Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Full Moon Adventure Race - Team Please wait for us!

Event: Kinetic Full Moon Adventure Race

Team: Please wait for us! (Part of the Lickety Split adventure racing team)

Members: William Cairns, Sue Belcher, Bruce Barker


A race report never does true justice to the actual race. I really really enjoyed the Full Moon race. Overall it was an easy race, no physically or navigationally difficult sections. I was also properly prepared mentally for the race which always helps to make a race more enjoyable.


Sue and I have been racing together for about a year now. Our normal 3rd team mate Mike is currently suffering from a broken collar bone so we invited Bruce to join us for the race. As his first ever AR experience it was maybe being thrown into the deep end.


Between us we had all the required gear - except PFDs, fortunately Sue knows lots of people and could organise some - but they were at the Bronkhorstspruit dam and we had to rush there before the race to collect them. At the race start we met up with Bruce and tried giving him all sorts of advice on kit choices - more than likely confused him rather than helped him.


Leg 1 - 14km Paddle, with a bit of a run


Due to the paddling practise from a few weeks ago we knew that the fastest way to paddle was by not using the seats in the bath tub, but rather to make our own, therfor we arrived at the start with extra pillows to sit on and fitted neatly into the boat. At the start there was the normal rush by everyone to get the boats into the water, which we stood around and watched - rather confusing Stefan who asked us if everything was OK. At CP1 I was elected to do the run while Bruce and Sue paddled up the river. I was close behind 3 other runners when we went past the check point - all three of the others missed the check point - I was kind enough to tell my fellow Lickety Split team member the answer but the other had to go back about a kilometer to fetch the point....


Leg 2 - 10km Cycle


The cycle leg was uneventful, however I quickly realised how unfit I really was because the hill from the Transition area out of the main gate made me walk.


Leg 3 - 13km Hike


The weakest part of my navigation is going directly across country where I cannot see the end point of my route. For this reason I decided to go the long way around and kept on the roads. Probably about 1.5km longer, and 15minutes longer in time, but less hardship on feet and legs. We had no problems finding the point and then the biggest navigational challenge of the route was to go across country and find the checkpoint on the "small dam wall" - somehow, probably mostly by luck - I hit the point dead on after hiking the 3kms in the veld - not even 10m off.

After that it was over the hill follow the road. We found the next check point quite easily - and while punching another two teams caught up - not wanting to spoil the fun we quickly left, and strangely one of the other teams followed us instead of clipping the point first. After a few 100 meters they realised their error and had to return.


Leg 4 - 30km Cycle


Rather straight forward, and most surprisingly exactly 30kms. Poor Bruce was struggling during this leg, the previous week he had done his first long cycling training, and his tender rear end had not yet recovered enough to ride again. This leg was where it really started to get cold. When we reached the Transition at the end of the cycle the marshal "kindly" told us that the current temperature was -3. So -3 seemed to be rather cold, but the real impact of it only struck when we reached our boat and found that it was frozen over, picking up the PFDs made a crunching sound as the Ice broke.


Leg 5 - 3km Paddle


Both Bruce and I struggled to paddle, my right arm kept cramping as I paddled on the right hand side. Poor Sue probably did 60% of the effort to get us to the next transition. Now if you realise Sue is half Bruce's height and probably half my weight (and a 3rd of Bruce's) that’s quiet an achievement.


When we reached the other end Bruce had had enough and decided to drop out. It was quite comical seeing his face when Sue and I said "OK, bye" and marched out to do the orienteering. Maybe if he knew that dropping out would not stop us continuing he would not have felt so bad...


Leg 6 - 7km Orienteering


The many locked gates, no access zones and a map without enough detail made this leg a little frustrating. We decide to do 5,6,7 in that order but the access gates between 5 and 6 were locked so we had to take the long way around 5,7,6. After that we came back toward point 5, took a short cut under a few wooded white fences. And here I got confused. At one point I thought North was in the East and therefore could not Orientate my map properly. For about the first time ever the compass helped in getting my bearing correct and we discovered we had walked straight past OP3 Earlier in the evening. I also made a bad route choice choosing to do

OP1 before OP2 making us walk back up a steep hill we had just walked down.


Leg 7 - 3km Paddle


In all honesty I cannot remember this leg. I think the sleepy monster was getting his claws into me. I can remember the finish and realising our packs had been moved. Then getting to the bikes and finding them frozen. Also here we once again saw Lickety Split and Con admitted to not having plotted the last Hike - so I lent him my map to plot from - This must rate in the same category as taking a tube with a hole in it on an AR....


Leg 8 - 50km Cycle


We went peddling off, getting our legs going after the frozen paddle was quite tough but we slowly got going. A minor navigational mistake took us down the wrong road to the main road and resulted in us backtracking a kilometer or so to collect the point. Back down the main road and left off into the dark. Most of the cycle my Odometer was showing a cycling speed of 14km/hr, suddenly i looked down and it said 11km/h so I peddled harder and it dropped to 10km/h. I then realised I was peddling with my eyes closed, one eye open to check where I was going. Suddenly I fell asleep on my bike and just caught it before it fell. We pitched camp in the grass next to the side of the road and caught 20minutes sleep.


When we woke the sunrise had started and we peddled off at about 16km/h - quickly making up the time lost. We were cycling "so fast" that I missed the next check point and we had to again backtrack to collect it. The morning quickly warmed up and slowly layers of clothing were removed. Soon we were at the transition.


Leg 9 - 7km Hike


We strolled over the grasslands to the next checkpoints. All were found with minimal effort and we reached the abseil. We quickly decended and hiked off down the valley. It was quite interesting chatting cheerfully to all the people busy climbing on the cliffs. Many of them were quite interested in the race.


Leg 10 - 2km Paddle


Paddling the bathtub at this point in the race was like asking us to climb Everest. Even Sue was getting tired and was taking rests on the way back. Coming toward the finish the first person we saw was team mate Mike which was great - and then everyone came out of the Marque to cheer us in. The best time to finish a race is during prize giving, you then get the most cheers!



Socks - due to the cold weather we had bought ourselves waterproof socks (seal skinz). Even though my socks became wet inside I think that my feet stayed warm all the time compared to not having the waterproof windproof socks on.

Cellphone - I have been regularly buying myself a new phone as each race I go on I seem to get my phone wet, it has never mattered what waterproofing I put around it. A while ago I upgraded to a Sonim XP3 Quest. A waterproof and impact proof phone. I did the whole race with the phone pushed into the back pocket of my cycling top - it remained working right throughout and proved to be as waterproof as promised.


Big thanks go to Stefan, Heidi and their marshal team. I think their approach in supplying boats, staging unsupported races is a great way of growing and maintaining the sport of AR in our area.


Full Moon A Race

The Full Moon Adventure Race will be remembered for the huge yellow moon which laughed at us all night - and the extreme cold! We believed we had prepared ourselves for it, by rushing out last weekend and buying all manner of warm clothing and waterproofing. By 10 o’clock that night, we all wished we had more to put on, but all survived without loss of limb.

Pre-race preparation was leisurely, we arrived hours before the start and floated around digging out numerous pairs of gloves and warm tops, not yet knowing what order the race would take. The weather warm and beautiful - giving no inkling of what was in store for us.

Route handout and race briefing took place and sooner that you thought, we were lined up next to the kayaks for our first loooong 14km paddle to CP1, 2 and 3. We decided to let the rush go first, before getting into the kayak at our leisure and set off in our prepared positions. Bruce on the stern, William in the middle and myself with legs hanging over the bow

Plugging along, we found ourselves overtaking several teams which had not rehearsed positions the previous weekend. Skip the rest......and we were back at the bank a couple of hours later, only to find that it was actually winter and were all frozen to the marrow, upon getting out of the boat! Here we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves only 1 boat behind Lickety Split, exchanged “Hi’s” and when I looked around next - they were gone! Very quick transition Lickety Split! We spent time changing clothes and getting warm for a MTB leg which could run into dusk, then set off up the steepest slope imaginable. Cold muscles screaming at the torture! William easily navigated us to the next transition at the farmhouse, where we added more layers for a hike leg of 13kms, into the dark.

At this point we were around a third of the way down the field and had also met up with Lickety Split just leaving as we arrived. This hike leg, we decided to go the long easier way around on the road, rather than directly cross-country over the hill and through tall grass. Once again William navigated us straight to the CP, with only a small amount of time spent looking for a dam wall, which looked more like an earth embankment to me. At this point the team was still going strong. William singing “Happy Birthday tooo meee”. He protesting that it is the only song he knows!

Now without sunlight, we headed out up the valley navigating by the stars. This placed an unexpected hill in front of us, but undaunted we summited that and found the expected road below....only to discover we had added some extra mileage to our trip. Talking of ‘trip’ this is where Bruce managed to begin his first of several spectacular ankle-twisting trips. To his credit, he gritted his teeth and pushed on for the cause.
Passing a couple of teams returning by the light of the moon, we were warned that the ‘locals’ were not friendly and made a rough detour high up the hill to avoid the soccer crowd in the shacks below. Finding the CP just as 2 other teams approached, we hussled back down the hill, surprised to be followed by a couple of them who had completely missed the ‘river junction’ CP and maybe thought we were members of their team?

At the farmhouse, we added another layer, enjoyed a cold supper with hot mugs of tea and logged out for another MTB leg. Here starts the ‘real’ adventure racing! The temperature had dropped below freezing and the low ground near water, was exactly like cycling in a deepfreeze.....air gasping out of us in white clouds. Hands and feet burning and hurting. Still William kept us up to date on expected twists and turns in the road and we found CP after CP exactly where they were meant to be! Boy was it cold though! You pull your beanie down over your ears, buff up to your eyes, icicle of snot hanging from your frozen nose and cycle on - wrapped in a bubble of discomfort! Feet could not be ignored as they screamed for attention.....burning and then frozen solid. Expensive waterproof/windproof socks and shoe covers were not proof against the cold and wet. Determination had nothing on us though....we pushed through and met the Red Ants team passing in the opposite direction, having already done 2 kayak legs and an orienteering leg. Go Guys!

Kayaking back to the marquee only remarkable in that it was more of the everywhere....cold.....cold! Bruce was starting to wilt and finally conceded defeat now that he was back near his car, on solid ground, hot drinks and huge bonfires all around. William and I had both experienced unfinished races before and were both steely determined to see this one through to the bitter end. I was feeling remarkably well and the orienteering leg was in front of us, lit up by the moon and street lamps in the housing estate, but the hour was late - the graveyard shift.....12 hours down and more of the same to come. William and I began a bit of a ramble around the estate....the most efficient routes seemed to evade us, though we were still working somewhat within a schedule which we had worked out would bring us into the finish by around 10 the next morning. Exchanged “hello’s” with Lickety Split once again! The air crisp, clear and cold....we stopped for a second, to admire a torrent of icy water gushing over the dam wall.

Coming back to the marquee, we were lucky enough to see The Red Ants finish - they had already completed a kayak, MTB, Hike, Abseil and kayak, which we had still to face! They looked absolutely frozen, which made me feel warmer and stronger. The feeling soon wore off, the kayaking left my fingers in such pain that I was jumping around on the bank crying and flapping until my warm, dry gloves rescued my frozen fingers. A quick change of shoes, check to see that my frozen chain would still turn, rub ice off my saddle, exchange greetings with Lickety Split who were huddled by the fire....and we were off! The night was long and solitary. Plenty of time for introspection, while waiting for William who was slowing down.....and finally we both realised....asleep on his bike....only his forward momentum keeping him upright! So we hunkered down in the grass for 40 winks at 5.30am in our space blankets. Chilly, cold moon still chuckling above us.

Daybreak and we were off, slowly at first and then faster as we warmed. Stops to remove clothing as the sun rose....picking up more checkpoints.....tired now after 20 hours on the road. Transition at another farmhouse....change shoes for the last time....swop beanie for peak to Heidi who was full of enthusiasm and promises of breakfast awaiting us in camp. Off wading through the tall grass.....sloshing through the mushy ground.....up the koppie to the abseil with friendly faces and happy chatter. Dangling on the line as my abseil turns into a bungie jump....quick plod over the hill to the kayaks for the last leg. An olympic entry into the water.....20 minutes to the marquee....will we be in time for prize giving? Hey, there’s Mike and Trish waiting for us on the bank.....what a fantastic surprise! Yells of “Hi Mike” bringing the whole crowd out of the marquee to welcome us in! Wow, what a finish - and we get a trophy too! Final word - Yes it’s worth the pain to finish.
Post-race - surprised to find that I have no sore muscles, just feel heavily hung-over from lack of sleep .....and boy are my lips CHAPPED!

High point: Completing a 140km race and collecting all the CP’s, coming in to a crowd of welcoming teams, clapping and happy faces.

Low point: Frozen frostbitten hands after kayaking at 3am. The pain!
Race Review: Fantastic organization by Heidi and Stephan, CP’s well placed, great support and facilities, distances realistic, lucky draw usual amazing! Thanks go to Urban Kinetic for a memorable event.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Nooo Shooos as tested at the Winter Trail Series - 20 June

I thought I should mention my upgrade from XA Pro's to "Wings" Reason being the difference is remarkable! They stick to rocks like glue! I mean when I bought the XA Pro's I thought that they would be like Windows XP. Reliable, hard working and indestructible.......right? Wrong! The XA's after 3 years of being 'out there' are looking decidedly shabby and road-weary. So when I spotted last year's Wings model heavily discounted, I forked over (still a king's ransom) and tested them out today on the long Trail. Distance: 14.something kms, elevation gain - challenging! To my delight, they performed in a far superior manner to those shoes worn by everyone around me. What goes up, must come down again and we slithered and scrambled down dozens of hairy, loose bouldered descents - me as sure footed as the proverbial mountain goat! What a treat! And they are comfortable too! Not a rub or blister in sight.

The race itself was well attended and decidedly challenging, a good outing for anyone training for next weekend's Full Moon race. Not too chilly in the morning and comfortably warm later on.

I should also mention another purchase - touted as the secret weapon of the Lickety Split team for sub-zero, wet nights spent paddling around Bronkhorstspruit. Sue's 'walking' model Seal Skin socks. I wore them around the house most of yesterday and though my feet were not totally toasty, I did not feel cold floors and a session with the hose-pipe watering plants outside, did not leave me with cold wet feet from the leaks, which usually leave me wetter than the plants!

Needless to say, I'm sure that by this time next Sunday, some 7 new pairs of Seal Skins will be well and truly tested by the Lickety Split team!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Well done Nando - Comrades 2010

Well done Nando on your Bronze medal at the 2010 Comrades marathon!!