Archive for December 2008
Record entries, ‘easy’ weather and fierce competition made the Cape Point Surfski Challenge a real success. I took the easier doubles option, reuniting with paddling partner Peter Cole, as the last time we paddled this classic race was 15 years ago – 1993, and the scary thing is I don’t feel a year older, time sure flies when you’re having fun. Interestingly Hank McGregor (14yrs old) won the doubles that year with his Dad, Lee.
We made our break from the lead group, paddling through the kelp beds off the SW reefs with 30km to go, eeish. Soon after Smits we caught a wobble, inhaled a Cyto-Gel and another 20 mins later. Once we reached the familiar “Millar’s Run” it felt like it was all down hill from there. What a lekker race. Great to mingle in different circles, catch up with good friends and earn the right to copious amounts of Christmas delights to follow.
There was a titanic battle upfront in the singles between Dawid Mocke & Hank McGregor. Dawid rounded the infamous Cape Point 2min ahead. Hank closed the gap to 1min 40sec by the compulsory yellow buoy. Approaching the lighthouse, Hank took a much deeper line and in his words “I put the hammer down” and clawed his way to the front, to finish over 2min ahead of Dawid. Surprising the other specialist surfskiers, Graeme Solomon claimed third.
In the womens race, it was a two horse battle. Alexa rounded the Point just ahead of Michelle. However Michelle worked a few runs and went into the lead and never looked back, claiming her first Cape Point victory.
Training, racing and Life is going fantastically down in the Valley of a Thousand Hills.
The guys have adapted magnificently into the routine of regular hard training. They have engaged the goal of making the top 50 like a missile locked on the enemy target.
It is highly unlikely that everyone feels good at every training session. The problem is that none of them speak up if they are ‘feeling off’ (stomach bug, injury, over-trained). My biggest hurdle is trying to detect those that are struggling and get them to sit out or take it easy.
Our weekly Wednesday 8km Hi-Tec running time trial saw Eric set a new record. He blended within the pack for 12min, then after running through the tunnel under the dam, surged aggressively into the lead and never looked back.
A friend of mine came along to experience our cross country course. Afterwards, having thoroughly enjoyed the up and down single track around the dam, he remarked “Mart, maybe the guys should think of keeping themselves warm and not splash around in the dam (almost dark)”.
“They’re not playing, they’re bathing themselves as they don’t have any showers etc. at home”, I replied. He stood there watching them, gob smacked. “We don’t realize how good we have it”, he uttered.
Everyday I am humbled by these youngsters, realizing that you don’t need much to be happy.
Then I gave them a lift to Atwel’s (works for Umgeni Water) house 400m down the road to below the dam wall, where I gave them a Christmas food bag of mielie meal, rice, potatoes and onions to take back to their families.
They were so happy to be ‘providers’ for their families for the first time. Then telling them that Spur has offered a free meal to all those that achieve the goal of Top 50 in the Dusi resulted in the biggest smiles. Little do they know that the whole squad is invited irrespective of their results.
I subsequently am in Jhb to catch up with Computershare, give them a report back on the programme and try persuade the CEO and senior executives to join me in the support crew for the ‘change a life’ athletes come Dusi.
Looking forward to paddling doubles with a good friend in the 60km Cape Point Surfski Challenge tomorrow morning at sparrows. I have left the academy in good hands, Lucas is in charge of the ‘change a life guys’ for the next week till I get back on the 28th of Dec.
To those of you that I will not see soon, the Merriest of Christmas’s to You.
This race is a great gauge as to where you are with your Dusi fitness. Sure you can hide by paddling around ‘Hole in the Wall’. But then ‘Guinea Fowl One’ sends your heart rate through the roof, and if that’s not enough then coming out of ‘Devils Cauldron’ surely will. ‘Fingerneck’ portage is a hop & a skip, a perfect place to get the necessary from your seconds, especially if you plan paddling around Cabbage Tree.
The race started with ¾’s of A batch galloping across the bridge to run the 2km ‘Hole in the Wall’. Amongst them was Nhlanhla who was in for a surprise when he was to put in to paddle as he had grabbed Tom’s boat by mistake. The ‘change a life’ boats all look the same except the guys have their names on the side. Shaun Rubinstein (sprained his ankle on Saddles portage whilst tripping yesterday), Deon Bruss and Nic Stubbs were the top guns that started on the water. Ant Stott and Michael Mbanjwa were absent. Ant sticking to his winning training formula from last year and Bungi having gone to Jhb to fulfill sponsor obligations.
Leading the pack out of Devil’s Cauldron was Andrew Birkett, followed by Shane Price, and ‘change a life’ athlete Lucas Mthalane. Nkosi caught up three places on the run down Geoff’s Road to put in fourth.
The Dusi was running at a very comfortable 10 cumecs, not as high as a ‘normal’ Dusi, but a perfect level to fine tune the skills and make it an honest 28km day. Birkett extended his lead to two minutes at Mission rapid. It was here that Shane Price made a meal of the bottom drop and had to swiftly evacuate his boat which washed across the river. Split timing saw Nkosi paddle past, as Shane moved his boat out the way. Richard Cele came storming through the field like a runaway train in the second half of the race.
It was quite something seconding my guys. I felt extremely proud of how well they were doing. Knowing they were giving it their all. Having been there, I could respect their efforts trying to run over Cabbage Tree. So when any of them come short through breaking their canoe, twisting an ankle etc… I really feel for the individual. Such was the case re. Nhlanhla (20th in 50 Miler). He ‘semi dislocated’ his shoulder badly enough that he couldn’t continue paddling, this happened just before the Guinea Fowl takeout. Hope it’s not too serious.
The performance of the day must go to Eric Zondi. I never gave him any support along the way as he started too far behind, in G batch. However he finished an incredible 8th overall.
Birkett maintained his lead to claim line hours. Nkosi closed the gap to finish 1min 44sec behind in second place, with Lucas in third.
Abbey Miedema finished 19th, with Abie Adie almost 12 min behind in 45th position. Robyn Kime called it a day at Mission, feeling tired from a hard weeks training. With his impeccable river knowledge, the Pope raced to finish in an incredible 42nd position. Rubi cruised across the line 81st, not wanting to miss an opportunity of good water in the river, instead of sitting out and resting the ankle.
‘Change a Life’ Results:
2 – Nkosi (1st under 21)
3 – Lucas
6 – Richard (2nd under 21)
8 – Eric (3rd under 21)
17 – Tom
30 – Kwanda
36 – Mmeli (1st under 16)
57 – Mzamo (2nd under 16)
Thomas – sprained ankle in training
Zonele - feeling off
Nhlanhla – injured during race
Aah, Cabbage Tree – to run or to paddle? Now that is the question. For sure it is quicker if you can run.
Consider the following for the not so confident runner….
Run Pine Tree portage, put in at Campbells Bridge so you paddle ‘Hole in the Wall’.
Run Guinea Fowl (because you have to)
Run Finger Neck (because you have to)
Then have option of running or paddling Cabbage Tree, see how you feeling.
If you run ‘Hole in the Wall’ at the end of the Campbells portage, it could take too much out of you too soon in the race. I suggest rather save yourself for the option of Cabbage Tree near the end of the race.
Dash & Crash Results
K1: 1st Michael Mbanjwa, 2nd Nick Stubbs, 3rd Mark Mulder
K2: 1st Michael Arthur/Nick Stubbs, 2nd Andrew Birkitt/ Nhlanhla Cele, 3rd Gavin Tarr/Jason Graham
The Wasp Nite Race took place yesterday evening in drizzle wintery conditions. Consisting of 4 big laps on the Drift, with three slip & slide floodlit muddy 200m portages. There is always a frenetic panic at the take out and put in of the portages, great entertainment for spectating.
The mens podium positions were already signed and sealed 10 min after the start when Shaun Rubinstein, Michael Arthur and Mark Mulder made a clear break. Bungi took himself out of the equation when he forgot to tighten the little screw that locks onto the cable on the rudder wheel whilst replacing his rudder cable yesterday. This resulted in him having no steering until he managed to get a screw driver and ‘Mc Giver the problem. Surprisingly coming to the end sprint Mike kicked, Rubi could not respond and so King Arthur reigned supreme. Rubi said afterwards that his seat came loose.
Further back, Bungi led the ‘change a life’ second bunch of Nkosi (5th), Eric (6th) & Tom (7th) across the line. A few positions later, Lucas edged ahead of Nhlanhla. Unlike Zonele (13th at 50 Miler), he finished amongst the girls, and said he felt flat,flat, flat. Abie Adie showed superb form winning the girls, closely followed by Robyn Kime.
My evening highlight was watching the kiddies/guppy 400m race which took place during the main event. Some of the guys were seriously little, but fearless. Multiple Dusi gold medalist, Jabu Leslie’s little boy was priceless. Every stroke, he caught a wobble, we held our breath, he recovered. Would he make it? He soldiered on. Unfortunately he tipped over near the turn boy, so floundered his way back to shore where his Mum was waiting with a big warm towel.
Next up is the Dash & Crash K1 & K2.
The perfect weather for racing, cool with a slight drizzle, but quite miserable for the seconds. Batches of 40 paddlers (20 boats on either side of the river with their tails touching the bank) must negotiate a few tricky drops and then arrange themselves in single file to get through the final drop in Mission proper. All this in the first 300m of the race makes for the most dramatic start ever in any canoe race in SA.
The feared Fingerneck Rapid caused havoc amongst most paddlers, fortunately the ‘change of life’ guys had no problems (except for Thomas), using the chicken run sneak down the right hand side which we had practiced the day before. Nkosi had a cracker start, bumping shoulders with the big boys. I caught him whilst paddling around Cabbage Tree, and we continued together for the next hour until the 2nd Saddles Portage. He sliced diagonally across Bell Rapid in perfect text book fashion like a hot knife through butter. His fine form continued into day two finishing 10th
Finger Neck Rapid
I took my time on the Saddles Portage, waiting for Zonele and John to catch up. We paddled the Confluence Rapids together. Zonele shot Washing Machine like a pro.
When we put in at Gauging Weir, having climbed out on the right concrete finger, I looked left just in time to see Len Jenkins paddling over the weir. He entertained us for a good 15 seconds keeping himself and boat upright whilst stuck in the ‘suck back’ current at the bottom. Eventually he separated from his boat and had to swim to the side. With a few kilometers to go, John broke his right hand paddle blade, so finished a couple of minutes behind us.
Nhlanhla had a clean race both days, finishing 20th overall, 4 minutes behind us (Zonele & I), having passed John. Tom had a brilliant paddle considering he started in B batch, carving through the field on his own. Lucas came in next, very happy with his lines but said there was just no power in his arms. He has been pushing hard during training the entire week and as a result is fatigued. He is one of my top 20 hopefuls for Dusi. Will make sure he tapers well before Dusi.
50 Miler Day 1 finish
Kwanda (35th overall) has been the find of the group. His improvement in fitness has made the exponential curve almost vertical and his positive attitude and enthusiasm makes him a pleasure to have around. Richard struggled on Day 1, the nose of his boat drawn like a magnet to all underlying rocks. However on Day 2, he paddled like a man possessed, making up 9 places to finish 37th overall.
Thomas, (also a top 20 hopeful) had the most disappointing race of all. Swimming down Finger Neck Rapid he severely injured his right arm and wasn’t able to put power into his right blade from there on, so finishing 62nd overall. Mkhonzeni and Skhumbuzo were the back markers in my group, struggling to negotiate the rapids not having been on any river scouting trips. River knowledge is everything. To be competitive swimming cannot be part of your race strategy.
Up front was an Ant Stott and Shaun Rubenstein duel. Ant finished just ahead of Rubi on Day 1. But showed why he is considered one of the best river paddlers in the country when he blasted further ahead on Day 2 to win by almost 7minutes. Michael Mbanjwa made a great comeback finishing 3rd (5th on Day 1).
In the girls race Abbey Miedema, relinquished her lead to Robyn Kime an hour into the race when someone broad-sided in front of her causing her to swim, half wrapping her boat in the process. On Day 2 Abbey reclaimed her lead going up Ngumeni portage also winning by 7 minutes coming 39th overall. Robyn lost a couple of minutes breaking her paddle at the new dam weir/causeway, but managed to get a replacement soon after.
The Dusi goal of getting 10 ‘Change a Life’ paddlers in the top 50 still stands. The guys raced fantastically and impressed all with the result of 8 in the top 50, ‘close but no cigar’. Our training workload will increase the next three weeks, hopefully taking the guys to the next level.
From left – Zonele, Kwanda, Nhlanhla, Richard, Nkosi, Tom, Mkhonzeni, Martin, Lucas, Thomas, Skhumbuzo.
Been waking up the last couple of mornings thinking I ‘m in Cape Town and its winter. Whats with this pathetic drizzle smizzle, get rid of the fellow doing a horrid imitation of the rain dance and lets get the real thing. A couple of A-grade JHB highveld thunderstorms is all we are asking for.
Mind you, this is perfect weather to train in. The coolness aids in the recovery process, not sweating profusely during training, draining the body. Nkosi, Tom and Eric are stoked to have finished writing matric exams, nervous for the results but chuffed now not to have to miss training.
There was no racing this weekend, so the guys did a productive paddle/run session at Nagle Dam. We were honoured to have the ‘Pope’ join us. It boggles my mind to think that Graeme is taking on his 45th consecutive Dusi, absolutely phenomenal.
I feel the success of the Academy is going to be determined by the guys river skills, not their fitness levels which are improving exponentially. If there is no rain soon, we will do some of our training runs along the Dusi River where I can point out the various rapids etc…
[Clubhouse/boat storage] [Organised Chaos]
Their clubhouse(non existent)/boat storage is an all in one setup. They use a 48 foot container, where all the boats used to be piled on top of each other – organised chaos. I couldn’t imagine adding my ten new boats to the hornets nest. With that, Lance Chapman (Tegs Timber in Maritzburg ) kindly donated 50 metres of wood with which we built a rack system to store the canoes. Much appreciated, thank you.
[Rear rack complete]
[building front rack]
[back and front rack completed]
Weekend approaching is the 50 Miler. Day 1 starts below Maze, ends below Marianney-Foley. Day 2 continues from there to the Inanda Dam (Msinsi) overnite stop. With the Henley Dam release this should not be missed by any Dusi wannabe.