A month from today, on 27 October, I will be at the Golden Gate National Park for the Golden Gate Challenge. This is a three day event over 71km (44miles). Basically each day is a run to the top of a different mountain.
I'll post a full preview later but for now I just want to show you South Africa's Golden Gate.
This is it...
Yes, I'll run over that rock on my way to the mountain top in the background.
The blogging and whole online community never seizes to amaze me. The words and encouragement I received after my previous post are overwhelming. Thank you so much everyone, I really appreciate it. I am already on my way back to my happy place.
I haven't done a Throwback Thursday in a while so here is one for today.
This is the oldest photo of me running that I own...
I think I have a very good life and I am really blessed that I can do a lot of things I really love with the people I really love. I have more than I need and do a lot of things some people will never be able to do. For all of this I am always very grateful.
Lately, my life has been fantastic. I’ve been really busy but all in a very good way. I’ve been in a very good space. On Saturday morning reality struck me when I was ripped out of this happy space.
I was at a shopping mall and had to go to the men’s room. As I walked in a man walked in behind me and the next moment another stood in front of me and put a gun to my forehead. Another guy appeared next to me and said: “we are taking your money now”. They took my wallet and searched me for a phone. By chance I actually forgot my phone in the car. They got really upset and angry that I didn’t have a phone on me. The one guy ripped my watch from my arm and they disappeared as quickly as they appeared.
I was totally stunned, but also happy that I was ok and not hurt in any way. The whole time I stood there with the gun to my head I thought about my 10 year old son. What will happen to him? How will he cope if he gets the news that I’ve been shot were the thoughts rushing through my head.
I realize as things sink in that my happy space is gone. Although everybody and everything I love is still there and we are all unharmed, I am at the moment in a very bad space. I always have a very cool and calm head and this probably helped me during the ordeal. I do however feel a lot of emotions I don’t usually carry with me surrounding me at the moment. This includes anger, disappointment, nervousness and probably even some hate.
Reality struck and it struck me in a lot of places. I’ll be back in my happy space and I will do all the lovely things I always do. I will do it with the people I love and I will be a lot closer to them than before. But somehow I feel there will always be this bad spot in my happy place. An opening where bad things can jump in at any time…
Be grateful and love the people around you. Keep them very close to you.
Those of you who know me on FB would have seen all my Mont-Aux-Sources photos and also know that I had quite a bad experience with dehydration. It was still an incredible experience to run up and down that mountain.
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.
I can’t believe it’s been a year since I ran my first MAS 50km challenge. Time really flies when you are having fun and I can say with a smile that living my life is having fun, so time flies!
This Saturday I will be running in the Drakensberg mountains again for one of the greatest mountain races on the planet. I’m really excited about the whole weekend away in the mountains.
I’ll be running this route…
…to the top of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre and back again.
From the official race description: “Make no mistake, the Mont-Aux-Sources 50km Challenge is a "toughie". But it's one of those races that are worth it. The route follows a hiking path up the Mahai valley and past the Mahai Falls to Witsieshoek Mountain Resort, a climb of some 1700 metres (5578ft) over a distance of 9 kms, and the first of four refreshment points. From here to the Sentinel Car Park, a distance of 9 kms, it's very rough undulating dirt road resulting in a further climb of some 300 metres (984ft) with fantastic views all around on a clear day. From the Sentinel Car Park to the top and back, water must be carried. Assume that the Tugela River is not flowing well enough to provide water on the summit. A concrete path is followed for a short distance then back to a zig-zag hiking path past the Witches, the Sentinel, Western Buttress and Sentinel Caves to the Chain Ladders, a further climb of 450 metres (1476ft). The altitude will be affecting you by this stage, especially those runners who live and train at sea level.
Everyone wears a safety belt and sliding device attached to fixed ropes alongside the ladders. Mountain Club of South Africa helpers will assist you to get attached and detached to the fixed safety lines. The trick is not to look down, but to concentrate on moving one hand at a time up the two ladders. You'll reach the top in next to no time, a short scramble over rocky terrain, a skip over the Tugela River and a much appreciated run down a gentle slope to the Tugela Falls. Now the hard part begins! Labouring up to the Sentinel Gully. There is a risk of loose rocks and stones being dislodged in The Gully. Make use of the fixed ropes as far as possible, they will give you stability and guide you away from the loose sections. You cannot run down The Gully. Just proceed carefully and cautiously and you'll reach the bottom soon enough.
You'll be back on the path which led to the Chain Ladders. Just follow the same route back to the Sentinel Car Park, Witsieshoek and the Finish utilizing the refreshment points along the dirt road.
TAKE NOTE: All runners have to ascend two chain ladders to reach the summit of the Amphitheatre before running to the lip of the Tugela River. A team from All Out Adventures, a locally based adventure group within the valley, will be manning the top, middle and bottom of the chain ladders, harnessing runners into safety belts and helmets, then guiding them up both ladders to ensure safety at all times. Those runners that fail to comply with their safety measures will be disqualified from the event.”