So yesterday Saturday 9th February I took part in my first trail race since the Old Fishermans Trail Challenge in June last year. As some of you may know from a previous post I had a disastrous Ironman 70.3 in January and was in need of putting that experience behind me quickly and a confidence booster. That day came sooner than expected yesterday.
The Silvermine XL Trail Run was listed as a 34km distance that was a standalone event from the Cape Summer Trail Series organised by @wildrunner. The route was designed to take in many of the excellent single tracks and scenic peaks that we have on the southern part of the Cape Peninsula and the southern and northern sections of the Silvermine Nature reserve. As soon as I heard about the event I was so pumped to do an official trail race in my backyard on the trails I love to run that I was the first person to sign up, yes I was that eager! The only thing was that I didn’t take into account juggling training for 70.3 and the rather different demands of preparing for a longer distance trail run that had a fair amount of technical sections. In terms of training and preparation for the event I am not going to make excuses. I should have trained more, added strength training and done more hills but I did what I could to prepare under the circumstances and was determined to do my best come what may. As a pre event mental boost I did a recce of the first half of the route although I did a slight deviation of the second half due to time constraints at the time. It was 2 weeks before but I cracked out 30kms in 3hours and 45 minutes and believed that I would survive the route on the day. (my garmin connect record here) I would be satisfied with getting under 5 hours but really wanted to dip well under 4 ½ hours.
So race day arrived I woke up and @beanker was as supportive as ever in wanting to come along to watch and cheer me on. I had checked the weather report the night before and had various options of kit packed and was prepared for anything. I had a look outside our home and up at the mountain and it was already warm with humid conditions. The clouds were coming over from the North and I knew it would rain at some point so I decided on using my @Nathanperfgear belt over my Nathan pack. I mixed a @hammersa banana gel in the small nutrition bottle of 150ml and filled my 650ml bottle with water. I had planned on drip feeding as recommended by @andygowans with an ounce/30ml intake every 30 minutes. I even set my Garmin 910XT to remind me to take my nutrition. I was determined to get everything right! We got down to the Sunbird Centre off Ou Kaapse Weg and queued in the dark to register. I spotted top trail runners Nic Rupanga, @rohankennedy and Dion Middelkoop along with the top ladies of Katya Soggot and @lindadoke. It was great to see many familiar faces I hadn’t seen in a while and amongst these were the talented yet ever humble @GhaleedNortje.
We all gathered at the start and I positioned myself midway and then we were off. The trail from the Sunbird Centre was single track and I got in amongst the first 20 runners to see how the pace was and get away from potential congestion later. The first couple of kms of the run were on a steady incline of initially grassy and then very sandy single track with the odd loose rock section that ensured getting warmed up was not a problem. We wound our way up to the junction that then turned right to take the Cave Peak single track through Klein tuinkloof up onto the Kalk Bay mountain. It was is a continual climb that although not very steep is rocky and sandy in sections that in such an early part of the race needed to be taken conservatively. Of course the top guys were flying at this point and the field started to spread out. It was on the ascent up that I heard a familiar female voice politely asking to pass I looked back to see Katya making her way past many other men with @lindadoke on her heels. I moved aside and let them pass and shouted ahead to the rest of the guys to warn them “bokkies coming up” to which they laughed. At the top we turned left towards the amphitheatre and then headed on the rolling single track towards St James Peak via tartarus cave. We were now at 500m having started at 60m and were about 5kms in to the race.
The single track to St James peak was undulating not very technical with good runnable sections. The morning sky had a crimson tinge to it and there were clear views on offer that were simply amazing. I was feeling surprisingly good and I passed World Champion surfskier @dawidmocke and some of his friends. I pushed on and soon descended into Pecks Valley at the top of Muizenberg Mountain. I noticed @lindadoke just ahead and wondered if I was pushing a little too hard. I followed her up the single track to Steenberg Peak and admired her trail running technique that saw her getting away from me on some of the technical sections. We descended Steenberg Peak as the rain started and coming out of a corner at speed on a flat rock I lost my footing and fell with my left leg over extending. I got back up fearing the worse but thankfully my hammie was fine and only my ego was a little battered. I stopped briefly at the water point at the car park to refill my bottle and thanked the volunteers for being out in the rain. Despite the rain it was very warm and I was sweating quite a bit but still comfortable. The one section I was not looking forward to was the t@r section of road from the Silvermine gate to the mountain bike car park. It was a seemingly necessary evil to get back to the trail and I was thankful that I had run it a couple of times on tired legs before. The road was a actually a 2km hill climb and I was mindful of breaking it up. I was kind of relieved when I saw @lindadoke take a short walk break and I figured hell its obviously ok to walk. I arrived at a very deserted mountain bike car park and was happy to see @beanker waiting to cheer me on. Perhaps seeing that I needed a boost she then told me that I was in amongst the top 20 runners and that there were only 2 ladies ahead of me. I was quite chuffed with myself considering the very competent field and pushed on.
From there I headed up the jeep track and then eventually took a right turn on a single track that went up to Steenberg Ridge. It was now raining considerably and the rocks were slippery in sections so I took that section cautiously. I kept @lindadoke in sight and then approaching the fire lookout came up close behind her. She had been looking behind for some time perhaps wondering who I was and I was surprised when she turned and said hello how are you doing. I didn’t lie and said I was having fun trying to hang on her tail. I said she was looking strong and have a great run then as we turned at the fire lookout the now wider and slightly downhill section seemed to give her an injection of speed and I started to fall behind. I headed over to the Noordhoek Ridge via the single track that took in Blind Man’s bend and then headed onto the jeep track that was full of loose rock and mountain bikers on their morning ride. I had a chat with a couple of them between walk breaks on some of the steep and loose inclines. It was at this point that a lady came cruising past me and I saw that she was one of the relay runners with her green bracelet on. I joined up with the single track that then took us to Noordhoek Peak that was approximately 750m and at the 23km mark. This was the point I had mentally focussed on as the starting point and had wanted to keep enough in the tank for the descent to the finish.
I headed down the jeep track to a link up with the single track that went back up to the Crassula Edge path above Silvermine Dam. This trail has a few ups and downs and is quite rocky and narrow in places. It is however very runnable although in the wet conditions there was more than one occasion when I slipped and nearly ended up taking an impromptu flying lesson of the ridgeline. The path led back down to the jeep track and joined up with the fast single track section that descended Steenberg Plateau and was a mixture of sand and small rocks. I was happy to have a longer section to run without any stops and opened up a little although not too much as I knew there was still plenty of running to come. I was surprised to catch another solo runner as it had been a long time since I had passed anyone other than relay runners and continued on. We joined up with the Wagon Trail and turned right to take the path to cross Ou Kaapse Weg. I was thankful to the marshalls slowing down traffic and cross without having to stop. I headed into the East Silvermine car park and was now starting to feel fatigued. There was less than 5km to go and I was stoked when I came around the bend to see @beanker waiting for me and got a surprise seeing an old surfing buddy Ashley Legg from Western Province too. I filled my water bottle halfway and told @beanker I would see her at the finish. I was almost there and after looking at my Garmin was aware that I was on time for breaking 4 hours.
I ran on alone still feeling surprisingly good and then bumped into some familiar faces from @satoriathletics out on a training run. I joked with them that I would gladly trade their legs at that point and then they were gone. I passed by the waterfall and then took on the last climb up the jeeptrack that felt like a small hill. I walked a little and then at the crest ran down to join the single track that descended into Silvermine Valley and towards the finish. I was now clearly tired and the loose rocks and sandy single track were playing havoc with my now very tired legs. I then began cramping in my right VMO and both calfs. I was determined to keep going and make my now clear time goal of sub 4 hours. It was hard going having to walk and stretch to ease my stiffness but seeing the Sunbird Centre now a kilometre away was a massive mental boost and I set aside the pain and cracked on. I finally got to the grassy path above the centre and looked down the path and as I ran down I could see @beanker jumping and waving.
I looked down at my Garmin that was on 3h48mins and gave a cheer and a fist pump oblivious to the fact that there were two runners behind me chasing me down. I crossed the wooden bridge with a couple hundred metres to go and heard a thump behind me that caused me to turn as I realised I was now involved in a place race to the last hundred metres to the finish. I was determined to not lose position at such a late stage and I can only imagine that what I believed was a sprint must have looked more like a shuffle as I managed to hold the other two runners off. I spotted @lindadoke who shouted well done just as I grimaced in pain as my hamstring suddenly went rock hard as I crossed the line stopping my garmin on 3 hours and 50 minutes and then bent over exhausted.
Check my garmin connect recordof the race here
I was absolutely elated to have finished and felt quite proud of myself for seemingly doing better than I had thought I would. I shook hands with a few people although I don’t remember who in my slightly delirious but ecstatic state and then went to lie down under the enormous tent that was erected. I was gutted to have to leave soon after as it would have been nice to stay for a while but I had work to do and was keen on having an hour nap before doing so!
So I have just seen the results from yesterday and that Kane Reilly took top honours in 2h47 with Katya Soggot first for the ladies in 3h30, Linda came in 2nd in 3h42. I was quite stoked with my 21st overall and after going through the results I’m actually looking forward to turning 40 in September and moving up an age category. My run yesterday would have earned me a 4th veteran (over 40) instead of a 16th in the open category. Not bad for an older guy lol.
So feeling much better about myself this weekend and starting to put my 70.3 experience finally behind me and finding a better place to move on from. Bring on PUFfeR in August and see you out on the trails!
A big thanks to @wildrunner for organising such a great event. The course was well marked throughout with a combination of eye catching orange pieces of tape and small directional signs placed on the trail to ensure no wrong turns. No ridiculous pre race compulsory briefings, safety checks and compulsory kit you see on other local runs and no stopping for check points or clipping cards and congestion as a result. Just an opportunity to enjoy the trails with your fellow runners and everything that Mother Nature has to offer. Be sure to check out their offerings. I am already keen on taking part in the 25km Trail Run in Elgin in 2 weeks. Check it out here