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This weekend there are a three exciting trail races taking place around the world, with a couple of top South Africans competing.
This is the grand-daddy of 100 mile trail runs, the oldest and most prestegious 100 mile race in the USA, and maybe the world. This year’s event includes a stacked field of runners from the USA and around the world, including our very own Ryan Sandes. Ryan has run the race twice, and finished 2nd in a time of 15h03 in 2012, and 5th in a time of 15h46 las t year, and he has said that this is a focus race for him this year. I think he has a good chance of taking home the victory this year, but he will have to run a super race because the competition is very tough. The other guys likely to make up the top positions include Rob Krar (most people’s favourite to take the win), Dylan Bowman (very impressive wins at Tarawera 100k and TNF100 this year so far), Francois D’haene (last year’s UTWT champion and unbeatable at hilly 100-milers last year), Julien Chorier, Alex Varner, Ian Sharman, Seth Swanson, and more. Like I said, a really strong mens field.
In the women’s field, returning champion Stephanie Howe will be the one to beat. She will face some tough competition though, especially from Magdalena Boulet and Michelle Yeats. I think this will be the women’s podium, and anyone of them could take the victory, but I think Stephanie will win it again this year. For more in-depth previews of the fields, have a look at these articles by iRunFar (men and women) and Ian Corliss (men and women).
The Lavarado Ultra Trail is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour, 119km with around 5800m elevation gain through the Italian Dolomites. Last year, the race was won by Anton Krupicka, but due to injury he will not be back this year to defend his title. However, there are still some strong men racing, including Americans Timothy Olsen and Nick Clark, Brit
Danny Kendall [Update: not running], New Zealander Scott Hawker, a bunch of Italian, French and Spanish athletes, and South African Daniel Rowland. Daniel has been living and training in Chile and most recently Switzerland, so he should be used to the altitude, climbing and technical European trails, so he has a good shot at a top result.
In the women’s field Italy’s Francesca Canepa and France’s Nathalie Mauclair and Caroline Chaverot will be the ones to watch, with these three all in contention for podium spots and the win. Check out iRunFar’s race preview here.
Big up to some other South Africans running the race: Lloyd Samassa and Gregory Perks, good luck!
There are a bunch of races at the Mont-Blanc Marathon event including 80km, 42km, 23km, 10km and vertical km distances. All the races take place in the beautiful Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley, a trail running mecca in the Alps.
In the 80km event, some of the top men include Manuel Merillas from Spain, Seb Chaigneau from France, Phillip Reiter from Germany, Alex Nichols from USA and Caine Warburton from Australia. My money would be on Manuel Merillas, so much talent in such a young guy, or Alex Nichols after some good performances recently.
In the women’s race, Rory Bosio from the USA is the hot favourite to take the win, after her performance at UTMB last year, she is definitely the one to beat. [UPDATE – Although Rory is entered, I’m not sure if she is actually running] Also one to watch is Mira Rai from Nepal. Check out Ian Corliss’s 80km race preview here.
In the 42km event, the favourite for the mens race must be Max King from USA. By his own admission he crashed and burned a bit during Comrades, but I still think he has the speed and ability to take the win over the shorter course. But he will have some tough competition from some other strong men including Michel Lanne from France and Erik Haugsnes from Norway, In the women’s race, another Comrades runner Ellie Greenwood from Canada should be able to take the win if she has recovered from Comrades.
In the VK, trail legend Kilian Jornet is signed up to race, so it will be interesting to see what kind of shape he is in after doing mostly mountaineering recently. I wouldn’t be surprise to see him win the VK regardless, that guy is amazing. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him enter and win the marathon event, he won it last year and although he isn’t signed up yet, it could happen in which case he will be the one to beat! Max King is also running the VK, so that should be a good contest.
In the women’s event, Emilie Forsberg has also come down from the mountains to race and could be tough to beat, but also depending on current fitness. She won’t have it all her own way though, with Megan Kimmel and especially Laura Orgue racing. Laura is probably the favourite to take the VK victory.
All in all, an exciting weekend of racing up ahead. I will to be doing any of theses races this year (although all of them are on my bucket list!), but I will be racing at the final race of the Winter Trail Challenge at Milestone Kitchens. Let me know in the comments if you have any favourites or predictions for the races.
The 5th race of the Winter Trail Challenge 2015 by KZN Trail Running took place at Table Mountain in Pietermaritzburg on the 20th June 2015. There were two events on offer, a 12km route and a 7km route. This is a challenging race, with a steep climb at the start, and amazing views over the Dusi and Umgeni River valleys. I did the 12km route, which circles the entire top of the mountain, while the 7km route stays mainly on the Dusi side of the mountain. The race starts at a local school, and there is a great vibe at the start and finish with music and local dancers, which really adds to the atmosphere.
It was a beautiful morning, a little chilly, but sunny and not too bad, and a larger than usual crowd of runners lined up on the start. The race was started at around 7:40am by the local Nkosi, and immediately the course starts climbing up the mountain, around 200m in the first 1.5km. This first climb is quite tough, it starts with around 800m of dust road before getting onto a single track. Most people were brought to a walk by this stage by the steep gradient. Once on the top, the route follows the edge of the mountain, which like Table Mountain in Cape Town, is definitely not flat on the top!
The course follows cattle tracks for most of the way to the far end of the mountain. These can be quite challenging to run on since they are quite narrow and often covered by long grass so you can’t really see where your feet are landing. After about 3km, the 7km course splits off and heads up a hill while the 12km course continues round the mountain. In quite a few places, the course goes off trail and you end up running through long grass. There was also a small river that had to be crossed, and in trying to get over without getting my feet wet, I managed to land one foot in a hole filled with water and took a bit of a tumble. No harm done, except for one wet, muddy shoe. Once you reach the far end of the mountain, the course follows the cliffs on the Umgeni side, with magnificent views over Nagle Dam and the Umgeni river. At some points, the course goes very close to the edge of the cliffs, with some high drops. Careful footing is a must!
Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling great, probably because of the new breakfast cereal I tried in the morning before the race which didn’t seem to agree with me, so I wasn’t going quite as fast as I wanted and walked a couple of the hills. But once I reached about 8km, I started to feel better and picked up the pace. It wasn’t long before we started the steep descent back down the mountain to the finish, and I tried to run it quite hard. I love downhills, especially technical ones. I managed to catch most of the people who had passed me on the top, and ran pretty much full pace down the final kilometre to the finish, setting a new 1km PB in the process (3:42). The final race distance was was around 11.1km, and I finished in 1:10:15, 2 minutes faster than my time last year.
Apart from not feeling great, I enjoyed the run. The views from the top are really spectacular, and we had a perfect clear day. It is also really cool that most of the money raised from the entry fees goes back to the school and local community. It was also cool to have The Durban Runner, USN and Trail Magazine involved, with USN providing some much needed refreshment at the finish. The top three male runners where all part of Martin Dreyer’s Change-a-Life Academy, which is producing some really fast guys. The winner was Mthobisi Mzolo in 47:41 while the ladies race was won by Pippa McGregor again in 1:01:35. Strava data for the races is here.
Shoes: New Balance 1210v1 Leadville
The 4th race of the Winter Trail Challenge 2015 by KZN Trail Running took place on a chilly Wednesday evening at Giba Gorge on the 11th June 2015. There were two events on offer, a 10km route and a 5km route. The actual distances of each course are actually a bit shorter, around 8.6km for the 10km and 4.3km for the 5km course. I decided to run the 5km event, and to try and push a bit harder than usual to see how well I’ve recovered from Comrades.
The 10km event set off first, with the 5km event starting a couple minutes later, led out by Andrew Booth to guide the route for the first few hundred meters. My strategy was to try and stay with the front runners as much as possible and see how it went, but two guys went off the front at a blistering pace that I knew would not be sustainable for me, so after about 800m I slowed a bit and was passed by 2 other guys. I stuck behind them, and the three of us wound our way through the forests of Giba. Soon we started catching the second placed runner, and by the time we reached the turnaround point at the dam, we overtook him. By this point, the first guy was already around the dam and heading back, around a minute and a half ahead of us, so I knew I didn’t have much chance of catching him on the way back.
The first half of the course up the the dam was mostly gradual uphill (nothing steep or long, only around 40m vertical gain), so the way back was generally downhill, which suits me better, so I opened up a bit on the descent from the dam and passed the 3rd guy and ran behind the 2nd guy for a while, before passing him on another downhill section. Running quickly down trails in the dark with just a headlight is really fun, but a bit tricky because its hard to see potholes and rocks. From then on, I ran alone for the rest of the race, pushing hard on the downhills and keeping up the pace on the uphills. In the end I finished second by more than 2 minutes, with the winner breaking the course record. My time of 19:51 for 4.3km was pretty quick for me, and my lungs really felt it, but me legs felt good with no pain.
The mens long event was won by Craig Turton in 37:55, while his sister Robyn Krause won the ladies event in 45:19. I followed up the race with a great burger/beer special at the Giba restaurant to end off a good evening at a great trail running destination. Stave data for the event is here.
Shoes: New Balance RC1400v2
Headlamp: LED Lenser SEO5
With the Giba Night race coming up tonight, I was interested in what options there were for headlamps available at the moment, and which would offer the best value for money on a Rands/Lumen scale (where lumens indicate the brightness). For trail running, the brighter the better (I’d recommend 100 lumens at a minimum), however brightness comes at a cost both in money terms as well as in weight and battery life. So doing a quick search on the internet, I put together this table listing options from some well-known brands.
|Make||Model||Peak Lumens||Price||R/Lumen||Rechargeable||Batteries||Weight (g)|
|Extreme Lights||Extreme XPh||670||R850.00||1.27||Yes||Li-ion or 3 x AAA||255|
|Extreme Lights||XPh3A||160||R299.00||1.87||No||3 x AAA||51|
|Petzl||MYO RXP||370||R879.00||2.38||No||3 x AA||175|
|LED Lenser||H7.2||250||R675.00||2.70||No||4 x AAA||165|
|LED Lenser||SEO5||180||R550.00||3.06||No||3 x AAA||105|
|Petzl||Tikkina||60||R199.00||3.32||No||3 x AAA||85|
|LED Lenser||Neo||90||R299.00||3.32||No||3 x AAA||54|
|Petzl||Tikka XP||160||R599.00||3.74||No||3 x AAA||85|
|LED Lenser||SEO3||100||R399.00||3.99||No||3 x AAA||105|
|Petzl||Tikka Plus 2||110||R599.00||5.45||No||3 x AAA||85|
|Petzl||Tikka RXP||215||R1 199.00||5.58||Yes||Li-ion||115|
|Black Diamond||Icon 3||200||R1 199.00||6.00||No||4 x AA||193|
I got these prices from a couple of online retailers including Cape Union Mart, Awesome Tools and iWarehouse (I can’t vouch for any of these except Cape Union Mart, since they are the only ones I have actually bought from). The R/Lumen gives an indication of the value of the headlamp, the lower the better, since you are paying fewer Rands per Lumen. [UPDATE: I added the Extreme Lights options, they look like good value and apparently the service from their website is very good although I haven’t tested it personally – Extreme Lights]
One thing to note is that brightness isn’t the only factor. The weight and fit is also important since the headlamp needs to be comfortable on your head and not bounce around, so I’d recommend trying before you buy. Some of the options above have a separate battery pack which is worn on the back of the head, with the lighting system on the front, while others have the batteries included in the lighting system. This is a matter of personal taste, having the batteries at the back helps to balance the weight, but increases complexity. Anther factor to consider is whether or not the headlamp is rechargeable or not, and whether you can replace the battery pack with normal batteries should you run out of juice mid-race. Obviously a rechargeable pack will save money on new batteries, however rechargeable batteries don’t live forever so you may have to replace the pack down the line (Petzl guarantees their rechargeable packs for 1 year or 300 cycles, but this doesn’t mean it will definitely be dead after one year. LED Lenser guarantees their whole rechargeable headlamp (SEO7R) for 5 years, so this is a good indication of how long you can expect the battery to last if cared for correctly).
The last thing to consider is how long the headlamp will last on a set of batteries (or a single recharge), however this is pretty hard to compare since they all quote different times at different intensities. You will get a longer battery life if the brightness is turned down (on those headlamps that have different brightness settings), and conversely shorter life on higher brightness levels. Some of the higher end models (particularly the Petzl NAO, TIKKA RXP and TIKKA R+) include reactive lighting where the brightness is automatically adjusted based on the current conditions, so this is useful for saving battery life when you don’t need full brightness. I currently own a LED Lenser SEO5, which I have been very happy with. It isn’t the brightest though, and I would like to upgrade to something a bit brighter and with rechargeable batteries, so possibly a Petzl MYO or NAO, if I can convince myself to spend two grand on a headlamp!
The latest episode of Salomon Running TV produced by The African Attachment has just been released (S4E05) featuring Anna Frost, Ricky Gates and Matt Flaherty. It is shot in the Redwoods of Northern California, and features plenty of pretty slow-motion footage of huge trees and deer, and some clips of old-school loggers chopping down massive trees. As always, production quality is excellent; the only downfall is that it is quite short at just under 5 minutes.
The 3rd race of the Winter Trail Challenge 2015 hosted by KZN Trail Running took place at Faulklands Farm on Saturday 6th June 2015. There were three events to choose from, a 14km, 8km and 5km option. On both the 14km and 8km routes the course drops down into the Umgeni valley, while the 5km course stays on the top of the cliffs. Usually the 14km route includes two crossings of the Umgeni River, however due to high water levels, the course was changed to avoid the crossings. I had entered the 14km event, but seeing how it had been less than a week since Comrades, I wasn’t sure how well my legs had recovered and so I didn’t expect to be able to push as hard as normal.
Race morning was cold (dropping to 0℃ in places on the drive up), but luckily at Faulklands they build a nice big bonfire to keep you warm while you wait for the start. It was a smallish event, with about 120 people in total lining up for all three events, with the majority opting for the 14km event. The race started at 7:35am, and immediately a bunch of frontrunners set off at a blistering pace. The first 1km starts with a short downhill, then two short uphills before dropping steeply down into the Umgeni Valley at 1.2km in. The downhill on jeep track continues for about 1km, before the course changes onto cattle tracks. It was still cold down in the valley with frost on the ground in places. The long grass growing over the path made running quite tricky because you can’t see where your feet are landing or if there are holes or rocks in the path, however this soon clears up, and at around the 4km mark the course begins following the Sindingini river, a small tributary to the Umgeni.
This section is rocky and muddy, a really nice technical trail along the river bed. The course follows this river all the way down to just before the Umgeni, where on the normal course, the 8km and 14km courses split and the 14km course does an extra loop including the Umgeni River crossings, but this time both courses turned left and headed up cattle paths back up the valley. Up until this point, my legs had felt fine, but as the climbing started, I started to feel the 88km from last weekend in my legs, so I slowed considerably. After a while, my hip started to get quite sore, so I decided not to push it, and to rather take a walk back to the start without completing the course.
Unfortunately there is no easy way out of the valley, so I had a 3km walk up steep jeep tracks to make it back to the finish, cutting off the extra loop that the 14km course follows and basically completing the same distance as the 8km course (which turned out to be 9.3km). It was still quite cold, so I pulled a chair up next to the fire and watched the remaining runners finishing the events.
I really like the Faulklands course, it is challenging and technical along the river bed, and the views over the Umgeni valley are stunning. The river crossings are also actually quiet fun, but I was glad to skip them in the cold weather this time. This race was my first DNF in a race, but it just shows that you really should take proper time to recover after an ultra event. The race was won by Solly Manduwa (who also won at Hilton) in a time of 52:41, and the ladies race was won by Pippa McGregor in 1:10:25.
[UPDATE] It turned out that since I ran the same distance as the 8km event over the same trails, I was classified as 5th in the 8km event in a time of 1:01:21. Bonus!
Strava data for the race is here
Shoes: New Balance 1210v1 Leadville
The Comrades Marathon is the biggest, most competitive ultra marathon in the world. I grew up just 3km from the halfway point on the course, so I grew up supporting runners attempting this amazing feat of human endurance and camaraderie, and I always knew that one day I would give it a shot. After supporting four of my friends running the race last year, I decided that this year I would give it a bash to see what all the fuss was about.
This years race was an “up run”, meaning it starts in Durban at sea level and finishes in Pietermartizburg at 628m above sea level. Total elevation gain over the 87.7km course (about 800m longer than the usual up run distance due to road works in Pinetown) is around 1900m, and there are 5 significant named hills (Cowies, Fields, Botha’s, Inchanga and Polly Shortts), and countless other unnamed hills on the route.
Also running this year were 3 of my friends, Sean, Dave and Brad, all of whom have completed the race before. We decided to target a sub-11hr finish and thus get a bronze medal, so being an engineer, I developed a comprehensive race plan that would get us to the finish in around 10:30.
The day before the race I visited the race expo (fortunately I was able to register for the race at an early registration on Wednesday night), but it was really crowded so I didn’t stay for long. All the major sports shops, shoe manufacturers and sponsors were there, so I had a brief look around before heading back home to chill before the big day. Dinner was my favourite pre-race indulgence, pizza. Went to bed nice and early, but nerves meant I didn’t sleep well and was already awake when my alarm went off at 3:30am.
Race morning was clear and mild, and it looked like it would be a perfect day for running. The race starts at 5:30am, and you have to be in your starting batch by 5:15am. I qualified in F batch (sub 4h20 marathon), along with 2 of my friends, but I couldn’t find them amount the 20000 other people at the start. Finally, after singing the National Anthem, as well as Shosholoza and listening to Chariots of Fire, the cock crowed and cannon fired and the race began.
It took me around 6 minutes just to reach the start line, and the first few kilometres was just a teaming mass of people as 20000 people made their way through the streets of Durban. According to my plan, the first checkpoint was at Tolgate Bridge at 4km, and when I reached it, I was 6 minutes behind schedule (due to the slow start), but not a problem, still a long way to go! I took it easy, and followed my strategy of run-walking the hills from early on to save energy. The first 16km went by smoothly and quickly, and I soon found myself going up the first major climb, Cowies hill. This turned out to be an easy climb, and before I knew it, I was at the top and running down into Pinetown. The road works here meant a couple of detours with some gentle climbs and descents before the second and longest hill of the day, the notorious Fields Hill. 4km with 200m elevation gain, it can be a little intimidating. Again I followed the run-walk strategy, and by the time I reached the top, not only was I still feeling great, but I had pulled back all the lost time from the start and was only 1 minute of my plan.
The next section from Kloof to Hillcrest is a fairly continuous gradual climb, with great crowd support along the road side. I heard from supporters that my friends were 10 minutes ahead of me on the road, and I didn’t think I’d be able to catch them, so settled down to run my own race. Up to Hillcrest, there wasn’t much food on the route, and I was starting to get quite hungry, but fortunately they had bananas in Hillcrest so I got some down before the third named climb, Botha’s Hill. Botha’s has a steep section near the beginning, but isn’t too bad after that and once you reach the top, there is great support from the Kearsney College boys (my old school!) and then what I think is the nicest part of the race from Botha’s Hill to Drummond.
By Alverstone, I was surprised to see I had caught up to Dave and Brad, and heard the unfortunate news that Sean had dropped out after 30km. He had been struggling all day, and realised that this year was just not for him, and rightly bailed from the race. We were all a bit sad as we headed down to the halfway point at Drummond, but these things happen and sometimes it just isn’t your day and you need to make sure you don’t damage yourself by continuing.
At Drummond, my parents were waiting with a lovely Nutella sandwich, and the crowd support was amazing. I was still feeling really good, and we were perfectly on track for our target of 10:30. Just after halfway is the 4th climb, Inchanga. This is a challenging climb, and we walked most of it, but it still took quite a bit out of me and by the top I was not feeling quite so good. Fortunately there is a long descent on the other side of the hill, so this gave some time for recovery before the Harrison Flats section, which is anything but flat. This section is full of long, gradual uphill rollers, and the temperature was rising by now. We were all feeling a little flat, but continued with the run-walk strategy and tried to keep the pace up.
The section from Harrison flats to Camperdown seemed to pass slowly, we were passed by both 11hr busses who seemed to be going a little fast for our liking. At Cato Ridge, Dave pulled away from Brad and I. At Camperdown, they have the Nedbank Green Mile, which is packed with supporters and entertainment, the cheering crowds helping to keep you moving. From here its a 6km slog up to the highest point in the race at Umlaas Rd, and fortunately I started feeling a lot better and happier as we approached Umlass Rd. By the time we reached the top and start the long descent to Polly Shortts, I was raring to go. Brad was suffering with quad cramps and urged me to go on. By this point we were 14 minutes off our goal pace but a bronze was still achievable, so I upped the pace a little on the downhill and pulled away from Brad. With 18km to go, this might not have been very wise, cause after only about 2km I started to get a stitch on the long downhill, so I slowed again. I was very surprised when Brad caught me up again, and stoked to have someone to run with. This was when the race really started to get tough.
Before Polly Shortts actual, there is a hill called Little Pollys, which ordinarily wouldn’t present much problems, but after 78km, it hurt. We both struggled up it, and the downhill on the otherside hurt just as much. By the time we reached the bottom of Polly Shortts, we were both exhausted, and decided that we probably wouldn’t be able to make the 11hr mark, and so settled for a finish. We walked most of Pollys, and I tried to convince Brad we could still make a bronze, but he was really struggling with blisters and couldn’t run anymore. Near the top of Pollys we were caught by a bunch of guys run-walking their way up, and so I joined up with them as it was slightly less painful for me to run than walk.
By the time I reached the top of Pollys, I saw I had around 50 minutes to run the last 7km, mostly downhill, to the finish to get under 11hrs. I knew I would be really upset with myself if I didn’t give it a good shot, so I put my head down and ran. Those last 7km were probably the most painful I have ever run, my hips and right knee were screaming, but I kept jogging at around 7min/km pace. Two small hills around 3km and 2km from the finish brought me to a walk, and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to make it, but I pushed on and with 2km to go, I had 15 minutes to the bronze cutoff and I was pretty sure I would make it. The last km into the stadium was very emotional, and turned out to be my second fastest kilometre of the whole race. Crossing the finish line in 10:58:24 and earning a bronze medal was on of the happiest moments of my life so far, and was the perfect end to a tough, painful but amazing day of running.
Brad eventually finished in 11:25:30, and Dave finished in 10:55:11. I now see why people keep coming back to this race. The crowds supporting along the route, the athletes taking part in the event, and all the volunteers who provide the water, juice and food on the way, make this the Ultimate Human Race. I knew straight after the race that I will be back next year to tackle the down run, and I can’t wait to experience the sense of achievement you feel crossing that finish line again. This is truly an amazing race, and I would recommend it to anyone.
I must give huge thanks to my family for supporting me on the route and struggling through traffic to get to see me at different points and the finish, and to all my friends who supported on the roadside. It’s the supporters who truly make this race what it is, you guys rock.
Strava data here.
Shoes: New Balance Zante
The 2nd race of the Winter Trail Challenge 2015 hosted by KZN Trail Running took place at Hilton College on Sunday 24th May 2015. There were 4 events on offer, a challenging 22km or 12km trail, an easier 10km “Comrades” course for those wanting a gentler option, and a 5km kids race. The 12km course dropped down into the Umgeni river valley, while the easier 10km course stayed on the top of the hill. The 22km course completed both the 12km course and the 10km course. With Comrades only a week away, I decided to save my legs and stick to the easier 10km course.
It was a beautiful sunny morning, although still a bit chilly when all four races started simultaneously at 7:32am. I set off at what felt like an easy pace, and surprisingly started to pull away from all by one other person in the field. After running together for about 1km, I realised that the pace was maybe a little fast for me, this supposed to be an easy run with Comrades a week away, so I eased off a bit and was soon passed by the leading lady, and the 3rd placed man after about 3km.
The course went through the forestry plantations and stuck to the forest roads, which made the running easy and cool. We descended gradually for around 7.5km, with a couple short uphills, but nothing too challenging. The running felt easy and I really enjoyed the forests and views over the Umgeni valley once we got out of the trees. After 7.5km, the course started to climb with a couple of short, sharp hills, mostly scattered with boulders, so I walked the steeper bits to save the legs. Having run this same course last year, I knew that once we got back into the trees, it was a gentle downhill to the finish, so I took it easy until the top of the hill, and picked up the pace once we go back onto the forest roads. In the mean time, a couple of guys had passed me, but I was feeling really good and having a great time.
The final 1km to the finish passed uneventfully, and the race finished back at the Hilton College Gym. Final race distance was 10.8km, and my finishing time of 56:36 was good enough for 7th place overall, 4 minutes behind the winner, which made me pretty happy seeing as how it was supposed to be an easy run, even though most of the fast guys had opted for the 12km or 22km course.
The 22km race had a small but very competitive field including Jonathan Edwards and Claude Eksteen, however a couple of the front runners went off course during the first 12km loop and ran a few extra kilometres. This didn’t stop Solicitor Manduwa from winning the race in a very quick time of 1:46:45, more than 6 minutes ahead of 2nd place. Trish Balhmann won the ladies race in 1:59:41.
I really enjoyed this race, and it made me feel really confident for Comrades. My legs felt good, and the pace felt easy. Strava data for the race is here.
Shoes: New Balance RC1400v2
The Winter Trail Challenge 2015 race series hosted by KZN Trail Running started off with the Maweni trail run just outside Pietermaritzburg on the 16th May 2015. The race starts from the Maweni Trail Centre, and there were two distance options, either a 7km or 14km event. With the Comrades Marathon only 2 weeks away, I decided to do the 14km event, but to take it really easy and use it as a training run.
The weather on race morning was chilly and overcast, pretty much perfect running conditions. Around 100 people lined up for the start of the 14km event, and at precisely 7:36am the race started and we set off. The pace was pretty quick up front, and for the first 1.5km the course followed a jeep track slightly downhill, which turned out to be a good warm-up for the first climb of the day, a 100m climb up steep single track. Fortunately it was only 700m long, but my calves really felt it, must be too much road running recently. With Comrades in mind, I walked the hill, and once we reached the top, the trail flattened out again. The views from the top over the Umgeni river were spectacular, I almost tripped over rocks a couple of times being too busy admiring the scenery.
What goes up must come down, and a steep decent back off the hill followed, leading back to the start line after around 5km into the race. A small climb through the sugar cane, a sharp descent, and some paved farm road led us to the Faulklands Farm house (where race 3 of the series starts). Another small climb led to the start of the valley top single track at 8km in, which runs along the edge of the Umgeni valley. I really love this section, fast, flowing, rocky in places, and mostly downhill. Unfortunately it ends after just 3km, and the climbing starts again.
My legs were feeling a little tired at this point, probably from fairly heavy (for me) training the last few weeks, so I took it really easy up the climb (around 90m over 2km), walking the steep bits and jogging the flat bits. once at the top, there is another nice downhill single track section for about 1km, so I put the hammer down and just had fun flying down the hill. Then some gentle rolling trail through the forest back to the trail centre and the finish line.
The final course distance was 15.1km according to my Garmin, and my final time was 1:33:45, which I was quite happy with having taken it fairly easy and walked most of the hills. My final position was 32nd overall, the race being won by road speedster Jonathan Edwards in 1:02:43, with Keren Worlock winning the ladies race in 1:16:11.
My legs felt more tired than the should have, so I decided to really cut back training over the next two weeks to make sure I’m 100% ready for Comrades.
Shoes: New Balance 1210v2 Leadville
Hydration system: Salomon S-Lab 12l 2014