Archive for November 2010
The ‘Triple Challenge’ means just that. Three different disciplines covering almost 100km of rough terrain. A 21km Trail run/ 52km MTB/18km Paddle (including 2 portages) is not for the meek and mild, which suits a few of my ‘Change a life’ multisport warriors perfectly. I keep preaching to them, “you must enjoy it when the going gets tough, because this is when your competitors wilt, and it gives you a chance to get ahead. Its how you deal with those ‘tough’ conditions that counts”. They got a taste for this race in 2009, but this year they were armed with new ammo… lightweight racing mountain bikes.
Bubbling with excitement, Lucas, Kwanda, Eric, Nhlanhla and John took up prime spot on the 5:30am start line. I asked Eric how he was feeling. “Nervous Mart” was his reply. And understandably so, as this event has been a long time coming, with countless hours of hard training going into its preparation.
As usual at the briefing of these off-road adventure sports events, the athletes are warned to keep a close eye on the route markings as there is a good chance that markers might get moved/stolen, or confusion at intersecting paths.
I too was excited to have John Ntuli, (the development athlete who did the Southern Storm Duathlon a month ago) racing for the ‘Change a life’ team in the Multi-Cross event- instead of finishing with the paddle leg he would have to run a tough 5km loop. This event has become popular over the past two years and has a number of very competitive athletes coming from all over the country.
ERIC ‘charging on run‘
My ‘Change a Lifers’ led the charge from the start in Pietermaritzburg. 800m tar took the athletes straight onto dirt tracks that were a never ending rollercoaster so there was little time to get a regular breathing pattern or a settled heart rate. After 5km Eric had slipped into the lead, with John then Nhlanhla some 50m behind. Lucas was 6th and Kwanda, struggling a bit, in 8th. With the trail going this way and that, criss-crossing numerous times under the N3 running to Durban, my nightmare of the boys losing the trail came home to roost. About halfway, to my utter dismay, my two best hopefuls for podium positions were no longer leading the pack or even in the top ten. Later I found out that they had crossed a waist-deep water section under the highway and turned back when they hadn’t seen any bunting tape for a while. Seeing Eric and the stricken look on his face, he needed to calm down. I ran along side him saying “don’t panic, work your way SLOWLY back up the positions…. To the contrary, adrenaline pumping and inexperience playing a hand, they surged and rocketed through the field, coming into the run-bike transition in 3rd & 4th position. Incredibly, Lucas led the entire field into this change-over. Nhlanhla 5th and Kwanda 9th.
With the boys dancing on their new bikes, it was game on. My hopes of Kwanda making the top 5 were still high, as he was my strongest cyclist (Big miles in Malawi took him to a whole new level). Although a flattish and fast route to begin with, the short, steep climbs that need to be tackled later on are worth saving a little ‘Vooma’ for. Three quarters into the ride is an exhilarating stretch of single track and steep descents with a leg-burning hike-a-bike. Not even 10 km into the bike, Eric started cramping from the over-exertion of the run.
Nhlanhla passed him quick quick. Lucas up in front too was suffering the same fate as Eric and started dropping a few positions. Usn Crampblock became their best friend and magically eased the cramps to get them back to race pace. Kwanda was living up to my old adage of “Steady wins the game” and began powering through the field. Before the end of the cycle, Eric dug into his inner reserves and passed Nhlanhla, getting a 40sec head start on the canoeing leg. This transition wasn’t without drama, till now Richard (Nhlanhla’s brother) and my seconding was smooth as ever, but then Eric gets into his boat – no paddle.
RICH & I quite relieved – all the guys are on the water….
Richard made a quick scurry to the bus and back and with minimal time lost, a frustrated Eric was on his way. The 18km Inanda Dam paddle is quite a task after already 3hr30 of intense racing. The mirror flat water to the dam wall was a relief for any Triple Challenge competitor, making things a little easier. But this usually doesn’t last very long and soon the wind was stirring up waves that made tired bodies grimace at the extra effort it required to balance the boat, let alone keep it gliding forward. Many competitors halfway through the paddle called it a day, as conditions got the better of them. For the ‘Change a Life’ athletes, these were perfect condition. Not because it was any easier for them but because they had programmed their minds to “deal with it better” and this enabled them to get “ahead of the curve” Lucas put in just ahead of Kwanda. The two portages were a welcome sight, enabling stiff legs to be stretched.
Not being part of the action, waiting at the finish line is something I have yet to get used to. Normally the guys would work (draft as in cycling) together on the paddle, but with podium status and prize money on offer, friendships would resume after the race.
The finish line was like a ‘Change a life’ wave. My Zulus exceeded my wildest expectations – Eric – 2nd, Nhlanhla – 3rd, Kwanda – 4th and Lucas 6th.
Lucas came to the finish line with 5th position, but could not make the mad dash, as he was dragging his canoe, his legs said ‘Howzit’ and he was reduced to a hobble.
John Ntuli, in the Multi-Cross, came into the last bike-run transition a mere 20sec behind eventual winner Justin Porteous. Hitting the wall, halfway in this 5km run leg, third place Raol de Jong caught up to him. However nearing the finish line, John managed to surge ahead, securing his second position overall.
You can only be a ‘Dark Horse’ once, and from now on Nhlanhla Cele is a marked man. Flying under the radar, Nhlanhla raced like a machine, dealing with cramps on the bike as if it was a midday picnic. Not sure who was more proud, Nhlanhla or his brother Richard.
All I can say – excellently done, what a magnificent performance.
Before heading back, to drop my boys at home in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, we stopped for a huge feed – and rightly so.
Down in the Valley, unlucky for my SUPERSTARS, they had one more discipline left - walk 5oom home up a steep hill. A hill too steep for my bus. What a day….
African Junior Sprint Championship 2010,Tunisia
Canoeing South Africa selected a development team to take part in the African Junior Championship held in Tunisia a few weeks ago. The team consisted of two girls and 3 boys, namely She Earl De Wee (Western Province), Tiiesetso Machate, Siseko Ntondini, Sifiso Cebekhulu (Gauteng) and “Change a Life” – Paulos Shozie.
Upon arriving in Tunisia, the team went for light training for an hour, getting used to the competition boats and the lake. The following day the team again did some light training, joined by the Moroccans’, Egyptians and the Algerians.
The 1st day of racing was a bit windy in the morning causing waves on the lake, which was not good especially for the girls, some even capsizing. Paulos made it through the heats to the final for the 1000m sprint, and raced brilliantly to claim GOLD.
The 2nd day of the competition started with the athletes racing the new Olympic distance – 200m. Paulos was 3rd (bronze) and Sifiso was 6th. In the Girls K1 200m Final, She-Earl paddled superbly to come 1st and Tiiesetso was 7th.
In the Boys 4000m, Paulos powered his way across the line in 1st position, claiming his second Gold medal of the Championship. Siseko was 2nd, winning silver (both were taken for Anti Doping tests for their performance). The Girls 4000m was raced in the afternoon, wherein She Earl came 3rd, earning a Bronze medal.
Arriving back in SA, late at night, Paulos couldn’t wait till morning to phone me. Upon answering he immediately ranted I won two Gold medals, two Gold Medals. Half asleep, I responded “what do you mean two Gold Medals?” African Champs Mart! I’m the fastest in Africa. – What an experience for a Zulu boy from the Valley of a Thousand Hills who has to walk 9km to training every day. Paulos so deserved to stand on top of the African podium.
Overall, South Africa was 2nd and Tunisia was 1st. Well done Paulos….
It was really great to manage the young team that showed a lot of commitment and respect. Even some other Team leaders from other countries were so happy to see the young South African showing the smile and unity in working together and doing so well on the water” – Artwell Mhlophe - Team Manager, African Junior Sprint Championship 2010 ——————————————————————————
FIRST CANOE RACE OF THE SEASON…. “CHANGE A LIFE” WARRIORS PODIUM
The Ngwenya canoe race was a qualifier and development team selection race for the Fish River canoe marathon (taking place on the 1st and 2nd October), so my boys were out in full force to try and come in the first 9 Development doubles, in order to secure their seat on the bus to Cradock in the Eastern Cape – because apart from being one of the best rivers to paddle in the country, all-round it is one of the most fun sporting weekends away – concluding with a real ‘Rock and Roll’ festive party.
‘Change a life’s first doubles crew of Lucas and Eric kept the pressure on the second place finishers all the way down river, from the start at Campsdrift, to the finish 16km downstream at the Motocross Track. This section includes the notorious Earnie Pearce Weir, Commercial Rd weir (a lot easier since they lessens the gradient of the weir), Mussons rapid (the left and right lines were equally popular), Highway rapid, Low Level Bridge, Taxi rapid and the monster Motocross Weir to finish.
I felt terrible for top twenty K1 Dusi finisher Kwanda and his partner Moses when they had an unfortunate swim at Earnie Pearce. In such a short race, any mistake has dire consequences- (as they say, kicked out the the back door), as there is not enough time to recover and catch up.
Overall positions and making the KZN Dev Team to the Fish
3 – Lucas Mthalane & Eric Zondi
5 – Skhumbuso Ngidi & Thobane Mzolo
6 – Mmeli Cele & Paulos Shozi
12 – Mzamo Zondi & Scelo Mzolo
Richard Cele & Nhlanhla Cele (didn’t compete as their Father passed away, however were also included as a wild card entry in the KZN Dev Team).
CAPITAL CLIMB – Maritzburg’s most popular run
I thought it would be a lekker opportunity for my ‘Change a life’ boys to see the real road runners of Pietermaritzburg- the guys that run a sub-70min ½ marathon. Also, it would be a great chance for me to show them how to pace themselves on a run that starts with a challenging 8km climb and ‘ends’ with a (7km) downhill – 15km total. Starting the Capital Climb in Maritzburg, under the infamous Comrades banner of the City Hall, my boys were overly excited to be lined up with thousands of other runners at the crack of dawn. Waiting for the start gun, I explained to Eric & Sizwe (my fastetst), “if the winner today only starts running when you get to the 3km marker, he will still beat you.” They responded in unison, “No way, impossible.” The bet was on.
Four minutes after the start, running within the multitude of masses, Mkhonzeni was still so excited that he could not contain himself and was loudly ‘whoohooing’ to the world. Clever or not, Zonele and Kwanda tagged onto my pace, thinking that I would have the ‘know’, how to get them to the end respectably. Wearing our ‘Change a Life’ branded tops created such positive encouragement from the thousands of onlookers lining the route - they recognised the logo from their incredible Dusi results.
Eric and Sizwe ate humble pie at the end, astounded that there are runners in this world that can run so fast…. It was a great experience all round but if anything, it redefined their limits in how fast a person can actually run – illustrating that although Eric is the fastest man in the Valley of a Thousand hills, he is definitely not the fastest man alive.
FISH CANOE MARATHON
I joined my ‘Change a Life’ paddlers in a Fish River Training camp 4 days before the race itself. Other Canoe Club’s Development paddlers participated as well. We all camped at Marlow High School just outside Cradock, with breakfast and supper catered for by the School, and a visit to the Spar dealt with the lunches.
Michael Mbanjwa joined our camp, and we each paddled with two incredibly talented youngsters (14 years old), Colin Letwaba and Katiso Hlahatsi, from the Victoria Lake Canoe Club in Jhb.
Two of my “Change a life”‘ paddlers teamed up with novice Fish paddlers from the Dihlabeng Slalom Club in Bethlehem. Nkosi is now living in Bethlehem and is the Development coach there, earning a small salary. It was good to see the tripping was taken seriously and no negative incidents occurred on the River. The much talked about “double trouble” was successfully negotiated by everyone, except to the amusement of all, on Michael and Colin’s second attempt – Michael fell out half way and Colin shot the big hole perfectly by himself in the K2 with no driver.
The bar has been raised with regard to the Development Assault on the Fish – take a look at these results:
8 Development K2’s came in the top 100
14 Development K2’s came in the top 150
17 Development Boats came in the top 170
TRAINING FOR THE MIGHTY TRIPLE CHALLENGE (20km Run, 52km Mtb,20km Paddle)
On the weekend, we grabbed the opportunity to ride the Mtb route by joining the race organisers ‘official’ tripping ride. With the varying ability of the riders, I encouraged my boys to do extra loops while we periodically waited for everyone to regroup. The slow ride gave them a chance to memorise the course and was such good Q-time for me with them. I gave advice where I thought it best to push hard, ease up, eat (before long downhills) etc…. Having a few flat tyres, the guys saw the need to stay on the paths at all times and not cut corners to save a few meters. Before the race I will make Eric and Kwanda’s bikes tubeless. Lucas is superstitious with this no tubes ideology and would rather take his chances with tyre liners.
Not sure if it’s the long, steady base miles gained in Malawi or his brand spanking new GT Zaskar Pro XT, but whatever it is, Kwanda is riding like a machine. He is by far the strongest of the ‘Change a Lifers’ on the bike and would love to enter him in a ‘plain jane’ road bike race and see what comes of it (maybe the 94.7km race). He displays such raw power, emitating Jan Ulrich’s habit of pushing big gears come flat or climb.
It took a little persuading (Pizza on the way home was part of the bribe deal) to get them to join me on the water and complete the 20km paddle leg after the cycle.
I am very excited to have John Ntuli join the “Change a Life” Academy. Not being a paddler, I have entered him in the popular Multi-X section (20km trail run, 52km Mtb, 5km run) of the Triple Challenge. He has incredible talent (machine biker and runner) and think he will take alot of the ‘big boys’ by surprise. I watched him take part in the Team category in the Multisport races we have been doing, so when a sponsored entry from Hi-Tec, for the mighty 6 day Southern Storm fell into my hands, I thought he would be the best person for the job. The long Otter Trail Run caught him offguard, but thereafter he was mixing it up near front.
The Triple Challenge is just around the corner – 7th of November.
It was great news when Carol Church from ACSA phoned me last week and said my ‘Change a life” container was ready for delivery. With the increase of our Canoe fleet, storage has become an issue of late.
Regarded as the season opener for the Dusi Canoe Marathon, this race gives one an excellent idea of where your fitness is at in terms of running & paddling.
There’s no holding back at the start as paddlers jostle for a good placing amongst the mass of paddlers, especially so, because the first 8km paddle is on the flat waters of Albert Falls Dam. As in Cycling, the group goes faster than the individual because of the drafting effect of hiding behind someone. Now in paddling, this same effect is created if you sit alongside another canoe and its called ‘riding the slip’.
After 30 min, there is a lung burning 2km portage, up and over the Dam wall, down to the Umgeni River. From there it’s a beautiful 21km paddle down a technically easy stretch of River. For the last two months, most of my ‘Change a Life’ big hitters have been focussing on the Triple Challenge (21km trail run, 52km Mtb, 20km paddle) which is this coming weekend – training their weakest discipline – cycling. So for my Academy, I had already accepted that this race would not be about results, just good honest training.
It was awesome to see Mmeli Cele (2009 Dusi u/16 winner) charging up the portage in the top ten. Then on the river he pulled up a few more positions to finish an impressive 7th overall. He has developed into a powerful paddling machine and will be vying for top honours in the highly competitive u/18 category at Dusi next year. He is one of those unassuming guys that just gets on with it and is a pleasure to have around.
A few kilometers paddling down the river, a lapse in concentration saw Eric (coming 4th) make a rookie mistake, taking an incorrect channel which resulted in a 6min grovel trying to get back to the river proper. A few others, including Zonele Nzuza, ‘followed my leader’. They never really recovered from this mistake – but hey, thats all part of the learning process.
7 – Mmeli Cele
14 – Zonele Nzuza (1st u/21)
15 – Kwanda Mhlophe (2nd u/21)
18 – Eric Zondi (3rd u/21)
24 – Nhlanhla Cele
30 – Paulos Shozi
39 – Bheka Mzolo
42 – Mkhonzeni Gumede
48 – Mthobisi Cele/Ndumiso Ngcobo (u/14)
100 – Siboniseni Gcabashe
122 – Richard Cele
129 – Emmanuel Kirk
139 – Scelo Mzolo