Archive for April 2011
In the past, with Dusi over, this was a period of hibernation for many of the top Dusi paddlers, till October sprung again. But for my multi talented valley boys, the racing season never ends. Running, paddling & now cycling is the order of the Day.
GARMIN WARTRAIL 2011
- 65km WILDERNESS MNT RUN, 135km MTB, 60km RIVER PADDLE -
Change a life athletes Lucas Mthalane & John Ntuli, caught a lift with Aidan and Kirsty to the small town of Lady Grey, nestled in the mountains of the Eastern Cape, where they met their new ‘Change a Life’ team-mate Paul Moketi (from Bloemfontein) – They were here to take part in the annual Garmin WarTrail – a legendary off-road extreme Triathlon, comprising of a 65km Mountain Wilderness run, 135km Mtb leg and a 65km paddle on a flooding Orange River.
At 03h45 the Garmin WarTrail Warriors lined up in front of the Mountain View Country Inn for roll call and at 04h00 sharp, set off to tackle the 65km Mountain Run with an average elevation of 2250m. At 04h03 the first river had to be crossed and from there, runners were in for a wet and wonderful Mountain experience. The crystal clear skies and streams made for a perfect day. Cape Vultures circling above, Berg adders lying in hiding next to the trails; fat sheep and cattle gorging themselves on the feast that the rains had brought. Paul took on the run for the ‘Change a Life’ team and came in a credible 4th position. The field was very strong, with the course record being shattered by the first 4 athletes. The last athlete came in at 20h30 after being out there for 16h30.
That evening, everyone had a great meal catered for by Margi Frost at Balloch under the infamous overhang of a mountain cave. Then it was off to bed to get ready for what looked to be a muddy and tough ride the following day.
At 06h15 the Wartrail Warriors lined up for the 135km Mtb. There was a mist in the valley and an eerie feeling of anticipation hung around. With the riders having to be self supporting for the 1st 90km their packs were slightly larger than usual. At 6h30 the gun went off and the pack was on the way. Lundeans Nek was first of the many climbs, followed by a treacherous descent, with wheel swallowing ruts; fallen rocks the size of small vehicles; swollen river crossings and ever present goats and sheep.
John attacked the bike like there was no tomorrow and broke away with another competitor. Working together, they crossed the line in the Mdlokovane Village, side by side, tied first.
That night under the African Sky, they had an awesome meal prepared by Lizby Van Zyl. Ask anyone and they will agree it was 5 Star cuisine in the middle of nowhere.
The following day, due to the Orange River being in flood, the race organizers decided to make a safety call and allow the non experienced river proficient paddlers to start at the halfway mark cutting out the remote and tricky gorge section that started the paddle off. With the high water this section would be difficult to paddle with monster swirlys and whirlpools as well as wave trains. Due to the water levels if paddlers took a swim here they would have to know their story to get their craft to the side safely and get back in. Long swims would be the order of the day. Lucas was up to the challenge of negotiating a pumping Orange River, that boiled with whirl pools even on the flat sections. He paddled the full distance, finishing 3rd overall, ensuring that the ‘Change a Life’ team won the Team category.
My latest ‘Change a life’ recruit (7 months now), John Ntuli, a radical runner and biker, finished 2nd at the Sun coast Duathlon and 5th in last weekend’s Husquavarna MTB – which he attributes the result to the super light Shwinn hard tail he recently received from the Change a Life Academy. I told him otherwise – “John, its the engine (you) that counts, not the machine (bike)”
Inspired by the ‘Change a Life’ Dusi exploits (having seconded the boys in the Race), he wants to start paddling, however John does not live close to a dam, so for now, will continue to focus on the run and/or cycle races.
Currently at Nagle Dam (home of CAL), there is a militant paddling program on the go – all geared around the highly explosive short, fast sprint races- which include 200m, 500m, 1000m and a 3000m. As for paddling, ‘Change a Life’ Paulos Shozi (he won All Africa Champs in Tunisia last year), claimed an incredible 2nd in the U/18 200m final at the KZN Sprint Champs 3 weeks ago. Hopefully he will hit the perfect peak come this weekend, as Nagle Dam play host to the SA School Sprint Champs, home turf to my boys. Many of the local ‘lighties’-junior age groupers will be competing – grabbing the opportunity to compete against SA’s best – making for some exciting racing – holding thumbs.
Other paddlers to look out for, are Mmeli Cele (junior Dusi leader after Day one, till he broke his canoe on Day 2) and his younger brother Mthombisi Cele and also Emmanuel Kirk, racing in the under 16 category.
For the out of School ‘Change a life’ guys, many have set their sights on the two day Swartland Canoe Marathon on the Berg river down in the Cape and also the flat water SA Marathon Champs to be held at Shongweni Dam – will be good to see how the new crew of Eric Zondi & Michael Mbanjwa fair. This long distance training will be a great base for the 50th Berg River Canoe Marathon in July, which the ‘Change a Life’ boys have personally been invited by the organizers to take part in. The Berg Canoe Marathon is regarded as the Comrades of Canoeing and is a 4 day race, averaging 60km/day. This really is one of the toughest paddling races in the world and being held in the midst of the Cape’s winter’iest weather, the usual freezing and wet conditions can make this long event a true test of survival, as competitors brave the elements. Will be quite an experience for my Zulus, coming from the temperate climate of the Banana republic.
Last weekend I challenged my Zulus to take me on in HI-Tec’s National PR campaign at Cape Union Mart at the busy Gateway Shopping Centre – Durban’s North coast.
The challenge was to see how fast you can run 2km on an undulating profile, reaching a peak of 7% gradient. I ran first and set the bar at 7min 18 seconds. In between members of the public taking on the challenge, John Ntuli was my first Change a Life challenger. Having blasted off the start a bit too fast, he had to throttle back a bit too much on the steepest gradient to make it ‘over the hill’ – 7min 28sec.
Eric Zondi took note of this and paced himself beautifully against ‘my virtual person’ on the screen in front of him, but kicked a fraction too late at the end, finishing at an incredible 22km/h pace – in a time of 7min 23sec.
Kwanda Mhlophe was the 4th best time – 7min 31sec.
Richard was next best, followed by Mzamo.
After a mega meal at Nandos, with goodie bags in hand, we returned to the Valley of a Thousand Hills – what a lekker day out….
EASTER WEEKEND CYCLING….
Stayed at Dalmore Country Lodge over the Easter Weekend – had the rare pleasure of cycling on the Joberg2C course – prepped just perfect for this race which starts tomorrow.
This 4th stage of the race must be one of the greatest sections of Mtb’ing in SA. coming off the high plateaus of the Drakensberg with views only Eagles get to see, traversing pristine countryside and just when you think you home free – the famous Spionkop mountain must be conquered – vertical piece of earth which will bring many a cyclist to pushing his bike come race day.