Friday, 2 August 2013

Race report: Cape Winter Trail Series #1 - 21 July 2013

The Lady Falcon and I kitted and ready to go
The Spur Trail Series events ( are series of 4 races occurring on consecutive weeks which combine to be a championship type format. They hold a winter and summer series in the Cape, KZN and Gauteng. Runners enter races individually but need to complete at least 3 in order to get a medal. They are excellently organised by the experienced team from Wildrunner and are a great way for people new to the sport to get experience in a comfortable environment (comfort disappears on the uphills however). This would be my first of these type events and I was excited after hearing many people rave about the series.

Event #1 was held at the Paul Cluver Wine Estate in Grabouw and running in this area was going to be a new experience for me. There was a 16km and 9km race on offer and being held the day after the GLB46km Ultra at the same venue, we arrived to find the start/finish arena decked out and an awesome vibe of excited newbie and experienced trailers kitted out in all their winter gear ready to tackle the hills throughout the estate. It was a misty morning and a bit chilly at registration but as soon as the sun came out it warmed into a pleasant sunny but cool morning, the best conditions. Registration was a bit chaotic but luckily the MC was on hand to ensure everyone there was plenty of time to register before the start. Apparently the registration gets easier in subsequent events as you keep the same number throughout.

With my aim of getting faster in races and running to race rather than just to finish, I wanted to go out fast and see if I could place in the top 25%. The 16km route looked like a fast track, a slight incline to begin and then quite a sharp climb from about the 5km point to 8.5km. My strategy was to start as quickly as I could so that I would be able to go at my own pace on the uphill and not have to do any awkward passing on the single track. I was feeling quite confident for climbing as I had felt strong on the last few training runs. The race started off and for some reason I had placed myself mid-way through the group which meant I had to weave my way through quite a few people until I found my spot. I need to learn that if I want to place in the top 25% I should position my starting spot near the front rather than just rocking up late and standing to the side.

Green 4B rating means Moderate challenging terrain; 31-40% single track and mostly runnable gradient

The first 5km was on Jeep track which was nice and fast. I was feeling comfortable but still made sure I walked any steepish gradients in order to save my legs for the climb ahead. As soon as the climb started at the 5km point, I knew it was going to be a long one. The day before I had taken part in a charity event which involved doing as many burpees as you can in 67 minutes. I could definitely feel each and everyone of my 335 burpees on the incline. My confidence dropped quite a lot as I seemed to pass less people than were passing me so I thought this would turn into more of a battle to the finishline than the race I had hoped for.

Thankfully that incline came to an end eventually and what followed was an awesome single track decent. I was able to let loose and enjoy the rapid decent. There were a few traffic jams in the conga line going around some of the bends but that just gave time to enjoy the incredible scenery and recover from that climb. An interesting forest section where we used ropes to pull ourselves along slowed the pace which was fine as I was able to stop at a river to get a drink of well-needed water (I forgot my bottle at home). After popping out of the forest at about the 12km point, well rested, we were back on a gravel road, I popped a gell and stretched my legs for a fast paced 4km to the finish.

I ended up in 94th place out of 330 in a time of 1h42 which I was happy with considering the fatigue from the burpees the day before. I needed to be 3 minutes faster to be in the top 25% which I can put down mostly to my poor start. It was a great event with a good vibe of weekend warriors out to enjoy this incredible sport. I unfortunately will not be able to do any of the other races in the series so will miss out on my medal but, come on, who really does this for the medals anyway?

Race summary

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%.

Distance:    16km
Time:          1:42:24 (34min behind winner)
Position:      94/330 (28.5%) - I needed to be 3 min faster to be top 25%
Open men:   71st

Where I would have placed in:
Open Ladies: 9th
Vet and Masters Men: 10th
Vet and Masters Ladies: 2nd (whoo hoo!)

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