"I'd rather be seen on my bicycle than on a park run" - Quote from the dark side

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Crazy Store Magaliesberg Mountain Challenge Report

I finally get to post this report. I’ve been super busy lately, but all a good busy, so life is good!

The Crazy Store Magaliesberg Mountain Challenge was just that…crazy! This was a great event but also really tough.

I arrived at the venue fairly early as I prefer to do. There is a river nearby so the temperature was a cold -1°C when I stopped my car. There was a lot of activity already and the number of runners that arrived grew quickly. The temperature also went up quickly as the day went on.

Beautiful location with the Magaliesberg in the distance. Yes, I did wonder where on the mountain we will run. :)

Registration was quick and easy for me. I received my number and a quality first Ascent shirt and cap. My race number was 35 and I wondered if it would bring luck for the 35km race. In the end the total distance wasn’t 35km and I think the luck went out the window (or down the mountain) with that.


I waited in the car and got all my gear ready. The race started at 09:00 but we had to be on the busses that took us to the start by 08:00.

Eager but nervous runners on the bus.

The bus ride was quick and everyone was talking about the big trail races in South Africa. Mont-Aux-Sources, Otter, Augrabies, Three Cranes… I realized that I was among some serious trail runners and thought maybe I’m actually one of them! Lol! The busses kind of just stopped in the middle of nowhere and it was announced that this is the start area.

The start area.

There was a detailed and very humorous route description where we were told that we were in for a hard day on the mountain.

Race briefing and route description.

Beautiful view of the mountain from the start.

Then finally we were on our way! There was a TV helicopter that made such a loud noise that no one could hear the start, but we did see the front runners take off.

On our way! Straight to the mountain.

The first 4km was on a farm road towards the mountain. This was a great way to spread the field out a bit before the single trail up the mountain. It was a truly beautiful morning in the bush with the mountain slowly getting closer.

To the mountain…

…and onto the trails.

Once on the side of the mountain the climb started in all seriousness. Talking became less and sweat started dripping. This was no easy task.

Serious climbing starts.

The view was already spectacular.

The trail zigzagged to the top and walking was the most popular way forward and upward. I felt good, but had some strange stomach cramps that worried me a bit. It was not the kind of cramps that wanted to send me running for a bush, but almost like a stitch right in the middle of my tummy. I tried to forget about the pain in my stomach by focusing on the amazing mountain we were on. I knew this is what I like to do. This is where I want to be. This is who I am. Even with the stomach pains I was a very happy man!

Still going up…

The scenery was breathtaking, but also gave a sense of harshness. Although it was beautiful, it reminded me that this is Africa and life out here can be hard. I got the feeling that only the strongest will survive out here.

Over the top of the first climb.

Once over the first climb we got a glimpse of the other side of the mountain. More beautiful views and the mountain itself is unbelievable. It is dry at the moment and nothing green is anywhere. Just rocks and dry grass everywhere. It has its own beauty.

On the other side.

It wasn’t long before we reached the next climb. Runner’s started to spread out thinly now. I realized that this will be a long, slow day.

Second climb of the day.

In good company…note the tattoo…

We finally reached the top of the mountain and followed a fairly level trail along the top for about 12km. It was lovely running here, but the pain in my stomach made running very uncomfortable and I had to slow down when running. It was more frustrating than anything else.

Trail on top of the mountain.

The view!


It was beautiful but the terrain was tough. There was no time to relax. Loosing concentration on a trail like this means one thing only…fall! Luckily I didn’t :) ! I managed this trail without a fall and only slipped and stumbled a few times.

Concentration needed on this trail.

We went up and down a few times as we ran along the mountain range. The grass was burnt in a few places and the sense of dry and harsh surroundings was very strong. No place for the weak here!

On we go!

Fantastic views…

The run along the top of the mountain was undulating, going up and down at times but with no serious climbs or descents. We were all waiting for the real descent of the mountain. We were warned that this would be dangerous.

Just spectacular!

At some point we reached another hard climb. This was the steepest of the day so far and I could feel I’ve been doing some serious running up to here. My legs felt this third hard climb.

Steepest and hardest climb of the day.

Made it to the top! Check that view!

We passed this rock going down the other side.

See what I mean by the harshness of the mountain?

We went through some very beautiful areas before we finally reached the last and long descent down the mountain. I was still battling with the cramps/pains in my stomach and knew going down would be very uncomfortable.

Top of the descent.

The descent was not as dangerous as I expected but I still took it very easy, making sure I didn’t fall. The stomach cramps were not helping my progress down the mountain either. I still don’t know what it was, but it was really bad at times. It drained my energy for sure and it was getting quite warm as well. On top of the mountain there was wind to cool us down, but on the side and at the bottom there was no wind. The trail went through some bush and grass towards a church at the bottom.

Some bush and grass.

Finally reaching the Greek Church.

We joined the 20km course at some point here and the water point they had at the church waited for the 35km runners as well. This was a relief for many runners. The mountain was dry and hot and I think even the organizers realized that the run was not safe without any water point somewhere.

The 20km water point waited for the 35km runners.

From the church the route was mainly flat and downhill towards the river with about 10km to go to the finish. I was tired but ok. My stomach made running difficult so my progress was slow with lots of walking in the last 10km. It was warm and I enjoyed the parts where we had some shade. I’m used to winter training at the moment and although it wasn’t extremely hot, I could certainly feel the heat.

Towards the river.

Typical South African bush in the winter. I love this!

I ran and walked the last few kilometers until I finally reached the river. I was moving slow so it felt very long. I was glad to see the water through the trees.

Finally at the river.

We followed a path next to the river for a while and then I got to run over this floating bridge!

This floating bridge was fun!

We then followed the path on the other side of the river towards the finish. We ran through some reeds…


…and there was this green spot…


...and more "reed tunnels"...

Then we had one more water crossing (no floating bridge this time) to get through. This was just deep enough to get the shoes and socks soaked properly.

Water crossing.

A few more turns and then the finish was in sight. I was happy to see the finish. My stomach was still a problem and I was really tired now. A quick photo stop and then I crossed the finish line. Really happy that I was done but also happy that I could run this great race.


A tough day, but I’ll be back next year for sure! Thanks for reading!


Marlene said...

What a grueling race! Sorry to hear about the stomach pains - made for a much more challenging day, I'm sure, but you made it!

The views are just amazing and look at how blue that sky is!

Can't believe you have to walk through water - it must have been freezing!! Luckily that was near the end.


Robin said...

Sorry about the stomach pains but wow what a race. Breathtaking course! Great photos!

Mike said...

Wow...what a course! And yes, you are one of the serious trail runners!!

Giorgio said...

I'm sorry to hear about the stomach pains.

I would have never thought a runnig path on a floating bridge :)
It's really a nice image!
This is the most detailed race report I've ever read!
The photos show that you ran through beautiful landscapes.
Congrats for that challenging race, Johann!

Paige (The Last Doughnut) said...

You are a true warrior!!!

...and I love the reed tunnels. Beautiful!

Jill said...

You can't be back next year, you'll be in Colorado doing the PPM with me :). Nevertheless, your day reminded me a bit of mine, minus the stomach problems - for which I am very sorry you had to endure. Pikes Pike is pretty barren the last few miles and your scenery was close to mine. But no river to cross over, I think that was pretty cool you got to do that! Thankfully, it wasn't flowing fast!!

Very proud of your drive and determination, you are one very tough runner - such an inspiration!! Congratulations, Johann - very well done. Hopefully those stomach issues are a thing of the past!

Jim ... 50after40 said...

Man, I love how you kept a positive attitude throughout even with the stomach issues! I always really enjoy your reports ... unlike most of the others I read, yours always make you feel like you were there! Great job with another awesome race and way to power through the issues!

HappyTrails said...

Great tenacity running out through the stomach issues Johann. And yes, you are among the hardcore trail racers ;-)

Unknown said...

Gorgeous scenery in the desolation...and the green spot- that looks more like home to me :)

It's very hard for me to understand the no water station policy, but I guess you all knew what to expect!

Way to keep strong through the cramps. Nice work, trail pro!

Char said...

Sounds like a tough day at the office. It's hard to push on when you're feeling bad. But , for one, am glad you did or we wouldn't have had the beautiful photos.

Kate Geisen said...

That floating bridge is AWESOME, and the tunnel picture is really cool, too. I love your line about thinking you were in the company of some serious runners and maybe you were one, too. Ummm, yeah!

Gorgeous pictures, as always. I wonder what was up with your stomach. That really stinks.

Detroit Runner(Jeff) said...

Great pictures and what an awesome course. I would have died half way through. Haha!

ajh said...

Wow! When you say it is tough it must be tough. HOw many times you saw amazing views! That sky was so blue. I am so glad you take so many pictures. I had to zoom in on that floating bridge. I thought it looked a little precarious. How did it feel going across it? You said it was fun but it looked like it might be easy to go in. Good job again!

MCM Mama said...

Sounds like a tough run, but OMG, the beauty! Those views were amazing!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Like your bib says "Crazy" is right word to explain this

So how many race medals to you have, what do you do with all of them, what are your favorites? (free post idea)

A-Pi (Peter) said...

I've got to do a race with a floating bridge! Hope you're well recovered.

Unknown said...

Interesting about the 5k/10k and the fun run /race thing. I think a lot of people run fun runs as races here because they are almost always timed and have awards, regardless as to what they are titled. Makes me wonder what exactly the difference is.

Black Knight said...

I see that the word "Easy" doesn't exist in your (running) vocabulary.
Sorry for the pain in the stomach but as usual you are stronger!
Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Ewa said...

"I knew this is what I like to do. This is where I want to be. This is who I am. Even with the stomach pains I was a very happy man!"
This says it all. Thank you for your wonderful report and great pictures. Hiking this trail would be a challenge, I cannot imagine running it. You are quite an inspiration, Johann.

Unknown said...

Awesome race report. Spectacular views....... loved the reed tunnels especially!

Lauren said...

What a wonderful race!! I would love to do this one. So beautiful. Sorry to hear about the stomach pains.

Anne said...

I hope the stomach pains were nothing serious and that you are feeling better. It was a beautiful course and sounds like a tough race...too bad you weren't feeling so great. Congrats on getting it done Johann!!

Molly said...

wow, what an adventure! Sorry about the stomach issues, but congrats!

wendy said...

Johann, this was an incredible race report! Very moving! I am so sorry that you had so much stomach discomfort! But the fact that you kept on going is amazing to me. You should be very proud that you were able to do this, not many could. Just awesome!