So Team Charnas (as in my charna bru) was back in business this weekend, this time made up of Seth, Martin, Kevin and yours truly (Stijn). The venue was Ribbokkloof Lodge, about 40km NE of Middelburg and, as most of you will know, it’s flat as a pancake. 30 teams of two or four members lined up on Saturday afternoon at 1pm after all the map preparation and packing in the morning. Kev claimed he was really ill before the race but this was quickly proven false when he spent most of the first MTB leg at the front of our paceline, making the rest of us look sick…
Anyway, to the race!
Leg 1: 47km MTB (2h03m)
Yes, that’s right, a 24km/h average speed on a MTB leg! Most of the ride was on a railway service track, with a few sections of riding on the railway track itself. After the first few km of trying to find each other in the confusion at the start, we formed a good paceline and Kev’s nav was spot on. This was serious stuff and we were blasting past other pace lines as if we were on a road race J We pulled into the transition at the Middelburg Dam in 5th place, just behind a team of 17 year-olds but managed to sneak out ahead of them on the paddle.
Leg 2: 7km Paddle & Portage(s) (1h05m)
We set off at quite a pace on the dam, in an effort to stay ahead of the teens and maintain our 4th place. My arms were suffering badly and I was bracing for a tough leg when I looked back and saw Kev & Marts’ boat way behind. Seth and I had a pretty chilled paddle in the end as it turns out Kev & Marts’ boat was filling with water (they had forgotten to take out the plugs). So the teens passed and dropped us while we had a fine time checking the maps, eating some snacks and shooting the breeze. We took a bit of a foolish “shortcut”, wading across 100m of thick clay and algae, sticking to the river at all costs afterwards. Once Kev & Marts had drained their boat of water, they managed to keep up fine and we carried our boats into transition in 4th place overall.
Leg 3: 8km Hike/Run (1h09m)
We had a google earth map to navigate off for this leg, which is usually ok, except that this one had a few clouds obscuring important features (like where the checkpoint is). We alternated a brisk hike and a comfortable jog to collect CP4 in a forest away from the dam and then head back to the dam edge to find CP5 in the cloud. We found a cheering Fran and Irene instead which really lifted our spirits, even though we had slipped a further 3 or 4 places on this leg. The last part of this run was past all the weekend braaiers and fishermen who gave us a good few chirps on the sanity of what we were doing. We ran into transition in 8th place. The race situation at this point was two Cyanosis teams up front, with 3rd place to 8th place separated by just 5 minutes, an hour back from the leading teams. I downed a steri-stumpie and some coke in transition which was not wise in hindsight.
Leg 4: 52km MTB (2h50m)
We got back into our paceline on the opening 10km of this leg and hauled in 3 of the teams in front of us pretty quickly. A bit of a peleton formed until we turned onto the long gradual climb of the mine road where we put a gap into the rest of the teams as it got dark. Actually, the rest of the Charnas put in the gap while I suffered like a dog and hung on for dear life (did I mention that Kev was supposed to be sick?). My legs were pretty much empty and our 20km/h+ pace made the going pretty hard. Kev was navving really well again and we gradually opened the gap on the chasing teams. A last nasty 8% climb had us all suffering just before transition where we arrived in 4th place to our djembe-drumming supporters J I quickly copied down the checkpoints and after a kit check, we set out on the final hiking leg as the 5th placed team (Uncharted) arrived at transition.
Leg 5: 11km Hike (2h47m)
The hike was navigationally fairly technical, having to find checkpoints at night without many paths or tracks to follow. We managed to use the valleys and fences well and progressed from checkpoint to checkpoint pretty smoothly. Team Xhale caught us just after CP12 and we weren’t able to (or weren’t inclined to) hold their pace. Their lights made for a good navigational aid anyway… Plenty of bundu-bashing through forests and heading up every hill available in the reserve later, we had one last steep scramble down to the finish line at 11:18pm. About 5 minutes before reaching it, we heard a shout, asking which team we were. Once the reply of “Team 16 – Charnas” was made, the djembe-drumming and whooping from Fran and Irene started yet again. What a way to finish the race! J A bottle of champagne was destroyed fairly quickly as we sat around the bonfire and shared our race stories with the other teams.
We crossed the line in 5th place but a pair ahead of us had received a 4hr penalty for not carrying the minimum emergency equipment required. So we finished in 4th place overall and 1st male team. My Charnas, it was great racing hard with you guys! Get ready for the Red Ants Rumble 150km (28th/29th Jan 2012), where the adventure will definitely be put back into AR!
Author: Stijn Laenen | Team Charnas | Full Moon, Middelburg, 15 October 2011