Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Outeniqua Traverse 6 August 2011

A race report by Nick Cuthbert

Saturday the 6th August 2011. It's 7:30 AM, and as we coast to a stop outside the Garden Route Botanical Gardens, already have the brave (and arguably insane) men and woman, participating in the 38km Traverse, have departed a half of an hour ago. For this I salute them, for the morning is chilly, the terrain is tough, and the hour was early.

Walking into the Voortrekker hall across from the gardens, for registration, there is an almost reverential air inside; perhaps because of the weight of the building’s history, but most likely because of the slight apprehension radiating from each and every person in the saal, meditating on what they’d got themselves into. Greeting two of my friends and the Merell Adv. Addicts team, who were working at registration, I grabbed my race goodie bag and then rushed back to the car to get ready for the race.

It’s now 7:45 AM and things were more relaxed at the start line, until Graeme “Tweet” Bird began the race briefing. The convoluted course he described slipped quickly out of one’s mind. But it turns out that there is little to worry about for it is simply the opposite to last year’s route and is well marked. As the seconds tick away till the start, I smile, for the lure of proper mountains draws me like no other terrain does. Today was going to be muddy and tough. It had rained in the night and in the preceding days, and much of the first half of the race is all uphill.

8:00 AM and the race starts. Passing the watchful eye of a camera, we head out of the botanical gardens to wilder, less carefully cultivated pastures. Surprisingly, the pace starts off slowly as we weave on and off the railways tracks, through relatively flat but enjoyable trails. This suits me, as my game plan today, is to keep energy in reserve for the downhill after Tierkop, the turning point of the day. Several kms in, and the leaders had been reduced to three, Rian Van der Sandt, Maritz Van Rensburg and I. After a short downhill to a river crossing, very near the Garden Route Dam, Maritz and I, left Van der Sandt behind, to start the scenic but lung busting uphill to Tierkop.Travelling through a short indigenous forest section and then past fynbos fields, steadily gaining altitude van Rensburg and I, diced a bit, testing each other’s elastics. Running then power walking up the versant (a mountain slope, thank a thesaurus today) alternatively, we must have looked comical, pantomime pursuers. I finally got the jump on Van Rensburg when we entered a technical upward trail approximately a kilometre or so from Tierkop.

It’s now about 9:00 AM and descending a short Jeep track, I turn into a trail. It’s fast but technical and follows the mountain contours. It’s is also likely even more beautiful than what has gone before, however I’m in no state to appreciate it, as it’s treacherous and slippery and a misstep could result in a painful tumble. I also know that I have only a thin buffer between first and secondly place, so I attempt to ‘put the hammer down’. Despite my best efforts, I took a spill a way in this section and for a few painful moments, I am worried that I have strained a muscle but it loosens as I see surprisingly not Van Rensburg but Van der Sandt closing in. I reach the George Dam only moments before Rian and climb out of the gorge desperately, stopping to draw a few breaths as he emerges behind me. The route takes us up a slippery slope, as I tell myself to not let Rian pass. Taking on board nutrition, I make this a mantra. “Not this time”, becomes my metre. The last few longer races I did, after having been in the lead for much of the way, I had been overtaken, in the last few kilometres. I did not want this to happen again.

At around 10:00 AM, we crest the slope and George is in sight. The trail hereafter, is technical and slightly downhill, which allows me to take off with “Not this time” and strangely the tune “Puff the Magic Dragon” reverberating through my brain. I now have a little time to appreciate the view and how far I’ve come out the corner of my eye. The mud makes everything tricky however and I bail in a wooded section of the track, adding a few new grazes to the body. The end (distantly) can be seen.

On the final downhill, with perhaps two kilometers to go, I start cramping, and I grow afraid that my opportunity has ended, as I half hobble onward and I become sure that Rian or Maritz will catch me. Internally, I scream at my body, willing it to run and with a shambling movement, I pop out at the gardens, with the line in sight. I cross it, in a time of 2:29:26. Finishing second is Rian Van der Sandt, nursing quadruple as many injuries as I am and third is Maritz van Rensburg. The first lady was Barbara Hage, coming in at a time of 3:13:28. The winner of the 38km, looking understandably exhausted was Jacques Mouton, in a time of 4:18:56, Second overall and first female was Landie Fisser, in a time of 4:43:56. Well done everyone who finished this tricky and tough course. It definitely seemed tougher than last year.

In this race, I’ve learnt a few important lessons:

  1. It is important to go into a race, especially one you’ve competed in before with a race plan.

  2. Nutrition is important. Timing carb and water intake in an endurance race, is vital, for optimum performance.

  3. Never say that you don’t cramp in a running race and take measures to avoid it in the first place/

Thank you Tatum, Graeme, Hano and the rest of the team for organising a great event. It was well marked, professional, fun and exhilarating. Thanks too go out to Nick and Laura who got up extra early to help with registration.

On a side note, I’d like to apologise to Tatum for being overly hyperactive/excited after the race finished. I’ve probably caused a leetle bit of problems with editing the video footage for the event.


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