Friday, May 17, 2013

Expedition Africa - 6 to 11 May 2013

Team Lickety Split & Team Bad Medicine get together to race Expedition Africa.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Adapt or Die, Part 2

Adapt or Die, Part 2

A year has passed since my disastrous race in England (Devon Coast to Coast in September 2011). My race report was aptly named "Adapt or Die" and can be read on our blog or If you don't have time to reread the report here is a quick summary: I went unprepared for the weather, expecting to race the same way I do in South Africa; I ended up with hyperthermia due to cold temperatures, consistent rain and wind, and ultimately missed the half way cut off.
Day 1 in Red, Day 2 in Green
I booked for the Scotland Coast to Coast a long time ago, something like 6 months before the race I had entered. I spent a lot of time testing various clothing strategies on races I was doing, specifically wearing more clothes than needed to get used to feeling like a teddy bear. I collected a few additional items of clothing in case I needed them etc. My race planning included three different possible sets of clothing based on weather prediction for the day, and I even took an extra backpack with me to the UK in case I needed something bigger on race day.

Adapt or Die, Part 2 - The Perfect Race

Day 1: Run 11km, Road Cycle 77km, run 1km, paddle 1km, run 1.5km
Weather prediction: 12-16C, 0% rain, winds SE 35+ km/hr

As no rain was predicted, but the temps were lower than I'm used to at home I went with clothing for cold but OK conditions:
Hi-Tec trail shoes, Compression Socks, Long Lycra Tights, Cycling Bib Shorts, Long Sleeve Top, Cycling Top, Wind Proof top, Buff, Cap, Long finger Cycling gloves

Leg 1: 11km trail run (single track)

The weather at the start looked ominous, heavy cloud and high winds. The race was nicely managed with everyone starting in a large area with controlled access, clearing our electronic timing chips as we entered the area. The race organiser tried to give some last minute instructions but the crowd was too large and I doubt that more than half the field heard him. The race was started with a loud noise from the load hailer and off we went. I took it nice and easy at the start which was a problem as I was stuck behind slower runners when we reached miles and miles of single track. This section then took me a lot longer than I expected because 1200 people over single track takes a while. My clothing seemed perfect for the cool weather, when I had a section of sustained running I got warm, but not hot, and while waiting in queues I felt cool but not cold.

Leg 2: 77km Cycle (Road)

Transition was nice and fast using a triathlon style transition area with all the bikes in rows etc. It made it easy to come in, eat something, put my backpack on and to get out onto the bike leg. Day 1 biking was all on road, fortunately my hire bike (a Dawes 20") did not have heavy off-road tread. The whole bike leg was in a stiff wind from the South East, while we were riding South West. This resulted in either a full on head wind, or a strong wind from our left. An abiding memory will be the line of riders in front of me all leaning over to their left to keep upright. Wherever possible I rode with my front wheel on the right-hand side of someone else's back wheel, giving me some protection from the wind. I was feeling good and rode every hill (quite unusual for me), tried to fly down every down hill, had occasional food stops, (about every 45 minutes). However, at about 67km my energy dried up and I started struggling, I crested a hill, quite please I had ridden up it, only to see a hill, far steeper, at the end of the next downhill. In the end I pushed up most of it, and we crested into the strongest wind of the day, the steep downhill didn't even help as when you stopped peddling, you got blown to a standstill. I struggled through the last 10km, including a downhill that would have been very pleasant if the wind had just held up for a bit. Unfortunately near the end of the cycle leg I lost the bite valve of my bladder and had to finish the race without a bladder for water.

Leg 3: Run/Paddle/Run

Logging my bike into the transition area, I dropped my backpack and ran, jogged, shuffled off down to the shores of Loch Ness. Reaching the paddle put in I met with a long line of people waiting for their chance to paddle. (Race organiser later apologised for the delay but bad weather and boat problems meant they were struggling to return the sit-on-tops fast enough for the athletes arriving). I was teamed up with another solo racer and she and I quickly paddled across to the other side of the Loch,
Photo taken around 30 years ago in nearly the same spot!

(Yes, I saw Nessie, he wanted to eat me but said something about tough South African steak or something). Another short run got me to the end of Day 1.

Other than the wind, and the last 10km of the Cycle I had had a great day of racing. I felt reasonably strong once I was off the bike, I felt positive and was enjoying the views when they were there. I saw some of the weird woolly Highland Cows (aren't they just so cute).

Day 2: Off-road Cycle 26km, Road Cycle 23km, Run/Hike 23km, paddle 1km

Weather prediction: 10-14C, High Chance of Rain, Low winds, mostly SW and Westerly

With rain being predicted, and the temps being substantially lower than I'm used to at home I went with clothing for cold and rain:
Hi-Tec trail shoes, Compression Socks, Seal Skin Socks, Long Fleece Tights, Cycling Bib Shorts, Long Sleeve Fleece as base layer, Cycling Top, Wind Proof top/Rain top, Buff, Cap, Glove Liners and Long Finger gloves
Added to my compulsory gear was my Wind proof top, and a balaclava

Leg 4: Cycle

We had a choice of what time we wanted to start, the clock started for each of us as we left the cycling transition area. I wanted to start as early as possible (7:30) but only got to start at about 8:15 after breakfast and travel etc. I was feeling quite stiff and sore and struggled to get to a decent pace on the bike. Fortunately 3 guys riding together came past and I joined the tail of their drafting line, and hung on with them for about 5km, when one of them had a chain problem. I had by now warmed up quite nicely and pushed on. I found that on downhills I was substantially faster than most of the other riders and I can remember a long downhill through the forestry plantations where I bombed down the hill overtaking streams and streams of people. Without a bladder I had regular stops at small mountain streams to fill up my bike bottle. The road cycle was pleasant without any further energy issues and I reached the next transition and very nearly rode into the way of a car, suddenly I realised how little attention I had been paying to the area around me.

Leg 5: 23km Mountain hike/run

Ben Nevis on a COLD day.
At the Transition I gave back my hire bike, and added my bike tool kit to my backpack before heading out into the hills, at the start a lot of people seemed to be running past me, but after a few kms I was into my stride and my short run/walk strategy was paying off as I started overtaking quite a few people. We headed out into the mountains, crossing a few ridges before reaching a large glen (valley) below what I think was Ben Nevis. We hiked through stream after stream, with the days rain coming down the hillside, cascading down the pathway we were hiking along. I don't think we travelled more than about 100m at a time without having a puddle or a stream in our way. Even my seal skins didn't help much as the water would splash into the top of my socks all the time. After what I guess was 16km I met up with another South African, apparently 6 South Africans living in London had all travelled up to do the race. We had a good chat until I headed off up the next hill/mountain. The last downhill was really steep and I struggled a lot to keep my footing, I seemed to slip every step. I saw someone slip and slide down the hill side, and after yet another slip, sat on my bum and slid down the hill, coving about 200m in what felt like 10seconds. Everyone around me had a good laugh as did I. Only problem was the right turn in the path I missed and slid into a bush. But at least I was at the bottom of the steep section and could walk most of the rest of the downhill without slipping all the time. A short jog along the tar road I reach the Paddle transition.

Leg 6: Paddle

We did not have to wait at the boats, but there was a strong wind from the right, 90 degrees to our required route. I was paired up with an inexperienced paddler and she and I struggled a lot to cross the first windy section. I was continually pulling the nose of the boat back right to keep the nose facing partially into the scary looking waves. I only remember having one scare where it felt like we would tip but I'm sure there were more. Once we were half way across we were protected by some small islands and had an easy paddle to the finish. Once we reached the end there was a short run/shuffle of 50m or so to finish the race.

I felt strong the whole day. My hiking was strong and I probably passed more people than passed me. My clothing was once again suitable for conditions. (I have found a good fleece to be the best possible base layer as it keeps the heat against your body).

I finished the race (about 170km) in 14hours 51 minutes, in 173rd position of 397 finishers. Overall a very good result for me.

I was better prepared for this race than for the race last year. I knew myself and my equipment better, and had taken a lot of time to prepare for the conditions I was going to experience. I was not particularly fitter (I was probably a lot fitter the previous year), but I had spent a lot of time riding when it was cold, trying different kit, I did some running in the rain to see what I needed to keep warm. I cut down on weight by carrying less water, less food, but sufficient for my needs during the day.

Tired, wet, covered in mud, but Finished!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Full moon Bethlehem - Lickety Split Race Report

Race: Kinetic Full Moon, Bethlehem, 2012
Team: Team Lickety Split
Members: William Cairns, Sue Belcher (Mixed Pair)
A good finish is a win!

Just so you know, I was sick, on and off, for a month before doing the Kinetic Full Moon race in Bethlehem. My fitness was the lowest it has been in the last few years. But I don’t miss races unless I absolutely have to so I teamed up with Sue as Team Lickety Split to do the 120km race.

Kinetic races typically vary from being very easy to about moderate in difficulty. Mostly it is just up to the racer and their team mates to ensure that you finish a race. Occasionally weather interferes in the team's planning (anyone remember Full moon Bronkhorstspruit, or Double Moon in the Northern Cape). In the end Kinetic races are there to be finished.

We decided to take it easy and went through on Friday night. Sue had bike problems and was in and out of the bike shop all week before the race, even as late as Friday afternoon, so we got away late and reached the camp site at about 23:00 the night before. This still gave us more than enough time for a Wimpy breakfast and packing etc before the race started on Saturday. With me not being able to stay awake for more than 16 racing hours at a time we packed a good selection of bedding and comforts for the night time transition, also watching the weather report for the previous week we knew that warm clothes were going to be important so in they went.

The race started with a peaceful, rather uneventful ride down to the Ash river.

The river paddle was far more of a challenge than a peaceful flat water river should have been. Strange eddies abounded in the river waiting to tip over unsuspecting paddlers, while irregular rows of willow trees crossing the river behind blind corners made quick thinking and quicker paddling important. We saw 3 swimmers, including a boat tipped over by a willow branch, before we ourselves were tipped over by one of the evil eddies. We came around a tree and suddenly the boat tipped over in about 0.001 milliseconds. Just before we reached the dam we went over the only 'white' water under the bridge rather uneventfully after everything else, and stopped to collect some other team's missing cap. On the dam we experienced 5m high waves, ok probably close to 1m, but when you aren’t a water baby they could as well have been 5m high waves. I have only twice experienced heavier water than that on a race. But in the end, we were surf-skiing the waves into the transition and with the wind and waves behind you, those 5m waves are much more fun.

I was absolutely freezing in transition, and stripped off the wet clothes and just wore a fleece. Unfortunately this meant that some of the planned warm clothing for the night cycle got left behind which later came back to worry me. I had a cup of really bad hot chocolate that tasted heavenly just because it was warm.

The first hike was a very pleasant jaunt through the country side. The map was accurate to almost the finest detail as it was only 2 years old (what a privilege), we used the opportunity to compare short cuts across country to road speed and were pleasantly surprised at our progress. We picked up a pair of novices that were looking for the check point in the wrong kloofie and carried on. I tried to give them a few navigation guidelines such as you can’t always believe the trees, fences and field markings as these change often, while roads and rivers remain the same. Once darkness fell a small mistake made us walk an extra 1km to the dam as I followed the road instead of the fence. Sometimes tiger lining is a good idea, especially if you can follow a fence while doing it.

Back at the transition I had a short lie down, that lack of fitness was starting to hurt, before rushing through the transition and getting out on our bikes. My water bottle was actually already frozen. The start of the cycle was a pain with fences, gates and cows all over the place, once we hit the road things went well, even if rather slowly for me going up the hills. After the checkpoint I struggled to get going and got more and more tired. In the end I was pushing my bikes up 1% gradients with Sue waiting patiently and then even letting me rest at the top of each hill. I think we got passed by about 3 teams, they could not rest as they had no warm gear on and must have been freezing, we were properly prepared and I was at times overheating because I had too many clothes on. Sue at one point even let me sleep for about 5 minutes but it did not help much. Overall those last 10 or 15 kms were done at about 7km per hour (on BIKES!), man was I pathetic.

At transition we had a brief fight about how long I'd get to sleep, Sue insisted on 1 hour, I said 2, in the end I agreed on 1 hour and set the alarm for 1:30. [evil grin] and then used the snooze button to Sue's disgust. Sleeping with 3 blankets in transition was an absolute pleasure, it was nice to be prepared.

We got going on the night hike as soon as possible, only about 20minutes slower than Sue wanted. We disappeared into the night, and immediately ended up at the bottom of a cliff, so much for good navigation.... So we went around the cliff and skirted most of the valley behind the ridge trying to maintain our height as much as possible. In the end we dropped through the valley quite high up before heading up to the trig beacon. Walking uphill uses a lot of energy, and therefore generates a lot of heat, pretty soon we both wanted to stop and strip off some layers and have a bite to eat. One of my long term enduring memories from AR will be from that stop. We were sitting on the side of a hill looking back across the Free State, on our left was a valley running northwards, on our south a kloof that looked about 150-200m deep, above us the full moon shining brightly on the exposed rocks all around us. Now that’s why I do ADVENTURE racing.

We continued to the top of the hill where a team was waiting and wanted some help on their route choice to the next point, I said I thought their route choice was correct and what sort of landmarks to look out for on their way there. Off we went following the ridgeline all the way to the Abseil checkpoint, pretty straight forward but looking at the route afterwards going through the valley might have been faster than the ridge line. One thing I notice about my own navigation is that sometimes I overestimate gradient and think valleys are kloofs instead of gentle valleys. At the abseil we got our harness and gloves and climbed another 15m up to the abseil point. We got hooked up and started down, first reaching a small ledge before dropping into free fall for about 35m. As someone that does not particularly care for heights, abseiling is often my least favourite part of a race, this time, with the free fall and the full moon behind me showing my shadow bright and clearly on the colourless featureless rock if was a most surrealistic experience and the first abseil I have truly enjoyed.
Just around the corner from the Abseil
After the abseil we quickly hiked around the mountain, went up the wrong kloof and backtracked to the next checkpoint. We then followed the kloof up the left bank and ran out of bank having to climb 60-80m up bare rock and scrub bush to the top or the kloof before walking along the top of the cliffs to the last check point. Unfortunately the last point was about 40m below us in a lovely cliff area (like the rest of the kloof). We spent about 30 minutes looking for a way down but from later info we should have gone a lot further along the top to find a way down, before deciding it was firstly not safe to try descend without knowing where to and secondly we were running short on time to finish the race. So we turned around and left the point, having probably been at the exact point we needed to be, just 40m too high. This hike is my all time favourite AR hike, it was not easy, but not too tough, navigation was challenging but not difficult, terrain and views were fantastic all the time, even the abseil will stay with me for years to come.
Our missing CP!
At transition we had an opportunity to thank the farmer and his wife for being allowed on the property, while laughing at Wiehans reaction to our box packed full of sleeping bags and blankets. A quick bite to eat and we were on our way. Being in full daylight again my body had forgotten all the trials and fatigue of the night before and we cruised the first 15km without a problem. The last 15km I felt tired and slow but was probably travelling about 3 times the previous nights speed.

We finished in 23:30, just in time for our now famous, finishing during prize giving. As always we got clapped into the finish. We had breakfast and got some lovely prizes, Sue continuing her record of winning the good prizes at the race with a new pair of shoes to go with her two backpacks already won.

Our thanks to Stephan and Heidi for organising the race, to Cindy, Wiehan and Lizelle for marshalling and doing photos, to all the other marshals that were there. Special thanks go to the land owners for allowing us to cross their land.

AR is a special sport, we have easy races and we have difficult races, in the end I enjoy the memorable races and this full moon race is certainly one of my all time favourite races.

Sue: I ask you.....who uses the snooze button on a race......?

Monday, August 6, 2012

A bad weekend that felt good

This last weekend was the annual Capestorm Rogaine. Mike and I entered again to defend our title as best Veteran Mens Pair which we have won for the last 2 years. However it was to be a very busy weekend as my Daughter Loreley was coming back from 6 weeks exchange student program in Germany, and Con and I had been volunteered to arrange the Nag Mars for the local Voortrekker Kommando's Kommando Kamp. All my boys were also returning on Sunday form the Kamp so we did not enter the MTB rogaine.

So Friday afternoon Yolande picked me up from work and we rushed through to the Kamp terrein, and spent 2 hours setting up everything for the two nag mars routes. From 7:15 until 00:00 I was rushing around checking that everything was going well, that the kids were safe and having fun. Overall it seems it was a success. Yolande helped out and after everyone was on the route set up our mattress under the stars.

4:30 in the morning we were up and on our way to Lydenburg to meet Mike. All was on schedule until 30km outside Lydenburg something in the engine broke and a terrible noise at high revs forced us to crawl along at 40-60km/hr the rest of the way, making us late to pick up Mike. Yolande spent the day arranging to have the car towed back to Joburg and arranging a Hire car while Trish took Mike and I to the start. In the end we reached the start about 15minutes late.

I got a very quick briefing, nothing new in the briefing except being told that all cliffs on the route were considered dangerous and out of bounds. This seemed to limit the course to 2 sections, a long South and West section (out and back route) or a corcular route to the North of the start. A quick count of the high score points indicated the out and back route was the better option with the 3 50 pointers being our goal, as we were late the 60 pointers were considered a little too far for us.

Mike and I set out immediatly with a big uphill to the first point. We collected the first 3 points bang on schedule and reached the 4th point on the route about 30minutes ahead of expected time due to most of the route so far having been a gentle downhill. At one point we reached the edge of some of the cliffs and spent some time enjoying the view. As we were ahead of schedule we decided to head off and collect the 3 60 pointers on the far west section of the map. At this point we made a small error in route choice, choosing to drop down the side of the valley and walk on the road instead of going straight through the pine plantation and bee-lining for the point. Adri and George who were just behind us at this point got way ahead of us by taking the direct route. We had already taken a few short cuts through the forest and should have realised that the direct route was not that much more difficult than the route along the road.

Having learnt that lesson I started being more prepared to take the direct route, however its a lot more difficult to judge distance when under the trees than when on a road, and twice I thought we had gone further that we had, in both cases this meant the short cut only save half the expected distance saving as we continually had to recover the route on a road that we were originally trying to avoid.

Once we were done with the 60 pointers and had returned back to our original route we were slightly behind our expected time schedule. While the distances and terrain for the 60 pointers was not difficult it took us longer than expected. I quickly readjusted the route, missing a 50 pointer that originally was on my planned route and exchanged it for a 30 pointer. We had a short rest and a water stop at the hiking hut before heading up to the lookout tower and onto another point. On this section of the route the rock formations were amazing. It looked like an African version of Stonehenge, with massive slabs of rock standing haphazardly on end in a gigantic square.

A joint decision made us skip the second last point on the route as it included a 140m decent accross rough terrain, and we finished our route with a lowly 20 pointer before rushing to the finish and making the cutoff by about 4 minutes. We covered about 27km in 5 hours 40 minutes.

Overall we collected 540 points out of a total of 1050. If we had had the extra 15 minutes we would have added another 40 points. We did not find out where we finished as we immediatly rushed off back to the camp site to see if Yolande had got everything for the car sorted out. We found the whole camp site set up, a hire car ready to take us home, the tow of the car back home all sorted out.

Anyway on Sunday we rushed off home, Collected our Daughter from the Exchange organisers, collected my 2 sons and my exchange son from the Voortrekkers and finally settled down to some proper weekend peace and quiet, (with lots of stories about Loreley's six week visit to Germany)

Friday, August 3, 2012


Bad Medicine on the top at breakfast break
(Final team: Sue, Larry, Tobie, Jaco; Super-second Mike and Team manager and serial SMSer William)
Why is it that the best laid plans of mice and adventure races so often go astray? True to form on Friday morning, there is an email from William (indispensable navigator) to say that he has a mysterious virus and will not be joining us for the race in only a couple of hours from now! We had already met up on Thursday night after work, to drop off all kit for packing in order to be able to leave directly on Friday and get a head start on the traffic....well that was the plan anyway. So a flurry of emails later, William had organised Larry aka Team Lava (who it would seem is available at the drop of a hat) to pack up and spend the weekend racing with us. (My thanks to his long suffering family!)

Which is how we found ourselves jostling to NOT be the one to have the responsibility for navigating what is potentially the most difficult navigating weekend we have seen so far! Finally we decided on a democratic view, but Tobie who is our newest addition to the Party offered himself up as Speaker of the House.  He had no idea what was in store for him! Three hours later, we were still on-route from Randburg to Edenvale to pick up Larry at home, navigating through rush hour traffic - do I hear Con saying “Guys this is my swan-song, I’m NEVER doing this again!” Actually the drive was not too bad, but got us to Coromandel at the rude hour of 10 p.m. (There goes the plan to be fast asleep by 8!) Luckily Jaco had gotten there before us and organised bunks in plush double beds, reached through a ballroom sized bathroom - no doors, so no bathing done that night! Just race registration, pushing of race gear into backpacks, laying out of at least 15 bits of clothing (for the anticipated freezing 4 am start) and into bed, lights out.

Map plotting was at 3, so we staggered out of bed at 2.30 am, feeling our way past the 80km racers in bed, vainly hoping to sleep until their somewhat later start time. Race briefing ran late, leaving us only 10 minutes to grab our bikes and load them onto the car, before saying goodbye to Mike and lurching out into the dark - last as is our tradition. The maps were pre-plotted on 1:50 000 scale and we were surprised to find that we had only 1 x A3 area to cover - all on the same property! On and up in good adventure racing tradition, took us past the waterfall and above the clouds to the very top of the escarpment for a sunrise view to rival anything I have ever seen! Not before we had spent a fruitless half hour searching for CP 3, lost down a rocky scree, deep in a gorge. When we arrived, Team Geronimo were backtracking, soon followed by Bad Medicine and ourselves all scouting up and down in the same area. My rule is not to spend too much time looking, so when Geronimo left without the point, I decided to gather up the team from the 4 corners of the globe and follow as well.
This is why we race!
It can be noted that there is only one way to go from the top of the world, and that is down, so down we went. We had been warned that there was a no go area in the gorge after CP7, so in a vain attempt to avoid it we tried to track around it on the ridge, looking for an elusive CP 8 which was not far away. Our inexperience in reading altitude and distance started to show here. After an hour of searching and ‘democratic debating’, we agreed to backtrack and use the gorge anyway. (I wondered where the devil Bad Medicine had gotten to as they were with us at CP7 - you got away from us there, Mark!) There was a clearly marked path along the side of the cliff, taking us above the forbidden gorge. If only we had only walked 10 metres down the gorge we would have seen this, but hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Still we were happy to be moving forward again and amazed that Tobie was doing so well with the map reading! Unfortunately, he had other problems, his feet had blistered and he was hobbling - we had done around 15km’s so far. We did a First Aid stop and another....and another, but Tobie is tough and pushed on regardless. Clinton had warned us that he was forced to position the CP’s securely, safe out of the wind - we took this to mean ‘hide’ as CP by CP they became more difficult to find.....or was it tiredness on our part?
T2 came late in the afternoon, with the welcome view of Mike and Geronimo passing us on their way back down the mountain on the bikes!! OMG! they’re finishing the MTB leg and we’re just starting ours! We saddled up and rode out determined to make a good push, a push it was...unfortunately straight up a vertical climb! Now we knew why Alex’s eyes wandered when we asked him about the terrain going forward! Yes, the climb was vertical - I discovered my handlebars were above my head in places! On and Up! Tobie who had been looking forward to resting his feet on the pedals, instead found himself doing a punishing route march on foot! Welcome to Adventure Racing - where although it is a bike leg, it doesn’t mean there is a path, or a track, or even a grassy we found ourselves pushing and heaving bikes through a shrubby thicket, across a grassy ridge, past a dam, and up another hill to the CP. From there we needed to traverse another grassy ridge on foot towards the same road we had walked down earlier. We could see it from where we stood on the top. Unfortunately, the next CP beckoned.....and we could see the road through a saddle far below, where the CP should be.
Looking for the checkpoint.........!
Our choice - a 3km walk across rough ground, followed by a 5km ride down a rocky road in the dark versus a 3km hike straight down. The hike down just looked so much easier at the time and we were quite comfortable on foot by now.......! We did get down before dark and gained plenty of character along the way. Jaco and Tobie are now officially initiated in the art of Real Adventure Bushwacking! Added to that, we never got that CP which beckoned so charmingly! We beat bushes for an hour in the dusk, with the team walking easily 2km’s further up the road, before giving up. Back at the farm, we saw another team leaving, while we stopped to thank the farmer and change headlamp batteries. It became a recurring theme during the night, that one or the other of our members was riding without a headlamp until the next stop to change batteries. We met Clinton at T2, or rather we were found desperately scanning the map and our foggy brains for any clue as to where it should be, because the locked up police station we were at, was clearly NOT the right place! Luckily Clinton turned up with a convoy of cars, having chased a rumour that we were still up in the mountains! A quick top-up of water, food and new maps and we pushed on into the dark, stopping to put on extra layers at regular intervals.
All the hiking is REALLY starting to HURT!
I have done this climb before in the dark on a Kinetic race and knew what we were in for, but it didn’t seem half as steep this time. The CP’s were picked up slowly, and bit by bit we progressed. Unfortunately, we discovered that Jaco was mismarking the race card, having marked CP18 (cancelled) instead of CP19, so we were looking for a ‘pipe under’ when we should have been looking for ‘bush up above’, which confused us and slowed us down! In our sleepy state around midnight, we discovered that we had missed the CP under the road altogether and since we needed to find it, gritted our teeth, turned our bikes around and biked back up the hill. Larry showed that he has a special kind of fortitude, leaping off his bike and diving into tunnels under the road at every chance. On the third stop, we found the marked bunting Clinton had warned us to look out for, but try as we might, could not find a reflective board anywhere!! Now thoroughly chilled, we gave it up after beating all the bushes and holes in the ground (fighting off trolls....or was that sleepmonsters?) for a half hour and trundled home to the farm entrance - Tobie with tattered feet and Jaco cramping by now.

I have very fond memories of this climb! Normally, I am normally the only one in the team who stays awake all night, but this time (maybe because Jaco and Tobie were reduced to walking) we were moving very slooowly and I was fighting sleepmonsters hard! Larry and I would wait for the guys to pass us on foot and then saddle up and ride past them to the next turn, then flop down in the dust, for a power nap, before doing it all over again! In my memory, that driveway was 100km’s long! Telescoping forward in the beam of my headlamp endlessly! 2012 came and went.....and so passed 2013, 14 and 15! Finally we reached the top, just before the drop to the house. A bakkie passed us saying the guys were just my horror we discovered that Tobie had gone to sleep in the middle of the road and the bakkie had to wake him up to pass! The stuff that AR stories are made of!
The problem with transitioning at the start is that the beds are really comfy and it is sooo easy to just stop right there! However, Lickety Split prides itself on finishing all races, so we grabbed a 1 hour sleep (dirty clothing and all, straight into bed) and headed out before daybreak. Jaco declared himself done, but Tobie bravely gritted his teeth for the Spitskop climb! Once again we passed Bad Medicine, going home along that long driveway, and picked up some pointers on route choices. We managed to find a path heading in the right direction and changed our plan from following the firebreak burn we had originally picked out. As it turned out, it was a good choice. We followed our noses to the ‘dead carcass’ CP and followed the race briefing tips to the ‘pine tree in donga’, which left only the flag on the top of the koppie to track down! 25 minutes up and 25 minutes down, we were trudging back up the long driveway, passed by racers rushing back to Joeys in their cars after prize giving. Give a thought to the racers on foot, chaps......slow down so we don’t have to eat so much dust in your wake!

Our prize giving was a warm welcome from the Tswane Club and a 2L bottle of coke, then everybody took off leaving us alone in that huge, weird house.

I guess the other racers had managed to find some privacy to wash after the race, because we were left with only cold water, so the dream of washing off all the trail dirt was abandoned and we packed up quickly for the long road back. If we hadn’t had Mike to drive us, we might still be out there in a ditch, as we all fell asleep instantly and Tobie was still asleep 5km’s from home!

The distances I have for the race include all detours and short-cuts, but we managed around 75km’s MTB (hike-a-bike shortened the route) and totalled 40km’s on foot. I was wearing a pedometer which helped on the foot legs, when we started looking for an expected CP early, I could check it and say ‘ we’ve only done 3.5km’s and need to do 5 before we start looking’. Afterwards I had a look and discovered that I had done 21.5km’s on the second hike leg, but also somewhere in the vicinity of 25 000 steps!

Thanks go to Tshwane club for putting on such an interesting, challenging and well organised race. The views were Faaantastic!
Thanks to William, for volunteering your car, compass, map bag and keeping in touch throughout the race, and Mike for driving us and the bikes around all weekend (good help is hard to find), though the scintillating conversation was distinctly lacking on the way home! Thanks to Larry for jumping in and volunteering for all the dirty scouting work - you fitted into the team just like an old pair of shoes!

Here’s to the Blue Full Moon race in September! Whoop! Whoop!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dark Horse - Solis Ortus 24 Hr Race

The team for this race: William (Navigator), Sue (Team Mommy), Jaco (The Strongman), Tobie (The Gentleman) 
27 - 29 July at Dullstroom with love from Hardy at Tshwane AR Club.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dead of Winter Run - 7 July 2012

AR Club run - 19.something km's from the South end of Emmarentia Gardens along the Braamfontein Spruit, to Sunninghill for coffee. Beautiful day for a run with Fred!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Team Lickety Split / Voetsek at ATFest near Cullinan.

65km Adventure Race. 2 June 2012.

Monday, February 6, 2012

RED ANTS RUMBLE – 27/28 Jan 2012

Team Bitterender – Johan, Jaco, William and Sue

Venue: Stanford Lake College near Haenertsburg

It could have been called “The Race where you got your money’s worth”, but anybody who knows the area would have guessed as much! So when Red Ants said we were to get some 3700m of ascent, we knew we were in for a treat! Unfortunately it was a bit of a shocker for the 2 new members of the team, Johan and Jaco, but they ‘rose’ to the occasion magnificently (excuse da pun)

With the clock standing at 13 weeks to Expedition Africa, Lickety Split is hoping to finalise the team members for all the warm-up races. Johan and Jaco were both bitten by the AR bug (and quite possibly some other toothy bugs too) at the last Kinetic Full Moon but had a trying time and were looking to get some quality time with an experienced navigator. So they teamed up with William and I as Bittereinder, a team who’s main goal was to have fun and finish comfortably. Before hand, we organised a couple of paddle, hike and bike sessions, to sort out seating arrangements in boats and forge the necessary team spirit for a group about to spend plenty of time in each other’s pockets.

The trip up was uneventful as we were lucky enough to leave early and miss the traditional Friday afternoon snarl up in traffic. Time not being a problem, we decided to take the scenic detour around the road works to Haenertsburg and got a foretaste of the kind of hills we could expect. Bike drop-off at the village hall was accompanied by phone calls to missing members, still waiting at the detour. Back at the Adventure Centre, we started our tent city on a beautiful grassy bank, as we were to host 5 tents eventually. Here was Nic Mulder waving his camera at anybody standing still and looking like a serious adventure racer – still don’t think we qualify!

So started the mad scramble of registering, pitching camp, unpacking and generally wondering where our all important bits of gear were hiding? Supper soon followed – a much appreciated dish of lasagne! Time for race briefing, only to be told by Brian that we were waiting for several teams lost to the roadworks. So it was back to the tents to look for all sorts of important items which miraculously seemed to be missing! No whistle, no drybag and from the cursing outside, Jaco had lost his bladder too! Anyway, the extra time allowed us to find everything. Who could have guessed..the whistle still firmly attached to my backpack – exactly where it should be!

Race briefing finally rolled around and with maps in hand, William had a chance to use his latest toy. A distance counter to log up leg-time and speed predictions, which were right on the money! Though we did manage to finish a full half hour before predicted time, in spite of our best efforts to make a five day event of the MTB leg!

Leg 1 - 5km orienteering:

True to our team name, we started dead last, having let the rush go. Nic Mulder helped us along with an instruction to get on with it! Unfortunately, by the first OP we had already overtaken some teams. William chose a clockwise route which would have gotten us round very efficiently, if it was not for the usual Orienteering snafu which can occur when I think I’m clipping OP 5 and William believes he’s told me OP 4. Rats! That added an extra km to the outing (but it was still early in the race) which put us back in second to last place at transition. Happy and singing in the dark.

Leg 2 - 10km paddle:

As I’m sure many teams did, a quick rush over the road to put into the nearest water, much wiggling around in the boat and repacking of backpacks, only to take 3 strokes and take out on the far side for a(nother)portage! We had no idea there was a channel until after the race, though it helped to hear that Lickety Split (with their navigator in boat) spent much quality time in that channel! It only took us around 10 minutes to portage, retrieve shoes lost in the swamp and drag ourselves back into the boats. The waterfall was quickly navigated too and then we settled down for an enjoyable paddle. Somehow we had started moving up in the positions, in spite of our best intentions to stay at the back.

Leg 3 - 7km hike:

Nicky handed us the map and having watched other teams set off in completely the wrong direction earlier, made sure we had it facing the right way up before we took off down the road. Her lovable doggies very kindly offered to lighten my trail food bags of all my droĆ« wors, but I hung onto it for later. Somehow, although we usually stick to the road in preference to bundu-bashing, this time we bashed across the river directly to the trail, instead of following other teams up the road and across the river by the bridge. Boy was that a good choice, as it set us up perfectly to find CP 1 onwards! I lost count of how many teams we met going the wrong way along the trail, having missed CP1 completely! Happy and singing in the sun. A quick photo shoot with Eric at the cemetery and onwards we led – speculating on the origins of the town as we passed.

Leg 4 - 50km bike:

Here started the Real Adventure Race! Bikes collected at the hall, we set off knowing we were in for a bit of a climb, but completely oblivious to quite how hard it was going to be in the heat of the day! One hill crested, followed by another! The team slowed down to a walk, with many stops to drink and pour water over William who suffers on hot district roads! In spite of this, I was determined to ride the whole way and was doing quite well, only to be overtaken by William pushing his bike! I discovered that if I worked really hard, I could just about keep up with him! Luckily, we are training for expedition sized legs, otherwise I might have been a little disappointed in our time of 7 hours for this leg. Needless, to say, we managed to greet most of the back end of the race’s teams as they overtook us. We stopped for a minute to check if a member of a two man team was OK, when passing them in the forest on the side of the road. It seemed he was suffering from heatstroke and was waiting for Aderic and his ambulance.

A highlight was the stop to wade through the icy water in the mine (all 4 of us) and wandering through the cave for an elusive checkpoint. I managed to pass right through and find the back door, before shouts of “Gottit!” brought me slithering back. The quantities of left shoes had us guessing for a bit, before our heat-cooked brains finally made the connection between them and the New Balance flags. More uphills - we met Larry of Team Lava seemingly without his team who, when they passed us picnicing in the cool, declined to stop and join in. I should mention that Jaco hates hills! He said it several times, bitterly and with emphasis…”I HATE hills” Never mind, the uphills eventually came to an end at the next transition – then it was DOWNHILL!

Leg 5 – 15 km hike, kloofing:

This late afternoon transition, left us scrambling to get out on the hike leg and put in some serious distance before it got dark. The aim was to get both waterfall CP’s done during daylight – a good plan as it turns out! The hike into the kloof saw us meet up with Eric and his camera, for a chat and the exciting news that Lickety Split was doing really well!! Go Guys!

The kloofing was challenging, with every member of the team slipping around on the boulders, but only me actually making a serious dent in one knee. I asked for a bit of spit to rub it better, but nobody offered! The Garfield question put all the men in the water looking to see if there was actually any grafitti on the wall, but we came away without too much time spent looking, leaving only Jaco’s sock lost to the effort. I ask: who goes swimming in their socks? But evidently all three members of Bittereinder do! Jaco was left to make full use of William’s strapping tape instead. Dark descended inevitably and the multiple crossings of the river became a bit tedious. Being so small, I disappear easily; slipping and sliding on large boulders and left a slice of skin behind, on one evil crossing. At this point we had completely lost the trail. We knew where it should have been, but searching upriver only brought banks which were surely wrong, so we doubled back several times (crossing that river again……) I suggested a supper break and I guess the distraction turned William back to into Captain Fantastic, because he disappeared around the reeds and right back onto the trail! We even managed to help other lost souls (Team Assitport was also lost in translation higher upstream) back onto that road that led up out of the valley. Unfortunately, it was here that Johan began slowing down with an old injury to his knee and we limped slooowly uphill and back to transition. 20 minutes and a break…….

Leg 6 – 39km bike:

Midnight brought a cold wind and with Johan limping on a damaged knee, we decided to add an hour of sleep at transition. Since various teams had seen fit to stable their bikes in the warm gazebo, we showed grit and bunked down with one sleeping bag between two on the grass, trying hard to ignore insensitive racers shining headlamps on us. Unfortunately, this was the end of Johan’s race, so we decided to push on. 1.15am saw us eager to be away, off the cold mountain top and warming hands on the handlebars in the forest. It was to be a huge vertical descent between columns of pine trees, like Alice down the rabbit hole! Without the benefit of a sleep I’m not sure I would have roared down the rocky slopes quite so fast, but it seemed OK at the time. We stopped to decide whether Brian would have expected us to enter the private roads with conspicuous ‘Do not Enter’ signs, but keeping to AR tradition, pushed on trusting to the compass and William that we were still on the right track. However, one turn too many to the South when we should have been headed North, had us doubting ourselves and spending a fruitless hour backtracking up the vertical road (hike a bike) before deciding that we were in the right place anyway and heading back down. To our utter surprise, we were never passed by another team during the entire night’s ride!

Sunrise saw a welcome stop for a breakfast muffin (OH for some coffee!) then with no more excuses, onto the tar road and back to the canoe transition. In spite of knowing exactly where the turn-off was, we still managed to overshoot it in our sleepy state.

Leg 7 – 10km paddle:

A warm welcome by Nicky and a not too efficient transition saw us back in the boats and fighting sleep, now that we were sitting down. As we were one short, the obvious solution was for William to balance the second boat with all the backpacks in the back seat and go it alone. Note to self – pack some sort of a leash for towing in future!

It was lucky that the mist had lifted to some extent, but we still found ourselves paddling into the wrong bay, then back out again looking for the waterfall. I was fighting sleep and pink elephants in the front of the boat, but William was paddling like Hercules on his own. Jaco and I struggled to keep up!

Each portage was more than interesting with 2 boats and only 2 and a half paddlers, but with William and Jaco showing true grit and several trips, both boats made it around the waterfall and over the reedbank, then through under the bridge (with a spot of cursing by now) to an excited welcome by Brian and Mike on the bank. Whew! As always finishing is a bit of an anticlimax for me. However, I am always just as glad to have done so! Why do we do adventure racing………because it always feels so good when you stop!

My feeling about this race, is that it was just hard enough to be exactly what a good adventure race should be! Some interesting and exotic sites….and long enough to let you know that you had worked! Well organised with friendly faces at every transition. A big thank you to Red Ants and the other helpers who worked so hard to make it fun for us racers – especially to the marshall in the river. We still have no idea how you actually rode a bike with what looked like everything including the kitchen sink, into that far distant valley!

I look forward to racing with Jaco in future and am equally sorry that the gentleman of the team, Johan will be unable to do the long distances with us. Thanks to William for captaining and navigating a fantastic racing experience once again!

Thanks for the Ant Trail - Die Bittereinde(r)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Centrogaine - 8 Nov 2011

Last night Susan Belcher I participated in the Centrogaine (Metrogaine in Centurion). It was well organised by Fernandos Santos. It was also a lot more fun than I expected. Sue and I ran approximately 12km in 90 mins and only the last 2km did I feel my tired legs.

Fantastic weather organized by Nando, made for a perfect evening in the suburbs!
Lickety Split finished 16 out of 40 teams and 5th in our Mixed Team category.

Reported by William - posted by Sue.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mystic Sable

Re: #ARWC2011

50km is further than I am fit enough for J


On Saturday morning we did a 24km run, overall it had about 500m altitude gain, mostly from running around the Fort Klapperkop monument. At about 18 km I really started feeling it, with light cramps in my calves. Basically I had to walk about 100m out of every 300m to keep going. My time for the 24km was 3:00:17. I also grew a blister where the strapping tape had rolled up (same spot as the blister I got doing the Wakkerstroom Mountain Challenge – I think it is specific to those shoes). At about 3km to go I got overtaken by two girls who were running very comfortably and then ended nearly 3 mins ahead of me. At the end of the race I had a great chat with Nando, Karin and Erik (who came to cycle at Groenkloof), I went and spent the day with a work colleague (an ex-runner) which was very peaceful.


The evening run was a very flat run, I started by matching my pace with the two girls who had come past me so easily on the first stage. At the waterstop they really wasted time and I carried on without them. In the end I finished nearly 2 minutes ahead of them. The route was very flat and I suppose I should have finished the 9km faster than 58mins.


On Sunday morning I woke up so stiff, my legs were killing me. Yolande and Kids came along to do the 6km fun run and Loreley tells me I looked really funny at the start of the last 16km stage. This stage was really technical in places, really rocky uphills but with very fast flowing single track sections. I really enjoyed the section along the top of the hill where there were small lose rocks but overall very flat and comfortable running. I kept up with the two girls again until about 6km where I went ahead. I ran out of energy a little later and while eating a packet of raisins they caught up again. However the last waterstop again let me get ahead and I finished about 2 minutes ahead of them. I did the 16km without cramps and I feel finished quite strongly. Overall time 2:11 which I thought quite slow but I don’t know if I could have done much faster.


So overall we did about 49km, and it took me 6 hours 11 minutes. There were only 32 entries for the long event of which 30 started and 27 finished. It was tough but really enjoyable, I think I need to find a few more of these running stage races to do next year.