Come ride the KZN Nationals they said. It will be fun they said.
Cold and wet, with water dripping out of my helmet and into my boots, and both knees and one elbow smarting and bleeding, I was not convinced. And this was only my second time through section 2, with another two to go.
There were five Capetonians at the Nationals - myself, Mark Shearer with Dylan and Stephen, and Kobus Potgieter. Kobus had flown up, his bike having been transported up by Mark. Martin, an ex-Capie, was more at home with his old riding buddies (us) than with the (virtually non-existent) Natal riders.
Both Mark and I had decided to make a holiday of it and see family along the way. We drove up together, separately (about 50km separated us most of the time). We stayed in East London on Wednesday night, Mark with his grandkids' father, and Julie and I at an airbnb close to family that her parents wanted to visit.
Early on Thursday we both departed for Durban via the Transkei - the usual truths about that area still apply (animals on the road, apalling drivers, crazy towns etc).
On Friday we both visited the Killarney 4x4 track where the Nationals were to be held. We walked some sections and did some riding to loosen up the nerves and get a feel for the terrain. We met the clerks of the course, and Tony and Jessica Orrey who hail from P.E.
The road in almost needs a 4x4, so we left our bikes at the venue overnight to make it easier on our way in the next day. This proved to be a good idea as it started raining that afternoon shortly after we left.
The venue is lovely, with camping facilities, and very friendly and helpful staff. Colin, Kevin and Bruce, the organizers, were great organizers and ensured a memorable event.
Saturday - Round 3
The day dawned sunny and warm. My nerves were shot, as evidenced by high blood sugar readings even after injecting a higher-than-normal dose of insulin. I felt so bad I could hardly walk the sections without getting out of breath. Despite my distress, I managed a clean first lap - which is huge for me as I usually lose most of my points in the first lap.
Clubmen started at Section 8.
This led straight into Section 9. The way I was feeling I had to conserve energy and walked both sections so that I could ride them one after the other without exiting the gorge in between.
Section 11 I cleaned on the first lap, but fived on the second one because I did not walk it again, and took the wrong line.
Section 12 was straightforward. Here I am riding it on lap one, with Tony and Jessica Orrey watching to see if there are any tricks.
Back at the cars, I checked my blood sugar and it was 16! Normal is 4 - 6. I injected some insulin to try to bring it down and enable my body to burn some of the sugar the adrenaline was causing my liver to dump into my bloodstream. I am still getting the hang of managing blood sugar when competing.
Section 1 was a river crossing, that proved easy when following the lessons I have learnt from Eric Pannaye over the last few months.
Section 2 involved tight turns in a bog, that was also easy as I learnt to do tight turns during a training course with Brent le Riche. Brent was there with his dad, his brother, and his wife and children. He still had time to recognize me and greet.
Section 3 was a short ride in the river that took a bit of commitment from clubmen to clean. Most did. The clubman line was completely separate from the others.
Section 4 also had a separate clubman line that was almost trivially easy. This was probably the line that caused Mark and Steve Shearer to upgrade from clubman to intermediates.
Section 6 was called "bonsai" because the crux for masters was a huge rock with a tree growing on/over it the way bonsai trees are twisted to grow. It was the spectator highlight of the lap, and there was always a crowd. There was also almost always a queue to ride, as the section was long and not trivial.
Section 7 was set on a steep rocky slope that we entered from above. Clubmen (thankfully) only had to navigate a reasonable line to the bottom. I cleaned it (sometimes by the skin of my teeth) only because anything else was too ghastly to contemplate. I was dreading doing this section in reverse, but luckily it was removed from the course for the next round. I came 6th out of 10 riders. Martin Kelsey won the Clubman class with just one dab! Well done Martin,
After the riders finished, the organizers and observers changed the sections for the next day. As the clubman scores were quite low on average, the clubman lines were made a bit harder. Five new sections were included, and 7 were reversed.
Sunday - Round 4
The day started (not really dawned) overcast and cold, but after nominal rain drops cleared up beautifully. Clubmen started on Section 6 (a new section) that fed into the end of yesterday's section 9.
The section stole a dab from me, but that was OK. I cleaned the next two sections and section 9 (Bonsai in reverse).
Section 10 was new, and the clubman line was perfectly cleanable and safe, with just a few rocky bits to negotiate.
Section 11 was the old section 5 in reverse, and curiously, was still just an up-and-down but now from right to left.
Section 12 was new, and clubmen had a separate line along the bottom of the slope that proved cleanable on every lap for me.
Section 1 was the old section 2, a reverse of the bog. Easy for me.
Section 2 was a bitch. Many 3s and 5s were taken from those not able to jump across the river. It started with a river crossing that presented no real problems - the rock was mostly a single flat rock as opposed to many loose round ones. Then some riding along the side of the river on rock ledges, with a part of it very, very narrow. Many got hooked up on the narrow part. On the last lap I nearly fell into the river here, and collected 3 penalty points even before I got to the crux.
Then the experts line involved jumping about 1m across the river, while the clubman line was a tight turn down a steep bank into the wider part of the river and a slippery-rock ride to a steep rutted bank and out. Here Stephen cleans the section with a beautiful jump.
On lap 1 I tried the clubman line, but lost confidence and paddled down the slope and fell into the river. Ice cold water was flowing in my helmet and I was wet and cold to my boots.
This is how to not do it:
On the next lap I tried the experts line, but did not have the confidence to jump the gap outright. I tried Jessica Orrey's strategy of dropping in with the front wheel, then stepping up and out - but the bank caught me out and I went sideways and fell back into the river. Charles 0, River 2 x 5.
Thankfully Martin was there to help me out, because the cold water knocked the stuffing out of me a bit.
I even decided I would just ride in to section 2, then ride out again for a 5 without getting wet or hurting myself. But that was not to be.
On lap 3 Martin showed me the clubman line that proved both safe and cleanable down the steep slope. I tried it for the last two laps and although I threed it both times, it was better than fiascos.
Section 3 was the reverse of the same section the day before. It involved a tight turn into the river, and a bit of riding in the river to exit. I managed the tight turn and rode the old line, but on subsequent laps did less of a turn and more river riding, and lost 2 points in total.
Section 4 was the old section 12 in reverse, and on the first lap I did not remember about the white flag at the end (previously in the beginning) so had a fiasco. It was exacerbated when I argued with the observer that I had not missed any flags until he pointed out the one I had not noticed.
Section 5 followed on directly, and was new. Some tricky riding on rocks and things but I managed fine.
I finished after 5h15 of riding (we had 6 hours), and was glad to get into dry clothes. My score put me 8th out of 12 clubmen. Dylan came 3rd! and Martin 4th.
Saturday - Round 3
|2||BRUCE LE RICHE||4||0||0||0||3||7||0||2||1||1||2||1||21||1|
|1||BRENT LE RICHE||2||1||0||1||0||8||0||5||0||1||0||6||24||2|
|19||JOHN LE RICHE||0||0||4||0||0||2||0||0||0||0||3||2||11||1|
|39||PAUL MAYER Jnr||0||1||8||0||5||0||0||0||0||2||3||8||27||2|
|111||CHARL VAN EEDENE||1||13||14||5||6||14||11||1||7||16||17||7||112||13|
Sunday - Round 4
|2||BRUCE LE RICHE||0||1||0||3||2||0||0||0||4||0||0||0||10||1|
|1||BRENT LE RICHE||0||2||0||2||0||1||1||1||1||2||0||0||10||2|
|19||JOHN LE RICHE||0||7||0||0||0||0||1||1||4||10||0||0||23||1|
|39||PAUL MAYER Jnr||0||13||3||3||0||0||3||0||1||1||2||1||27||2|
The astute observer will notice that the young girls beat me solidly, as did young Dylan. I will need to up my game, but I suspect a change in status is inevitable.
Julie and I had a wonderful time. This included the traveling - but the trial was definitely the highlight. We have decided to make this an annual pilgrimage.
And yes, it was indeed fun!