Monday, August 24, 2015

CONTEGO TRAIL DAY

A couple of weeks ago my Contego trail running team mate Eddie let me know their (Contego's) Mountain Biking team wanted a race... a sort of who's best race!  A real head to head none of this they do one thing we do another. .. This was going to be 5km trail run followed by a 10km mountain bike ride!  Yes I was going to have to get on a bike and ride! And the mnt bikers had to run... The race would double as a PR event for Contego to show the other sponsors (New Balance, Swift, First Ascent, hope I'm not missing anybody important) and VIP's what we get up too... (Contego is an Asset Management company with a passion for the great outdoors!)
Being introduced

5km isn't far...Well for someone with as many marathons as me it isn't far...10km on the bike is easy 10km on a mountain bike easy,  but I do have a fear of dying! There is no chance of a kamikaze descent from me... the bikers Adriaan and Luke were licking their lips! With the introductions out the way the 4 of us lined up with sponsors and media looking on...On your marks get set Contego...I took the lead...
Away we go

Eddie let me go before passing Adriaan and Luke and setting chase.  It's not easy running from the front, but it's fun. I worked that first hill and opened a gap on Eddie. I didn't see the mnt bikers till I was weaving down the single track Luke wasn't enjoying himself rather give him a 5 day stage race with no running. .. I took the lap split 10:13 before looking back to the others: Eddie about 15sec and Adriaan and Luke, running together were about 2 min back (I would need more time if I was to stay ahead). Lap 2 wasn't easy as the day was warm and dry if I was feeling the burn so were the others!
I had settled into a nice rhythm round the vineyards at the top. At the top was a short mnt bike loop it was fun running over the bumps and on the banked slopes.  Just the down hill and I was ready for the bike. Lap 2 was slower 11:06.
Heading for the bike

Swift had very kindly set me (and Eddie) up with one of their state of the art bikes but would that be enough?  Eddie was now about 40 sec back and the boys... maybe 5min but these boys aren't runners they are top mnt bikers so the race was on... The grass was heavy as I headed out and I could feel the pressure from behind as I slowed to turn onto the gravel road... I like to think I wasn't losing much time on the straight or the climb. But the climb had bumps and as I slowed to get over those I knew that 5min was coming down. Again I slowed for a corner why why why... last climb and down. I don't know if I peddled at all on the way down. It was a case of hold your line Coach slow that corner looks tight. Yes we've done it bit of grass and around the Manor House down the stairs lap 1 9:20.

Eddie was with me now and Adriaan and Luke had pulled back 90sec and didn't look like slowing! I passed Eddie again as hammering the hill was my only chance to stay ahead.  Eddie's done a bit more biking than me so told me to go he would keep an eye on the others. At the top on the little loop a dad and his boys were "playing" Son keep to the right and let then pass. .. I never caught him (oh he was about 6!)
Do I look the part?

I was better on the single track down (probably not faster). Eddie passed on the grass and took the stairs first 2 down 8:49! Adriaan was hunting and Luke was feeling a pain he knew cycling as a pair they closed the gap to just over 2 min. It was time for Eddie and I to work as a team and lap 3 was even faster 8:33. We still had over a minutes lead.With every lap the sponsors, media and other supporters were cheering and willing us on as we took the stairs and passed through the start finish area. That said I bet they were rooting just as hard for team Mountain Bikers!  Adriaan and Eddie had plan a great route and it was going to come down to the wire... again I worked the hill hard getting ahead of Eddie.  But the guys were showing just who should really be on the bike. With passing near impossible on the single track I hit the grass first...But hitting the grass first wasn't enough... Team Mountain Bike was unstoppable now as they flew past Team Trail Running. Eddie tried to spoil their party but couldn't while I was left in 4th...
I didn't look like that coming down there...

The racing was over but the day wasn't... There were snacks to eat and Darling craft beer to drink and wine, yes Meerendal is a wine farm! Thank you Adriaan, Eddie and JC (Contego) for putting this together you did a great job I enjoyed showing the Sponsors what we do...

Friday, August 7, 2015

HBTC: CHICKED

I didn't start like I do in most races,  I let the rabbits go as we left the harbour.  After the mad dash across the tar and out the gate the madness settles down with a short cut up a sand dune! I was happy walking in the middle of the field (ok I was still near the front).
On the start line
Back on the road and up to the entrance of the Karbonkelberg. I don't know how it happened but I climbed into 2nd place behind Jarryd who was only running leg one. I didn't chase him but just ran at my own pace slowly opening a gap on the chasing field. I clipped my card at the top and headed down with the rest of the field still headed up. I don’t do downs like I did 20 years ago, I now have a fair of killing myself. Jarryd was gone and while I hoped the rest of the field would never catch me I know that was only a dream. Once over southern peak it started Simon was first then Andrew, AJ, Dom and Lloyd followed (oh to be young again).

Then, Martin, Jan and another Simon caught me, but the worst of it was over and I stayed with them till the dunes before dropping them as we climbed through Sol’s place.

I was feeling relaxed and in a good place as I crossed Suikerbossie and climb to check point one. 
End of leg one
While I wasn’t really racing anyone but the clock it was good to be at the front of the field. I left the check point and rounded the restaurant only to see the guys up ahead on me tackling the first climb on leg 2. I was careful not to set chase and took it easy hoping that my strength would close the gap… it did, but the relay guy I was now running/walking with was pushing hard with only one leg to run, he left me on the first flat bit. With the really climb ahead of us I closed and passed him. Dom was next, but we were now at the top of the first section and he could keep with me on the climb (scramble). I let him pass as we rounded the corner. I find you run best if you can run at your pass so I let him go… I caught up again at the waterfall and climbed past him and then caught Simon and was on my own as I reached the top.

With 1h45 of running under the belt we still had a long way to go and I wasn’t hanging around. There was no sign of Andrew or AJ on the top they must have been flying. I wasn’t killing myself as was careful not to fly up the little climbs on the Back Table. Simon and Dom were catching me again and then after one of the bigger climb I had to step aside and let them pass… Back on the trail I set chase not wanting to lose sight of them, but they were gone! I hoped they had taken a wrong turn… but while I slowed they turned up the pace. The 2nd Simon also caught me and to two of us ran together for a bit then I slowed again as he took off! I didn’t know what was happening to me, but I now have an idea:

Every time I was overtaken and every time I overtook somebody they put a brick in my pack!

Boy Oh Boy I was happy to see the turn to the dams and while I wasn’t running fast on the flat road it was nice to see that I had a little rhythm left and I could run… but as I headed to Nursery I could hear ‘them’ all laughing at my carrying that heavy pack! I hadn’t been on Smuts track for long when I felt I was been followed. A Girl! This would be a first for my trail running career… I tried to fight her off, but… she was done, and while I hoped I could hit the road and catch her That didn’t happen, she was gone! Lucky for me she was only running leg 2 for a relay team so no worries! 
Last stairs before the Nek
Dawn was at the Nek with my children and all she could say was: why are you so slow! I checked in and headed back up the way I had come. I stopped running to walk with Dawn for a bit and tell her that I was struggling and this last leg was going to be hard work. Then the next team lady caught me, so I left my wife I set off after this young lady, and the 2 of us went well together with her running strong on the hill and me hanging on for dear life, but the km’s were ticking by… Downhill I was fine and pushed the pace till the Turn onto Rooikat. She kept jogging looking back at me to check she was going the correct way while I walked, and walked till I reached the stairs. One at a time I pulled myself up them, Martin caught and passed me also not having a good day. I had tried eating more, I had tried drinking more, next was a quick shower in one of the waterfalls, it felt good, and I want to run again, that only lasted for a few seconds!

Selfie at the one of the waterfalls

Then it happened…

Kerry-Ann caught me on the last climb of Rooikat, so after letting her pass I tried to keep up, but stairs and downhill when your eyes are floating in lactic acid… I wasn’t very fast and she, like a fairy, danced off into the distance! I needed flat road and road downhill and when they came I ran. It took for what seemed like an eternity but I was running down to the Nek again. I checked in, grabbed a few glugs of beer from Mike who was supporting (that went down a treat). And headed off to the finish, the finish, the finish. It was right there, but I had a little loop on Vlakkenberg to do!

Oh Dear, it was hard, it was like hiking with a 20-30kg pack on, so you would take a step or 2 and then wait for your strength to return, this was and Everest summit attempt and I was losing. While I had only lost 5-8min off the time I was hoping for on leg 2 I was 20+ minutes down on leg 3 so that turn down was great and hay I could run, it was downhill.
running the downhills
 
4h55:51 and 38km with 2500m climb I had finished 8th (7th male and first old man)

Looking tired

Hard day at the office!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

FIGHTING THE FRENCH, BASTILLE DAY TRAIL RACE



Long before the chill of the early morning I found myself looking at the “entry form”, 15km, 25km, 35km or what about the 50k… Last year I was doing the run the 35k, but been very unfit I found myself downgrading to the 25km! (Then I ran the 2013 route and was out of the race, but that’s last year’s story!) I had friends running the 50 and the 35, so I settled on the 25… OK I had raced a 50 in May and have a 40k race in a couple of weeks so, together with the start time 08h00 it seemed like the best choice! I was still up in the cold and dark at 05h00.

The cloud in the sky and the mist on the mountain as we drove in only promised rain later in the day, but some of the 50km runners would get caught… They had started at 06h30 in the dark and we could see the headlamps bobbing along the side of the mountain! It was still dark when the 35km runners left and those headlamps disappeared down the trail.

We only started at 08h00 so no head light for us… Runner conditions were perfect as we set of down the gravel road, but unlike other years I didn’t have the legs to set the yearly pace! The top kids were out to play and they didn’t want to play with this old man!

Away we go

4:03 ok I wasn’t running slowly, but on that first hill I felt a little sluggish, so I didn’t push or drop the guys I was with. While we were still on the gravel road it was no longer wide enough or smooth enough for a car (of any kind!) There were about 8 guys ahead, but 2 of them were catchable… I made my move in the 5th km as we turned off the gravel road up the mountain!

Focus Dion
By up I mean up though a forest, the kind of hill that you use the trees to pull yourself up on, Strava calls it 100m with 96m climb! With only the top 6 ahead I took to the single track along the contour to the saddle and hoped to open a gap on the chasing crowds. I was going along nicely till I kicked a rock (stupid thing to do) no I didn’t hurt myself, but I tumbled into the bushes and lay there in the dust trying to get up. In my head I could hear the clock ticking as everything had turned to slow-motion! I was running again, but now paying a little more attention to the path, as one should in trail running. Maybe I wasn’t sluggish, but tired!

Someone was chasing and once I was over the saddle I picked up the pace again and while I wanted to fly down the ‘road’ it had to watch my footing… The clay was too hard for my shoe to ‘bite’ into and as slippery as ice. I was running in the New Vivo WP’s (weather proof)… they were great for the hard trail and for splashing through puddles.

Our 25km race kept right as the 50 and 35km races turned left and up, maybe next year! We soon turned off the ‘road’ and I caught a glimpse of 2 guys chasing me… While I attacked the firebreak with new found speed this was Dom’s forte and shortly after I turned onto the next single track I let him pass… Colin, another 40+ athlete, wasn’t far back, so I used Dom to set the pace and the 2 of us eat up the miles! The 50 and 35km races had re-joined us and then at the next junction our route turned down again while the others went straight… Dom went straight…

Dom, Dom, Turn Turn!!! I now had the lead (ok we were only 7th and 8th) 3:51 the fastest km of my race, but I wasn’t dropping Dom who had closed the little gap because of his detour. We had dropped Colin!

Now it was time for the river… My laces should have been tighter, my socks should have been thinner… My WP’s had been great and this would be a new test for them!

SPLASH

You can’t run quickly though rivers but with Dom on my tail I pushed on sliding over the rocks and splashing on, out, onto the sandy bank and down river. My shoes were heavy… a tighter shoe less water, lighter socks less water, less water less weight! Back across the river, and again, I let Dom pass and with the river crossings finished for now I pulled my laces tighter. As we passed the aid station Dom pulled ahead on the climb! I had worked hard and was feeling it now. He was passing people from the longer races and if I didn’t want to totally lose touch I had to get running properly again. 

Dom Setting the pace

Look at the lean!
Oh dear Colin was back on my tail, so I upped my game again and started to chase Dom putting in a couple of faster km on the gentle climb next to the dam. Dawn had done her own run and was on the, now gravel road supporting. While I caught right up to Dom it was too late as we turn down and he dropped me again. Colin was now about 60+sec back but I wasn’t letting up, he’s a good runner and 20 years ago use too kick my butt! Now the route takes us around the dam and over the river, but one of the signs had blown down and with the dam so low, we (Dom, Craig, who Dom was chasing, and me (others also did)) we ran on the edge of the dam up to the river crossing! With the laces tighter for this crossing the shoes did better, but I wasn’t catching anyone… I could see Craig and Dom fighting it out as we headed home!

Which way to the finish?
I finished about 6th and kept my 1st 40+ place. It had been a hard morning out and I was ready for a sherry from one of the French Maids on hand!

Lets find those French Maids!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Packing it on the Trail!



If you know me and don't know that I love the mountains and run on the mountains then... it's time to wake up the coffee's cold! Now While I’ve run lots of miles on the mountain I’ve also run lots of miles on the road! Now if you are heading out for a 2 hour + run on the road the you might plan your route past a couple of taps so you can stop for water, other than that I would pull on a pair of shoes and hit the road. So easy…

When hitting the trails, well it’s another story: The weather can change, you could take a tumble (not saying that this doesn’t happen on the road), you might want to stop and take a picture! And then the trail might not have any water…

So what about a pack to run with? Yes over the years I’ve run with a lot of different packs, and maybe each one I’ve run with has been better than the last, so let’s run though the packs I’ve ventured onto the trails with…

This might well be the first pack, not made for running, but a day pack!


The in the early ‘90s I found this pack…

Very Basic
Then while running The Cape Odyssey I was lucky enough to win a Salomon pack… It was a little more aimed at running and worked well.

Many Miles on the trails
I was also lucky to get my hands on a Camelbak Blowfish, and while I enjoyed running with this pack it was a little heavier (good for training) but very comfortable on the back, extra padding!

Might start using this for training again!
Now 8 years and who knows how many racing miles later it's time for a change, it's time to upgrade, it time to put a new generation pack through it paces...


So how do you choose a pack, well it's about what you need the pack for, and like all those packs before I need a pack for trail racing, something that sits comfortably on your back, holds enough water and then all the gear the race organises ask you to take on the trail… Food, Cell-phone, First Aid Kits, Rain Jackets, and sometimes a fleece! 

I have been lucky enough to get my hands on one of the best pack out there... The ULTRASPIRE ALPHA


Nice and New

WOW look at that stretchy straps in front to keep the pack from moving around and pockets in the front. I use one for a water bottle with an energy drink in, while the blader has just water. There is more to this pack than that, but...

Out for a run
Carring a full load
OK so that was me out on the mountains with a full pack seeing how it feels... Now for me who likes to run without a shirt this UltraSpire didn't leave a mark, those front stretchy straps worked well! In the past I've had "carpet burn" on my back when running without a shirt. One more thing that stood out for me was that with the front and side pockets the weight you are carring is spread round a bit and not all pulling your shoulders back, so the pack feels lighter!

Can't wait to race with this baby on...