RACE REPORT: KeyHealth Nevarest Team – A1 RACE #3 [Cyanosis]

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 ‘A Team’ 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

The “A” Team remained unchanged for this race and were very excited to get to the start line alongside some very experienced adventure racers as well as the opportunity to race in an area where none of the team members had raced before.

The team was prepared to be out on the course for approximately 20 hours based on the course information and although they were not able to train together as a team before the race they felt physically prepared individually going into the race. The team also spent time before the race communicating about race strategy and looked at areas to focus on and improve during the race.

They did feel a bit of pressure having won the previous race, however, they were cautiously optimistic and focussed on keeping in the front group. As Malcolm stated before the race “We just need to keep up the momentum going into the race and look at racing well together. The team is ready and we’ll give our best out there ”

The team felt confident despite one or two niggles but were very eager to get out on the course and race.

 

The Journey to Greytown

The journey was without incident but the team left a bit later than planned. There was a great deal of gear to pack and load as well as collecting other team members along the way. Once all set to go they hit the ever-present Joburg traffic on their way to Greytown. Their trip was pleasant and they used the opportunity to chat to each other and share further race strategies.

The late arrival (around 23:00 pm) meant it was a quick unpack and tent set up and then a short sleep before race start at 06:00 am.

 

Set up and Registration

Jaco managed to get to the start venue earlier in the day and processed the registration documents for the team. This saved time in the morning and the team was able to do final gear checks and preparation. Maps for LEG 1 were handed out at 05:30 am just which provided an opportunity for Malcolm to plot the route before the race start. After a quick briefing, the signal was sounded promptly at 06:00 am and the teams headed off into the howling August wind.

 

Leg 1 – Trek (42.2km)

“A perfect start to the race – a little marathon for a warm up!” exclaimed Michael as they ran off through the forests and headed off into Greytown.

A relatively fast start with a couple of fun CP’s to collect in the town including one in the middle of a maze. The team had a little golf challenge at the country club where they had to chip a golf ball onto a green and managed to sneak ahead of Team Jabberwock who’s golf skills were not as good as their racing. Keeping with the format of no CP boards the team was required to take a picture of a feature along the route.

“This is quite fun” commented Jaco as he snapped away at one of the CP’s.

The route then headed out of town up the first climb to a cross CP at the top of a mountain and then descended again to an open section of water. Here the teams were required to make a decision. Either to swim across the 80m section of water or take the 3km run around the dam. The team made a decision to run around the collect the CP instead of risking getting wet and very cold in the already cold conditions. The conditions on the run were not ideal and there were sections that were very marshy which made moving at a decent pace challenging and, as a result, the team lost a bit of time. The benefit was they were dry and didn’t need to change or dry clothing.

After about 30km the team took a tiger line to cut out a bend in the road which was successful until the last 200m where the vegetation became very thick and ended up having to bushwack through until they reached the open areas. As a result, the team dropped off the pace of the leading teams but worked hard and made up some time and arrived at Transition 1 in 2nd place just as Team Jabberwock was leaving on the MTB leg.

 

Leg 2 – Cycle (41.2km)

Malcolm was feeling a bit tired after the trek and his chest was recovering from some congestion earlier in the week,but eventually found his legs on the MTB section after about 10km. The rest of the team was feeling strong and had settled into a good pace early on in the MTB leg.

“Legs are feeling good and I think we can catch the front teams” said Yolande as she powered her way on the gravel roads in the picturesque foothills of the Natal Midlands.

The route was a fairly comfortable ride through some rural areas and over some gentle climbs. 5km’s from the end they caught sight of team Jabberwock and decided to push and arrived at Transition 2 right behind them.

 

Leg 3 – Trek (42.2km)

Leg 3 was a paddle on Craige Burn Dam where teams were required to collect 6 CP’s in any order – an interesting option with a combination of points collectable on the water’s edge to other points that required portages.

Both Nevarest and Jabberwock entered the water at the same time and the battle was on. Jabberwock was paddling K2’s – a sleek more streamlined build – but managed to keep their balance well. The “sit on top” kayaks were more stable but they were a little slower than the K2’s but the team managed to maintain a very good pace on the water. The new Vagabond design worked extremely well and provided ample space for legroom and gear.

The conditions were really challenging and the wind made some sections of the paddle very difficult. Paddling is not Nevarest’s strong point and there are only two competent paddlers and the team did well to maintain a competitive pace.

Jabberwock managed to extend their lead and Merrell did well to catch up and the race for a top spot was now on.

“We went into T3 feeling a bit under pressure and tried to make a quick transition and get going as quickly as possible – which I think led to the unfortunate navigation error at the start of Leg 4.”

 

Leg 4 – Trek (42.2km)

“This is where we, unfortunately, lost the race for ourselves.” said a disheartened Team Captain. Feeling a bit behind after the paddle and wanting to get out of T3 as quickly as possible and with Merrell chasing us –  we got ourselves under pressure and made a critical navigational error.” shared Malcolm.

When they took the maps out for the next couple of legs they incorrectly joined two maps together and when plotting the course thought that T5 was T4. As a result, they headed off in completely the wrong direction out of T3. In their haste, they were heading for T5 instead of T4!

After cycling about 20 km they realised that something was amiss and then, fortunately, saw a sign that was the actually the name board for T5. Correcting their mistake immediately they were able to find a link road which headed directly south straight towards T4. The Team realised that although they had lost about 1.5 hours they were still able to put in the effort and catch up. They knew if they worked hard together they could still be in the running for a podium finish . They headed towards T4 as fast as possible and they managed to make up some lost ground – things were looking better.

With just less than 2 km’s to go they made their there way up a small climb up the top of the hill. Jaco was pedalling hard and was standing up on his bike and unfortunately, his foot slipped out of the cleat which resulted in it landing directly onto the hard surface with all his body weight. He fell over the front of his bike and was ‘man down’ for a couple of minutes. His teammates assisted but they could see he was in a lot of pain.

“The pain was intense and I could hardly move my ankle. I managed to get back up on my. bike with the help of Michael and Malcom and had to actually cycle with one leg into T4” said the injured Jaco.

When they arrived in T4 he had his ankle checked out but was unable to stand and place any pressure on the foot. It was at this point that they realised that with the difficult kloof section ahead, it was not going to be possible to carry on and took the decision collectively to withdraw.

It was a very difficult decision for the team and they were extremely disappointed knowing that there were a lot of people out there supporting them and following them during the race. Individually they knew that they had trained hard and were racing well and this made the decision even more difficult or the team.

 

Final Thoughts

As a Team of very competitive athletes, it was very disappointing not to be able to carry on and complete the full course, but they did manage to learn many valuable lessons during the race.

As Malcolm wisely said “In order to grow you need to experience failure and low points, because going through these hardships makes you stronger in the end”

The team really enjoyed the course layout and there were some challenging sections. There was a variety of weather conditions which also added to the challenge – from being very windy and cold to quite warm in some stages. It was also great for the team to race in a part of the country that they hadn’t been in before and the scenery was really special.

“Cyanosis really put on a special race and a lot of thought went into the course design and layout and we would’ve loved to have done some other sections of the route. It was really fantastic” said a tired but happy Yolande.

Malcolm shared these final words “Im proud of the team. The race that didn’t quite work out as planned but we’re going to pick ourselves up and we will be ready for the next race and we will be back and race hard as we can”