Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Expedition Africa 2011

Saturday the 7th of May saw the team packing the trailer in the Crags as the rain bucketed down for the first time in months. We were all quietly praying that this weather would not follow us on our trip to Onrus on the Cape south coast where we were due to start the 500km African Expedition Adventure Race two days later. The rain cleared as we passed George and the mood lightened in the car as we talked about possible routes and tactics for the race.

Lucky Number 12?

Saturday afternoon and the Pennypinchers gazebo was up in the Onrus caravan Park and we had registered and had been given our race bibs. At 7 pm the Race HQ tent filled up with 88 racers and we were welcomed by race director Stephan Muller (an experienced AR racer himself). After a no nonsense briefing we were given our maps for the first 250km and the master maps were put out to plot ones route. We decided that food and then sleep were the most important thing to do and had an early supper and hit the sack. The maps would wait till the morning.

Sunday morning was clear and cold and after a coffee Garth and I set about plotting the route on the maps while Jeff and Netski made up the bike boxes and reinforced them with tons of packing tape (one big advantage of being sponsored by a hardware store!). By 1 pm we had done the maps and the bikes and cycling gear were handed into the organizers only to be seen again late on Monday afternoon. We filled the afternoon by packing the two resupply boxes with what we thought we would need from them at predetermined places out on the course. The box is yours to fill with what ever you please but it does take careful planning and Netski was on to this. At 4pm the boxes were handed in and we were left with only our backpacks and maps in the campsite to ponder the race.

Monday morning could not have come fast enough and forcing down coffee, Future Life and muffins we were taxied off to the Old Harbor in Hermanus for the start of the race. It was freezing cold but we all knew that would change once the Race started. As the sun came up we set of on a 14 km run leg around the waking village of Hermanus. An hour and half latter we reached Grotto Beach for the first paddle leg which would take us 20km to Stanford. We got on the water in 7th place with Castle Light and Bikes n Wines. Not long into the paddle the a head wind from hell picked up and it wasn’t long before 2 foot waves were pounding the plastic Fluid kayaks. We were actually punching waves as we slowly headed for the calmness of the Stanford River. The mouth is hidden buy reeds and I had marked where the channel was when we were still out on the lagoon. We pushed over a small bank and hit the calmness of the river in 3 rd place. As we paddled up stream we heard other teams bashing their way through the reeds and this gave us a boost. The transition at Stanford was quick and we filled water bottles and headed of for what would be a long tough hike of 36km. The first 13 kms were along hard district roads which was tough on the feet that had just spent 2 hours in the water but once we hit the coast and the amazing sight of Sophie’s cave in the sand stone we got into a good rhythm and headed for Gansbaai with Castle Light hot on our heels. With the last check point of the hike down near Die Kelders in Gansbaai we headed to the church hall in town to find our bike boxes and the ever friendly Ilala volunteers at T3.

The next leg would be a cycle leg of 140km criss crossing the area between Gansbaai and Bredarsdorp . We left town feeling good and rolling along some tar roads into the night. A couple of hours in Jeff realized he hadn’t filled his drinking bladder so we stopped when we heard some running water and filled that up. One never knows when you will get water again in a race so it’s best to be full whenever you can. Jabbawok caught up with us then and we cruised along at a pace that turned out to be just to fast for us at that stage and we let them go as Garth started to deal with some cramps. Latter on after a long climb we stopped to eat some proper food again before roller coasting past a junction and only realizing it 3 kms later. On the right road again we headed towards the coast and Die Dam and the lighthouse at Quino Point. Here encountered thick sand and caught up with Castle Light. Jeff’s tire came of the rim in one of the sandy sections and it would not seal again because of the sand so we put in a tube which leaked and then on the second tube we were under way again. Sunrise saw us arriving at a dairy farm and the next transition. Here we needed to pack and prepare for what would be the hardest and most crucial stage of the race.

Garth remembers it like this “Leaving transition from bike to hike, walking out of the dairy farm shed, stepping straight into a shallow pool of dung slush water dirtying the fresh socks that have been on for maybe 5 min, one knew this was just a small reminder of what lay ahead.
From there on we found a route through the fynbos leading to the trig beacon barely visible from where we were. Only to find the path come to an end. Only then taking note of the road book notes saying leggings would be advisable.
Once reaching the trig beacon we opted for the safer, but longer faster moving route around the canyon to point on game fence.
From then on we moved down and up again to the next trig beacon (one sometimes wonders what adventure racing would be like without trig beacons?)
From then on we made our way to the cell phone tower on the boundary of Salmons dam Nature Reserve. Making our way down the breath taking gorge with Lettuce lecturing us to watch our footing, only to find us having to almost scrape lettuce off the bottom of the gorge himself. Watch your footing Lettuce, focus!
Once out the bottom the “sleep monsters” were the hardest to fight off during the final km's. All was rewarded with a transition box full of food, pasta and malva pudding from Stephan and Heidi and a 5 hr compulsory stop. “

This leg had some tough navigation and especially so when my compass did a 180 degree switch under the cell phone and radio towers at the top of Salmons dam. Only when we moved away from the tower was I able to get my bearings again.

We left half way after the compulsory stop of 5 hours during which time we had slept for 3 hours, eaten and packed for an hour and then done the maps for the next 250km. The sleep and food had us feeling really fresh and ready for the next 105km on the bike. The road rolled through some farm lands where huge tractors were drilling wheat seed towards the mountains above Greyton. A risky 1km on the N2 saw us turn inland towards Greyton and the promise of a pie and cool drink picked up the Teams tempo. The church yard in Genadendale was the next check point. This amazing church and yard with surrounding buildings could have put you somewhere in Europe if one had not ridden through the typical poor village out front. The next transition saw us riding onto an apple farm where the harvest was in full swing. Tractors with trailer loads of fresh apples where roaring around the place.

After checking out of the transition barn we were once again confronted with a massive climb and this became the leg of “dams” The first checkpoint was at a dam on top the mountain which was well camouflaged with fyn bos but as usual was correctly marked on the map and had we been there in day light we would not have wasted the 15 minutes or so looking for it. The next dam was on an even higher mountain so up we went again. This time the mist came down and we micro navigated our way to the dam that was a bit further of the road than the map showed. Now we came to another piece in the map where there were no roads and Stephan (race director) had warned us not to miss the start of the rope work section on the down stream side of the check point. After trying to take a conservative line down the ridge we headed into the correct kloof came out at the start of the kloof/rope work section. Having just come down a kloof filled with loose boulders and so high drop offs this section seemed pretty mild. Once out of the kloof we headed for Teewaterskloof Dam and the transition for the paddle leg. The road through Villiersdorp saw Netski and Garth wrestling with the Sleep Monster and stumbling along tripping over cat’s eyes and even nothing on the road. There were lots of questions of “Are we there yet?” Once again we were just behind Castle Light and Uncharted. Both these teams headed out on the freezing mist filled dam for the 20km paddle leg. We decided to sleep for 2 hours and tackle it in the light. At first light the mist was still thick but we headed out on a bearing and hit the bridge over the dam spot on and soon had the check point and had over taken a frozen uncharted team. Off on another bearing and the sun began to burn the mist off. We were on a roll and with Garth and Jeannette singing nursery rhymes we headed back to the transition smug with the fact that an 80 km cycle and some orienteering would see us finish the race just after sunset on Thursday. Netski had this to say about the last day

“The amazing thing about adv racing over a longer distance is that the 4 days emerge into one day and the 3 nights into one night. So its very hard to remember exactly what happened each day but my duties for this race report is too write about the last day...which funny enough is just a fast blur because the Pennypinchers team cooked this leg. If the race would have been longer all I can say is Merrel would have had sore necks from looking back the whole time. We cooked the paddle on Thee waters dropping the other team "Uncharted" who climbed on before us. We did have an advantage of 2 hrs sleep next to a fire at the transition before the paddle. It was freezing and there was mist on the water so we decided to wait till day light and it was the right decision. Uncharted decided to go straight onto the water; they got lost in the dark and mist and had to spent theses two hours sleeping next to the dam, not so pleasant. So we passed them, dropped them, while getting the two check points on the paddle. After the paddle was our last cycle leg with an orienteering leg in-between on a Wine farm just before Hermanus. We cooked the cycle averaging 17.4 for 80Km cycle not to bad for an "old team" the orienteering we got the 3rd faster time for it. So looking at this we might have woken up a bit too late but luckily for the other teams we did cos boy oh boy once the Pennypinchers teams wakes up nothing can stop us even if we are "old ooms".

The ride was easy enough it wasn’t long before we turned in to the Hamilton Russell Wine Estate for the 7 km orienteering leg. We headed off with a plan in mind and due mainly to exhaustion we began to doubt it and it took some effort to keep everyone focused and moving forward to get the last leg done. With about the third fastest time for the orienteering the plan could not have been that bad and we hopped on our bikes and headed for the finish 7 kms away.

As usual with Adventure Racing most of the teams that finish before you come to welcome you
in at the finish no matter what time of day it is so we were welcomed by a big group of people and sat down in a chair with a cold beer and a pizza and covered with a blanket and allowed to savor the moment. 500 km under the belt it is hard to describe there is a huge sense of achievement as well as a hollow feeling when one tries to compare it with anything else you have done.

Pain is temporary as it says on our race bib!

To my Team well done I think we all did our best and what is great is that we all know that we can improve on this performance and that is great for us and scarey for the other teams out there. To our families and friends thanks for all the support it always makes it a lot easy being out there in the cold and dark knowing you have got people thinking about you.

To our sponsors Pennypinchers for making it happen, Gu for keeping us going for 80 something hours, Blue Steel for keeping most of the chaffe away and Earth Scout for the full range of the best gear and of course CXPress for keeping you in the loop THANK YOU.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Well done Team Pennypinchers!!!

Team Pennypinchers has just finished the Expedition Africa in 7th position. Congratulations and well done on the hard earned achievement. The team was competing against a strong field of 22 teams. Local Boys (and a girl), Team Merell Adventure Addicts claimed a deserved first. Viva the Garden Route Grit. Hopefully a more detailed race report will follow when the team gets back and snaps out of zombie mode. Once again….

Friday, May 6, 2011

Expedition Africa 2011

Were off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Team of Jeannette Walder,Jeff Willcocks,Garth Pienke and James Stewart are packed and ready for the Expedition Africa 2011.

What lies ahead is 500km of unmarked route with mountan biking,kayaking, trekking,swimming,kloofing absieling with very little if any sleep out in the area of Hermanus and the Overberg.

Sounds fun so follow us on

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Pennypinchers Cairnbrogie Trail Run

Photos from the Cairnnbrogie Trail Run

(courtesy of Glen Murray & Dael Bunge)
In December 2010 when we decided over a braai and maybe a glass or two of red wine to organize a couple of trail runs during the year I don’t think that we had even the slightest idea of the size of the challenge that we were under taking. January saw the Kurland Summer Run with 120 runners of all ages and abilities. Great. Lets do one at Easter time its holiday time in Plett and we can attract a similar crowd. We can have an Easter Egg hunt for the kids and a short and a long trail run. With Cairnbrogie farm owner Andrew Hill offering us a venue we got the ball rolling in January and let it roll gently not realizing the momentum it was gaining as Easter weekend bore down on us.

With a route in mind Jeff, Richard (Jeff’s right hand man) and I set about cutting single track and linking bits of the routes. Jeannette was put in charge of the Easter Hunt and found a great route though the forest past the dam and then back to the barn via the calf pens. It was only four days before the event that Jeannette and I managed to run the full 10 km route. We both blown a way and knew at that stage we were going to have a great event because the route was fantastic with a good mix of single track, jeep track and awesome views.
With online entries and email entries coming in steadily from March we were expecting about 175 runners across the board. Race day came and the Team got busy erecting a trailer load of Pennypinchers branding as well as the Gu banners and marking the last of the route. As the route was marked a troop of pestly baboons removed the wooden stakes. This troop then took up residence in the forest where we were to hide the Easter Eggs so we had to hold back on that plan until closer to the race start. On top of this we had a Tsunami of late entries. With that wave bearing down on us we had the an unbelievable Rescue Team step in and plug the holes left by Jeff and Chris who were busy marking the route for the third time. Mike and Gillian from Knysna and then Steve and Olga jumped into action and calmly handled the extra 160 odd late entries. The Tsiba College volunteers lead by Berna-Lee stepped in and got the extra cars parked in the fields handed out the extra entry forms and prepared for some of the on course marshalling. While this was going on the Plett Field Band played in with the backdrop of Pennypinchers banners and the huge white Cairnbrogie Barn creating a festive atmosphere for everyone.

With the rush of late entries the start was delayed by 15 minutes but everyone was relaxed and after a briefing the 10km run set off down the road onto a course that had only ever been run by 2 people. With quite a few trail running novices in the field and an unknown route the pace was still frenetic up front with a group of 5 or six runners including all the race favorites breaking away after the winding forest single track section. After about 6 kms the group was slowed a bit by the steep climb up from the coastal path but soon picked up the pace and spread out when they hit the gentle up hill back to the dairy. Mean while the back of the pack were enjoying the views of the ocean and also the surprise of cold water and Gu Brew at the half way mark. With many novices in the race not heading the recommendations of carrying water this was a welcome relief and provided valuable hydration to get them to the finish.