Puffer & Tuffer Puffer

01 September 2013

Puffer & Tuffer Puffer

Written by: Team Kelfords Brett Wood & Kevin Flanagan
[Kevin Flanagan]

I felt like I had entered a different race in comparison to last year’s puffer. The weather did a 180, from the previous year’s gale force winds, rain and hail; I could not have scripted the conditions better. No matter how perfect the weather, the puffer is always a tough race. It starts off fast and the road runners have their fun on the tar, but it quickly turns into a trail fest of boulder hopping and scrambling towards the waterfront.

This year’s field lacked the big names, but there was no shortage of weekend warriors who were all equal to me. For the first 50km’s, if you stood still for 30 seconds, you could go from 5th to 25th. Running into Constantia nek, the unofficial halfway point, gave me the relief of knowing I only had the last big slog over Table Mountain, a route I love. More importantly, it came with the promise of more coke. To the average person, coke is a red canned carbonated drink, to an ultra trail runner, it is black gold with the equal addiction of TIK. Getting hooked on sugar on a long distance run can be fun, but it’s a slippery slope. I managed to snap out of it on the way up to Maclears beacon and focus on eating more exotic foods like potatoes. I eventually caught 9th position at the beacon, but then got lured into a jelly tot extravaganza and flattened a packet, while chatting to the kind soles manning the check point.

With a bunch of groupies (mates) stationed at the cable car, plattleklip gorge proved an easy ride down and with the sight of some friendly faces a new high was induced. If that was not enough to jolt me into action, the dogs that guard the noon gun put the fear into me and some pace into my step. Another puffer done…and for the record 9hr15 in 10th place.

[Brett Wood]

I am not sure what I expected to find or experience when I entered Tuffer Puffer. There has always been an attraction for me to take part in endurance events, I guess that I will always be more the relentless grafter than the speedy racing snake. The start of Tuffer is super low-key; everyone mingles nervously around before a sudden call to gather and its game on. A race this length comes with so many variables, so many things change – it’s amazing how one minute you feel as though ‘it’s in your pocket’ and the next you are (actually) entertaining thoughts of not finishing – but therein lies the beauty of the challenge, and the journey of self-discovery that I love.

The route is relentless but beautiful, from the brutality of Platteklip (both ways), the technicality of Vlakkenberg, and the dogged graft of the road to Cape Point, there really is a sense that the longer you progress the further you step outside time – I think one of the great challenges is to remain in the moment and in tune with your body and what it needs. Running at night is a surreal and a soulful experience, with at least 10hrs+ of the race being run in the dark there is more than enough time to appreciate this!

I can say without a doubt that I often toed the painful precipice between the desire to finish and the desire to quit. The glue that held the race together came from those that were there in support, who believed in me when I was giving up, who encouraged me when all I could hear were the doubt filled voices in my head, who kept me moving and who helped me to be relentless. In the end I had to win my race, because the the true race was against myself.

Running into Oceana Power Boat Club after 23h46 of racing was made special because so many people shared in the race with me, running it from wherever they followed – it was an epic filled day, one I am so grateful to have had. Thank you to First Ascent for kitting me in the best and to Team Kelfords for their support and vision!

Nedbank Save the Rhino Run

01 September 2013

Nedbank Save the Rhino Run

Written by: Carla van Huyssteen

‘’The total rhinos poached to date in 2013 is a disgusting and alarming 514, where the total rhinos poached in 2012 was already a staggering 668!’’-

http://www.uniteagainstpoaching.co.za

Running can definitely unite people and what better way to get like-minded individuals together, not only to run for pleasure, but also a great cause than the Nedbank Save the Rhino Run.

With a new location, The Legends Golf and Safari Resort in Limpopo placed host to this year’s event. The five star, big 5 reserve was where the race took place and although it was for a great cause we were also spoilt as the runners were welcomed with amazing accommodation and hospitality, as well as the unique experience of running in the reserve which is totally exposed to the animals and environment. (Luckily prestige game rangers took full responsibility and charge of the runners’ safety on the route).

A two day stage race starting on Saturday with 30km was followed by a 22km on the Sunday. The trail led up and over the Legends reserve and was tough as nails but so worth the views and experience!

On the first day, one big climb to the upper escarpment, divided the field quite early on in the race and the game was on to hold on to the lead. I must say that the thought of a lion hunting me was also a great motivator, and I ran under the banner as the stage 1 female winner.

Day 2, a faster, flatter 22km through the lower escarpment was hard on the sore legs from the previous day’s running and the top 3 ladies(myself, Anita and Takalani) ran together most of the way. A sneaky, technical hill 1km from the finish was well placed for me; I accelerated and ran hard to finish for the 1st spot and over all female winner of the race! Congrats Anita O’Brien and Takalani Ndandani for a fight to the end! Also safety in numbers.

Thank you Trisport and Nedbank for putting this race together, with the main aim of gaining exposure for the anti-poaching movement.The race holds a limited amount of entrants so don’t miss out in 2014!

Drakensberg [no excuses]

01 September 2013

Drakensberg [no excuses]

Written by: Julia Wakeling

Standing on the top of the Drakensberg is a truly wonderful place to be. My soul sings in the wide open spaces with incomprehensibly big views of what feels like the entire world stretched out far below you. Mountains head off in opposite directions for further than your legs bear to imagine. And I always chastise myself for not going there more, because it’s really very easy. I’ve been to mountains around the world, from the Himalaya to Patagonia, and return home every time to find exquisite places right on our doorstep. When lost for words at the beauty of our mountains, I am often reminded of a poem, written by a friend…

“It seems almost irreverent, and somehow obscene
To try and write of where we’ve walked
And the beauty that we’ve seen.
Of how, by witnessing that world,
We’ve stepped across a line that will always separate
Us from them….”

It’s easy to find poor excuses to not get out of the city, but usually they are just that – poor – and far outweighed by the phenomenal rejuvenation from having been away from the hustle and bustle.

A few weekends ago I went on a very relaxed hike that was logistically easy, yet got us to some spectacular places. Starting at the Mnweni Cultural Centre we hiked for about 5 hours, having a lazy lunch on the way, to the aptly-named “5-star Cave”. The second day we took our time up the Mnweni Pass. On top, the full splendour of the Drakensberg escarpment was revealed to us, after having hidden in the clouds the previous day. The Mponjwana Cave is nothing short of luxury. It’s protected from the wind and has epic views. But with the cliffs pretty close in front, it’s not somewhere you’d want to sleep-walk. On the third day we toddled down Rockeries Pass and back along the road to our car.

It all sounds so easy! And that’s because it is. There are a few key things one needs for such a trip. A good friend or two or three, a map, some food, and a few things to keep you warm and dry. I have a gear list on the back of my door and it helps me throw all I need together quickly without forgetting anything. First Ascent have put together something similar and it goes a little like this:

http://www.firstascent.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/DRAKENSBERG-CHECKLIST.pdf

And a little more from some of our previous trips…

In February, when we were just back from Patagonia, we were keen keep the legs walking-fit, so went for a little jaunt. Starting super early from the Cathedral Peak Hotel on a Saturday morning we had packed light and cruised up Cathedral Peak in a few hours, along the Bell Traverse and stayed in Twins Cave. Up early again, we toddled along the top at a fine pace and made Cleft Peak by 9am, down the Camel’s Hump near Organ Pipes and back to the car by lunch. It was kind-of cool to be back in Joburg by sunset.

Last August, four of us tried to go ice climbing at Giants Castle. Unfortunately it snowed a lot just before we went (the N3 was closed up until the morning we drove down), and this made progress a little slow. The first day we only made it to the contour path at the base of the Giants pass as breaking trail had taken much longer than expected. The following day the actual pass was pretty straight forward aided by hard snow and crampons, and the top was a winter wonderland. Our ice climbing abruptly ended when the wind picked up. Somehow we put up tents and went to bed with no dinner. After a long night of no sleep, we packed our broken tent and fought the wind back to a sheltered cave at the top of the pass where we drank tea and dried out. I would avoid the being on the top of the Drakensberg when it’s windy (understatement of the century) but it made for some great pics

Remember: take only photographs and leave only footprints. No soap or shampoo, and leave no rubbish or toilet paper (a double zip-lock bag works well for taking it home and maintaining a clean conscience).

The 25th Rhodes Trail Run

01 September 2013

The 25th Rhodes Trail Run

Written by: Su Don -Wauchope

 

The course is spectacular with a mix of road and trails, ups, downs and awesome scenery. There is a long waiting list of runners hoping for a spot amongst the 300 or so athletes on the start line. Luckily for us, First Ascent as race sponsors had a few Wild Card entries which Iain and I snapped up as soon as they were offered to us. Iain was the defending champion from 2012 and, not only wanted to defend his title, but also have an opportunity to race the full course as the 2012 event was short coursed due to heavy snowfalls.

We were blessed with a “warm start” and very good conditions for Rhodes; about 3°C, dry, sunny, snow-free roads and shallow river crossings. We both opted for conservative starts along the roads out of Rhodes with Iain easing his way to the front up the long climb towards the first water station at Kloppershoek. From here Iain ran side-by-side with Sydney Speelman, a local Barkley East runner, to Mavis Bank check point. Unfortunately, Sydney did not have the necessary compulsory equipment and was forced to sit out the one hour time penalty at Mavis Bank farm. Iain continued alone up the kloof and the infamous Mavis bank, thus winning the King of the Kloof title. Iain then settled down into a comfortable pace extending his lead consistently over the next 30-odd kilometres and enjoying the scenery and landscape he had all to himself. While his time up the Kloof was not the fastest in the race’s history, he did set the fastest time to Hoogenoeg Ridge and he comfortably set a new course record by 16 minutes.

I, on the other hand, was a little less disciplined and got overexcited charging up the sheep paths in the kloofing section and power walking my way to the top of Mavis Bank in 4th position overall and breaking the Queen of the Kloof record by about 8 minutes. I also set a new best time to Hoogenoeg Ridge. Towards the end of the race I ran out of legs and was passed at the last water station, 9km from the end. Nevertheless, I still managed to finish inside of the old course record and was greeted by an ecstatic Evie Raubenheimer who I think had been anxiously clock watching on my behalf.

If you are not the proud owner of a Rhodes Snowflake number and are not on the waiting list, I’d strongly recommend that you get your name down and enjoy sipping sherry in the queue at race registration, the hospitality of the residents of Rhodes to dealing with the extreme weather conditions of a race that heads up onto the Drakensberg escarpment in mid-Winter. This race has the perfect blend of old school charm and the unique ability to bring together hardened road runners and trail runners.

The Don-Wauchope’s Rhodes Run packing list.
We are constantly asked what we have packed, what we are running in, what we are eating, what time we go to the toilet, the list goes on. So here are our “pearls of wisdom”:

Su:
1. Don’t necessarily take or wear as little clothing as Iain does. He runs the entire way and moves at a faster pace than the rest of us. If you are going to stop to take some photos, wait for a friend, soak up the scenery or just take a break you get very cold very quickly; you need to be warm and it is likely you will need more gear than Iain!

2. Base layers are all important. We both ran in the First Ascent Derma-Tec Seamless Top. No matter how cold or warm the weather on race day, this would have been our base layer. It is the perfect addition to your running wardrobe.

3. Iain also wore the First Ascent Men’s Switchblade Short Sleeve over his base layer to provide a little extra warmth and protection on his chest and a pair of First Ascent AR-X shorts.

4. I wore the First Ascent Ladies Expresso Tee over my base layer and my favourite First Ascent ¾ length Ladies Glide Tights. It is great to have your legs covered with some protection when negotiating spikey bushes and thorny brambles that are found along the way and the Glide tights offered ample protection.

5. Hydration is very important and we both love our Nathan hydration packs. Very comfortably to run in with pockets for snacks and space for compulsory gear. We took along the First Ascent neoprene hose so that if the weather had been cold we wouldn’t have had a problem with our water freezing in the tube of our hydration pack.

6. First Ascent Apple Jackets were packed in our Nathan hydration packs in case of colder conditions. These would have offered adequate protection on a “normal” Rhodes Run day. These jackets are extremely light making them perfect as a “windbreaker” in terms of compulsory gear at any event.

7. Happy feet = happy trail runners. Iain and I both race and train in First Ascent’s double layer socks, I slipped on a brand new pair of Innov-8 Gore Tex shoes and never had even an inkling of a blister. These double layer socks are the bomb.

8. We had additional gear if the weather had been more extreme including: First Ascent Dry-Lite Jackets, First Ascent Powerstretch tights and the First Ascent Soft Shell earmuff. We took along two pairs of gloves (the thermal liner glove and the Soft Shell Glove) to Rhodes based on the principle that layers is warmer than one thick item and more versatile.