Continuing my slightly disordered race reporting of late, this is a report of a race from mid-April. Having rediscovered enjoyment in my running of late, and with it satisfaction in reflecting and blogging about the pursuit, I think I should now be able to return to orderly journalistic endeavours.
After deciding that I would not race the mountainous 75 km Ultra SkyMarathon at Mount Buffalo, with the 100-km TNF100 following just a month later, my race-day mantra was “hold back”.
Prior to the race I had a chat with Landie Greyling (who would win the women’s race), having caught up with her for a run in South Africa just a couple of months earlier. I mentioned that I was planning to take it easy, so she suggested that we could run together as she would also take it easy. We were definitely using different relative levels of easiness on this occasion, so perhaps I should have said that I was planning to take it extremely easy.
The race starts with two steep early climbs, so following my race mantra I walked every single step. On the gradual ascent I had dubbed “climb 2.5” I allowed myself to use a run/walk strategy before cruising down the hill into the aid station at the bottom of the long climb up Mount Buffalo. I ran some of the gentle sections of ascent, walked the rest, and by the time I approached the top of the mountain I was feeling extremely good. After a loop around the top I started the long descent, returning back along the exact same route.
Still feeling strong and knowing that I could easily fly down the hill I repeated my mantra frequently and held back on the pace until the last couple of kilometres, when I finally let myself pick up some speed. I returned to my run/walk strategy for the reverse direction of “climb 2.5”. The second-last climb on the return starts with a seemingly vertical wall, but it was the length of the climb remaining that seemed never-ending as I had miscalculated the ascent and kept expecting it to finish based on the readings from my watch. When I finally reached the top I lay down and stretched out my back on a picnic table, before taking in the view and then commencing on my journey.
I allowed myself to run at a decent pace on the descent and felt the final climb to be relatively short and easy after the previous one. I had said to myself that I would cut loose on the final descent into the town of Bright, but I had failed to consider my timing carefully. Just as I approached the top of the final climb the sun set, and the dusty forest trail was not ideal for a fast, nighttime descent. I had suggested to some friends that I would finish somewhere between 11 and 12 hours, but I realised that I would be cutting it close to scrape across the finish line within 12 hours. So when I reached the river for the final few flat kilometres to the finish line I started to pick up the pace.
With maybe 1.5 kilometres remaining I heard footsteps approaching as a runner closed in on me. With plenty still remaining in the tank I decided there was no way I would let myself be overtaken, so I started picking up the pace further. Initially the other runner responded to my increased pace so I kept slowly increasing the pace until I heard the footsteps fade. I cruised back to the finish line near the Bright Brewery, crossing in under 12 hours. Around an hour later, after a well-earned shower I found myself in the Bright Brewery for a drink, also well earned.