Archive for May 2010
Nagle Dam is such a special place for me- it’s where I spent 3 months before Dusi 2008 training (and living) with Bungi. It’s where my ‘Change a life’ Academy idea was sparked and then evolved into a squad of talented paddling and multisport athletes. And now… it’s home to my first Interschool Running Sportsday. And what a lekker day it was.
Although a small event to start with, the feeling at Nagle Dam was incredibly vibey as the local DJ (who had set up four big ‘boom boxes’, standing 6 feet tall), plus the excitement of the pupils, teachers, supporters and onlookers, created a celebratory/colourful atmosphere that only our nation know how to create.
I was further surprised that very early Saturday morning, as a headmaster from a junior school, that I haven’t yet got involved in the weekly running Time Trials, phoned to ask why their school hadn’t been included in the league and if he could bring 20 of his junior school pupils to participate in the run? (At the moment this is a pilot project to see the response and enthusiasm from the schools and those in charge to determine the feasibility of such a program in this Valley of a Thousand Hills). I can’t believe the commitment to the weekly trail runs and the competitiveness that is already brewing amongst the schools.
A perfect Natal winters day was already a scorcher by the time I set the juniors off on their 3.5km trail. I only hoped that the littlest competitor, just 9 years old, could handle the heat and the pace as he blasted off the start hoping to hang in with his peers for as long as possible. The High Schools athletes had a demon7km route to contend with, circumnavigating Nagle Dam, with a challenging Kopje to conquer. They too threw all ‘pace setting’ advice out the window as I shouted GO!
Both races proved to be challenging as the finish line was littered with exhausted pupils – they had all given it their best shot- not only wanting to gain prestige as the fastest runners, but with the incentive of first prize- a movie ticket and Spur meal for the 10 best runners (Seven Boys and three Girls) from the winning schools for the Juniors and the Senior Schools, plus of course the School Principal and Sports Teacher. Second Prize was a Spur meal, and third – food parcels for their families.
The competitors thought they were in heaven when handed their very own ‘whole 500ml USN Active Sports Drink’ (time trials they got a cup) to put petrol back in the tank and were very very grateful to receive a boerewors roll, which my ‘Change a life’ guys had braai’d to perfection (kindly donated by Parklane Spar).
VALLEY VIRGIN ACTIVE
It’s very pleasing that Virgin Active has ‘put their equipment where their mouth is’, as a stack was delivered to the valley on Friday and secured in ‘the gym’ close to Nagle Dam. The guys are really looking forward to the super circuit sessions- but firstly I will have to get a professional come down to show the guys how to use the machines correctly and demonstrate paddling specific exercises to prevent unnecessary injuries (and so that they don’t get side-tracked pumping the heaviest iron to build their physiques for charming the ladies).
Trail Run – My decision to move to Pmb KZN was based on wanting to be near my ‘Change a life’ Academy – figuratively speaking to keep my finger on the pulse. This current project is ticking over beautifully and I will continue to manage it carefully, ensuring its continuity, as it is close to my heart.
Having said that, I too need to shift some energy towards something more challenging and far reaching, throwing my net into a far larger talent pool and in the process capturing the attention of the youth.
There was lots of time to think on my long solo Epic training rides in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, witnessing subsistent life in its simplest form. No matter where I was, in the morning or afternoon, at the right time there were always children – little ones, big ones, young ones and older ones, walking to School Monday to Friday. I thought “I wonder how good they can run”
And so my idea of creating a School XC-Country Running League was born. Gone will be my current restrictions of specialist equipment needs like boats and paddles, being able to swim and transport limited to 12 kids in my Quantum bus. This would be open to everyone and anyone….
Why trail running? No traffic control necessary, kids can run barefoot (which 80% will) so anyone can pitch up and run – no discrimination towards those lacking equipment.
I will employ my ‘Change a Life’ athletes to monitor these trail running events, which will provide them with an opportunity to go to the next tier. And hopefully a new life-skill will be learned – Responsibility.
Lucas asked me that we choose trails clean of thorns. Subsequently I bought him a rake to sweep those parts which were problem areas. Zonele analizing their times
My inaugural X-country run was at Mqongqo Primary School. Principal Rita Mkize welcomed the idea with open arms. Subsequently we will be hosting our 9th run this coming Wednesday.
Next to join this league were the two high Schools that flank Nagle Dam, Nhlanhla and Masijabule. Masijabule has a super tough running route, whereas Nhlanhla High has sweeping turns on tight single track. Already I can feel the tension and excitement building up when these two Schools go up against each other this coming Saturday – Sports Day.
Every three months, down at Nagle Dam, is Sports Day. Here Schools send their twenty best runners (14 boys, 6 girls) to represent them. The 10 best runners (7 boys, 3 girls) from a School count towards that Schools result. And the winning ten get to go to the Spur ‘eat as much as you can’ + movie. Second is just the Spur, no movie. Third get food packs for their family.
Something as simple as eating out at Spur has created such a hype amongst the kids that I can just see them exploding out the start box, ‘pacing yourself’ not part of the race strategy anymore, running as if their lives depended on it.
The ‘Change a life’ guys are training hard for the SA Canoe Marathon champs in Plettenberg Bay, preceded by KZN Canoe Champs at the beginning of June. I joined them on Nagle Dam yesterday morning- a perfect sunny and warm Natal winter, with not a ripple on the water which made Table Mountain reflection look as if it were the real thing. I was utterly impressed by the pace the boys maintained for the 20km marathon style course, which included a 150m portage every 4km’s.
It was lekker driving down into the valley early Sunday morning, sunlight through the clouds stained the cliffs on ‘Table Mountain’ a pale orange. Beside the odd early bird Zulu housewife already hanging up laundry to dry, the countryside was still asleep. That is until I arrived at Nagle Dam, and there the ‘Change a Life’ team were wide-eyed and eager to get going. Not often does African Time merge with Greenwich Meridian time. Destination – Spur Adventure Challenge at Shongweni Dam, 22km Mtb and 5km Trail run. Lovely overcast weather – perfect for racing.
I had a freak accident stepping on a branch last week, which resulted in a thorn breaking off an inch deep in my Achilles Heel. Unable to walk two days later, I went under the knife of an Orthopaedic Surgeon Sunday morning, left the hospital half an hour later with stitches, anti-biotics and crutch in hand. It was important for me to take part as I had planned a genuine Media angle to encourage kids/parents & all to have no excuse getting outdoors and ‘just doing it’. My highly inspirational partner, Arthur Duncan, was this media angle.
Arthur is 75 years young and only recently started doing sport of any kind in his late sixties. The whole race I was in utter amazement at Arthur’s athletic ability. Arthur didn’t hesitate at the steepest part of the downhill single track, where 70% of riders were walking, which resulted in a somersault over his handlebars. Thirty seconds later he was back on his bike in my slipstream.
Tentative to try run so soon I was more than happy to walk the Trail Run, but this was not to be, as Arthur ran the flats and downhill. Not even the rugged underfoot riverbed and water crossing sections could deter Arthur’s forward progression. To think I still have 34 more years of such fun to look forward to….
We crossed the finish line all smiles, a truly inspirational experience for me, thanks a mil Arthur, I salute you.
Back to the racing snakes. As per the other two Spur Adventure Challenges in CT and Pretoria, the youngsters took off from the start line like there was no tomorrow. The 25% gradient hill a minute after the start, pushed the heart rate sky high. The ‘Change a Life’ teams instinctively worked their way to the front, slowing up a bit on the single-track technical bike sections. Non Stop Dusi stars, Eric & Thomas, took full advantage of the long unrideable sandy sections, which felt so familiar as it simulated a Dusi portage except now a bike replaced the canoe.
They were being chased hard by fellow team mates – Lucas and Zonele. However they cemented their lead when they powered up the monster climb midway on the run. The rubber ankles of the other ‘Change a Life’ duos saw them claw their way into the top five as other teams grovelled with the super technical 500m rocky river section.
One of my top athletes, Nhlanhla Cele, couldn’t race, as a friend (not allowed to lend bike out) ‘totalled’ his bike a week ago. Right now, I have no plans to get it repaired as the cost is just too much. I feel sorry for him but it’s an example to him and the others that money doesn’t grow on trees. Right now the offer is that he must pay a third – R700, and I will put in R1400. Its stalemate, as Nhlanhla’s at School and doesn’t earn a cent.
Interesting fact – last year I did this exact race with 11 year old Sean Maarschalk, we finished and had a lot of fun. So there is a 64 (75 Arthur minus 11Sean) year window of opportunity to take part in such activities – no excuses will be accepted!