Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Salomon Sky Run Story

The Lady Grey Country Club has two influxes of people during the year . One the Wartrail Multisporters in March and then the runners for Sky Run in November. We visit on both occasions but prefer the laid back and smaller filed of the Adventure Racing crowd in March.

Before we could even register we had to under a a quick medical check. Blood pressure,heart rate and wieght. Having spent the whole day in eating in the car and just arrived in to a hall full of people and the excitement of the race hardly made for great healthy results. In fact the fear of God was put in to Petrus with his blood pressure sky high ( by the time he reached Balloch the next day it was way down ).

As always a great pasta meal was provided and the race briefing revealed a huge part of the field were novices. (Adrian Saffy organiser and sweep was in for a long day). Our little group hit the sack and tried to sleep thrugh the noise of a local party and a new kid on the drag rtacing scene. 2:25 am came all to soon and the ritual forcing of a breakfast and some water began .

After a few words of wisdom and caution from the organiser,Adrian Saffy, the race was on. Unlike the casual jog of the Wartrail out of Lady Grey, the front Sky runners (racing snakes) took off like they were doing the 100m sprint!!!
After 40 min the headlights were already off and one knew at this stage it was going to be a hot day with the sweat dripping from ones body. After 1hr 40min myself (Garth), Lettuce, Jeff and Petrus had reached the Tower CP1. At this stage the field was staggered and groups already formed.
From the Tower, past CP2(Olympus) and on to CP3(Snowden) was all about getting into a steady rhythm and doing a little base work to open a gap and push.
With water been Scarce and a steady berg wind the natural river spring just after Snowden was a stop for all. Fuel up,and splash those faces before moving on again for the climb up to Avoca. All the way one needs to remember to turn those heads and take in those spectacular views we so often forget about when racing.
Once at Avoca (CP4) and a 5min stop to refuel again properly and appreciate the country side again we were off. Off to Skiddaw via the Dragons Back. By this stage the North wind was howling so crossing the Dragons Back was hair raising for some allowing us(Garth, Lettuce, Jeff and Petrus) to pass a large group taking a more conservative route and not going straight over the Dragons Back. (How could one not go over the Dragons Back. One of the main highlights of the race!!!).
Shortly after passing through Skiddaw(CP5) we lost Jeff to not feeling so well and decided to push on and wait at Balloch. All that was left before reaching Balloch was that horrid knee crunching, ankle twisting downhill that went on for ever before reaching the path in the valley below and meandering all the way in to the picturesque Ballock(CP6). Here we were met by our organised family and friends being our seconds.(What would we do without them) We were immediately given a kit check and herded in like cattle to the medics for a clearance to keep going. There after downing a red bull from the sponsors and plonking our backsides on chairs for a well deserved breather.

Lettuce was given strict instructions to drink rehydrate by the medics to carry on(He does sweat like a muel!!) and Jeff who came in 30min after us was failed and forced to rest until further inspections by the medics. After 8hrs sleep and 5 medical inspections, unfortunately Jeff was not permitted to carry on.


At about 4;50pm we decided it was time to get going as Balloch Wall ( a sheer 400m climb up and over a 3 meter wide saddle and down the other side) lay ahead of us and doing this section in the dark would not be pleasant. Balloch wall – Straight up and Straight down. Little off sides I thought, but a lot more humorous once down the otherside having passed a few competitors and a couple Emus ( yip thats what I said) From here on to Edgehill it was pretty straight forward following the gravel road.

From Edgehill to Bridal Way Path was where all the fun and games started again. Bridal Way Path was nothing compared to the approach to Bridal Way Path. This seemed to be forgotten about and I don’t know why. Good for us though because after grouping with a couple people at Edgehill, we seemed to make good work at dropping them on this climb. Then after coming out the top of the pass some bright spark said it was only 7km to the turn around. Not knowing this section of the route I soon realised that after 2hrs and not yet at the turn around the bright spark wasn’t to bright with there distances after all.

The Turn Around (CP8) was a life saver. We arrived at 00h00. Up until 23h00 there were berg winds blowing and heat was a issue. From 23h00 onwards the weather made a turn from Hot to Freezing. At the turn around the tea, coffee, rusks, sandwiches, soup, red bulls, blankets and willing people just wanting to help and make us comfortable was most welcomed. Leaving that warm loving environment was a tough one which had to be done quickly to avoid losing to much body heat and getting to comfy. At this point we seemed to bunny hop a few more contestants sleeping and recovering. The course had taken it’s toll on them.....!!

Here is what Sky Run novice Petrus Maree had to say about the last strech home" The night got freezing cold and when we reached the Turn at around 12 for a tea stop I had to put on all 4 layers and 2 buffs. Our pace from there was "hiking on steroids" and trying to keep the pace constant and focus on the GPS and path in front of you, ankles were fragile and I was tired. We could see Checkpoint 9 on top of the mountain, it was hard few km's to get there with lots of crazy climbing but that was the last checkpoint so I was super excited"

The final CP(Halstone) was the last climb of the day with shear 100m drop offs literally a meter from us. Climbing was one thing but descending it was another. We opted for the faster less safe shear downhill route. By this stage it was time to get this thing finished with as soon as possible.

Petrus again "The view of the Salomon blow up arch was PRICELESS! 25h19 mins I am stoked! Lettuce, Garth, Jeffrey, you guys rock, thanks for the experience and guiding, learning from the best! Will I do it again next year...hell yes!

We strolled into the finish just after 05h00 Sun morning to a surprising 18th, 19th and 20th .


What an event!! Well done Pennypinchers!!

Thanks Adrian and Mike of Pure Adventures,

Big thanks to Matty,Tammy,Lynne and David for seconding,

the Bloem 4x4 club for being up on the mountain for us

and Jeffery for driving us back...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Eden Duo 2011 - A race report

Leg 1- Paddle from Ebb and Flow to Wilderness Beach on the Touws River

The long wait between packing,briefing and the start was finally over and after a quick prayer by Jan Hennop (race director) we ran down to our K2 and hit the water for the first paddle. Voit and I were second behind the Merrel Relay Team and more than comfortable as we hit the beach and headed into the Kaaimans Kloof. Brandon and Nick didn't start well, with an embarassing capsize as they entered the river, they entered T1 with Jeff and Garth.

Leg 2 - Kloof from Wilderness to Saasveld

Garth enjoyed this leg the most and said if it was just for this leg alone it would have been worth the 600km from East London. Jeff and Garth came into the kloof not far behind the lead pack which consisited of Voit and Lettuce and the juniors and two Merrel relay teams. We swapped positions up the kloof until the juniors put the hammer down leaving a trail of blood on the rocks for the rest of us to follow where Brandon had fallen. Jeff also missed his footing in the kloof leaving him short of puff when they hit the bike.

Leg 3 - MTB from MNNU Saarsveld to Herold Wines
Coming out of the Kloof in first place, Brandon and I, made a hasty transition, which was hampered by forgetting the clip card as we were about to check out. Recovering from this embarrassment ungracefully, we sped out of the transition, at the same time as the first of the relay teams were arriving. For Brandon, having injured his knee upon the kloof leg, this was an opportunity to recover.
Wending our way through a small sampling of the single tracks around Saarsveld, we clipped CP1 and then emerged onto forestry roads, which led us to a hiking trail, which was in my opinion unrideable. As if just to disprove this point, Brandon cruised over most of the obstacles. At this point, the first relay team caught us, and as ours was not their race, we didn't try to stay with them. The route took us past an extra-ordinarily large amount of cyclists and a number of dog walkers. The dogs stared at us as we went past with beady eyes and were remarkably well behaved.
The hiking trail emerged onto the now defunct railway and the promise of terrain far more traversable. Picking up speed here, we were able to reach the devilish Montague Pass in good time. The pass's steep gradient presented Brandon and I with a challenge. I, mostly due to a lack of cycling experience and Brandon due to the racing bike he was using, which only had two blades on the front gearing system and thus presented no granny gears, meaning that he ground it out, till the top of the pass. The view, has to be mentioned, if only because it is compulsory on such a devastating climb; the view, was splendid and made more splendid by the fact that down below, many would have to ascend this @#%&!@#$ of a hill. In transition, we grabbed all the necessities, I took reams of cramp block and we went to confront the mystical ou tannie, the gate-keeper to The Outeniqua Mountains. Barely passing muster, with our minimalistic kit, we set out for the hike. Voit and I hit this leg feeling good and I thought that I would catch up on the bit of energy I had used in the last bit of running from the kloof to Saasveld. Instead my legs deserted me and must have spent the rest of the day in a cold pool in the kloof because from then on I struggled on the bike and on foot. Jeff picked up two punctures on the ride and was starting to have a testing day.

Ed: The boys headed on untouched ,mixing it up with the relay teams.

Leg 4 Hike Nick Fence Hopping on the way down to Saasveld photo J Marais

Leg 4 Herold to Saasveld hike/run 25km

This is the one leg that has been the same in all of the Eden Duo Races and it is really the start of the race proper. This is where fatigue kicks in and one starts feeling the pace from earlier in the day.The route follows an awesome path in a series of switch backs in a kloof deep in the shadows of Cradock Peak. on climbs nearly 300 vertical meters in a space of a kilometer to get out of the kloof to a sadle that gives one a spectacular view of George.The water at the bottom of the kloof is cold and the only guaranteed water untill you reach Saasveld. This leg went slowly for me as a battled the "cramp monster" but there was no letting up of Voits inthusiasim and before long we hit the transition for what should be an easy bike leg. Garth and Jeff hit the hike in good spirits but Jeff toiled a bit and Garth soon had his back pack and used his experience to get them through what was a tough leg.

Leg 5 Greonewiede to Hoogekraal Bike 35km

It was nearly "tea time " in the civilised world but not at the Eden Duo- a quick change of shoes and we were on our bikes. The juniors now had a big lead and were doing us proud. Voit and I were hanging onto second place . We both were really ready to get to the end of this leg to get in a canoe and give the legs a break. The ride was fine but we did get passed by two "cycling strong" teams. One got lost and the other we passed again with 2 minutes in our canoe (justice?).

 Jeff 's woes continued as he decide to try and ride his 29er over two Boerbulls. He felt he had a good chance at 40km and hour but the dogs won and Jeff hit the tarmac hard.

Leg 6 Hoogekraal to Gerrikes Paddle 15km

A great leg for all the Pennys Teams despite the incoming tide. Voit and I arrived at the Sedgefield Caravan park all to soon and had to have a quick transition to make the most of the last hour and half of day light. Erez and Incha our trusty seconds were there as always along with a host of other locals including my partner from last year Rhona and her husband Jan, Mike from Knysna Pennys, Hien and Susie who seem to be everywhere. Thank you all for the support and words of encouragement. It defiantly got me on my feet and out of the transition .

Leg 6 - Beach Run (An ordeal)
Ed: Nic's account below shows what an ordeal a 21 km run on the beach at high tide can be. Jeff and Garth got there a bit latter but still had to slog it out. Voit and I pulled back nearly an hour on the juniors on this leg but it was too little too late.

This was in our minds the last barrier to succeeding. To us this was the deal breaker. We'd heard the same thing over the course of the race from our wonderful seconds; that the rest of the field reckoned that due to the blistering (literally for me) pace we'd set at the beginning of the race and our (as youths) developing endurance, we'd burn out in the later half of the race. Our doubters were more than half right...
Injuries sustained at the start of the race, had plagued Brandon and had worn him down, and it was with a supremely brave face that he began the stage. In a change from previous years, we were able to cross a significant stretch of the onerous beach before dark, which was fortunate, as the tide over the rocky sections of the beach was not working with us.Until about halfway, we were able to sustain an acceptable pace but coinciding with night, we slowed down to a shuffle. The malicious streetlamps in Wilderness, our destination, then turned on, as if to mark the occasion. To anyone not acquainted with these lights, know that the reason they are so curséd (with an extra éd) is because they are psychologically damaging. These lamps torment you with their nearness and then laugh when you realise that there is still many clicks to go till the end of the line. What made the run this year especially tense, was the lack of any lights behind us. We couldn't see any approaching teams, and so couldn't moderate our pace. Three-quarters of the way through, we lost much of our hope of a victory, after all we couldn't have had that much of a buffer from the last transition could we?
Shuffling onward, there was still no teams emerging from the dark behind us and so we allowed hope to rise again. Passing groups fishing, playing and walking was quite refreshing, as it indicated that we were nearing the end of our race. We got a massive wake-up call when lights suddenly came bobbing up behind us. Brandon steeled himself for one last effort and we rushed towards the Wilderness bridge and the start of the paddle, with another team hot on our heels. Hopping into our boats, we believed that it would require a supreme effort in the paddle to claim an overall win. It turned out to be the third relay team (but we surprisingly topped them on the paddle anyway), claiming first place

It was a great weekend for the Team to go and fill the top two places in an event that saw athletes come in from all round the country.

Our new kit worked really well in its first real endurance test. Voit and I wore our Second Skins running shorts and the short sleeve shirts from start to finish. The others chopped and changed a bit but what was great is that the branding stands out really well .