Tuesday, December 1, 2009

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!

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