Fish 2009

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Photo by Gameplan Media

Photo by Gameplan Media

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!)

My Race:

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.

 

Albert, his wife Michelle and I after Day 1

Albert, his wife Michelle and I after Day 1

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 🙂

Fish article on www.paddle365.com

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Eray targets Hansa Powerade Fish to end her best season ever – Written by Dave Macleod Friday, 25 September 2009

Cradock – Cape canoeing star Michéle Eray has her sights firmly set on the Hansa Powerade Fish river canoe marathon next weekend for three reasons. She has never won the race, she regards it as the years paddling highlight, and the 82km marathon will mark the end of a long year and the start of a well earned rest.

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Michéle Eray will be focusing her energies on sharpening her river skills ahead of the Hansa Powerade Fish river canoe marathon, which is also deciding the SA K1 river championships for 2009. (Justin Vellacot/ Game plan media)

The cheerful 30 year old former Plettenberg Bay resident now living in Cape Town has three second places and a third place in this key race to her credit, and wants to add the K1 title to the long list of victories that she has notched up in the past twelve months. She has been unbeaten in surf ski races since snatching international titles in Hong Kong and the lucrative Dubai Shamaal last year, and went on to win the prestigious Drakensberg Challenge on the technically demanding Umzimkulu river in February.

Eray has just jetted home after taking part in the world marathon champs, where she raced well but was unable to reproduce her medal winning performance of her last outing at that level. With the Hansa Powerade Fish deciding the SA K1 river championship titles this year, Eray is aiming for the two day event in Cradock as a final peak before a well earned rest. “It has been a long, long year, and my body is telling me that I need a break,” said Eray. “I am genuinely feeling tired but there is absolutely no way that I am going to miss this race.”

Eray will start as one of the favourites in the women’s title, alongside Czech Republic ace Katerina Vacikova and another Olympian Jen Hodson, KZN ace Tiffany Kruger and Maties student Robyn Kime, while the current national K1 marathon champion Brigitte Hartley will not be on the startline as she is holidaying in France. “It’s hard to tell who is going to be a factor in this years women’s race,” Eray added. “There will be the usual frantic dash to Keith’s Flyover, but the first day is a long, long way, and that usually sorts the contenders out.”

Eray is eyeing Vacikova with interest. The Czech wild water ace has won the K2 title twice in succession with Micha Mruskova, and is focusing on her K1 skills as she makes her singles debut on the Fish. “She will probably shoot Keith’s and make it, while a lot of other girls opt for the portage. We will have to see whether she has the distance in her after that. It’s going to be very interesting.”

Apart from the attraction of the SA championship medals, Eray has a deep seated desire to win the Hansa Powerade Fish title, particularly as she has spent much of her competitive life in the Eastern Cape. “It’s easily the best race of the year, and you can see that in the size of the entry again. But I have come second and third too often and I am a little sick of that,” she said impishly.

She will be focusing her training on river skills in the build-up to the Fish, and after a weekend training on the Bontebok, she will spend several days in Cradock preparing on the race course. “I actually haven’t been on moving water since the Drak Challenge, so that is my priority now,” said Eray. However this echoes her sentiments before the Drak this year, where her cool head and technical river skills saw her win that race on debut while all her challengers succumbed to the challenges of the mountain river. “A good result in this year’s Fish would be the perfect end to a long, long year, before I have to get to form again for the defence of my Dubai Shamaal title” said Eray. The Hansa Powerade Fish starts at Grassridge dam on Friday 2 October and ends in Cradock on Saturday 3 October.

More information can be found at http://www.fishmarathon.org.za