50 MILER

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Good rains a few days before the race filled the Dusi allowing us to scout the river, thankfully, as we had only managed one day in the last two months due to the lack of water. The guys’ confidence and skill improved as they were able to successfully negotiate rapids that previously got the better of them.

50 MILER

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.

                                                                                                                           Gauging Weir

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.

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2 Responses to “50 MILER”

  • Steve Harding:

    Marti, my dad always told me that you can’t just take from sport (and life) you have to give back some time, I am so impressed by what you are doing to give back. I will be in KZN from next week for a week or two, so if you need a driver/second to transport your guys and lend a hand for a day or two it would be my absolute pleasure, I trust your mobile number is still the same, otherwise email me.
    … finally good luck to you and your guys.
    Steve

  • cedric:

    Hi Mart,

    Well done to you and your guys. Exceptional performances at 50 Miler! Good luck with the training in the build up to Duzi!

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