Archive for December 2009

BEST KEPT SECRET IN KZN….

The Lembethe Canoe Club/‘Change a life’ Academy host the Table Mountain Descent on the 16th December every year.

 

A technically challenging course takes paddlers from the Cumberland Reserve, 32km down the sweetest rapids of the Umgeni river to finish on Nagle Dam. The nature of this race requires compulsory use of helmets due to it being A-grade and the remoteness- once started, high cliffs on either side lock you onto this majestic river, bar one escape route- a rugged jeep track winding its way down to the waters edge.

 

What makes this race special is that the ‘Change a life’ guys don’t race, but paddle down before race start and position themselves at the more tricky rapids to point out the best approach line.

 

A few broken boats and bruised ego’s are par for this course, but all in all a very successful day and definitely a race to pencil in as a ‘must do’ for next year.

 

No more races left for 2009, however training continues in the Valley of a Thousand Hills.

 

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE….

 

My intention was never to follow through with  my ‘Change a life’ Academy after the intense 4-month 2008-09 Dusi training programme. However, with the senior executives of  Computershare experiencing the Dusi firsthand and seeing seven of the Valley boys come in the top 20 overall, CEO Stan Lorge said “Martin, we can’t  now drop these guys, we need continuity, give us another proposal till Dusi 2010. USN and  Hi-Tec followed through with their support as well. Thank you.

 

The past 10 months have been incredible, filled with Mountainbiking, Trailrunning, Canoeing and  Multisport events . I have had the greatest pleasure seeing my guys take to their two wheeled metal steeds for the first time ever.

 

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, typical frustrations of managing a big group have come into play – bike mechanicals, injury and ‘African Time’ top the list. However positive changes in attitude and responsibility amongst the ‘Change a life’ team quickly wipe the slate clean. I see them using my Academy as a stepping stone in Life and if it gets them to the next level, I will be the happiest person.

Their consistent achievements at all of the events have been impressive. I have thrown them in the deep end a few times, but they have proved to have the ‘killer’ instinct which has gotten them through some very challenging races.

 

Road Trip of the year  - On Invitation to the Juicy Lucy Mtb Classic, myself and six of my best stayed in the upmarket Gwahumbe Game Lodge for two nights. The giraffe and Hippo sightings on the game drive blew their minds.

 

Eston Mtb Race – Coined the biggest one day  Mtb race in the world due to the record number of entries, saw only about 75%  actually start as the rain/cold and mud chased these fair-weather athletes back to their cars once they collected their goodie bags. Then those that started, only half finished due to the same reasons above. Proud to say that all my boys finished the long course – 60km (except Skhumbuso who short coursed himself accidently  he says).   There is no such thing as bad weather – just soft people.

 

Lucas’s first attempt at the Non-Stop Dusi- solo, where he finished 2nd individual and at the Garmin Wartrail (60km mountain run/135km mtb/60km paddle), finishing 6th, (having not ever run and mtb’ed over 20km for either before) shows he has incredible vasbyt and is someone you definitely want at your side going into battle. He gives absolutely everything.

 

Eric has that X-factor. He’s had the most incredible year and has WOW’ed me with his pure athletic talent – Dusi 9th, Non-Sop Dusi 2nd, Dusi 85km trailrun 1st, Triple Challenge 2nd. I look forward to seeing him reach new levels next year.

 

I don’t make it easy for them. When we train bastard hard I keep reminding them. “This is the difference between us and them….” refering to the competition.

 

2010 Dusi Goal

 

Seven ‘Change a Life’ Athletes in the top 10.

 

Eric & Thomas

Lucas & John

Zonele & Nhlanhla

Lance & Kwanda  (Lance isn’t ‘Change a Life’)

 

Eleven ‘Change a Life’ Athletes in the top 20.

  

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Hard Training….Harder Racing

                   All smiles at the end of a hard weeks training and racing.

Campbells to Dusi Bridge- 28km, is the ‘Race of Truth’ in the build up to the Dusi Canoe Marathon. It’s got portages, rapids and there is no where to hide. All the top guys started with their canoes on their shoulders, running the 2km over rough terrain like there was no tomorrow. The less energetic could opt to paddle off the start, however they would lose some time the land-lopers.                                                                            

After 14min of paddling, the 3.5km Guinea Fowl portage awaited, including the infamous Devils Cauldron. It was here that the ‘Change a Life’ valley boys made their move, with Thomas/Eric powering themselves into 2nd place. Zonele/Nhlanhla looked smooth and in control as they moved up in to 4th. Lucas/John battled their way to put back in to the river in 5th, (later paying the price for this huge exertion), but putting in just ahead of the strong Carter-Brown brother combo.

 

 

Already over halfway, Thomas/Eric looked impressive extending the gap to third and punching through Mission rapid cleanly.

Zonele/Nhlanhla, still paddling well and looking cool had dropped a position to one of the Dusi podium hopefuls, Andrew Birkett/Jason Graham. So to had Lucas/John who where now just behind the Carter-Browns.

                                   Fingerneck Portage was a ‘chip & a putt’, for some.

The final 2.5km Cabbage-Tree Portage can be a beast if your legs are not conditioned. It starts with a 22% gradient making all participants walk, barring a select few.

                       Thomas & Eric flying down Cabbage Tree, just before putting back in the River.

                                                          Quick getaway….

Thomas/Eric crossed the line at Dusi Bridge in 2nd. It was great to see Thomas finding some form as he was ill for three weeks after the Triple Challenge. Zonele/Nhlanla were happy finishing fifth, now motivated to train harder (or could it be the good prize money incentive for the top contenders?). Lucas was disappointed with their 7th place finish, but John admitted to struggling and put it down to not pushing hard enough during training, so there is room for improvement. I was surprised with Nkosi/Tom only finishing 11th, (Nkosi was 2nd last year), however it made sense when Tom told me he wasn’t feeling well. Richard/Spha had the result of the day, finishing 13th. Spha is a brand-new recruit to the ‘Change a life’ Academy.

From not finishing 50-Miler having broken their boat on day 1, Mzamo/Mmeli won the juniors, finishing 15th.

It was a pity Lance was down with Dusi guts and so didn’t race. It would of been good to see if they (Lance/Kwanda) could hold their own on the running as well, because at 50 Miler they paddled themselves to 4th overall.

A wake-up call for some, but overall a successful performance from my Valley boys. Admittedly, some ‘big-guns’ from Gauteng weren’t present, none-the-less the results were very encouraging.    

DASH ‘n CRASH CANOE RACE

(day before the Campbells to Dusi Bridge Race)

Fast and furious racing from the start of Dusi, from Campsdrift to Low level bridge- 8km down-stream.

                                     Front four going down Earnie Pearce Weir (Nkosi & Tom at the top)

Tom/Nkosi snuck into third, when Gauteng crew Gavin/Alex swam at the Highway Rapid a few 100m from the finish line. Lucas/John, Zonele/Nhlanhla, Tom/Eric and Richard/Spa all made it into top 12.

                                         Richard Cele and new recruit Sphamandla Sibisi 

TRIPPING…RAIN, RAIN, GLORIOUS RAIN

There was a vicious storm last Wednesday night and the Dusi became the drainage canal for all this runoff. On Thursday, we jumped onto a flooding River at Dusi Bridge to trip Day 2. The water was dark chocolate. The ‘Change a Life’ boys eyes were big, wishing their fast twitchy Eagle K2 could magically be turned into a slow stable Accord.  Having done the Saddles portages, to our surprise we put in to a clear medium level Dusi, having passed the water.

A little disappointed we continued through the Confluence, down to Gauging Weir. From there we went back to do Confluence again. The fore of the Flood waters had just arrived. While we stood there watching masses of islands of Hyacinth float past, the River rose a meter. Now the boys started ragging each other nervously, saying there is no need to do laundry later as the Washing Machine Rapid will sort that out.

Admittedly it was the fullest I have paddled on the Dusi. Washing Machine was non-negoitiable, with the hugest keeper wave at the bottom. Thomas & Eric had a nerve racking swim soon after, damaging their boat badly enough that we had to fetch them later. After Marianney-Foley Bridge, Rich and Spha got swallowed up in a no-name rapid/hole and spat out upside-down.

We again passed the water doing the Ngumeni portage and once through Tombi Rapid, I eddied out to look back to watch the water rise to a level that washed straight over the Pinnacle Rock within a few minutes. Hippo was relatively easy sliding down the rock face on the right.

I think two swims and one broken boat was a small price to pay for the invaluable experience gained from that wild flooding Dusi trip.

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LAND ROVER 50-Miler/ NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE

The Land Rover 50- miler rounded off a hard week of training for my ‘Change a life’ squad. For some it was the first river trip of the year due to Triple Challenge focus and lack of recent rains. The generous water release from Henley Dam and the cloudy/misty weather made for perfect racing conditions for all.

DAY 1: Tom and Nkosi were the first of the guys through Finger Neck rapid, gallantly balancing their new Venom Eagle with Eric and Skhumbuso hot on their heels. Surprisingly no swims for any of the valley boys at this notorious rapid, with Richard cunningly sneaking down the right avoiding the monster hole.

Kwanda and Lance were well back from their slower right hand channel manoeuvre at Mission, but looked good punching through the teeth at Finger Neck. From some skillfull driving, they advanced through the field to get into the top 8 before half-way.

Ant/Bungi led the front three boats through Bells Rapid, with Jacque/Piers getting knocked off-line by an invisible rock, while Andrew/Jason opted for the more conservative left line. Eric/Skhumbuso were the first ‘Change a life’ boat past Bells but made some rooky mistakes through Confluence which knocked them out the top 10. Unfortunately for Lucas/John, the back foot rest became detached so with no pumps had to stop continuously to empty.

Leaders Ant/Bungi portaged Gauging Weir, while Andrew/Jason shot it closing the gap to 20sec. 3min later Jacque/Piers appeared around the corner but were forced to portage Gauging with their damaged craft.

 

DAY 2: Crews 3rd to 6th positions started together on the dam in elapsed time. Kwanda/Lance put in first in this group after the short portage across the dam wall, with all crews opting not to shoot Tops Rapid. A small mistake for them in Side-Shoots, otherwise everything went smoothly. Jacque/Piers got away by shooting Island One and Two while the rest of the group portaged. Kwanda/Lance quick portage at Pump House secured them their 4th place overall and 1st U/18. Mango was easy going right of the pillar. Eric/Skhumbuso finished 9th – 2nd U/21 and Tom/Nkosi, 17th – 3rd U/21.

Juniors, Zamo/Mmeli and Sboniso/Scelo, broke their boats at Pearl Harbour, the last obstacle before 2nd Saddles take-out, ending the race for Zamo/Mmeli.

MEN: 1st – Ant/Bungi, 2nd – Andrew Birkett/Jason Graham, 3rd – Jacques/Piers.

The women’s race was a Cat & Mouse affair throughout the two days between the two lead boats. With a B batch boat interferring with Abbey/Robyn’s end of Day 1, costing them 50sec. Hilary/Jen very sporting said they could start with them on Day 2. Hilary/Jen swam at Island 2 and a strong portage from Abbey/Robyn at the Pumphouse Weir sealed the victory for them.

WOMEN: 1st – Abbey/Robyn, 2nd – Hilary/Jen, 3rd – Abie Adie/Lindi Harmse

NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE

The pressure I felt when having to put the first letter of each eighteen competitors’ names in alphabetical order at the finals of the Land Rover G4 Challenge, surely can’t be near as much as having to                     putt for $1 200 000.

I was extremely privileged to witness the tension in the packed 18th hole grandstand at the Nedbank Golf Challenge yesterday. Having watched some incredible play (and some not so superb or ‘unlucky’ shots), it came down to a nail-biting 3rd-hole play-off between Stenson (Swedish defending champ) and ‘Aussie’ Allenby… damn Aussies.

I couldn’t resist doing the Schoolboy thing – Note the winner’s signature

 

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