ProNutro AfricanX Trailrun: The Trail Virgin Diaries, Stage 1
So less than 3 weeks ago my ProNutro AfricanX Trailrun presented by New Balance journey took an unexpected turn. Having originally teamed up with my wife, training her for the past 6 months, it all came crashing down after she picked up an injury. I do take all the blame for it as my competitive nature got the better of me and I pushed her too hard too soon.
Up to the plate steps good friend, and Karien’s boss, Will Saaiman, who only recently took up trail running. To say the man was nervously excited/amped would be an understatement, and it was clearly visible at last night’s race briefing, rubbing shoulders and meeting some of the top trail runners this country has to offer, including the likes of AJ Calitz, Thabang Madiba, Nicholas Rupanga and the list goes on. After race briefing and seeing last year’s Stage 1 race footage, he might have been even more nervous!
A quick calm the nerves brandy and coke saw us settling in quite early, although I think Will might have slept with his feet outside the “little” 1 man tent in the race village. Setting our alarms for a 05:30 wake-up, I could hear him restlessly tossing and turning from just after 4am, ready to get the day’s proceedings underway.
A good hearty breakfast in the Bokomo Breakfast Zone helped to settle any pre-race jitters, and by the 8am start Will was good to go. We started off I thought quite conservatively according to previous training runs, but we found ourselves keeping in touch with the leading ladies and mixed teams up till water point 1, even taking into account Will’s two tumbles along the way, as he really wanted to take in everything PAX has to offer, even the hard earth on which we wear running. So, bloodied, his ego slightly bruised, we rolled into the first water point, and took our time before setting off on the next section to Paul Cluver Wine Estate and water point 2.
My partner smiling, I’m all serious business! Photo credit Volume Photography
But the battered knee and quick early pace started to catch up and from around 17km’s in he started to take strain. I constantly reminded him to eat and drink and we battled our way up some steep climbs till he eventually could not handle his “slightly” overweight pack which I offered to carry for the next few kays to rest his shoulders and back a bit. Making use of a run, walk, run strategy up the climbs we eventually strolled into the last water point at 27km, just 7km more to go!
Having refilled bottles, adding some GU electrolyte tablets to them and eating a gel, Will got a second wind, and my running partner was back. The last few kays of flowing single-track saw us passing a few teams, and we even managed to run strongly up the final climb before the final switchbacks down to the finish line, and a sprint finish to catch 1 more team coming in, in just over 3h27.
So we survived Stage 1, and what makes it even more amazing is that Will’s previous longest run was 23km on a very flat road run, thus putting 10km’s on that with nearly 800m elevation gain.
Lunch, and a massage later (I was screaming like a little girl, thanks Angelo, while Will was looking like he was having a spa day), saw us heading home for the night and spending some quality time with the wives and kids, after an afternoon nap of course.
Tomorrow sees us taking on another 34km from Ongegund below Sir Lowry’s Pass to the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre, and again another longest run for Will! But slow and steady will get us there.
See you all in the morning!
ProNutro AfricanX Trailrun: The Virgin Trail Diaries Stage 2
Trail running can be unpredictable at times, even more so in multi-stage trail running. 1 Day you’re feeling strong, 24 hours later you feel like throwing in the towel. You find the nearest shady spot and just lie there in the foetal position like you’re waiting for your mom to come and fetch you in the sick bay at school. And so Stage 2 of the ProNutro AfricanX Trailrun presented by New Balance would be no different. Stage 2 is traditionally dress-up day, and this year did not disappoint, including a few Baywatch lifesavers, adult babies, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and a few Springbok rugby players.
Dawid Visser & Rohan Kennedy supporting the Boks, while Paiter Botha of The Trail Shop stands with the winners of the AfricanX/The Trail Shop competition.
With the onset of this adventure my mission was to get my teammate Will Saaiman to the finish line after Stage 3, today my mood and energy fluctuated like the trails we were running. One moment flying down the smooth mtb single track, the next in the dumps on a climb!
We went home last night to get a good night’s rest, but I recon I forgot to pack my legs today. All went well till water point 2 at around 19km, on route playing a quick game of Uno with “Ze Germans”, Robert Le Brun and his partner Damo, overlooking False Bay at the top of the Gantouw Pass.
Who says every run must be a race? Playing some Uno while catching our breath on the Gantouw Pass.
From here it was pretty much plain sailing on smooth mtb manicured single track, including the magnificent “Rock Garden” section, a great section of technical single track, before flattening out again towards the 2nd water point at the Elgin Grabouw Country Club (EGCC).
From here things went pretty much pear/apple shaped for me. Even the smallest little incline felt like a massive climb, and we resorted to a walk every little hill, run the downhill and flats strategy, something that would catch up to us later on. The slog up to the 3rd water point was long, slow and very hot, with temperatures now reaching the mid 30’s. I cannot commend the staff manning these points enough, as they really were lifesavers on a day like this.
The run, walk, run strategy now became a survival strategy to water point 4, and from here push towards the finish line at the Paul Cluver amphitheatre. Will was a strong as an ox the whole day, the fact that I was taking strain and slowing the pace might have contributed to him running back to back 30 odd km’s, but eventually his nagging ITB caught up to him. I would run downhill, while he walked, and he would catch up on the climbs as I would be walking these sections. What amazed me was his fighting spirit, seeing a couple of teams struggling ahead of us he wanted to push to make up some time and position on the stage. We caught 3 teams in the dying km’s, and finished the day strong, a good sign for the following day’s final stage.
What stands between Will and his maiden PAX finishers tee is 22km from Houw Hoek down to Botrivier and back, on some of the most beautiful mountain trail in the Western Cape. We might have sore legs in the am., but Stage 3 you sometimes run on guts, and guts alone.
Rest well, feet up, and see you guys at the start line in the morning.
ProNutro AfricanX Trailrun: The Virgin Trail Diaries Stage 3
Two hard days behind us, and it has boiled down to just another 22km before the Trail Virgin gets his first ProNutro AfricanX Trailrun presented by New Balance finishers medal, and well deserved it would be.
With a bout of the dreaded ITB kicking in towards the end of Stage 2, Will booked an early morning strapping and foam roller session, while I closed my eyes lying on my back in my tent juggling through memories of the previous 2 days of running. 22km, that’s all that was left of this incredible journey, and for Will to complete his first multi-stage event, having not run more than 23km before the onset on Friday. Two days later, although slightly battered and bruised, nothing was wrong with his enthusiasm to finish what we had started.
With Paiter Botha & Helgard Slabbert of The Trail Shop before start of Stage 3
Checking the route profile, we knew we were going to be in for a bumpy “ride”, as downhill and ITB don’t mix, so we started off quite conservatively on the first few km’s down the pass into Botrivier. Things flattened out a bit and then started the big climb back up towards Houw Hoek. Will got into his climbing element (those Monday night hill sessions starting to pay dividends) and his competitive nature kicked in too. This section of trail is probably the most beautiful of all 3 days, pure mountain trail running, technical, steep at times with amazing vistas.
It was over almost too quickly as we headed up the last little incline to the 2nd water point and from there 4km’s of relatively easy running to the finish line. Even the last little sting in the tail climb towards the end, and the fun switchbacks (not if you have ITB) could not dampen our spirits as we raced home. Me to complete my 5th, and Will to complete his maiden PAX.
What made it even more special was that our beautiful wives and kids were waiting at the finish line to welcome back “Dad”, and for Will to be able to share this moment with them!
He truly has amazed me over the past 3 days, and I could not ask for a nicer guy to have spent this journey with. Day 1, I gave him advice on hydration and nutrition, on day 2, I got my own words thrown back at me, and day 3 we just ran! That is the beauty of multi-stage trail running, and that is exactly why we do this! Sharing such experiences with friends is priceless, and the war stories we have to tell at our next few braai’s will make the memories linger even longer.
To all involved with the weekend, Stillwater Sport, Stillwater Trail Running, Newsport Media, ProNutro, New Balance and all the other sponsors involved, thank you so much! The effort and passion you put into SA trail running is appreciated by all!