An adventure race does not start when the proverbial gun goes at 5am on race morning, but way before with the preparation required by all the teams to get a fully fit and functional team to the starting line. For Senseless Linebreak this was an adventure in its-self and kicked off the Kinetic Double Moon in the most dramatic way possible.
A week before the event the suspension bolt on my trusty stead sheered in 2 and my trusty mechanics at Morningside Cycles (who are big supports of Kinetic’s sprint events) where let down to the max by their suppliers and could not get the part delivered to their shop. Right up until the last minute I had no bike and was on the phone with MSC every hour – the stress levels rising. Eventually the part did not arrive and on our way out of town we pulled into MSC who in their extreme kindness and professionalism loaned me a Yeti 29ner (YUM YUM).
Not to make like any easier, on Wednesday afternoon (just 336 hours before the race start time) one of our teammates dropped out with appendix problems …. Luckily for us a colleague – Francois (and now good friend) from Durban stepped in to replace our sick comrade, Matt. Francois is a fit guy, but he had never done an AR and had NO idea what was about to happen to him.
Needless to say we made it to Bethlehem to find out that Kinetic had had equally challenging incidents in getting to the venue, including major blow outs on their gear truck. With all the teams and support crew arrived (ok not all the teams, Last Minute where true to their name and only arrived after the briefing at about 11pm) we had a well prepared briefing and a lovely braai before hitting the sack for a solid 4 hours sleep.
Race Time – Stage 1 – Orienteering Hike
The 5am start was pretty exciting with all the teams able to collect the points in any order they decided was the quickest. We decided to go 6 – 1 – 7 and then 2 to 5. This did not go quite as planned as I (the not so renowned Nav) missed the turning to OP 6 and we ended up at OP 1. The diversion was minimal though and we then picked up 6, 7 and then 2 to 5 without any hassle arriving at the paddle stage in a strong 2nd , 10 minutes off Team Uncharted.
Stage 2 – Orienteering Paddle
This 5km paddle was great. We did not need to carry our packs and pushed a great pace, collecting the 3 OPs without any difficulty and even making up a few minutes on Uncharted.
Senseless is traditionally strongest on the bike and we went out pretty quickly, collecting the first point easily and catching glimpses of Uncharted ahead of us. On adventure races though, calamity is always only seconds away and what we did not realise was that our Super Substitute Francois was not as strong on the bike as the rest of us. He Pushed hard though and I even towed him some of the way, but ultimately Senseless was not going to have a fast bike leg. We very quickly changed our mind set and settled into a long slog with Francois showing some great resolve to push through a challenging 6 hour mountain bike leg.
Stage 4 – 18 km Hike
We arrived in transition and were all pretty tired from long exposure to the extreme heat and long time in the saddle. A 45 min break, some solid food and a refill of liquid saw us out on to the 18km (the big one) hike. The hike started with the most magnificent trail through a river grotto, where massive sandstone overhangs and chain ladders whipped away our fatigue with their beauty.
Emerging on the plateau above the grotto our intrepid navigator (me) made his first mistake and miss-read the ridge line on the chart to lead the team on a bit of a circular tour away from CP 7 towards CP8. A small conference between Barry, Francois and Myself about an hour later identified our true position and we marched off to the saddle between the valleys which housed CP7 and CP 8. On Route we met up with Uncharted who were returning from CP 8 (now probably 4 hours ahead of us). They assured us the route we chose was actually not a bad one and pointed us in the general direction of the next point. Another 30 minutes saw another meeting with Jabbawock who echoed Uncharted’s sentiments. Reaching the saddle we bombed down into the first valley collected CP7, back up the mountain and bombed down the next valley to collect CP8. Then back up the mountain and we were exactly where we had been 2 hours before, but now we had our CPs … happy days (except for Francois who had a fall and slightly twisted his ankle and jarred his back – which already has 2 pins in it and is not in a great state). We were chasing the light at this point and managed to find a trail that looked like it would lead us to eh Abseil which signalled the end of the hike. On route we met up with Team Mango (both on their very first AR) who had made the same mistake as us, and we gave them the same advice that Uncharted Gave us; in Lizelle’s words “It is going to be tough, but just keep going”. A slight night detour got us to the Abseil at about 8pm and the 45m decent was a great reward to a crazy long hike. Transition was welcome and we were all exhausted, but in good spirits to find that we had made up time and where now in 3rd position. We decided to catch 2 hours sleep before heading out. I woke up after an hour and was frozen to the bone (thank goodness for our safety gear that Stephan and Heidi made us carry which helped me warm up). I found out that Heidi had all but enforced a Dark Zone due to Navigation and Security concerns around riding the Lesotho border at night. I can’t say I was sad for the 4 hours extra sleep and would find out the next morning what a good decision the Dark Zone was by Heidi, but the field had once again been levelled with most of the teams having arrived at the transition during the night.
Stage 5 – 65km Cycle
We had been warned at the briefing about this cycle but the warning was little in preparation for what was to come. A 3am departure saw a rejuvenated Senseless Linebreak smash the first 30kms in 2 hours. We were feeling good and marvelled at the beauty of the land as we dropped into the Lesotho Valley. We were cycling with Team Pure Adventure and where having lost of laughs and together found the turnoff to the pass easily and were relaxed that we had heeded all of Stephan’s warnings. The 8km climb up the pass was murderous and something I never though t to experience on a Kinetic Race … the dreaded hike-a-bike. I was also at this point that I make the next Navigational error, missing a sharp double back and continuing for another 3 km into Lesotho rather than climbing over the saddle of the Border Mountains. Both Pure Adventure and Lickety Split mad the turning and where never seen again. We did however team up with Do It Now Magazine who had made the same mistake and completed the final killer climb wither with them. Summiting the mountains was spectacular and the view was almost enough to make the hike-a-bike worthwhile. It was at this point that p.s. Hawkstone managed to catch us and together we descended back into South Africa towards Clarens. If the View almost made up for the Hike-a-bike, the downhill defiantly did, and was without a doubt the highlight of the race.
Unfortunately we had to take it very very slowly as Francois back could not handle the punishing bumps of the incredibly technical drop. Barry and I however did the downhill in lots of extremely fast short bursts to get to really enjoy it, nearly killing Erik (the Camera Man) in the process (but he did get some fantastic pictures). Our slower speed on the bike again let a number of teams get ahead of us and we got into the Clarens transition 10 hours after setting out, with Francois in a state. I must admit that I did not think he would manage to continue, but with a little help from the medic and an hours rest he showed a strength of character very really witnessed and continued on his way to the finish.
Stage 6 – 10km Hike
Leaving Clarens on a hike, one thing can be assured – you are going up. And up we went, straight up a mountain and along 3 peaks of the mountains surrounding the artsy little town. The hike took us 2 hours and was a beautiful stage. The Views of Clarens and its surrounding where breath taking and anyone going to the area should defiantly do this hike (the start of the trail is on the northern side of the main square).
Stage 7 – 35 km cycle
Everyone could smell the finish now and this 35 km leg was on good quality roads so it was nice and fast. We were chasing the light once again and wanted to try pick up the 2 CPs before dark. Francois again sucked up the pain and set a good pace. My ass had at this stage chaffed to such a degree that blood blisters had formed, so I spent the 35 kms cycling in a standing position. The sun set 10kms from the end of the stage and with our light on we cruised into Bethlehem in 2hours 20 minutes.
Stage 8 – 14 km paddle
The transition onto the kayaks was quick but not pleasant as we changed into the wet gear we had not had on since early Friday morning. We gave it only half a thought as we set off to find CP 18 and CP 19. Paddling is Francois strong point, so the he and Igna had an easier time of it than Barry and I, recovering somewhat in the 2.5 your stage. My torn right rotator cuff was not happy and by the half way mark the whole right side of my body was in spasm. Barry pulled us through and although he was shattered by the end of the leg, he was a real champion. The wind had kicked up closer to the dam wall and there where defiantly times when it felt as if where were going backwards.
Stage 9 – 17 km Cycle
With the paddle over and only one leg to go, we began the cycle excited to see the end of the race. Little did we know that the only route back to the Start/Finish was along a road which could easily be mistaken for a beach? The thick sand was incredibly difficult to ride in and we had to stop often to rest Francois hammered back, but constant encouragement and real guts got us to the end at 00h20 – 43.5 hours after we started.
In closing we would like to thank Kinetic for a great race, there were times when we hated you but you gave us a race that we will never forget and with the wonderful experiences of this race who can even remember that horrible hike-a-bike over the Lesotho mountains J . Then to our fellow competitors, you all such wonderful people and a constant reminder of why I adventure race and what special people I get to spend my time with. Congratulations to all of you on your races and to those of you doing the Expedition Africa – good luck, Senseless cannot be there with you, but we will be watching out for all of you. Then to our sponsors, to Linebreak, our long term sponsor. The compression gear they have provided us was like a legal steroid and it was amazingly helpful to keep our bodies going. To our newest sponsor, Titanium Designs for our amazingly cool race kit – I know a lot of you commented on it, thanks we LOVE it.
Finally to Team Senseless Linebreak – WE MADE IT, well done team we were fantastic together and only together could we have done as well as we did. Thank you all.
Author: Steven Yates | Team Senseless Linebreak | Kinetic Double Moon, 11-13 March 2011