|A = Rhodes Village|
So considering all this I was happy enough sitting on the waiting list for a few years as the race seemed a bit hectic for a new runner. Then on 30 April I got a call from Darrell Raubenheimer saying one of the Wild Card winners had pulled out and the re-draw meant I had an entry option. I hadn't done any training since 2 Oceans so my immediate response was "sheez Darrell I don't know if I will be ready for it" to which Darrell replied "well tomorrow is a public holiday, you've got all day to train." I decided to go for it and after spending a solid few weekends exploring the trails of Table Mountain (my attempt at altitude training) I arrived on the starting line fully kitted in my winter gear and carrying about a ton of food (this was going to be my longest run ever so I was extremely worried about getting hungry). My goal was to finish within the 9 hour cut-off.
The first 14km are along a pretty standard gravel road through the rural and farm areas around Rhodes. There are a few uphills on this section and I made a concerted effort to take it slow and walk whenever the gradient put strain on my legs in order to save my strength for whatever may come later. I felt like I was taking it easy and so was quite surprised to hear one of the people at the Mavis Bank Farm check point remark to one of my co-runners that he was doing quite well. I figured if he is doing well, and I am running next to him, I must also be doing well (logic). The highlight of this part of the run was chatting to one of the guys who showed up to the start (where the temperature was about 4deg) wearing a pair of T-Savs. He told me not to worry though as he was wearing 4 layers up top.
Next there is about a 6km section of single track with a steady incline. I was expecting to pass some of the other runners here as I noticed from chatting along the way that a lot of the runners were roadies and I had been doing most of my training on trail. I found the single track a lot different to that found in Cape Town however as the long grass brings in a new dimension of not being able to see where to place your foot and my natural sloppy style of trail stumbling as opposed to running meant quite a few toe kicks and trips. I made it out on the other side however feeling good and ready to tackle Mavis Bank.
|Starting to climb|
The next 8km were probably the toughest for me. It is run a long the Lesotho Boarder Road which is closer to Jeep Track than gravel road and I really felt the effects of the high altitude here. Never having run at this height before, the result was interesting to me. I was expecting to just be more out of breath however it really sapped me of any strength. I was moving along at a very slow pace but, although I wasn't struggling to breathe, I knew I could not go any faster. My perception of what constituted an incline in the road changed drastically and I walked every slight uphill. I was very happy to see the (what I though was half way) check point and thiswas the point when I was wandering if this was all a stupid idea and whether I would make it to the end. A major motivation was to see my mate El Hoborino who had driven me all the way down from JHB for the race as he was helping out at this check point, it showed me how much a bit of support can do for your mental state. He also told me that I had planned the race completely wrong and I was already 3km past halfway and the thought of only 23km left gave me a major boost.
|Follow the flags to glory|
From there it was a fast, knee-jarring, toe-pinching downhill section of about 6km and then a flat section of about 8km. Just before the last check point The Goat caught up to me again and we cruised the last section walking and running in patches. The finish line was a welcome site and we were once again showered with awesome goodie bags and a complimentary koeksuster (is this Paleo?). I was happy to finish in 7h17 well ahead of my goal whilst taking it relatively easy. Now that I know what to expect I will definitely go for a faster time next year (because there is no chance in hell I am missing this race next year).
|A welcome sight|
The Rhodes Run is an exceptionally well organised race. It is a race that is about the enjoyment and camaraderie involved in taking part in a mass event rather than about times, records and prizes (although records did tumble and the sponsors spoilt us with all sorts of goodies). It is an event where you feel country hospitality in every aspect of it and you are made to believe you are guests as opposed to customers. A lot of this can be attributed to the race organisers Evie and Darrell Raubenheimer whose pure enthusiasm and positive vibes make the whole weekend enjoyable for everyone involved.
As a benchmark I usually look to get inside the top 33% of the field and for interest sake look at where I placed amongst the other categories. My goal in the future is to consistently place in the top 25%.
Time: 7:18:25 (3h02 behind winner)
Position: 86/271 (31.7%) - I needed to be 15 min faster to be top 25%
Open men: 25th
Where I would have placed in:
Open Ladies: 20th
Vet and Masters Men: 43rd
Vet and Masters Ladies: 10th