Race Report: KeyHealth Nevarest ‘Juniors’ – Cyanosis 30hr Adventure Race

Team members

The A1 Adventure Series South Africa provides an opportunity for new races and race directors to challenge athletes at various race venues across South Africa.

KeyHealth Nevarest ‘Juniors’ took on the challenge of the Cyanosis Midlands 30HR  Adventure Race, which was the third race of the series, held in Greytown, Kwazulu Natal.

 

Team preparation before the race.

The team had not had an opportunity to train together but they were each putting in their own training separately. Alec has set weekly routine and is generally very fit for both for OCR and short course AR racing. Similarly Calen, Antonie and Ruth keep to regular training routines which focus on strength and endurance training specifically geared toward OCR but have crossover benefits for the AR format.

Being the team manager, Alec has additional responsibilities which usually start a couple of days ahead of the race. “Personally my preparation goes way beyond just getting the team to the start line, this time there was getting the media contingent sorted, getting the new Vagabond boats sorted. Ensuring all the team members for both teams have what is needed for the race, map bags, map boards, waterproof pants, paddles, food,” commented Alec.

As a very young and inexperienced AR team, they were using the opportunity at the race to build on their fitness and to gain valuable experience with the help of their seasoned AR Team Captain Alec.

 

The Journey to Greytown

The team planned to leave at 2 pm from Pretoria and eventually left at 3:30 pm. From there they had to collect other team member and unfortunately got stuck in the hectic JHB traffic. The trip was pleasant and gave an opportunity for all team members to chat and catch up and plan a bit of race strategy. The car was a mix of both KeyHealth Teams’ athletes and this added to the entertaining discussions and race planning. They eventually arrived at the start venue at about 12 am after dropping off the boats. This at best left the team with about 3 to 4 hours sleep prior to the race. Not at all ideal.

 

Registration

Nic was up waiting for them to sign indemnity forms and register. On arrival, they had a quick coffee and catch up chat and headed off to sleep. Team photos were taken the next morning at map hand out / race briefing. Receiving the schematic diagram ahead of time assisted them to plan and prepare ahead of time which was great and it did not give away much in the process.

The team was excited and optimistic and were looking forward to the challenging event.

 

Leg 1 – Trek

This was a massive leg for the team – none of the youngsters had done a marathon distance trail run ever. With about 1500m elevation gain and an icy swim ahead it was always going to be very tough. Some fun elements did include some golf skills which brought much laughter to the teams. The team managed to find some great single track heading towards CP6 which saved some time.

A tricky decision to swim through the freezing water or run around the lake found the team opting for the swim option which they anticipated to be faster. Any real advantage to be had from swimming across the dam was lost by the time spent by the juniors getting undressed packing dry bags then getting dressed again on the other side. Alec swam across knowing he would soon dry off once they got moving. He also taught them how to effectively turn their packs into a flotation device by blowing air into their hydration bladders – these two learning opportunities prove that there is no substitute for experience. Ruth was not keen at all on swimming but she survived and which will provide valuable experience for races in the future.

The trek was going very well and all was smooth sailing until got to mushroom rock. A  navigation error saw the team adding almost 10km onto the already long route. The team spent some time trying to cross two valleys in search of a CP and thankfully with the help of a local rural young man were able to find some decent footpaths towards the CP. After that, it was pretty straightforward and the even managed to find the home of a local farmer in the middle of nowhere who very kindly gave them some water and oranges

Unfortunately, Ruth’s hip flexor injury flared up and she finished off the leg on pain pills and being towed by Calen while Antonie carried her pack. So after a monster 53km hike 11h30 min her race was done and she withdrew at T1.

This was a tough leg for the team.

 

Leg 2 – MTB

Getting onto the bikes was a welcome relief for the team as their legs were feeling tired after the long trekking leg. “My legs were pretty finished and I thought they would not be able to manage the 40 odd kays on the bike. Once I got started they felt ok and I felt much better” said Antonie.

After some navigational issues on Leg 1, the plan for this leg was to be more careful with route choices and the tactic was to use micro navigation to ensure they did not get lost. The team made a couple of minor wrong turns at the start but nothing too serious. “As this is a training exercise for the Juniors, it’s important that they have an opportunity to practise their navigation skills so it’s good for them to read maps and make navigational decisions”

Midway through the leg, Alec started to have some sleepmoster issues and his pace on the bike fell off for a while. The team managed to catch a bit of a rest along the side of the road. Then after CP14 on their way to CP15 they saw a large wildfire heading their way in the distance, at the time they were together with Lickety Split and they jointly decided to skip CP15 and head for the main road and avoid the fire. This was a wise decision in the end and in the best interest of safety.

 

Leg 3 – Kayak

The paddle Leg was cancelled due to the extreme wind. This was a pity as they were looking forward to testing the brand new Vagabond Mazowe kayaks. “It would have been great to test the new kayaks in those conditions. The new Vagabond is very well designed and very stable so there would have been no danger of a capsize like with the K2’s the other teams had brought along.” said Alec.

The team used the opportunity at T2 have some decent food and treat themselves to a couple of Steri Stumpies. After layering up with some dry warm gear in preparation for the kloof the team discussed the possibility of proceeding into the difficult (and wet) kloof section. Alec gave the Juniors the option of heading for home instead of the kloofing Leg. One consideration was that both Calen and Antonie both had big races the following weekend as they were already unofficial.  

 

Leg 4 – MTB back to finish

The team had a good tailwind helping them up the hills. A decent tar road heading back toward the finish was an easy cycle despite the cold windy conditions. Alec continued battling the sleepmonsters and had to fight to stay awake, eventually, they had to take a power nap in the concrete drain next to the road. “The great thing with AR is that you can sleep anywhere. Even in a drain on the side of the road – it works great by the way.” smiled Alec. Antonie and Calen didn’t seem to share the same sentiment.

 

Closing thoughts

The next day when the team was all warm and more comfortable they did wonder what the Kloofing leg would have been like had they done it. They will have to go back and find out someday.

The race was very well designed and run by Cyanosis and the organisation was excellent. In particular, the gear and equipment transportation was great. “The organisers really took very good care of our MTB’s. They transported them with great care and everything on our gearboxes was all ok” said Calen.

The youngsters (Calen, Ruth, Antonie) and (Jonathan absent from this race) will make a solid team when they get their race schedules to coincide hopefully at the Kinetic full moon where Jonathan will take over the Captain and navigation role. This time round they contributed 61 years between the three of them to their year total age of 111, missing out on the youth category by 1 year! Once they replace Alec their total age will drop to 81.

 

Ruth enjoyed the race although she was not able to continue after Leg 1 – “Racing with this team is very exciting and I enjoy racing with these guys. It’s also great learning about this great sport”

 

Said Alec of the youngsters “I really enjoyed racing with them and hope they did too. They have many years of racing as a youth team to come, watch this space!”

 

The level of competition up front is certainly heating up and there is plenty to race for in the remaining two A1 series races for 2018.

 

Craig Giese is an Adventure Photographer and Media Content Developer from the Eastern Cape, South Africa