Thursday, 26 September 2013

Race report: Table Mountain Challenge "Lite" - 14 September 2013

The Crazy Store Table Mountain Challenge is a 37km route around the perimeter of Table Mountain which can either be run as an individual or as team with 3 legs (8km, 13km and 16km). It is one of the most popular races of the year and entries always get sold out really quickly. I was not planning to run until 2 weeks before the race when they announced they were holding a "Lite" version. This was to be just the first 2 legs of the team event to be run as an individual race of 21km. Stoked to be a part of such a race, I arrived 2 hours early to watch the elite runners go off. The weather looked seriously ominous with the mountain under cover and some rain. I think I was the only spectator there that early but I couldn't resist getting up to go and see the likes of Ryan Sandes start out. In fact, 5 min before the start I was beginning to wander if Sandes really was running as I couldn't see him toeing the line. Then I spotted him casually cruise through, greet a few people, pop his earphones in just before the start and set off on a blisteringly fast 3h44 victory run.

Crazy is the right word
After the elites went off, the remainder of the field started in batches until finally it was our turn to start. By now the weather had cleared which I was not entirely happy about as I was wearing a thermal long sleeve so I knew I would get hot. The "Lite", being a new event, had a small field of only 64 runners so I felt pretty confident on the start line. Probably too confident as I set off way too fast. I sat in 4th place for about the first 2km...until the hills started. Once again, not doing enough pre-race research got the better of me as I completely underestimated the first leg.

Our route would be from Kloof Nek car park to Constantia Nek mostly along the contour path. The first leg involved us dropping down into Deer Park and running on the mountain bike trails for about 8km. I thought this was going to be relatively flat with the hills being gradual and on gravel road so I planned to run as much as I could. I was way wrong, the hills were a lot tougher than I expected and I found myself walking a lot of it. My too fast start got the better of me as people started passing me. This psyched me out and I started getting bleak that I was not getting any faster or stronger despite my attention to this in training. I got to the first checkpoint in 55m33 and in 9th position. I was 13 minutes behind the leader but only 2 minutes behind a batch of runners from 4th - 7th.
Not too happy during the first leg
(photo credit: Mark Sampson - Thribe Media)

The second leg followed the contour path pretty much all the way to Constantia Nek. Just after the checkpoint I took in my first gel (my attempt at following an actual race eating plan) and the boost it gave me as well as my familiarity with the Newlands Forest section of the trails meant I had a good patch of about 7km. By now we had caught up to the team runners that had set off in the batch before us which I thought was going to be tough to navigate but I think everyone was just enjoying it so much that they had no problem moving aside. The contour path keeps pretty much at the same level the whole way and although it has some rocky sections, is an incredible place to run. The recent rain meant the rivers were in flood which made for some fun river crossings. As we hit Kirstenbosch I was feeling strong. I had been jostling with one of the other Lite runners in bright Salomons most of the way and I had started recognising a few of the people we passed which meant I was moving up the field.

Shortly after we reached Kirstenbosch we hit our last real climb at Rooikat Ravine. This was tough and my legs were tired. I realised that in training I usually climb first and then wind my way down the mountain so I need to incorporate more climbs once my legs are already ready to crumble. I still managed to pick off another 2 "Lite" runners however and as we popped at out Cecilia Forest I was keen for a fast paced finish. Then I cramped up. I really didn't expect to cramp on a 20km run and I can only put it down to fatigue from pushing myself too hard. Physically I felt fine so was quite bleak to have to waste some time stretching it out. I popped an electrolyte tablet (not sure if this made a difference) and managed to push myself for the last couple of km to finish in 8th place.

Navigating the waterfalls
(photo credit: Govan - Totalkaos)
Another awesome event and at the end of the 2nd leg I was keen to keep going for the full lap of the mountain. Definitely one to add to the list of races to do in the future. I was happy with my 8th place finish but not happy with my cramping. I think I just need to work on more leg strength. Good news was no ITB issues. I finished 20 seconds behind 7th place and the bright salomon guy who I was running with for most of the way finished in 5th so I think if I hadn't cramped up I might have been able to get up to 6th place.

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 is to consistently place in the top 25%.

Distance:    21km
Time:          2:22:45 (36min behind winner)
Position:      8/64 (12.5%) - I needed to be 3 min faster to be top 10%
Open men:   8th

Where I would have placed in:
Open Ladies: 1st (yeeeeea!)

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