Thursday, March 17, 2011

Race Report: Kinetic Double Moon

Kinetic Double Moon Adventure Race

March 2011

Team Lickety Split

Members: William Cairns (Captain), Sue Belcher, Nando Santos, Con Loubser (Navigator)

Fetching: Mike Underwood and Trish Black

An adventure race consists of more than just racing. Finding team mates, getting to the race, understanding the challenges of the particular race, understanding each team members strength and weaknesses and knowing what to pack and how to transition are all critical aspects of the race. Getting home must also be planned for.

Lickety Split has been together for 18 months now. So finding team mates is a real pleasure as we can rely on finding 4 of the team mates to do the race. Often we can rely on the other team members to help us out with seconding. For this race we knew we were going to be tired after the race and therefore arranged with Mike and Trish to come and collect us from Bethlehem after the race. A really good idea, as on the way home all of us had a good sleep.

After the race briefing and before plotting the maps the team sat down together and worked out the estimated times we would be taking on each leg. This is a great way of planning your requirements for each part of the day, and also for knowing where you need to push (to use daylight on hiking legs) and where you can take it easy (cycling at night) as well as knowing how to pack your race box, and what food you need each day. By planning the times per leg you can also identify the best spots on the route to sleep. Our planning worked out spectacularly and at all times we knew which sections needed the hard work and where we were able to rest.

We took turns plotting maps, with another team member checking the plotted points. We did discover that there was a point that we had not plotted and corrected it. We also spent time tracing the whole route to ensure that every point was plotted correctly.

Out of interest, our team is able to cycle at a good speed at night, not quite our daytime speed but not considerably slower. However we find that hiking, especially where there are not roads, we travel half our daytime speed, or even slower. So by trying to do as much hiking as possible during daylight we significantly improve our times. (Rough averages: Daytime cycling 15-18kms per hour, night time cycling 10-14km per hour, daytime hiking 5km per hour, night time hiking 2-3km per hour, at night hiking over rough rocky terrain without paths, as low as 1km per hour)

Orienteering Trek - 14km, 7OPs, Collect in any Order

- Estimated 3:00, Actual 2:49

We knew there would be about an hour of Dark at the start of the leg and due to the fact that we did not know the quality of the tracks marked on the map we decided to stick to the larger roads that were well marked on the map. This had us starting with the highest point on the leg as the first check point.

Obviously a lot of teams had made the same decision as there was a long queue up the hill. For the rest of the leg we followed the smaller tracks marked on the map and found them to be pretty good roads.

Knowing that we would be hiking during the late afternoon (leg 4) we knew we needed to save as much daylight as possible and ran as often as we could on this leg. While this made this leg faster over all it hurt us as I suffered from heat exhaustion later in the day and Sue struggled with energy levels on the cycle.

Paddle Orienteering - 5km, 4OPs, Collect in any order

- Estimate 1:30 (inc Transition), Actual 0:50 (inc Transition)

On the hike we had already passed 2 of the checkpoints for the paddle, in both cases we were close enough to have clipped them. But back we went to each and clipped them. Having seen the points made it very easy to navigate to them and just having watched some of the teams ahead of us we already knew where a third point was as well.

We have been doing lots of paddling training as we know EA will require many KMs of paddling, I really felt that the paddling training had helped and was feeling more comfortable than normal on the bath tubs.

Cycle - 64kms, 3 CPs, Collect in order

- Estimate 5:30 (inc Transition), Actual 5:50 (Inc Transition)

Pretty soon on the cycle we realised that the running in the first leg had taken more out of Sue than we had realised, Con pulled out our brand new towing system and hooked her on and towed here speedily up the hills, Nando and I struggling (and usually unable) to keep up. Temperature went up quickly and I started suffering from Heat Exhaustion, which made us slow down significantly as I needed to rest in shade regularly.

A stop at a middle of nowhere shop for an ice cold liter of cooldrink really helped but I only really recovered after a swim at the Meiringskloof transition.

As a team we have never really used towing as an option before. However after this experience I admit that it makes a massive difference to the teams overall speed and a towing system should be considered as an option at all times.

Hike - 18km, 6CPs, Collect in order

- Estimate 6:30 (inc Transition), Actual 8:50 to Abseil (Inc Transition)

After a rather slow Transition as I tried to drop my core temperature we went off on the hike. The overhanging cliffs, the tunnels and the kloofing were all amazing. Definitely a place to take the family camping.

Once through the tunnels we climbed a mountain, and went down the other side, climbed a mountain and went down the other side, by now it was dark and we were not traveling very fast, a stop at the check point to refill water and off we went, climbed a mountain and went down the other side.

Con's navigation was pretty much spot on except near the checkpoint where we went the wrong way but soon realised the mistake and recovered. This shows the importance of knowing where you are at all times, and if you don't know exactly where you are on the map you need to continually evaluate your position to identify where on the map you are allowing you to find out if you have made a mistake.

On this hike we met the owner of one of the farms and she offered us water etc, but clearly she thought we were mad to be traipsing round the country side like we were.

As usual I was rather slow on the abseil - I have just never got used to heights and go down at the speed I consider safe rather than trying to save time. When I started adventure racing I must admit my fear of heights made abseiling really difficult, however as time has gone on it has become easier and easier, and mostly I just take the attitude, close your eyes and go!


- Estimate 3:30, Actual 5:53 (Inc Abseil)

Back at the transition we decided to have a 3 hour sleep, giving us about an hour and a half of night time riding before sunrise. But when it came to waking up I just could not get going. In addition I had left a flat tire to be fixed after waking up. This meant that we spent about an hour extra getting ready to go instead of going. Looking back at this it was rather disappointing as usually I wake up quickly and am on the go seconds after waking.

I also believe that if we get everything ready before going to sleep we would save a lot of time. I think I could ride my bike while half asleep, but cant change a tube nor pack the box properly.

Cycle - 67kms, 3CPs, Collect in order

- Estimate 9:00, Actual 8:48 (Inc Lunch)

Cycling out of Fouriesburg on the tar road was great, after just waking up we needed a nice easy ride, even the dirt roads we rode on were of good quality and made riding easy. Sue had regained her strength and was doing well, my body temperature was doing ok, and as a team we were progressing well. The tar road down to the Lesotho border was fantastic, and we reached speed of over 50km an hour. I remember thinking that Con better have chosen the right road as there was no way I wanted to cycle back up the tar road.

Cycling along the Caledon river with South African mountains to our left, and Lesotho mountains on our right was like a fairy tale, I personally love mountains and being between them like that was beyond my wildest dreams. The sandstone cliffs, buttresses and valleys were fantastic to behold. At one point we could see what looked like four ranges of mountains one behind another lying in front of us.

Just before we reached the mountain pass we had been told so much about, we caught up to team Hawkstone, a team consistently faster than us, but were struggling as Alec was not feeling well. We greeted them (Nando sharing some of his secret pills with Alec) refilled water at the farm and continued.

We reached the pass and I towed Sue up the first 2 corners. By then I felt like I did the day before, all energy gone and core temperature rising far too quickly. Con once again took the tow and headed off, leaving myself and Nando amazed at the speed he and Sue were traveling. I started dousing myself with water at ever stream and puddle we saw on the pass, this seemed to help as I never reached the same level of heat exhaustion on the route.

Once over the pass we greeted Eric the photographer, who really made us feel as though he were the team personal photographer and headed on toward Clarens. As we came into Clarens we stopped at the supermarket and bought cooldrinks and food, then stopped at a local cafe for lunch. The food we had was really good and made us feel great.

We realised that by stopping for lunch before going into transition we saved time as it meant a short transition, while people that went into transition first completed their normal transition times and then still stopped for lunch. It makes me wonder if an effort should be made to drink remaining fluids and eat more food just before you reach transition would not make for faster transitions.

Hike - 10km (shortened to 6km), 3 CPs (Shortened to 2CPs), collect in order

- Estimate 3:00 (plus 0:30 Transition), Actual 2:20 (plus 0:12 Transition) - shortened route

The hike from Clarence into the mountains was really just there and back to see how far it was. The one CP was removed as it was taking teams too long to get to and would therefore influence the race end time. When we reached the top of the cliffs we found that the landscape did not match the map and we ended up needing to orientate the map purely by compass. This was interesting as normally I tend to orientate my map more by landmarks that I can see than by compass. Many teams felt that the CP was plotted incorrectly but once we found the CP and really compared it to the map we felt it was placed correctly.

On the way down we met Hawkstone (Alec looking strong), Dew Point and Senseless coming up the mountain. We suddenly realised we were sitting no worse than 5th as we knew about some teams that had already withdrawn. This actually made us decide to push hard as it was possible we were actually racing for a podium position. We pushed hard for a quick transition but looking at our times we just didn't get it right.

Cycle - 35km, 2CPs, collect points in order

- Estimate 3:00 (plus 0:30 Transition), Actual 2:20 (plus 0:28 Transition)

As we left transition I found I had a puncture. We stopped right there in Clarens and changed the tube. (Now both tubes were slime filled) and continued, over the rest of the leg we continually found that my tyres were going soft and had to stop and pump them up. Soon we switched to bombs just to save time and try and stay ahead of Senseless who we believed were right behind us.

Just before the next transition we stopped at a stop street for warm clothing and Hawkstone, with a fully recover Alec, came charging past us as if we were standing still (we were). We followed them into the transition and quickly onto the dam. (Later Hawkstone told us that Senseless was about 500m behind us at the time.

Paddle - 20km (Shortened to 12km), 2CPs, Collect in order

- Estimate 4:30 (inc Transition), Actual 2:34 (Inc Transition) - shortened route

We headed off into the dark, Paddling in the dark is always a surrealistic experience for me. You seem so much smaller in the dark and on the dam it feels so silent. Even when noises reach you from the shore it still feels as though you are in a bubble out there on the dam. Con asked if we should go for the closest point first, and I reminded him that we had to visit the points in order. We quickly reached the first point and then we headed off into a headwind to get to the next point. The boat was bouncing on the waves and splashing Nando in front of the boat on a regular basis. While we were heading to the second CP we encountered 2 teams doing the points in the worng order, having a great tail wind helping them across the dam.

Cycle - 17km, 2 CPs, collect in Order

- Estimate 2:30 (inc Transition), Actual 1:43 (Inc Transition)

We transitioned quickly and headed out, Soon we reached the first CP and headed off home, unfortunately we hit some soft sand on the road. This made the going tough for Sue who was too tired to manage without falling, resulting in her and myself pushing our bikes through the sand. We rode the hard packed roads where possible.

If Sue had had a chance to sleep either before the leg, or during the leg we would have coped on this section a lot better, but as she was tired it became a bit of a slog.

We rode into the finish, in 5th spot, behind Hawkstone and ahead of Senseless. At the finish we were treated to a winners podium with champagne. Nando in his post race state found that adding champagne to the end of a race caused lightheadedness and he required a little rest before continuing with the nights festivities.

Overall we were only 55minutes slower than our scheduled time, but about 4 hours of racing had been cut from the course.

Prize giving was fantastic. When we were called up in 5th spot we had as big a cheer from the other teams as the first place team got. That made us feel really special.

Team Lickety Split had set out to use this race as a trial run for Expedition Africa, learning each others abilities and weak points as it was the first time this combination had raced together. We did far better (about 7 hours) than we had expected to do. We found our weak points, and we know what we need to improve our overall performance. As a team we have one more opportunity to race together when the Ystervark Legend race happens next month. We hope that at the Ystervark race we can finalise our preparations.


A big thank you to Mike and Trish for making the trip to Bethlehem to collect us.

A big thank you to Heidi and Stephan and their team of helpers and Marshals for organising the race and making it possible for us to travel the country in such a spectacular way.

Also a thank you to all the Land Owners in the area that gave permission for us to travel over their farms.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Double moon - Our Route

Con spent some time recreating the full route we followed on the race, including the small navigational error. In the end:

Hike Orienteering - 16km distance, 398m elevation gain
Paddle Orienteering - 4.5 km, 52m
Cycle to Meiringskloof - 64.1 km, 881m
Meirinskloof Hike - 20.3 km, 830m
Cycle to Clarens - 63.4 km, 1538m
Clarens Hike - 7.1 km, 368m
Cycle to Saulspoort - 35.8 km, 338m
Paddle on Saulspoort - 11.5 km, 54m
Cycle to finish - 13.9 km, 234m

Total Distance: 236.6 km
Total Gain: 4693m (and that includes google's surprising elevation gains on the paddles!?!?!?!?)

Bike: 177.2 km
Hike: 43.3 km
Paddle: 16 km