So on Sunday the 29th January as part of my race plan for raising awareness for The Sunflower Fund (@SunflowerFund) I finally ran my first Kloof Nek Classic half marathon (hereafter referred to as the KNC). The KNC takes place in Cape Town starting in Camps Bay before heading up Kloof Nek towards the cableway station at the foot of Table Mountain and then across to the top of Signal Hill before a long descent to the finish back at Camps Bay High School.
I had decided on race day to tie in my last LSD (long slow distance) of 32km in preparation for the Peninsula Marathon on the 19thFebruary. I decided to try and slow my pace and run a 5:35min km pace. In the week preceding the run I offered on twitter to run as a sub 2 hour pace bus in my @sunflowerfund kit for any runners keen to crack a 2 hour half marathon on the course. In hindsight perhaps this may have been more favourably looked upon if I had arrived with the traditional sub 2 hour bus flag or some fanfare of sorts to let other runners know I was there. It was a beautifully clear and rather warm day as when we arrived at the start with very little time to spare for me to pick up my race number as parking was impossible. @beanker had to drop me at the entrance to Camps Bay High and I ran to collect my number and got to the start as the race started (not ideal).
The KNC starts climbing straight away up the rather challenging Kloof Road on its winding route up to Kloof Nek and the road up to Table Mountain. It is definitely a good idea to arrive early and get warmed up because the only flat you encounter on the way up is to cross the road at the top of Kloof Nek before continuing the ascent up to the Table Mountain cableway. Once there we hit a false flat as the climb continued albeit with a less demanding gradient along Table Mountain Road to the turnaround point. The race leaders were flying and it was a nice surprise to be greeted by the ever friendly @qtri123 as he flew past me. I made the turn and then running back down the hill i saw the familiar jean pant clad @SGHutch who was looking surprisingly comfortable in the increasing heat.
My rather empty bus passed other fellow Cape Runners’ @greg_dale and the ever cheery Kenny sisters’ @rogeema and @fadeelahk. I admired the fantastic views on offer across Cape Town below and then out over Table Bay towards Robben Island. The descent went rather quickly as we re-crossed Kloof Nek before beginning the ascent of Signal Hill.
I started the climb up Signal Hill with a broad grin as it was the first time I had run this section since PUFfeR. The memories came flooding back and I forgot about the heat and the tiredness in my legs. I absorbed the surrounds and peacefulness of the morning and relished the challenge of the climb ahead of me. It was a little disappointing that there was no water at the top of Signal Hill as I was not the only runner looking for some refreshment and a way to cool down from the blistering heat. I began the descent and at the first water table I saw I began telling runners going up the hill to take water as there was none at the top. I managed to run with some other runners on the way down and we chatted about the route and our goals for the year and some of our running experiences. I stopped briefly to ask an ambulance crew going up the hill if they could take some water to the top as the heat was becoming oppressive. A thought a nice feature of the route was that there were two turnaround spots that made you run back past other runners that ensured plenty of friendly banter and encouraging support.
I took the turn into Kloof Road and tried to consciously run slow down the hill as I still had 11km to run after the race and wanted to make sure my legs had enough juice in them to keep going. The descent down Kloof Road was unrelenting and I was glad to not be running it hard as I was sure that race recovery would be a little longer than normal. It was before the last switchback above Camps Bay High School that I looked at my garmin and noticed that I had taken the descent a little quicker than planned. I arrived just outside the gates of Camps Bay High and the finish but as I was quite early and with time to spare I decided to run back up the hill and cheer on the other runners and see if I could help anyone into the finish and a sub 2 hour. Perhaps it was a silly idea at the time but I wasn’t in a rush and I actually enjoyed supporting. I got a bit carried away though and then decided it was time to finish the race so I could complete my mornings training. I ran around the school field into the finish with the time just on 2 hours. Although i had taken it slow and run at a slower pace than normal it was without a doubt one of the toughest half marathons i had done but also the most enjoyable.
Have a look at my Garmin record of my LSD for Kloof Nek Classic and my run along the Atlantic Seaboard.
KNC was officially my slowest half marathon time in over 3 years but I was more concerned that my legs were feeling a little heavy and the sun was belting out some serious heat. Thankfully @beanker was waiting for me with some water and my running belt that had a 200ml bottle with some Hammer Perpetuem in it. I drank some water, passed my finishers glass to @beanker and then headed down the hill onto Victoria Road and the scenic drive along the Atlantic Seaboard into the city to hammer out my last 11kms.
I was thankful for the scenery and distraction of a beautiful day in @capetown to help with the heat and doing the extra mileage. It was really hard going but seeing other runners on the road helped lift my spirits as I knew they must also be hurting in the heat. I headed out for 5.5km and then turned around some way down the promenade in Sea Point and headed back to Camps Bay to meet @beanker and the breakfast that awaited me. The return leg was really tough and I switched on my Ipod and banged out some tunes to keep me going but i was finding it difficult to run under a 5:30 km pace. I stopped at the water tap on the return but was incredulous to see that it had been turned off and to make it worse I didn’t take money with me and was down to my last sip of the now warm perpetuem in my bottle. I put my head down and carried on running and it was shortly after that I heard some shouting. I looked up to see @paulingpen waving from his bike with his broad smile. I waved back although it must have looked pretty pathetic as I was really tired. His shout-out gave me a lift and woke me up a little also and the last km seemed to go by pretty quickly.
AS I ran along the camps Bay beachfront my garmin finally beeped that I had reached 32km and although I momentarily considered pushing it out to a 36km run I decided against it and settled on joining @beanker for some much needed breakfast and water. It was the longest run that I had done in nearly 4 months and I felt it was good preparation for my first road marathon in 3 years that awaits me on 19th February.
Never underestimate a hilly course, always carry some money on long runs and wear sunscreen!
See you at Kloof Nek Classic in 2013.