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

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Harrismith 15km Mountain Race Report

Harrismith is about 300km from Johannesburg, so this is not a race that I would travel to easily. I am very glad I did the travelling this year though. I had a great run at this super race!

We arrived at the venue well before the start. The race only starts at 11AM to cater for runners traveling from far. Harrismith is the unofficial half way point between Johannesburg and Durban. Many runners travel from the cities to run the race.

You have a full view of the mountain from the stadium and I noticed how all the runners glanced at the mountain from time to time while waiting for the start. I saw many good friends at the race which was great.

We started right on time…viewing the banner that read “Finish”. We finished the race viewing the banner that read “Start”. J

On our way!

The first 3km is run through the local neighborhood of this small and beautiful town. This is done to spread the runners out before they hit the single track trail climbing up the mountain. There was a great spirit between everyone and I was really happy to be in the race.

It was quite warm so I made sure I drank plenty of water and some coke at the first water point just after 3km. Then it was onto the trails!

Hitting the trails and climbing immediately.

From 3km to 6km is a steady climb on mostly Jeep track. The wise ones among us made sure to save energy here for what was ahead. The mountain came closer and closer, looking higher and steeper with every step.

Getting closer to the mountain.

The second water point came at 6km. From here we ran through some trees onto the single track winding its way up the mountain. There was a long snake of runners making their way up ahead of us. It looked quite daunting. The trail up the mountain is really very steep.

Snake of runners going up.

Someone had a good sense of humor…

“Nou begin dit”…”Now it starts” - Painted on the rock.

It was soon clear that the climb to the top would be slow. Not only because of the steep gradient, but also because I was in a long queue of runners that stopped and waited every few steps as runners were climbing over obstacles up ahead. This was a little frustrating but I have enough experience to know this is the best way to make your way up to the summit.

There were many places where the only option was to get down on all fours and climb with your hands and feet. Some people really struggled up the mountain and I was grateful that I could do this quite easily.

The fact that I didn’t need to carry my own water and food as in most other trail races helped me a lot. Zero kg on my back is much easier than the 3kg to 4kg I usually carry up the mountains. I eventually reached the summit feeling nearly 100% rested! The views were stunning!

Harrismith down below.


Finally at the top!

There was a water point waiting for us at the top. Here I had more coke and water. Then it was time for the run on top of the mountain.

Friendly waterpoint at the top.

The mountain is called Platberg. This is Afrikaans for “flat mountain”. It certainly is flat on top. It felt very flat after the steep climb.

Platberg is plat (flat)!

The run on top takes you to the highest point of the race where there are two antennas.

Highest point - 2260m (7415ft)

Then it was time to “drop down”. Running down technical trails is tricky and the not so seasoned trail runners always battle to do this. Once we started going down I immediately started over taking runners. I probably overtook about 50 runners while going down. It is just as steep as the climb, but there are no plants and bushes to cling to.

Down we go!

I’m always very careful, but at the same time enjoy the thrill of a technical descent. I must admit towards the end this one started hurting a bit.

Careful not to fall!

Legs could feel the downhill here.

Another well stocked and friendly water point awaited us at the bottom of the steep descent. When I hit the flat section at the fourth water point my legs felt numb and like jelly. From here it is a gentle downhill run on a single track back to the road that goes into Harrismith. I settled into a nice pace with the runners in front of me. 11km done and I was feeling really good!

Last bit of trail. Almost at the bottom now.

It was getting quite warm and when I reached the tar road again I could feel the heat coming up from the road. The last 2.5km is run on the road through the neighborhood again to the finish at the Platberg Stadium. My legs could feel they’ve been working but I was feeling great.

Back on the road and warm.

There were some very friendly people supporting the runners in the last two kilometers. This is where I started realizing that almost all the other runners were finding this race very hard. I was happy about this as it must mean something for my training. I honestly didn’t find it very hard at all, although the course is certainly tough.

There was a small water point 1km from the finish which I didn’t use but thought was nice for struggling runners. Rohann and Anette came to meet me with 400m to go and I gave Anette the camera so that she could photograph me finishing for a change instead of me photographing the finish. She did a good job!

Rohann - always smiling!

Anette - the best supporting wife! Love her!

I finished feeling really strong and thinking “this was not as hard as I expected”. My training is definitely paying off and that makes me very happy.

Finishing feeling strong.

I received my medal and chatted with some friends. Everyone was a bit surprised that I didn’t find the race very hard. It seems a lot of people really struggled and find this race extremely tough.

New Balance Tech Shirt.

Medal / Bottle Opener

This is a great race and I am very glad I took the trip down to Harrismith. It was worth every cent and every kilometer driven. I’ll be back for sure. Maybe not every year, but I will be back.


Andre said...

Well done brother! Really beautiful scenery and lovely views from the top. Great run!

Kate Geisen said...

The scenery is just incredible! And what a fantastic feeling to finish feeling so strong. Definitely good training behind you. :) And so cool that your family was there supporting you.

Kate Geisen said...

P.S. Every time I run with a pack it reminds me how much easier it is to run WITHOUT one!

Robin said...

Congrats Johann, another spectacular looking race! Thanks for the pics. Awesome as usual.

Unknown said...

What a RUGGED course! I am always in awe of your trail races. The antenna on the hill looks like a cross. Am I right? :)

Thought of you today when I got a rock in my shoe. ha. I still can't believe you never have that happen.

KovasP said...

Hooray for finishing strong!

Karien P. said...

Well done! What a beautiful race - looks very similar to the Ficksburg Cherry Festival race, just tougher (and more technical)?

Anette said...

looks easier from a supporters view - I can vouch for that. Love you tooo! xxxxxx

TR said...

{I LOVE that the medal is also a bottle opener, how creative}

The view looks absolutely beautiful! But, my legs hurt just looking at how hard the hills would be on me! haha

misszippy said...

Wow. Just wow! What a tough looking course! More of a hike than a run at points! You continue to impress me with your adventures. Well done!

ajh said...

Love the bottle opener! Love all the pics. Great views. It is hard for me to think of a race where people are going slowly in a line. It sounds like you were more than ready for all aspects of this. Love the pics of your son and Annette especially.

Average Woman Runner said...

Stunning views! I need to find a race that offers a bottle opener as the medal - perfect. I think your races in SA appear much more difficult than those here. Any plans to run in the US?

coach dion said...

Loved Harrismith when I ran it 22 years ago, didn't run with a camera, but did have fun...

Liz said...

Looks like an amazing race. That downhill must have been very tough and difficult, never mind crawling uphill! Great medal. Congratulations on running so well!

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

such a great feeling to finish a race feeling strong and in shape. I LOVE that !

I definitely would NOT like the downhill part - that part scares me.

great pics, great adventure !

Unknown said...

What an awesome race!!!! Love that the medal is dual purpose ;-D

Indi said...

Awesome race!! damn that is a serious climb! Great job on a tough trail for sure!! Love the medal. We had one like that recently..love that RDs are getting creative with them.

Giorgio said...

Congrats on finishing that tough race, Johann! What a fantastic scenery!
The race report is really great ... thanks for sharing it!

Michael said...

Wow, just wow. I just can't imagine actually clmibing in a race...not just a hill but climbing! That's crazy. But worth the views! Spectacular!

2 Slow 4 Boston said...

Looks like a fun (and not too long) race. The views and pics were awesome.

I'm not a trail runner, but I would do that one. Glad you did the race.

Char said...

That's such a late start! You're heading into summer like us and I know I wouldn't be happy running in the midday heat. I think you South Africans are a tougher breed.

Lauren said...

Oh my! What a beautiful course. I also have never had a race with such a late start. I would find that delightful, especially since I drive out the morning of on my races. Looks like SA has a lot more trail runners than we do in S. Calif. I can't imagine a trail race with that many runners. How fun!! (With exception, the Xterra races, which hold races worldwide, have large turnouts). Congrats on another fine race! I suspect you didn't find this race that tough, because you have done much greater distances. I wish that I could make it out there to run some of your wonderful races.

Amy said...

Wow!!! Amazing, gorgeous...I am in awe! What an incredible place to be able to run. Love the idea of a functional medal, too.

Jen said...

What a great race! I loved your description and all the pictures. Sounds like it was worth the travel!

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

What views! That looks like one tough course! I think I'd be sore for months!