Monday, June 30, 2014

Marathon du MONT-BLANC 2014 - Skyrunning World Championships

This weekend saw the running of:

I wasn't in the SA tream on the start-line, that hounor went to Landie Greyling and
Lucky Miya!!!

This isn't their story but my story from when I was lucky enough to stand on the starting line. Now back in 2008 we had great weather, but these guys no so, in fact the route was changed at the end and the last +_6km instead of climbing up into the bad weather they dropped back down to town. (I don't know if there were any other changes.)

2008 a French Odyssey ‘The Mont-Blanc Marathon’

Not every race is just sign up and run, for some it is a journey getting to the start. My French Odyssey started in October 2007 when I teamed up with Will in a 211km stage race over the mountains of the Western Cape. After 5 days we were crowned the champs and our trip to France had began… (Linda had won the ladies race and was joining us, her partner had other plans!)

That was a long time ago...
After running up to the Mast in Tokai, Platterklip Gorge, Nursery Ravine, and the Bridle Path the Cape Mountains were no longer a challenge… So we packed our bags and started the 25hour trip to our hotel in the mountain village of Chamonix. After 3 flights, 4 airports and a car trip via the Salomon Head Office in Annecy is all it took. From my bed I could see the 4000m peaks of the Mont-Blanc, but after all that travelling I needed to stretch my legs, so we walked into the center of town to have a look around. Friday was also spent looking around the valley (mainly for chocolate for Dawn). With the race on Sunday we took Saturday easy and spent the morning watching the ‘Cross’ (The half, which is 23ish km)

Not wanting to be too keen I lined up in the 3rd row with Will, while Linda was further back in the field. As the gun set us off I took to the streets of the town like a finely tuned running machine!!! OK I didn’t really start that well, but I wasn’t swamped by the other 1400 runners in the race.
I saw Will take off and weave his way through the field on the left. I was running at close to max (not in speed but in effort) and it wasn’t till I could see Will up in 3rd place that my old body started to work! By 1.5km I was up with Will tucked in behind 2nd place. Caught up in the moment of a big International Marathon I thought the pace was a little slow, so I allowed myself to pass Will and move into 2nd place. Running freely I soon closed the gap on the leader. After thinking about going straight past, I opted for the sensible thing and tucked in behind him to let him do the work. I planned on destroying him on the hills… That plan didn’t last long as after a couple of km’s I decided that I was working to hard for a race like this, and eased up just a touch. That felt a whole better… but it did mean that Will and the 3rd placed guy soon past. In fact about another 7 guys came past, but they didn’t seem to power on. They formed a group 50-100m ahead of Will who was only 10-20m ahead of me.
At 10.3km we hit the 1st water table. I had put in a little effort and caught Will, well closed the gap to a couple of meters. This water table came at us all to fast; we had just dropped out of the forest on the lower slopes of the mountain and into a small village. I had to slow to take water and was dropped again. The climb out of the town was a little taste of what was to come, and I was able to get back into our little group. I know it was early in the race, but I was already thinking about just trying to stick with Will, and as in Odyssey finish together. It wasn’t long after that as we climbed to the next town, Montroc, I moved up into what was 9th place. A friend Stuart called out our positions as we past 9, 10, 11. After climbing 644m in the 1st 14.7km the next couple of km’s taking us to 18.3km was easy down hill and I was starting to really enjoy the race. By the 2nd Water, Fruit, Cheese, Coke, Cheese, and who knows what else table, we had dropped to 1280m (Altitude) and things were about to get scary!!! Over the next 6.1km we would climb to the highest point of the day 2200m. I can’t work out what my splits were as there where no km markings, but I wasn’t flying. As we zig-zagged up the side of a very big mountain I was on the hunt… Turn after turn I closed the gap, and as we left the mountain bike downhill track and headed for the ski lift on a gravel road I past him and made a move to catch the next guy. The ski lift wasn’t the top; we still had over 200m of single track over snow to climb to the summit. With 24.4km behind us it was down hill time. We started down a rocky knife edge then zig-zag through the forest and back to the town of Montroc. I had lost a couple of places taking it easy as we dropped 720m in 3.7km!!! It was good to see Stuart and Charlotte counting positions as I came past, 12th

Yes it was a long way up...

At the bottom of the hill
At the next water table I stopped to take a drink and gather my strength/energy for the last 12km. With 3hr of ‘running’ already behind us I thought the last leg of the race would be easy… Boy was I wrong!!! It took just 20 more minutes to turn my running into walking and my walking into just standing there and waiting for the Earth to turn…

Always time for a smile
The last water table was at 36.8km it had taken an hour to cover the last 6km, and with another 6 to go it was going to be a long day at the office. After sitting down to admire the snow peaked mountains around us it was time to hit the track for the last time… It felt as if I was in the Death Zone of Everest edging to the summit one step at a time.
After fighting off cramp as I tackled the last descent I could see the finish banner 2km away. Like all marathons you need a dramatic finish, and with 200m still to climb there was going to be no sprint for the line…
I finished with 4h44.52 in 25th place. In the last 10km I had lost 15-20min and 12 places, at times I thought I would never finish I was walking so slowly… But step by step I pushed through. It was a fantastic race and I now long to head back to the Alps to tackle more of their great mountains. 

At the end of our race

Friday, June 20, 2014


Is there a race on the calender that you alway find yourself lining up for?

Well for me it is the Table Mountain 16km, a simple race up from Constantia Nek around the dams and back down, as easy as that... OK there is the little word "up" about 500m in the first 5km!!!

Now let me paint the seen for you:

It was a dark and stormy night... as a cold front rolled into the Mother City. Dawn decided to stay in bed as she thought there was a good chance that the race would be called off! (I would still run up) I left the house in torrential rain with the wind blowing it sideways!!!

On the drive up to the nek the rain abated... But that didn't make the drive any easier, it was dark and the road was wet, and then... lucky I was driving slowly, there was a tree across my half of the road! 200m on there was then a tree across the other half of the road!! There's more, another couple of 100m up the road was another tree in the road, this time almost across the whole road!!! I think I was the first person to drive around (I don't have a big car). 2 of those trees had fallen in the last 30min!!!

The brave race officials and Cape Nature people drove up the route to see if the race would be run, The call came through: GAME ON... the wait, we can't get down a tree has fallen down and blocked the mountain road!!!

30 min later, with the road now clear, the gun set us off, and like years gone by I moved to the front joined by 3 other guys...

200m into the race!
It only took about 1500m to break 2 of them... Pumlani, a 2h19 marathoner, didn't want to die!!! We were fighting the hill and I was fighting the wind! Then about 3.5km into the race he snapped and I was along for the last and steepest bit of the climb. That is not the top, and after about 1km of flattish running the road kicks one last time to The King Of The Mountain: 28:33, 5.3km down (or should I say up)

I was still in front about 45sec but slow (last year I was up in 26:40). I pushed on thinking I was running faster and maybe for me it was I didn't have another gear... Round the dam I looked back and I still had a lead, maybe just maybe the wind was hurting the other guys! The race was on and to open the gap more I didn't slow on the 200m single track over the dam wall, I was heading back.

Oh dear I wasn't the only one on the wall!!! At this stage we join the up route and start back.

Pumlani catching me...
I kept my lead to the King Of The Mountain, 21:03 around the top (last year 19:11 another slow split.) Now with only 5.3km of downhill it was race on...

NO it wasn't... my body is broken and won't let me run fast, I can't stride out without pain, and pain isn't good... One by one they past me and I finished 6th in one of my slowest times 69:51... I'll be back next year and God willing my body will work and I will be back fighting for a win...

I've been to the physio (2 of them), I've been to the Doctor (2 of them), I've been for a scan, and I'm due back at the doctor next week...

Monday, June 9, 2014


Only a few stars lit the early morning as we picked Derrick up. Derrick, I've been racing him for 30 years now and the rivalry is as strong as ever. 

The start line!
Having checked our gear we headed to the beach for the start. This year Fishermens was run from Fishhook Yatch club and the route was slightly changed as we headed over the mountains to Hout Bay. 

It didn't take long for the changes to take effect!  While Derrick had the early lead it didn't last long as he missed one of the first turns!  I was on his tail and a couple of us last 10m. A new face took the lead (new to me that is!) and we followed. I was 2nd as we hit the mountain the race was now on...

50m from the top we turned left it took us about 100m to discover that we had turned early!  I wasn't going back so I turn up and headed for the right path.  I didn't look back but know a number of the top guys were all scrambling up after me. We joined the race 15m behind the new leaders. 

On the climb up to the caves I took the lead taking Ben, Dom and Mat with me. It's a big climb almost 300m in the last km... 

When I say climb I mean climb!!!
Rrom there I pushed on but soon would look at a wrong path and let Ben lead from there. Mat called out directions as we reached the amphitheatre.  I was happy with how I was going as we flew down the single tracks. 

On Top at last
At PC 2 I took the lead with Matt now behind me. It was just a short section before we reached the gravel road and Ben and I eased ahead. Before the road crossing. Having to wait for a couple of car didn't help our lead. And the 4 of us were back together again. 

Ben again took the lead on the next single track with me chasing hard. While I was pulling ahead of the other 2 Ben still got away from me. I lost sight of Ben and wasted a few seconds at the next junction before setting off again. 

Not wanting to be caught I ran on hard and at times could see Ben. Through the CP at the dam wall I saw Ben again and followed as we ran on... While he ran on round the dam I turned at the rest room... but I was on the wrong path and it only went to a picnic sight! !! Dam!!! 30-60sec wasted! !! Dom and Matt had moved into the lead... Ben had lost about 60 sec running to far round the dam. On the next climb I took Mat and Ben joined us again. It was Dom leading but only for a short time. .. Ben and I had to drop the others before the decent!!! 

Hout Bay Below us.
Blackburn and I didn't even try and get the lead letting Ben go his young leg have a lot more bounce in them! Bounce oh boy Dom's got bounce in him he could even be half rock rabbit! He closed the gap passing first me and then Ben! I was over a minute behind as I left the ravine but my body was broken and the rocky downhill to the fort was going to be slow... (I hear Dom got 60sec ahead, but Ben was able to run him down for the win!)

Derrick has descended like a hawk and was the next guy to catch me then Anda (he would catch Derrick and take 3rd) and lastly Bolalani. He reach Chappies just before me amd I took him on the road down to the beach. With tired legs I didn't have much left in me to fight the sand and seaweed.  As another guy past me leaving me in 6th and 2nd 40+.

Garmin called it a little over 20.3 km and I finished in 1h59:05. (fastest km 4:00 slowest 10:54!!! total climb 887m)