Tuesday, April 30, 2013

15km of Tar

After almost 90km of trail last week I thought it was be a good idea to stretch my legs out on the hard black tar of Ravensmead...

I was feeling good after 3 days on the trails, so I lined up with my fast shoes on... Today I was racing the clock! I didn't stand on the front line, but was about 4 people back, the old man infront of me didn't look that fast (sorry) so I asked him if he was going to start fast? he said NO and moved to the side.

The guy on the front row took off with the gun, but the junior ahead of me was a little slow and it took me all of 25meters to pass him.

Left turn, left turn, right turn... Yes that wasn't a good way to start, but we were now in our running as I passed a couple of fast started. I also passed to vets (40+) guys John and Johnny!!!

1km 3:52 WHAT... OMG they have stuffed up the route I'm 25sec off pace, lets hope it's just a km marked, Ms 310 called it 1.16km. 2km I'm still passing guys and the clock reads 7:20 and I can see the 2km marked on the road, Ms. 310 calling it 1.16km. OH sh...t if I want club colours of 52:15 I have to go BIG!!! passing a couple of of 'kids' I feel I'm running well, John has joined me as I pull up to a junior from my club and a guy from New Balance. At 3km there is a nother guy from my club on the side of the road!!! and he starts running again catching us and joining the bus, the junior has fallen off the back.

5km 17:44 I had wanted (needed) 17:25 so was still behind (dam that 1st km.) Km to 6 was good, but the maths wasn't working well, think the time was 21:08. I'm was stuffed, and want to pull out of the race against the clock and just jog in. Km 7 has the bridge and the turn-a-round in, that should slow you down... Hell know it was the fastest km of the race 3:20. Dam, the race was on again and I was back in it, the clock is going down. It's New Balance guy, myself and John left and we are running hard.

10km 34:40, that was fast, 5 to go... The thoughts are rushing through my head, but I'm keeping carm. 1km at a time, 3:30 is all that is needed 11... 12, then New Balance picked up the pace, Ms 310 called it 3:15 and I felt the change in pace was just too much. I backed off I could just hold 3:30, 3:15 was hurting me... John went as well, but the break didn't last long as New Balance broke and I fought back to John and set the pace 13km 45:00, if I could make it to 14km in 48:45 it would be easy pickings...

Another sub 3:30, how did that happen? I had been setting the pace, bit John wanted the win (ok we were only 12 and 13, 4 & 5th 40+) I kept running hard I only had the clock to beat and pulling anything in the last 500m would just be stupid. I stopped the clock on 51:51!!!

2 down, 1 to go... What you ask, I chasing club honours and need 3 different club colours times 10 km tick, 15km tick. Half needed (75:40) or marathon 2h40:00, I'm going to have to pull finger...

Thank for reading guys...

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Back in 2006 I lined up for my first multi day event, 5 days, 211kms of trail running.  It was fun, hard and as luck would have it my partner and I won….

So why am I telling you this? African X is another multi day trail race of about 90 kms in 3 days of untamed African mountain trails.  I was always in the Contego Vets (40+) team but I was short of a partner, that is till my friend Ian (read his blog) came aboard.  He’s been in the USA since the beginning of the year.  Oh yes he has been running, in fact he has a couple of PB’s for the year already under his belt.  For the last 5 or so years this event has been run from Kleinmond but no longer it has moved to Houw Hoek Inn and the surrounding mountains and farms.

Contego has really looked after us and put us up in a little mountain cabin 15-20 mins away.  So after dinner and race briefing we head off for an early night.

Friday morning, Race day 1 ±31kms lay ahead of us as the gun set us off.  I would like to say this is one of the strongest fields ever assembled at a multi day trail race.  I took the field out for 50m and then let the contenders pass and joined my partner.  I had teams 1 and 2 pegged with AJ and Nick in 3rd but 4th was up for grabs making 4/5 teams in it, then us.

As much as I feel I could’ve been there watching the race at the front unfold, I’m pleased my partner wasn’t going to be pushing my limits as I’d been sick with flu for a week!!!

The Old man’s race was a story on its own with the Old Man Noel and Derek, the brothers and us.  It didn’t seem fast as the field took off down the road/track and over the 1st 3 kms the youngsters were just there but then as the turns kept coming they left us.  Our race was also unfolding as the brothers floated past (1 a 4 minute miler and the other a 9 hour Ironman!) looking strong.

Now we think Ian’s legs got last in transit as he had just jetted over from the States for the race.  I thought we were going well but Ian would like to have felt better for that pace.  I watched the others disappear and at 13kms I got a 3 min split on Derek and Noel... This is not road race where you can see for miles, so I was taking my chances on every turn when I could see ahead. Both team looked strong, so we just kept moving. Through Paul Cluver farm and we got to see Zebra and run on the mountain bike track in between the gravel roads. Looking back I could see the mixed pairs, 3 teams fighting it out.

Ms 310 called day 1 like this...
By all means the running was fast for a trail race and we passed the 21km mark (according to Ms 310) in 1h38min, so while Ian thought we were running slowly I thought we were making good time. Yes 90min would have been nice!!!

Then the count down started, and with the day called 31km at 29km Ian picked up the pace... One of the teams (not an old mans team) had been close to us all day and looking up a hill I could see them and wait I could also see the Brothers... With a sniff of home and some-one to chase Ian took off and I had to wake up and up my game I didn't want to get left behind... 

31km came and went... 32km came and went... still we ran!!! 32.8km 2h35:52 and we crossed the line, 2nd 40+ and ahead of all the ladies!!!

Time to head "home" to recover before day 2... 

This was long after lunch and dinner and the days prize giving.

A glass of wine in the hot tub seemed a good idea!!!
Day 2 was an early start as not only did we have the 15-20min drive back to Houw Hoek for breakfast, but the start was a bus trip away at the bottom of Sir Lowry's Pass. Ahead of us lay 33 more km of trail, and some of this would in fact be trail and not just gravel roads... With 6 minutes to make up on the front guys (40+ guys) we started easy and hoped that they would blow, and we would be strong to the end.

Day 2
We didn't want to kill ourselves on that 1st climb... don't worry it wasn't really that bad and we ran the whole way up feeling good. Near the top the trail changed and we hit a fantastic mountain bike single track that took us over the top of that first bump. It was great for running and I know I could have been flying, but Ian had already fallen twice and we wanted to finish this things so we kept to a steady pace. 

Do you see that 2nd climb, yes it was almost vertical and rocky, the old wagon trail. Yes back in the 1800's when men were men they 'drove' Ox wagons over there... Once over the top it was into Grabouw and the forest, but not all forest, as a lot of it has been cut down!

This was nice running and at times we felt we could run forever. The teams were spread out only through the open blocks could we see a couple of teams ahead and a couple behind, then running through the forest one of the mixed teams came into sight, they had been working to hard over the early km and the lady was in trouble! passing people gave us a lift and with that we passed another team. 

Climbing one of those last hills was a bit of a joke, I could see that a team had just gone over the top and there on another on the hill, but this race was happening in slow motion.Over the top we wound down a couple of single tracks and on every turn I could see the 2nd mixed team just ahead. The orienteer in me just wanted to leave the track and cut out the hairpin turns... With 2km to go we hit a forest road and Ian turned to me and said: I can pick up the pace and catch them!!! No Ian we'll catch them in any case don't put the body on the line, So he picked up the pace and after them it was 2 guys and we ran them down. 2h52:53 we had lost 12 minutes to the top 40+ team, but the good news for us was Derek was in pain, his calf had played up in the last 5km. Maybe tomorrow this would play into our hands...

We were now about 20min off the pace with the 3rd team about 35min behind us, so over a couple of bottles of red wine we set about planning our race tactics...

Up and down
For the 3rd time in as many days we lined up at the front of the pack and took off with the leaders... We needed that calf of Dereks to pop for us to take the win, it was the only way! Our plan worked well Derek and Noel were also in that lead group. With the plan in action now we fell off the back and slowed to a better pace for us. As for Derek and Noel, well they were still mixing it with the kids. Now all we needed was to keep running and hope that calf of Derek's would pop and force them to walk the last 5km.

Those rolling hills meant we could see down the track and the front teams had put the hammer down, with the 2nd place team cracking the whip and gunning for a win. As the km ticked away our plan was working, the old men were still gunning it, the calf had to go!!! From our side we were going well even running up the steep hills:

I got ahead enough to take the pic.
While I plan was to just keep running and hope for the best (for us, not them... Point to be made here last year they were also ahead and Derek "broke" losing them 45 min in the last 3km! We wanted more of the same). Now have a look in the picture above, you can see 2 teams, and one is the lead mixed team... YES I'm a guy and to be beaten by them yesterday was enough today we wanted to be ahead.

Then it happened Landie had her husband towing her up the last hill and they passed up!!! Ian didn't take kindly to this and with only down hill left he took off. The Jeep track was rocky and dangerous, but with only 2km to go he was going for it, we passed them and a guys team. No Derek and Noel, they had remained strong and kicked our butts for a 3rd day in a row!!! 2h03:26 we had crossed the line our race was over and we had to settle for 2nd.

That was African X 2013, will we be back in 2014 I don't know. It's a long way off and I have many miles to run before we start to think about it... Ian was a great partner and it was fun to spend the weekend runing round the mountains with him, I would be more than happy to team up again in 2014, but maybe it would be more fun to be teaming up with a young lady!!!!

Thank you all for a great race, and thank you Contego for getting me to the start line.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


NOT EVERY RACE IS A RACE, That said it's hard not to up your game when the gun goes off...

Saturday morning saw me on the startline of a race I was hoping to do well in, now while my training has been OK my health took a small turn! So while my legs took a little rest from heavy running my noise took over!!!

While I like to stand on the startline and know that the big guns are sleeping in, today wasn't one of those days. 3 of the best of the best where out, and this for a little 10.3km race with 4 little hills in it. No gun started us off, we listened to the count down over the walkytalky and set off up the hill. Yes the hills are at the start of the race, and in the middle of the race and at the end of the race... To be fair it's really uphill the whole way, we do climb over 800min those 10km!!!

So with the 3 boys out from I was next with a couple of kids on my shoulder and to be fair 2 of them pulled ahead, but as the km passed the short lead they had opened closed and we formed a chase group again. At about 4km the race is flat and I settled into my running...

Just a note here, I am sick and should really have stayed home in bed, but I don't listen to the doctor... so every breath of mine was like breathing in live coals!!!!

Back to the race: I stretched now group and soon there was only a 17 year old left with me... I could see the front guys up ahear and timed the gap to tbe about 2min! On the last little climb of the gravel this kid pulled ahead!!! only to grab some water!!! I hit the tar, about 5km to go and still 400+m climbing, was this kid going to teach the old man of the mountain a lession?

NO, round the 2nd bend he was toast and needed a walk, while I just kept plugging away... Far in the distance I could see the leaders were no longer together, the race was on...I don't always enter a race with my sights on winning or trying to beat Mr X or Mr Y, many a time it is the clock that has me going, and today I was chasing 50:00, but was a bit behind as I looked at the 2km to go board. 10min for 2km is easy on the flat, but I still had 180m to climb... I finished in 50:51 over 5min behind AJ who had won.

the view to Cape Point
Yes it was a perfect day and the view was amazing, unlike my last trip to the top when I couldn't even see 5meters ahead of me.

With another race on Sunday I took the single track down, No wait I was taking it down in any case, I wanted a little practise at hopping down the mountain!

Sunday saw the 2nd running of the VOB trail run in the Vineyards of Constantia. I really should have taken it a little easier and taken a couple of pictures. This was 20.7km with 400+m climb (thank you Ms 310) and on the first climb I found myself in 4th place behind a couple of road runners. With yesterday in my legs and another big race next weekend I really just wanted a little tempo run... I think I paced myself well and my legs were just turning over at a nice pace. I tried to run with the 5th placed guy for a bit, but on the next hill I pulled ahead again so I just kept running. On the road it's easy to slow and not worry about anything, but on the trail I find myself just running and having fun.

We ran through a troup of baboons rading the grapes maybe there are photos out there, but none I've seen... By 12km I had about 60 sec over Carl in 5th, but with 3km to go and now running in the soft sand on the flat to the finish. I slowed as i was running through the back markers of the short race. THEN with 800m to go I looked back and saw him. He was running hard, so I upped the pace a bit, but still he came. for about 100m we sprinted neck to neck, then I stopped, what was I doing!!! I was 1st old man I didn't need 4th, I wasn't racing, and what about next week... I settled for 5th and waved as I come in...

Next week AFRICAN X, 3 days and about 90km... should be fun.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Leader Of the Pack

Have you ever wondered what goes through the minds of those guys out front, the ones fighting for the top spot on the podium! Well today I plan to tell you...

Over Easter I was chatting to a friends Dad and he told me that Eddie (his son) had entered him in a 15km race the following weekend... Well I spoke to the wife and a plan was hatched, she would come with and after the morning's race would head to the wine district for a cheese and wine pairing for lunch!!!

There was cloud around, so no View!

The race in question was a low key trail race, DUDLEY's TRAIL RUN. Saturday morning came and we headed out to De Grendal Wine Farm. Dawn could have run the 8th race, but didn't know what it was like, so just did her own little run while we lined up ready to race. Standing there on the farm road I looked around... Dawid and John, other than them I didn't know anyone, this is both good news and bad news. Then the gun broke the silence and we were off.

Some guy in blue took the lead and a look at Ms 310 (garmin) said we were going fast There was still a big group as Ms 310 gave me the 1km split 3:23.. OK this is fast and the unknown guys can run, not a good sign. No worries I can (should be able too) run a flat 15km race at this pace, and the running was still flat. With Vineyards to the left and Vineyards to the right the road we were on was coming to an end... We turned left up a short hill to round the trees separating the vineyards and with that the race changed. Dawid took off as we now headed down. You thought 3:23 was fast!!! Well I looked at Ms 310 as the 2 off us dropped the rest of the field 2:50 madness I tell you but if you want the win you can fall of the pace in the 2km, and it was down hill.

Setting the Pace

Lucky for me the down hill didn't last forever and the gravel road turned right and leveled out. We were still running hard and with the running easy I was just hanging on, 5km passed in 17:08. Then 6.5km into the race we turned and hit the first climb of the day... This was a little tester for the 2nd half of the race, and now it was time for the games to start! This race was between Dawid and Coach, and I wanted the win, so I had to play the cards as they fell. I didn't hammer that first hill, let Dawid do the work, I wanted to know if he could climb... OK don't pass him let him get a couple of steps ahead. Oops I've ended up ahead, don't want that now, need to keep my energy for the run back, the 2nd half...

Am I smiling...

Another 3:30, the farm roads are fast and Dawid is not letting up, I might have the upper hand on the climbs, but he has the speed... Next hill this one is steep, I want to hang back, but I pull level and go ahead, but the hill is short and with it flat for a bit I back off and we are together.

OK if I want this race I have to make my move. The 2nd half is more suited to me, more trail and more climb, so as we hit the next climb 10.5km I wasn't afraid I went to the front and started to work. From 10.5km to 11km we climbed 78m and I was only running at 6:50/km but believe me it felt fast. Dawid was broken and I had to push home the advantage while I could. there was a very rocky and steep single-track still to descend and I didn't want to have to race that. I had a 30sec lead as I turned off the farm road. It was good to have that lead as we dropped 80m over the next 500m I had time to dance through the loose rocks while Dawid had to put caution to the wind... he cut my lead in half, but there wasn't enough distance and I was back on the farm roads, so with the running easy I just had a little look over my right shoulder and headed to the finish line...

To the victor goes the spoils!!!

Got set a couple of pictures from the organisers, Thanks Cornel and Jasper.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Trail of Two Oceans

OK that heading isn't really true, but it sounded good... This weekend past was Easter, and for us in Cape Town that means Two Oceans. Long gone are the days of only a 56km race around the Peninsula... In this current era of mass participation it's all about numbers, so to get the numbers up they slackened the qualifying time for the 56km. Than as a money spinner they through in a half marathon. But wait it didn't end there... They also jumped on the trail bandwagon and now you can run 1 on 2 trail races on the Friday before, and this is where you can find me!

I've run the 56km race 11 times and I guess I will be back in years to come. I will never run that half, who really wants to line up with 16 000 other people to run a stupid race and miss the fun of the ultra...

So over the last couple of years I have lines up for the trail races, and this year saw me on the start line again.

Before we get to my race I feel I should tell you a couple of things: Oceans is big with almost 25 000 people lining up! With so many people the Expo is busy... I bet I could do a whole post on the expo, I was there on Wednesday, Thursday, and then after my race on Friday I took Dawn down to spend money... :)

Good Friday, and the Mountain was ours... 800 trail runners set off the test their bodies, to see if the months of training had paid off. The 10km loop set off 1st in waves and then at 07h30 I was on the start line with the big, young, fast, strong, boys of trail running... Luck for me I'm not intimidated, the route doesn't scare me and the boys don't scary me!

I had hoped for a good run, I wanted to be there up with the kids... I went from the gun and as we left UCT for Devils Peak I was only a few meters behind them. Then my body told me I was old and as they changed gear I found that I had no more gears. No worries, I could smell carnage up ahead...these boys had to die!

No I didn't think I could beat them, but maybe one would come back to me, with me I still had Jock Green and Lucky, he had started easy!!! I had no plans on breaking a leg, so I took the first single track easy and the small gap I had opened on Heart Break Hill (this is a really hill) Jock and Lucky closed, then on the long flat (this is as flat as Boston's little hill!!!) they broke away, we were back on gravel and the running was easy.

Then 30min into the race things get narsty we climb about 300m in 2.5km!!! I wasn't running well but i was still making ground on Jock. I didn't catch him, but as things eased I started getting into the race and I decided that Jock was mine. The loop around Devils brought the 3 of us together and as we started the next climb I took the lead (ok we were fighting for 5th) I thought I was climbing well, but Lucky was playing with us and passed me near the top, I had again opened a gap on Jock and set off after Lucky...

Top path on Devils
Maybe I wasn't running as fast as I thought I was, but lucky was gone... For a moment I hoped thought he had taken a wrong turn but then I saw him in the distance.

Bernard on top of the mountain (the winner)
No I could only see Lucky, Jock was a bit behind and catching again, what was wrong with this guy, why wouldn't he 'die'... I don't think I decended to the Bolckhouse very well, but Jock was slower than me and I had a gap again, this was going to be a game of cat and mouse. I look back at the race, and say to myself: Why didn't to just run those sections faster? (it's always easy to ask those question after a race.)

We were now in Newlands forest and I would pull ahead over a couple of rock and he would rrun me down. Now I know this route well and was going over it in my head, if this than that, and so it went on... I thought about the last decend out of the forest, if I could open a gap I would put a nail in the coffin!!!

working to hard!
Dawn was at this corner before the down hill, I went hard, but not hard enough and Jock stayed with me...

Now what is the difference between 6th and 7th? Nothing, so I let Jock go on the field and sprint for the 6th place, I just waved at the crowds 7th was good enough I also had 1st 40+ and was 5min faster than last year and a minute faster than the year before.

That was Oceans for me, but 27 000 other guys still had to run, I was going to be there: So Saturday morning I was up the watch the masses... OK I was only watching for my friends.

First it was the half marathon at 5.5km, it was dark and not easy to spot them as they flew past, we didn't stay there to long as we had to get to the 17km mark. there we watched the leaders fly through at sub 3:00 and then the boys started coming though, from Mike on 77 pace, running with him wasn't easy to Jess at 90:18 (so close) with so many inbetween.

from there it was off to the 28km mark to watch the Ultra guys... and again I was running up and down with almost everyone I know... Now not wanting to miss the excitment we headed back, this time to the +_48.5km mark and there we stayed. It was easy for us, and while the guys looked good at half way, it was a different story with 7ish km to go. I love this part of the race... I leave Dawn to sit on her chair with the dogs and I run up and down the road talking the guys through the last couple of km. I normally only stay with them for a couple of 100m, but it can really help some-one going through a bad patch. then I jog back to Dawn. We were there for over 2 hours and had been on the go for over 6 hours be the time we got home.

Now because I am mad... I had Ms 310 on and every time I set off running with a friend I logged it! Oh you can't call that running a friend told me, well I logged 18.5km (95min) for the day!!!

So much more I can say, but that is enough...