|Devil’s Peak middle traverse|
Hardcore trail running meets precise organisation and a spectacular fan fare at the finish. I feel like a hero sprinting down the field at UCT. The grass has not been worn by thousands of feet before me, crowds are cheering for me alone. No I am not in a dream but I am getting ahead of myself.
We are surprised to find eager and nervous masses walk towards Jammie steps in the morning coolth. I have decided to go as light as I can for this race. 2 Gu gels and 500ml of water will have to be enough. Coach Dion and Dawn are sitting on the steps. Mel joined them for hot chocolate while I decide to run off the nerves along our normal warm up route towards Newlands Forest. On my return I meet Jayde. I feel strong and know this is going to be a good day. Dion, Jayde, Dom Wills and Ian Little are all at the start and awaiting Trevor Ball’s instructions. Dion is certainly the clear favourite to take this event with the likes of Cas, Ryan and Nicholas not here.
Trevor counts us down and we cross the timing mat (a first for me in trail running) and we run down the road. Nobody pushes the pace until Dion heads into the first corner as the rest of us pretty quickly fall into single file up the first hill toward Rhodes Memorial. I count 7 runners in front of me including Dom (in ridiculously bright red surfing baggies more suited to Gunston 500 than a trail event) and Jayde. I am exactly where I want to be. Rhodes Mem flashes past and we get our first downhill and I check who is around me. Dion is gone in the distance as I would expect and there are several chasing him. Right now my focus is on getting the legs turning on the easy terrain. I know the real first uphill on Plumpudding will be showing.
I manage my effort well and am pleased to see Neil Myburgh (the first of many friendly marshals and crew) cheering us on. The short scruffy section and I make up a couple of places. I know they will come past on the less technical sections but that is ok.
One hour or so into our run and I hope I have dosed my effort correctly. The back and forth of earlier on is behind me. I run by myself at the fastest pace possible. I know few will be much quicker on this technical stuff but I am surprised that I don’t catch the group of 3 ahead. We are running at our highest point on the trail- the middle traverse on the front of Devil’s Peak heading towards the King’s Blockhouse. There are plenty of marshals and medical staff as we approach the scramble section above the blockhouse. I know it well and suddenly the triathletes in their skin tight kit are right in front of me. I sneak past them and hop down the scrambles. Left at the Blockhouse onto the dirt road and then the technical single track. Then into Newlands Forest. I love these single tracks of technical ups and downs, in quick repetition as if by machine gun. You are never sure what is coming next. Like trying to listen to Ellen Degeneres on a coffee overdose. Trevor has come up with a masterpiece as we snake into the forest. Up along the fence, dive under a tree trunk, sharp turns and technical footing. “Yeah another hill” I call to every marshal. They are sure to get very different comments in the next few hours! Many runners would find this perfect route quite a challenge as Amy Ebedes describes here.
Finally a sign with a left turn. I stop for a moment and make sure. Yes we go left down the steep gully towards the river, out the other side. As if flying very low over tree tops. My feet hardly touch the ground. I count down the hills (+1 as I am sure that Trevor has a sneak up his sleeve). The last hill and I see a runner in black crest as I hit the bottom of it. Shorten stride, power the arms! Then I see Mel, Herda, Dawn, Ake and Roger cheering me on. Across the knee deep field. I am closing the gap but it is not enough. I pass some 10km runners.
I only get confirmation of overall 3rd place once I finish. Some runners got lost and I lost count somewhere along the way. I am very pleased with my run. I could not have hoped for better.
For the first time ever I win money which is quite a treat!
Afterwards we sit on the lawn and chat with friends all pleased with a superb outing in the hills.
This will certainly be a real toss up to entering the ultra in future!