Author: Elwin van der Gragt.
Pics.: René Schra (préviews)
The Gerrit Kluivers Memorial (GKM) is a multiday AdventureRace around Lac-de-Paladru in France. The recent version was the 11th edition, but still, different to all the previous ones. This one consisted of 3 racing days 3 to 9 hrs each. The frst day started with a full Orientation-Running (OR) Prologue followed by two actual racing days, where on the first day emphasis was laid on athletic performance (biking, a long stretch of running and a bit of rock-climbing), whereas on the second day the competitors were tested on their specialist skills.
X-Bionic was represented by only 2 teams. Our 3rd team, consisting of Arnaud Temme and Mitch Braakhekke had to resign, since Mitch returned from Africa with an interesting mixture of tropical diseases in his suitcase. So Lisette de Grauw and Eveline van Buijtenen / Renata Dutkiewicz and Elwin van der Gragt raced together. Here you’ll find the report of the latter.
All signs said: This race will be different. How true that appeared to be.
Harm, my regular partner, found an excuse to refuse the invitation again. Last year, I teamed up with Arnaud Temme. This year I would be better off with a somewhat less ambitious partner, since I was not yet fully recovered of my infected legs and lungs and I did not want to lag behind.
I approached this race as the ultimate test of the mentioned body parts and I sure could use an understanding team-mate, who would be a good nurse if systems would fail. So it was not a hard choice to fly in a true angel from Poland, Renata. Second reason was that she does a lot better swimming than myself, in fact last two months she got up at 5:30 a.m. three times a week to hit the swimming pool before work. Now that makes a serious partner!
The briefing on Wednesday noon was short as usual with Raoul Kluivers as a leadsman. He masters his own special sort of French, which is more straight to the point than a translator could ever be. Fred(dow) Charles, former triple winner, now member of the organizing party, sat by Raoul’s side and could only notch and grin.
It appeared that all the preparation we did with assumptions on map and coordinates received at inscriptions, were useless. In the prologue teams were to split up, with each member having find 4 to 5 CP. This set Renata frowning, she was not really sure of her navigational skills. We both had to run approx 13 km at the hottest hours of the day with a 3 hrs limit.
‘At the starting line, I wish Reni, Eef and Liz good luck. A little worried about myself. The climbing in Chamonix the previous days had done not much good to my foot. My right foot hardly fits the running shoe.
When we are off, I find myself in the front section, speeding uphill to leave Race base. I blame myself for being stupid. But without a buddy, there is no one to hold me back. And again, the running today is rather straightforward, so promising to be a quick one.
The CPs on my loop are located circle-shaped at the hills Southeast of the lake. I choose to chain them up counterclockwise, contrary to most of the competition. At first, I find myself lucky, as I find a real quick cut-off to the classic CP at the castle tower of Clermont. Deep beneath me I spot René, the ever present photographer, and I call out a victorious yell.
Too quick, I realize when ascending to the Bruyeres col. A 2km long winding path rising slowly but constantly towards the pass, without cooling shade nor wind , appearing endless. Is it the 30deg heat or my lungs which hold me back? Fact is that long before my calculated half-way point, descending runners, incl. Hoite of team Salamon NL, come speeding down in opposite direction, at high speed and breathing lightly. Quickly I inspect the map. My choice was wrong indeed. Their ascent was by a short, rocky steep stretch in the shade of the woods, then down the mellow way. In reverse, it is up the hard way, while down too technical for full speed.
Still, I am happy when arriving back at the base in 1h32’. I never had to adapt my pace and the foot has thinned miraculously, I had to retighten the shoestrings twice, along the way.
Happiness turns to worries, when I learn that Reni was found astray by a couple of guys returning from the other round. I set out to look for her, but what could I do. So I sat down to wait for her at the finish line together with our personal fan club, Paulien.
10 min. before deadline, she arrived. Maybe last and largest distance covered of anybody, but she managed to get all the points.
Feel sorry for Eef and Liz, they thought the 3 hrs time limit is for the whole team and they finished early, but with half of the points..
We finish the day by a cooling swim in the lake.’
‘First full race day starts with a Mountainbiking session. It was not so bad being nearly last yesterday: The chasing start-system, allows us one hour of extra sleep. Points are quikly drawn in the map and we set off.
First six CPs are easily found and doing so, we overtake a lot of other teams. Hey, we’re on a race.
At the transition area, we find the list with some more coordinates pinned to a tree. I leave the copying to Reni, she is faster in writing and at least that is readable..
Quickly we are on our way again. By foot into the woods. CP7 is easily found at the monument on the summit, but we do not succeed in shaking off (crippled) team OutdoorValley, which is constantly on our tail.
The way down towards CP8 is not so obvious. Paths have disappeared. But this is our specialty. On compass and altimeter we fight ourselves through the bushes. Happy now that I taped my ankles, saves me from a few scratches.
Within minutes, we find CP8. That is.. the location where I drew it on the map. As soon as we arrive, I know we are wrong. Nothing here resembles a CP at all. Worse, we do not have any clues to further CPs, we thought we would get the next coordinates here. We spend 10min checking the area, when I think of rechecking the Coords.
Then I get it, when copying the coords, we skipped a zero at the end, shifting the decimals, concluding in a 340m Y error.
We hurry towards the true CP8 and indeed, there it is. And so are all the teams we overtook by our smart shortcut through the woods.
Still we are puzzled: where are the next CPs? Then, studying the map of the OutdoorValley guys (them again), we find out that we should have copied those from an example map at the Transition area. Anyway, this sport is about surprises. After thanking the O.V. guys, we set off again.
CP9 is found at the foot of a steep hill zone in a vast forest. We catch up with about five more teams patrolling in the direction of CP10. We soon leave the lot of them, because obviously the map does not at all correspond with reality here. Together with Wodi’s team, we set of in opposite direction where we suspect a better path. Indeed we do. But at a next junction, we outsmart Wodi (or just go for a better guess). When they proceed to follow a marked path, we find an overgrown but direct trail leading to the checkpoint.’
‘Continuing on easier ground via a couple more CPs, we reach the Climbing area. Rehydrated and with harnesses on, we ascend the steep path to the rocks. Down comes DART Merrel. Wow, we are right at their tail, with all CPs found, that is good news, I tell Reni. But by then, I do not yet know that we’re half an hour waiting and quarter of an hour climbing behind.
When we reach the rocks, we find team ‘Ries’ waiting and some 3 teams before them. Then we find out what the queue is for. Awaiting is a 10mtrs easy 4th grade climb, but not many of them master ‘free-style’ climbing. Some people even risk losing their fingers by grabbing the bolts.
When it is our turn, Reni and I simply love this climbing. The first two stages of 10 mtr are easy, but require nice long moves, belayed from the top. Then we traverse a long stretch of klettersteig self-belaying with lanyards to the fixed rope. We are told that we are allowed to pull the fixed rope, but hey, ‘strictly rock’ is our principle..
Back at the backpacks, we rehydrate again. The heat has settled down on us now. Time to do some calculations. Although waiting time for the climb will be compensated, we have nothing to spare. And this heat wears us out. We decide to skip the next CP and go straight for the next two close together on the summit of Rocher-de-la-Garde. Towards that, we pass a beautiful deep-cut gorge with an abundance of sheer rock overhanging and challenging. We tell each other to halt our silly quest right away and go climbing.
Although we find a good shortcut to the CPs, we still have to cover 200+ altimeters upwards.
Again team DART Merrel comes rushing down while we ascend. They still have all the CPs, I pay them much respect! The summit CP is well worth the climb. Jumping the karst surface and enjoying the views makes us forget the effort.
On the way down we meet a lot of competing teams on their way up. That helps us descend at godspeed.
On the way back to the bikes, we also skip CP17. Time is ticking.
In the bike section, we skip a further 2 points. Renata has a hard time getting up the final meters to the cross of le-Petit-Souillet. She really suffers from the heat now, the body refuses all action. Fortunately she regains strength at the asphalt stretches back towards Charavines and quarter of an hour before Deadline, we are back at the Base.
In the ranking after today, we seem to have climbed to thirteenth position.
This evening we prize ourselves lucky with our ‘fanclub’ cooking dinner!’
‘Final day of the race starts with the much feared swimming section. As it is a chasing start, we can see how the teams before us do. I wish I stayed in the tent. The swimming lap must be close to a km. My stomach plays funny when Reni starts off. I feel myself drowning even watching her swim. After about 40min of restless waiting, she returned 3rd of her start group.
We get the coords for the second leg of today, which is a marvellous stretch of Mountainbiking. We collect all CPs, we wouldn’t want to miss one, because of the views and the joy of technical biking. The threatening thunderstorm only adds juice to the play.
We are happy that it is a lot cooler today. Even raining sometimes. That means air to breathe.
Last CP on the biking stretch is archery. Of course I fail, where Renata hits bulls-eye!
Returned from biking, it is straight to the ropes. Now it is Reni’s turn to stand and watch helplessly while I work my body. However ropework is a specialty of mine and in no-time we are off to the beach where the kayaks lie waiting. Again, the team is to split up. While I set out, paddling for an azimuth on the other shore, Reni has to run towards it along the shoreline. At the CP we change places: Me to run and Reni to paddle back. Fortunately, routefinding is really easy here and no one gets lost.. yet. We keep pace with team Rougoor, which are more or less our buddies in this race.
Biking is next again. Telling from the headings, CP12 will be the Transition area where Run and Bike starts. Indeed so. Arriving there together with Herbert and Bianca, we are away more quickly. But the fortune cookie turns sour on us. At first we make good progress. We play smart. Reni laps most of the downhill by bike, I take it the steep sections up, on the flat we divide about even. But then I confuse CP18 and 19. I leave the bike halfways up and we run to the CP. I see the question marks in Reni’s eyes, but I’m still convinced we do right. Then, all the way down, when I get puzzled at the roads, I realize my mistake when I see the Rougoors pass bye from another direction. We should have taken the bike up to reach 19 easily. Now we are on a big D-tour. But, let’s not worry too long, take things from there.
Long before CP19, we leave the bike hidden in the woods, because doing a runner back-and-fro to the CP would be quicker. But arriving at the CP, I think of a better way to reach the next CPs. And that is where the shit hits the fan.
We both check the map. We agree on a RendezVous point where she would run to, when I fetch the bike in the meanwhile. Easy said, easy done. I hurry back to the bike and ride it to the RV in Montagne. No Reni there yet. I wait a little. A couple of teams pass bye. I start worrying. I jump on the bike and race back to Haute-Veronniere where I last saw her. Nothing. I call out her name. Nothing. Only other teams passing. No one has seen her. Me rushing back to the R.V. at Montagne. Neg. Wait again. Teams passing. I ask around and to give me a buzz when found.
Wind comes up, rain starts to fall and some distant thunder. I shiver. I realize I have all the equipment in my pack, the raincoats, phone, map. Only thing she’s got is the top and shorts she wears and the Alu blanket in her pack.
Now I start searching in wide circles around, relentlessly, also to stay warm myself. Three quarters of an hour pass bye, when I call the Organisation. Guess it’s safety first now. Then, after another three quarters of worrying, at last, my phone rings. It’s the lost and found department. Reni is at the Transition area.
I rush back there and so relieved to see her. Fortunately the pouring rain covers the emotions which grab hold of me for a little while. Due to the time, we decide to skip all the other Run-Bike points and rush back towards Race base.
In the cold rain on the long descent I am shivering all the way. Weather goes to extremes in this area. Soaking wet, we rush back over the finish line, to receive the list of Running CPs. It feels a bit of an anti climax when we find that we can’t possibly reach one of the CPs within deadline. For us, the race is over, this is the finish.’
‘I feel slightly confused when I go for the showers. Of course we did not aim for the top positions. But it went so well this morning and then, suddenly, all odds against. Of course we had a beautiful race together, of course I’m bloody happy with the foot and lungs doing an excellent job, but still I feel some friction inside. Is it my ego protesting? Well, then this is a good lesson! It probably is that if we wouldn’t have screwed-up, we would have ended up somewhere in the first half of the field. A rising curve bent down.
However, all emotions strike silence at pricegiving, where it appears that because of only 5 WERS-licensed teams competed, we still got hold of 3rd place WERS.
Now, this was a fine result to SMS to Harm. At the afterparty I feel like Cinderella at the ball.’