The Battle of Long Claw

The Battle of Long Claw

The only form of extreme sports I’ve ever done was more about speed than endurance. If downing a pint of beer in 3 seconds by basically drowning yourself count as extreme sports, then yes I was pretty on top my game about 10 years ago. My finest moment was being challenged by an Oxford student to a down-down with a sizable Pound Sterling wager. I obliterated him, took his money and bought everyone beers. I promptly retired from extreme sports and drowning myself with beer.

Since then I have been drinking a lot of beer, but never at those crazy speeds. My whole vocation is based on drinking a massive variety of beer.  To quote my great Aussie mates, “it’s a dirty horse but someone’s got to ride it”.

I am heavily motivated by beer and often use it to increase my productivity at work through dangling beers like carrots to this unmotivated lazy donkey. Donkey loves beer and will pull that cart. Good Donkey, here is a delicious Saison carrot.  Ok, enough pastoral analogies. I decided that this year was the year that I would use beer to motivate me to accomplish something that I needed to do before mid-thirties give way to beer and gin-soaked forties. I needed to challenge myself in endurance- something, I have never been fond of. My philosophy previously was, “If it hurts, then stop what you’re doing”. The perfect opportunity to break out of this defeatist philosophy presented itself in the annual Darling Brew Extreme Mountain Bike Race. I had a bike and it was hosted at a brewery that makes beers that I used previously to motivate myself before.  There was even a 45km distance race, the Long Claw,  which would meander through Darling Farmlands and then drop into a hell-hole at Wolwefontein Farm. I decided that because the race starts and ends at the brewery, this was the race for me. However,  I resolved to prepare myself as best I could. That meant bike time and climbing some hills. This was daunting but with the Long Claw as motivation I started to conquer hills that once seemed unconquerable. The old dog still had some life in his beer drinking bones.


The morning of the race is something I will never forget. The atmosphere was electric with so many riders preparing for the ride. I was clearly a newbie at my first race  (I was 2 hours early for my start time).  After a brief general beer chat with Kevin Wood, entrepreneur behind Darling Brew and the Extreme, it was decided that I should have a beer, rather than tea while I waited. Why not! I was never going to be first in the race but I would be first to drink a beer. At least I would be winning at something. The beer of choice was Darling Brew’s new carbon neutral lager, Blood Serpent a beer I had not had the privileged to taste before. Well I can tell you drinking beer at 8am was a revelation. If there was not as stigma attached I might indulge most mornings. According to Kevin, it’s a thing in Spain, got to love Spanish.

Ok,  so I got off to a perfect start. The race itself was pretty brutal but at the same time bewitchingly beautiful. The passive Darling flat-lands were easy enough. Then you get dropped into Wolwefontein Farm, brutal climbs followed by roller coaster, “oh F%*ck! I am going to come off my bike” down hills. Extreme cardio and physical output followed by adrenaline and fear. What fun. Now for that beer. There were six largish hills that I had to overcome. All of them I had a name for which I will not share as they are not pleasant and have become somewhat of an anti-mantra. These were not sacred utterances. The last 8 kilometers were downhill and flat but by then I had already biked longer than ever had before . The legs were done even if my mind and lungs were surviving. That’s when I was helped along the way by a lady who had done the race before and decided to use the beer as a powerful carrot for this legless donkey she was riding next to. That donkey got up and finished triumphantly in 3 hours and 12 minutes. I was handed a beer, a Sun Gazer Light lager, which I drowned myself in. It was the best beer I had ever had.  The battle of Long Claw was won by beer  I am definitely going back next year.


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