Batrun and other things…

by Chris Strydom

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Batrun…a training run with the Cape Doctor at night

On the evening of 18 Feb myself and 129 other eager mountain runners got together at the Gardens Tech Rugby Club for a 30km race in Table Mountain National Park. The race takes you up and down Devils Peak, Platteklip Gorge all the way to the highest point on Table Mountain at Maclear’s Beacon and finally up and down Lionshead. As always Table Mountain knew it was the evening of Batrun and threw some epic weather our way, this year it was in the form of gale force Southeaster winds better known as the infamous Cape Doctor.

I started off quite conservatively and formed a small group at the front with Edson Kumwamba, Lucas Adams and Michael Davidson. Heading up Devils Peak me and Edson took the lead about halfway to the top. As we reached the saddle of Devils peak we started to feel the strong winds as we left the cover of the mountain behind heading up the front side of Devils Peak. We were the first runners to reach the checkpoint at the top with Michael and Lucas trailing just behind. This was where the fun started for Edson and Lucas as they attacked on the downhill and it took a lot of self-control to stay with my race plan of taking the whole race easy and not take even the slightest risk on the downhill, this was super hard because running technical downhills fast is my biggest strength and I absolutely love it.

Reaching the bottom it was time to head to Platteklip for what I believe is the hardest climb of the race, still taking it easy I caught up with Lucas in the early stages of the climb and passed Edson near the top, this was where I had to take out my Adidas Terrex Agravic Alpha wind jacket as the driving cold wind cut through to the bone (this was the first time I ever took a jacket out of my pack to put on during a race). I stayed in the lead all the way to Maclear’s Beacon and back. Descending Platteklip I once again had to force myself to keep things easy as Edson and Lucas came past.

Going up and down Lionshead we maintained our positions and it was time for the last undulating 4km back to the finish line. I was almost blown of my feet by the wind a few times during the last few kilometres.

I finished the race in 3rd place with just a few minutes separating me and Edson with Lucan claiming 2nd place. I finished feeling strong and able to run another few kilometres, it was back to training on the Monday after the race. The race was a good test of my fitness heading into the final few weeks of training leading up to African X a month later. My strong climbing legs during the race was a true testimony of my strength training programs by Sports Performance Clinic.FB_IMG_1489926834900

Fast team format racing at African X

With African X being South Africa’s premier trail stage race and due to the fast nature of the race this year’s edition drew the best trail runners from all around South Africa to race against each other in a team format like they do at the Cape Epic mountain bike race. I teamed up with Rory Scheffer for team Adidas. Due to the fast, flat and non-technical nature of the race, it suits the faster athletes and always draws a few fast road runners as well. This year was no different with former road runners turned trail blazers Givemore Mudzinganyama and Edwin Sesipi teaming up for team Asics Boys Gauteng. As well as 12th place finisher at the 2015 Comrades Marathon Ben Matiso teaming up with Reptsile Khotle for team Edunova. Other top teams included: Kane Reilly and Thabang Madiba (Team Salomon), Kent Horner and Chris Bruchhausen (My Training Day), Jonny Young and Nicholas Rupanga (Asics Vets) and Brendon Lombard with Rohan Kennedy (GEL Asics Frontrunners). With such a big and strong field we were up for three days of fast racing.

Day one took us on a 35km route from Trails End all the way to Houw Hoek Inn. We started off quite conservatively with all of the top teams running together trying to see who is the strongest on the different sorts of terrain and waiting to see who will be the first team to make a move. At the 15km mark the team of Timothy Chambers and Robert Rorich made the first move and the pace started to build a bit, the main pack including all of the above mentioned teams quickly caught up with them after about 2km and then the racing started. Team Endunova and Asics Boys Gauteng started pushing the pace quite a bit with team Salomon following close behind. I felt strong during the first day but Rory had some problems and we ended up racing team Tim-Rob (Timothy Chambers and Robert Rorich) for 4th place, we switched places quite a lot with them between the 20km and 30km mark but we proved too strong for them over the last 5km to take 4th place, 5min in front of team Tim-Rob and 5min behind team Salomon in 3rd. FB_IMG_1490133757671

Day two would prove to be our day as we tackled the 33km route from Rooisand Nature Reserve to Wildekrans wine estate. Once again we started of conservatively until the 5km mark where the biggest climb of African X started, me and Rory along with team Salomon made the first move as both teams are climbing and technical specialists, the climb were unfortunately to short, runnable and not steep enough to have a big impact and once again team Asics Boys Gauteng and team Endunova took the lead. The next few kilometres would once again be flat and fast until the last climb at 12km, this was where the battle between the two mountain specialist teams began as we chased and passed team Salomon on downhill only to be chased again by them. Both teams reached the bottom together with tired legs and the last 15km would prove to be a race for 3rd place along fast and flat jeep track. The battle was intense with team Salomon dropping of the pace a few times only to catch up again. At around 10km to go they dropped from the pace for the final time and we tried to make the time deficit between the two teams as big as possible to see if we can take over 3rd place on the general classification. We ended up crossing the finish line 1min behind the 2nd place team of Ben Matiso and Reptsile Khotle (team Endunova) and 6min in front of team Salomon in 4th to take the 3rd spot on the general classification. With the time deficit being only 1min between us and team Salomon, day three would prove to be a race for 3rd place.

Day three followed a 23km course from Wildekrans Wine Estate back to Houw Hoek Inn. This day would prove to be another tough day for Rory. Things started differently, everyone was willing to give it their all and the race started fast. The first 9km were going good and we managed to easily stick to our race plan of staying ahead of Thabang and Kane. They however wanted to close the 1min lead we had over them and they found a new source of energy as they passed us around the 12km mark. We ran with them for a couple of kilometres but Rory found it difficult to breathe and we had to drop from the pace in order to make it to the finish line. We tried to keep the gap between us and team Salomon as small as possible to fully utilize our 1min lead. The last 3km I pushed Rory hard and he put in a tremendous effort. This unfortunately proved just too little as we crossed the finish line in 4th place 2min30sec behind team Salomon in 2nd place and 1min behind team Endunova in 3rd. We finished African X in 4th place only 1min30sec behind Kane and Thabang in 3rd and 15min in front of the 5th place team of Kent Horner and Chris Bruchhausen (My Training Day).

African X didn’t quite suit my style of mountain racing as the route is extremely flat and fast to what I am used to but I ended up adapting to the route and my training at SPC definitely made me strong enough to race hard and fast for three consecutive days. The race gave me a proper confidence boost knowing that I can race with the top senior trail runners in South Africa and I am looking forward to the rest of the year.

Uitkyk Trail Run as my weekly long run

Back to training after African X and I felt like running another race so I decided two days before the 25km Uitkyk trail run to use the race as my weekly long run. I went into the race with an all or nothing approach and put the hammer down right from the start. I took the lead from the start and stayed in front for the remainder of the race taking a comfortable win. The race was really enjoyable and although everything was easily runnable we did a proper amount of climbing on the lower slopes of Simonsberg, followed by a fast downhill and ending with a fast section running through the vineyards to the finish.