Roossenekal is mountainous. It sits right on top of a ridge of mountains, but just to the west is a big open plain running between two moutainous ranges. When we heard we would be racing in Roossenekal I expected lots and lots of mountains. When we arrived at Bonamanzi late on Friday we certainly saw all the mountains, we started expecting an exceptionally hard race.
At race briefing the course was briefly detailed and we were told there would be no navigation (leaving me, the navigator, without a job).
The race started at 4am in gentle rain. The first 8km of cycling was mostly uphill, with the road covered in a thin layer of mud. At one point Mike said “It’s amazing that mud can stick to a vertical surface” and that was certianly how it felt. Our team, Lickety Split, was taking it easy, with regular hourly stops. One team at the end refered to us as “The Breakfast Team” based on us stopping so regularly for food. After the first 8kms (done at 8km per hour) we hit the flat roads and lifted out average speed to about 11kms per hour before hitting the mud! The last 10km of the cyle were done in thick mud, our tires grew to double the size, our brakes dissapeared and our drive train became about 3kg heavier.
Transition was pretty quick, I stripped and put on new pants, Mike got water and we were off on the hike. Nice flat roads, with only a little mud were a real pleasure after the cycling we had just been through. Once again we made a point of stopping regularly for food, and our race blog shows us stopping every hour. A lot of discussion was had on the speed we were walking and Sue got it spot on with the second check point/transition coming up on exactly the expected time. A quick photo, water refresh and we were off.
The next part of the hike was rather pointless, a large 7km hike that we were told was the way to the abseil, however we got back to the check point before heading off to the real abseil. The loop was rather a waste of time as we did not really get to do anyhting on the hike. Apparently there was supposed to be some rock climbing on this leg but was not in the race due to a neighbouring farmer not fullfilling their side of the plans.
Through Checkpoint three we went, down to the abseil. Fortunatly the queue was small and we onlt had to wait about 40 minutes before we could go down.As uaual I hated the waiting for the absdeil, but went down without a problem (I’m actually getting quite good at it!). The hike down stream from the river was actually rather magnificent, but we were all too tired to appreciate it much. (Take out the 7km loop and this would have been amazing).
At the bottom of the stream we reached check point 4, the start of the tubing leg. The friendly marshals gave us a lot of encouragement and we were on our way pretty quickly. The river was full and certainly made exciting and possibly dangerous tubing conditions. Both Sue and I got trapped under a branch and Mike got bashed hard on the rocks. At one point I saw the river up end Sue, out of her tube, and head first into the rocks, obviously it wasn’t as bad as it looked as she could not even remember hitting her head. Mike was thrown hard against the rocks and his already suffering legs were rather badly bruised. In all honestly I though his race was over and that there was no way he would be able to limp the rest of the hiking.
At the end of the tubing, Mike did not even stop and think about falling out, he got out of the river and limped up the path. I stayed behind to do our normal blogging and though Sue was probably helping him along, but when I caught up with them he was hobbling along on his own and his spirits were surprisingly high. At this time the sun was just starting to set and it would soon be dark, and knowing Sue’s dislike for the dark I again started worrying about finishing the race. But off we went did the Foefie slide which was probably the best one I have ever done (but I closed my eyes while being pushed off…)
Onto the bikes and Mike was again in his element. You would think that someone that 5 minutes ago needed a walking frame would struggle to ride, but no, not Mike off he went about 10km/h faster than I wanted to go. With the dried mud from the morning still stuck to my bike I had hardly any gears that were actually working so struggled to keep up, in the end I finished the race with my small gear in front and only 2,3,4 at the back working. We pushed up a good number of hills (or rather I did, as Mike suddenly had the energy to ride up verticle rock faces!) After a while we ran out of markers showing the way, and just kept heading downhill toward the main road. A few quick stops to pump up Mike’s tire was all we needed before finding out that we had been locked into the farm. We were listed as one team on the result sheet though we were racing as 2 teams.
I showed my only AR skills by sitting on top of the gate and passing the bikes over the fence. Sitting on top of three meter high fences is the one thing I do well :). We crossed the main road and rode down to the lodge not realising we were now off the actual course route.
We finally finished the race in 16 hours, tired sore and very happy to reach the end. The rest of the team quickly got us some drinks and we had chance to clean up and shower before supper and prize giving. One of the marshalls seen on the route complimented the team on their persistance. Their comment was something like, “we can understand the winners perservering through to the end, but that backmarkers like us can do it just for fun is inspirational”. I think that sums up our teams philosophy very well. Adventure Racing at it’s casual best.
Of the 20 teams that started, only 5 failed to finish the race. Overall the race was a lot less tough than expected. I enjoyed the race and the route, however I do think the race organiser needs to find more ways of using the MTBs to get people from activity to activity rather than using loops to build distance into the race. I don’t believe Adventure Racers appreciate distance for the sake of distance, but rather see the distance as a means of seeing and experienceing new things, a waterfall, a beautiful kloof or even wonderful sunrise.
We will be back next year for the Bonamanzi AR, the race organiser has promised that next year the race will include navigation, and we will have the opportunity to go cross country instead of being restricted to the roads.
Our big thanks to Wimpie for organising the race! And well done to everyone who entered and especially to those that finished the race. See you all next year.
During the race we regularly posted photos to our blog http://teamlicketysplit.blogspot.com/. To see all our blog entries on the Bonamanzi race go directly to http://teamlicketysplit.blogspot.com/search/label/Bonamanzi%20AR .
Author: William Cairns
Bonamanzi Classic, 13-15 November 2009