WOW, what a race!

Being a guest to Team LAVA for this race, and joined by a legend to the sport, Lisa de Speville, I feel obliged to say a few words…”WOW, what a race! It cannot really be said in words, rather described in moments… moments of cold and sunrise…moments of pain and exhilaration…” 

  • Paddle:  11pm, portaging the k2 and the Fluid (plastic, double kayak) to the river (not mentioning that we initially walked past the river in excitement…), paddling upstream in the dark and mist, not easy to see which way the river was turning.  Sufficiently insulated against the cold… so far… 
  • Hike: Grabbing a few checkpoints with ease, navigated by Ari and Lisa, all the teams still close together.  Seeing an exited Hardy (race organiser) at the mud- ruins checkpoint practically bouncing up an down with excitement at seeing us enjoying the race.
  • Paddle: Paddling down river, ended up in a deadend at a stage with a couple of other teams (not easy turning five boats around in a small space… in the dark), being stuck in a converging reed bed, joined by a few other boats and having to heave our boats over into the main channel. No swimming yet, though Ari and Larry were in waist-high due to a bump from another boat. 
  • Bike: After a quick transition and some new race instructions, we’re onto the bikes… Easy cycle, though very cold, ziplock bags in our shoes (to prevent losing our toes due to frostbite) and all our warm clothes on our backs. Ari kicked our butts on the cycle, we had a great time, munching happily away on everything we’d packed. 
  • Hike:  More race instructions and up into the kloof we go, over fallen trees, past a waterfall, over huge boulders, up and up and up, heeding Hardy’s warning not to dislodge anything… (avalanche!). Caught up with other teams at the top, also looking for checkpoint 9, ending up seeing the sun rise from the top of the mountain, enabling us to finally understand the topography and the probable location of the CP. Finding CP9 after going down into a severely steep valley and up the other side, gave us all new hope and spread out the teams again. Larry started to sing and hum some tunes, giving the impression that he was not tired at all (…mmmh…maybe he WASN’T tired at all….). The photo below shows us climbing up the kloof and posing in the sun’s first light (ignore the smiling, it is not always a true reflection of our feelings, we were merely trying to be photogenic).

Kloofing, Nadine & Ari

Team LAVA: Ari, Nadine, Lisa and Larry
  • Bike:  Another enjoyable cycle, finding the checkpoints easily and enjoying being able to sit down again.   We got the Ari back! After he missed his pre-dawn curling up under a tree, which he swore he would do. We found ourselves having cycled almost off the map [missed a turn-off ] at a stage but quickly turned around the 1.4km we went too far on.  At this stage Larry was doing his best to overtake Ari and Lisa and I had some girl-chat about mountain bikes, gear and avoiding blisters etc.
  •  Paddle:  The paddling downstream was exhausting, besides the dunking Lisa and I got at the first rapid at approx. 8am on the winter’s morning. She would explain  it as a combination of Larry and Ari being in front of us and her effort to slow us down going into the rapid [I took the rapid at a VERY bad angle – Lisa], while my explanation would just be that I had my paddle in on the wrong side of the boat when the current grabbed us, twisting and then capsizing the k2, leaving us to be fished out of the freezing cold river by a worried looking Larry.  I saw that same worried face later on down river, when Larry and Ari stood shivering on the bank after an unplanned swim themselves.  Lisa quickly pointed out to me the ‘tongue’ of water to stick to in a rapid and we did no further swimming through the rapids.  The portaging of the boats (with severely bruised shoulders) around low bridges saw me and Lisa having to climb a fence at a stage and, later on, idling in a reed bed worrying our heads off, waiting for the arrival of Larry and Ari, not knowing whether they have capsized or drowned or worse.  The two gents did an outstanding job of handling the Fluid in choppy waters and the hard rowing they had to do. We were all relieved when the end was in sight.  Close to the last river-CP, we saw ourselves in a situation where we could either portage the boat around a drop-off in the river and paddle to the CP, or just plain portage the boats all the way to the CP.  We took the second option. 
  • Hike: Spirits were quite high in the transition after having something to eat and donning dry clothes and socks.  We headed out to find the last few CPs.  Doing a lot of climbing up koppies and down valleys, through long grass and hidden boulders had us contemplating which was worse: UP or DOWN.  Answer: BOTH.  Lisa got the nickname of ‘Pink Dassie’ due to her climbing abilities and her pink shirt sometimes the only dot of colour up on the mountainside as her pace saw the rest of us falling behind. Oh, and Larry started singing again, that definitely meant that he was NOT tired.  After clipping the last CP, we had the knowledge of only ONE  KILOMETRE HORIZONTAL DISTANCE to go to the finish.  Not including the decent that we had to make (vertical distance). But surviving that we had a quick jog to the finish in 18 hours 10min. Truly exhilarating! Of the 12 teams, only 2 teams managed to finish the full course and clip all the CPs, of which we were the second. The rest of the teams were put on a shorter version after having missed a time cut-off.  But it is assured, that all the teams definitely enjoyed the race.  

From my side, I’m definitely crazy enough to do something like this again…

Heading out on the last hike: Ari, Nadine & Larry

 Author: Nadine Nunes, Team LAVA | Ystervark, 9-10 July 2010