The Mont-Aux-Sources 50km Challenge remains my favorite race and when we heard about snow on the mountain last week my excitement grew. In the end the snow was so much that the route had to be shortened but it still made for one of the best overall race experiences I’ve ever had.
The trail going to the chain ladders on Friday.
At the race briefing on Friday evening we were told that we would not be able to run the full route. There was no way we could run to the chain ladders and up to the summit. The race was shortened from 50km to 39km. Disappointing? Maybe a little, but there are so many positives about this race that it didn’t really matter. I think there might have been some sighs of relief between the disappointment.
View from the start.
The loop at the top was cut out so we only ran up to the Sentinel car park and back down again. Still a very challenging race in any book. There was also no cutoff time which made for a very relaxing day out for everyone.
I was expecting quite a cold run, but in the end the weather was perfect. The shortened route certainly made everyone very positive with no fear of not making it. I decided to go out and have as much fun as possible.
The first 10km is a very hard climb up the Mahai valley. It was a perfect morning and the fantastic views put everyone in a great mood. I was feeling really good right from the start and in a very happy space.
The snow on the mountain was an added bonus. Here in South Africa that is not something we see very often. Being out there with the snow on the mountain was really special.
The trail goes through some beautiful forests and there was also a lot of water in streams everywhere. It was very wet compared to last year when it was warm and dry. I love stream crossings!
The Mahai valley was beautiful as always, but this year there was a feeling of magic in the air. After about an hour of running some mist came over and this started the experience of all weather conditions in one day for us. I loved it and confirmed again that I am much better suited for cold, wet conditions than anything else.
There was water in every stream and waterfall and most rocks were glistening with water in the sun. The views literally took my breath away!
Between all of this we were still busy with a very hard climb. I was happy with how strong I was on the climb. My legs were feeling really good and I was definitely much better prepared than a year ago. You need to train for this race, there is no question about that.
The last part of this first climb becomes hard, but finally Witsieshoek comes into sight and a first milestone is reached. Looking at the view just before Witsies had that “privileged to be here” feeling come over me. This feeling stayed with me for the rest of the race.
A privilege to run here.
After Witsieshoek the route follows a gravel road for 9km to the Sentinel car park. Make no mistake. It might be a gravel road and not single track, but it is still a very hard climb to the top. The road is steep.
The sight of the snow covered mountains was incredible and around every corner the mountain was getting closer and closer. The road and climb feels like it will never end at some points, but then you realize the mountain is getting closer and the never ending feeling disappears.
We had the enjoyment of watching the front runners on their way back and this was nice. On the 50km route I don’t see many front runners, but with the route change we saw everyone. I also saw a Bearded Vulture gliding in the mist! They are so scares and endangered. The funds of this race goes to conservation of the Bearded Vulture. They are the most awesome birds!
The weather was sunny, cloudy, windy, warm, misty, dry and wet with changes every few minutes. Runners were changing clothes all the time. I was very happy when we reached the car park and the Sentinel came into sight. It was in the mist for most of the morning and I had excellent timing to get a beautiful view.
Yes, I was there! J
At the car park I got a few things from my drop bag, took a few photos and then it was time to start the journey down. I was a little sad that we couldn’t get closer to the snow, but I knew that safety took priority over everything. Everyone accepted that this year we did not get to the top of the mountain…next year…
Sentinel car park - turnaround point for this year's race.
I felt great as I started my run down the dirt road again. The good weather and race conditions made me very positive and I was in trail running heaven. With no race cutoff I took some time for a few more photos than usual. The views going down are just as spectacular.
There are some tough hills on the way down as well and I remembered the one very hard hill where I died a slow death last year. This year I was feeling super at this point.
The hill that killed me last year…
Soon I was back at Witsieshoek again and I was very happy with my progress. I was hoping for a sub seven hour finish and now realized I would finish closer to six and a half hours. I was still feeling great!
Back at Witsieshoek.
The last 10km is a drop down the Mahai valley. Certainly much faster, but a killer on the legs.
I took it fairly easy going down. I decided since there was no cut off this was a perfect time to take a few more photos than usual of the descent down the valley. Next year I’ll probably be chasing the 10 hour cutoff down here with no time for photos. J
I’ve been up and down this valley many times and it remains one of my favorite trails. It has a bit of everything. Drop, climb, grass fields, rock formations, forest, waterfalls, water crossings and much more. It also tests you as a runner.
In the last few kilometers the descent really hammers your legs and knees. I suppose this is where age comes into play a bit. I wonder if the youngsters experience the same discomfort in their legs as I do…?
The finish is visible during the last few kilometers and I was excited that I would be finishing strong. Anette was waiting at the finish and after last year’s dehydration I was glad she would see me finishing strong this year.
My lovely wife and faithful supporter.
Once off the trail there is a nasty little climb in the road and after the 10km downhill this feels weird. Then it is a nice stroll into the finish area. I was happy and the thoughts of not running to the summit were long gone.
I received my “trophy”. This is the second part of the stand of the trophy I received two years ago. Next year I’ll receive the last part.
We also received a beautiful fleecy jacket, a towel, running gloves and some other goodies in our goodie bags at registration. This race is worth every cent.
So I'm already committed to next year. I'm sure we'll run the full route in 2013. I'll be ready...I have some awesome challenges lined up until then that will be perfect preparation...
These and more photos can be seen here:
These and more photos can be seen here: