After the rock star high, it's down to earth with a bump

2012-02-21 00:00

WELL it’s all over for another year. All that remains are a few blisters and scratches, bruises and scrapes, and the memories of friendships forged over pain-filled finishing stretches.

Months of training culminate in an epic event that pushes you to your very limits, and suddenly you are finished and life carries on indifferently all around you.

It’s the rock star mentality: for three days you have crowds of people cheering and urging you on, and it’s hard to let it go when it ends.

On Sunday morning when you walk into the shop to buy milk you half expect someone to notice you.

But you’re left to your own devices, to wind down internally. You find yourself going relentlessly over any mistakes you made, thinking how you could have avoided a silly swim, wondering how you lost so much time on day two.

Thoughts start to surface about a new boat. Maybe one that’s a little faster? Maybe more stable?

You are determined to keep up the flat-water paddling during winter to avoid those hard, painful sessions at the beginning of the season. You also know you won’t, not on those cold winter evenings. Get real.

The obvious thing to do is line up the next challenge: some people will be training for non-stop Sani2C, others will be gearing up for non-stop Dusi or the Umkomaas canoe marathon, possibly Comrades.

I suppose it becomes something of an addiction.

Perhaps the introspection this year is more marked because I did it alone — you don’t have a partner to share the thrills and spills with, so it’s more internal. I do, however, now understand why they have a K1 and a K2 year: you get very different experiences out of each type of Dusi. K2 is more sociable and it’s great to have someone to talk to, and to help make decisions with as you approach some technical sections.

I battled mentally with Thombi rapid, notoriously dangerous. I had been alternatively advised to “definitely” shoot it, and “definitely” avoid it. I was dying to shoot it, but also didn’t want to do anything stupid. Recent tragedies at the same place were fresh in my mind.

I was still slightly undecided when I went down it, and ended up having an unnecessary swim, but gained the confidence to do it better next year.

Overall, I found Dusi more rewarding in a K1 because it literally is your own accomplishment.

In a K2 last year I had a great partner in Doc, whose driving took us safely to Durban, so it was a far more social and relaxed experience for me.

They are so different in fact, that the race deserves to be split into both categories, and to enjoy it fully I think you need to try each discipline.

Seconding is definitely more sociable in a K2, and my wife deserves every second of her spa weekend away after spending three days alone in the sun and rain waiting for fleeting glimpses of me.

Which brings me neatly to a great technology tool that made life much easier this year, a free app called Glympse (www.glympse.com) that allows you to use your GPS-enabled cellphone to plot your location in real time on Google maps. This meant my wife (and friends) could watch my progress down the river for the whole race on their phones or PCs at work. There is nothing worse as a second than arriving at a viewing point, waiting for an hour and then starting to wonder if your paddler is now an hour downriver or is having boat trouble upstream.

Dusi 2013? I can’t wait.

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