To be perfectly honest, I’m not an adventure sports addict in the way you are thinking. I’m more of an admirer from the side-lines. Ever since my 17-year old daughter competed in a 120km, 24-hour race, the bug has bitten.
This amazing adventure race consisted of 15kms kayaking, followed by 75kms mountain biking and 30kms of trail running – all whilst orienteering their way around the harshest terrain in the Drakensburg using only a map, compass and landmarks. The only other navigational aid allowed was an adventure race tracker and access to the live tracking option on their cell phones.
It took some convincing by Franco, her team leader, who patiently sat with us neurotic parents, guiding us through the event details and showing us video clips. At the end of our discussion, I realized that, although this was going to be extremely tough, my daughter had the required level of fitness, mindset and sheer stubbornness to successfully compete.
The race day dawned, sunlight shimmering over the blue waters of the Sterkfontein Dam, where the first leg of the 15km kayak began. Competitors and supporters were cheerfully joking with each other and the camaraderie was tangible.
My daughter was the only female in her team of four and I realized that teamwork in adventure sports is vitally important. As much as you need to have an in-depth understanding of your capabilities, you also need to be highly in-tune with your teammates. There are times during the race where extreme exhaustion sets in and you snap irrationally at each other.
I will never forget our team coming in after their 75kms cycling leg. They were very late at this stage – having got lost and doubling back. I witnessed all of this on the Tracking App which was linked to the team’s race tracking device. By the time they arrived, the cool Berg wind had come up, night had fallen and so had the temperature. I have never been so relieved to see my daughter, who is by no means used to cycling. As she and her mountain bike came into view under the spotlights, she quickly jumped off her bike, wrapped her arms around me and tucked her head into my neck whispering, “I’m so very, very tired…”. She pulled away, leaving my neck wet. My throat choked up as she set her shoulders and purposefully walked off to take a small rest with her team before the final 30km trail run.
I went back to my chalet out of the cold wind, deep in thought and anxiously tracked their every move, anxiety creeping into my bones as they got closer to the ridge where the rugged Drakensberg mountains descend into Lesotho.
The day dawned and I made my way down in trepidation to the finish line as I could see the team drawing nearer on the tracker. No sooner had I got there than my daughter and her team members burst out of the bushes and came running towards the finish line with the biggest grins on their faces. Once I finally managed to reach and hug her, her white teeth shone brightly through her dirty face and the next words that came out of her mouth made my heart want to burst with pride! “That was SO amazing. I want to do another one…. I’m addicted to adventure sports!”
All I can say is thank goodness for adventure sports trackers – they give nervous parents (some) peace of mind!
Written by Lisl Whytock, proud Mom of an adventurous girl child!