Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Beauty of The Beast

The fact that I was racing a 24km mountain race the week before wasn't a problem.  

So what was the race that I just had to run? 
2 Oceans had a new race on the calendar, The Beast...

With a name like that it was never going to be easy! But that isn't what drew me to the race,  it was the route around and over My Mountain, Table Mountain... 

When I was growing up in the '70s my parents would take me (all 5 of us kids) up to the zoo to look at the animals and watch the lions been fed! The zoo is long no more,  but the lion enclosure is still there and this would be the back drop for our start... Only fitting for a race called The Beast! 

After a short race briefing Trevor gave us a 5min warning then I took over 2 minutes, 90 seconds, 60 seconds, 10 seconds. .. Noel then took off and the race started. 

It was 07h00 and still dark and since I had been on the start line it didn't take long for me to move to the front... not the lead that belonged to some guy who bolted off.  I was in 2nd with Christiaan on my tail and that's how we climbed from the old zoo to the gravel road above Rhodes Men... There was no amazing sun rise as we ran into a thick mist and the guy in blue disappeared. Knowing what lay ahead helped me keep it easy! For a race like this I don’t think you can put time in the bag, because it will break and you will end up hurting and loosing time by the bag loads. I walked up Heart Break Hill and Christiaan pulled up to me and joined me in the walk. In fact over the next couple of km he would fall back a bit and then catch-up on a sections he liked. On the long climb to the cannon we ran above the mist and I took a split to the guy in front. 3 minutes already, who was he and could he really hold that pace?

Running over the road the guys had missed him so they couldn’t help us… I could see the rest of the field climbing up so we pushed on. In a normal race I often open a gap on the climbs, but because I was worried about how long this was I wasn’t pushing the climbs, so I was relying on the fact that my easy run is faster than most the chasing fields easy run. I was running this like a weekend long run, only thing is normally I would be planning on stopping after 2-3 hours, and that wasn’t going to get me to the end!  We turned to the Kings Block house and where we had climbed down racing over Easter we went up… Christiaan wasn’t going to pass me on the climb like he had on the descent!

This was going down over Easter

I pushed on along the contour and wasn’t taking chance as the morning mist still in the air and some of the rocks were still wet and could have been slippery. We passed a couple of people going in the other direction, they were just out for a training run, and then a marshal said we were leading! 

Setting the early pace
What had happened to the front guy in blue? (we think he was just doing a little part of the route and was now supporting!)

Fantastic running weather
Before I know it we were climbing to the saddle of Devils and down to the next contour. We must have been making good time as the tourists climbing up Platteklip were now moving to the side and cheering us on. Bernie had now give up his easy start and was chasing, just still 60 sec back as we dropped to Kloof nek.

I downed 2 little cokes and took off leaving Christiaan to full his water bottles While it was great to have someone to run with I wanted him to work harder than me in the early half of the race… I caught Dawn and our Jacks almost by surprise as she didn’t have Shandy dog on her lead. I stopped (didn’t want Shandy chasing me round the mountain) to  say HI before setting off again along the Pipe Track. Christiaan was back with me and Bernie was closing…
I was still feeling good and kept the pace honest while the going was easy, Bernie finally caught us as we started the climb in Woody Ravine. This is really a stunning trail and not one for racing, so the other were happy I set the pace… around the corner and up, I must tell you that we didn’t reall have a view or any idea as to just how long this climb is, we were still in the mist and couldn’t see much!

Selfie time in the middle of a race...
I was surprised at the number of hikers out enjoying the trails and they all were more than willing to let us power walk past them… SUN yes there were sun near the top as the marshal took our race numbers and we turned left and headed to Kasteels with just over 2h30 run and about half the race run we still had a long way to go.

Top of Corridor
Now as you all know the back table along the Twelve Apostils is flat and easy running….

OK it's not so flat!
There was a check point at Kasteels and I had my bag off first to show the guys I still was carrying a ton of gear! After downing a banana I was first back on the trail and headed off onto The Valley of the Red Gods, while climbing the ladders to the top I could feel my legs catching up with me. This was my 4th race in as many weeks and it was starting the count against me! The Roving Reporter Stephen Granger was there with a couple of friends taking pictures and watching what was going on, this was the 2nd time we had seen him. Right to the Cable Station straight down Platteklip or left to Maclears… We turned left and headed for Maclears along the face! WOW it was amazing running along there with cloud below and cliffs dropping away for those who venter off the path… We didn’t and made good time to the beacon no time to rest as the race was starting to reach the business end. I could already feel that the pace had upped and while I was still driving the race I had nothing to do with it… I was feeling Christiaan wanting to take the lead on the this way that way bends in the path, so I had to push to keep the lead. We were heading back to Platteklip, but turn through Echo Valley… Dropping into the Valley was slow going, while I had wanted to keep the pace up, we couldn’t the board walks were slippery and while I had almost taken a tumble on a couple of time Christiaan and Bernie were also sliding around!

The dams were now just below us and with that downhill done it was race time! Or that’s what I though as Christiaan picked up the pace to draw level with me on the road to the dam wall. But he was really just wanting to full up with water… I just waved at the marshals and turned for the wall. I wasn’t attacking but I thought if we keep moving at the effort we had Christiaan might just give-up with a chase if his legs felt anything like mine!

Bernie and I chatted as we raced down the road (Garmin was telling me sub 4 pace!) A left turn onto the start on Smuts track let us know that Christiaan was back with us… I was hoping to lead/set the pace till Nursery, but on the first little climb I cramped a bit and had to walk, Christiaan was having none of this and took off with a smile on his face knowing that he had me beat and only had Bernie to worry about.

After and couple of seconds stretching I was moving again, but I wasn’t going to be running the hills and those big steps… But other than that I wasn’t too bad I could run the flats and downs. I had lost about 2-3 min on the guys and would loss more time going down Nursery but I think I was holding my own on the flats. OH DEAR the contour path isn’t flat, there is that little bump, The Aloes, as you leave Kirstenbosch… Plenty walking had taken me over and now it was time to look for the path taking us down into Newlands. In the last 30+ years of running in that forest I might have only used that path once or twice, but not for many years. I will have to come and see would fresh legs handle it… Christiaan must have been loving it as he took another minute out of me. We now had joined the 22km route on Woodcutters trail. And I was wonder what was happening behind me and what was going on with the fight for the lead… I was catching a couple of very slow 22km runners (walkers) I was hoping I would see the Bernie or Christiaan walking or cramping, because that would be the only way I could beat them today!!!

That last hill was so unneeded after 5h50 of running… Dawn wasn’t in the forest, she was 100m from the finish Lucky for me it was downhill and easy under foot, so I looked good as I ran in, but the truth be told: I was SHATTERED it was a long hard fight with the BEAST…

Shandy chasing me home...
Garmin called it 48.7km with 2100m climb I had finished 3rd in 5h54:07, Bernie had won 5h41 and Christiaan 5h43.

What an amazing trail, and the powers that be should look at brining world champs to Cape Town…

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

HMC: a little up, a little down, a little up a little down!

What a weekend for running. ..

Did you see the Diamond Leagues?

No I wasn't running either of them but the telly was on and they didn't disappoint. 

I could have travelled to PE for SA Master's Athletes champs, but with only one slow track race to my name in the last couple of years it wasn't really an option. (A couple of my friends won medals and if champs is in Cape Town next year, who knows? )

Then there was some arbitrary 12km road race in Town, but the thought of running with 10 000 people sounded stupid. (Had a free entry and I gave it away!)

What about a trail race? Well I could have stayed local and run 21km in the Constantia vineyards,  but I didn't. .. I was up at 04h30 to head out to Somerset West for the Helderberg Mountain Challenge 24km with 1800m climb and part of a mountain series, now that's a little more up my street...

Owen set us off before the sun was up and I took off down the road with the whole field on my tail... the downhill didn't last long as we turned off the road and onto the mountain trails. I was joined at the front by Dylan and to my surprise the two of us started to open a lead!

With Nic and Martin in the field behind I didn't think they would let us get away. There was no sight of Bernard who had found another lift to the start the night before so I didn't have to pick him up! 

I kept the pace honest and hoped Dylan would blow (not very friendly of me...) But after falling to pieces two weeks ago at Jonkershoek things were going a lot better! 
If you haven't run the race let me tell you this: last year the race had scared me and I wasn't planning on running it again! Scared yes scared of falling off/down the mountain, some places are so steep it's not for the faint hearted! 

First time round
Back to the race, it took us about 25min to reach the real climb! No more gravel. I looked back and guessed we had about 60sec on whoever was chasing. That wasn't going to be enough for me to keep them at bay! But there was still lots of climbing to do and I had Dylan to drop, so I pushed on! I thought I had the better of him as we hit Porcupine Buttress. We weren’t fast, but our lead was growing as we pushed on to West Peak. I scrambled up a couple of rocks and hit the flat bit before the last climb to the check point. Plan one win the King of the Mountain, tick (I didn’t take the title as someone in the 15km was faster). Plan 2, not get caught before the 2nd climb.

I lead the down and Dylan and I chatted as we dropped off the high points of the mountain and onto the contour. I wasn’t putting the body on the line, I was thinking 3h00-3h30 of running and just ticking along. At the end of this “contour” we had to slide down the gully to the next contour before dropping to the gravel road and heading back up. Someone was chasing hard but was still 60+sec back and we were climb again, so I reckoned we would open the gap again. We didn’t! It was Bernie chasing and he caught up on the climb, he had started 7 minutes late and had worked hard to pass the rest of the field and catch us.

I was still leading and I think Bernie was happy in 3rd with the 2 of us, but Dylan was feeling good and the steady pace we had set for the first loop had left him with energy, so he kicked pass me. (Maybe I should have gone with him, but maybe I would have blown). I stepped aside and told Bernie to chase, he did, but not with the speed he had caught us and Dylan pulled ahead.

I thought I would close on Dylan as we climbed Porcupine Buttress, but NO he was now 60-90sec ahead.

Right Turn, time the head for the DOME, having run this last year I know what was ahead, and I believe I was going well, but Dylan and Bernie were gone! I only got to see them as they headed down, Bernie was about 90sec behind a flying Dylan, and I was now about 5mins back. With the Peak ticked I started my descent Nic was in 4th about 2mins behind me…

Taken by Jaco Roux of http://extremejogging.blogspot.com
You can see the top of the Dome in the distance, Jaco is climbing up while others are heading down, it's not far now Jaco!

It wasn’t enough because Nic caught me before the saddle. Last year at this stage I was a broken man, but not this year, and while we had to pass the tail end of the 15km race I was about to push (politely) through the field and close the gap Nic had opened, all too late as he whizzed through the check point at the top and down out of sight. I was moving ok and passing lots of the 15km guys who were all more than happy to let us pass. On lap one I had stayed upright on the descent down the gully sliding on my feet, this time round with tired legs I was leaning back onto my hands as well.

The rest was easy and I ran strong for the last 5km in… Bernie had caught Dylan and finished about 17min ahead of me with Dylan about 15min ahead of me, while Nic had opened 6min… Back to the drawing board for me I need to close the gaps that are opening in the last downhill km, or am I just getting to old to dance down the mountains?

What Garmin had to say

Saturday, May 9, 2015

JMC 2015

The plan was simple, go out easy and be running well at the end...

Like most of my plans I tend to only stick to them rather loosely and when we were set off, and I took the lead! In my defence the pace was slow and it's one way to control the race, I kept an eye on Ms Garmin and she told me I could, should be able to, run that pace for an easy marathon (I mean flat), so I stayed in front...

I stayed in front with two youngsters till we started climbing (about 2km in) Then Bernie joined us and one of the 'kids' dropped off. By 5km I had backed off a bit and the other 2 had opened up about 20m on me with Nic about 20m behind me and Chad on his tail. It was early in the race and I was still relaxed and running easy. The view down the valley was amazing with a low laying mist covering the sleepy town of Stellenbosch!

Amazing views

6.5km down and the real work starts, as we turned off the gravel road onto a single track up the mountain! I watched Nic and Chad chasing up the switchbacks, they were moving faster than me, but not fast enough to catch before it flattened out. Out front Bernie was flying and the fast pace of the kid had slowed. With the single track now following the contour it was fast running and I started to close on the kid, the running was easy as with the fire of a couple of months ago the path was clear.

But this is a mountain run and at 9km we started climbing again... I slowed and Nic caught me and the kid whom we had been gaining on on the contour, not wanting to be dropped he push up the climb with Nic leaving me 20sec behind. With the climb and the tricky bit at the top out the way we hit the next contour. It was also clear of bush so I closed in on the kid and passed him. Saying that, Chad did the same to me!

While passing me I told him Nic had a 40sec lead on us, and he was on the main climb of the day! Chad started the climb, but he hadn't dropped me and I 'pushed' pass, I was still feel ok and while most of the climb is runnable, after an hour of racing and with 26km still to go, it's more about power walking...

Picture taken from :Jaco Roux

I dropped Chad and over the next 2km (490m climb!!!) I climbed up to Nic... I needed the hill to be longer, because with him only a couple of meters ahead we hit the top... He took off and I set off chasing. My chase was slow, Lucky for us the fire hadn't reached this section of the mountain... OK unlucky for me! I couldn't get going fighting the bush, or long grass! First Chad past me and while I was hoping I could get some of the down hill done before being caught again Julian wasn't waiting for that... Oh to be that young... he just hopped down without a worry in the world! There was no bouce in me, but this was the shortest of the 3 "scary descents".

Can you see the down hill? 
Martin must have made up a lot of time on the downhill and caught me just before the drop to the next check point... I watched him through the check point and took a split I had lost 2 minutes! But I didn't feel all was lost, as the legs didn't feel to bad and there was still a bit of running to do...

So with only the last descent to go I didn't hang around but started down the face of the mountain!!! To give to a clue as to just how steep this descent is, we drop 100m in the first 500m then drop a further 150m in the next 500m! Andrew came past and put a minute into me before the bottom, I was down now and maybe, just maybe I could get running again...

It wasn't fast, but the gap to Andrew stayed at 60sec, so I was going alright, which was a good sign since I had wacked my knee on the way down... I hadn't fallen, just the edge of the path had disappeared under my foot and I had landed on my knee! I set my sights on Andrew but the gap stayed the same, but then the 24km guys (and girls) joined our route. New plan, aim at catching them one at a time... This was working well for a couple of km till I rolled my ankle! I kept moving and it warmed up and started working again. But I had slowed and was no longer catching the 24km guys.
Check point 3
I stopped at Check point 3 for a drink and a guy from the 24km race went by. Good someone to chase and to keep me moving forward. Running on the gravel road was easy and I passed him and took the climb up onto the single track with him right behind me. Opening a gap on him was hard work and every time I openned a couple of seconds he would close on the rough stuff... This cat and mouse game was working at we were closing in on Andrew who was taking strain.

He kindly stepped off the trail and let me pass, by then it was my turn as the guy from the 24km race had closed and was now the stronger runner. There ahead was the road down, I was sure I would catch him again... On dear, the legs had had enough and with 4km still to run how was I going to get to the finish...(SLOWLY!)

I made it to the single track down, now on a good day without, 4 hours of running in the legs,  this would have been fun, even more so before the fire, but today I was running on wobbly legs and things were slow... I remember standing at one section: A steep downhill about 20m long and thinking there is no way I can get down there without killing myself! But I couldn't stand there forever so I started down with little steps then tensed up my whole body and went for it... That hurt, but I was down in one piece and then back on the road... just a short section before the DAM, and the dam wall!

To get down I started on the stairs, the first flight was OK, but the 2nd... Oh dear, my legs gave way, or I tripped over nothing, or I missed the step and down I went, like a sack of potatoes. Lucky not down the stairs but onto the bank on the side. I rolled over and sat there looking down. A Father and son looked up at me and contemplated walking up to see if I was ok! I moved, then froze... I thought I was going to cramp! I moved again, NO it is a false alarm.

I hobbled down the stairs and into the Dam wall just before Andrew and 4 others caught me... Lucky those stairs had railings so I was able to keep going, Then we popped out at the base of the wall and with 2km left it was time to stretch out and race for the finish... NO not me, the others took off leaving me plodding along with Andrew (who was also stretched today) But then, just after he had told me he wasn't up for a sprint finish my adductor spoke to me... Slow down! I listened. ..

4h07:56 I was finished, in more was then one! But with 39.1km and 2400m climb it wasn't really a bad effort I place about 8th and 3rd 40+
Recovering with Eddie