Monday, October 24, 2011

Eden Duo 2011

With Jeannette heading for Tasmania on Thursday the rest of the Team will be heading through to Wilderness for the Eden Duo on Friday. Jeannette will be taking part in the Adventure Racing World Championships after a late injury to Hanilie Booyens of Team Cynosis.We will be following her with live tracking and I will be "tweeting" this site so keep it on you desk top next week.

We have got three teams taking part this weekend at the 150km Eden Duo. Nic Cuthbert and Brandon Willcocks will be entered in the senior mens divsion along with Garth and Jeff and Me and my new partner Voitec Orchecovski ( no speel check on that word). Voit is a seasoned paddler and has done the Duo twice before so is an able replacement for Jeannette .

Over the weekend Jeff Voit and I went through to George to check out the first two legs of the race . The Kloofing section up the Kaaimans River was really worthwhile as was riding the single track through Saasveld. That was untill I went head over heels on my bike doing a lot of damage to my ego and some to my body. The bike was fine by the way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Netski steals the limelight.

While our Juniors Nic and his Team from Oakhill were doing us proud in in the final raft building section of the AR Nationals at Baynesfield in Natal Jeannette was tying the another type knot and marrying Colin Wylie on a small holding just outside Plett.With the wedding held amoung the fynbos and the dress code casual it was a great day for the small group of friends and family that were there. The priest Pieter from Knysna who also happened to be a runner and cyclist got right into the spirit of the couple getting married and in his sermon proceded to compare marrage to the Comrades Marathon , with all the ups and downs that one can go through. It was not long before he started talking about the hard times that will confront you along the way and this is where you will need help and one of the best sources of help on the "big hills" is a GU ( this is with out any idea about our relationship with the products) . He proceeded to discuss the differnt flavours and making sure that you used the right ones at the right time etc. As everyone said afterwards "only at Netskis wedding"

Pieter fills us all in on the benefits of Espresso Love flavoured GU

As if this was not enough less than a week after she tied the knot she hit the jack pot. Nic Mulder from Team Cynosis one of South Africas top AR teams asked her to join his team to go to Tasmania to the AR World Championships . This late call was necesitated by a very unfortunate injury to Hanile Booyens who was due to go with Cynosis to the AR Worlds.

Adventure racing being a team sport as well as a very physical one often ends up offering people unexpected these type of oppurtuinities. With less than 2 weeks before Cynosis leaves for Tasmania I dont think they could have found a better replacement. Netski has raced over seas before and kicks into another gear the longer these races go on. We wish Netski,John Collins,Nic Mulder and Nathan Thompson all the best. Team Merrel Adventure Addicts will also be flying the SA flag high in Tasmania and are hoping for a really good finish.We will be posting news from Tasmania on our blog as the 700km race progresses.

As they say one door opens ,another closes and then another will open. This great oppurtuinity has left me (Lettuce) with out a partner for the Eden Duo, also in 2 weeks time. With time an issue as well as the poularity of the race a decsion need to be made quickly. Voitec Orzechovski lives in Plett and comes from a paddling back ground and has done two Duos so he has been roped in to do the race with me. We are definatley looking forward to the extra 5 km paddling leg that Jan Heenop has added to the race. Watch this space as we head out for our first training session together this evening.

Monday, October 10, 2011

South African Schools AR Championship

This year Oakhill School packed off 4 teams to Baynesfield, KZN to tackle the 2011 South African School's AR Championships, hosted by Kloof High School. Our u/19 A team, consisted of Brandon Willcocks, Nicola Giliomee, Harry Maarsingh and myself (Nick Cuthbert).
Leaving on Tuesday evening, we set off on a testing 21 hour bus trip, which would see us arrive at race HQ at sundown the following day. Due to proper planning and the luxury of time, we had an entire night and day to shake off the travelling dust. This additional time would prove to play an important role in the race for we did a quick recce on our bikes on Thursday morning.

Thursday - 6 p.m, the race briefing started, in which race rules were explained to us and our support teams. The race would follow a point to point approach, with routes being proscribed several times through the course. This was a change to the last two SA champs, where the races more closely ascribed to the rogaine format. This allowed teams to determine where they were in the field, which likely increased the average speed and could possibly be a huge motivator to competitors. After rules were explained, support crews were sent to hang up in their storage lockers and racers were left alone with maps and equipment. In race instructions, there were only a few point with which one could choose your own route and this had pivitol results upon the race outcome. Finishing preparations, our team climbed into bed, ready for an early start.

4 a.m start Oakhill U19
Friday 4 a.m. The race started, with teams heading out into the dark upon bicycles. The first few kilometres are chaotic, with a fairly technical downhill and a river to cross, leading to backlog and a bit of bad-temperedness from the field. Congestion eased however when the route took us upon the broad provincial roads and we quickly claimed the lead, being caught by one of the Helpmekaar teams when there was some uncertainty regarding the turn-off onto the farm roads. We took off once more after getting onto a marked track, passing the single check point, PB1(Post Box) in the leg with Helpmekaar, with whom we came into transition first, finishing the approximately 25km leg one in perhaps a too blistering hour and a half.

Leg two was a trail run and in this leg, we had freedom of movement. Here Helpmekaar's route diverged from ours. We went off-road through a few rivers and streams, while the majority of the field continued along road, increasing their net distance. Both routes seemingly took equal amounts of time as we met with our new rivals at the catty shooting range, just moments behind them. We cleared this obstacle, thanks to some brilliant shooting by Mr. Maarsingh, once again seconds behind Helpmekaar. Passing CP 2, after some navigational confusion, our legs took us to a dam whereupon arrival, we built a raft with sticks and tractor inner tubes, and paddled out with Kloof and Helpmekaar on our tails, to collect a message from two points on the lake. Our design, which was simplistic to say the least, created some awkward sitting positions, which would have had even some of the bunnies back at the mansion raising their eyebrows. While the raft was sufficient to stay with Kloof, Helpmekaar's better design gave them a slight advantage. Nevertheless as inefficient as the craft was, it was heartbreaking to have to disassemble it, having suffered so much trauma upon its deck but it needed to be done, as we needed to carry on. Again taking a less conservative route through the fields, we managed to overtake both Kloof and Helpmekaar at CP3, a gear check. Here it was fortunate that Brandon had additional water, as due to an error, my bottles had not been filled. From here, our recce payed off, as with Helpmekaar following, we headed towards the township of Hopewell, instead of the unnecessarily longer trip along the dirt roads back. We managed to lose Helpmekaar in the twisty streets between the informal settlements and despite the onset of cramps from the pace we were setting, returned from Leg 2, some minutes ahead the rest of the field.

Return from the mountain
Leg 3, was the third and final leg; a MTB ride and despite a radically slowed paced from fatigue and cramping, we held off the other teams past the cliff like gradients which led to CP4. From here, due to the multitudes of obscure turn-offs and roads which did not appear on the map, we were lead upon a marked route, which to our frustration, did not have markings at a crucial turning point, thus wasting precious minutes and breaking the lead we held from Helpmekaar. With their help, we picked up the marking again and claimed the lead back, which was extended when the other school had technical difficulties with one of their dérailleur. We continued on the marked route until we had visited the two remaining post boxes and returned to the provincial road. From here, we travelled to a Heritage Site, where two of the team had to abseil down a short drop, while the other had to walk around. Harry and Brandon abseiled, whilst Nicola and I walked. Completing the task as the two other teams arrived, the Helpmekaar team had now some allies. We knew that we needed to hurry.
Lack of hydration however was becoming a problem, as was concentration. We arrived at CP6, the final checkpoint on route, without incident, save for a small detour to a lake.

The obstacle course
This was our race's break point. We made a risky decision, to cycle around the mountain back, instead of travelling back the way we came or climbing over the mountain. We were turned back by the marshalls a few kilometres in from our route choice and were compelled to climb the mountain, where two other teams (both Helpmekaar) were already much of the way up. It became necessary to carry our bikes along this path and everyone took strain, due to the heat and increasing gradient. We managed to claw back some time in reaching the top, where we could travel through rideable cane fields.

It wasn't enough unfortunately and we reached the race HQ in third place, completing an obstacle course, a quiz, a climbing wall and ladder building, in addition to the aforementioned legs, in a total time of 11h 32min, +-10 minutes behind the winning team.
Of the 11 or so teams who entered the u/19 division, only 4 teams completed the course in its entirety before the twelve hour cut-off.
The race was tough, hard and slightly disappointing but from it came several important lessons, as well a sense of achievement. Of the terrain, I can say that it had a magnificence in many ways.


  • Hydration has priority over transition speed

  • There are times to take risks and times to be conservative, it is important to identify which

  • Never lose a sense of where you are, even if following marked routes

  • Direction is important, we should practise and utilise compass skills more.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Making News this Week


It has been a fantastic two weeks for the Team. This run of good news began with the long awaited delivery of our new kit. After long hours at the drawing board and mails backwards and forwards between myself, Pennypinchers and Joe Nesbitt from Second Skins we came up with design for our new kit. It is not as easy as it seems especially trying to make sure that one can get some coverage even when given a ridiculous race bib to wear. Any way it all arrived and not only looks great but is technically very good too.
It was only a day before we got to put the gear to the test. With the Pennypinchers Karoo to Coast Mountain Bike Race scheduled for the weekend Garth made the long trip from East London to take part with Jeff and me. To make the trip worthwhile we decided to throw in a couple more activities and we entered the Goukamma Trail Run on Saturday and took our canoes along so Garth and Jeff could spend some time in a boat before the Eden Duo later this month. Also running in the new kit would be Nic and Brandon our junior entry into the Eden Duo.

My day started badly with somee stomach issues but what a great sight it was see Nicholas heading of up the beach just behind trail running aces John Collins and Rhoan Kennedy. He hung on just off the pace behind these two speedsters. The rest of us followed in a red and black and white line down the beach. We lost sight of the lead trio as they headed into the dunes but Nic finished a very respectable third place and first junior ahead of Brandon.

Nic after his well deseved third place finish . Well Done

With the 16k through the dunes done and dusted we headed on to the beautiful Goukamma lagoon for an hour and half paddle with Jeff and Garth settling into the double quite quickly. After some moans and groans the got a good rhythm going and we headed past Kingfishers and a host of other water birds before coming back and heading into Knysna to pack our bikes and head over The Prince Albert Pass to Union dale for the mountain bike race on Sunday.

Not being registered cyclists and wanting to ride together Jeff, Garth and I lined up in the last batch and were the last people to leave Uniondale when the traditional shotgun blast started our batch. Jeff decided to time trial us through the batch and soon the “red train “and got through the bath as we hit the Ou Wapad which has been fixed and saw about half the people riding up and the other half pushing, although not that much quicker we managed to stay on our bikes and enjoy the technical downhill that followed. Soon after that one gets to the start of the pass and after a short climb a 14 km downhill really gets the adrenaline going (Garth was soon in his element). Unfortunately what goes down must go up and the long climb from De Vlugt saw the gradient and the temperature rise. By the time we reached Bufflesnek Garth and lots of others were feeling the effects of the heat with a bit of cramp. With a few Cramp Blocks and no sympathy from his Team Mates it was another downhill through the forest into Knysna. Pennypinchers Plett owner Sean Gannon finished his first Karoo to Coast despite breaking a spoke, no back brakes and “massive cramps” , “that was the toughest thing I have done” he said to me at the finish.

Happy campers after the Pennypinchers Karoo to Coast

A week later and Natures Valley came alive with the runners and event organizers for the third running of the Otter African Trail Run. The Team has a long standing relationship with the Otter with me taking on the Otter in 2004 illegally with John Collins and then doing many of the route scouts with Magnetic South. Last year saw Jeff and I both compete in the event and the year before Garth ran the Otter and took part in the Southern Storm. Netski has also run the Trail with scouting runs and the Mountain Rescue crew. This weekend Jeannette and I were going to be doing a mid field sweep for the Otter Ramble (the same course but with longer cut off times than the Race on Friday where Ryan Sands blitzed the 42 km in 4hrs 40 mins). Nic had also volunteered his services and joined SANPARKS and Mountain Rescue out on the route.

Sunday morning saw 189 bedraggled runners leaving a wet and rainy Storms River knowing that they had 42 kms of wet slippery paths to contend with. Almost everyone heeded Mark Collins’s advice and took the route slowly and cautiously.
Spending 8hrs 40 on the Trail was great and with very little Mountain Rescue tasks to do Netski and encouraged tired runners along dishing out the odd GU to blown runners and making sure they did not throw in the towel. The route was wet but spectacular with torrents of water everywhere and waterfalls falling off every cliff. Almost all the runners made it to the finish and only 30 odd runners were cut off along the way, a tribute to the organizers and the runners themselves.
This waterfall is normally smelly bit of stagnant water

The beach at Natures Valley always a welcome sight

After having our new Second Skins kit for two weeks now it has all been well tested. The shirts have been put through their paces on two trail runs a paddle and a mountain bike marathon with the whole Team absolutely thrilled. The Trail Running shorts have also been out there with Chris and I both running the Otter in them with no chaffing or creeping. Thanks Joe. What is also great about the newe kit is that the branding is really clear and identifiable.

With two great training weekends under the belt there are just 4 weeks till the Eden Duo and Nic and Brandon are off to Natal to defend their U18 National Adventure Racing title. Good luck boys .