RACE HIGHLIGHTS – KeyHealth Nevarest

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 entered the KeyHealth Nevarest 36HR Adventure Race, which was the second race of the series, held in Pilgrims Rest, Mpumalanga. The team was a perfect combination of youth and experience, with three youngsters being led by the AR stalwart Alec Avierinos. The younger athletes combined have experience in racing shorter races and each have OCR experience and are solid athletes in their own right. With Alec’s experience in expedition length racing, this was an opportunity for the KeyHealth Nevarest to compete amongst other top AR Teams.



The build-up to the race mainly consisted of preparing and packing for the event and the team met briefly at a central venue in order to coordinate kit and equipment. With all compulsory items checked and gear loaded it was a short 4 hour drive to the race start in Pilgrims Rest.


Once settled the team set up camp and set about unpacking and setting up their gear. Teams were warmly welcomed at race registration and received their maps. The maps for the course were pre-plotted with the CP’s already placed on the map which was an excellent idea. The size of the maps This allowed the team to focus on selecting good route choices which favoured the teams race strategy.They knew the course was going to be tough with over 6000m of climbing in total.


Race Strategy

Going into the race the team felt ready and the strategy was simple. Team Captain Alec Avierinos said “Our plan is to get from CP to CP in the most efficient way possible and use the opportunity to move at a steady, comfortable pace. There will be a speed difference with the youngsters wanting to move quickly but we’ll make sure we go at a sustainable pace for the duration of the race.”

The race had a great mixture and well balanced legs which worked for the team. Nicolene and Calen enjoy the MTB sections while Alec and Jonathan are particularly strong on the trekking legs. A unique aspect to this race was having to carry food and shoes for the first 24 hours, which in itself was very good preparation for an expedition length event.


They were ready for the early 5:00am start.


LEG 1 – MTB (19km) – Elevation Gain +- 1000m

They did very well on the first MTB leg and reached TA1 in good time along with the top half of the field despite the fact that team captain Alec woke up feeling very weak at the start line. The climbing was tough but the team felt good coming into T1 and their legs were feeling strong. The route took them through diverse plantations and ever-changing natural vegetation. It was cool and crisp and this worked well for the team working hard climbing up towards the summit. They reached the summit in just under 3 hours.


LEG 2 – TREK (24km) – Elevation Gain +- 842m

This part of the course was very diverse and the team enjoyed the wide range of trekking options. From forest routes to rocky hiking trails they were spoilt for choice. Navigation went well in this section and the team made good progress through the cold and misty conditions in the first part of the trek. At this stage Alec was feeling a bit better and had settled into a good rhythm and pace set by the strong trekking abilities of Jonathan. Nicolene started to feel a little niggle on her knee at this point but pushed through. Calen was loving all the selfie opportunities. The team was looking good and retained their position even after one or two small navigational challenges.


LEG 3 – MTB/CAVING (46km) – Elevation Gain +- 1413m

A really special leg taking teams through the amazing forests and natural vegetation with fantastic views. This section included a 30m caving section at the base of Lisbon Falls which was definitely a highlight for the team. Halfway into the cycle Nicolene’s knee really started to hurt badly and the team used the opportunity at CP9 to take a small break. After a quick rest and snack stop the team continued to the caving section and CP10. The team opted for a higher route along the top of the waterfall and placed their bikes in the parking lot and then hiked down and up out of the river valley without having to carry their bikes. This was a good strategic move and in the process managed to elude the event photographer who was tracking them closely. The experience in the cave was a mixture of climbing and crawling through tight corridors and finally being rewarded with a great view of Lisbon Falls. It was then back on the MTB towards T3 and by this stage it was getting dark and cold. The final section just before T3 unfortunately was too much for Nicolene’s knee and before sustaining any further injury the team took the decision to withdraw from the race. It was a bittersweet moment as they received the news that Jabberwock had also withdrawn due to injury and leaned that they were currently in the top 3 teams.


The A1 Series concept

The Introduction of new race Directors with the A1 series certainly freshens up the concept of AR and ensures a larger variety of experiences, new concepts and interesting ideas. This ultimately helps the teams that are wanting to race overseas adjust to different styles of AR and improves their ability to handle curve balls during the race. The team agreed that this format certainly allows them to achieve exactly that.

Final Thoughts

The team was racing really well and were currently in 3rd place when they withdrew and were on track for a podium finish, but as is the nature of the sport it, unfortunately, was not to be. Similarly as with Jabberwock, from being placed 1st to not being able to finish due to injury as well, really highlights this point.

Alec Avierinos wisely notes “It’s all about gaining experience and learning about how to deal with adversity. Adventure Racing has great lessons that we can apply in our own lives and that’s what makes the sport so unique and special”

The highlight for the team was the incredible scenery and the careful placement of CPs – this was very well planned and they were chosen specifically for their beauty and uniqueness of the course.

The event of 36 hours was the ideal training opportunity and provided many learning opportunities for the team. This was the ideal platform and a good stepping stone to test the readiness and get a feel for expedition length racing for the future.


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