RACE REPORT: KeyHealth Nevarest Origin

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 Origin entered the KeyHealth Nevarest 36HR Adventure Race, which was the second race of the series, held in Pilgrims Rest, Mpumalanga.



The team was prepared to be out on the course for approximately 24 hours based on the race book guidelines. This was built into their race strategy as well as food planning, transition times and racing pace. As it turned out this strategy had to be adjusted as the course challenged all the teams by being closer to 30 hours predicted winning time.

Racing over 24 hours non stop without an opportunity to access any gear boxes adds a new challenge and the team, although prepared, felt a bit of pressure going into the race.

As Jaco mentioned “How I need to prepare in this level of race both mentally and physically is going to be important. I must be honest I’m feeling a bit nervous, but I’m looking forward to the challenge”

Individually the team is strong and has experience. Each team member is committed and adds good components to the team with their individual strengths. Yolande Speedy, multiple Cape Epic winner is very strong on MTB and mentally tough. Michael Joubert is an endurance machine and never gives up and his strength is invaluable out on the course.

Malcolm Dunkeld’s excellent navigation and positive approach adds a dynamic component to the team. Jaco Lourens has recently recovered from an injury and was concerned about the distance of the course.



The team was excited about starting with a MTB section as it’s one of their strengths. The early start and cool conditions had the team feeling energetic and ready. Even with over a 1000m ascent the team was very focussed on helping each other get up the mountain as quickly as possible.

At some point Michael asked “Is the never ending mountain climb actually going to end?”

They did have an early navigation error and recovered quickly only losing about 10 minutes. “In the end we were rewarded with amazing views” said Yolande.


Leg 2

Things felt like it started to change for the team and they managed to set a good pace. They left T1 and started off strong with Jabberwock and managed to get to the first CP together. Jabberwock pulled out ahead went out rather fast and were looking very strong. Two options to the next CP were a tiger line or an easier route around a mountain. The team decided to use the jeep track, which ended up being a bit longer but allowed them to conserve some energy. At this point the team fell behind and but were enjoying the amazing views along the hiking track.

“The Tower and Beacon in particular views were really beautiful.”noted Yolande.

Jabberwock were really fast and stayed about 20 minutes in front after the team missed CP8 when they overshot the CP by 3 km by taking a straight line and had to backtrack. As a result they lost 40 minutes further increasing the deficit behind Jabberwock and this also allowed Red Ants to catch up and end up slightly ahead of Nevarest.

Going into T3 the team was feeling very tired and legs were sore after the climbing but still felt positive. A quick refill and preparation before heading out on the MTB and they managed to save some time and left only 10 min behind Red Ants.


Leg 3

This leg was quite challenging as they knew they had to pick up the pace chasing two teams in front of them. They worked hard on the MTB leg and managed to catch Red Ants. Just as things were going well Yolande had a huge wipe out on a fast downhill section and ended up flat on the ground sliding 2 or 3 metres. Everyone stopped immediately thinking it was serious.

Malcolm gasped “Jeepers she’s broken something for sure!” to which Yolande replied “Guys im ok let go” and promptly picked herself up, dusted herself off and jumped back on her MTB. She is one tough lady.

The team chose an interesting route option Interesting through a river bed to try and make up some time which worked well and ended up climbing together with Red Ants to the next CP. Feeling very very tired they still pushed ahead and slowly to pulled away to maintain a lead.


Leg 4

Another quick transition and knowing that there would be water in the canyon they decided to keep gear to a minimum in order to move as quickly and efficiently as possible. Night was also approaching and this added to their urgency. They tigerlined down to the first CP and then into the deeper sections of the canyon.

“It was simply amazing in the kloof”, said Jaco. “This section really lifted our spirits and we loved every minute jumping across boulders and moving in and out of rocks pools. The water was also fresh and great tasting”

As there was no route on the side of the canyon they had to maintain a straight line in order to reach the CP’s. They struggled finding CP15 (trig beacon) as it was on a high section of steep rock. The team decided to climb a steep rock face which was a bit dangerous in the dark and one wrong foot placement could have meant a broken limb. Fortunately they managed to get up safely. After much climbing, bundu bashing and backtracking and still not being able to find the CP they became a bit despondent. Then suddenly Michael caught a glimpse of the reflective tape on the CP board from his headlamp and the team were instantly relieved at the discovery. They still had to climb a short distance to reach the trig beacon but finally found it with great excitement. With approaching headlights of other teams they made a run back to T4. This is where they heard the news that Jabberwock fell out heard about Keyhealth Origin withdrawing which meant that they were then in 1st place. As much as they were excited by the prospect of possibly winning the race they were also saddened that two great teams were now out of the race.


Leg 5

This was a really quick leg for the team and they only had one small navigation error. It was certainly a race to the garage in Graskop for a warm pie, coffee and bar ones. The team sat on the floor in the garage gathering and preparing for the 40 km ahead and took a moment to rest for about 10 minutes. They navigated well to the next to CP’s at the waterfalls and were on track for a straightforward route to T5. Just after the last CP they missed a turn and carried on straight without realising the navigational error.

Eventually Malcolm said “Guys this is not right. We are way too high than we should be. Something’s not quite right.”

So they decided to turn back and retrace the route and managed to find the turn. After more than 24 hours of racing and the course taking longer than planned they were feeling very tired and battling to stay awake. In addition to this Jaco’s light was not working and had to cycle closely behind Yolande for about 20 km. They were very pleased to see T6 at Pilgrims Rest campsite just before sunrise.


Leg 6

The team did well on this leg moving as the sun started to rise and collected CP’s in and around the town. Most of the CP’s were key points of interest and it was fun for the team to learn about these historical sites. Lots of fun and were looking forward to a beer at CP33 (Johnny’s Pub) but unfortunately it wasn’t open yet. Sorry Malcolm.

Leg 7

The paddle was very challenging but the team overcame and conquered a lot during this section.

They worked hard in the paddle through shallow and deeper water. The biggest challenge was having to portage the shallower sections where the boat was touching the rocks. Some sections has faster flowing water and forced teams into overhanging, trees, branches and river banks. At one stage Jaco had three spiders on his body and was suffering near hypothermia. Needless to say the team survived and dealt with each of these challenges brilliantly. Thay were just very glad to be off the water.


Leg 8

This was a big hike and the team was forward to the last leg of the race. They had kept their lead in Red Ants and were about an hour and a half ahead but Michael was battling with his ankle and couldn’t run. They decided to plot out a more simple route heading back along the main road and then looking for a ridge line toward the CP. This worked but some of the vegetation was thick and the gradient was steep in some sections. They got CP34 and headed down the saddle and were now on their way home. It was a great feeling running the last stretch to the cheers of other teams, and friends.


The team all agreed that this was one of the most adventurous AR’s they have done to date.

Jaco: “I have competed in many races and this was tough. In some places it was so challenging but getting to each CP was a very invigorating feeling – chasing and fighting to the end”

Yolande: “The race was pretty tough but the views were spectacular and great racing in this part of the country. It was really a great event”

Michael: “The last few km was getting a bit longer than planned on the course so being out there for 35 hours was tough but a great learning experience for us”

Malcolm: “The toughness and the challenge is what we are really after and this race delivered on all levels.”

They unanimously agreed as a team that it was awesome to challenge themselves and achieve at this level – and they will be back for the next A1 Race for sure.

KeyHealth Nevarest are very pleased with their efforts and everything worked out well in the end and are grateful for the opportunity to compete at this level. They hope this provides the groundwork for bigger and better adventures in the near future.

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