again next year?? Definitely….but hopefully in better conditions. I compliment the race organizers for a well organized, adventurous route which had a bit of everything which would suit all and the most experienced riders.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pecanwood Eina

New cleat shoes: 2
new pedals: 2
using them for the 1st time: 100%
distance: 50kms
conditions: mud, sludge, river banks, water, rocks&koppies
falls: 7
Bruise on hand: 1
ability to use right hand: 1% (texting)
bruises on body: too many for this camera
will i stick to cleats: 100%
will i send you updates of my bruise: Yes

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bonamanzi Race Report

The Adventures of Sue, William and Mike.
After waking up to Sue’s alarm clock at 3am, we made our final selection and preparations of race food and packed our racing kit for the day. We dressed quickly and while still taking mouthfuls of breakfast started pushing our bikes the 1km to the entrance gate of Bonamanzi where the race would start.

Promptly at 4am, Wimpie sounded his bakkies hooter. The teams waiting in the darkness surged past us, including the other half of our team who had left after us and walked separately, only getting to the start just in time. We let the others pull away and made a quieter start. We planned to set a maintainable pace, one that would see us through to the end of the day without injury or undue discomfort. All things are relative.
The first leg of the race was a 27km Mountain Bike ride. The first 2km of which were gentle downhill runs which we used to warm up and get our pace, riding closely together and talking excitedly about our expectations. It was raining gently and the lowveld warmth pleasant. Race briefing had been between 9 and 10pm the previous evening, and we had gone to bed about 30 minutes later, but the excitement, lightning, wind and rain along with a few hungry mosquitoes had interrupted our precious sleep. The storm had made the road muddy with pools of slushy puddles but it was still better to be on our way in reality than doing the planning and packing we had been doing in our interrupted dreams.
By the time we crossed the low water bridge our team felt almost deserted, very few pale cycle headlights and flashing red taillights could be seen in the dark. Beyond the causeway the road started its steady climb which continued relentlessly upward for about 8km. Some hills were steep enough that it was felt we could conserve more energy by pushing our bikes, each to our own taste of hill climbing. We were all in our Granny Gear lows and progress which had been 17km/h dropped to a painfully slow 4km/h.
A loud thump was heard. Ah, just William falling on his side as his new cleats didn’t unclip. The mandatory call “Are you alright”?, followed by the usual short silence and an “OK” that meant pride was dented, it was not ‘ok’, but this is the nature of the game, he’ll get over it. As we rode upward we passed a few teams that were having early bicycle troubles. A girl called out that her bike wouldn’t engage low gear, so we went back to help her, only to discover that she had already exchanged her bike with her partners, and he was about 300meters further up the hill on the broken bike. She thanked us for our concern.
Three teams that had started late passed us. Later we heard that at about 4:05AM they ad been running up and down the veranda at the rooms, a little confused and bewildered that the race had started at such an early hour without them. It takes experience (and a little discipline and psychology) to get a team on the road on time.
The climb went on and on with little respite, an hours worth of steep climbing! Was this a joke the organizers had laughed about. A Billy Joel song sprung to song “its four o’clock on a Saturday, the regular crowd shuffles on. There’s an old man riding next to me, making love to his mo-houn-tain bike” Good spirits.
As the rain started to clear a sliver of moon could be seen peeping down through the night clouds, and then slowly the eerie moon light shifted to the East and morning was declared, slowly revealing the road winding upwards, with ploughed lands and trees vague in the mist.

After an hour of riding it was light enough for a quick stop at the side of the road to get something to nibble, pack away the rain jacket and headlamp, blog, put on sunscreen and enjoy the sights. A team passed us, checked if we were ok and named us the Breakfast Team. Oh, alright, call us what you like, we will enjoy the journey.

William was disappointed that there would be no navigating. The instructions had been, “Follow this road and at the railway line turn right, there will be signs with an arrow. This method of routing doesn’t give any indication of effort, terrain expected or other information useful for pacing. Just go until you’re instructed to do something else.
The road levelled out on the plateau and it felt wonderful to be able to do 30km/h, feeling like an invincible superhero low flying above the ground.

As the road come up to a railway bridge there was a black sign with a white arrow pointing to a jeep track to the right. The rain had made the track exceptionally muddy and this type of mud was exceptionally slippery. As we heard later from Nando, this is where his bike slipped from under him and his superman flight ended with a huge splash into the mud. For the rest of our cycling leg we fought to control our bikes as they yawed left and right. We rode mostly on the middle mannetjie, and where we could on the harder ground next to the railway. At one point we climbed the fence to a slightly less muddy farm road on the right, only to have it rejoin our muddy track a couple of hundred meters further on. The bikes became engulfed in the mud with super sized mud tyres flinging dirt in every direction, and all of what had been well oiled precision gearing battling to operate from within clumps of mud and grass. Frequently, but vainly, we stopped to scoop water from the numerous puddles over the mechanisms to try and free the workings. Mud is not good for brakes and gears, but it is good fun to test your riding skill and balance under such conditions. I took a picture of the mud on my bike, the last picture my camera was prepared to take in those conditions, before it shut down due to moisture.

The road dipped here and there and we navigated large muddy puddles. Mud everywhere until we emerged onto a road bridge crossing over the railway line. This was the first checkpoint and after nearly four hours of riding the marshals and camera crew were friendly and enthusiastic. Thanks guys. In other years we had proven we could do the 94.7 cycle challenge in this time. We refilled our 2 litre water bladders, changed from our cycling shoes into our running shoes and were off hiking down the road for the 15km hike leg before we could enjoy the sanity of the transition.
The day transitioned from mist to bright sunshine. The mist lifted from the valleys like cotton wool. After about an hour of hiking a seconding bakkie passed us with their teams bikes, taking them to the next cycling leg that was still many hours and much sunlight away. Shortly, another bakkie passed us and we recognized our own bikes being driven along the road. It was nice that seconds weren’t mandatory as it made the race easier to organize, and the seconding organized by Wimpie was very well done. Thank you. We really appreciated seeing our bikes had been looked after in transit. It’s so easy to bend derailers through rough handling. Later, I was thankful to see my wet camera still safe after absent mindedly leaving it hanging on my handlebars. Thanks again.
After an hour we made our first five minute stop, and took off our tops to reapply sunscreen. At 4km/h it takes an hour to walk 4km. duh. We needed to walk 15km. That’s nearly 4 hours of walking! The day grew sunnier and hotter. After another hour we chose a Mulberry tree to sit under, and five minutes later regretted that only 30m further on we could have stopped overlooking a pretty farm dam. As we walked we discussed many things. We spoke about the merits of various styles of sun protection and cooling techniques. We passed an enticing and picturesque dam with water fowl and Egrets but decided a swim would be a little over casual.
We pressed on at our non tiring walking pace and crossed over a river. A sign indicated it was the same Steelpoort River we would be tubing on later. It was farming country with cows in the fields. A woman motorist on her way back from church cheered us on while another farmer stopped and offered us cold, clean water at his farmstead. His laughter as he drove off made his offer seem a little insincere. It was hot! We decided we would stop on the hour every hour for a nibble and sunscreen. We chatted, debating the best stopping places and discussed the merits of what we would eat, whether arm warmers should be wet to cool your arms and if they were worth the discomfort for the sun protection they offered. Everything became a debate, where was the best place to stop, how fast we were walking, how fast we should walk, how long we should stop, where we might wee…, everything in minute detail. With all the discussion we skipped a stop. We looked at the range of mountains and guessed at where the abseiling was and how long it would take to reach it, and so on we walked and talked.
Eventually we came to a T-Junction with its black sign and white arrow, indicating we should turn left. I noticed bicycle tracks on the road, and excitedly theorized that these must be from the leading teams on their way back from abseiling. It took a little effort from my team to enlighten me that these were our own tracks from the morning ride and we were now looping back along the way we had ridden earlier. I felt angry and disappointed that we had looped around with no purpose. We could have cycled here in next to no time and we had had to walk for hours, just to have gone around in a circle. The mind games had started!
After 2km down the hill that had slowed our biking earlier we passed a team hiking back up the other side of the game fence adjacent to the road who shouted “its 10km down and then back up”
It did feel that far, but I suppose it was only 800m or so until we reached the third checkpoint and refilled our very empty water stocks. From that point it was a left turn into a game farm and a circuitous undulating loop of 7km. We passed a man in a bakkie and another on a tractor who directed us along the road. “Stick next to the fence” We didn’t see any animal bigger than the tok tokkies and dung beetles on the road. Sue kindly rescued one from certain death on its back. We had another nibble stop 10 Metres before we saw a deserted umbrella and deck chair. Our fast team had managed to get water at that point from the marshal who had been there, and they said he had a cooler box with ice cold drinks and beer. There should have been a sty over the fence and rock climbing on the loop. For us it was just hot, and my legs started feeling sore and overworked. Another loop, was this just included to make distance? Carrying kit packed for 24 hours eventualities is no lightweight matter. I was angry that we had had to walk another meaningless loop for one and a half hours. We passed over the road, gladly refilling our water and continued down 1km of steep road to the top of the cliffs at the abseil point. Another team had written “lava” in the road, and the time. Interesting Geology abounded. I was tired and sore.
There was a 40 minute wait for the teams ahead of us, and so I gladly lay down under the shade of a sweet thorn tree, flicked a tick off my knee into the grass, and enjoyed a little doze.
The abseiling marshals entertained us with their antics, they had been there a long time in the sun, and it must be thankless work. A team ahead had not tied their carabineers’ to the return rope and we had to get all the equipment rounded up before we could continue. The team behind us arrived to wait, chatting maybe nervously at the thought of the 30m cliff face. “I Lava you baby” they joked with Sue.
Sue went down the cliff. Easy. Me down , then William. Quick. Fun. An experience to think back on. Abseiling has purpose. It’s the way you would get down a cliff. It’s not a loop.
After the abseiling we hiked 5km down along the river bed in the valley. The first part consisted of large sheets of basalt rock, across which the water ran, heated up by the sun to about 40 degrees. Black coal like rock and black sand made up the shallow river bed.
Sue splashed into the warm water , and I followed, getting my shoes wet but knowing that wet socks always adds to the challenge to keeping feet in shape later on, but it just felt wonderful to be in the clean warm water of this pristine stream. William tried to keep his shoes dry as a good race discipline and he scolded us as we splashed carefree down the centre line of the valley, not needing to criss-cross and use energy boulder hopping. Our different opinions hung in the tired space between us for a while. Race moods are an interesting phenomenon, and by the time we joined herds of cows also walking along the river bed our minds had returned to a neutral happy hiking state.
The interesting downhill terrain made easy work of the 5km to the low water bridge. Although another loop back to the initial cycle road of the morning this loop had been necessary and fascinating. We had seen and done things you cannot and will not get to do if you don’t do adventure racing.
At the bridge too far, the Tube Marshals met us. They had been waiting for ages, bemused by the slow trickle feed of racers from the abseil. They wondered why we would carry on racing since we were so far to the back of the field, now 15 out of 18 teams.

We selected our tubes silently, each considering our own personal strategy for what a tube should do. Tube selection is an improper science. Theories abound at what is best in tube size but these were only discussed later. I chose the biggest, fattest tube on display and rolled it to centre of the bridge, turned downstream for 10 metres along the tiny river we had made friends with to where it joined the mighty burbling, spitting, frothingly turbulent and wild, in the corner on the right, Steelpoort River, in all its turmoil and strife. And we sat on its back and laughed and said “Take us 8km down to the bungalows, we’re tired and we want to relax for a while and rest”
And so the river pulled us down a frothy chute, and that was fun, but scary. And then another, and another and then towards the branch of a tree that had fallen across the fastest most unavoidable part of the current. Wimpie had said last night there was a tree that they would take out… But this tree was still there. The marshals parting words were “Keep left, especially at the weir”
Sue went first and under, and I counted 12, 13, 14 seconds with no sign of her surfacing. William went hurtling towards the tree and its catch and before I could see who was where and how I should perform a brave rescue for Sue I too was riding the tiger. Feet-up against the branch, tipping back, current catching my backpack, somersaulting backwards and down amongst branches and rocks, it all happened so quickly and then into the relative calm of a bigger pool. William was calmly collecting our tubes as we clambered shakily out onto a rock at the side of the pool. We looked at each other and decided we would ‘port’ across the next rapid, just to catch breath.
Sue placed her tube into the next part of the stream, sat down and was immediately up-ended by the waves onto the rocks, crashing her helmeted head hard onto the rocks. Thank goodness for the cycling helmets. It saved her life. She didn’t notice; climbed back on her tube and was gone in an instant. I followed because there was no alternative. No mommy standing by to run to and hold onto her legs. Down the next chute, the torrent ripping tube and me apart, I felt myself uncontrollably bumping my bum on rocks somewhere and my calf muscle going into cramping spasm. I floated up into the next pool next to a rock that looked like a grotesque blue whale and wondered if the pain was intense enough to mean a broken hip. Almost, but no, I can stand. William pulled me out onto the rocks beside the pool and fetched his errant water bottle. Continuing was the only way I could go, walking with this pain was not going to be an option for a while. Where was that weir? Ah, looking back we could see that we had passed it. At least we had kept left. It’s not like we had had a choice! We floated virtually uncontrollably along the bank on the left where green trees almost touched the flooded rivers surface. A very large baboon ran along the bank barking loudly at us. A movement from a branch and a loud plop into the water just 3 metres from me was probably a legavaan taking appropriate cover. Sue grinned like the Cheshire cat and confirmed it was the look on my face anticipating the mambas that drop out of trees just like this and in these conditions that was amusing her. Go Sue. She grinned like that for the rest of the river ride, until we rounded the river bend and saw the lapa of Bonomanzi and the photographers taking pictures of the flotsam coming down the river.
Of our greater team, only Nando did not have a close encounter at the tree. Maybe Wimpie, next time, send a photographer to snap up the action.
As for tubes, the agreed verdict is that your arms should be long enough in relation to the tubes bulkiness that you can actually reach the water and paddle. Note this Con, this is why you hate tubing over shooting rapids in your kayak.
River and tree 5, Lickety split 1.

From the tubes we hiked to the foofy-slide, a friendly welcoming marshal encouraging us with our preparations. “Don’t do anything; I’ll just push you off this 10 metre platform while you hang onto the pulley mechanism with arms that are exhausted. Don’t drop off because then I’ll have to make a plan to rescue you, and I’m not sure what that plan would be. We’d probably then need a helicopter or something”. Whizzz, down the steel rope, feet-up, perfect ski –landing. Great fun! “Do you guys want to go again?” No, just once is about all I can do, another day perhaps. We returned the pulleys and their safety straps and trudged a little distance up the hill to our very muddy bikes, changed into our still wet cleated cycling shoes and headed for the mountains. We were directed to go 300 metres up a stream, and look for a road to the left. After about 700 Metres William was starting to turn back, but I found the turnoff marked with bunting. And so we started our 20km mountain bike ride at about 5pm on Saturday afternoon, riding uphill again on another giant loop, whose purpose was to allow us to do game viewing. We saw no game, but let me tell you about the hornets.
Just after it got dark, my bikes rear tyre went soft; obviously a sweet thorn had attempted to foil the slime. So I sat on a bush to inject some CO2 from a gas cartridge, when about 8 or so hornets starting biting me on my face and behind my knees, their aim improved by my headlamp. Sue was called back from the darkness and was also set-on by the hornets who were determined not to allow our team to settle in for the night on their nest, so she rode off again and William, who the hornets had no problem with, helped me to get going. Those hornets bit and poked me and Sue for another 400Meters, both of us riding without our lights slapping and yelling each time one found their mark.
From that point it was pretty much downhill, and Sue rode fearlessly in the dark like someone who needed to get home. We paused three times at cross roads that had no markings or promised reflectors to show the race route, always choosing the most downhill direction. By and by we came to the locked gate to the game farm we were riding in, an arrow painted on the ground indicating we should be able to go through. We cycled back to where some park staff were sitting and asked how we could get through. They said a marshal had been there but had gone on and locked up. The list of teams only showed one Lickety Split team, not the two teams we were. The staff suggested we climb the fence, which is what we did, William taking pride in his ‘race discipline’ of fence sitting, and passing the bikes over. We then found another arrow pointing up the cycle route, decided that this was from the mornings ride now 16 hours previously, and turned towards base camp where we were welcomed by our teammates to a thunderous applause and reception. For some reason we seemed very grumpy for people who had finished a day of racing, with many complaints about locked gates, poor signage in the dark and the like. When our alto team queried why we had come from the North and not from the East we worked out that we should have done a final 2km loop, including a ride through a 1metre deep dam. Almost, but did we get the banana. We declared ourselves finished so that we could attend the prize giving, and slowly we were absorbed into the comfortable social sanity of a braai and a couple of ciders with our friends. Great race! Thanks to all the organizers and marshals.

DisciplineTime of dayAverage Speed in km/hDistance in kmTotal Distance in kmDuration in hours and minutes
Start04:00:00 AM00
27km MTB07:51:00 AM727273:51
15km Hike11:11:00 AM4.515423:20
7km Hiking01:11:00 PM3.57492:00
1km Hike01:28:00 PM3.51500:17
30m Abseil02:08:00 PM40min0.03500:40
5km Hike03:33:00 PM3.55551:25
5km tubing04:58:00 PM3.55601:25
1km Hike05:15:00 PM3.51610:17
20km MTB08:35:00 PM620813:20
2km MTB Loop08:35:00 PM-2830:00
Total08:35:00 PM4.37583.0316:35

Happy Birthday Mike!

It was a crazy ride: water, wind, ice, earth. But we got the song & the sparkle! DnD-style. You are one of a kind Mike, great knowing you. Wishing you many more.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Race Report: Bonamanzi Adventure challenge: 14-15 Nov 09

(PS: get some coffee)

Bonamanzi Adventure challenge: 14-15 Nov 09

So the Lickety Split team set their minds and diaries on the Bonamanzi adventure challenge about 2 months ago. (Un)Fortunately 5 out of 6 in the team have computer bound professions, which meant that at least 10 emails were flying around per day discussing topics such as Con's Bolognaise, First Aid Kit, Parmesan, Garlic Prego Rolls, Instant Latte Sachets, weather forecasts and to how we would split the team in 2: the tortoises & hares. Nando, Con & Adri as hares and William, Mike & Sue as the tortoises. Con and William would be the navigators for the 2 teams.

So William set us up with our own team blog which was slowly being filled with reports from the Capestorm Rogaine, 'not cake' recipes & trailrun photographs and our usual Dark & Dirty MTB indulgence on a Thu eve. I think the blog got the excitement going for the Bonamanzi and provided much entertainment for the team itself when reading each other's profiles. Funny how some bits of rather important info gets shared only when the right question is asked.

From left: Con, William, Nando, Mike, Sue & Adri

Race disciplines for the Bonamanzi would be;
• Various trail running and hiking events, total 20 km
• Mountain biking will be broken up in various events totalling (60km)
• Tubing (tubes will be provided) 8 km
• Rope Work – Facilitators to assist racers. Two 30 m Abseils, a 30m Rock Climb, A High Rope Course, and various events at the High Rope Course .
• Obstacle Course
• Basic Navigation on all events .

So during the week we were borrowing lifejackets, collecting maps and printing out the surrounds of the Bonamanzi Lodge from Google Earth. Wimpie's (race organiser) statement on the website : "Please note that this race will not be cancelled due to weather." meant only fuel on our excitement fires and extra weight in our backpacks.

Friday afternoon we left early and drove through Pretoria before we take out the garlic prego's, then Witbank, Middelburg, R552 to Stofberg and now descending into the valleys of Roossenekal, Hartelus & Tonteldoos and the Steelpoo
rtriver Valley. Bonamanzi Lodge lies on one of the snaking bends of the Steelpoort river overlooking bellowing mountains of perfectly green & lush bushes. We were now not only excited by the poetic surroundings, but also scared because we knew these valleys, kloofs & hills will be our playground the next day.
The Lickety Split hares were first to arrive at the lodge, sign in, get our room key and start repacking gear & setting up bikes. The others soon arrived and the spirits are now twice as high. Con's legendary Bolognaise, now with penne, is sizzling on the gas stove as we overlook the river and make smallish talk with the other teams in the rooms next to us.

What an eclectic bunch of people: these adventure racers. Young, old, skinny, chubby-ish, tattooed, not-tatooed, rich, making-it, married, taken, single, teachers, students, doctors, designers, geeks, CA's.. and the others. (I am yet to write something on this sub-culture called Adventure Racing). No garlic, no spices in the Bolognaise for William's stomach, but the rest of us jump right into the Parmesan.
9 o'clock comes and we head toward the dining room for the race briefing; all kitted out in our sponsored first accent tops. Now really looking the part. About 20 teams in the room and Wimpie welcomes everyone & the gives us an intro of what the next day will look like. It was not until the race briefing that we heard no navigation or maps are required. Apparently because of the many mamba's they have in the lush bushveld. Roads are obvious and in some places minimum bunting was used to mark the route. So our patronising maps, slowly made their way out of sight and we were asking ourselves how much of an adventure can it be without navigation? Race starts at 4am for the first 30km cycle. Followed by 20km hike, 30m abseil, 5km hike, 5km tubing, 1km hike, obstacle course, and then the last cycle of just under 20kms to make the total race distance about 80kms. This is Bonamanzi's first adventure race and they welcome our feedback afterwards.

By now the clouds closed and pushing against the mountains, we get some lightning & rain. Every little drop adding to the adventure scale. Saturday's adventure will not be determined by navigation necessarily, but definitely by the weather and terrain.

Repacking again and we get less than 4hrs interrupted sleep due to the thunder and mozzies. Up at 3 we are greeted with a drizzling rain that asks for wet-gear. Jacob's Latte, bananas, instant oats and rusks and body-glide fill the morning air before we head for the main gate to start. The start happens immediately and we head up on the dirt road rolling up the hills of the valley. Steep hills and many of them. Not long before people stop to take off jackets. Another couple of steeper hills and I get of to hike-my-bike at the same speed as some that were using their grannies. At the top of the hill the other 2 hares are waiting for me and politely ask if they should tow me. Sure, please! Nando now taking off the burning edge from my thighs and I can actually move. At the top, the rain seizes and terrain flattens out for a nice fast cycle on the dirt road. The cloud of mist only revealing about 150m radius of the morning to us. Another couple of kms and we witnessing the last of the mist creeping up the hills. We soon find the board with an arrow to the right. Following short path next to the road and then right again next to the railway tracks. This service road must've had at least 3 days worth of rain as everyone was quickly out of their saddles and tasting the dirt.
We made our way through this muddy section juggling between the island of grass between on the middle of the track and the rocky sides of the railway, stopping to release the front v-break on my bike as the clogging mud made it very difficult to keep up. Con's tyres collecting so much mud he is peddling 2 chocolate donuts. Small downhill and we come across others that are giving their bikes a quick rinse in the stream at the bottom. With the chocolate gone, it was only another kilometre before we transition on a bridge.

Dropping the bikes, filling up on water and start the second leg: 20km run/hike towards the abseil. A couple of pit-stops along the dirt road, Con realising his shorts are the wrong way round, we cross smaller streams, walk the uphills, greet the locals, pass some of the other teams as they are changing socks. About 12km before we get to a long downhill with a checkpoint & photographer at the bottom. We spot some teams in the camp on the left going up again. Get to the bottom and we have to turn right into the camp for a 7km loop over rolling hills of gravel, grass & rocks.
Someone mentions mambas and Nando confirms that his pepperspray is in his backpack. Our joints completely rebellious on the downhills. Con asks for an asthma-pump as his chest is feeling tight. I remember the citronella-smelling weed we passed earlier and quickly crush that with another fresh smelling grass. A pity no foreign eucalyptus around us (really does the trick). The citronella-combo not very successful after which I also get a tight chest but ascribe it to: a little too much for my fitness at this moment. We pass a red umbrella with a cooler box and marshal and wow, asking him for water, he gives us a 500ml ice-cold Bonaqua. In his cooler box I also spot Play, Coke and Amstel. Wonder what we could've had if our request was for something else!
Crossing the road again, we hike another 2kms down a kloof to get to the abseiling. At this moment about 4 teams in front of us that need to go down. We take a seat, make a snack, remove gravel from our shoes, give our feet a breather, body-glide, super-C's, droewors and wait for 1h40minutes before descending one at a time down the 30m abseil. One of the guys in the team just behind us, kindly asks if he can remove the 1,5cm thorn from my leg… sure, I didn't even notice it! Then he got his teammate to document his finding on video. The wait rested us well and with all 3 at the bottom of the abseil we run/ hike down the kloof towards the Steelpoort river where the tubing will start. Jumping from klip to klip to save our feet from getting wet, we finally surrender and walk straight down the middle of the of the stream.

Get to the tubes, we fill our bladders for the cycle that follows after the tubes. The lady marshals assure us of a nice relaxing float down the river. "Just sit back & relax and keep left". Well… hardly that as you have your 10kg backpack now wet and weighing double that on your chest, fastened around your waist, arms barely hanging over the sides to make small bee-like movements to do some steering with.
Hundreds of hip-flexes as you avoid the boulders in the rapids, more twists and turns and then left a fast rapid but decorated with a fallen tree. No way you can pass on the right: boulders protruding everywhere. Reciting Wimpie's words from the night before that they have removed the trees that fell over, they must know about this one and consider it safe. And the water pushing us very fast through this corridor. Nando is first to pass it, a slight struggle with the tee and then he's out. Then me, but I'm not out. Feel my tube continuing without me and litres of the Steelpoort gushing over me: my foot's caught in the tree and my 10(x2)kg backpack pulls me down, unable to come up for air. Litres of water now flushing through my nose and in those very long minutes my repeated prayer: Jesus, I don't want to die like this... not like this. Foot stuck, I find an opportunity for a pull-up & gasp for air then under water again continuing this conversation with the Maker, Creator & Keeper of all. The One that orders the clouds and silences the storms. And then another opportunity to pull myself + 20kgs up and grab hold of my foot for a chance of release. Foot out, head above water and double-checking I'm not dreaming but breathing. Looking down the steep rapid my tube is caught in a washing machine of water and I hold onto the tree, get-up, check that I still know my name and slowly fight the water to the other side. Not sure what just happened I catch up with Con & Nando who were witnessing this 5min ordeal and I cant make out if I am laughing or crying. Shocked. Well, we can continue now, coz on this river I won't die today. Another 2.5km down stream , a lack of words and a couple more rapids finally pushes us past the lodge with its friendly people taking pics and waving at us. The marshal meets us in the water, we get out, ironically the first checkpoint that we have to sign in with signature & all!

On the side we clean our shoes and get into the 1km hike towards the next point: A foefie slide of about 200m into the river. We see our bikes on the right. Nice & exhilarating slide down we redress, break off the dry mud from our bikes. Lube the chains and head of on a snaking path that very quickly became a nasty snake up the koppies. The dirt & transport of the bikes really got to Con's gears and he had to do the koppies without his granny. Eina. I had mine, but didn't even feel strong enough to use it! Turn & up & turn & up. Hiking a bike very quickly and asking ourselves if we think the organisers have cycled this before, as this is surely not ride-able!!! We are thinking of the other 3 from Lickety Split that will also confront these hills soon – wondering if they are still in the game altogether??

It wasn't long before all 3 of us got a very annoying and scratching cough and soon blaming the water from the streams, fitness and altitude. We are asking the audience if they have the answer for us here??? The never-ending hills really got to chisel on our character here. But that wasn't even funny after yet another koppie. A 2 member mixed team sneaked up from behind and overtook us. She was still cycling! Then the greatest joy of the whole day: the smoothest & best downhills ever and a rush which was just awesome: left, right, left, right… making our way down to the main dirt road for a quick 2km cycle up the road for the last 5km loop inside the camp. Snaking through lush bushes & woods, hearing the river on the left from time to time. Then long strips of bunting directing us through a small dam. Con still had his momentum and managed to cycle through hip-deep water, lose his chain and get it back on and out the other side. Nando & I opted for a walk through the dam. Great idea Wimpie: our bikes haven't been this clean since 5h00 that morning. Another couple of snaking turns, a last short uphill and the lodge on the left as we turn into the downhill leading us to the greeting photographer and other teams that also just pulled in. We sign in with a time of 13hrs and 15 minutes. 11th position. Jump in the dirty pool and get our drinks & beers from one of the staff.

Whilst sitting on the grass the feeling of accomplishment arises and we are smiling. It was a tough last 2hrs. But we made it with plenty of daytime left for a great sunset and welcoming some more teams in. We enquire from the marshals and they confirm that Lickety Split is in the koppies for the last leg. Yea! They're probably cursing the hills of Steelpoort now, but they will surely finish! Quick shower and snacking, we wait for their grand entrance. And knowing that William absolutely loves finishing and finishing last so they get a clapping of hands. We made double sure that that is what they got about 2hsr later. Photographer & all a good clapping of hands. They sign in and set off for shower as we organise our braaipacks for the evening. The lodge provides it at R40 per person with salad, pap& sous. Con was very disappointed with me returning 3 extra portions of meat that I had accidentally taken. Our dinner spread quickly grew as everyone added bits & pieces varying from the previous eve's bolognaise to Mike's 3-bean salad and rolls. No meat was allowed to be left in your plate as Con would surely scoop it up.

Prize giving happened in the dining room as we were finishing dinner. First 3 teams were all mixed pairs. Winning time of 9.5hrs!!! Sjoe, well done! Doing our maths: 13hrs 15min minus the 1hr 40min wait at the abseil, we're about 2hrs behind them. Minus Con & Nando's 10min transition from cycle to run, minus 10min recollection in the river… but no, this is what makes up the adventure. Thankyou Wimpie & Bonamanzi, great to have tasted the rain, soil, water, koppies & beds of the Steelpoort Valley. Another experience to give us that great feeling of accomplishment and being alive & well!


What was most interesting during the race was that each one's energy would peak at a different time than the others. Some would just generally have more energy (or be fitter). This meant that during the various legs we were naturally rotating who's in front setting the pace for the group. I think this is the challenge for reducing race-time and making a great team: to have your energy peak at the same time and… also to synchronise the pit-stops!

Once again we had the privilege of really getting to know this beautiful country of ours, use our willing & able bodies well; get to know each other and probably mostly: get to know ourselves more.

Until next time!