Archive for July 2010
Yesterday’s Time Freight Multisport race (5km Trail Run, 20km Mtb and 5km Paddle) at Albert Falls was a great test of my ‘Change a life’ boys’ mountain biking skills. After the last months race in Port Edward, which saw my guys lose some top positions because of the very technical mountain bike leg, we went home to the valley to scout a route that after a couple of runs would sort this out, chop-chop.
Apart from the biking their running is coming on nicely too. Their Wednesday time trial run is a highlight for me as we circumnavigate Nagle Dam and I am pushed hard as I challenge each one of them to beat me – I am getting used to eating ‘Humble Pie’…. Only a pleasure to shake a congratulatory hand to those that do.
Winters not my favourite when the Sun rises two hours later, stalling the day’s activities. The cold making one wear layer upon layer of clothing. If the Winter is to be cold, let there be snow so we can play in it. In the Valley of a Thousand Hills there’s no such luck, its just bastard cold. Where my Zulus live there is no electricity, so heaters are non existent and thus there is no incentive to be out and about before sunrise. However, yesterday morning they had to make the 30min walk in the dark from their homes to our meeting point, where cleverly they had tied their bikes and boats on the trailer the day before. There was not one complaint of any kind, this is Life – deal with it…. Moments like these make the sniggly frustrations in my life seem insignificant.
The scene was set – most perfect Winter’s day for perfect racing, well almost….
The ‘Change a Life’ boys catapulted out the start blocks like there was no tomorrow. Knowing Mkhonzeni‘s ability, it was concerning that he was leading the charge. The initial out and back along the edge of the Dam made for a spectator friendly start, where supporters could view their favourites in all their glory as some thundered and some glided effortlessly past, disappearing into the long yellow winter grass as they snaked their way on the single track. Brothers Richard & Nhlanhla ran exceptionally to keep Eric within a stones throw, who had powered his way to the front. Coming into the run/bike transition, it was a sea of ‘Change a Life’ as 7 of my Zulus were amongst the first 10 athletes.
Then onto the two lap Mtb course which has always been their nemesis in the past, losing heaps of positions to the real cyclists. The anticipation was too much for me to take just waiting around in the transition, so I made my way somewhere midway on the course. I was overwhelmed with relief, when Eric shot past in second position looking strong – but professional Multisport athlete Justin Porteous was hot on his heals. Kwanda too surprised me, coming by next.
Then there were some other athletes, and then suddenly Lucas and Zonele cycled past, huffing and puffing, just hovering out of the Top Ten.
But where were Nhlanhla, Richard and Mkhonzeni? They should have been in front of the other two. A few minutes later, in the opposite direction I see them making their way slowly. I call to them and they reply “We lost”. What had happened is that they suddenly saw another cyclist in front and followed them. However this cyclist was doing the Multi-X (no paddle) which started 15min after and was on a different part of the course. They weren’t the only ones, further back some others too got confused and went off course. To add further to his woes, late in the cycle, Mkhonzeni broke his chain and having lost huge time, limped into the transition, calling it a day. A quick word of encouragement “Never give up” and “it will be good training”, he continued with the paddle – seeing the bigger picture.
I bolted back to the bike/paddle transition, just in time to see race leader Andrew Birkett take to the water in his canoe. He was followed by Justin and then Eric, with the most determined, focussed look on his face. Now onto his strongest discipline, the question was, “has he left enough fuel in the tank to close the gap on second”. Cut a long story short, to my absolute joy, Eric – grimacing a smile, jumped out his canoe and charged across the finish line in second position overall – a real Herculean effort.
Kwanda had a solid paddle, digging deep in an all out sprint to the line to secure 5th position.
Lucas and Zonele worked together on the paddle to tactfully pass a few unsuspecting cyclists come paddlers, finishing 9th and 10th respectively. Nhlanhla and Richard made it into the Top Twenty.
Most likely, the success story of the day was Sizwe….
Close to where I live, I often saw this young black kid running along the road. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him ‘why are you running’. He didn’t hesitate in his reply ‘I love it’.
Next time I saw him, I gave him a pair of Hi-Tecs and a 450g container of USN Cytopower and a ‘Change a Life ‘ vest. He was super grateful. Two days before yesterday’s race, I gave him a bicycle for the first time to use and asked if he would like to do this Multi-X race (5km Run, 20km Mtb, 2.5km Run). He was all smiles. To cut another long story short – Sizwe was the first u/19 athlete (junior) across the line, winning himself a lekker Thule Bike Rack for a car (which of course he doesn’t have).
When I dropped him at home, I noticed he was sort of limping – I asked “did you injure yourself?” He answered sheepishly, “my legs are so sore”. Never in all his life had he raced so hard. I drove off with the biggest smile on my face, knowing he loved it and will be back.
Ps- any offers for the Thule bike rack?
While most of the country was being hit by a freezing front this last week, I zipped over to Switzerland to enjoy 4 days of Northern Hemisphere summer. Although a work related trip, I was in heaven. HI-TEC International are launching a new trail shoe towards the end of the year, so needed action shots and video clips for advertising. What a pleasure to play in the Swiss Alps. Having done some sport related shoots before, I knew the drill- do the same shot 20times over and do this all day long. At times the professionals running the shoot were apologetic for this, not realising how I enjoy running hills, repeatedly and how I was enjoying the beauty of the mountains. It was such a treat being there.