Sunday morning I took part in the inaugural Chapmans Challenge Race sponsored by Spar. The race had two distances on offer a 10km and a 21km (after late revision from a 20km) race. The race venue was at Hout Bay with the start outside the Chapmans Peak Hotel, at the bottom of Chapmans Peak Drive. The 10km route was a straight out and back to the Chapmans Peak lookout spot whilst the 21km was from Hout Bay to Noordhoek and back taking in the full length of Chapmans Peak Drive twice. No mean feat considering the climbing involved but with the chance to run the length of Chapmans Peak Drive twice with no traffic it was certainly an opportunity not to be missed.
I awoke at 4am and was questioning my sanity when I went outside as the South East wind was absolutely howling. I momentarily considered bailing but decided against it and go anyway as I was certain there would be other foolhardy Cape Town Runners like I. It turns out I wasn’t wrong as when I arrived at the venue there was a healthy amount of runners already gathering or rather huddling waiting for the start. I caught up with my fellow Satorians (@marcytheresa, @satoriathletics) who were out in force along with some other friendly faces including our friends’ @Rogeema and @fadeelahk from @IthekoAC. There was a great vibe and spirits were high before the start despite the terrible weather. The wind was quite hard and I was glad I had for the first time brought my Ipod with me to drown out the wind noise and to listen to some recently captured tracks during my run.
We started just after 6am and headed straight up into the wind and the first 6kms that awaited us to the top of Chapmans Peak Drive. I had sub consciously decided that morning I would treat it as a training run and that I would relax and make the most of the great scenery on offer. Unfortunately I am sometimes my own worst enemy and from the start I got into a nice pace straight away and started running with two experienced “Old Bucks” Mart Tolsma and Grant Oliver) from my club Satori. I made my way up Chappies chatting with them and staying on their heels and we continued together all the way to the top. The downhill didn’t go as well for me (I was having flashbacks of PUFfeR) and I eased off a bit and let the other guys go. I was not so keen to accept their invitation of a lesson in downhill running just yet but I kept them in sight and drifted off admiring the views and listening to my Ipod. The time was literally flying by and we descended into Noordhoek with no incident although I nearly turned left at the Noordhoek Common on our clubs time trial route instead of going right to stay on the race route. Disaster averted I made some ground on the “Old Bucks” and then stuck to them like glue as we started back up Chapmans Peak for the return leg. I looked down at my Garmin and noticed I was keeping a fair time at just over 5 minutes a km pace.
The “Old Bucks” stopped at the first water point up Chappies and I carried on albeit feeling a little guilty for not waiting for them. As I was now on my own I cracked on up Little Chappies and then on up past The Hoek (local surf spot) glancing over the edge briefly to catch a glimpse of the waves crashing below. I saw @Rogeema and @Fadeelahk coming down the hill towards me and I high fived @fadeelahk as she passed me whilst @Rogeema had gone into photographer mode and whipped out her blackberry to take a pic and no doubt tweet it. This made me laugh (these girls always make me smile) I said howzit and bye to @Rogeema and continued my climb.
I have cycled the length of Chapmans Peak Drive countless times over the past year but this was only the second time that I had ever run the length of it. The first and last time was during the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon back in 2009 the first and last Road Ultra I have ever done. I didn’t have the best of experiences that day as Plantar Fasciiitis arose and for me the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon is one race that I have marked as unfinished business for another occasion. In a nutshell I had a bad run that day and Chapmans Peak was where my Two Oceans wheels effectively fell off. I was determined to run the length of Chapmans Peak Drive without stopping to prove to myself that I could do it in a race situation. My motivation was strong and I drew a little extra from the various Rock and Rap tunes blasting out of my Ipod. I even skipped along a little near the top to shake out my legs. As I came around the famous corner at the top of Chapmans Peak I knew it was all downhill from there and plain sailing so I claimed my little victory with a small air punch for finally getting that Chappies monkey off my back. There were still 6kms to go until the finish and I looked at my Garmin and realised that if I kept my pace at 5 mins a km I had a great chance of running a sub 1:45 half marathon which would be a first for me. I knew that I was feeling strong and that I should push on and go for it, so much for taking it easy!
The downhill was quick going as I kept pace with two other runners and I wondered how the “Old Bucks” were faring. I turned back as I turned into a bend and saw them about 100m behind me haring down on me. The bends along the drive into the mountain were hard going with the wind gusting down onto us. One corner was particularly bad as I practically got blown backwards mid stride. I had an AAC lady (Atlantic Athletic Club) coast past me clearly loving the downhill. We were into the final 4kms and I was determined not to let the AAC “gazelle” in front of me nor the “Old Bucks” behind me get the better of me and so I put the hammer down. The young lady didn’t take kindly to being overtaken and picked up the pace immediately in an effort to chase me down. We then took on a race to the finish literally flying past other runners as we pounded the tar beneath us.
We took the last bend just above the beach and I pulled away chasing down the guy in front of me. I passed a rather surprised guy as we turned into the parking lot and was relieved to see the finish. I finished in 1:43:08 (a half marathon PB time by over 4 minutes) I was a little tired but super stoked. I shook hands with the guy who came in just behind me and then thanked the young lady from AAC for helping me to finish so strong. See my Garmin’s record of my Chapmans Challenge 2011 here
The “Old bucks” came in and I thanked them too for their pace work and banter during our run. I admitted to them that I just had to push the final downhill as I didn’t want them to catch me. They laughed and then said they were trying to catch me until they saw me take off with 4kms to go and knew that they were not going to catch me today. We laughed and I was stoked that the two legends had let the young buck have his day at the races, so to speak. I waited and cheered on @Rogeema and @fadeelahk as they finished and my clubmates too as they each came in. I stayed for the prize giving and was in awe of the winner who finished the race in 1:13. Satori’s very own Luvoyo Ntando finished 3rd and I was really happy for him, he is such a great runner and a softly spoken and humble guy. It had been a great morning and I felt privileged to have been able to take part in the first Chapmans Challenge. No doubt it will become a firm fixture in Cape Town’s road running scene. Congrats to the organisers and for Spar for sponsoring the event!
Believe in yourself and your ability and you will always achieve what you set out to do.