Table Mountain Top 10 trail routes: #8 Three Single Tracks – Rhodes Memorial

At first I did not get trail running. “Why would anybody want to run uphill?”

Two Ocean's Trail Run 22km

Two Ocean’s Trail Run 22km route map

 

The downhill part was obvious and I was used to it, even with a heavy pack, but running uphill seemed energy inefficient to me. The seconds saved over a brisk walk did not seem to warrant the extra effort required. So I started jogging along the jeep tracks from Rhodes Memorial towards the city bowl, choosing the more level ones at first.

In contrast I have always enjoyed single tracks, flying along, having to pay attention in order to avoid a stubbed toe, crash or worse: a tumble. When Trevor Ball introduced the genius Two Ocean’s Trail Run route he connected some of the best single tracks in the area to make a truly fantastic and challenging route. For normal folks this would take 3h plus to complete and a large dose of effort so here I describe a shorter version – manageable in a quick 1h30 to 2h session. My Movescount gps file can be found here.

Three Singel Tracks

PP: Plumpudding Hill, Q: Queen’s Blockhouse, K: King’s Blockhouse, 1-3 indicating single tracks

Start:

From Rhodes Memorial parking area take the single track path for 100m up to the first jeep track contour. There are several variations here that all lead to the same point. Turn right and follow the jeep track for a few hundred meters into a shaded area. The track turns downhill at a gentle gradient. At the first fork stay left as the track turns sharply left and uphill. Immediately stay left and head up Plumpudding Hill. 100% runnable if you are strong and trying to prove your manliness! 2/3 of the way up the jeep track turns sharp left. A lone tree is visible above.

Plumpudding Hill

Lone Pine Tree on Plumpudding Hill

The first of our three single tracks start in this corner on the right. The vague track dips into the gully and climbs up the other side to cross a rusted barbed wire fence to eventually join a jeep track. Enjoy the cruise along this. You will meet a T-junction in a s-curve of the main jeep track. The Woodstock shooting range is below you in the gum trees. Turn left and up the slight hill which levels out after a couple of hundred meters. Just before the dry stream crossing there is a jeep track going uphill to the King’s Blockhouse. (If you continue straight here you miss out the second single track but rejoin the route a few hundred meters ahead.)

Up this hill, once again 100% run-able. After a little distance the track levels out (maybe you get to pass some mountain bikers on this section). The branch to the right is our choice. This ultimately leads to Tafelberg Road and can be used as a short cut, but not today. Our second single track awaits on the right, where the ground turns grey. Easy running through fynbos at its best leads us into a cork tree forest. We slowly lose a bit of height to reach the ruin of the Queen’s Blockhouse.

Queen

The Queen’s Blockhouse ruin

From here it is a short but very steep descent to a jeep track. Turn left. [Turning right would take you back to the top of the hill above the shooting range.] Through a dip and out the other side. At the top of the hill turn sharp left onto a zig zagging jeep track which snakes up the ridge in large arcs. At a point where the track levels out in direction City Centre there is our third single track which starts with a few steps and is marked by a cairn. Up this to the signal cannons just below Tafelberg Road. Cross the tar road onto a single track leading uphill. 50m on there is a left fork. Take this and it will level out pretty quickly. This is the lower Contour Path. All the way along here to just behind the King’s Blockhouse.

When standing at the cannons below the Blockhouse it is easiest to take the gently descending jeep track to the left. This snakes downhill. Once you have completed a complete S-curve you will see a wooden bridge and mountain bike track heading down the crest of the ridge. Down this. Enjoy the baarp! You will be spat out on top of Plumpudding hill to your left (facing out). You can either head down this and back to the start or find the super steep single track directly down from the beacon to the jeep track that you started from earlier on. As you can see from the map there are many options for shortcuts and more (or less)direct lines to be explored.

The coffee and cake at the restaurant is much deserved, the view is not bad either!

 

Specificity

cape-epic-sprint-stage-3-treadmtb-1536x1024Most of us have seen the photo.
Kulhavy waiting for Sauser to win the sprint.
They knew what was required and they knew what it would take.
They had a plan that matched the desired outcome. They had planned this scenario.
How many of us have the same insight?
Or do we leave it up to the gods on the day and hope for the best?
But where to start?
I was very aware of where I was fitness wise last year. I knew I could only improve at a certain rate – at my gradient. There was no way I could do the volume of past. I had to constantly assess where I was. Running by myself without my ego and those of others as a distraction. Honesty was number one.  That took a very long time to figure out.
So to my training. 
This year is the first time that I have some understanding of what Dr Phil is on about. To be honest it took months until I could even maintain a HR under 140. Probably longer to be honest. But I knew it was the way forward and I persisted. In fact I got injured and it forced me to keep all running easy. Easy and short. And then often.
Slowly building.
And then it suddenly clicked like magic. My body understood.
And now I think I am back to some form of fitness.
Anyway I digress.
I am heading to the Transrockies in August.
When I accepted the entry I knew we were not going to go full blast. The crux would be to run 6 consecutive days at altitude on pretty well maintained trail by our standards.
I look at images of my heroes and what they write and I always try to understand why they are doing what they are doing.
Why, why, why?
The answer is always there if you just look.
When I want to up my insight on finances I seek the council of my financial adviser not my doctor or best friend. I read up what Buffet and the boys are doing and thinking. Specificity. 
I observe and adapt.
So how to prepare?
First of all my partner and I have a pretty good understanding of our strategy. We are there to have fun and not to win. We will have to keep race day egos in check.
The innevitable game of sandbag is being played. I am not sure who is playing a better hand. We will see.
I have no illusion that we are going to be doing a fair amount of walking. Hope Pass etc etc will not be running terrain for us.
So there has been no track for me.
My weeks have consisted of long runs back to back to back, to back. Teaching my body and mind how to recover.
Learning nutrition on and off the trail. Dialling it in so that there are no questions on race day (sorry week).
Altitude is the factor that is most difficult to prepare for. I don’t have enough time pre event to aclimatise properly but I will do what I can.
Most important will be looking after my partner. We can only go as fast as the slowest of us two. Whoever that is. And that role will swap during the week!
Efficiency is key. Not letting any one issue get to the point of becoming a problem.
That is the theory. I am sure we will hit obstacles and make mistakes along the way but at least I have a plan.
The lessons are the same though. Specificity is key to whatever we do.
I can not say it enough.

Wendy

You sat in the middle of the room. Surrounded by people. A guru to us all. Many considered you a dear friend. Wrapped in your blanket on this sunny day. There were too many. I stood outside. I felt something was wrong. Only got to touch your shoulder as you sat there princess like. All the fuss going on a round you for your 70th. It was a Saturday.

Later when all the cake had gone a handful stood around.

You got up from your room. The birds were calling you, you said.

And then you were gone. I heard the news on Monday. There would be no class, no follow on. No weekly gathering. Everything had changed. You were the glue to the whole gathering of a week  ago. And now the glue was gone.

I danced with the bears when they scattered you in Tokai.

I thank you for shining the light.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Hohenhort 15km

I recognised the anxiety straight away

The nervousness. The slight hurry in everybody’s step. The frantic darting looks for the loo. The anticipation. I was surprised to find them so strong, so overwhelming and I had not missed them in two years.

hohenhort-mapSunday morning I stood at the start of the Hohenhort 15km road race. In fact this was probably the last race I did many moons ago. How would it feel this time around?

The loop through the leafy suburb is a funny one, lots of hills and twists and turns. I started way back in the field. I was not here to race just to do a long run and see how things went.

At the end we had come full circle, back to where we came from under two hours ago and back to where I was years previously. What changed?

Certainly the streets were the same. Many fellow runners seemed the same (though I enjoyed running with three folks I don’t often have a chance to run with) it was I who had changed, I had come full circle.

shellI realised that this was more true than a linear progression we like to believe in. I was back where I had been before, well almost. But yet I felt different.

I had grown. I wondered about how many New Years resolutions had been swept under the bed already. How many dreams had been given up? Unreachable.

How it all seemed so impossible. Impossibly hard.

If these cycles were true then maybe our approach to achieving goals should be different from our linear approach. If the finish line is back at the start then what is the point.

Well that is the point exactly.

Maybe we can look rather at the next micro cycle and see “What I can I do today?”

“What can I achieve today, that maybe I could not do yesterday?” or

“Can I do something slightly better today than I did it yesterday?”

Because I know I will be back at the start tomorrow and the next day and the next. I can start again.

But start I must.

I am reading Chris Froome’s book right now. The hours and days he spends by himself turning the wheels. Again and again. Each one building. Unraveling the carpet until it gets easier. Until it builds momentum.

But starting the momentum going is not easy.

Our brain wants short term gain for long time sacrifice. We need the equation to go the other way around. This is true in all areas in our lives. Diet, exercise, career, self discipline.

Sunday I ducked under the tape in the finish chute before we got to the coke. I felt no need to replenish what I had not lost.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Theodore Roosevelt 

I actually don’t need that much when I know I am coming back to the start. Day after day, week after week, 23 day cycle after 23 day cycle.

(A couple of nights before I did not sleep very well. It was full moon. Lunatic.)

The transition to the New Year has had its bumps. Too much compromise, too much eating other people’s snacks.

“It is not what we eat between Christmas and New Year that makes us, it is what we eat between New Year and Christmas that makes the difference.” said my wife. 

And so I set myself a challenge of 33 days to eat clean. 100% clean. No deviation. I falter, I start again. Simple. I am keeping a log. It is not the only thing I am keeping a log of.

A record, a record of honesty. Of where I am. When I know where I am I can build. Slowly.

Slowly build momentum.

Join me.

 

 

Choices

GPSI stop at the cross roads. My GPS tells me right but I am not sure. I think it is left.

I have a choice. In fact I have many choices. Right, left or in fact do I stay among the traffic and hooting and chaos? They are all my choice. Even if I don’t choose.

If we choose to be healthy, eat the right stuff, train correctly we make that choice. And there are consequences like good performances and PB’s, there are other consequences we downplay like not drinking before a big race, taper nerves, exhaustion etc. We know them too well.

Then there are those that we do not talk about. We may not choose them directly (we can debate that) but our choices certainly have these consequences.

We can’t just choose the good and take credit for that and when something does not work out the way it is intended then throw our toys.

I asked the question why we choose injury. An honest question not meant to be anything but.

Maybe it is better to ask why we made the choices that resulted in this outcome. Harsh? Possibly but it is a question worth asking. Why do we choose injury, over training, sickness?

Is it because we are writing cheques that our body can not cash? Are we possibly even writing cheques our being can not cash?

What if this were true?

What if we’re ignoring the message?

Are you going on a path that is not right for you? Even if you are following your mates or advice of those who say they know.

And if it is not right then what is?

Underneath each statement there is ultimately a question.

Go and ask better questions!

Ringing the Bell:

035

approaching Orange Peal Gap, Cathedral Peak left of center, The Bell further left

I leave the Hikers Parking at  6h00 sharp. Scouting the first river crossing last night helps so it goes quickly and I gain altitude. I see two lights below me. They have chosen a different path. We all have.

I am walking out of the darkness into mountains cast in shadows. As in Magic and Loss there is an equal part hope too.

It is what ever it seems.

‘I was thinking of a series of my dreams’

Patter of my feet on the trail.

‘Was not thinking of anything specific’

Lyrics running my head

I shut them out

040

looking back up Bugger’s Gully

I am surprised to reach Bugger Gully in 2:40. The other side has snow and I follow imprints in the snow trying to guess how long they have been there. I meet them later. The owners of those feet.

You can’t listen to metal with the volume low. I drop into the wave.

 

The line between shadow and light is distinct. But we all follow our own line. Some have rumble strips to warn us, others come unseen and deadly. Some are crossed and recrossed, skipped over even? Without a care in the world. Others scare us. Right now one side is sun and heat. The other biting cold. I can’t understand why anybody would choose the suffering unless to learn and ultimately emerge. I carve my own way and leave only a faint sign of my passing. My passage however leaves a huge impression. Not the act but the meaning we give.

050

looking back towards Cathedral Peak

I come across white tufts, not snow. Flags waving I the breeze. I shat here! I wonder if we will ever learn.

I stumble upon Twins Cave quite unexpectedly.

And suddenly it is done.

I find a spot in the sun and out of the wind and eat my old school sandwich.

The descent down Mlanbonjwa is less fun than I thought. Typical berg pass which is too steep to run but I lose height quickly. The obligatory bush whack does not last long.

I am unkind. I enjoy running the flatter sections and catch up to the footprints of three days earlier.

I have to commit to running where I can. Walking always seems so much easier. But then I don’t want easy. There is nothing of interest there. There is interest (and learning) I suffering perhaps?

‘I walk by tranquil lakes and streams’

I don’t have the commitment to break 8h (or 7 for that matter) I arrive at my lone tent in the camp site and think back on one of the best days in the mountains I have ever had.

The lone dear makes its rounds later. I say ‘Hi’ and observe for a very long time.

‘The hard thing is to hold on to what I learn there in those high and wild places – those fleeting glimpses of the truth of reality – and to live it when I am back in my everyday. That is the real challenge.’

Lizzy Hawker

 

Several lines above are quoted (and misquoted) from the below. Thanks for the inspiration.

 

Soundtrack:

Moxica and the horse – Vangelis

Series of dreams – Bob Dylan

Link 2-3-4 – Rammstein

Tell ol Bill – Bob Dylan

Mothers of the disappeared – U2

The medallion calls – Klaus Bandelt

Someday baby – Bob Dylan

Track 5 More Melon – U2

Things have changed – Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler I believe in you – U2

99 red balloons – Nena

Here comes the pain – Farmer Boys

Pa Pa Pa Palavas – Triplets of Bellville soundtrack

“When is enough, enough?” Ian asked

I close my eyes in the crowd, in that town square, in that time. Vangelis is playing – Chamonix town square at the start of UTMB

I can still feel the tears now, many years later.

The point of life is to grow and to have fun. If you can have fun while growing then all the better.

So we need to push and do bigger, and better, and further, and more dangerous, and push the boats further from shore…

Or do we?

We confuse doing with growing.

Doing is busy, doing is filling our day.

Growth is deeper.

Growth stays with you, doing does not. This is the acid test.

Growing is internal. You probably have nothing to show for it, nothing to tweet about.

Only you will know the difference.

So when you tackle your next adventure is it to grow or to do?