Friday, September 30, 2011

Wild Run Part III

I wondered if I had cooked my goose by running that much quicker the day before and I noticed some swelling on the outside of one foot. When its the last day and the mileage is about the same, well...what has to be done, gets done. It rained quite hard in the night but the morning was cool and overcast - perfect running conditions.

The ascent was the highest of all the days and mostly came in the last third but if you're walking, it doesn't really matter. But beginning at the beginning is a good place to start. Our destination was the famous Hole in the Wall, 34km distant. There would be less beach running and more inland running and for me, this was the most interesting day because of the variety.

There were also some navigational challenges which saw a couple of runners heading waaay inland. Once again we started on an incline on a small dirt road which then climbed up and over a small hill to reach the beach again. I started by walking to ease my achilles and sore foot into it. I had also taken the precaution of putting my road soles into my trail shoes. They had a slight heel raise and once the achilles was warmed up, I never felt it again. But the was eina for all of it.

Aileen and Brett jogged off and once we were on the beach they were a constant 150m or so in front of me. Once again, there were gorgeous beaches to behold and most people seemed content to amble along knowing it was the last day. We caught up to Heather and Carlo who had left an hour before the field. She was limping along determined to get to the checkpoint before calling it a day. Brave woman with a great attitude and Carlo was a hero. He then ran the rest, clubbing a lot of people on the way, it must be the rested legs!
I finally caught Aileen and Brett at the check point and the three of us set off on the last beach before heading into the rolling green hills and small villages. At the top of the first climb, we followed some people in front. Aileen and I were taking photos and when we looked up they were all standing in a huddle, arms gesticulating in all directions. Looking back, we saw Kelvin Trautman (photographer extrodinaire) bolting down the hill and without a thought, we turned and followed. He knew the route and he would run past all the runners, take amazing photos then bolt past again with camera in hand and heavy backpack.

The scenery changed to one of natural forests and magnificent aloes. One last beach saw us walking at a brisk pace because of my foot and Aileen's tender knee and then we swung away for three big ups before the final one that brought us out above Hole in the Wall and the cheerful yellow finish banners. The last swim across the Mpako River mouth was the biggest and we made the most of it, using the waterproof camera to take the final pictures.

The race was over. But the cameraderie and memories are forever. The final dinner and prize giving was a great celebration of everyone's achievement and was a fitting way to end. Rushing off after the race just would have detracted from the experience.

Writing about it here doesn't do it justice. To all those we ran with, suffered with, chatted to - I hope to see you there again.

Owen, Tam and the team - respect! As one race organiser to another, I know what it takes and you guys rocked.

Aileen - way to go friend. Can't wait for our next adventure!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wild Run Part II

The runners were split into two start groups with the majority (slower) starting first.  After our 7h50 day, we were clearly in the first group (we had by no means been the last the previous day!).  The run started on an uphill so as the countdown reach "go", we all walked leisurely up the hill until it reached a flat section and we began to jog.

Some neat navigation saw us pop up near the front of our group and this was given added value when we heard a lot of thrashing and cursing as a group of the "faster" runners cams mincing their way through the marshland to fall in behind us.  Pardon me while I smirk.

A shallow river crossing cropped up quite quickly and as Aileen and I were looking for a dry place to cross, she slipped and banged her knee.  Bravely hobbling on, we hoped that it would loosen up again.  The beaches were flatter and harder and we found the going much better, almost finding a crisp pace in places.  Did I mention there was a strong tailwind?

Surprisingly, I felt quite strong on the way to the check point at Dweza Nature Reserve and Brett and I and a Pat (of 23 Comrades fame) were bowling along merrily.  It was at the first serious river crossing that I realised Aileen was nowhere in sight.

I made the decision to carry on until the checkpoint and reached there feeling pretty good still. Then there were only 12km left for the day.  At the check point, one of the runners told me Aileen was battling with her knee and going along slowly at a pace she was comfortable with. With only the 12km left, I decided to carry on. Nice friend - I know!

That's probably why I found this section long and hard. I remember a long stretch of beach with huge sand dunes and realising that going over was the only option. Sadly for me, Brett had fallen back slightly as had Pat. Sadly because a young runner (Clare - see we were a friendly bunch) caught me in this section and cajoled me onward. We'd walk a bit then she get the pace going.  Damn these younger people with no respect for their elders.

The final swim was in the Mbashe River mouth about 2km from the finish (apparently rich with Zambezi Sharks). Finally I got rid of her encouraging her to go on ahead!  It was all uphill to the finish at The Haven but I ended up 44th which I was right royally impressed with.

Aileen came in about an hour later well ahead of many other runners.  Her knee was swollen and the one blister she had was quite ugly.  Grit doesn't even begin to describe her attitude - grit in spades.

On this day, a new record was set for the longest day.  Our room mates from the first night - Heather and Carlo - had come in with the sweeps in 9h43.  Heather's knee had packed up and she had limped most of the way.  I guess this is what these adventures are all about - hanging in there, determined to get to the finish.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wild Trail

I just don't understand how people survive without adventures.  Its this step out of the ordinary that makes the day to day living and grind of domesticity all surviveable.

Wild Run was my second big adventure this year.  It was a long haul to get to the start line but I really looked forward to the experience. Aileen (@gardengodmother) and I had been upbeat about the event. This was probably to disguise the fact that we knew we hadn't done enough long runs. But there is also time to just get on with what you have - and this was one of them.

We flew into East London and then were transferred to Thatches in Kei Mouth just in time for briefing followed by dinner at the Green Lantern.  There we met Brett and Francis. He was running and we ended up doing a lot of miles together and she (a physio) provided Aileen with a lot of plaster for blisters. The few people we had spoken to all seemed to have fallen into our category of training but were they spinning a yarn?  Exaggerating the deficit in case things fell apart?

The next morning was stunning and the 80 runners loaded onto the ferry across the Kei River for the official start.  7.30 and we were off jogging down the beach accompanied by thundering booms as massive spring tide waves crashed onto the shore.  The high tide crimped our running space onto soft sand which ended up giving lots of people blisters amongst other niggles.  Then there was the camber.  Picture running 45km on a steep camber while sinking into soft sand.  It did some damage.

I decided to keep my feet dry for as long as possible on that long first day which meant some time wasting at the two big river crossings (Khobonqaba River and Nxaxo River).  Note: river crossings equal swimming.  This, together with my fabulous (new) trail shoes (Inov8 Roclite 295) and handy gaiters meant I had absolutely no problems with blisters or toenails.  Upfront, I'll tell you that by the last day, I had quite bad tendonitis in my foot from the sand and camber but nothing else wrong.

As the day wore on, the headwind increased but the tide eventually went out giving us a much firmer footing and easier running. Aileen and I made a little train of two to give one person respite from the wind by drafting.

The scenery was spectacular.  Long empty beaches, brilliant green headlands, black jagged rocks and perfectly blue water.  I guess this is what keeps you going when you're tired.  Honestly, I don't remember much other than the approach to Mazeppa Bay and being able to see the finish about 5km away.  I remember the final swim across the Qhorha River and the 100m stumble to Kob Inn.  I remember my the tiny muscles in my feet feeling like they were cramping while I lay on my bed dozing.

I remember being gratified that everyone was hobbling - without exception. Oh yes, and I remember seeing the wreck of the Jacaranda at some point.  The pictures will have to tell some of the story.

We mingled and chatted to others throughout the afternoon and evening in a camaraderie of shared suffering. It was early to bed after a five course meal with a hope and a prayer that the feet would be ok the next day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Three More Sleeps

The next big Event is only three nights away.  @gardengodmother and I head off the beautiful Wild Coast for the three day Wild Run.

Its been a long haul to get here. She and I both sat eagerly at our computers in January waiting for entries to open. It was a frantic few minutes trying to fill out forms and submit them and hoping we'd got ours done in time.  It took twenty minutes for all the entries to be taken, but we were in!

Then we "appointed" a running coach as neither of us had enough running background for a staged trail run of between 33km and 45km per day at that.  Marcel Viljoen of Fitness From Africa did his best.  He had a programme to build us up to appropriate mileage but he had not reckoned with the two of us having bodies that stubbornly resisted a smooth run up.

Between backs, legs, calves, feet, we stuttered and stumbled our way through the months to bring us to this point at last. I juggled mountain biking with the running knowing that at least I was remaining fit if not running strong.  Once Ride 2 Rhodes was over, the bike was put away, still with the mud of the ride on it, and out came the trail shoes and a three month cramming session.

Mileage flucutated wildly from 2km(worst), to 64km (best) per week. Ja, ja - not ideal but hey, we worked with what we had.  The best part of the build up were the twice weekly track sessions under Marcel's guidance. Our improvements have been phenomenal through this discipline.

The Wild Run begins at Kei Mouth (just north of East London) and finishes three days and 112km later at Hole in the Wall.  The distances are intimidating for us novices but the spectacular surroundings will get us through.  The event is so popular that they have two races back to back. Although, our event is not a race - its the social version so we hope to not be last!

Events are what keep my going.  A big goal to take me out of the mudane and a friend to share it with.  The pain won't last but the memories and the experience will be there forever.

Watch this space for reports or follow on Twitter : @santacruzrulz and @gardengodmother

Try not to be too envious....

Posted via email from Go Cycling

Thursday, September 8, 2011

There was a day six

Yes, there really was. The Ride2Rhodes is all of six days but this rider got so caught up in the drama of the Race Across South Africa (RASA), I completely forgot to finish off the saga. But finish it I must as the most significant sports event so far  this year in my personal calendar. I'm about to embark on the next Event so I have to clear the decks.

I'm scraping the barrels of my memory now.  For possibly the first time in two R2Rs and one RASA. I hit the snooze button twice that morning in Vuvu. I felt drained. The polite knock on the door by our hosts galvanised me at last and @gadgetrules and I trekked back to the school to collect our stuff and push through the final day.  I knew it wasn't going my way when there was no hot water for tea and the kettle didn't boil in time before we left!

Last to go, the usual four suspects, Derek, Andries, Pawel and I, plodded out the door into a strong wind. Its 8km to the turnoff to Lehana Pass and the wind seemed to grow more ferocious, the closer we went. At times, I couldn't move forward into its teeth and I was standing still unable even to push let alone ride.
Having experienced Lehana twice already and once with strong winds, I was seriously fearful that I would get blown off the narrow path that wound its way up the ridge spine.  A long and complicated debate with myself ensued and in the end I succumbed to the fatigue which had sapped my mental edge and took in the sites of Mount Fletcher by road.  The two hour doze helped and I hopped on my bike on the other side of the mountain and rode back to meet the team.

I felt less bad about missing out when two of them said they would not have been able to help me if I had got into trouble. They were so busy trying to keep their own footing on the mountain in the insane wind. Some of the other riders opted for a longer route around hoping for a break from the pounding but all it meant was longer exposure, less recovery time and more exhaustion and for some, race ending injury.

We rolled into Rhodes with our own paparazzi - multiple RASA finisher, Trevor Ball - and celebrated with a wide range of drinks and huge plates of crispy chips. "Our" two RASA riders from FNB had a quick bike service and parts swop with Andries and Derek and were set to go the next morning on substantially better performing bikes.

I thought I might be envious of them setting off for the rest of the adventure but I was happy to have finished. Lack of long rides had taken its toll but the awesome cameraderie of our group had more than made up for the efforts of the previous six days.

And I can't close off this chapter without singing the praises of our guardians - Dave and Dawn. Nothing was too much trouble and when the going got really tough, they brought out the banana bread or fruit cake!  Its worth going back just for that. You guys rocked.

To the group - muchas gracias. I hope to ride with you again.