Monday, August 12, 2013

Southern Cross 3 Day Trail Run

I was down to run this race over a year ago, in fact it was since I run it last year in April with Steady Eddie. We were going back to see if we could improve on our 3rd place. Well a lot can happen in 16 months, and Eddie went and got his wife pregnant, and this week he's becoming a Dad!!! Great for him, but not good for Team Contego...

With everything already planned for the weekend I needed a new partner... Bring in Bernard, OK he's no Eddie, but he's Tall, Black and African... and boy can he run!!!!
  Now I want to say: Oh $hit, I had better get training! So after a couple of training runs I found myself on the start line.

That is us on the start line
SOX DAY 1 (Mountain)

With a simple count down Derick took the lead with Bernard and myself on his tail. His partner, Noel, was just behind us with the other +_ 300 following close on our heels. With this being the 'Mountain' leg we soon started climbing, and with that we took the lead.
the forest road took us higher and higher, till at about 7 km we turned left onto the trail and the start of the first real climb... Derick and Noel were nowhere to be seen, but the Jo'Burg Boys were only 20-30 sec back. Bernard powered up the hill, while I had to do a lot of walking. (yes even the front guys walk!)

If we wanted to keep out lead I would have to come to the party as the lead looked like it was now under 20 sec Bernard let me take the lead as the trail flattened and I took off to check point one. It was rocky narrow and flattish and I was floating over the rocks...

Great Running
Just past one of the overnight huts on the hiking trail we were running we left the contour, and boy did we leave the contour. Not up this time, but down, down and more down... My new New Balance 1010v2 were amazing (thank you New Balance) as I feared nothing, or maybe I feared letting Bernard down!!!

At the bottom we lost a few seconds at the river crossing, but the last 3.5 km had given us a bit of a lead. I don't remember the climb out of the valley being that long, it just went on forever! Finally the contour at the top, now as much as I love racing along contours, this was going to be something else... After last nights rain (yes a good 100 mm fell!!!) It was muddy and as slippery as an ice-rink!!! Again the 1010v2's were amazing as they always found grip. (there were a lot of muddy guys at the finish later in the day)

After a couple more river crossings and the 'undulations' on the so called contour path on the side of the mountain, it was time to head down to the forest roads and the finish. I tried to look back a couple of times, but this is not a good thing to do while racing along a single track on the side of the mountain!!! So we didn't know what sort of lead we had.

Off the Mountain
We were off the mountain and heading down to the finish, 6 km to go. I'm happy with how the body was working, and I hoped the run in wasn't going to be to hard on them...

Team Contego
We finished in 2h34:45 for the 29 km (1345m climb) a good 10 min ahead of the Jo'Burg Boys. I hope the legs still work tomorrow.

SOX DAY 2 (forest)

I spent the rest of Day 1 in my 'Make my legs look Sexy' tights, drinking 'Lifegain' protein shakes. Come 08H00 I was ready for the forest, Knysna Forest...

I don't know why Hano (the race organizer) has us walk 200 m down hill to the start only to run up past a lovely Tea House (I forget the name) which would be our finish some 29.2 km later!

The start of day 2
Again Derick took the lead and we followed with Lucky and Johannes (The Jo'Burg Boys) just behind us, yes Noel (Derick's partner) was in the mix as well. OH Dear, here we go, I found myself taking the lead and Bernard, still fresh from his jog with me yesterday, stretched his long legs and stayed with me, So did the Jo'Burg Boys, but Derick and Noel felt the early pace and kept it easy. The forestry road had a gentle climb and we were happy setting a steady pace.

Suddenly, with a left turn we left the 'road' and started the real climb. I hoped the Jo'Burg Boys would fall off the pace, what pace, I was walking... Mean while, my secret plan had worked, as we reached the day's 'King of the Mountain' first!!!
  With the climbing over it was time to head down... OH Boy... I don't have splits for you, but 'Ms 310', (my Garmin) kept telling me I was speeding. This was a 30 km trail race and I was running at 3:05 - 3:15 / km I can't even do 1 km reps at that pace!!!

We dropped about 300 m in the +_ 4.5 km of downhill that followed, and in this time the Jo'Burg Boys opened a 30 sec gap, but turning off the forest roads was going to level the fields again... or was it?

Real Forest
After Day 1's hard effort in the mountains my legs were heavy, while my partner Bernard, still had lots of running in his! I felt bad holding him back, but he was all encouragement as we run through the untamed forests around Knysna. Up this single track, down that single track. I was still running , but felt I was losing our 10 min lead. Around halfway Hano gave us a split of 3 min, we were still in the game. Till one long climb at about 23 km I had to slow down as my left hammy wanted to cramp. Bernard was great giving me a couple of sweets to chew as a downed another 'Turbovite' it seemed to do the job as I took off down the next hill. After a short stop for a drink at the water table 5 km from the end \i felt strong for the last climb.  Slow but strong, with sore legs, but pain is temporary, glory is for ever!!!

Oh dear Mr Cramp didn't like me running so I had to walk, run, walk, run.... Then it happened Derrick and Noel breezed past as if on a Saturday training run for the next km of the climb, it was damage control time.  At last we were up and I could run again 2 km down to the finish.

2h42:27 only 3 mins behind the Joburg boys and yes Derrick and Noel had taken the win another minute ahead.  29.2 km with 1260 m climb it had been another hard day on the trails.

One day left.....

DAY 3 Beach

Time to head to the beach for the last leg of the adventure with 20 km ahead of us would our 8 min lead be enough?  After listening to the race briefing we planned our tactics to keep our lead.  As to plan I took the lead from the start, I wanted to control the pace on the first single track, Bernard, the Joburg boys, Derrick and Noel all following.

Taking the lead
Controlling the down hill
After about 1.8 km of downhill single track we hit the old railway line and turned left to Wilderness. 4 km of sleepers and rocks later the Joburg boys had a 30 sec lead.  Now last night Bernard had called it; They are from Joburg and can't run on the beach.  He was so right.....

The railway line over the river!!!
After 2 km of beach the 4 of us headed into Wilderness to tackle the board walks, or should I say the slippery board walks.  The Jo'Burg boys tried to push the pace, but one of them hit the deck. (good thing he didn't slip into the water!)  They were pushing hard and on a short road section to link the trails they got ahead, and must have had 30 sec on us as we popped out at the water table.

Leaving the vlei we crossed the road and disappeared into the bush....real single track and wait for it.....the climb of the day.  Knowing this would take up to 10 min of power walking I hit it hard with Bernard behind. As we zig-zagged up Bernard past and pushed hard, he wanted to see if they were in sight.  He didn't get that far ahead when he started to wave at me and point up front..... He had caught a glimpse of them, I now started to run the straights and with a 10 sec gap at the top Bernard let me take up the chase on the downhill. I hear the views from up there were amazing, but while running hard on the twisty single tracks I didn't have time to look, I was in hunt mode....This was downhill slalom and I set off weaving through the bush taking corners at almost 45%.  We were back in the game, I could see them, and then at the bottom I took a gap, jumping over a couple of rocks and threw a tree.  I was back in the lead, I could now control the race till the river crossing.....

This wasn't like any other of the river crossings in this race, the river was wide, and needed to be swum... or there was a boat! OK it was more of a raft, and getting there together was important to save time... Jeff's pictures tell the story:

Team Work
Once over the river it was back into the 'bush' and back to the road...
Still chasing me... 
With the race almost over we hit the road, but with most of the 77 km of the weekend's race almost over my legs were tired and 3:50 - 4:00 / km was fast enough for me, not the Roadies of Jo'Burg... They past us one last time and stayed ahead to take the stage by less than a minute.
OK the legs are tired
Day 3 was 18.3 km with 300 m climb we finished in 1h27:56 race over. 

The win on day 1 had taken the race away from the other teams and with only a 3rd and 2nd on the other days we still won by over 7 min in the end...

Thank you for reading, the story in mine, but the pictures come from Facebook, Hano put together a great team of guys to capture all the magic moments, and I have borrowed a couple to illustrate parts of this amazing race, hope to see you all there next year...

One last thing, CONTEGO put faith in us and got us to the start-line, thank you, They also sent a mixed team, and they have a story of their own... 


  1. Congratulations!

    The photos are fantastic. I love the last one of you and Bernard on day 1 and that final shot after you've finished.

  2. Great story Dion - next year back to afb SOX to defend your title! It will become more and more difficult as the years go by ... Well done with your fantastic achievement!

  3. Great run, congratulations! Seems that Bernard was the perfect partner for the team. I will definitely still run this race.

  4. I might as well stop blogging, there's no way I can compete with you CD! That was a brilliant performance - wonderfully described and illustrated. Many congratulations......

  5. Coach - Congrats on an awesome race. You are always inspiring. Incredible pictures. That one where you are running by the river is incredible!

  6. Wow, I just feel like you could run and run and run forever?! When does Coach Dion rest?! Congratulations, photos are amazing.