Yes its been a while but so has my last appearance in a trail running race. It was overdue so i decided to do this run and enjoy a day out in Franschoek with Bianca and our friend Claire. Although Bianca and Claire chose to rather cycle over Franschoek pass and back as part of their training and people think im crazy!
Before the event whilst completing the online entry form i got the opportunity to ‘seed’ myself in a starting batch from A to F. Being short of trail fitness and not wanting to get run over i decided to be sensible and went for a D seeding figuring it would be fine. So morning of the race came and we arrived without too much trouble. I had a short warm up and even managed to have a quick catch up with my friend Anne before the start.
So off we went at 9:10am and thankfully there was no mad dash to get up the mountain although the pace was a little too relaxed and I decided to push on with the chap in front of me. Before we hit the first km we were already ascending the jeep track that became very loose in places and made pushing off a challenge. After loosing the guy ahead of me on the huffing and puffing up that first climb i rounded the switchback and took a quick look down and back. The view was pretty spectacular with the surrounding mountain and nearby Berg River. The two younger guys behind me were coming up pretty quick so i decided to push on which in hindsight was a mistake as we soon hit the single track and then they refused to pass saying they rather preferred me as a pacesetter. How long this was going to last i didnt know but i thought to hell with it i’ll show these youngsters. The single track was relatively flat and sure underfoot although wet in places. It was heaven to be running a new trail and the air was crisp and still with nothing but the footsteps and breaths of the two runners on my heels. We soon started catching back markers from the previous group with some that were not best pleased with our polite requests to pass.
The trail contoured around the mountain and then headed upwards and i caught a glimpse of Kim Stephens on the descent and moved aside and said hi as she passed. We continued upward and our group of three were so focussed on pulling in the chap ahead of us that we suddenly realised we were all alone with no one in sight at a fork in the trail. I stopped and looked back whilst my companions waited expectantly. Its an odd feeling when you realise that you may have missed a turn so we had the obligatory debate and decided that it was either up down or back. I opted to go up to the next corner for a better view and true as bob i looked back across the valley and saw a snake trail of people stretched out behind us across the valley below. I shouted back down to the others and pointed back and left. We hared it back down the trail and soon came across other runners and a sign pointing down in the middle of the path. As we descended we saw someone righting a sign that had fell over and we started laughing.
All jokes aside our merry trio continued on and didnt stop like some others at the first water crossing and rather than negotiate how wet we were going to get we chose to jump straight in and out the other side to some gasps. The path became a mixture of sand and grass as we hit the valley floor and then across to the other side with more surpises ahead. We shortly came to a much wider river crossing that although not very deep had plenty of round river rocks and slippery surfaces. Again there was plenty of traffic so we chose to go a little deeper and get through the walkers. Running across the river bed was a blast and there was plenty of hooting and rock hopping to the other side. From there the track meandered its way through the valley amidst some more crossings of streams I lost count after the 5th one when i tried passing someone on the right and ended up to my armpits in water. The other runner thought it was amusing whilst i was just happy that i had my phone between my teeth. I was fortunate however to have a rare sighting of a man in a gorilla suit (if Trevor Balls involved there’s guaranteed wildlife). The race was on and the young guys behind me were snapping at my heels not affording me a quick selfie with the gorilla (maybe next year).
Once crossed we headed upwards and my legs were beginning to feel heavy on the climb, we were only 13kms in but this old goat had to let the youngsters pass and continue on. At least they said thanks. I carried on up the hill keeping them in sight determined not to walk. We crested and then began the descent to the river which was loose underfoot and more a mixture of soil and stone. The downhills were definitely feeling better so i let my legs go and used my arms plenty of times to counter act lateral movement and the occassional slippage, i was thankful to be wearing gloves. We reached the last river crossing which was deep in places and had a very long queue. I decided to just enjoy the refreshing chill of the water on my legs and get across without turning an ankle. We reached the other side and were greeted by Trevor Ball himself who was revelling in the riverside action and comments from runners. I asked how far to the finish and he confirmed 1km. I looked ahead and gave a cocky see you boys at the finish to my companions as we hit the pancake flat jeep track to the finish. i was secretly hoping that it was really only 1km to the finish and not a cruel joke as i wasnt so confident about keeping the quickened pace for over a km.
I had mixed feelings running down the finishing chute as although i was happy to finish the race after an honest run out i was sad that the run was at an end. I finished in 1:36. My immediate thought however amidst the usual euphoria that follows a race was I’m doing the 25km next year.
Apart from my detour the race was well organised and the route itself was beautiful and challenging for all levels. A definite must do race if you want a great day out and a very runnable trail.
See you at the Bastille Day run in 2015