Words by Nikki Smit. Picture Heidi Muller.

Since Thursday morning local sports fans have been glued to their computer screens, tracking the progress of two local teams taking part in the Adventure Racing World Champs on the volcanic Reunion Island.
Unfortunately, one of these – the much loved Sanlam Painted Wolf Team, comprising John and Mark Collins along with Andre Gie and Robyn Owen had to pull out about 30 hours into the gruelling race due to injury, but Team Merrell Adventure Addicts, including locals Graham Bird and Hanno Smit, along with Traci Campbell and Grant Ross, has been performing exceptionally well, working their way up the leader-board with solid determination. At time of going to press (7am Wednesday 14 November) they were moving along in the highly commendable 19th place, with an estimated 24 hours left of racing.
The non-stop event covers some 425km, with a total elevation gain of 17310m (depending on how good one’s navigation is!)
The route is unmarked and teams are required to find their way old-school style, with a topographical map and a compass. Not quite as easy as it sounds, especially when the intended route is through areas with little to no roads or paths!
The route breakdown would be enough to give anyone sleepless nights, whether you are participating or just ‘dot watching’, a name given to a group of avid followers who find themselves glued to the screen for the duration of the event following the teams trackers!
In a video taken early on Monday morning of Team Merrell trekking along a rare piece of flat terrain, Traci Campbell said that it was hard to do just about anything such as eating or drinking whilst on the route, because they were always either bushwacking, climbing or falling!
The race started in Hell-Bourg.
Leg 1: Trekking with rope work sections – 106km and a whopping, body-crunching 7620m of elevation gain! This trek takes them around the Piton des Neiges.
Leg 2: Pack-rafting with rope-work sections (a pack-raft is a fold-up inflatable canoe type of craft, weighing about 4kg, that teams have to carry with them on the pack-rafting legs and inflate or deflate, paddle or carry as the terrain or water level requires. They also have to carry paddles, wetsuits and climbing gear, making their backpacks heavy accessories!) – 45km with 710m elevation gain.
Leg 3: Mountain biking – 41km, 880m Elevation gain.
Leg 4: Trek and Mountain biking – 27km, 330m elevation gain. This leg is a mixture of biking and trekking.
Leg 5: Trekking – 32km, with yet another body-crunching 3150m elevation gain, skirting the Piton de la Fournaise.
Leg 6: Mountain biking with a trekking section and caving section – 51km, 760m elevation gain. This section has quite a serious hike a bike section where team’s bikes will be ‘disabled’ and have to be carried.
Leg 6: Trek with rope work sections – 3km 20m elevation gain
Leg 7: Kayak 37km. The only flat piece on the profile picture!!!
Leg 8: Mountain bike – 77km with 2830m elevation gain
Leg 9: Trek with Pack-raft – 5km
Finish: L Hermitage Les Bains
Strategy in this race is everything. Teams are required to log 12hrs of sleep for the duration of the event at Transitions and Check Points. This is recorded on a sleep card. There are also numerous ‘dark zones’, where it is deemed too dangerous to continue in the dark. Getting to a dark zone at the wrong time could cost hours and ultimately a podium position, or possibly even the missing of cut-off points along the route, resulting in teams being short-coursed.
59 Mixed gender teams, six from South Africa, lined up at the start last Thursday to begin the gruelling event.
There were those who had no choice but to pull out along the way due to injury and exhaustion, others got short-coursed after not reaching designated checkpoints within set times, but some pushed on – and will no doubt continue to do so until they cross the finish line.
First of the 10 teams who had finished at time of going to press was New Zealand’s Avaya, the reigning champions for the last four years. They won the race convincingly, finishing the 460km course in 117 hours and one minute.
Teams can be tracked at http://live.arworldseries.com/arwc18/
For race articles, pictures and videos: find Adventure Racing World Series on Facebook.