Expedition Africa 2014 Wild Coast KZN
IT IS WHAT IT IS
Racing with Team Cyanosis has been something I have wanted to do for quite some time now, it all came down to this. I had no clue whether or not I had prepared enough, breaking my thumb playing hockey 8 weeks prior to EA was not ideal but I did what I could do to continue training – really, can you ever train enough for something of this magnitude?
I find myself in a surreal moment standing on the beach looking out to the ocean, encompassing the fact that I am about to start my biggest challenge yet – at least the first part was easy so we could get into a comfortable rhythm before the madness began – so I thought.
Frantically paddling out to backline, unbeknown to us that half the field were wiped out by one last sneaky backline wave we set out to our first transition to collect backpacks and shoes, a quick 4km sea paddle and then the thrashing coming in – I hate swimming at the best of times and swimming in the sea, I try to avoid at all costs, luckily Nathan and Clint took over the pro paddling skills and cruised in without getting their hair wet, therefore I was the entertainment and came out looking like a drowned rat, a quick transition and up the river we continued.
Out of the boats and onto foot for a quick 12km march/hike/run and back to our boats, back down the river to transition back onto foot for the big one, a 90km hike. Everyone is in good spirits and the team are working really well together, we were all pretty much ready to leave transition at the same time, which is great, nobody felt the pressure yet 🙂 off we head in a Nicholas style walk – Hilary run pace straight to CP8 – ‘Nicholas what have done about CP7?’ asks Nathan – oh S*#! we had completely skipped CP7 so had to walk 3km back on the beach to collect it, extra 6km!
That done so we continued to the abseil a couple places behind and in 10th or 11th, 90-100m straight down to a river, we all scuttled down as quickly as possible, until Nathan and Nicholas got snagged, caught up in tress and generally not happy places, being the climbing ones they managed to muscle their way out of a bad situation and climb down to safety.
Now the trek really began , I can’t remember what order it went in, but it just went on forever, with little CP’s dotted about, we quickly ran out of sunlight and Nicholas’s formidable navigational skills came out, across the beach with river mouth crossing, where Clint had a very close encounter with some flying fish which made us all swim a little faster 🙂 by morning we had jumped up back into racing contention. Our choice not to sleep that evening was rather comical, my first experience at watching 3 grown men around me goose stepping, wandering off into the gutter at full walk, summonsing them back onto the road, we all had our turn of sleep walking, where silly topics of conversation are brought up to keep the person awake 🙂
We are still on foot and heading straight for the gorge 10km of boulder hopping that would see us taking close on 6hrs to complete, thank goodness we got it in the light, not something we’d not like to attempt at night! Feet are really starting to become an issue for me now, I can’t seem to have the mind power the boys had, pain killers are almost my main diet and I was really working very hard on power of the mind, pain is temporary bulls#$! my feet were sore it was early morning and I was grumpy, plain and simple.
Nicholas did some sneaky sneaky navigation which put us right up with the French team, all of us went into stealth mode which at the time was very cunning, now very comical. Racing the sunlight to get out of the gorge was our main priority, it was absolutely magnificently beautiful, not that we could appreciate it at the time but I honestly believe that would be a Kingdom for Fairies to live in!
Reaching Mbotyi was wonderful, we got in just as it got dark. I had to have my feet seen too, they were wet, raw, blistered and generally not happy with their owner, nevertheless they still had a fair way to carry me so they had to ‘Suck it up’ and get on with it. We got all our bikes ready, changed repacked our backpacks, in my case just added to the bag, I kept forgetting to unpack so by the end I had enough food to feed every team! Rookie error, yes I am a beginner at this! Fed and packed we book down for a 2hrs or so in the tent provided for a much needed rest – it doesn’t make you feel nice waking up after that, Mac did warn me, showee I felt horrid, but good at the same time.
The French had decided to sleep as well and left transition a couple minutes before we did – we had a rabbit and we were going to catch it! Very happy to be off our feet and on our beautiful bicycles, we charged out of transition like the race had just begun, straight into 4km climb of note, the French are getting closer we can see we are catching so the hill became a non entity 🙂 again Nic’s navigation was spot on and we cruised up to and past the French in one sweep – onward for Lusikisiki where there is a garage – that garage has food – that garage had pies and chocolate milk 🙂 compulsory stop, eat, drink and continue – in my case I can’t quite say it was a good idea, I got the typical case of ‘maagies vol, oogies toe’ and kept drifting off on my bike, going down a tar road flat out one would never believe you could doze off, I did, thankfully Clint screamed at me and I was still on my bike when I woke up!
Heading down to the bike/paddle transition, where the paddle leg had been shortened from 67 – 25km, the Chinese had miraculously turned a 2km hike/bike section into a beautiful district road running straight down to the transition, from worrying about out feet we were now concerned about our brake pads – or as Clint said ‘if your breaks fail crash into the bushes, we’ll find you!’
A marquee 1km from the river marked our transition zone, a quick repack of the bikes, food, drink and off we trekked with massive boats down to the river, not with a few navigational arguments of course. Eventually we all put in at the same spot and drifted down river with finally the chance to take our shoes off and give our feet a rest!
Nathan and Clint have a good combination together and motored ahead of Nicholas and I, Nicholas being the navigator, doesn’t really get the opportunity to switch off properly, until he got into the boat where he slept for quite some time on the back of the boat , rather comical now yet imperative at the time, we had a great paddle and spirits were much higher on reaching Port St John’s. Again I needed the medic to restrap and clean my feet, Clint and Nathan also had very sore feet but they are boys and wouldn’t admit it 😉
The next leg was a 40km hike/trek, I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was – it was brutal! off we set straight up a mountain to a beacon – race organisers LOVE beacons!!!
For the first time in the race I actually looked back and the view was amazing (split second!) we then began the fight with the bush, trying to get down the mountain before sunset, this was somewhat spectacular, bundu bashing, crawling, certain members throwing temper tantrums with vines and tress and eventually getting off, with a massive sigh of relief, then quite blissfully walking straight passed the CP only to realise a couple km’s beyond, we had to head back and collect it.
The sea seems very wild at night and walking along the beach coming up to an outcrop which we thought we could get round until a unexpected wave had us all scampering up rocks – Clint and I think Nicholas got dealt properly and could not avoid a complete drenching, this is all we needed to be convinced to turn round and head up and round the mountain.
Down the other side we were back on the beach but wanting to head inland, in doing so we came across a little pub/house with the sweetest little dog, who decided we were her best friends, nestled in amongst the tress and dunes – a perfect opportunity for a quick sleep – an oversleep at that, I froze beyond belief, my feet were killing me and I must admit I was not my usual chirpy happy self.
I ended up speaking to a tree, sobbing so much a pig had to come and investigate this strange noise coming from the road – this hike must end now, I think I can speak for the whole team here! Off we set heading back to Mbotyi for the last and final leg 230km bike!
We came into transition around 9:30, got our bikes and saw we were ahead of Painted Wolf and Merrell were just leaving transition, we thought we had had a tough night and possibly lost places – the beauty of Adventure Racing it’s not over until the finish line and IT IS WHAT IT IS!
A little bit of urgency needed in this transition as Painted Wolf arrived as we were all getting ready, some food and then the dreadful task of trying to put my cycling shoes on, never have I ever had to do something so painful, pain killers had become smarties now, the boys were dressed and I had to catch up fast!
To my grace Nic had to sort out the maps so I could have a bit of time to myself to pull myself out of the rut and refocus on the task at hand.
Painted Wolf and Team Cyanosis are seen leaving transition together in opposite directions 🙂 same result at the join but they too were on a fighting mission. My feet could not keep up to them on the hike a bike right near the start, much to the frustration of my team mates, having a 29er is wonderful until you have a 5ft3 person trying to carry it up rocks and the flipping wheels keep touching the ground – yes I lost my sense of humour quickly with the rest of my team.
We reached the top – finally and apologies and biscuits thanks to Nathan, were exchanged before we set off, not for long as we were all ratty and in need of a quick power nap at the base of a big climb 7.5minutes which turned in 10 and finally 15. Not 100m after we set off I spot a Merrell rising from a ditch on the side of the road – race is now on, unbeknown to us Tweet was suffering terribly with illness, yet this didn’t slow them down too much, they caught up with us where friendly chats were exchanged before they cruised on passed us to a formidable T junction, we turned right and the turned left, what would the outcome be?? We reached our checkpoint at the start of a very technical downhill path, my most exciting part for the whole race, I don’t like pushing my bike so the fun came out in me and I played down the hill with Clint keeping a very concerned watchful eye over me, only to bump in Merrell at the bottom who had unfortunately had a puncture.
This was our time to move, until I stupidly slipped on a rock and tore my calf, immediate intense pain which my team convinced me it was a muscle spasm – I walked like a duck hobbling off across the river furious with myself for letting the team down. We eventually reached the top where the mountains just got bigger and the valley’s wider, unfreakingbelieavble . Evening loomed on us and we all needed more water so a local Police station was the best place to fill up and sleep 🙂 we thought an office would do but no, we were checked into a holding cell for our 1hr30min sleep and slept behind bars, rather interesting, but it was warm and secure – it was perfect!
During this sleep anything could have happened, Merrell could have shot past us, Painted Wolf could also be sleeping or charging on and at the stage we weren’t aware but Olympus were coming through strongly towards the end.
Back on our bikes and off we went trying to read how fresh the bike tracks were to estimate if a team were close to us. That night bike was long, very long.
This is it, we are heading to Port Edward, we can see the sea, we can judge where the finish is and we turn left …………. for BIG loop before heading back to the finish.
The checkpoints became our enemies but we just had to keep going – we could see fresh tracks 🙂 with about 30km to go I had absolutely nothing left in me, we were all pushing as hard as we possibly could, 25km of tar left and then we would be home, the team got into racing mode and were hitting top speeds – home was calling!
I didn’t know how I would respond to seeing Heidi and Stefan at the finish, would I hug them or punch them , the mind game of that last loop worked on me well done! Clint quietly told me to be patient the end is near, I unclipped my feet about 10km out because I didn’t think I’d be able to do so on the finish line. The team cruised into Port Edward Holiday Resort in 4days 4hours in 5th place 2hrs behind Painted Wolf :).
The pure joy and sense of achievement that came over me was completely overwhelming, a feeling hard to explain but so satisfying.
I can honestly say I wouldn’t have done it without my team mates, Nathan, Clint and Nicholas, they pushed me far harder than I have ever been pushed – looking back, I loved it. This is a team sport and there is most definitely no I in TEAM.
IT IS WHAT IT IS