Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Double Moon 250km Adventure Race

With the Teams main focus for the first part of 2012 being the Expedition Africa 500km Adventure Race in the Eastern Cape In May it was an obvious decision to enter the 250km Double Moon Race organized by the same people as the 500km event .(Stephan and Heidi Muller of Kinetic Gear). With 9 weeks before the longer event we would be able to see exactly where we needed to adapt our training and preparation as well as race together as Team.

The race venue was the Vanderkloof Dam which is on the border of the Orange Free State and the Northern Cape about 140 km North of Colesburg. After a long trip we arrived at the Vanderkloof Oord and while Jeff and Garth dropped our bikes a further 35km North Netski and I unpacked the gear boxes and Netski made two loaves worth of sandwiches. Garth and Jeff arrived back just in time for the race briefing which was pleasantly short and with only one instruction that were not allowed to climb over any game fences and that the start would be at seven the next morning which would then allow the paddle leg on the Orange River to coincide with a water release from the dam. As usual time ran away from us and with the maps done we got to bed at about 11:45. With everything organized the night before we were able to lie in in our tents until 6:00am. A quick bowl of Future Life and a sandwich before we handed in our boxes, paddles and paddle bags saw all the Teams toeing the start line just before seven o clock for the start.

Leg 1 (10km run orienteering)

This is a 10km orienteering leg with 10 check points around the village of Vanderkloof. We were given a Google Map of the area with the points already marked on it 10 minutes before the start. After the field split up with what appeared to be a big group following Red Ants and then us, Exhale and Castle Lite heading off in our own directions. Five minutes later we all arrived at the Main Gate to the Oord (resort) together and immediately realized we were at the wrong gate. We split up again and it took about 20 minutes to find the right gate. By this stage we were at the back of the field!!! With that first error out of the way we got the feel of the area and quickly got the rest of the points and headed down to the Orange River which was pumping through the 4 Hydro electric turbines below the dam.

Leg 2 28km Paddle) 

With Netski forcing the pace at the transition we got on the water and headed down stream towards transition 2. On the way down the river there were a couple of small rapids and then we over took the water release and the river became shallow and slow moving. Here choosing the correct lines became important and we started catching the teams in front of us as we wound our way from one side of the river to the next. Castle Light caught up to us here and half an hour of bantering on the river got us to the transition together in second place behind Red Ants. The transition was stocked by the organizers with cold water and one of the local farmers wives had set up shop with sandwiches and cold drinks. Cokes and Fantas for us and soon we were crossing the river and filling our shoes up with the mud and gravel from the river bed.

Leg 3 (30km hike)

After a quick stop at a farm workers house where we washed our feet and socks we came out of the 3m tall maize and spotted Bleskop the top of which would be the first checkpoint on this hot leg. The three teams behind us had pushed hard to catch up and had all done so by the time we got to the checkpoint at the trig beacon on top of the hill. From here we all headed of the hill in our own direction even though we were all headed to the same next check point. Each navigator has his/her own interpretation of how to get there. My route for the next 30km was chosen to get a balance between the shortest route and one where we could refill our water bottles because the temperature was now well into the 40 degrees range. Our first refuel came from a farm shed only 40m of the route and then we followed an irrigation canal for the next few kms and eventually the temptation to get in was to great and we all jumped in and floated down stream to cool off making sure we helped each other out before we got to a bridge or pump. Team Exhale was constantly in and out of view to our left but the other two teams including Castle Light had fallen back. We passed Ostriches, Wildebeest, Springbok and Sheep a plenty on this leg. The second last check point of the leg was a farm workers cottage just out of sight and away from the other buildings and with not another person in sight  we may have missed it if the lonely inhabitant had not come to the crest of the rise to see what all the noise was about. From here with the sun really beating down we climbed another hill for the last check point and made a bee line for the first shop in Luck Hoff where the next transition was. Cold drinks in hand we headed into the transition promising ourselves 20min before we set off on the 150km cycling leg. The Community Hall in Luck Hoff found Stephan and Heidi with a transition area set up as if it were or their own team cold water, Juice, coffee all on hand to make sure that everyone could refuel in comfort before heading out.

Red Ants were now an hour ahead and flying on the bike so we went flying after them!
Sunset on at the end of the hike (still over 30 degrees C)

Leg 4 (Mountain bike 150 km)

As we rode out of town it was dark and Garth and I got to show off our new AY UP lights. What a great buy they were lasting all night. Flying after the Red Ants hanging onto Jeff’s slipstream turned out to be a school boy error and after 25km we ground to a halt as Jeff relived his dinner and some. We had decided to take the straight line to the next check point and headed onto the farm roads. Leaving the fast district roads turned out to be the wrong choice but may have given Jeff more time to recover from his Jan Ulrich haul up the road. We got to the furthest check point of the leg and turned and started heading back to the Orange River. The road was flat and on the map we crossed contours every now and again. During this time Exhale passed us and we had no answer for their speed but because it was so flat we could see it was a burst to get past as they remained in sight for a long time. Just before dawn we passed them curled up sleeping on the side of the road. Jeff nearly rode into the ditch as he stared with envy at the four curled up bodies. He had been asking for a cat nap for 4 hours but the team was not obliging. Sun rise saw us riding again with Exhale who had jumped off the ground as we came past and joined us for the final 20km back to the Orange River. Having been racing for 24 hours and coming into a transition with a team with only 2 legs left adds pressure to the race so once again Netski whipped us through the transition and back across the orange River for the final time.

Leg 5 (16km Trek)

There was no time to clean shoes this time after the river crossing and the blisters would only worry us on the way home so we broke into a shuffle as soon as we crossed the river. Here some conservative navigating paid off using the canal and power lines as hand rails we got the first check point and seemed to have dropped Exhale in the process. The next check point found us underneath a water canal in a stream bed (an interesting place to be).We decided to follow the stream bed to stay out of the sun and also the thick vegetation for a while. This worked well until we came out on the flat scrubby area and could see the saddle which would take us to the last checkpoint of the leg. The last check point was a reservoir which we all hoped would be full of water but it was bone dry. Any way only 5km to the dam where our Fluid Kayaks would be waiting for us for a paddle and an abseil and then a short paddle to the finish.

Leg 6 (14 km paddle and abseil)

A quick drink and two Gus into my life Jacket pocket was all that was allowed at this transition and we were of onto the water again. After about 20 min we saw Red Ants heading back towards the finish and we could see no teams behind. Second place was ours so we splashed water and headed to the abseil in high spirits. The cool water of the dam was refreshing and we gulped it like cool drink. The abseil was in an awesome place with a clear view into the green waters below. Jeff said this was a real highlight for him as he slowly over comes his fear of heights. After a good cool off in the water it was back on the boats and we headed for home passing Exhale on the way. Back on dry, hot land again we were met by Heidi and put in the four finisher’s chairs with a cup of Bubbly and a chance to relax at last. Jeff nodded off in about 3 minutes and had to woken to take a couple of pictures.

The rest of the day was spent rehydrating and eating and sleeping in the shade of the trees as the rest of the teams came in. A braai at the campsite that evening was a great time to share war stories and meet other teams. The last team crossed the line at 4:30am on Sunday morning and despite them waking me up it was really fantastic to hear the sense of joy and achievement in the voices of people who not only had a Double Moon race but also a Double Sun race as well.

Netski's tips from racing all day in 40 degree heat “ drinking lots of water and using all the different flavors GU gels to make sure you get enough fluids and carbs because eating is very difficult in the heat.

Jeff’s hot weather tips “go at your own pace and protect yourself against sunburn (cap with flap and long sleeves)

Garths hot tip- “cover your legs in sun cream before a paddle leg as they are fully exposed to the sun (especially if you farm pineapples and wear longs to work every day and Blue Steel is the best anti chaffe by FAR

Lettuce’s warm weather tips use the GU electrolyte Fizzy tabs in all your drinks to keep cramps at bay and rather take a longer route to keep your water bottles full”

Thanks to Kinetic Gear for a great race and we look forward to Expedition Africa in 8 weeks time

Final results

1)      Team Red Ants

2)      Pennypinchers AR Team

3)      Team Exhale