Rediscover all that is good.

Over the last couple of months I have found excuses to can a training session all too easy. Be it cold and rainy weather, the lack of commitment to prepare for a race or just plain laziness. Possibly a combination of all of the above. And in speaking to my running and mtb’ing buddies I’ve figured out it wasn’t a situation that was unique to me, it seems like the winter of 2016 has done what winter normally does to us. The lack of sunlight has taken effect on us and literally put us, or our training schedules, in hibernation.

Luckily I have found a new running buddy in our 10 month old Italian Greyhound pup that has helped a bit in getting me out the front door onto the trail. But Duke’s appetite for constant running would not have been enough. Commitment goes a long way and therefore with the commitment of a race coming up in 6 weeks I have once again found my stride.

The third leg of my rescue plan, however, has been the one that has put the excitement back into training. I sat down and listed a couple of great trails that I used to frequent, but for various reasons have not run in a while. With this list in mind I now look forward to at least 3 proper runs per week (whilst also trying to slot in a couple of mtb rides).

They may be well known trails and some might be a bit out of your way, but try get to at least some of them, hopefully you also get a newfound motivation.

  • Grabouw, Nuweberg plantations.
    Accessible from either the Grabouw Country Club or the Nuweberg forestry station. This area offers sheltered running as most of it passes through the plantation. If you start from the Country Club, a longer run, you will have a variety of single tracks to make your way towards Nuweberg. A highlight on that route is the waterfall at the dam wall up the river, but after that you’ll need to do some serious climbing to get to the plantation proper. From the Nuweberg parking area you basically hit the trees right away and you can plan your route so that the serious climbing only comes after the halfway mark.
  • Franschhoek Pass, Cats pad and Mont Rochelle.
    One for the mountain goats. Park at the top of the pass and either head out towards Villiersdorp on Cats pad or head for the clouds and go up the switchback single track visible from the Mont Rochelle entrance. The easier option is the out and back trail towards Villiersdorp, but that trail can be quite overgrown sometimes. The best reward this mountain offers you lay in wait when you head for Breakfast Rock or The Lookout Point where you will be humbled by the scale of creation. For a much longer run you can head up to and over the saddle just before reaching The Lookout Point. This is also one of the best places to run when the mountains are covered in snow.
  • Hermanus, Fernkloof nature reserve.
    Arguably my favourite place to run. Be it the plethora of trails to pick from or the majestic views, this is trail running heaven. From the Visitors Centre you can head out towards Stanford for an easier run with less climbing on well-kept hiking trails. Or put your head down and tackle the climb up to Galpin Hut. For my favourite route here I head out towards Kleinmond on the Red route, after about 2, 5 km you then head up Olifantspad to get you to the top of the mountain and into Rotary way. Turn right and follow the dirt road through a gate and into a single track on your right. Carry on with that (it later becomes jeep track) until you see the Orange route crossing the jeep track. Take a right turn there and head down the steep switchbacks back to the Visitors Centre for a 10k made in heaven.The best thing about Fernkloof is that just about all the trails link up with each other enabling you to make up routes varying from 3 to 30km.
  • Wellington, Welvanpas farm, Blazing Saddles.
    Wellington might be my hometown, but I don’t get to run Welvanpas’ White route, and Blazing Saddles in particular, nearly enough. The whole route is well marked so you will find your way around this particular trail easily. Either tackle the whole White route (27km) and finish with the magical Blazing Saddles single track descent or take a shortcut up the mountain at Doolhof cellar (cutting about 14km from the route). The climb is a stinger, but Blazing Saddles is what you’re working for……

Keep in mind you may need permits for these runs. Nuweberg and Welvanpas permits are on sale at the venues, but Mont Rochelle permits need to but booked in advance. Fernkloof is free!

Hopefully that also spurs you on to get your trail shoes on your feet and to run. Personally, I can’t wait for 29 October when I will be lining up at the Bains Trail run for a long overdue return to racing!

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Willan van Zyl

About Willan van Zyl

After competing at provincial and national level in athletics, cross country and biathlon at school level, I lost my appetite for running long distances after completing my year in the army in 1993. That changed when I read an article in a newspaper in 2007. The subject of said article, The Cape Odyssey, 220km, 5-day stage race. In January 2008 I took up running again with the idea to be on the starting line of the 2008 Cape Odyssey. Those 5 days were hell on earth, but simultaneously a greater experience than I had ever anticipated! Since then I’ve been blessed to run many races and trails, to the point that this great sport is now an integral part of my being. That’s basically how the trail bug got me entangled in its web. My own definition of trail running – run where God intended you to run.

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