Monday, March 29, 2010

The Garmin Wartrail 2010

Photo courtesy Kelvin

After doing the War Trail inn 2008 and despite having an epic time I swore that I would be back. 2009 saw work commitments taking their toll and I missed the opportunity of doing my second War Trail. 2010 dawned and the Garmin War Trail was put on my calendar in permanent ink. I invited all the Pennypinchers AR Team to join me and with Jeff side stepping the event to do Two Oceans (don’t ask) and Jeannette getting an entry o do the Cape Epic it was left to Chris Crewdson and I to fly the flag.

Chris had to bale at the last minute due to family commitments. Oscar Butler a product of the Montessorri Adventure Racing School (MARS) was roped in to being my second for the weekend. With the bakkie packed with space to spare we hit the road from The Crags to Lady Grey at 7:30 am Friday. An easy drive saw the two of us arrive relaxed and in daylight at Lady Grey. This colonial town is surrounded by mountains and is definitely out of a different era.

With the usual excellent dinner and brief briefing by Adrian Saffy (race organizer) under the belt I packed my bag and was in bed by nine thirty, while the D4 Production Crew busied themselves preparing their kit for the next day. They actually have quite a bit to sort out and I was quite smug at the fact that my bag was packed, juice mixed and I was half asleep.

Day 1
3:15am and Oscars alarm goes off. I had the usual Oats and coffee to start the engine and then picked up my bag which suddenly felt quite light considering last time I was on the mountain I was out there for 20 odd hours. I was going to try and travel lighter and faster and being an individual race if you hit the wall you don’t have team mates to feel responsible to for your stupidity. Four am and the ram’s horn blasts for the start and as usual the pace is quick so that the racing snakes can hit the path first. The rest hang on .The first check point is a group of radio masts and we arrived there in a big group just before sunrise and headed off across the open saddle to the start of the old border fence as the sun began to rise. The orange glow signaled that the day would be warm with not a cloud in the sky.
Cp 2 had water for us so I quickly refilled all my bottles and set of to try and catch the McCain’s duo of Graham Bird and Tatum Prins who had been at the Cp but bolted out of there. I settled into my own pace along a track where you can actually run. Here some runners came past but I reeled them in once it got technical again. I caught up with the “chips” team and we got into a nice comfy pace which we held till we reached Balloch.
The cold stream water after Cp 3 was great and we topped right up to last for the next 4 hours or so. At Avoca peak (CP 4) we were greeted by some of the most enthusiastic marshals ever and were offered tea and a Liquorices All Sort. After that comes the highlight of the hike the walk along the Dragons back a 1 meter wide ridge that drops of to the valleys on both side. The sense of raw exposure here is huge. At an average altitude of 2700m you are close to the gods and with the wind picking up and thunder and lightening threatening we headed across quickly. Soon after that the heavens opened and the hail belted down for about half an hour or so. The small hailstones stinging as they made contact with sun burnt necks.

The banner on Skidauw for CP 5 can be seen from a long way off but one must not be fooled into thinking that the day is done. The toughest part of the race follows with the ridiculously steep decent into the Balloch River valley. The grassy slope covers steps and narrow rivulets that will swallow up an unsuspecting hiker. Once down the steep slope the path follows the river to the huge cave at Balloch where hot showers and a cup of tea were well earned. I now experimented for the first time with My Rocket Compression Tights and slipped them on under a pair of longs and hoped that they would work some magic overnight. I had run in the Compression socks and feel that my calves never hit that burning feeling and they were not tight at all at the end of the hike. An awesome dinner of pootjie and samp with salad and koeksisters for dessert ended a fine day in the mountains.

A dark day on the bike

Day 2
The bike leg starts at 7:30 sharp and after about 5kms of flat the first climb starts and takes you out of the Balloch valley. I think the Compression Tights helped because I had very little stiffness in my calves, quads or hammies . My ankles were still tight but that can be expected. The weather was perfect and at 8 degrees the climb wasn’t to warm. The first real climb of the day is up Lundeans neck and after sorting out some problems with my seat I saw both the front groups disappear over the top. GI King from D4 switched on the helmet cam and I started of down the other side trying to catch up some lost time. Not being the down hill hooligan I watched as others flew down the 7 kilometer down hill at speeds of 70-kmph.After 50k s you get to see your second at the first checkpoint of the day. I took on two new bottles and headed off not fully aware that the toughest and longest climb of the day was just around the corner. The mercury was rising as fast as the slope in front of me but I had reeled in a couple people who had gone out a bit hard. Cp2 was a quick bottle change and I asked Oscar to go to Kentucky for some junk food for lunch after the ride in Sterkspruit which was on the route about 20km away. As I rode through Sterkspruit about 45 min latter I saw my bakkie outside Kentucky (Good man I thought to myself). The next 5 kms to the check point are up hill and the noise of each car coming past made me turn expecting to see Oscar roaring past. I arrived at the CP before Oscar (oops). I saw a tap on the side of the road and asked the taxi driver who was washing his taxi with the water if you could drink it he said yes and gave me a demonstration so I filled up my bottles and asked the marshals to send Oscar on to the last seconding point in Herschel. This leg was described by Roy Southey as purgatory. It is a hot lonely hilly part of the route. I knew it was coming and mentally toughened up for this leg as I had lost focus a bit in the previous leg. Soon I was tackling the nasty little climb into Herschel for a last bottle and gel and the short hop down to the Orange River and the end of the road community of Mdlokwane. After a bucket bath and great food the whole camp site was quiet by 9:00pm. We were then treated to a wind and rain storm that tested everyone’s tents and kept those who weren’t too tired awake.

Day 3
Daybreak saw the bedraggled field move down to the rather low, sluggish Orange River with the prospect of a long hard paddle. The shout of GO caught some people facing upstream but there was not the normal sprint to get the race going as after 2 days everyone was happy just to get going and slog through the day. My old paddling partner Hanno Smit headed up the front bunch with me glued to his slipstream. The Gorge provided one nice set of standing waves which turned into a gala latter on in the day. After that the river flattened out and meandered over mud banks from side to side. After about an hour and a half the bunch was down to four and we covered the first thirty kms in just on 2 hours. At this stage I was running low on gas and decided to try and hang on for another hour and then slog thru to the finish on my own. The McCain trio was super kind and looked after me until about 4 kms to go where I told them to leave me to suffer alone. I was completely broken and could not keep up anymore. The bridge over the Orange was a wonderful sight and that injected a little more energy to get me across the finish line.

The blisters tell the tale of a long paddle

The event was a clean sweep for the McCain team but it was great to spend time on the route and in the campsites with this outfit. Thanks guys and Hobbit. With Andre Gie from Knysna winning the mens and Hobit Prins the girls it was a clean sweep for the McCain outfit I finished 11th 15min outside the top 10. I did improve my time on the hike by 7 hours and 2,5 hours on the bike so all in all I had a great race and cant wait till next year where I will try and hold my focus during the bike leg because this is where I let things slip a bit .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Who is at the Cape Argus Cycle Tour

This weekend sees the Cape Argus Cycle Tour and Jeff Willcocks will be there to show the "roadies" that it is possible to ride a sub three hour time on a mountain bike with off road tyres as well. Also taking part is Sean Gannon who is the owner of Pennypinchers Plettenberg Bay. With out him we would not have a team so from the Team we wish Sean a Safe and Enjoyable ride and we look forward to hearing all about it when you get back.
I had to add the map because we do have to navigate in our game.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Exciting new sponsor on board and a new angle for the competition

This week has seen the Team acquire a new gear sponsor in the form of Rocket Compression Garments. These are a great range of products that help with recovery during and after an event.Click on the logo and read all about it on their website.

Jeff had a cracker at the Cango Marathon and ran 3hr31min for the 42.2km race he did complain of some stiffness afterwards but this will be remedied with the new Rocket Sox. Chris and I had a great session of running, riding and canoeing on Saturday near and on the Keurbooms river as a short warm up for the Garmin Wartrail. Jeannette is still fitting in some runs despite being focused on the Epic which is round the corner in fact Dr Evil has left Plett to mark the route today.

The pictures below are some visuals of the Google image in the Where are the Pennypinchers AR Team . What a beautiful place we live in