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

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Golden Gate Challenge - Day 1 Report

Hi everyone! Before I get to the report of day 1 I want to share a bit about this awesome event with you.

The Golden Gate Challenge is organized by the Wildlands Conservation Trust. These guys go out of their way to put on amazing events. The real aim is to raise funds for conservation and especially for some of South Africa’s endangered species.

Entries include 3 meals per day and runners can also choose to stay in the race village if you don’t want to pay for alternate accommodation. Each runner gets his/her own tent with mattress to occupy during the race.

There is a chill area with 24/7 snacks, coffee, tea and drinks as well as a main tent where meals are served and presentations are held. Every evening there is a preview and briefing of the route and run for the next day.

All is done brilliantly and I look forward to my next race by these guys in February next year.

Golden Gate Challenge Day 1 – 27km

The day and night before the start of day 1 was very wet with tons of rain falling through the night before day 1. Amazingly we could still carry on and in the end the rain provided for a unique experience and some incredible waterfalls and rivers.

Wet race village at registration.

The start/finish area the evening before day 1.

Th morning of the first day was wet but the skies were clearing. It was quite beautiful to see the mountain with water flowing everywhere in the sun.

Because of all the rain the start was delayed by 30 minutes while safety was checked on the route. This also gave water levels of the rivers a chance to go down a bit. I was actually surprised we were only delayed by 30 minutes.

Before the start of day 1 – I think I spot some nerves…

Finally on our way and nearly immediately into…



…waterfall spotting…

…and river crossing!

Many of these river crossings followed.

I learned long ago that wet shoes and socks while running are fine and can be ignored. There is no point in changing or cleaning socks if the next river is only minutes away. I just run and I have never had a blister or any other foot problems because of wet and muddy shoes and socks.

The scenery was spectacular right from the start! The views in all directions were just awesome.

Day 1 started with a heavy climb to the top of Generaalkop. We followed the well known Ribbok Hiking Trail, a two day hike at Golden Gate. We climbed from the word go and it gradually became steeper and steeper.

The trick is pacing and in a multi stage/day event this is even more important. I decided before the race to take climbs easy and always hold back a fraction on descents. This worked very well for me throughout the race.

As the morning progressed the skies cleared and the sun came out. There was some mist and clouds on the mountain peaks but the sky was blue. It was beautiful with the sun shining on wet rocks and water. There were dozens and dozens of waterfalls in the mountains! Unbelievable!

My feet never got dry as the water was flowing down the mountain in the trail we were on. Mud and water was the theme of the morning and this actually made the climb more difficult, but I think we took less notice of how high and steep it was.

Steep climb to the top.

As we got higher the views got even more beautiful. We were also spreading out and starting to form groups of runners progressing at the same pace. A trail like this sort out the people that maybe shouldn’t be there very quickly…

I finally reached the first summit of the race and this was a big milestone for me. I was feeling great! The top was quite flat and we could run nicely here. The ground was soaked!

On the other side of the mountain we had a view of Mont-Aux-Sources, where I ran the Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge in September. Mont-Aux-Sources is also organized by the Wildlands Trust and also a super event.

Beautiful! Mont-Aux-Sources in the distance!

Our first real descent started soon and I was in my element! This year I really worked hard at my descents and it is paying off. I am at ease and can move quite fast down the mountains, over taking many runners on the way.

Start of first descent.

The descent took us down a valley with a strong flowing river next to the trail. Every few meters a new stream or waterfall would join the water flowing down. It was incredible to see.

There was so many things to look at and I kept my camera in my hand a lot. This was an amazing experience!

So happy!

In the valley we crossed the river dozens of times. It was flowing strong but I soon got my “river feet” on and crossings became easier and easier. The waterfalls also never seized to amaze me.

We finally reached the bottom of the valley and the next check point with about 11km to go. I filled my water and had two PB sandwiches with some Coke here. The water and check points are amazing on this race. Volunteers really give great support with plenty to eat and drink as well.

Some runners cleaned out there shoes and socks here with some even changing socks. I was happy I didn’t as about 500m after the checkpoint we crossed another river…!

We crossed the main road that runs through the reserve and even did a short stint on the road! Then we headed for the next climb of the day.

This climb was shorter and not as high but legs were getting tired and we walked up stream here! J Yes, water was flowing down the trail the whole way. There were some really slippery parts.

Water streaming down the trail.

Once over this mountain we descended into a valley where I could feel the heat from the sun for the first time. I was feeling good but progress was slow. This was a hard course for sure and I could feel I was working really hard.

Hard slogging but beautiful scenery.

We crossed more rivers and also ran next to another amazing stream that was in fact a natural water slide. Beautiful!

Natural water slide!

With about 5km to go I felt tired for the first time and my legs and feet were starting to complain some. I ate more “Race Food” (will review this soon) and knew I was good to go and finish day 1.

5km to go and the view certainly helped.

At last I came around the mountain where I could see the hotel where we were staying. This was a great lift for the spirit and I was really positive! The finish was now just behind the Brandwag Buttress.

First glimpse of the hotel.

Brandwag Buttress. The world famous icon of Golden Gate.

There was one slight problem still. We did not run around the buttress, but over it! The climb up here is quite something and at the end of a hard run it is very tough! There are stairs to climb and they are steep! Towards the top they get very steep and are far apart for short, tired legs.

Steep stairs to get up here!

Once over the stairs there is another small climb and then finally the last climb of the day was over!

Then it is over to the other side of the buttress to the chain that helps you down the steep and slippery rocks. At last a view of the finish down below!

View from the Brandwag Butress. The finish between the trees below.

Not for those afraid of heights!

From here there is a last technical but very beautiful trail through one of the hollows of Golden gate…breathtaking!

This is the trademark of Golden Gate.

The path to the bottom is cement but quite steep in some places. Legs and feet were complaining but with the finish so close I pushed the last part.

Last push down to the finish.

More mud and water and then finally over the little bridge into the camp grounds and to the finish. I was very happy and feeling good! Anette waited at the little bridge and I was a bit emotional when I saw her. Everything went so well and day 1 was in the bag!

End of day 1. Tired but happy.

First part of trophy received.

I crossed the line in 06:11:50, tired but very happy.

Day 1 done!

Next up…day 2.