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TRAIL RUNNING NEWSLETTER – JANUARY 2017

”Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance you can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet. But when you are through, exhilarated and exhausted, at least for a moment everything seems right with the world…” 

Welcome to 2017 red army!! Trust that you all had a great festive season and enjoyed the wonderful weather out and about on the trails in our beautiful country!! The new year promises more stunning trail routes and fun times with friends!!

What happened in November and December?

Our annual Dudley Trail Run in aid of CANSA on 26 November was a huge success!! A BIG thank you to all who supported by running and volunteering!! It was wonderful to see the red army spirit getting together to make this event amazing!!

Thank you, Chris Hitchcock, for being our awesome event photographer - more pics at http://www.photosport.co.za

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Hosting the Clay Cafe Aid Station at the 58km mark at Cape Town Ultra Trail on 11 December was lots of fun!! What great team work - thank you Karin Gerber, Mark Stokell, Louise Wileman, Tracey le Roux, Marilette Brown, Heidi Wilson, Colin van Niekerk and our photographer for the day - Thaabiet Salaam for all your hard work!!

Well done to all our runners who participated!! You totally rock! Hope to see more dirt lovers on the route next year!!

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What is happening in January…

Wednesday CMC trail runs will continue at Meerendal, Altydgedacht, Bellville Golf Course and Bloemendal, but the Thursday Durbac trail runs happening at Majik Forest and Durbanville Golf Club have been cancelled. We start running at 18:00!

Please refer to the CMC Trail FB group to download the preliminary January to December 2017 trail run schedule as well as keeping an eye on the events posted.

For those members who have recently joined – welcome!! Hope to see you on the trails soon! See below the vice captains responsible for the various routes we run. On weekends any of these runners might be leading the shorter and/or the longer pack routes. Conrad Meier, is another valuable part of our team and Durbac’s trail captain. We host runs together to have bigger groups so there is a pace for everyone! For any questions, feel free to ask them during pack runs or to contact me directly.

Important request concerning the trail runs: Please follow the route and stay within sight of the vice-captain/sweeper that is responsible for the specific route (short/long/walking route). Do not make up your own route if you have committed to run with the pack!! Our vice-captains need to make sure everyone gets safely back to the start and does not get lost! Safety is after all one of the reasons we run together!! Please make sure that you do not cause damage to vineyards when parking!!

* Bellville Golf Course - Mark Stokell

* Meerendal Wine Estate – Magda Marshall & Anton Franchi

* Altydgedacht Wine Estate - Karin Gerber & Neil Broers

* Bloemendal Wine Estate - Pauline Wilkinson & Anton Franchi

Weekly trail runs: 

Wednesday at 18h00 - 7.5 & 10 km options

* Wed 18 January - Meerendal Wine Estate

* Wed 25 January - Rerouting all CMC members to the Dan Luyt 15km run (PLEASE NOTE - NO trail run at Bellville Golf Club)

Weekend Pack Runs & Races

* Sun 15 January - Spur Trail Series Race #1: Lebanon Forest

* Sun 22 January – Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch Club Pack Run

* Tue 24 January  – Spur Trail Series Race #2: Kirstenbosch

* * Please keep an eye on the Cape Multi Trail FB page for informal runs being organised.

Other Exciting News and Events

Competitive much? 😉

Our Cape Multi Trail Strava Group is up and running and there are some competitive members out there! If you want to see how you match up against our awesome 'bergbokkies' - follow the link below and become part of the fun!! Thank you Louis Kotze for setting this up!!

https://www.strava.com/clubs/cmctrail

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Injured?? Hit the trails in a different way!

Another very excited venture was created out of the need to stay fit while injured!! Liezl Meiring, started a MTB group that can be joined by beginner cyclists, injured or recovering runners etc. This group is Whatsapp based and  makes arrangements for the weekend depending on availability of their members. If you would like to be part of this group, contact Liezl or myself and we will add you to the group! Thank you Liezl for helping the trail junkies to experience the trails in another way!!

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Trail Photo Competition

The 6th monthly photo competition with “Fun in the Sun” as the theme for October showed that CMC trail runners have the skill to get out there and enjoy the sunshine! Once again, thank you to everyone who participated, either by uploading or liking photos!!

The winner for November 2016 is Louis Kotze!! Congratulations Louis - what an awesome photo, taken at the Winelands Marathon, Stellenbosch. Louis wins an awesome goody bag sponsored by Hallo Pragtig, Multiscarfs, New Balance, Wintergreen, Dual Balance and NovaVit Plus.

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Every Wednesday Evening - Giving back to the Community

Calling all ladies! Bronwyn Franchi is collecting old running shoes, clothes and basic toiletries for young women who have survived trauma. They are participating in a research programme that includes counselling and self-care through exercise. If you are able to donate items, you can pass these onto Anton Franchi at the Wednesday trail events or you can inbox her and she will arrange to collect.

Thank you for your generosity thus far, the response has been amazing!! Let’s give these women the gift of running!

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** If you have a project that gives back to the community – feel free to send me the information. I will gladly include it in the newsletter.

How Running Changed My Life

Nominated by Jayson Dean, Steven Goodrich wrote a beautiful piece on his SkyRun experience!! Enjoy dirt lovers - it is an awesome read!!

"SkyRun. Sure, why not!

What is it?

 Strange as it may sound, the first time that I heard about SkyRun was the day a few of us decided to enter. Steven Torrington had been searching for his next big event and Google took him to UTMB which, in turn, led him to SkyRun. On reflection, he must have searched for “something completely insane that will really challenge and possibly break me”. 

It is amazing how quickly we rallied behind the idea and before too long – on 4 December 2015 – four of us decided to enter the 100km race. All four of us had run Comrades; how much harder could it be?  Boys will be boys; nothing like a healthy dose of peer pressure.  We even managed to convince a fifth guy to join us in early 2016.

It was only after entering that I started to appreciate the enormity of the task; a 100km race over the Witteberg Mountains in the Eastern Cape at an average of 2000m above sea-level – with over 4500m of climbing and a cut-off of 30 hours. The “Comrades of Trail” or “the toughest trail running challenge in SA” were some of the phrases that previous runners had used to described the race.  Insane.

Months went by without too much off-road training; we figured Comrades training would see us through to the end of June and we’d pick things up from July.  Once Comrades was behind us, we started tackling some trail races – Bastille in Franschhoek in July, and Whale of Trail in De Hoop in August. In September and October, we took to Table Mountain each weekend in preparation for SkyRun.

Truth is, our training was way off and the countless runs up Majik may have boosted confidence, but they did little to prepare us for what lay in wait.

As it turns out, SkyRun 2016 was the 20th anniversary of the race. The race started on 19 November in Lady Grey.

So – on 18 November – six of us started our adventure. Brendon Cowell, Steven Torrington, Craig Sales, Trevor Rolfe and his dad (our second) and myself caught the early bird flight to Bloemfontein and then drove down to Lady Grey.  Rumour has it that the town population increases by more than 20% over race weekend. One visit to Lady Grey and you’ll understand why. Too small to be considered a one-horse town. Don’t get me wrong, though, very quaint place and worth a visit if you’re in the vicinity.

There was lots of nervous laughter on the flight and drive. We all knew that we were about to embark on something extraordinary. I’m not sure about the others, but I was as nervous as I was excited. No different to how any one feels when attempting something for the first time be that your first open water swim, your first Cycle Tour or even your first marathon. We all had more questions than answers; all desperately wanting to know if we’d done enough or if we could make it to the finish – Wartrail Country Club – before the cut off.

Registration included a compulsory medical for those running the 100km race. Nothing elaborate – each participant was weighed and had their pulse and blood pressure taken.  We picked up our goodie bags, race bibs and the all-important GPS devices.  It was getting real. All too real.  You all know what I’m talking about; those mixed emotions the night before you challenge your body and mind in a way that you’ve never done before.

Later that evening, we attended the race briefing and were given a quick tour of the route.  That video took five minutes. It took an age, or at least that’s what I thought at the time.  How long is 100km again? Looking around the dinner tables, I remembered what makes running so special. All shapes and sizes. The professionals – like Christiaan Greyling, AJ Calitz and (13 times winner!!) Bruce Arnett – were amongst us. I’m not aware of too many other sports that allow the Weekend Warrior the opportunity to sit amongst the guys who’d be competing for the title. It may be an individual sport but it unites like very few others.

Needless to say, we headed back to our B&B quite early, packed our backpacks – with all the compulsory kit, water and food - set out our race kit and tried to get some sleep. Sleep, easier said than done.  Trevor and I had our alarms set for a 2:50am wake-up yet I found myself constantly checking the time for fear that I’d overslept. Sound familiar?

Eventually, the alarms sounded. We had 40 minutes to make it to pre-race registration. Fortunately, our BandB was a 100m or so from the start so time wasn’t an issue. One by one, the five of us made it outside. It was a little cold, but dry.  Turns out, we’d enjoy the best weather in SkyRun history.

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From left to right: Trevor, Brendon, myself, Steven and Craig.

Although it was a small field – only 250 runners in total – the energy at the start was amazing. Electric. Infectious. The build-up was a proper goose-bumps moment; one I will never forget. One I plan to experience again.

As the race started, red flares were held by men alongside the first 200m or so. It was a start unlike anything I’d experienced before.  Words won’t do it justice. It really is something quite unique and you’re going to have to run SkyRun if you want to know more.

Our euphoric moment was, alas, exactly that; a moment. Craig’s bladder burst open in the first 50 metres and he lost all of his water. We’d made a pact to run as a team, no matter what. Guess none of us expected it to be tested so soon into the race.  All the same, we helped Craig fix his bladder and headed off again. The first climb was less than a kilometre away. We didn’t realise, however, that this was a single-track and found ourselves at the very back of the field, waiting to start the climb. Our first kilometre took us just shy of 17 minutes, our second 21! If you enter, try and run the first kilometre as hard as you can to avoid a long wait.

The sun rose about an hour after the start and I cannot explain how beautiful the Witteberg Mountains really are. On an ordinary day, the views would take your breath away. SkyRun had already taken ours, but it was still spectacular all the same. Views for miles.

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Shortly after sunrise on 19 November.

 

Our plan was simple. We’d run when we could, walk the hills – especially at the beginning – and refuel constantly. With the help of my children, I’d divided all of my food into ‘two hour’ parcels which included biltong, wine gums, nuts, dried fruit and some energy bars. Note; I haven’t managed to eat one of those energy bars since.

The race itself is unique in that there is no path and no route markers. The terrain is unlike anything I’ve experienced before – especially during our training in Cape Town. You follow a little black triangle on your GPS device. Religiously, as we learnt (the hard way). If the arrow says you’re off track, you adjust – even if that means that you find yourself creating your own path.   Altitude played a part, of course, and it impacted different people in different ways. I remember Brendon struggling early on, telling me how strong I was. All who know Brendon, know how strong he is. On reflection, I think the altitude really knocked the wind out of his sails.  It really is an added challenge for those of us who do most of our training at the coast.

The check-points varied from the very structured – with fresh water, soup, coffee and some food – to the rather informal or casual; two people in a bakkie or two ladies sitting in the middle of nowhere ringing a cowbell and directing you to the smallest red light to help you on your way.

We reached half-way (Balloch) at 5pm. Craig cracked on, as he was only running the 65km race (which explains the blue bib in the first picture, by the way). Although it is 57km into the race, the rule of thumb is that it’ll take as long from Balloch to the finish as it does from the start to Balloch – despite a difference of 15km in distance. I mean, really! There’s a compulsory medical at Balloch – officials compare your weight, pulse and blood pressure to your readings that were taken at registration.

It was at Balloch that the team was dealt its first blow; Brendon failed his medical. His heart rate wasn’t dropping. In fact, it was staying above 100. For a lad who has a resting heart-rate in the 40s, Brendon knew something wasn’t right.

As there’s a meal at Balloch, we made the call to hang around and grab a bite to eat and see if Brendon could get his heart rate down and his blood pressure sorted. You can keep on going back for a medical until you pass (or the cut-off at 9pm). Trevor’s dad – Mike – had also brought fresh running gear for us. The man was a godsend. New top, fresh socks (yes, please!!!) and a different pair of shoes.

Both Trevor and I had massive blisters on the inner heel both of feet.  Whilst Trevor managed to find the prettiest girl at Balloch to help him tend to his wounds, I managed to sort myself out. Needless to say, that girl deserves a medal. Your feet take a beating and Trevor’s blisters were the largest I’d ever seen; they should have had their own postal code.

Brendon went back for a second medical. Same result. To his credit, he called it. I’m not sure what I would have done but he made the right call. That was probably the most courageous decision that any of us took that day; I recall how proud of him I was. We would miss him over the remaining 40-odd kilometres – of course – but, after an hour at Balloch, agreed to crack on without him. Statistics of SkyRun suggest 25% of those that start don’t make it. Brendon was our 25%; we’d lost our “Kenyan”! The mood of the rest of the team certainly took a blow, but Brendon took it well and his parting words to us was: “Well, at least now I can have that beer!”

SkyRun shows no sympathy and doesn’t allow you to dwell too much on what’s gone before. Next up, The Wall. Think Platteklip 2.0, with an incline of close to 50%. That’s one metre up for every two forward. Fortunately, we made it to the top just as the sun was setting. At the time, we thought that was quite an accomplishment. On reflection, we should have left Balloch earlier and tried to get up and down The Wall before sunset.

All of a sudden, we faced an even bigger challenge. Navigating the next 10 hours (or so) in complete darkness, with only a light on our heads to guide us. It took us 54 minutes to find our way down The Wall; all thanks to the dark. It is hard to explain the impact that the darkness had on our race. Simple things like climbing a fence suddenly took us minutes as compared to seconds earlier in the day. We were literally lost in the mountains, with a GPS device as our only navigation tool. Another thing happened when the sun went down, the temperature plummeted and the wind picked up. Simple things like eating or changing the batteries of the GPS device become incredibly difficult. It almost felt as if the terrain started to close in on us, like a scene from a Harry Potter movie.

We finally made it to the next checkpoint. Complete carnage. Grown men crying, bodies seemingly everywhere.  Best cup of soup I’ve ever tasted, though, and we left with renewed confidence in what we’d accomplished. As we made our way to Bridal’s Pass, we started to encounter people heading back claiming they “were finished” or it was “too tough”.  About that confidence???  On the plus, we managed to get some clues as to where Bridals started and thank goodness for that.  Proper bundu-bashing lay in store. I still maintain this part of the race was a highlight for Trevor as he sent me through bush after bush to try and find the path that kept the arrow on the route. I’m convinced I heard laughter on several occasions but both Trevor and Steven swear it was just the wind.

We didn’t realise it at the time but the section between the start of Bridals and The Turn was the toughest, by far. I’m not quite sure what happened but we lost a great deal of time over those 20 kilometres or so. To put it into perspective, we left Balloch three hours ahead of the cut-off and we left Turnings about 15 minutes ahead of cut-off.  It was bitterly cold during that part of the race. I was wearing my balaclava and my beanie, along with five layers of clothing.

The great thing about running with friends, however, is that you find humour even in the darkest moments.   I don’t think I will ever forget Trevor avoiding a fence that wasn’t there, or falling asleep as he ran. Similarly, the timing of some of the body breaks brought much entertainment. Let’s just say that lights aren’t always as far away as you may think and just because you can’t see anyone behind you doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t someone behind you. Or three people, to be honest.

It was, however, during this stretch that I thought we’d bottled it. The club curse had struck as I thought we had five hours to run 22 kilometres.  How was I going to explain this to Jayson or Estelle?  Sounds easy, I know – but it wasn’t enough time for us. Imagine my relief when we heard it was only 16km. After two cups of the best homemade soup ever – sorry, Mom – we set off again.  The final five hours was a bit of a blur. It is mainly downhill, but there’s more than enough uphill’s to keep you honest.  We climbed to the last checkpoint and made summit at 8:10am. Cut-off was for the check-point was 8:30am and for the race itself at 10am. No jokes; we climbed – as in, pulled ourselves up with our arms.  First time I swore at the SkyRun race itself or the organisers or both; this was beyond funny. Still, we have 110 minutes to make it to the finish. Plenty of time, right? Wrong. The first two of those five kilometres saw a drop of over 400m over rocks, bushes and tufts of grass. I thought I was flying down the hill … until I saw Landie Greyling’s attempt a little later. Granted, fresh legs make a difference.

During that descent, we – somehow - managed to lose Steven. We’d make a pact, however, to finish together regardless and Trevor and I waited around 20 minutes before we saw Steven come down the hill, waving his arms (and trekking poles) around like a madman, with the biggest smile of his face. He was as relieved to find us as we were to find him. It seems Trevor and I had opted for the quicker yet trickier descent.  Suddenly, the equation was a little more difficult. We had taken 65 minutes for the first two kilometres, leaving only 45 minutes for the last 3.

We started running a little more regularly and frequently; panic had set in. With less than 20 minutes to go, we hit the last kilometre. Another significant drop. We’d later hear that it was taking runners – on average – 20 minutes to make it down to the finish from the summit.  Mike, Brendon & Craig were convinced we’d miss the cut-off which is why, I’m sure, Brendon made the call to run towards us. I’m not sure whether it was the fact that we could see and hear the finish (and the MC, on his mic, bellowing for us to give it our all) or the fact that Brendon came onto the course over the last kilometre to encourage us that made us fly … but that’s exactly what we did. How the three us managed to run that last stretch so quickly is beyond me. It took us 8 minutes less than the average. We made it, with 7 minutes to spare, and the first person to congratulate us was Brendon. I think he was happier than we were and I’ll put that down to him having enjoyed a good night’s sleep and a couple of beers the night before.

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The finish. Our finish.

 We’ve reflected a lot since SkyRun and each have admitted that it is the toughest thing we’ve ever done. Let’s put that into perspective – Trevor and Steven have both completed IronMan and Cape Epic. We’ve all run Comrades. SkyRun is a beast, make no mistake. It is, however, a beast that can be conquered – by you.

The secret: run with friends, respect the race and don’t take yourself too seriously.

If SkyRun is on your bucketlist, enter it. If it isn’t, enter it. Simple as that. By the end of the race, you will know the real you. You will have fought off demons in your mind and you will emerge stronger. It tests every fibre of your being, but the reward is worth it.  All five of us have entered SkyRun 2017 and Mike has agreed to second again. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is it.

Christiaan Greyling summarised it best, for me, as follows:

“To be a SkyRunner means more than just finishing a 100km race. It means that this individual has committed and devoted 4-10 months of focused training, weekends of sacrificing social events with friends, discipline to follow a healthy diet and spending thousands of Rands on quality gear. To be a SkyRunner means that this person does not give up, no matter what!”

For Christiaan it was a race. For the rest of us, an adventure. Skywalker sounds way cooler anyhow.

See you on the trails.

Take care,

Steven

 

** Write your story or nominate a friend that inspires you – I will contact them and twist their arm to give their motivational story a go!! It is not about boasting or thinking you are better than others. It’s about motivating others to change their lives, we have all had to start somewhere – Thinking “If he/she can do it, then I can too!!” 

 

Now go there out, have adventures, make special memories and have a wonderful January!

 

Derine Sandenbergh

derine@capemultisportclub.com

(Thank you to Chris Hitchcock for the beautiful photo taken at the Dudley Trail Run 26 November 2016)

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