When we arrived on Friday it was very warm and Saturday morning was no different. I knew I was in for a hard day. I’m not great in the heat and coming out of winter training also didn’t help. At 10km to go a medic actually pulled me off the course. This has never happened to me before. Usually I’m good at faking what I really feel like, so I must have looked terrible!
Waiting for the start…
On our way!
The beauty of this race cannot be described in words. From the start it is a 10km climb up the Mahai valley to Witsies Hoek resort. It is tough but the views make the climb feel easy.
Going up the Mahai Valley…
Reaching the Mahai Falls is my first milestone of the race. I had a quick drink of the lovely water. From here it is on to Witsies Hoek and the first check point.
Witsies Hoek in the distance.
Arriving at Witsies Hoek.
As I was putting my camera away after taking the photo above, I did a face plant in the grass. No harm done and I was just happy I planted my face on grass and not some rock.
From Witsies the route follows a dirt road for 9km to the Sentinel car park. This is a tough section and it was literally heads down and push forward.
Dirt road to the Sentinel car park.
Beautiful view of the Sentinel…still a long way to go.
Nothing easy on this road.
Beautiful views to keep the spirits high.
Finally reaching the checkpoint at the car park
I arrived at the car park feeling reasonable and aware of the heat. I was a bit worried about the amount of water I could carry to the top but we were assured that the Tugela River was flowing on top of the mountain and water was no problem.
Note: Next year I will send extra fluid supplies in a drop bag to the car park.
View from the car park…beautiful!
From the car park it is a very difficult climb up to the chain ladders. The route goes up the zig zags and it is really very hard and steep at this point. The thin air also comes into play and many runners stop from time to time to get their breathing under control.
Trail towards the zig zags.
As if we didn’t know…
Runners above me on the zig zags.
The views here are breathtaking and it is worth spending some time to take it all in.
Where I came from. Note the car park in the distance.
The journey to the chain ladders felt long and I was really tired at times. Once I was over the zig zags I recovered nicely and I was happy to reach the ladders.
Approaching the chain ladders.
Runners on the ladders. The wind was very strong, making the ladders a bit more challenging…certainly not for the faint hearted.
Taking a breather at the top of the chain ladders while admiring the spectacular view.
After the ladders there is one more climb and then you are at the top. The mental victory of reaching the summit is awesome, but I could feel the heat and strong, dry wind was taking its toll on my body.
Great to be at the top…running towards the amphitheatre.
Top of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre.
No words needed…
I was slower than I hoped to be so there wasn’t much time to admire the incredible scenery. The run goes over the top of the Tugela falls and then there is one final climb to the top of the Gully.
Top of the Tugela falls.
The climb to the top of the Gully was tough and I was quite tired and very hot. This felt strange as there was still some snow visible in a few places. The wind was still dry and very strong.
I was hot and dehydrating even though there was still snow in some places.
Me at the top of the Gully, the highest point of the route.
Going down the Gully is tricky and a bit dangerous. There are lots of loose stones and rocks and the ground is very slippery. Lucky for us the mountaineering rescue squad on hand provides a rope to help you down.
Looking down from the top of the Gully.
Easy does it. The descent is steep and long.
I was relieved when I reached the bottom of the Gully. It felt as if it took forever and I was very hot and tired. I had no water left and the wind was blowing me off my feet. I started my run back to the car park.
Running back to the car park.
Downhill, but still tricky.
The wind was incredibly strong and it was very warm. I was dehydrating fast and by the time I reached the car park the damage was done.
I had some water and coke and refilled my hydration pack. I then started the run down the gravel road back to Witsies Hoek. On the gravel road I died a slow death. I could not drink anything and vomited the moment I took in anything. This continued all the way down to the checkpoint.
At some point I took this photo…
I have no idea why I took it or what I was thinking. I didn't take any more photos after this and have no idea why. I don’t remember much of this and thinking back I can understand why the medic was adamant to pull me off the course at 40km.
Running at the top of the amphitheatre was the highlight of my day. My legs are 100% and this is great...training is paying off. Doing a very tough run in the heat on winter training was difficult, but it also made me stronger for the next challenge. I already have my strategy for next year’s race worked out.
Thanks for reading!