Ever finished a run thinking “That was flippen good. I need to do more of this…got exactly what I came looking for!” Well, that was Magalies for me last Saturday after 8hrs and 30mins on the trail. It was way tougher than expected and certainly raised the bar on what I consider a great training run!
The route for the 50km “Guinea Pig” race was finalised just a few days before so no one had any idea what to expect (ignore the route profile in my previous post). The route map was only given to us on the bus and I think we all might have underestimated how tough the day was going to be…training run or not!
However, safe to say… IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!
The view from the top was amazing! I must admit I didn’t actually expect it to be so beautiful.
Tips From A Champion
We were shuttled with buses to the start of the race with only a few CRAZY bravehearts taking on the 50km. There were a few hardcore elite trail legends on the bus; the likes of Ryno Griesl and Jock Green. I was sitting next to another female (I think we were the only 2 females doing the 50km) and we started chatting. I wanted to know if she was an experienced trail runner (she certainly looked the part) and she replied that she’s done a few races and that she is training for the Skyrun. I told her I am also doing Magalies as a training run for ultra-trail Cape Town and it so happened that she had done ultra-trail Cape Town in 2014. Great, an opportunity to hear first hand what I am letting myself in for! She told me not to worry too much; getting up Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge is similar to getting to the top of Magalies. Then she mentioned that she had done minimal training for ultra-trail Cape Town and she finished the 100km in 13hrs. Her view is that I will even be better prepared given that I’m still planning on doing Mont-Aux-Sources as a 2nd long run. I was quite chuffed with myself hearing all of this and was feeling really confident about how training was progressing. Then she mentioned that she’s doing most of her training at Magalies and said I must run at Magalies as well as it will be good training for Cape Town.
It later turned out (after chatting to the guys) that I was sitting next to Nicolette Griffioen, the South African Woman’s Ultratrail Champion! What a down to earth lady. Hahaha…now I am not sure about ultra-trail Cape Town anymore…”easy” has suddenly become all relative!
A Slow Start
Soon after the bus dropped the few crazies, we were off. I decided to take things really easy the first 30km. The goal was to finish in 7hrs 30 min. I was jokingly thinking to myself. “Perfect! That is exactly how much battery life my Garmin had, so hopefully I will be done before the Garmin goes”.
I was really uncomfortable carrying a 2.5l bladder and all my supplies for the day. I always feel I pack like I am going on holiday for days (lol!) but there were not going to be any water tables and who knows where you might end up (lol!). I felt slow right from the word go! I knew the start pace was going to be crazy fast with all these elite level athletes and it wasn’t long before I was right at the back of the pack and then dead last with the 2 sweepers. Yip, we joked! #TeamSweeper
I’ve never run with sweepers sitting on back (butt). I tried to shake them off but my feet went numb (didn’t see that coming!) and had to revert to run/walk within the first 2 kilometers! I told the sweepers that I was planning on running for 7hrs and 30mins and wanted to know if they are ready to run for the whole day. I didn’t actually hear a response, they probably thought I was joking (lol!).
The first 9km was all uphill, relentless forward motion…no point looking back, just climb as fast as you can! The hills were much steeper than the ones I am training on. I don’t know how many times I had to stop to catch my breath thinking ‘This is where I need to train!” It was so bloody tough but I was already planning a return trip. CRAZY!!!
I just kept going, a few more breath catching stops and before I knew it I was right at the top! Well, except it wasn’t the top…there were still a few steep hills ahead, but I was just so happy at that stage to have made it that far – the worst climbing was over!
Going The Distance
Soon the 36km front runners started to catch up with me and I was thinking it would be so easy to just join in on the 36km race from here on, but when I saw the route split markers my curiosity got the better of me! No, I didn’t come here for easy. I have work to do!
Needless to say, I was the only one turning off onto the 50km route. I can’t explain it but I love running all by myself. Running with others have benefits; I run more and for a longer period at a time (trying to keep up!) which is great for improving my time but running alone in the peace and quiet of nature (no matter how tough or rough the conditions) is when I am happiest. I see everything and I want to take pictures of everything…completely getting lost in my run and time aka… wasting time, lol!
This CRAZY race had its own plans for me. I kept missing the markers and had to back track so many times that eventually I just sat on a rock (almost in tears from frustration)…and all I could think of was in Comrades training they teach you never to stop, to keep moving in the direction of your destination and here I am sitting, catching a breath not knowing which way to go…caught between the feeling of wasting time (bye bye 7hrs 30min) and thinking what de hell, who cares?…actually… right now…sitting here…looking at the beautiful views…this is all I want to do!
But that wasn’t really practical, this is actually a race and not a leisurely hike! For the first time I took out the map, orientated myself and then just went for it. The challenge was not seeing any paths! I knew I had to stay close to the ridge so started to head in that direction. The whole time I was thinking I should probably call the emergency number seeing I am the only runner stranded on this 50k route; the sweepers had join the 36k runners (lol!)
I really had trouble spotting the white arrows or orange ribbons, my average pace was now 12min/km; that after I’ve worked so hard to bring it back to 10min/km post that massive climb!
I eventually found the path at 23km and from there on it was suppose to be downhill till about 30km. Great, I was on a roll again!
The terrain was rocky, rocky, rocky…my feet started to hurt after 20kms already. I felt a burning sensation at the bottom of my feet. For some or other reason my socks felt really hard, I could almost feel every stich of it…first indication that blisters will be forming soon. Well. there was nothing I could do about that.
It was tough running downhill. The idea was to practice going down fast but I just kept tripping over the rocks and had to settle for a gentle jog. No point risking twisting ankles or falling at this stage. I started to relax and really enjoyed just running all by myself; the pace was way off and I really did not care!
What I like most about trail races are the curve balls thrown at you when you really running low on the side of humor (35km into the race). Coming off the mountain, running in and out of a private game reserve and then suddenly…BOOM! Yip, they made me climb over that dodgy ladder. I saw the arrow, but I was still looking for a little gate next to it (lol!)
The race director really didn’t feel much for the CRAZY 50k runners, suddenly we were climbing again? It felt like I was going up that mountain for the 2nd time just this time round it was hot, my feet sore….and my water running out! At 37km my Garmin reminded me that I’ve reached 7hrs and 30mins and it was calling it quits! I was still feeling good and tried to stay focus. I actually started to run again but those hills force you to walk so I just power walked like a maniac through to the 42km mark. I craved for an ice cold Coke! Damn organisers, next time I will sponsor the refreshments for the 5oK race! I mean seriously only a handful of ultrarunners with no refreshments offered?
When I reached 42km my rescue bakkie was waiting for me. I really wanted to do the last 8km which was all downhill. I was feeling great but my time was up and I knew with no water or fuel it would probably be just a shuffle anyway so what would be the point? I know how to shuffle (lol!)
- Never forget to have fun – Right now I am so focused (more like stressed) about training for ultra-trail Cape Town I sometimes forget to just relax and enjoy the run, forget about time, pace…just run and enjoy getting lost!
- Run steep hills – the hills were my nemesis. The once I am training on is not half as steep. I seriously need to up my game on hill training. I’m curious to experiment with poles as well; apparently it does help going up very steep sections.
- Train with pack – the pack with 2.5l of water irritated the hell out of me the first 5K. I consumed so much water during the first 10km just so that the pack could feel a bit lighter; I usually don’t need water during a 10k training run. I definitely need to do more training and easy runs with at least 2l of water.
- Shoes and socks – socks need to be checked but honestly…not one blister!!!!
- Feeling strong – training is paying off, yes I didn’t get to run the time I wanted however I felt great throughout the whole race. Physically I was feeling amazing with my calfs behaving, no cramps, no falls, no twisting ankles and I didn’t hit the wall…mentally let’s just say I could have ran all day!
I really enjoyed the day out. This was a great training run, a reminder of what’s to come but I feel I am ready to push myself a little harder next time.
Thought of the day: “The more I run, the more I love my body. Not because it’s perfect, far from it but because with every mile it is proving to me that I am capable of more than I ever thought possible”.