Monday, 28 June 2010

Adventures under a Full Moon

Kinetic’s Full Moon race held this weekend (26-27 June 2010) was one of the friendliest adventure races that I’ve been too. And there were many small touches that made it special. I raced with Steven Erasmus, one of my new Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge candidates (the others were in their own teams) and Motlatsi Mutlanyane, who I met last year through AR Club. Steven has done AR events in KZN (he’s a newcomer to the highveld); Motlatsi has experience in the individual disciplines – he crossed over to AR events this year.

Steven & Motlatsi with a hill (location of CP7's trig beacon) in the background. Daylight almost gone.

These were the things that stood out for me:

Paddle leg – unscheduled swim

So we’re on the first paddle leg, headed for the finish and making good progress. I could count 15 or 16 boats ahead of us. For a while the boat had seemed unmanageable and I was battling to keep it straight (I was at the back, paddle steering). It also felt like the boat was leaning to the left. We were getting more water in the seats, which we thought was due to the waves from the speed boats. Within a short space of time we were really getting unstable and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong and why there had been this sudden change – afterall, these Fluid sit-on-tops are as stable as anything. And then a speedboat wave hit us and we flipped over!

Brrr... the water was freezing. We battled to flip the boat over – it was so heavy. We climbed on board again and tried to paddle – we could barely sit upright and within moments were back in the water. We flipped the boat upright again, waving and whistling for the nearby boat.

Lauren’s team passed nearby and we shouted our race number so that they could report our troubles to the race HQ. With a splash we were then back in the water and had realised that our craft, which was floating almost below the water surface now, was water-filled. With me lying across the back, Steven almost in my lap and only Motlatsi paddling – gently, we limped, shivering, to shore. Litres of water gushed from the kayak’s drainage hole. I’m not sure how the water got in because the hatches were all so well sealed they were a battle to open.

With the boat emptied we raced, ice cold, to the finish area. Heidi and Stephan immediately swopped out our kayak for another for the night-time paddle.

We lost loads of places with this swim but made up plenty on the next cycle leg. I’m not sure how as the navigation seemed straight forward; perhaps people got stuck on funny little roads between houses?

Night paddle

After a good 30-odd kilometre cycle, we reached the night paddle spot on the dam; and it was cold down there (Heidi told us on the other side that it was 1C at this spot!). We were really worried about being freezing on the water. I climbed into a black garbage bag, wearing it like a skirt so that I wouldn't get my bottom wet; and I used another like a vest, putting it under my PDF. On my legs I had waterproof pants over my thermal tights. On my hands? Just my regular half-finger cycle gloves with paddle mitts on the paddle shaft. With a Buff on my head and another around my neck I was ready to go. Motlatsi, like me, went for the waterproof pants. I can’t remember who did what with garbage bags. Steven left his cycle shoes with our bike stuff, knowing he’d get his run shoes from his crate on the other side. Yes, he got cold feet – very cold feet.

The water was superb – flat, calm, not too cold (especially as we were paddling hard) and beautiful under the full moon.

Back in the big tent with our crates we prepared for the orienteering run within the Estate. ARer Susan Sloane was there as a helper, bringing racers steaming cups of hot chocolate, tea and coffee (thank you Susan).

Orienteering run – disorientated!

We could collect the seven orienteering points in any order; we started from OP1. We ascended the hill on the road, en route to OP2, OP3 and OP4. Mmm... and this is where I made a big mistake. We got to the ‘traffic circle’ and the direction just didn’t make sense. Looked weird, like a new road had been added to our right. I just couldn’t reason it. We proceeded up the hill, took the road to our right. It didn’t fit what I thought it should. Luckily distances were relatively short. I was very confused. I passed the map on to Motlatsi and Steven, who had it figured out and they got us to OP3 and OP4.

As for OP2, our reasoning again flew out the window and without going into too much detail we were all not with the programme and so we lost a lot of time. After OP5 I got the map back and was now back with it. We nailed OP6 and OP7 quick-quick.

Needless to say, this little activity took us far, far longer than it should have. Irritating and purely my own stupidity and error. Grrrr...

Thenit was back across the dam to the fire on the other side. Steven’s feet really froze this time!

Long 50km cycle – how about drawing in the transition!

Although this cycle leg, at 50km, seems long, the terrain was really good. Excellent quality dirt roads with smooth strips that shone in the moonlight. I haven’t ridden at night for way too long and it was actually pretty neat, especially with the full moon the whole night. As I’d been so warm and snug in my black garbage bag vest during the paddle that I kept it on for the cycle too.

After the paddle I had put on dry socks as a treat. I then put my feet into large sandwich bags and then into my wet trail shoes, to prevent the chill from the wind. Worked like a bomb! On my hands I had my half-finger cycle gloves and Gore windstopper mittens. The latter are not warm and fluffy – they just help to keep out the wind. As an additional precaution, I slipped my fingers into a sandwich bag and then into the mittens. Gotta love it! This worked really well too. Just call me Ms Plastic.

Again I made a big bloops! I had only drawn in T5 and not T4, which was nearby. So leaving the last CP on the cycle, we turned left and headed into the Bonamanzi recreation place-thing where the map showed a road along the river that would link to T5. We asked the guy at the gate if other cyclists had come through. He said they had; and we saw tracks too. Well, what we discovered is that this road didn’t exist. On leaving the place we asked the guard if the people who had come in had also come out. He said yes. We asked why he didn’t say so the first time. “You didn’t ask,” he replied. True.

So, approaching T5, we encountered T4. Stephan pointed out my error – one Adrian had made too. So silly. And this is the thing that I like about AR and that has kept me in this sport for over a decade. It is a leveller. No matter what your proficiency or experience, there’s always the opportunity to make mistakes.

The final foot orienteering, abseil and short paddle were, fortunately, without incident.

Super teammies

My teammates, Steven and Motlatsi, were gems. And best of all, even with my two bloopses they didn’t once tell me that I was a moron and instead helped to figure out the problem. We would still be trapped in the Estate on the O section if it wasn’t for their sound reasoning!

Importantly, all CPs were in the correct location – a sign of good organisation and attention. Also, the CPs were all obvious – on roads, at junctions, on bridges. Nothing hidden. Afterall, this is not orienteering, it is adventure racing. In orienteering we like them to be hidden for the challenge (also O maps have sufficient detail, topographical maps don’t); in adventure racing the challenge is between A and B, not at B.

The terrain was also well chosen; not technical on foot or bike – just right for this event.

I’ve been out of practise with through the night multidiscipline racing (Abu Dhabi only has night trekking and I’m used to being on foot at night) and it was a delight. My growing fears pre-race about freezing to death were really unfounded. The key to success was really in keeping moving and plastic bags.

Team AR - Steven, Lisa & Motlatsi

Steven and Motlatsi, thank you for your enthusiasm and company.

Stephan, Heidi and your crew of helpers and sponsors – what a superb event! I’m already looking forward to the next in late August.

Stats: My i-gotU GPS logger ran for 17h31. Our total race time was 20h51. We logged 131km on the logger and with the last part of the cycle, short foot O and final short paddle I'd say we would have covered close to 145km. My Suunto T6 puts my calorie expenditure at 8075kcal!


Anonymous said...

wearing it like a skirt so that I would get my bottom wet

should that be wouldn't?

adventurelisa said...

Ja. Good point. Corrected. Ta.