Friday 23 February 2007

When last did you get in the water?

At school I swam for the team (all strokes). For 7-years at varsity I played club and Provincial underwater hockey. The only other time I've spent any decent time in the water was due to "The Foot Injury of 2002". I'd swim up to 4km a day and aqua-jog up and down the lanes until I could get back to running. But that was then and this is now and until last night, I probably hadn't done any formal swimming since 2003. Tomorrow I'm doing Xterra Lite...

For adventure racers, swimming must be the most avoided discipline. Flat out swimming is just something that we don't really need as the only time we need to swim is to get to the shore when we've fallen out of our boats or cross rivers and short sections of dams. In full clothing, socks, takkies and dragging a backpack, lengths in a pool are not going to help a helluva lot (except for water confidence and upper body strength).

On Sunday at the Quantum Adventures sprint in Grabouw, we swam through a little dam, assisted by a rope strung from one side to the other. We also swam around a buoy in another small dam with tubes under our bellies. No style or technique needed here...

With Xterra Gauteng looming, I thought I'd better get in the water to remind my muscles just what it feels like to swim again; and the experience was actually pretty good. I had flashbacks to those long sessions a few years back when I'd rhythmically swim length after length after length... it's quite hypnotic. I definitely felt it in my shoulders and a couple of times misjudged the distance to the wall so when I tumble-turned too early my toes had to stretch for the side.

I swam about 1.2km and this morning suffered no ill effects, with the exception of a sore left ear when I woke up. Would you believe that I can be dunked by rapids, drift down mucky rivers, slither through mud and swim in dams yet my immune system succumbs to nasties in the gym's pool? I had to go to get drops.

One thing I can say is that the 600m swim of the Xterra Lite (1.5km for the Xterra) doesn't worry me; it's swimming with loads of other people at the same time that I've never done. I'm also not so sure whether I want to mountain bike with my cycle shorts over my swim suit and then how to I get my crop top on? After degreasing my chain (I received good instruction at AR Club this month on the correct procedure) I'm going to surf the web for some transition tips.

If, like me, you're doing your very first triathon (albeit off-road) tomorrow, good luck.

Wednesday 7 February 2007

Gettin' into AR sprints

Would you believe that on Saturday I participated in my 3rd adventure racing sprint ever... and the first one since late-2002?

Adventure racing sprints, a short (20-40km) adventure racing event format, first made their appearance in late- 2000 with the introduction of Zirk Botha's Dirty Weekend Series and Mike Baker's Game Sprint Series. These events were immediately popular and they brought adventure racing into the mainstream market.

Where events over 200km are not for everyone, sprints are. Sprints are generally held within an hour of major centres, the disciplines are not technical, the distances are not intimidating, navigation is rudimentary (if included) and equipment is minimal (takkies, mtb and helmet). Most of all, they offer affordable, straight-up outdoorsy fun and they don't consume your whole weekend.

The very first sprint I did was one of Zirk's Dirty Weekend Series events at Roodeplaat dam in late-2001 (I think?). Near the end of 2002 I did Garry Townsend's sprint at Stanford Lake College in the Magoebaskloof area. It was tagged on to the Magoebaskloof Mountain Bike Classic. Ever since I've been on the sidelines taking photos and marshalling.

So, it was with suprise that I received an email from Philip Kruger about 2 weeks before the UGE Events Sprint asking me whether I'd like to join him. I hadn't even thought of racing! Tim was committed to racing with his friend so this was an opportunity not to be missed.

The event was held at Bushtrails in the Magaliesberg, an area I'd been to a few years ago for orienteering - no advantage... I didn't recognise a thing! We started off with an orienteering section, collecting 4 controls within a defined area. It was already roasting so Philip and I were glad that we'd chosen to run first and then mtb as those running later would be even hotter on foot. Then we got onto our bikes for a very rocky ride, one that included much bike-pushing. I really enjoyed the first section of it going up-and-over bumps on what looked like a quad bike track. Back into the transition we headed out for another short run-orienteering section before returning to the base for a very muddy obstacle course. How delightful to be walking on logs, climbing cargo nets, crawling through a tunnel and slithering through muddy pits.

While I controversally maintain that sprints are not strictly adventure racing, I do recommend these events to all and sundry. Why?

For novices this is an excellent opportunity to get out, have fun and to do something with your teammates. Even over 25km you can get a feel for your teammates strengths and weaknesses.

For experienced competitors, sprints offer a wonderful opportunity for you to promote your team. You can't get much better publicity than racing with 200 (or more) competitors out on the course and all around you versus 80 competitors you don't see for 3-days.

My thanks to Philip for inviting me to race with him. It was an excellent race and was good to be out playing. Next race? Tim and I are in Cape Town next weekend for a wedding so we're going sneak away from post-wedding festivities to take part in Ugene Nel's Quantum Adventure Sprint on Sunday, 18 Feb. Delightful!