Monday, November 9, 2015


A month or so ago I saw this race advertised and the idea of running though the tunnel excited me...
Roll on to Saturday and I found myself on the start line chatting to Chantel about who our competition was... Not many trail races have big prises but the money on offer here had brought out the big guns. 
See those girls over there...
It was going to be a fast race with only about 2 the 20ish km on 'real' trail. I started fast but that didn't help as the top guys still pulled away. 2 of them 40+ guys... I hadn't seen Nicholas and hoped his new baby had kept him up all night. .. But no such luck for me he soon caught up.  

With 1km down we turned off the tar and headed up through the farms. Nic was never far ahead so I kept racing hoping he or one of the other two would crack and I could move into 3rd.
Smile for the camera
away we go...
We were now under the bridge that takes the cars to their tunnel. While the cars had a gentle climb we didn't... I closed the gap to 10m but as we reached the top he pulled ahead and entered the tunnel 30sec ahead of me.

I turned my headlamp on, but after 100m the tunnel has emergency lights so I turned it off... 
in the tunnel
It's not every day you get to run in a tunnel, let alone one about 4km long. .. With Nic 30sec ahead and the next runner 30sec behind I was very alone! It was quiet with only the sound of my feet. It was the longest 4km I've ever run... but there was light at the end of the tunnel! 

The eyes adjusted and I headed to the water table looking for the right turn, but the race turned left and I was caught off guard! Left took us down to the river and it should have been fun to head down the steep bank,  but I hit it away from the path and... the ground was loose and my foot gave way! 
If Chris had got there earlier he would have caught me in action!
I could have come off a lot worse!
I hit the ground hard and slid the next 2-3meters down... With nothing broken I got up covered in sand and blood!  Both knees and my right hand, but neither of those bothered me it was my hip that was sore. 
I stopped in the river to wash my hands before heading on. I had to walk this and was overtaken by the leading lady (a top roadie) who had been chasing me.
I needed the flat of the tunnel to get back into my running. This was easier going than the first crossing... it must have been the oncoming headlights of the 1000+ field that were still heading out. Or it could have been the fact that you climb 35m going through from the Paarl side!

I closed the gap catching Bulewa and passing her I set about chasing Nic who was atill just out of reach. The tunnel is downhill on the way back so it was no surprise that I was through quicker and if I was counting right Nic was still only 30 sec head! 
More trail a little steep single track to take us back down to the farms and the road to the finish.  
I couldn't run this my hip wasn't working and Damian who has been running well took me on this section and sped off. 
I tried to chase but couldn't run any faster. I watched as he caught Nic and the two of them raced to the end... Nic had lots of speed left in his legs to finish 8th and take 3th old man. With Damian between us I finished 10th and 4th old man. 
Stop the watch we're finished
Garmin told me I had run for 83:43 which I had but the 15.9km was closer to 20.5km as we lost a lot of signal in the tunnel. ..

Monday, November 2, 2015

200th HALF

12 May 1990 I lined up for my first half, it was Pick ‘n Pay half hosted by VOB… I don’t remember a lot about that race, but as a 20 year old doing my National Service, I was gunning for a sub 90. It might have still been on as we passed the garage on Lady’s Mile heading home, but the legs were toast and I remember hurting as I crossed the bridge over the M3. I finished with 92:20.

90min would easily be broken in my next half, in fact I would run 77:15 at Federated Timbers in Feb of 1991… Roll on to March 1995 and a windless day in Elsies River. I hadn’t targeted this race, but I was in good shape… I remember the race had a dog leg in the 1st km and while I made a point of running around the marshal a lot of people took a short cut. Then I caught up to Julius Oosthuizen and tucked in and behind him! I followed him step for step through 5km in 16:45 and the next 5 in 16:46 (10 in 33:31). He joked that I would run a 15km BP if I could hold on… I remember a big Dutch guy with a black vest running with us as well as one or 2 other guys (one could have been Aubrey?) we had slowed 16:59 (50:28 through 15km). Then Julius took the pace again (ok it was from 14km the other guys had let it slip) I just followed step for step! 3:16, 3:14, we didn’t slow down, only the Dutch guy stuck with us. The 5km to 20km that flown by 16:13, then I surged passed Jules pushing for the finish-line 70:07 I would never break 71 again, that was just one of those days when you are invincible!

Like many of you I loved the half and notched up lots of them, in 2002 I ran 18! I’ve raced them, winning a couple, Kloof Nek and Hemal & Aarde neither of which were flat! I’ve run with friends and my wife, sometimes just for fun and other times to help them aim at BPs… I remember Gun Run back in 1994, I went out with the leaders and then after 1km I slowed watching the field go by, I had planned on just running sub 90 that day… But at 3km when Jenny Bam passed me she said: No Dion you can’t slow down help me run a good time… 76:15 good enough for you?

28 Sept 1996 Bonnievale half, a couple of us had gone away for the weekend, and while I was trying to win the race (finished 3rd in 71:45) I ended up winning the heart of Dawn!

My slowest half was run in Elgin on a hilly route with Stef and Mike, and while we were on sub 90 pace till a few km from the end ‘they’ throw in an extra loop making the route maybe as long a 22km so my time of 94:16 could have been something different.

Then in Dec 2011 after swimming in the dam at Lourensford half and finishing in 85:08 I noticed that with 182 half’s to my name I had an average of just over 80min, with only 6 min 29 to make up I set about running down those seconds with the goal of reaching 200 with an average of under 80! I cut out the hilly routes and started racing, no more fun half’s. In the next 14 races I would loss time to the wind of Milkwood 2012 and the Slave run been 500m long in 2013… with only 4 to go and carrying an injury I only ran 2 in 2014 losing time in both (I had built up a small buffer). Being permanent number 1 at Landmarks Half I decided that it would be a good race to run number 200 at, so with only 1 half run in the first half of the year I was all set for number 200.

While I wanted a sub 80 and I believed I could do it I only needed 83 to keep my average in tacked. I started well and was looking good at 5km at was started the climb, I pushed through UCT, but Rhodes Mem… I was slow losing 30sec on my splits from other years, so it would be a big ask to make up almost 2 min in the 2nd half… but it was downhill and I was pushing harder than normal and closing the gap. By 15km it was 67sec to make up but with 199 half’s in the legs they didn’t want to give any more and those last 5km hurt! I finished with 82:02 in 36th place 2nd 45+…

Over the years I’ve only been over 90min on 5 occasions while I broken 80min 119 times… My total running time of 266h38:57 means I still have 1:03 in the bag…

Ran a lot of the 200 with these guys!