On Saturday 28 September I took part in the Blaauwberg Conservation Area trail challenge as organized by the Mates Trail running club.
It was cold and there were signs of rain when I arrived at the start at about 06h20.
The 15km started at 07h00 and the 8km about 15minutes later. I was in two minds about wearing my longs and rain jacket. I finally decided to just use my compression socks and long top, hoping that the rain will stay away and that I will warm up.
Well, what a great decision that was as I quickly warmed up on the uphill right from the start.
Running along a good dirt road for about 2 km, we hit a right into the sandy paths towards little Blaauwberg.
From there it was downhill in thick sand until we were running north along the fence next to the R27. Though there were grass patches in the sand, it was still a slow run along that section.
At about 9km we hit a 90-degree right, forcing us to literally climb the Blaauwberg hill. It was a very steep climb through low fynbos all the way to the viewing deck at the top. No one was running here and even just keeping a steady walking pace was difficult.
A cold cup of water at the top was followed by a steep single track down. What a pure delight to be able to pick up speed and run on what at that time has turned out to be a beautiful morning.
About 1 km from the start we hit a T-junction where the long route runners had to take a right…yes, up the mountain again.
This time it was the jeep track back to the water point. This was slower than I would’ve liked.
Well, soon it was time for that excellent downhill again and seeing that I now knew the end was in sight, I could give it all I had, and so I did!
All in all a great run and one worth doing.
So, in January I entered for the Big 5 without really knowing how I will cope with 5 events over a an 8 day period during a traditionally cold and wet Oyster Festival in Knysna.
Let me just put it out there right away: It was an awesome experience and I really loved most minutes of it.
Event 1: Pick ‘n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour MTB race: 80km, Saturday 29 June
My biggest fear was the MTB event. I’ve heard many stories of 5 to 6hr+ finish times, plenty of mud and stuffed up bikes.
Well, we were very fortunate to have a dry ride. Yes, it was freezing at the start, but there was no rain during the race and the mud was really almost non-existent, from a Knysna-in-the-middle-of-the-winter point of view.
The trail, though mostly jeep track offered a great deal of forest, lots of single track, fantastic scenery and not much uphill worth talking about. I made a point of stopping at every refreshment point and enjoyed the Bar-ones, coke, banana bread and other goodies on offer.
The route was a new one and we looped back to the start without having to cross the N2 as in previous years. This race is a must for any mountain biker.
Event 2: Pick ‘n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour Road Race: 80km, Sunday 30 June
About a week before the event I received an email to inform me that the route has been cut short from 100km as planned to 80km due to road works. For me this came as a welcome relief. This was the first time I did the ride towards Wilderness and I did not know what to expect. Though the route profile showed lots of ups and downs, I just could not envisage it having travelled that route by car many, many times.
Once on the road, it quickly became clear that it was a seesaw route. The first major uphill (and biggest hill of the race) starting just about 6km from the start. That climb out, once over the bridge was long and tough. As for the rest, it was a case of trying to stay with a bunch and pacing myself. Though I finished in a faster time than planned, I was still in the bottom half of the finishers.
Event 3: 15km Salomon Featherbed trail run: Tuesday 2 July
Because of the popularity of the event and the limited access to the Featherbed reserve, the race is split in 3 different start times: morning, afternoon, evening. Upon entry, you get to decide which run you wish to enter. Having the opportunity to arrive at a race venue at 12h30 for a race that starts at 13h00, really appealed to me.
From the Cruise Café on the Knysna Lagoon we boarded a flatbed steel cruiser that took us across the Lagoon to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. There we were briefed and eventually started running at about 13h30. The start was on a path along the lagoon followed by a steep “staircase” up the mountain to the top of the Featherbed. The view from there made it all very worth it. A good deal of the trail on top was single track on sandy paths an under the cover of trees. We then ran a short portion of road before once again hitting a single-track trail down the mountain toward the railway track across the lagoon. Running along the track is certainly very interesting and a bit taxing. There is no way to pass anyone and one has to concentrate very well in order not to hurt your ankles (or fall into the lagoon)
This goes on for about 3 km with another 500 m or so after that to the finish at Cruise Café.
The afternoon run had great weather and no rain. Included in the entry fee was a delicious lasagna lunch with a great greek salad.
Event 4: Totalsports XTerra Full : Thursday 4 July
This was my 3rd Knysna Exterra, so at least I knew what to expect. Well, that excludes the cold weather and mud. Lots of mud!
The first 3 km trail run was quick and fun. Except for the first single track section where there was a huge bottleneck, the rest went smoothly.
At the transition, I strapped on my helmet and exchanged my running shoes for my cycling ones. Here, during the MTB ride (of about 24km) I experienced hectic mud right from the start. Not having any type of mudguard on my bicycle or wearing any glasses, I frequently had to slow down to try and get the grit out of my eyes. The route was great and mostly in the forest on the Pezula side of Knynsa. The last 5 km or so was really muddy and I was sliding from side to side on the jeep track.
Back at the transition area it was off with the helmet and on with the running shoes again. The last 7km trail run also had very muddy sections, lots of single track and an excellent section through a canopy of trees. If, like me, swimming is not your thing, then this really is the Xterra for you!
Event 5: Cape Times Knysna Forest half marathon: Saturday 6 July
For many years I have heard about the Knysna Forest Marathon. Now I finally had the opportunity to experience it.
Though the half marathon only starts at 08h00, one has to line up for a taxi into the forest from 04h30 onwards.
The night before a friend invited me to join him and 2 others for a comfy Land Cruiser ride, right to the start at 06h00. It turns out that he befriended a member of the event’s TV crew with access to get close to the area. A stroll along a well-lit path in the forest led us to an open patch where fires were warming up 1000’s of cold runners. Pick ‘n Pay had a huge Bedouin tent, serving tea, coffee, hot chocolate, rusks and energy bars. This was a great way to warm up and pass the time while waiting for the half to start, once the full marathon runners had left.
The event is well known for runners donning old warm clothes and then discarding it at the start or along the route. These clothes are then donated to the locals.
The run itself was great and no real tough sections, except for that downhill. Running through the forest (parts of it at least) is a great experience and really something that one should be able to enjoy and not race.
At the 10km mark I realized that the 4 previous events that week were starting to take their toll and that I was not going to meet my own goal time.
Although I had heard a lot about the downhill section through the Simola Estate, I had no idea that a downhill could be that taxing on your legs, knees and feet.
The run ended at the school grounds in sunny weather with clear skies.
The Big 5 was a great experience and really worth being on my annual event calendar.
Hanging around in Knysna when you know the bulk of the people are there to compete in some event or another, being able to enjoy cheap oysters all over town and sampling (though it tends to be more than mere sampling) local brews, make for a great 8 days in the winter in the Garden Route.
Road ride and trail run pics courtesy of Magnetic South and Jacques Marais
Saw this baby at a cycle shop in Antwerp, Belgium yesterday.
According to the sales guy, it does 55km/h and can go for 1h15 on a full charge. Great looking electric Specialized. About R 65,300.
A week later and I have decided to put a few thoughts on “paper” wrt my experience of this event.
I opted for the 2-day version. My day 1 ( day 2 for the 3 day riders) started at 07h00 on Friday 8 March from a sports field in Wellington. It was a 60km ride of which a total of 30km was made up of single track. It certainly was the most exciting ride I had done to date. The single track was SINGLE! Cycling through the mountains surrounding Wellington, including the excellent Welvanpas farm next to the famous Bainkloof pass was something to behold. The route winds through orchard, vineyard, waterfalls and pristine fynbos.
The water points cannot be called that. Refreshment stations are more like it. With cold water, cold energy drinks, sandwiches, banana bread, energy bars, fresh fruit and Medi Clinic staff on stand-by, it certainly raised the bar.
Multiple such stations as well as bike repair stops, gave me great comfort over taxing terrain in hot weather conditions.
The 70km of day two took us all the way from Wellington to Boschendal. Crossing underneath the N2 as well as the alternative to the Du Toitskloof tunnel got us on the other side of the road, cycling mostly through vineyards to the welcome end at Boschendal.
Arriving at the finish line I received a bottle of wine with my Nashua Advantage picture attached to it.
The meals at the camp area in Wellington were great. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily was better than expected and FREE beer was most appreciated, though not abused by any of the riders, always keeping the next day in mind.
To the question: will I do it again, my answer is a resounding YES!
Rugged but fun – that’s the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run which will kick off from the Mid-Illovo Club on May 19, 2013.
Designed to see the most resilient riders test their skills against what has been called “the best single track of any single day event”, the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge covers rough terrain in two picturesque game reserves – the Gwahumbe Game & Spa and iNsingizi Game & Spa. This year, riders who mastered the daunting hills and skimmed across the exciting 60 metre long floating bridge can look forward to more innovations – but the track designers aren’t telling yet!
While stretching the hard core participants to their limit, the event also offers a more social side. The 18km Gwahumbe Family Experience and the 10km iCycle Insurance Fun Ride give family and friends a special taste of the great outdoors.
Runners can venture out on the gruelling 14km iNsingizi trail run or take it a little easier with the 8km trail run.
Registration for the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run begins at 05h30. Water tables are sponsored by GU Energy.
Because this event is becoming increasingly popular, the field has been limited to 1 500 riders so get your entries in early. Enter online on www.roag.co.za or contact ROAG on email@example.com / 086 100 ROAG/7624. Entries will close on Wednesday 16 May and late entries will be accepted on the day.
40km Classic R130
18km Gwahumbe Family Experience R100
10km iCycle Insurance Fun Ride R60
18km iNsingizi Trail Run R75
8km iNsingizi Trail Run R60
The first 500 online entrants will receive a First Ascent cap and goodie bag.
For more information, visit www.husqvarnaclassic.co.za.
So, this year I opted for the pairs category in the Terra Firma.
While my riding partner, Omri Kleynhans, was responsible for the 50km road ride from Gordon’s Bay to Kleinmond and then the 25 MTB ride from Arabella back to Kleinmond, I did all the running work.
It did of course mean more energy during the runs and therefore better times too.
My first leg was the 13km road run from the outskirts of Kleinmond to the transition area on Botriver, next to the Arabella Hotel. It was into the wind all the way. With good family support and sharing some drafting with a fellow runner, the run was quite pleasant and I managed to do it in 1h03.
Omri was on his way into the transition area on the beach from his MTB ride while I was still chatting. I had to run alongside him to the the change-over in order to get the armband and leave for the beach. Having done quite a bit of beach running during December made for a slightly more interesting beach run. I was less intimidated by the 9km ahead and enjoyed the run much more than the two previous years.
In a total of 52minutes or so, it was a pleasant experience.
Overall we had a great event that was well organised as usual. Our team time was 1h13 less than my fastest time to date!
Yes, I will be back.
Once again, we raced for BeingSam.
Yip, its time to plan again. Sure, by this time last year my plan was already sorted. Where-as in 2011 I attempted to do as many events as possible ( 40 in fact) and in 2012 my goal was km driven ( 3062km), this year I am aiming at one substantial event per month. That doesn’t mean that I wont do the small ones or even attempt to do more than one big one a month!
So, here’s my plan as it stands now:
- Bay to Bay 30km run. Did that one last week-end and yes, I am still suffering. Being more of a 10km runner and having only ever done 1 half marathon, 30 km is quite something for me. So, that should really be my ONE big event for January 2013.
- The Totalsports Challenge, Terra Firma. I did the solo Terra Firma in 2011 & 2012 so decided to try the pair thing this year. I’ll be doing the 13km road run as well as the 9km beach run. My riding partner, Omri Kleynhans will take care of the cycling legs. Good to have him on board. This takes place on Saturday 12 January from Gordon’s Bay to Kleinmond.
- Two smaller events for January are the 10km long course trail run at 7pm on 23 January at Constantia and the 49km MTB event in Paarl on 27 January.
- In February there are a couple of trail runs and road rides I’ll be participating in. The main event however will be the 3 day Grape Escape. This MTB event starts in Riebeek Kasteel with Wellington being the race base. Day 1: 75km, Day 2: 60km, Day 3: 70km. It aint the distances or hills I’m worried about but the HEAT! Date: 28 February to 2 March.
- In March there’s the good ol’ Argus Cycle Tour. I am not a huge fan and so far have only done 5 in total. It is a good day out, especially if you stop twice for coffee along the way….Date: 10 March.
- Then there’s the Two Oceans Half Marathon on 30 March. I hear the biggest challenge is just to get away from the 16,000 strong bundle before one can actually start running.
So, now I am looking for suggestions for the second quarter of 2013. Any suggestions / ideas will be welcomed.
The only other definite for 2013 is the Big 5 at the Oyster Festival, 28 June to 6 July 2013:
- Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna MTB race - 80km
- Pick n Pay Rotary Knysna Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Road race- 100km
- Salomon Featherbed Trail Run – Coelacanth - 14km
- Totalsports XTERRA: Full (3km trail run, 23km MTB, 7km trail run)
- Pick n Pay Cape Times Knysna Forest Half Marathon - 21 Km
So, one week later and I am ready to put my thoughts on paper…or online, should I say.
What a great day! The weather was just great. Sure, the temperature at the start was almost 30 degrees with no shade. Yet, as we got further into the ride, it was either cooler or we had shade for most of the route. In bullet points, here is what I liked most:
- The route had something of everything. The 1400 meters of climbing was evenly spread and nowhere did I feel that it was too hard on my body. Olive orchards, fynbos, gumtree forest, protea farms, grass, river crossing, jeep track, it was all there.
- The refreshment stops were even better than last year. I made a point of stopping at every one. The first stop had coke, water very tasty crunches, jelly babies and wait for it: crackers with thinly sliced Camembert topped with sliced green fig preserve. Wow!
- There were marshalls aplenty and they were very friendly.
The view from the top was absolutely awesome and seeing that I was in “ride” mode and not “race” mode, I had to stop and take this pic.
At about 7 km from the end, we hit the long wide and open ( read no shade) uphill . This is a toughie. Even more so when my rear derailer packed up and caused my chain to hang very loose.
This meant I had to ride in the biggest ring in the front and smallest at the back. Not the most ideal gearing for that section. Once we hit the jeep track and the final excellent single track, it was much more bearable.
Well done to Geddan and the team.
It was an excellent event, and though I always make a point of stating what I did not like, I can’t fault this one.
( The only entry mechanism failed BIG TIME. I entered and paid 5 times, only to be informed at registration that I did not enter at all. It really should not detract from the ride on the day, but please can some-one test these things beforehand?)
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- BCA Mates Trail Challenge: 28 September 2013
- Which trail shoe?
- Knysna Big 5 Challenge 2013
- Electric MTB
- 2013 Nashua Grape Escape Pictures