Winter Trail Challenge 5 – Table Mountain PMB

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.

The mountain doesn't look so big from down here...

The mountain doesn’t look so big from down here…

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!

A beautiful morning at the foot of Table Mountain PMB

A beautiful morning at the foot of Table Mountain PMB

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.

The Durban Runner displaying all sorts of running goodies

The Durban Runner displaying all sorts of running goodies

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

Full race results

Andrew Booth at the prize giving.

Andrew Booth at the prize giving.

Winter Trail Challenge 2 – Hilton College

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.

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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

Full Race Results