. . double strength gorgonzola!
In 1971 I decided I wanted to do the Dusi. Charlie Ryder (who gave me his boat, a fibreglass Limfy K1 with nylon deck and his left-feather paddle) told me it was tough, I’d better train.
So I did.
Every morning a few of us (Louis Wessels, Tuffy, Leon Crawley, who else?) got up at 5am, cycled a mile to the boys hostel and then ran the X-country course. About 3km up a hill past the jail, across, down through a donga/stream bed and back. Probably a 20 minute run. After school I would cycle to the mighty Vulgar River and paddle Charles’ boat (which I left “hidden” under a willow tree) for about a km or two. The cycle back home was uphill.
I’m not even sure I told anyone I was I was aiming to paddle the Dusi! I must have, surely? They knew about the boat anyway.
I have never been as fit in my life, before or since. Running I felt like I could fly. I would run hard, then even harder and still think “I could just carry on like this!”
Today I re-read Graeme Pope-Ellis’ book. The part about his training in 1971.
He ran at 4.30 am for two to two-and-a-half hours; He ran hard.
In the afternoon he paddled for two to two-and-a-half hours; He paddled hard.
Plus he did half an hour of hard, targeted gym work.
My total training was an hour a day and only parts of the running was done hard. The cycling and paddling were leisurely. No pain; No pain!
I didn’t have a clue what “train hard” meant! Talk about chalk and cheese! Quite an eye-opener.
I didn’t do that race in 1972. My boat was stolen shortly before – around New Year. I hitch-hiked to the race and followed it down through the Dusi and Umgeni valleys (with friend Jean Roux), sleeping in the open and bumming rides with paddlers’ seconds. Graeme won the race. His first win. He went on to win it 15 times.
Later I got to know Graeme and many of the guys who dedicated their lives to winning the Dusi. They trained like demons. Some of them did beat Graeme. Occasionally. But usually Graeme did the winning.
Me, I became a tripper! One of the trips was with Graeme and other fast paddlers who geared down and bumbled down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in leisurely fashion. My style!
In my first Dusi in 1983 I politely waited for the okes in a hurry to move on over the flat water in Alexander Park and when I go to the weir I paused to tie a shoelace. Jerome Truran (world-class whitewater paddler) was spectating that year. He spotted me and said “Hey Swanie, you do realise this is a race, right?”