Archive for June 2009

‘Change a life’ guys step it up….

Having based myself in KZN, it seems Durban/Maritzburg residents live in cotton wool as far as the winter blues go. The storms that recently ravaged the Cape resulted in a mere 10min faint drizzle yesterday, thats all that came of it. Training through winter, this is the place to set up camp.

Blue smoke continues to spiral upwards from the surrounding countryside of Maritzburg, as locals set fire to the parched grasslands. “Why burn….?” chatting to the local herdsman in the Nagle Dam vicinity, reasons range from flushing out buck for hunting, creating fresh grass shoots, to reducing tick.

The ‘Change a life’ guy’s excitement escalates as the number of days decrease to the first Jeep Msinsi Multisport race on the 19th of July at Albert Falls Dam. Yesterday’s weekly Multisport dress rehearsal (8km run, 16km mtb and 10km paddle) saw records tumble as Eric (9th-Dusi) went under the 2hr barrier, blitzing the course in a new record of 1hr56.50sec. Thomas (15th-Dusi) gallantly shadowed his 2010 Dusi K2 partner, hanging on for dear life in the bike & boat slipstream, finishing 4 sec behind upon crossing the finish. Its quite the spectacle, witnessing 10 young athletes charging voluntarily around Nagle Dam, on a mission to better their previous weeks time. “For what”, I ask.

Pure and simple, to improve their lives. And by that I don’t mean get fitter, but more importantly get ‘ahead of the curve’ in the poverty stricken Valley of a Thousand Hills. For them, remaining on the ‘Change a life’ program is crucial, a stepping stone to a better life. Weekly food parcels to feed their families is part of it. Thomas and Mkhonzeni have got work at the Parklane Spar and soon, Eric will begin his drivers license.

Lucas (10th – dusi) raced the K1 in SA Champs Marathon on the Keurbooms River-Plettenberg Bay on the weekend, placing in the top ten. Mmeli (1st under 16 in Dusi) and Sboniso raced to silver medals in the under 16 category.

The “friendly neighbour” popped in unwelcomed and my Laptop, camera and Gps went on a walkabout, so my apologies for lack of content over the last week.

86KM DUSI TRAIL RUN

 

Beep, Beep – my alarm went off at 1:30am. Half an hour later, with a belly full of porridge and a cooler box filled with ‘race food & drink, I sped off to collect Thomas Ngidi (15th in Dusi) and Eric Zondi (9th in Dusi).

These two brave ‘Change a life’ athletes were going to do battle in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, taking on the inaugural Dusi Trail Run, starting at Mango Rapid (40min from the end of Day 3 of the Dusi Canoe Marathon) and finishing 86km upstream at Bishopstowe Hall (situated at the top of the infamous Campbells Portage, Day 1). The entire journey we chatted race tactics and route choice, stopping briefly en route to buy Thomas his usual Lemon Twist cooldrink (zero comment from me, I thought no point changing a winning formula).

At 4:30am they waded across a low Dusi, shoes in hand, to the start line on the opposite bank. A few minutes later their headtorches were fading into the darkness, as runners weaved their way along a track on the right hand side of the river, facing upstream.

“Lucky guys, what an adventure they’re gonna have” I said to myself.

I drove via the Virgin Active in Kloof, to hit a quick 45min gym session whilst it was still dark. Knowing the action going on in the Valley, I trapsed around this artificial ‘workout shop’, like a bear with a sore tooth.

 

The checkpoint Marshal at Molweni informed me that the group was still tightly bunched when they ran over the causeway. They continued past ‘Little John’ rapid, then along the left side (facing upstream) of Inanda Dam, across the bridge to Mbetje Store. At this point the ‘Change a life’ duo had a 4min lead on the chasing pair of Andrew Barnes and Dave, an Australian triathlete.

Spirits high, they tackled the sandy Jeep track alongside the river to Mfula Store, extending their lead to 9min. They ran/walked the taxing 4km uphill to the top of Ngumeni, then contoured a few kilometers before dropping down to cross the Marianney-Foley low level bridge over the Dusi. They were so happy to see their good friend and ‘Change a life’ coach Lucas manning the checkpoint here. Smiles soon disappeared when he directed them right, to the almost vertical pipe-track, undoubtly the steepest gradient of the day. Thereafter they made their way down to the take-out of the Marianney-Foley Non-Stop Dusi portage, continuing upstream on the left bank, past the notorious Bells Rapid, 1st Saddles takeout, crossing the river to run the reverse of the Yellow Rock Non Stop portage. Their fan club cheered loudly as they ran past the store at the top of the hill. Lead now was 17min, but at what price. Eric’s shoulders were hunched up and he had a permanent grimace on his face. Thomas was quiet now but shuffling along smoothly, focussing on every step. Both were fighting their own demons to switch off the pain, digging deep to continue forward motion. I was doing my best to ensure they were consuming enough calories and taking in sufficient fluids. Eric’s furtherest run todate was 22km. It was almost a certainty that his ‘wheels’ would come off, but when? Thomas had the 60km WarTrail Mnt run in muscle memory. 

I lost track of them on the Cabbage Tree portage when they suddenly disappeaared off the road. I waited at the Dusi take-out and eventually saw them contouring through the bush – trying to be too sneaky to avoid the hill cost them 6 valuable minutes. Realising their mistake, signs of panic set in, they constantly looked over their shoulders for the chasers. This is where experience counts for everything – thinking clearly in adverse situations, not so easy when you’ve been exerting yourself for 8+ hours. I reassured them the other guys are hurting as much and because they are still out of sight, they don’t know about their mistake and so won’t get renewed energy to chase harder. Steady wins the game was the order of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their lead was now 11 min as they veered right off the road at Mission bridge, heading upstream on the single track past Maze rapid. Bungi arrived on the scene to give a much needed boost to their morale. At Broken Bridge, 75km into the race, both refused the liquid or grub on offer. Knowing this loss of appetite is a natural response to continued extreme exertion, I encouraged then to at least drink water – help purge the system. Watching them ‘zig zag’ out of my bush transition had me worried that maybe the ‘wheels’ were about to come off. Lead – 9min

Watching them bravely take-on Geoff’s Road, their pace equivalent to a brisk walk, the chasers were almost in sight. Its time to strike the fear of losing into their thoughts. Get the adrenalin kicking in. “They are catching. Come boys, you can do it, 8km to go. Think how sweet it will be to cross the finish line first. Its up to you now. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Pain is weakness leaving the body. Come now, YOU CAN WIN!

Then I had to leave them, no more seconding. I drove on to the finish, helpless and frustrated that I couldn’t be there when they needed me most.

Well, before crossing the river to get onto the ‘Hole in the Wall’ Dusi portage in the thick bush of No-man’s Land, the “wheels” finally came off (4km to go). Thomas said they got such a fright when suddenly the two hunters were amongst them crossing the river. They soldiered on behind until Campbells Bridge (2km to go), where they made a desperate last attempt to regain their lead. Watching from a vantage point where the Pine Tree and Campbells Portages join, I could see them powering up the hill. I thought to myself, what on earth has posessed them. Not realising they had looked into the face of second place. How deep these two ‘Valley boys had to dig, know one will know. What I do know is they have what it takes to be true champions. They pushed themselves to the utmost level and then some.

Running hand in hand, victorious in their struggle, they claimed line honours.

Redefining your limits is what sets you apart from the rest.

Thomas and Eric, you were incredible, I salute you.

 Dusi Trail Run is managed by D.U.C.T. – Dusi Umgeni Conservancy Trust.

 

WILD COAST MEANDER….

Last week I accompanied some good friends on a three day ‘Wild coast Meander’ cycle from the Kei Mouth to Coffee Bay. Traveling from afar, we all met up at the Trennary’s hotel, close to the Kei River the night before.

The ‘Change a Life’ team continues to put in hours of hard training in a quest to better their personal fitness levels. Short term goals including Sa Marathon Champs, Dusi Mfula Mtb Race and the inaugural 85km Dusi Valley Trail Run.

To maximise the peak low tide we forfeited a sit down breakfast to get an early start on Day 1. The scenery was incredible, beaches ‘hard packed’ and the river crossings no deeper than waist height. We arrived at Mazeppa Hotel in time for a late lunch. Thereafter tennis was played till sundown. Dinner conversation was dominated by tomorrow’s 36km inland detour of the Dwesa Nature Reserve due to Taiwanese hunters paying top Dollar to shoot these magnificent creatures.

Day 2 – now with the low tide being 48min later, we had the luxury of a hearty hotel breakfast before setting off  to The Haven Hotel. If crossed in the correct place, the dreaded Xora River crossing allowed some to have their feet on the ground the entire way, whilst others practiced the art of swimming with a bike.

The group became very quiet and focused when we left the white sandy beach at Nqabarra, climbing steadily upward for the next 12km, start of the detour. No-one wanting to swim across the Bashee River (notorious for Zambezi sharks), we all opted for the ferry ride. The overladen boat ran aground midstream and consequently had to be pushed to the other side to the amusement of all.

The ‘Chip & a Putt’ switch-back road saw most pushing their bikes upwards, the law of gravity dealing a cruel blow after a tough day. However from there it was all ‘downhill’ to The Haven.

An even later start on Day 3 allowed one time to have a proper feed at the ‘eat all you can’ banquet breakfast. Comfortably settled into ‘holiday mode’ the laid back peloton set off in anticipation of the spectacular ‘Hole in Wall’. Before descending down to it, we picnicked high in the hills, capturing the moment.

The 9km grind up and down on the district road to Coffee Bay kept things honest. Checking out the Oceanview Hotel the following morning, reality kicked in, back to work. All agreed, our Wild coast Meander should be continuing up the coast-line – next time…

Huge Thank You to Wendy Pope-Ellis for taking control of ‘Support Driver’.

 

Last weekend Lucas claimed the title of KZN Marathon Champion when Michael Mbanjwa, and Ryan Louw ‘allowed’ him to claim line honours in the KZN Marathon Championships down at Nagle Dam. Juniors Mmeli and Sboniso won the under 16 K2 title. Tom and Richard have also qualified to represent KZN at the SA Marathon Champs on the Keurbooms Lagoon – Plettenberg Bay on the 27th of June.

 

Thomas and Eric are keen to do battle once again in the Dusi Valley, but this time without their canoes. On Friday, 12th of June, they will run from Mango Rapid, along the Dusi water course to Bishopstowe Hall, a distance of 85km. Hopefully their lack of a long distance running base will be positively offset by their detailed knowledge of every footpath thus allowing them to take the most ‘efficient’ route to the finish line.

 

Nhlanhla and Zonele will too do battle in the Dusi Valley without their canoes, armed instead with Mountain  bikes – riding the two day Dusi Mfula Mtb Race this weekend. Day 1 starting at Bishopstowe Hall, finishing at Inanda Dam. Then Day 2 continuing on to finish at Blue Lagoon. Making use of local footpaths (Day 1), the route has a lekker natural flow, giving the rider a real ‘Dusi Valley experience’. Then the shorter Day 2 takes riders up the infamous ‘Burma Hill’,  from where the high-rise buildings of Durban can be seen.