Monday, August 29, 2011

Wakkerstroom Mountain Challenge

On Saturday I did the Wakkerstroom Mountain Challenge, a 21.1km Halfmarathon starting in Wakkerstroom at the church and going out and back along the Utrecht road (The Alternate route back for those that did the Balele Tracks race). The route had 2 big hills in it, on the way out we went up a long climb out from town, I guess it is a climb of 300m over about 3kms, and later at the 8km mark a drop of about 200m over 2kms. It is an out and back race so each downhill had an equivilent uphill etc.

I ran up about 2 thirds of the hill on the way out before walking, and from about the 6.5km mark I really got going. I ran to the turn but the stop at the turn disrupted my running and I struggled to get going again. I walked up the hill and then finally got going again -and comfortably ran the last 6kms to the finish.

I finished in 27th place (of about 40 runners), in 2:09:49. I am happy with my time, and even better straight after the race I played soccer with my boys, and when we got back to the farm took my yougest son for a walk. Immediatly after the race it felt as if I was goign to cramp but by keeping walking around I was OK.

I still think I am going to struggle to make the cutoffs in England, but overall I do feel a lot better about it than I was feeling last week. My fitness is definitly a lot better than I thought it was.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Full Moon Machadodorp - August 2011

Team: Lickety Split
Members: William Cairns, Mike Underwood, Sue Belcher, Gail Arnell

After all the planning, map plotting, route choices, packing, getting bikes ready, finding the loo and general pre-race activities the race was about to start. Team Lickety Split faded into the background hiding behind all the teams that were planning to rush off onto the course. When the race started the team strolled off to their bikes, collected their helmets and backpacks before riding onto the route. By the time we hit the road there was not another team in sight - just the way we like it. Off we cruised down the road, passing first one person who in their rush had dropped their water bottle, by the time they caught up we had passed yet another person who had dropped another waterbottle. Everyone we passed came racing past us again as we gently cycled down the road. At the last turn before the transition we overtook another three teams who were trying to decide what route to take.

We came into transition last, but left ahead of three teams. All three quickly overtook us on the 3 km hike to the paddle transition. So once again we arrived at transition last.
Putting in the boats allowed us to overtake three teams once again, and on the paddle we overtook another three teams. The rocks in the river were irritating as each rapid we got stuck, Gail and I took turns getting out and pulling the boat over the rocks. In a way hitting the flat water of the dam was a pleasure - for the first 2 kms when sore shoulders that were not getting a break started being the problem instead.

Again in the transition we overtook another 3 teams, until Sue realised she left kit behind and had to return losing all three places again.
Off we went on the hike, choosing the easier but longer road route instead of the route along the dam shore in case the shore path ended at some point. Half way along the route we ran a few steps until we realised that Mike had decided running was not a great idea and let us disappear off into the distance. In transition we had some food and collected our night gear.

Leg 5, a 30km cycle, included a steep climb, over 400m climb in under 3kms. We rode out of transition in daylight and reached the climb just after night had fallen. In the end the climb felt a lot longer than it really was - most of it was done by the guys in the team pushing their bikes while the girls rode rings around us. Those 3kms took us nearly 2 hours to cover (Ok not so long but it felt like it). After the climb is was easy going to the next transition crossing paths with the race ambulance collecting a team who were struggling.
In transition we heard many stories about how difficult it was to find the check points. One key item I heard was that the fence did not exist, so when we started off I did some careful checks of the bearings along the trees that used to be along the fence. This allowed us to walk directly to the 'difficult' OP overtaking about 8 teams in the process as they had all followed the road instead of a bearing and were searching on top of the wrong koppie. From the first point it was a straight walk along the roads to the next 3 OPs. At one stage 3 other teams were all hiking along with us but some quick decision making without stopping at the non-existant airfield got us away from them and we finished the Leg more than 20 minutes ahead of them.
Transitioning back to the bikes we were discussing the option of stopping to sleep, Mike especially was suffering badly but the decision was made to push on and try and finish or at least get to the last transition before daylight came. Off we went, I was expecting some ups and downs on the first section of road but it felt as though it was just more and more uphill. We nearly missed the turnoff toward the steep downhill due to miss measuring the distance but fortunately we saw the gate. On the downhill we struggled mostly due to being tired. At times the downhill was slower than the earlier heavy climb we had done, Gail's poor lighting system on the bike was especially troublesome as she could not really see what was ahead of her. I occasionally let the rest of the team get ahead and rushed down sections of the trail, I did this a few times until I had fallen twice, then decided to take it more peacefully. Once we reached the farm road at the bottom we went a little faster but still struggled to maintain a decent pace. At one point Mike and I saw some eyes looking us out of the bushes near the road, based on the size of the animal I would guess it was a leopard. A kilometer of so later we finally gave in and pulled onto the side of the road to get an hour sleep. Due to the cold we had not rested enough and continued to the next checkpoint quite tired. Bad navigation saw us overshoot the entrance to the last transition and we had to backtrack.
A superb breakfast of sardines and bread was had before we headed off onto the last leg of the race. It was daylight already giving us great views of the MOUNTAIN we were about to hike up. Daylight clearly gave Gail a bunch of energy (maybe because she could actually see stuff again) and she lead us up the path. Reaching the saddle at the top was a wonderful feeling until we realised there was still another 50m of climb ahead of us. On top of the mountain we were deep in the mist and I made the decision to follow the hiking trail rather than trying to find the short cut over the top that Stephan had told me about, the decision was made based on the fact that by following the path I could not get lost, where taking an unmarked route ran the risk of getting lost in thick mist and wasting a lot of time. I also misjudged distance badly and thought we had passed the checkpoint when we still had about 500m to go to the checkpoint. I blame a lot of the problem the fact that the hiking map was not clear enough. As the "newbie" in the team, we volunteered Gail to do the abseil. She abseiled through a waterfall and seemed to slip quite a bit. From the abseil it was a pleasant hike to the end which we took at a faster pace to stay ahead of the mixed team just behind us. (In the end they were not official).

We finished in 21 hours, an hour slower than expected, but the downhill cycle took us more than 2 hours longer than expected. We were the last team to finish with all members and all checkpoints - placing us in 10th spot overall.

Well done to the Kinetic team (again) for a well organised event and a wonderfully challenging route. Overall the Route was a lot tougher than we had been expecting.

Well done to my team members for putting up with me the whole way. Especially well done to Gail for fitting in well, Mike for the vasbyt in continuing to the end of the race, thanks Sue for being yourself, sorry if I did not hear half of what you were telling me at 1am in the morning.

Thanks to First Ascent for our Kit.
Ably written by: 'Captain my Captain' William.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Full Moon - 13/14 Aug 2011

Written by Karin Joubert. Team: 4 Peaks 2 Knobs

Firstly - Awesome race! We finished and got all the points! What a wonderful adventure.

However, Bella was not feeling well from the start - was trying her best, but after the paddle on the cycle to the big hill, it was all down hill for her, and for us a 'moerse' up hill. (She was on antibiotics until Tuesday, and still recovering from a flu).

Eish! The paddles didn't even do the trick for us on that river! However on the dam it was much better. As we were the last team (ok, one pair behind us) on the paddle, it was a bit later in the day and the last part was into a strong wind! Wet wet wet!

We still saw Lickety Split when they left for the 2nd cycle at transition.

Our cycle was not good - took us hours. Mainly walking up that hill, pushing Bella's bike as well and carrying her backpack. Erik losing his bike light when the mount broke 5km's into the cycle, didn't help either.

We were really happy to get to the farmhouse. At least we saw a lot of teams there that already finished the trekking.

We asked the medic to help Bella and waited to see if she can continue. After an hour she decided, it won't be possible to carry on as she didn't eat or drink anything for 3 hours on the cycle leg, and not feeling well.

The 3 of us set off on the trekking leg. Some teams said, go for OP4 first, other for OP3. We decided, 4 it will be!

Sherbet! Shaks! Shhhiiiiit! We struggled to get the koppie! Hooked up with another team, that was already trekking for 3 hours with no OP's in the bag. Finally we managed OP4 and the rest was easy. However that leg was just over the 3 hours. (I think - will check spreadsheet).

The time was ticking and we left the transition as heavy mist was descending. 4km's to the turn off where the mother of all rocky technical descents began! The thick mist made it really difficult.

Jaco took a tumble, injuring his leg and Mr Photographer himself missed an action photo as he did a somersault over his handle bar! Testing his new Catlike helmet, which was up to the task.

At the crack of dawn, I had a puncture (not me, my back wheel - lol), and we were attacked by a crazed cow while we were repairing it. Ok-ok! Back to our cycle. Taking it easy through the sandy sections, we found our groove in the last 12km's to T5.

We nearly didn't do the last hike, but sandwiches, hot chocolate and 'a motivational talk' from Stephan, saw us on our way!

The climb to the top of the mountain was tough, really tough, but we raced down with an hour to spare before cut-off.

We all had a great adventure and Erik cannot decide between racing or sticking with photography!

This was my side of the story and I do believe the others had a similar experience! :-)

Whoop-whoop for Adventure racing!

That's all folks!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Senseless Winter AR

On Sunday I teamed up with Beyers Rossouw to do the Senseless Winter AR sprint race as team Master and Student.


The race consisted of 4 legs and an obstacle course. There were 2 hiking and 1 cycling leg with the third leg (leg 2) being a choice between hiking or cycling – each team could choose for themselves.


First leg was a quick run to the other side of the kopjie behind the start to fetch the map for leg and a short 4km run to fetch 2 CPs. Most teams chose to go over a saddle in the kopjie but we stuck to the easy running route around the kopjie and by the time we reached the map were amongst the front teams. My running fitness let me down as I could not maintain the pace and it felt as though half the field passed us between CP1 and CP2.


At transition we quickly decided to cycle as I had struggled so much with the run, so we quickly transitioned to the bikes, but in the rush I could not make sense of the map – it just felt wrong. I called a navigation stop, calmed down and orientated the map properly. I probably added 3 minutes to the transition but this was worth the effort when we cycled out of transition and saw 4 teams rushing off in the wrong direction. We quickly cycled through the first two CPs and then started the long grinding cycle up to the radio mast. I was hoping that from the mast we could find a way down the other side even if it was only a cattle track – no such luck and we had to choose between turning around and cycling the 10km back, or Hike a bike down the hill. What is an Adventure Race withing a hike-a-bike so off we went. A drop of about 250m over just over a km. I estimate we made up about 10minutes following this route.


We were told the race route had changed and we no longer had the choice between cycling and hiking, and had to hike because we had just done the cycle option (I hate it when rules change during a race) – so off we went – Beyers running far stronger than me  - until we reached the horses – a quick 200m on the horses did nothing to relieve the effort pains in my chest before we were off on foot again. On this third leg there were 6 optional points – we were planning to get 4 of them, but found that the one OP was harder than expected to find and after 5 minutes of looking I made the decision to drop it – however we did get the other 3 points we had planned on.


Leg 4 was again on the bikes – looking at the route I estimated a 14km cycle to collect all the optional, and with about 90mins left before race cut off we had enough time to collect them all. It was a relatively easy cycle – especially comparing it to the earlier cycle and we collected the points quickly and efficiently finishing about 20 minutes before cut-off.


Thanks to Beyers for putting up with my slow speed -

Thanks to Senseless for organising the race – it was tough but do able


Well done to Cyanosis for their win


One suggestion to the race organisers – we would have completed more optional points on the final hike if we had known how long the last leg was. In the race instructions I would suggest giving the compulsory distance (minimum distance to collect all compulsory points) as well as the optional distance (minimum distance to collect all optional points) to allow teams to plan their routes better. For example the race instructions could have included the following: “Leg 1: Hike 4km, Leg 2: Hike 6km or cycle 20km, Leg 3 Cycle Compulsory 6km, optional 13km, Leg 4: Hike Compulsory 6km, optional 12km” and let the team mange their expectations themselves.