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.


  1. I wouldn't be too disappointed in second. That's three tough days of running. No wonder you were needing that hot tub and wine - just to help with recovery of course.

  2. Yeah, I'd take second at any race, any day. Looks like a fun time.....except for those hills of course. Lol.

  3. a bottle or 2 of red and you still get up and run up mountains, there's life in the old dog yet! Job well done sir.