This past Saturday we enjoyed the open spaces of the Free State. Brandfordt, to be exact. In true AR style! It was the annual Ultimate Summit race and Kinetic wanted to see if we can go and better our third position from last year. The race started Saturday morning at a very chilly 4 am. As always, excitement was high and sleep from the previous night low. But we were all fired up and ready to go.
Not having the starting point exactly plotted on the map, proved to be quite a challenge not only for us, but most of the teams. It was not long after the gun went off, that we were standing on an ‘elevation’ (does the Freestate have hills/mountains?) and watching headlamps all over the place running back and forth. Still trying to figure out where exactly we were, in the dark, we stumbled upon the first check point. We thought, “Great! Now we can orientate ourselves!” only to find out it was checkpoint 4 which wasn’t on the map. We were supposed to plot this checkpoint later from a map located at another checkpoint. So we were still lost.
Fortunately, dawn broke soon after that and Stephan made the right call and we had CP 1, along with our position on the map! The rest of the CP’s on leg 1 were easy from here and we hit them all in good time. Here we were reminded of the great old AR / Orienteering truth: “NEVER follow the guy in front of you, he doesn’t necessarily know the area and won’t necessarily lead you to the first checkpoint!!!” The competition was on as soon as we realised that Adrian Saffy(Team Pure Adventures, who won last year) still had to get 1 more CP on this Leg 1, but we are already on our way to the 1st transition. Like always, quick transitions are very important to us. We came in 4th after this very frustrating first leg. On the bikes we went and quickly we realised that we are catching up and soon were in 1 position with Team Pure Adventures chasing hard together with 2 other teams.
Leg 3 was a killer hike up the mountain with thorns and bushes all over. We scrambled our way up this mountain, with lots of scares. From the top of the mountain we could see teams chasing and from our side the adrenaline was pumping as we knew we had to get back to our bikes as soon as possible. Stephan scouted the area from the top of the mountain and was very much aware of which roads to take as soon as we got back to our bikes. Leg 4 on the bikes were interesting with wild animals around, wanting to take photo’s, but pushing really hard with no time to take out our camera. We got to Silo’s where Tommy went up the 10000…. stairs to get the CP on top of the Silo’s and off we went again. We managed to take the lead and build some space between us and the second team (Adrian Saffy).
Coming into CP18, Heidi & Shauni were there to cheer and motivate. We quickly completed the obstacle (Stephan & Lizelle climbed a ladder to abseil the wall while the other two (Wiehan & Tommy) had to climb the wall to the top. The marshals told us that CP21, the last CP, was cancelled and that we needed to get only CP19 and CP20 on the last hike leg. We were off in good spirits and happy to be on the final trek leg. We got CP 19 quickly and started chatting about what we would like to do once we get to the finish, soon… And then the dreadful CP20 bowled us over. We got to the place where we were sure to find it, but no CP. So we went a little further, a little higher, back, higher, lower, further, split up and search, back to CP19 and off in to the ‘right’ direction again. But nothing. By now Team Pure Adventures caught up to us and all hopes of a first position left us. We saw another team scramble over the fence and back to the finish, thinking we must be the only ones who didn’t find it.
Luckily we were soon, about 1h30min later, told that the CP was horribly miss placed and that the race cut-off was moved to after completing the obstacle at CP 18. This gave us the first position we worked hard for and were very grateful for. Another life lesson learnt as in nearly every AR we have done: “Keep at it, it’s never over till it’s over!”
A big thanks to Hendrik and the Ultimate Summit Team for another great and fun race. Thank you to all the other participants who went through the adventure with us. A great big thank you to Stephan, Tommy and Lizelle who made a great team! I am fortunate to race with friends (and wife) like this!! A big thank you to our Lord who not only protected us from serious injury, but blessed us with a fun race and good company. We are privileged to see some remote places He has made for us to explore.
Author: Lizelle v/d Merwe | Team Kinetic | Ultimate Summit 80km, Free State. 16 October 2010