Post by Mark Mulder
Nonstop Dusi 2011.
With Dusi and Nonstop Dusi being two weeks apart, it is difficult to train for nonstop and most paddlers (myself included) take a while to recover from three days of epic racing. For me, I decided to rest and recover from Dusi fully before taking on the Nonstop Dusi in one day. In my opinion; the Nonstop Dusi is a running race with a little bit of paddling in between. Luckily, I was able to use the same equipment from the Dusi two weeks prior and headed off on the 04th of March to the drift with Pink Legend XL and Orka Paddle in hand.
There are many options for the runners and paddlers so tripping and planning your own race really helps. Obviously you can only really decide when you get there as to how you are feeling and whether you feel strong in your running/paddling. Most of the race is spent deciding whether to run or to save the legs for later on in the day. Nonstop is unique in the sense that there are no rules and only certain checkpoints paddlers have to negotiate, so you can in a sense race your own race with your own sneaks and pacing. The only three checkpoints on the nonstop dusi are underneath the bridge below Ernie Pearce, Umfula Store Bridge and the Dam Wall Takeout. Everywhere else you can run and paddle where you want and your seconds are allowed everywhere.
The most important thing for me about the nonstop is your seconding crew. It is best (but not always possible) to have two cars to make sure they get to all the points on the route. Runners need to be in each car in case you need to change a rudder or cable and to swap juice and feed you along the way. It is a huge mental and physical boost having supporters along the way the whole day, especially when your day on the water is going to be at least 10 hours.
Race Time! 150 paddlers entered for this grueling challenge and John Oliver set us on our way. I was feeling strong as ever and pulled the leading bunch to the right hand bank of the drift before Ernie Pearce to portage. I knew I had to get in front on the take out as there would be a scramble of top boats to portage. We ran alongside the river winding towards Commercial Road Weir and put in just above the weir. It was amazing running into town as we had by this stage a nice bunch of paddlers pacing off each other. Motorbikes with cameras were everywhere and adrenaline was pumping high. I sailed through commercial with no problems despite the low water level and got my lead back. At the bottom of Mussons I paddled past Craig Turton and Mark Ussher had taken a sneak portage to guarantee them a lead. At this stage Michael Mbanjwa and Eric Zondi as well as Thomas Ngidi and Nhlanhla Cele were hanging back to try and see where this sneak was that Turton always gets away with. Going over Low Level I was first followed closely by Turton and Ussher and Ngidi and Cele.
After Sewerage Farm I realized that I was going way too hard, and had to remind myself that this was nonstop and I was in for a Long day. I tapered off a lot coming up to the Pine Tree portage and was passed by all the top running paddling crews including the likes of Mbanjwa and Zondi. I was still the leading k1 by 3min. I decided to run hole in the wall instead of paddling as my legs were feeling good and it is a much quicker option than paddling around. My focus was on maintaining my 7th overall position and 1st K1.
I managed to catch 6th position going through the Maze Rapids as well as 5th placed position of Turton and Ussher and worked with the guys until cabbage tree, where I made a break. I put the hammer down (so to speak) to yellow rock portage where my seconds informed me that I was only 9 minutes behind the leading boat of Mbanjwa and Zondi, 4th place was only 55 seconds ahead. The river was very low and not suiting me as a ‘heavier’ paddler as I am so often reminded. Regardless I managed to negotiate the Bell Rapid section very well and passed the 4th placed “Change a Life” crew. From there on it was a long and very lonely day only seeing my seconds at the points where I needed them. Unfortunately the top 3 leading K2’s were way out of my reach 7 minutes ahead of me up until Burma Road where they all decided to run, further eating the time difference into me. I paddled around as by now I had no energy in my legs to run over. My seconds informed me throughout that Mark Germiquet was consistently behind me as the second K1 and I kept a careful eye on the time splits between myself and him as he is a very talented runner.
By Tops needle, my body was taking strain, before getting back in the boat I took a welcome ‘cool off’ swim in the cold water released from the dam. I lay face down in the water and one of my seconds; Marc Eslick picked me up by the lifejacket to check I was still breathing. Luckily the cold water, gave me a second breath of energy and I continued on. By the time I got to the last portage of the day across the Golf Course, my body was hurting to no end, but I was elated to know that most of the work for the day was done.
Crossing the finish line at Blue Lagoon brings a sense of great achievement to me every year and I was so happy to be finishing as 1st K1 and 4th overall in this year’s Nonstop Dusi. My time was slower than previous years but with no water I still managed to do a sub 9:30.
I could not have achieved it without my boat sponsor, Custom Kayaks, my legend held up in low river conditions and I finished without a scratch. Alexa Cole of ORKA Paddles for my Super Flex blades and to my seconding crew of my Mom, Dad, Sister, Sydney, Marc and Jade as well as all the supporters along the way, who can always motivate you to race harder.