What a journey of emotions. Adventure Racing really brings on a flood of feelings like no other sport that I have had the privilege of participating.
Sitting in that tent at Race briefing and listening to all the teams introduce themselves was the pinnacle of all the training and preparation that had taken place prior to the event. We were a full squad reasonably healthy despite a sniffel or two and ready to race.
Kinetic Gear really made this expedition adventure race a pleasure for us as racers. We had minimal logistics to handle except to plan our meals and gear boxes. Everything was handed to us – Kayaks, Bike Boxes and Transition Boxes. What a pleasure not having to cart these cumbersome items down.
When it was our teams chance to introduce ourselves I said that our aim was to finish the race in the fastest time possible and not cause Stephan any unnecessary grief. The reason behind this is that during expedition racing the longer your team is out there the greater the chance of something going wrong gets. At the last Bull of Africa I got cellular infection 80km from the end and was pulled of the course. This year had to be different and I’m glad it was.
We started the race with a 14km fast paced running stretch through Hermanus and this really set the tone and pace for our team. We started of running and hit the CP’s fast and furious dicing our buddies from Penny Pinchers. Having overshot one of the CP’s we hit the beach section with Penny Pinchers and BikesNwines and onto the transition to Kayaks.
The 20 km kayak section was into a potent head wind with the lagoon and river turning into a mass of 1 meter chop and whipping wind. These adverse conditions however suited us as the better paddling teams could not find a rhythm and it all came down to strength and determination. We managed to keep Penny Pinchers in sight and passed Jabberwock our soon to be arch nemesis on this race. Whilst paddling up the calmer river section with Penny Pinchers just in front of us a sudden bursting through of the reeds on the left revealed the UK team of Accelerate and prompted me to enquire “Livingstone I Presume”. We transitioned into the 37km run and coasteering leg without much delay and were soon onto the long hot dirt road leading to the coast. We played cat and mouse with Penny Pinchers on this leg and were blasted by Accelerate who came past us as though they feared the African Sun J.
We hit the beach with Penny Pinchers clipped the CP and stopped to refuel when BikeNwines and Jabberwock made their appearance. This leg was a mental slog running out of water and refilling at the cottage at the end of the beach.
We made it to the transition at Gansbaai full of spirit seeing Penny Pinchers still in transition. We tucked into the gear and food box with relish and prepared for the long 140km MTB. Soon we were on our way chasing down Penny pinchers whom we saw in our head lights. Checking the route Jabberwock and BikesNwines flew past us and this would be the start of our battle with them. We would end up chasing Jabberwock down and trying to stay clear of BikesNwines for the majority of the race.
With some tricky nav to the light house with even more sticky sand to contend with we were surprised to see Penny Pinchers pop out of the dunes behind us at the CP. We started cycling off together but soon lost them when they suffered bike problems on one of the sandy beaches.
Our journey to the transition saw us fighting off the first attack of the Sleepmonster and hit transition at first light.
Our spirits and tired minds where immediately lifted when we peered into the farm shed to see both BikesNwines as well as Jabberwock fast asleep all snug. We immediately went into stealth mode getting ready for the long hike as quickly and quietly as possible. We almost accomplished this but then Penny Pinchers arrived and BROKE THE SILENCE.
We left transition in 4th position with Jabberwock on our heals. Deon took us on a B Line up to the radio mast and this was our formal introduction to the Fynbos that was to become our friend on this leg. FYNBOS – whoever gave this name to this shrubs they need their minds read. Jabberwock caught us after their sleep and we started our chase to reel them in.
This 50km mountain leg was for me the defining part of the whole race. Although this trek seemed very straight forward on the map it was clear that the vegetation and topography would require serious route choices that could make up or lose time. We thought that we had blown it and were sure that many teams had passed us due to this leg taking so long. After an awesome decent down an amazing kloof we hit the road leading to the compulsory stop at Beloftesbos. We decided to run the 5km to transition. As we exited the reserve we met up with the television crew who informed us that we were the 5th team. This news that we hadn’t lost any placings lifted us to greater heights and we ran the remaining 3km as though we had just started the race.
After enjoying a warm meal and plenty of warm fluids at the compulsory stop we got 3 hours of sleep and then plotted the remainder of the course onto our newly supplied maps. The remainder of the route looked fast and furious with the 24 km mountain hike once again looking to be the decider regarding route choice and navigation.
We talked the 105km bike leg with vigor after our rest. The mist making navigation a bit difficult but despite one missed turn that we remedied quickly this leg was ticked of without any incident. A highlight was passing through the towns of Greyton and Genadedal truly unique spots.
We transitioned into the 24km hike and once again Deon decided to B line up the mountain to the road cutting out the zigzagging jeep track. We collected the CP on top and enjoyed some freshly picked apples along the route (a highlight of this race). We hit the next CP spot on and the Deon led us on a tricky nav section to the rope work. After endless false kloof edges we trekked onto the rope section and wasted no time in descending this kloof as the light was starting to fade. We reached the bottom and decided to run the 10 + kilometers to the transition at the Theewater dam trying to make up time on Jabberwock ahead of us.
On reaching the Theewater Yacht Club we again went into stealth mode as we heard Jabberwock discussing their approach at the dam edge. We decided to catch them unaware by preparing everything for the next bike leg before hitting the paddle thereby allowing us to just change and get onto our bikes when we finished while they had to still unpack their bikes deal with their bike boxes and crates etc. We did this and proceeded to start our soon to become “epic” adventure on Theewater Dam. We proceeded to head on a bearing to the 1st CP and decided to switch off our lights and hide our glow sticks to prevent Jabberwock from detecting our progress. We soon spotted their headlights searching the far shore for the CP and paddled like navy seals closing in on our targets we were hunting them down. While we were approaching the CP Jabberwock had also decided to play the stealth game and seeing our silhouettes also switched their lights off and hid their glow sticks. We paddled past each other without saying a word but with hindsight in plain view of each other J. We collected the 1st CP and I could feel the hyperthermia start coursing through my body as soon as we stopped paddling. When set course for the 2nd CP and again crossed paths with the silent silhouettes of Jabberwok. No recognition or words were exchanged. At the bridge our team mates were just behind us and we started to paddle among the flooded tree line looking for the CP. When we thought we had covered the distance we got out and started searching the banks. This is when the hyperthermia hit us hard and man it is not a lekker feeling. We clipped the CP only to find that Ina and Craig had turned around. We could see their lights paddling back and when we got to the shore learnt that they could not see us (our lights were off) and Ina started getting cold so they paddled back to shore worried. All was fine in the end except the cold and wet conditions took the wind out of our sails and our “quick” transition ended up taking longer than expected.
The next leg was for us as team a low point. The Sleep monsters played havoc, we had a team communication gap and it just was that time of a long expedition race that really tests everyone’s character. We eventually had a sleep after collecting a CP and when the sun came up and we headed into the orienteering section we were ready to rumble once again.
The Orienteering section was vasbyt as Deon decided this is where we would show our metal. We blasted this section and finished with the 2nd fastest time.
We climbed onto our Mounties for the last time and made quick work with the 7km to the finish. What a feeling knowing that we accomplished our goals and finishing 5th overall. The emotions and satisfaction are indescribable. At the finish line we were greeted with an ice cold Castle Lite and by Merrel the winners.
Thanks to our sponsor Castle Lite for backing us. We flew the Castle Lite Banner with pride. Finishers also were greeted with Castle Lite when they came in. Thanks to my team for achieving what we set out to do. Thanks to Jabberwock for making our race a race chasing you down and for BikesNwines for keeping us moving fearing that you would catch us. Thanks to all our friends and family for your support and interest.
We as a team would like especially to thank Stephan and Heidi and the Kinetic Gear team for making it possible to live our passion. Thanks to the marshals you youngsters and the odd “oldie” really rocked.
See you at Kinetic Gears next event and at XPD 2012.
Team Castle Lite