Friday, February 26, 2010

We like it fresh

We either insist on the newspaper being delivered to our homes before
we leave for work or we buy it on the way to work and scan through the
headlines whilst in traffic. There is something about news, the latest
news, smell of printer's ink, a have-to-have, an ASAP. It’s the same
with fresh bread or donuts, we insist on it. No one likes old bread,
no one buys old bread, no one pays for yesterday’s paper either. And
the coffee has to be fresh too, and the 2 go together. Paper and
coffee… and donut if you’re lucky. We want the latest stuff and we
want it first thing in the morning… so we know what others are talking
about or be the first to talk about it and send everyone else to
scurrying to their computers for a News24 update.

In the same way I trust last night’s race report is met by your fresh
coffee. Both fresh, ready for you, first thing Friday morning.

It didn’t rain in Joburg all week. Things were pretty dry and dusty
everywhere. Come Wednesday morning, early clouds confused a few
people’s dress code as the familiar scorching sun was with us by
lunchtime again. Thursday morning the clouds were no longer
threatening and the first drizzle started around 6am. The drizzle
developed into a decent downpour by 10am and a steady drizzle
contributed to a steady appetite for most of the day. Its good its
raining now I thought, coz then the DarknDirty ride tonight will be
fresh, dry, dust-free, dark and dirty. How we like it. A quick email
to Donald on the other side of the boerewors-gordyn to confirm the
weather and his reply: “blue skies” set an expectation for a good

Arriving early at the Moo-Mall, I paid a regular visit to Mugg & Bean,
this time a chai latte to set the stomach for a good dose of Synap
Forte to silence the 2-week old coccyx injury. I bought the new March
issue of RIDE magazine and read the articles on pain killers &
exercise and the one Milk. Read it, and you’ll understand that my
milky-painkiller cocktail is a nice summary of what I fed my mind
earlier in the day.

Saw Donald and he was sipping on a drinking yoghurt… mmmilky again.
Soon more bikes arrived and totaling 10 riders. Nico as trailmeister,
Donald sweeper, myself, Oupa Gert, Mike, Chris, Brendan, Hennie & his
2 first-time-DnD-rider colleagues. Hardy paid a quick visit and also
told us about the week’s scouting they did for the upcoming Tswane-AR

We set off with the usual start through the veld, fresh bossies
clearing the airways for most people. Left turn onto tar road and down
the side of Cornwall Hill. Rain has sculpted some more interesting
ruts and keeping left at the bottom we turn up to the tar road again.
Here Donald hands out a banana to some guys stranded with their car on
the side of the road, we remount Oupa Gert’s spotlight with cable ties
and then head up to the shebeen for the first speed zone. At the top
we turn right over the highway and further down left into some single
track. The single track was mostly “half track” (a term I picked up
from MTB glossary) meaning rather overgrown and therefore not really
single track anymore.

Braving a ghost ride on a familiar section I loose my shoe due to some
grass stuck to the Velcro strap, and the very long grass made it
almost impossible to make any calculated decisions.  I remember only
the shebeen-queen declared a speed zone, but if your trailmeister is
often the queen himself, most parts of the evening was at an
above-average pace. We soon covered a good distance and even got to
name a section as “The Road Less Traveled” as 3 people were down, in a
row because of respectable rocks hidden in the tall grass of the
unfamiliar track. Not sure where this was, but remember Mike showing
me Eric-se-klip just before that. Loose & find shoe again, a few more
turns later and we’re at the bottom of the MineShaft going up….oe eina
I was thinking. But to my surprise the mineshaft was no longer my
enemy; we have befriended each other second time round. At the top we
turn left to do the-ride-to-the-light in reverse which provided for a
refreshing whiz to the bottom. In the last hundred meters our
surroundings got ‘milky’ as mist have now moved into the valley. Left
again into thicker mist that added another impressive dimension to the
usual DnD ride. Sharp left again up past the chicken farm the thrill
of the mist continues until we pop over the top down to the
shebeen-queen again.

Fly down, sho’t left onto the tar and up the side just after the
stream, Oupa Gert’s bike is trying to beat something soon identified
as about 2 meters of wire. Undoing the metal knot we head back up
home. A quick confrontation with taller-than-the-trailmeister (TTTT)
grass and we meet the last turn-off home.

Thankyou’s to the Weather Man for perfect evening, Nico and Donald,
the regulars, the newbies, Spur, fresh burgers, the mmmmilky magic
sauce and Synap Forte
(And a Thankyou billboard from SARS as I crossed the boerwors-gordyn
to arrive home just before 12 with both shoes.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nando's fall at XTerra

So, just when I thought the cameraman lost the photo of my fall in the river/stream, here is the evidence. Oh! and Mike your “buddy” that caused the fall, better luck next time as I was on my feet in no time..hehe!

Xterra Buffelspoort “Full event” 30th January 2010

Yep…I did say I was not going to write a report…right!

If I had to summarize this year’s Xterra event, I would say it was wet, wild and tough man!

The build up….

So after experiencing my first Xterra “lite” in 2009, which was short, exciting and adventurous, I decided that I needed to up my game a bit to experience the tougher “full” event. In December 2009 our AR Team Lickety Split exchanged emails on numerous occasions highlighting some of the events we were planning to do in 2010. Yep! Xterra was one that came up. 5 of us jumped ahead of ourselves and entered, not realizing that we had the December holidays and Christmas meals in between to contend with. Well with 4 of us (Adri, Mike and Con) entered for the “full” event and one (Sue) for the “lite”. It was always going to be interesting to see how much training would be done during December. With 2 of my teammates as “veteran” swimmers and the rest of us “social…stay afloat” swimmers, we needed a lot of swimming lengths at the gym pool to be able to overcome the 1.5k swim. The 28k MTB and 12k run would still be challenging but mostly it was the swim that bothered me the most. Prior to Xterra I had had only done a 400m open water swim. So with December training (runs and a little bit of cycling) and the pool training in January behind me and a tiring 1.5k swim at Homestead Lake in Benoni with Mike and Adri, the weekend before the race, I came into the race with a bit more confidence. My only concern was swimming with a bunch of other crazy, kicking, punching competitors on race day.


With no sign of the heavens clearing and watching the weather man daily before the race, I just knew this race was going to be an adventurous and challenging one. In fact it rained so much the night before that parts of JHB was flooded! Mike was staying overnight at the Mountain Sanctuary, only a few k’s away from the event, that I was tempted to phone him to see how conditions were there, but decided to rather pray instead for sunshine….and unfortunately my prayers were not answered…until the afternoon. The morning of the race was overcast and at times drizzling which was great accept that the weeks rain had already done its thing making the MTB route a mudbath of note. I have done many muddy MTB races (Sabie, Bonamanzi, Pecanwwod to name some) but honestly speaking, mud and me are not great buddies.

Wild and tough…..

The “lite” race started almost an hour later than planned and the “full” shortly thereafter…due to some technical issues at registration and the organizers checking out the safety of the MTB course. No problem as the weather was great and the water temp. was around 24 °C.. I think…as I normally complain if it’s too cold although I saw a lot of swimmers in wetsuits…unfair man! Saw lots of familiar AR faces (Nicky, Elsie, Heidi, Alex, Phillip, Wiehann, Tommy and many more). With our swim underway, we had to swim to 3 buoys before we headed back to dry land. I made sure at the start to avoid the “rush” so stuck to the left and off I went. For those who have not had the experience swimming in open water, when you in the water the distance looks greater then on land. Alternating between free- style and breast-stroke I managed to get into a nice rhythm (or pace). Around me were swimmers that were trying just about every swimming style they could find to get them going. One guy was swimming without his cap and another backstroke but not checking his direction. Just before the last buoy and on the home straight I experienced my first cramp on my right foot. What now…I thought… and remembered my experienced teammates telling me to lie flat on the water and stretch out the cramp. Right! easier said than done. I was also warned not to ask the life saver for his board as I could get disqualified. Well, even with the cramp I managed to swim it out. It was at this point that a lady with a orange cap swam past me. She was going at a nice easy pace and gliding well through the water. I decided then that I needed some motivation to finish this last section so decided to use some of my reserves and followed her. This worked well and was surprised to see when we got out of the water that it was Elsie. I remember speaking to Elsie at the start of the race who was equally worried and concerned as I was about swim. Once out of the water (feeling like my upper body muscles were blown up out of proportion) and our way to the transition area I nudged Elsie, taking her by surprise, and congratulated her completing this hurdle together.

As quickly as I could, I got onto my MTB to do the next leg. Saw Mike still putting on his MTB shoes and quickly wished him luck for this leg. For those who have done MTB races in this area you will know how technical this section in the Dam area is and worse when muddy. It was also here that I bumped into Heidi who was also struggling with the mud. Mostly this section had to be walked or you would quickly change colour to resemble the path you rode on. We also had to dodge traffic which also came from the front as the “lite” competitors were on their way back. Once we were out of there we headed for the Mountain Sanctuary road. This was where the work started. Besides the ascend we had to contend with, we had a rocky section which we could only be portaged. Once over that it was a descend that was rocky and tricky at times. Just before we got out of the Sanctuary park there was a water stream we had to cross. On approaching I shouted to a guy washing his bike that I was going to ride this one through. Well, he either didn’t hear me or conveniently stuck his ass out to bump me. Next moment I was lying in the water with one shoe stuck in the pedal and doing my best to avoid shouting at him. Well he apologized and then helped me up. On the other side of the stream was a photographer and had to ask him if he got the evidence which sadly he said only got me lying in the water. Still haven’t been able to check if photo is on the website. From there we came across some more muddy sections which was worse than the first lot we experienced. It was also at this point that the fine rain started and added fuel to the mud. We headed cautiously towards to the transition where we found less spectators than earlier, possibly due to the rain.

After transitioning into my trail shoes and upon leaving the water point I had forgotten my race number so I had to quickly run back before getting going again. The first 2 or so k’s was relatively easy until we got to the dam wall. At the dam wall we were welcomed by an amazing waterfall that was so overwhelming that you stood there with absolute amazement grasping the moment as much as you could before deciding to move on. After crossing the river we had to jump rocks, concrete blocks and a climb up a steel ladder. Once at the top it was a fast downhill until we had to cross the river and then walk up a steep tar road to the next water point. It was at these water crossings that we decided to clean off our dirty bodies and shoes. We crossed the main road to encounter yet another hill. The first section had to be walked and from there gradually got moving until we started descending. Once we crossed the main road it was downhill to the finish area to finish lap one of two. I was fortunate to see Mike and Adri on my 2nd lap and urged them on to finish their last leg of the race. The highlight of this leg and the race was definitely the waterfall which gave me a boost of energy for my last lap.

So, after finishing just over 3.5hrs later being welcomed by Max (organizer) calling us Xterra warriors and making us walk onto the stage to receive our medals and seeing Sue on the other side of the stage, I was excited and pleased that I had finished this awesome race.

Thanks goes to the organizers and their sponsors of this event for making this experience such a memorable one for me. For those of you who weren’t able to experience this, book this one in your diary for next year and believe me you will not be disappointed.

Xterra warrior,


Monday, February 1, 2010

X Terra Firma, now mud!

So, there I was, swimming across Homestead Lake in Benoni, admiring how pretty the lake and surrounds were since last I’d last swum there many years ago and wondering if Charlize was around again locally since breaking up with that Townsend fellow. Apart from that I was also thinking how I could beat Nando at the Xterra Triathlon the next weekend. This training swim could just be a ruse to spy on his technique, and strategize accordingly. I wondered, just momentarily, about nudging him into the water weeds that grabbed at our ankles and legs, and seeing if he would surface again. Or maybe, with the river flooded as it was he would wash over the weir. No, unlike the Xterra that would be too extreme. Eliminating the competition is not as good as beating it. Of course Adri was swimming circles around us, at home like a duck in the dam. Maybe she would push too hard at the beginning and tire on the run. Not much chance of Nando tiring on the run though, no, his Comrades training was making him fast and lean. I had no plan, no strategy. I told everyone I was going to take on the race at a slow pace, to give them a false sense of security while I planned to beat them with underhand conniving.
On Friday, the day before the race Trish, Rich and I went and camped at Mountain Sanctuary Park, to acclimatise to the altitude, scout out the route and conditions, and also so not as to miss too much sleep on Saturday morning. That plan went awry when a huge thunderstorm caused havoc at our campsite, with rivers and dongas appearing from nowhere. The effect on the course was to make it very muddy, every bit as good as Bonamanzi. Thanks Trish for your wonderful support.
I really enjoyed the race and seeing Sue and the rest of the eager Lickety Splitters at the start. I swam well and uneventfully. The trick of keeping an aerobically sustainable rhythm while slipping through the water like a dolphin made sense, and I closed my eyes for the most part to feel and hear the water gliding over me. Aaaah – wonderful open water swimming!
My transition to the MTB leg was slow but I left just after Nando and Adri. Mountain Sanctuary Park was beautiful and interesting, with good technical sections and the challenge of mud riding and river crossings. My poor bike eventually sounded like a pepper grinder and had no brakes. Into Transition I again saw Adri, but she soon left me behind. The best part on the run was when we ran down behind the Buffelspoort dam wall and across the flooded river at the bottom and could look up to where the water cascaded down in a massive waterfall over the weir, leaving the whole area in spray mist. The climb up the other side was fun too, climbing up the huge steps of concrete blocks and a steel ladder to get back onto the path which ran back down across the river again. Not even a Lara Craft look alike who passed me on the path could inspire me to pick up my pace and run up that hill. Nor could Nando as he passed me on his second lap of the two loop run. I rather took the river crossing opportunities to lie in the river, hanging onto the flooded causeway, to let the flood waters rush over me, pulling me this way and that. I guess if I’d wanted to beat Nando badly enough I should rather have been running. That would have been a better plan.