This journey to Marloth started back in January 1988 when I hiked the 5 day trail with a couple of friends! All I remember was it was a trail I wanted to come back too…
Then in 2014 Wildrunner put on a mountain series, 3 races, 3 mountains… The 3rd was MARLOTH… I was in, Swellendam here I come.
I did get to Swellendam in 2014 but not on race day!
2015 and I was back in Swellendam and ready to race… (is one ever ready to race something that big?)
THIS IS MY STORY:
We started in the old Drostdy Museumand headed out onto the quite streets of Swellendam – we had to get to the mountain. I took the early lead knowing that while the running was easy I had to run…
Some 2.5km later as we left the Town and hit the trails I slowed knowing it was going to be a long day on the mountain (remember last time I did this route it took me 5 days!) and I didn’t want to waste early energy.
Bernard was the first guy to catch me and I let him pass and disappear up the trail into the mist! Nic was next… I didn’t let him sit behind me, but waved him past, he had 4 mins on Bernie in the series and had to keep him in sight today to stand a chance of holding onto his lead!
I hoped they would push themselves to breaking point and I would be there to pick up the pieces!
Lucas then joined me and the 2 of us reached the top of the first climb together, it was now time for running and I took the pace as we rounded the mountain. I looked at my watch and with the first hours of running done we had only covered 8km and it was time for the next climb (not that we hadn’t been climbing all the time!)
Martin had now joined us and having run the race the year before he talked us through the climb.
I remember reaching the top of that climb back in ’88 and seeing the overnight hug down in the valley. We had almost no view with the mountain covered in mist / cloud. There is something magic about a mountain… and the clouds would lift and reveal the hidden beauty… across the vally we could see the trail on the other side. (no sight of Bernie and Nic, they were gone!)
Now with something as long as this, you have to run in your comfort zone and so I like to lead, setting my pace for the climbs and descents… But today I wasn’t moving fast enough on the ‘flats’ so Martin took the lead and Lucus followed. I could have gone with, but the idea of running for 7+ hours scared me. (as it should)
They didn’t disappear but slowly pulled ahead, I would catch sight of them as they pushed on to the end of leg 1. Andrew was now catching me and danced down the mountain leaving my old body and dodgy eyes to slowly negotiate my way over the rocks and boulders…
|End of Leg 1|
I saw Andrew reach the check point about 4-5mins ahead of me, but I was still warming up and the race was a long way from run, so bring it on.
3h30 and only 24.6km done (1760m climb) this race was far from over… I was feeling fine and ready to tack on the next leg. My memory from ’88 had this leg as a flat section to the base of the next climb… it wasn’t flat and the path wasn’t easy and I now had a relay runner with me. The two of us yo-yoed to the climb when I passed him and started up the mountain, with already over 1700m of climb under us it was going to be easy going!
I could now feel my legs and while my pack was getting lighter (eating food: energy bars, trail mix, boerewors, braaied ostrich (it was going down well) and potato salad (note to self not a good idea, to messy!) and drinking water and TURBOVITE for energy), so the pack was lighter, but it felt heavier and heavier as I climbed, but that wasn’t slowing me down! I could feel my heart beating like a wild horse fenced in by my rib cage!!!
I slowed and turned to look at the view WOW…
Now to get to the saddle and the ‘flat’ easy running section to the next hut… In ’88 it was 30+*C with NO water in sight… today it was cold and damp with the clouds coming and going. My easy going didn’t last long I needed a walk and then one of my athletes, Nick (another Nick, must be a good name for trail running!) caught up, he was having a great day. I let him pass and stopped to eat a banana! The relay guy also passed. But my race wasn’t over and after a photo or two I was on my way again. After checking in at the old overnight hut I was on my way again passing the relay guy again…
The climb out of the valley started well and I wasn’t losing any more time on Nick, the gap was only 2min… but the top of the climb didn’t come soon enough and I had to back off… I looked back!
|That's the top...|
The 1st lady (Katya) was now running me down and while I beat her to the top she was light on her feet and danced over the top and all I could do was step aside and watch this Mountain Princess role her kingdom…
I set chase, but it didn’t take long for her to show me who was boss!
The next check point was at the bottom of the mountain and with only a couple of km till then it wasn’t going to be a gentle drop (4km and 800m drop!) Finally I could see the next hut and then a mass of relay runners set off! They were given a mass start so as to get people off the mountain before dark.
Dawn had headed out to this hut to support and was there to cheer me on… at times in leg 2 I would have like the race to be ending here, but after a short stop to refuel I was ready to run down some relay runners.
|last steps to the hut|
I was now 6 hours into the race, leg 2’s 17km (760m climb) had taken 2h33, but with only 16km to go, it was doable! Dawn told me that Katya was only 3min ahead, and since I was feeling good again I set about the chase. With Relay runners on the path she wasn’t all that I was chasing!!!
|I looked back to the start of the last leg|
On the first climb I started to run (walk) down the slower relay guys (and girls). That first climb was fine, but it was on the downhill that I got my legs back and running was great. I had looked at my race number (the route profile is on it) and saw that this leg had 2 bumps on it and with one of them already conquered I was as good as home…
How wrong I was…
I caught Katya at the start of the climb and having run with her on many occasions the 2 of us started up… and up and up… I kept hoping that the climb would end, but I could see people on the path above, I looked at the profile again and saw that this climb short break and then it kicked up again…
This 2nd climb broke me again and I had to wave Katya on for a 2nd time! I stood there for a bit wondering just how much more of the 3500m of climb was left. Finally it was over, but it wasn’t the downhill I had dreamed of! There was no path for free flowing running like the lost down… I reached one spot and just stood there looking it was slippery and steep I couldn’t see a way down… (maybe my eyes were floating in lactic acid!) I ended up sitting down and sliding to the river!
At last the turn to take us off the mountain, we were now on the path we had started on it was runnable and taking us home. Darryn wasn’t running when he passed me he was flying! I loved hitting the road at the bottom and with only 2.5km to go I was running again…
Garmin called it 57.1km,with 3415m climb and I had been out there for 8h30:52 my longest run ever!
In summary: This is not an easy flat trail race, if you want something easy go do The Otter Trail, it’s a well-kept trail and isn’t likely to chew you up and spit you out… MARLOTH is a mountain trail that keeps reminding you that you are small and those mountains are big… don’t stand on the start line without doing your homework!