Archive for June 2010


                                                 Team ‘Change a Life’ all smiles…. 

The ‘Change a Life’ boys had been looking forward to this first Multisport race of 2010, since they completed the mighty Triple Challenge in Nov 2009. The nature of these races excites them as they are so different to the regular races they do involving only paddling and running.

We were up before the Sparrows to drive the 250km down the South Coast to the Umtanvuma River near Port Edward, for the Time Freight Multisport Race – 5km Trail Run, 20km Mtb, 5km Paddle.

Arriving down at Nagle Dam in the dark, I was pleasantly surprised that all my “Change a Life’ Zulus were ready and waiting to load the trailer with boats and bikes.


Leaving Nagle Dam, driving along the Valley floor, I looked up at the Cliffs of Table Mountain. The sun turning the dark cliffs a dull Orange, made for the most spectacular scene.

                             The Great Dusi King Graeme Pope-Ellis sadly passed away

Driving over the Dusi was just too much and the tears rolled down my cheeks – Graeme’s presence was everywhere. He makes me want to race again.

Having wasted 20 min whilst a cop wrote out a traffic fine enroute for not having a red flag on the back of the canoes, was just enough to make it organised chaos upon arrival at the race venue.

                                                   Blasting out the Blocks….

A 2km tar road hill climb to start with is one certain way of getting the human engine heaving. But the motivating factor of running up is knowing that there is a fine downhill to follow. The competitors bolted out of the blocks, with Nhlanhla leading my team of valley boys, Richard and Kwanda hot on his heels. Lucas was huffing and puffing a little further back, having been focusing the last while on SA Marathon Champs.

                                                                                  Nhlanhla setting the pace….                                     

First race of the multisport season and the ‘Change a life’ boys were a little rusty. Nhlanhla had to sprint to the car during both transitions, the first time to retrieve his bike helmet and then his life jacket for the paddle, so that set him back a few positions.

                                                       Rich on the bike

Kwanda, having to fix a puncture during the bike leg was then caught by Richard, but on leaving the transition after the bike and knowing they had a paddle to follow, then followed the marshals directions which sent them out onto the final run-leg of the Multicross event (run/bike/run). I found them a kilometre or so away from transition and sent them scuttling back in haste.

The 20km bike course has been like a pair of jump-start leads as my guys realised the necessity to regularly train technical bike routes. The single-track was laced with many sections of rocks, some fallen logs, a narrow concrete bridge, rickety stream crossings, cambered burms and steep ascents and descents.

                                                    Lucas  negotiating a rocky drop….

Once onto the two-lap (5km) paddle, my boys felt ‘at home’. Lucas’s turbo kicked in as he reeled in and passed a number of competitors to finish in 5th position.

Richard and Kwanda kept each other company, finishing 10th and 11th respectively and Kwanda made podium  for U/21. Mkhonzei crossed the line in 11th, while Nhlanhla, with all his ‘extra’ running, placed 12th.

                                                Kwanda giving it all to the end….



Lessons indeed can be taken from Saturday’s racing. I need to do less spoon feeding, as I always check that bike/helmet, boat/paddle/lifejacket are in place, I explain the route again to them…. and now that I couldn’t due to time constraints, things went pear-shaped. Also the boys don’t train technical riding too much as the single track in the Valley is riddled with thorns. We will not make sure these mistakes don’t happen next time.

I thought the results were still satisfactory, considering the rookie errors made. Remembering too that my ‘No 1 thoroughbred’ Eric was unable to race due to attending a funeral of a close family member.

                                               ‘CHANGE A LIFE’ RUNNING LEAGUE prizes

                      Winning School – Nhlanhlayabebhuze (Lucas and I, left & right of pic)

“What a great experience for the kids, you know they have never experienced such a thing before” said Mr Mbeje, sports teacher for Phangindawo Junior School.

He was referring to the ‘eat as much as you can’ Spur lunch and movie for his School’s first prize for their ten best performers.

Many of my ‘Change a Life’ boys were amongst the winners of the Senior School – Nhlanhlayabhebuze High, who too went to the Spur for a treat and then a movie. Richard Cele (13th on Dusi) ‘couldn’t believe how big the TV screen was!’

                            They chose the most action packed movie and loved it….

Thanks to the Spur for accommodating all these boys and girls.

                                                                    VALLEY GYM….

All the gym equipment is in place and it’s rather cosy, not a bad thing with winter tightening the screws on the weather. Fortunately there is a garage door to open, to let the Polar Bears in when it gets a little stuffy. At the moment the heavy machines are out of bounds for fear of injury, until I get someone qualified to give them tuition. Its so lekker to have this gym to add value and variation to their training routine. Thanks again to Virgin Active for this generous donation.



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                                                  KZN Marathon Champs

‘Change a life’ youngsters claim KZN Marathon Title.                                                        KZN Canoeing colours were up for grabs as the Valley Boys were up against the best in the province. The seniors had to compete against the likes of ex-World champion, Hank MacGregor, current U/23 World Champ, Grant van der Walt and Ant Stott, also in the mix.

The course, a 36km paddle with five 150m portages, is a gruelling distance to cover on flat water and tactics of bunch riding plays a major role in having enough gas in the tank for a final end sprint if it comes down to it.

During a last minute Dusi Mfula MTB training session, I timed it so to take a breather at Nagle Dam- to observe and motivate my ‘Change a life’ guys. It was so encouraging to see the juniors stirring the pot on the front bunches in the various age groups. A new ‘tiny’ talent has emerged, Mthombisi Cele, an u/14, who kept the heat up amongst his competitors. However Paulos Shozi scooped the performance of the day – winning the u/18 K1 title overall and in the process beating Mmeli for the first time ever. I was pleased to see Chazani win the u/16 K2 race with Emmanuel. Watch little Chazani in the 2011 Dusi u16 category next year, my money is on him. 

 ‘Change a life’ Results

Paulos Shozi – 1st U/18 K1

Mmele Cele – 2nd U/18 K1

Raced together – 1st U/18 K2

Chazani Gumede and Emmanuel Kirk – 1st U/16 K2

Ntobisi Scele (2nd U/14 K1) and Ndumiso Ngcobo – 1st U/14 K2

The Unlimited Dusi Mfula MTB Race gets a facelift

Dusi Mfula is a race I wouldn’t miss for the world. It gives me a bird’s eye view of the valley that has been my ‘hunting ground’ for the past 12 years. Just when I think there can’t possibly be a place I haven’t seen- paddled, run, driven or cycled through- then this 2-day MTB event treats me to another unexplored path. The route designers, or rather Route Masters, did a phenomenal job sourcing endless smooth flowing cattle paths which allowed us to cover most of the 64km on the first day. Even in places where it seems unimaginable to get to, we were made to navigate over sturdy bridges and single-track carved by hand. One of the numerous places that stopped me dead in my tracks, was the section traversing Mamba Gorge- this is a forbidden part of the Dusi river that paddlers and the like never get to see because of its inaccessability and the rocky gnarly’ness of the river bed. Another addition was the leisurely boat ride that ferried us across Inanda Dam from the finish line to the overnight stop and the well earned lunch. After gulping down a USN RecoverMax drink and feeling my body sapping it up, I was ready for the mountain we were going to have to ascend the next day.

                                                        After race boat ride….

Being boated back across Inanda Dam in the half-dark to the start of race Day-2, there was loads of chattering teeth, but the cold air was worth appreciating knowing the heat that would be generated minutes later as we were to snake our way up to Shembu plateau, where we would be greeted by a ghost village- The Shembe village is a religious community that once a year hosts the gathering of over 1 million people as they come to worship. Generally no one is allowed into the village with their shoes on and riders were given the special privilege of being the first people to be allowed through the main street of the village as visitors. This plateau also presented us with another incredible sight… the 85m Umzinyathi Falls- a real hidden gem- well worth easing up on the gas to appreciate this beautiful spectacle. If we thought the previous days single track was endless we were pleasantly surprised as we had a dizzying descent that took us into carved trails along the edge of the dam and after a short breather on an undulating open dirt road and a quick refuelling at the USN Oasis, we headed into the final stretch of trail that had us on and off the bikes as we put our backs into pushing up some calf-burning, short but steep rises. Free-wheeling across the line and any inclings of pain was instantly forgotten and that’s what makes us come back for more

Non-Stop Dusi 2010 Winner, Eric Zondi’s other sporting talent

Having to make a visit to Eric at his home above Shongweni Dam over the weekend, he said I should meet him at the local sports field. Thinking he would most likely be watching ‘his team’ playing a soccer match, I was happily surprised to find him on the field in the no.9 striker jersey.


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