This month has seen me spend the bulk of my time preparing for an event more daunting than any trail running race I have ever attempted, The Otter African Trail! I quickly realised that trail running was my forte… rock hopping, boulder jumping, scrambling through waterfalls and swaying the singletracks through my backyard in Jonkershoek Nature reserve.
After 3 weeks of some really good work, my first really big week appeared. If I manage to conquer this, it will be a great test of my strength and take off plenty stress of whether or not the Otter was a viable escapade.
The Mountain Warrior is organised by hard man adventure junkie, Pieter du Plessis. Athletes have a choice of The Jonkershoek Sky Run 40km on the Saturday, or the Simonsberg Challenge 26km on the Sunday. Or, as in my case, both, The Mountain Warrior Challenge.
The Friday before the race saw Stellenbosch Mountain completely drenched in snow. I was eager to head into the hills, having never set a foot in snow before. Saturday morning arrived & I was over excited to see what the mountain had in store. I knew it would be cold, but I couldn’t have been prepared for what lay ahead. My shoe choice for the run was the New Balance MT1210, and I was absolutely loving every step (hop)!
We set off at a leisurely pace, me with the goal of running in front with the leaders, Gregg Goodall and Dom Wills, both experienced long distance trail runners and Gregg a former podium in the Otter. I knew that if I could hold onto them, I would be well equipped to challenge for the Otter title.
I was comfortable heading out up the singletracks of Jonkershoek and I was really enjoying the rock hopping with my NB Leadville 1210′s. Comfort second to none. Then we traversed the steep slopes of Swartboskloof and started to feel the effects of the cold wind and icy rain. Still I was comfortable. All of a sudden we hit snow and I was like a child in a playground, I just couldn’t get enough. Soon my excitement was dampened and the icy water had frozen my hands, toes and face. It became a duel of survival.
I felt some relief as I descended Botmaskop and headed over to the finish at Rustenberg. My body was still strong as I crossed the line for the win.
Day 2 would see me line-up with trail extraordinaire, Nicholas Rupanga. He had not raced the previous day and I could see he was eager to scalp me for the Simonsberg Challenge. I can’t say I felt great, but my legs were a lot better than I initially thought. So I rose to the Challenge.
Nicholas danced off the front on many occasions, but I kept clawing my way back like ahungry tick. With 6km to go, he made his move and my legs couldn’t respond to the speed. I sat about 10sec off the pace and could not close the gap.
I crossed the line in 2nd, very content as the overall Mounatin Warrior Challenge Champion.
Next up: The Otter African Grail of Trail.