It was cool and overcast when we left home for Hennops River yesterday morning at 06:15. It was not very cold and I looked forward to a great race in good weather. I was happy as I haven’t run a race in a long time. The race was part of the Gauteng Winter Trail Series. This was the second run and the only winter event that included a 20km XL run.
We arrived with plenty of time to get our numbers and some good coffee, we being me and Anette, who was there for her first trail race. Anette ran the 5km short course and finished comfortably, feeling good. Well done Anette! I’m very proud of you!
Just before the start.
Time went by very quickly and before I knew what was what we were on our way. We ran on a dirt road for the first part to help spread out the field. There were about 100 runners in the 20km race. This venue is known for its difficult and testing route. It wasn’t long before we reached the first uphill.
Going up early on.
It was just after the first hill that I realized my hydration pack was leaking. Not a great feeling 2km into a tough 20km trail! The few drops very quickly became a steady trickle and I knew it was a broken bladder. I took it off for a quick look and confirmed it tore open right in the middle on the bottom seam.
Luckily for some reason when I packed my gels and other fuel for the run I included a 500ml bottle of water. I don’t know why I did this but I think the trail fairies were watching over me. So I continued with the 500ml water in my hand. Running with a bottle in my hand doesn’t bother me on the road, but on a trail run it is not great or recommended. I was glad the first part of the race was on very runable road, jeep track and good single track.
and single track.
I can also be glad that the weather was perfect for running and the fact that I had little water was not the end of the world. I also had a 500ml bottle with some energy drink I mixed the night before. I was confident I had enough for the 20km.
After about 10km we reached the more technical parts of the race. I knew there was a very hard and very technical hill up ahead, so I drank all the water and placed the bottle back in my pack. I needed my hands free for the climb.
Reaching the more technical parts of the trail.
The climb is hard with rocks everywhere.
Trail straight ahead...or is it? Beautiful aloes!
The climb is hard and quite long, but I must admit I didn’t feel it as bad as I did when I ran here two years ago. I was a bit surprised at how easily I made it to the top. The view from the top is beautiful.
View with Pelindaba Nuclear Research Centre and a stunning aloe.
The rocks and plants change the moment you run onto the top of the mountain. Different, trees, plants and rocks are found at the top and the southern side of the mountain than what is on the northern side.
Running along the top.
View to the other (southern) side.
The run along the top is fairly flat with some short climbs and descents. There are rocks everywhere and you need to concentrate fully not to take a tumble. I saw many runners fall, some even more than once. My little fall on last week’s training run was a good thing as my concentration was good the whole way.
Some parts were easier to run.
We ran across the top of the mountain and then had a short and steep descent to the river below. We crossed the river on a hanging bridge.
Descending to the bridge below.
Bridge over the river.
My turn to cross.
From the bridge to the right.
From the bridge to the left.
I was feeling really good and happy with my progress. There is one last climb after the bridge and then we had a final climb down to the river bank.
Climbing down to the river.
I took out the bottle with the energy drink here and drank quite a lot of it with one go. I was thirsty! Although I was feeling good I knew I didn’t drink enough and if the race was longer I would have been in trouble.
The run along the river is beautiful. It is flat and a great way to run the last few kilometers of a race.
Lovely run to the finish.
We passed some beautiful rocks next to the river and then we ran the last kilometer through the trees, back onto the road we started on and to the finish.
Anette was waiting for me at the finish and I was so keen to hear about her run I forgot to take any photos there. I finished feeling very good and was really happy with my run. Although my hydration pack was a fail I still had a great race and that was excellent.
Signs of a successful morning on the trails.
Next up the Num-Num Trail Challenge on 7 July. This is one of my main goals for 2012.
Thanks for reading and have great week everyone!