Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Lesser Spotted Lammergeyer Mountain Challenge

Race report by Keane Ludick 

What a weekend for racing and breaking mental and physical boundaries!
Adri and myself travelled down to Aliwal North this weekend to visit some family and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Witteberg mountain range. It’s a beautiful part of our country and any adventure racer’s dream training ground with breathtaking mountain peaks, rugged trekking terrain and the Orange river for hours of paddling.

A few weeks back we decided to scout for events in the area over the same weekend and came across the Lammergeyer Mountain Challenge. It seemed like the perfect event to do the Saturday morning with the start time being 7am at the local sports club in Lady Grey. The event was hosted by local farmers, Anna-Marie en Pieter, which promised a true and vibrant feel of the area of which it came to deliver on both. This was a totally different race to what you will find in Gauteng. Most of the competitors being local and those who were not travelled from far and wide giving the 4Peaks a skip to attend this challenge. 73 competitors, from young to old(75),from strong to first time trail runners pitched up for the event.

The Lammergeyer route is a unique route and runs through the Skyrun and Wartrail routes for the first 12km. The race starts with an easy run through the town towards the foot of the Witteberg mountain range that has pain and sweat on the menu for the day . Before the race we decided we would go out and break through some mental and physical boundaries and we definitely selected the best race to do this. I joined up with two sub 8hours comrades runners and Adri set the pace in her own group pulling and motivating other runners all the way to the end. 

Hitting the foot of the mountain, our 10km-700m climb started with warmed up legs and steady heart rates. We tackled the old Lesotho paths to the highest point in the challenge at approx the 11km mark from where we descended via the third highest mountain pass in South-Africa, the Joubert Pass. Pacing ourselves down the long and painful pass we finally got to see the town. Just as we thought we were as good as done, we got the signal to make an unexpected left turn away from town up the last climb and then turn back towards the end. Looking at the time we realized we could finish this challenge in an even better time than planned so the pace was lifted and pain pushed aside. Coming round the final turn, with legs burning and lungs pumping, it was the smell of pure “boere wors” and the look of friendly faces that kept us going. 

The race was well organized and one of the better races I have ever participated in. Anna-Marie and Pieter ensured that we had a clearly marked route, water point every 3km, T-Shirt, Medal and a guaranteed spot prize for every entrant. They might as well have called the race the White Indian Tiger Mountain Challenge considering that we never saw a Lammergeyer, droppings, or any form of evidence of their existence. 

We arrived as total strangers and left with dozens of new friends to visit on our next trip. One thing is for sure, you need to be twice as fit for one of these local farm races to compensate for the social chatting that carries on through the entire race. Much better than running next to a Joburg boy with his ipod plugged in!

Otter Trail Run

It's been a bit hectic from my side since the weekend hence no feedback on how my race went. My legs are still recovering from all those uphill's and downhill's we did (3050m ascent and decent). It was an amazing race but very tough. I finished in 8h17min, well within the 9hr cut-off mark. I hope to put a small report together as only then may you understand and sympathise with me.

One positive outcome from the race is that my foot injury (plantar fasciitis) did not hamper me to much throughout the race and on Monday the pain was altogether gone....a miracle it seems or is it just the muscle pain in my legs that is camouflaging it. So far so good and apart from sore quads, i have no other pains or injury....yipee!!!



Saturday, September 25, 2010

Are we Adventureres or Racers (Scouting Report)

Our sport has 2 words in its name – Adventure Race – so I wonder how many of us, or what proportion of each of us fits into each word – are we Adventurers that race, or Racers that enjoy some adventure. I know I would rather be seen as an Adventurer than a Racer, but I don’t think I really am – yet.


With only 8 weeks to go to the first race the team has organised we still had one leg that needed to be finalised. On our last trip to the area we struggled to get an understanding with the one farmer who’s land we wanted to cross, so much that we changed the route. This new route had to be finalised. The next team trip to the area will be only three weeks before the race, not leaving much time to finalise maps, race books etc. So I decided to take a weekend trip to the area and do the scouting myself. No other members of the team were available so it was to be me on my own. My plan was to confirm the locations, as agreed with the team, of a hike leg, and then finalise the new cycle route.


My goal was to turn the scouting trip into a mini adventure – a night out in the mountains under the star. As I had lots of time I decided to hike the cycle leg, looking at the map it was to be a hike of between 16 and 20kms. I would leave in the morning, meet the new farmer, then finalise the first set of points returning to the farm in the afternoon and sleeping on the mountain before finishing the leg the next morning. All the team members wished me a ‘safe’ trip. It is rather scary to think that we city folk think a solitary hike in the mountains could be considered dangerous.


My plans did not work out quite right. The farmer was on his way to a family reunion and could only see me at 7 in the morning. Meaning I left home at 3am. I met up with him and he insisted that he should take me around on the route with his bakkie and show me his ideas. I finally left the farm at 8:30 and quickly did the other points, returning to the farm at 10:30. Much earlier than my planned 4pm. I quickly changed and started my solitary adventure into the mountains. I hiked the route, plotted the 4 points, and hiked all the way back, finishing the route at about 5:30pm – my planned  time of starting the route.


I slept in the car and woke at 3am to drive home – was at home for breakfast.


So my solo adventure turned into a day outing. I carried everything for a night in the mountains, warm clothes, sleeping bag, shelter, groundsheet, 3 meals.... and never used them. That probably means I still do not qualify as an Adventurer - yet.


Friday, September 3, 2010

So will there...?

Team: Lickety Split

Members: William Cairns, Sue Belcher, Mike Underwood and Paul Venter

So after Swazi Xtreme the question was “Will there be a Lickety Split team doing the Full Moon race later in August?” The Seconds from Swazi (Mike and Sue) were both keen to do Full Moon as seconding can make you quite excited to race.... But as they have proved before, there could just be a navigational challenge in that case.

Anyway a few days after Swazi I decided to do Full Moon and Con was drafted – but he chickened out- and once again we picked up a highly excited but inexperienced recruit from my work colleagues. Paul was very excited to be given the opportunity and rushed out and bought the stuff he needed to do the race.

We all got to the race in our own ways... Dropped off the bikes and rushed off to the start. Rather a small crowd of excited racers was present and it was clear that three weeks after Swazi prevented a lot of teams from participating. I was feeling fine and was surprised at so few ex Swazi racers attending the always well organised Kinetic race. At race briefing we were informed that there would be no ‘added value’ to the race which caused a laugh and was quite a relief. Unplotted maps were handed out covering the whole route. A quick look over the maps showed a route that needed to followed rather than a challenge of finding the optimal route.

So off the race went. Paul was paddling for the first time ever so I put him in the front of the boat thinking I could see what he was doing and explain how to improve his style. In the end it meant that I was forced to paddle with the same rhythm he used which didn’t suit me very well. The first paddle was slow and heavy across large wind driven waves. Our boat continually pulled into the wind as if the wind was using our bodies as a sail. By the time we got to the end I was really pleased to finish.

Our transition to the hike was easy efficient and quick – off we went along the roads, the beach route was faster but roads are most often worth the extra distance. After the first checkpoint we did a cross country route while everyone else seemed to be retracing part of their route. Not sure which was faster. At the next point we saw a team that had no emergency gear with them. Each team member was carrying a bottle of water and nothing else. This 4 km hike ended at the first bicycle transition where we had earlier dropped off the bikes.

We were onto the bikes and out the gate, down the road and turn right – my words “the checkpoint is 150m down this road” – and yet we missed it. Paul’s bike started giving problems and he and I stopped to see if we could fix it while Mike and Sue went back for the point. And yes it was exactly 150m down the road from the corner. Before the race I had measured all distances between points, turns and landmarks and written them on my map – it made it easy to tell the team exactly how far we had to go, what we were looking for – definitely something I will do again. Poor Paul’s bike could no longer freewheel and he got very tired and his knees did not like his bike any more. After a while gentle hills became a walk for him. We came into transition and he had a serious rest.

The night hike on the map looked epic. No roads to where we needed to go but a quick hike briefing from marshal Alex confirmed my belief that there were a lot more roads than were shown on the map. Off we went into the dark. About half way through the hike I did my normal fall asleep while walking trick and we had a 15minute stop. It didn’t feel like I slept but I have been told with some conviction that I was snoring. Anyway – off we went and finished the hike. Into transition we came and Paul started taking his bike apart. After looking at the cassette he decided the chance of losing all ability to cycle was quite large and decided it would be better to drop out than having to push for 30kms, he went to have a quick sleep before meeting us for the final paddling legs.

The rest of us grabbed out bikes and disappeared off into the night. Things were going well (other than me wanting to sleep – but it wasn’t that bad – actually I think Mike needed sleep more than I did) until Sue’s recently serviced and scrubbed bike finally decided the hole in the tyre was too large for slime to seal. We pumped it a few times hopefully then gave up and decided to change the tube. Due to our mental state no one wanted to do the dirty work so we went to sleep instead. 25 minutes later Sue and I were woken by the alarm and changed the tube, then woke Mike up who slept through our noisy wheel change. Climbed on our bikes and disappeared into the night to finish the leg.

At the final manned transition we found Paul had not arrived (later we found out he had overslept). We had a nice peaceful transition, had some breakfast, devised a towing system for the second boat and went paddling off to Grooteiland. The worst part of my Navigation is over terrain that contains no landmarks – and water certainly counts in that regard. I struggled to decide on a final destination and when I did we could not find the transition. I think the light at the transition had been removed and the teams we later met on the island seemed to confirm this.

We finally transitioned at a random spot on the coast, rushed off to do the Check Points, and included a stop at the real transition – and could find no light when we were there. And returned to the boats – we saw Zebra, Wildebees and Springbok on the island as the sun was rising as we finished trekking around the island.

Back into the boats and what felt like an endless paddle to the end. Once again with me struggling to actually work out where we wanted to be.

A very nice fast event. No real navigational challenges (even the paddling navigation should have been easy). And our team really enjoyed the race.

Our thanks to Kinetic for organising the race, as well as giving us an opportunity at prize giving to advertise our race in November. It seems a nice gap in longer races up until the Balele Tracks race which will give everyone a nice rest.

I was surprised at how weak I felt during the race, obviously three weeks is not enough recovery time since our 320km epic in Swaziland.