So, here I was winding down the year, only relying on weekend races to maintain some sort of fitness, when I received this e-mail saying that the SA Ultra Trail Champ will be held in March 2013… I was planning to do a “rustige” Three cranes race in KZN, with some buddies as a warm up for the season. I had also planned the Every Boob Counts 100 miler charity drive, for January month – in order to raise money for Breast Cancer. I was not planning a ultra-marathon race.
Considering the years were ticking past, and I wasn't getting any younger - I entered. Hoping that the three months of training would be enough. Not knowing what lay ahead…
I was using December’s weekend races as my prep work, for the Addo (considering that December is the busiest season of the year for me at work). All was going according to plan until the 2nd of Jan, when my husband was rushed off to the emergency clinic and taken up in hospital with double pneumonia, directly after me completing one of my races. He remained there for two weeks; just avoiding Mr Reaper from knocking at his door. There went January months training plan and I still had a 100 Miler to pull off. Everything, from getting a bank account set up for the charity, to tying up sponsors, and hosting 44 athletes was all to be sorted out.
To even consider the charity run seemed to be an impossibility, training was the last thing on my mind. In January I did: 1 x 10 km run and a few Spinning & Yoga sessions. At that stage my life was being consumed between evening hospital visits, followed by countless hours spent behind the laptop for the Every BOOB Counts charity event.
The first time that the penny dropped, that I was actually participating in the 100 miler, was after the 12 km kloofing section. 155km and 33 hours later (only 5 km away from the end line), my under training finally caught up with me, my ITB gave in and the early stages of Hyperthermia were beginning to set in out on the beach, just before midnight. So much for being in peak condition, a month before one of the biggest races of my life. (I started getting concerned when people that I had invited to the 100 Miler, were declining the invitation – as they were preparing for Addo). I certainly didn’t think that I had the winning recipe.
February resulted in being pretty much of a write off too, being forced to rest my IT band (only doing the occasional Yoga & stretching session). Things were looking grim, considering the furthest distance I had ever previously raced was 42km, I was going up against some of the country’s top trail runners and I definitely hadn’t put the necessary time on my legs. A week prior to the race, I was still trying to fine tune my equipment (kidney belt or hydration pack), nutrition, etc. Sadly, a confirmation that my fitness levels weren’t where they needed to be was when I ran my “bench mark” 10 km run up Montagu pass. After having completed it 12 minutes slower than my PB, I couldn’t help but feel that I was in over my head. Muscles memory & determination were going to have to be my saving grace…
A plan was put into place for race day: I would hold back for the first 56 km, keeping the last surge of energy for the 20 km homestretch. (A risky approach for me, considering I always have a tendency of being one of the first to belt out of the starters shoot). On race day, without warning my training buddie and running partner had to pull back because of muscle spasm and had to recover. I had to stay focused and stick to the job at hand. After having left the 30 kilometre water point, I was told that I was 30 minutes behind the top three ladies, a tall order to try to bridge that gap. Now it was time to open up my legs, I knew I had to dig down deep and push as hard as I could. Much to my surprise, I stumbled into the then, third lady at Check point 6 – with only 38 kilometres to go, I knew that with such a worthy competitor, I was going to have to run like I had never run before. After almost depleting my memory bank of the anything to keep me motivated and focused, I managed to cross the finishing line victoriously. Running in the “Green & Gold”, in Whales was in the bag!
I have never before had to work so hard for a position in a race. It was physically, emotionally & mentally exhausting to attain my goal. Something that was certainly contributed to my utter exhaustion was the fact that my training leading up to the race was much to be desired.
Advice that I have learnt to follow during racing is: do not count those Elephants before they hatch.
P.S. For anyone out there that may have commented that the Addo was a gravel/tar route. My suggestion: first run the actual race before falling prey to judging others.
One last one: Although the Addo was one of the toughest races that I have had to compete in. I must compliment the race organisers on a job well done… a well organised/ well-marked route.
Although I didn’t get to spot any lions or elephants en route, it was still wonderful to run wild and free, in one of the treasured National Parks in SA.
Hot Pants Nienaber
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