Merrell Eden Duo

Team Gijima | To grasp all the experiences we had during the Eden race in a few pages will be demeaning. Once again, I fully understand the reason why we do Adventure Racing – it is not only the extreme adventures which we undergo, but the feeling of being a champion! It is an indescribable feeling of accomplishment when you suffer through blood, sweat, dehydration, mind-blowing pain and sleep deprivation to achieve your goal. From the readers perspective it may look like a walk in the park, but believe me it is blood sweating hard! If you dare – get out there and DO IT NOW!

We arrived a few days before the race and were welcomed by the hospitality of Mountain Pastures Game farm who provided us with a good night’s rest and a pleasant dinner in the Heart of the Outeniqua mountains.  We had our last training run on the dust roads and tried to acclimatize to the cold Cape weather.  We were quickly introduced to our first challenge – our rental vehicle was a Kia Picanto hatchback the size of half an Uno! Our luggage included two bikes in huge bike cartons, paddles and our full racing kit (and later on even a surfboard)! Thank goodness it was a rental…

We say seconds count, but AR Seconds on which you can count is what makes the difference. The race organizers managed to find us a last minute Super Second – Lana – which we only met the day before the race!  The only issue was that she cranked our egos a bit as she can outrun both of us on a 10km with more than 2 minutes… Yes, our Second can run a 10km in 38mins and she even has two kids! Thank you so much for the support and the sacrifice which made it possible for us to compete in the race. Thanks also to Diovani for forcing us to eat our saamies and supplements at transitions, providing us with route clues and plenty of motivation. 

The race started at the Touws River mouth at 5am from where we headed West wards to the Kaaimans River where we broke the surface of the black unexplored water. We started on a fast pace and soon saw the locals disappear in the desolated Kloofing section as if they run on tar. The Kloofing section took us about two hours and we collected the one checkpoint without any difficulty. We learned that if we want to be competitive on this leg we need to train some serious Cape Kloofing.

Out of a quick transition and onto our bikes, we hit the best single tracks and zig-zagged our way across the mountains and rivers. We hooked up with a local guy on his training ride and he joined us for the rest of this leg.  We bowed to the legendary Montagu pass at around 8h30 and had a near death experience with a bypassing bakkie, not to mention the heat exhaustion later on.

Another quick transition with forced feeding from Diovani and 10:30am, we set off on a run towards the Outeniqua trail. We found the trail easily and enjoyed the first few kilometers… until we hit the climb!

It was a gigantic never-ending steep climb and became even worse when the heat was turned up to 39oC.  We crawled our way through overgrown Fynbos to the top and took a quick, unforgettable cool down under a lovely waterfall. It becomes very difficult to eat in such extreme heat and also because of the high volumes of water you take in to prevent dehydration. Once we reached the top of the mountain, we set off on a fast pace on the downhill, easily catching three teams on the beautiful single tracks.  

We were now lying in a good position and did not want to waste any time, but this was where everything went wrong – We sprinted past the turn-off to CP4!!! Although we realized it almost immediately, we decided to correct our mistake from the “second turn-off”, which never came… Without knowledge of the area, neglecting the scale on the map and being in a hurry, we ended up at CP5!!! Our second mistake – instead of going on and taking the 90 minute penalty,  we kloofed our way up towards CP4 for another hour.  We arrived at CP4 only at 15h00 and realized that everything has suddenly changed from a race for a place in the top 5 to a race against cut-off.  We crunched the Groeneweide trails with our Asics and arrived at transition at 16h15, a mere 15 minutes before the cut-off time. 

After a 15 minutes transition, we were off on our bikes for a sizzling mountain bike section. We would have easily made it in time for the paddling section if we ignored the two checkpoints placed on the highest of high hills. We luckily arrived at both the checkpoints before dark, after which we set off to the paddling.

A lack of proper planning and without giving attention to the race rules, we missed the cut-off at the paddling section and were unwillingly transported to the beach hike section. This initially seemed to be the highlight of the race, a 20km leg on a desolated sandy beach without any houses and a bright full moon. We started this leg at 21h00 and already felt the fatigue kicking in after an hour.  This leg seemed to last forever and we motivated one another to run short sections with specific sub-goals. We managed to continue with this run-500-walk-200 pace and caught up with a couple of exhausted teams who did not have any food left. We offered them nuts and jelly babies and set off on the final sprint towards transition. We experienced nasty sleep deprivation, whilst continuously fighting the mind game. 

Adventure Racing is about enjoying a lot in a very short time – take many photos!

The final leg was a 5km paddling section up Touws river, which we started at 00h30.  Garth organized a Thor for Gijima, which we only adjusted according to our legs at the lagoon.  It turned out to be way too small and we ended up with our legs next to our ears.  As Vaalies are not used to paddling, it soon became a struggle not only to progress, but to stay on board. Hardus made a dive later on when we stopped to take off our tekkies. A tip – whenever you are paddling and your boat is too small, take off your shoes, it makes a huge difference.  We kept ourselves awake by singing Afrikaans medleys from our childhood and finished feeling strong at 01:30am.

Thank you very much to all the race organizers for a wonderful experience, we will definitely return next year for some unfinished business. Thank you to our sponsor, DO IT NOW magazine, for your ongoing support and faith in team Gijima and also to the race support from our seconds and fellow racers. Thank you to our Creator for such a beautiful country in which we can play.

Team Gijima

Merrell Eden Duo, 31 October 2009