The Fish River Marathon has to be one of the Greatest Races in the world! The organisation is superb, excellent safety, fun After-Party with awesome South African bands (think Prime Circle), good friends, and a GREAT river full of exciting rapids, man-made weirs, and some flat sections to test your endurance (and mental strength!)
Good start in the mist, the same mist that caused half of B Batch to get lost. I got across the dam pretty quickly, and led the portage over the dam wall, and back into the river. We had caught up to a lot of the guys who got lost in the mist ahead of us, and there was quite a people-block at the second put in after Collett Weir. As I was paddling away, a male paddler hit my paddles, pushing them under my boat, and causing me to have a very unfortunate swim. I went from my hard-earned 1st to about 5th. I pushed hard and managed to catch up to Robyn and Abie at Keith’s Flyover, and had a great portage and managed to put in ahead of the girls. Robyn hopped on my wave and we were now in 2nd and 3rd place. We tried pulling at a constant pace and managed to catch up to Katerina just above Katkop Portage. Then, I put in a bit of a surge and managed to drop her, but Robyn stayed on my wave. Last 2 obstacles coming up were Glen Alpha Bridge which was negotiated successfully, and then finally, Knudtsford Drop. This did not go well, and I think fatigue must have been setting in as I stuffed it up properly, opening up the door for Robyn to take the stage win, and even for Katerina to catch up and pass me. So that meant that I had to start Day 2 about 2 minutes behind Robyn and about 1:10 behind Katerina.
Day 2: Elapsed Time start
I started hard, and managed to catch both Robyn and Katerina fairly quickly, after about 35 minutes into the stage. I rested up on the wave, and tried to focus on recovering as quickly as possible. After Gauging Weir I put the burners on and managed to drop Katerina, and then just above Marlow Shoot I managed to drop Robyn. One more major obstacle to go and my first Fish victory would be realised. Not sure why I panicked, but I shot it a little too far to the right, and had a major swim. The lifeguards got me out, although it felt like I was there for ages. The suck back is really strong, and made me remember why man-made obstacles are so dangerous. My boat on the other hand, had a real ‘mare of a time. It got held under water for at least 4-5 minutes, while I waited in the bank. My paddle eventually popped out, then my boat. By now both Robyn and Katerina had passed by, and with the finish only just over a kilometre away, there was no chance of catching them! If I had only had a quick swim, and my boat hadn’t been held for so long, or if only I had shot it properly, if only, if only… That is river racing for you. Well done to Robyn Kime for having a flawless day, showing that “no mistakes” wins the race!
I have never won the Fish, and the last Eastern Province paddler to win it was the late Daniel Conradie, who was my coach and mentor. To say the Fish means a lot to me is an understatement. I am super proud of being an Eastern Cape paddler, “Oos Kaap” rocks, and I will definately be back next year to make ammends and try my hardest to claim a victory.
Thanks to my mom for being a “Super Second” and driving for me, and making me some power food!
Below is how I should have shot the weir 🙂