To the Mountains I Go

First thing I have to say is that. The mountains are like living beings that are constantly changing, growing and one can never take and not give back to the Glory that one basks in while in the Mountains.

To the Mountains I go. On the  1st of July, I got a call from a long time friend (Dave) wanting to know if I interested in going up to go up the Southern Drakensberg for 4th and 5th July as he was going to attend an Honorary Officers meeting in Underberg. Who would say no to such an awesome offer? So I hitched a lift to Cobham Wilderness area in the Southern Drakensberg with the plan of doing two runs, a 25km to 30km and a 15km to 20km on Wednesday morning and on Thursday morning.

Wednesday’s run consisted of starting at Cobham main office after arriving and heading up to Lakes cave. The route went via the Giants cup trail to the smuggler’s route from just above Tortoise Rocks to eSiphongweni, the  Titty and The Policeman and past the dried up lakes (Tarns) above Lakes Cave. It was amazing and very technical to run the routes that I have only done on overnight Hikes. The First climb was up to Tortoise Rocks and then the fun began as the beautiful manicured Hiking Trails fell away to rough and tufty smugglers and Buck paths all the way to Lakes cave 9km. It was Brutal I am surprised that I did not sprain any of my ankles but muscles around them took a lot of strain. I had some of the most beautiful winter views of the escarpment as t had just rained recently the air was fairly clear of winter smoke.

View of the Escarpment from the top of the Titty

The rest of the run was less fruitful as I was now running in Hiking paths that are full of hidden obstacles in amongst thick grass. The obstacles include Rocks, Snakes and anti-erosion barriers that can cause one while running to become a superhero for a split second. After a few crashes, I decided that I was to run facing the ground for the next 3km until I was back at camp which ended up being 27km of tough technical trail.

Thursdays Trail run was slightly shorter and a hell of a lot colder as I started running in -4°C and I was frozen, but it was totally worth it, starting early as there was a large herd of Eland in the valley grazing in the lower Veld. The route that I took to Indlovini Dome was along the Giants cup trail to Sani Pass. Once I got to the spur that led to the top of the Dome it was time for up up and away with 2km to the top and 400m elevation gain. The climb was worth every drop of sweat. The view, Breathtaking, as there were heavy fires on Wednesday night so the smoke from the cold was hanging low in the Sani Pass Valley like a wispy blanket shrouding the burn. After a while indulging the view it was time to head down the escarpment side of Indlovini dome amongst the ashes of the fire that tore through the landscape. I headed down into Emerald Stream Valley close to Pinnacle Rock, once I was in the valley the temperature dropped and I noticed that the stream had a thick a layer of ice on top of it as it meanders its way down towards the Polela tiver. The final 3km was fast flowing single track and in total the distance was 16km of amazing hard trail.

The Sani valley shrouded in smoke

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Why Do I Run

 

“Running is Freedom and Freedom is Life.”- David van der Veen

When people ask me why do I run the response that usually follows, “I run because of the freedom that running gives you. There is nothing that compares with the high you get after compleating a gruelling and exhilarating  challenge accompanied with the satisfaction of being Free.”

I started Trail running two years ago with the Spur Trail Series in KwaZulu-Natal, from then the running bug took hold fast, as many runners know. It has now morphed into a passion and a dream that will consist of pain, suffering and joy for the love of this amazing and challenging sport known as Trail running.

My First Trail marathon was Drakensberg Northern Trail 40km last year.

It is an amazing race. The conditions were wet, cold and thick with mist. DNT was one of the best introductions I could have had to the Ultrarunning community, just because of the difficulty and the beauty of running in those conditions and the feeling of pure joy and happiness after crossing that finish line.

My first trail marathon Drakensberg Northern Trail

My first Ultra Trail was Umgeni River Run 50km last year.

Umgeni River Run was part of the Karkloof 100 miler training camp, the training camp consisted of running 30km on Saturday on some of the most beautiful flowing trails in Karkloof area. The second day on Sunday was on the challenging hills and bushveld of the pristine Umgeni River run.  It was an 80km weekend of tough but exhilarating running with some of the best people.

Umgani River Run 50km running into the finish

I have compleated five trail marathons, two ultras in the last two years and many 20km races. It has been an amazing journey with bold, sweat and tears.

In my journey so far as an Ultra Trail runner I have compleated the following races, they have brought the best out of me and have seen me at my worst. I have made lifelong friends and have met amazing and talented people along the way.

2017

Drakensberg Northern Trail 40km, Mnweni Marathon 38km, 1000 Hills Challange 38km, Umgeni River Run 50km and Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge 50km.

2018

Drakensberg Northern Trail 40km and Mnweni Marathon 38km

I have run in nearly every condition thinkable and worst was in one spectacularly dangerous self-navigated trail marathon called Mnweni. Mnweni is one of those bucket list races and where once the entries open it is sold out. On my first Mnweni Marathon there was snow predicted, but what we got was beyond expectation. The route is mainly technical single track with the start and finish on a dirt road. The single track is rocky and full of shale, in places on the route, there are a few clambers in sections. The weather at the start of the race was a light drizzle and as we made our way into the mountains it started to hail. Then the hail then became sleet and the sleet became snow as we hit the snow line. While ascending Mnweni pass we were hit with howling winds that morphed themselves into a full out blizzard. Once finally at the top of the escarpment the weather then turned for the worst into an absolute whiteout, you could not see a thing. after struggling for 2km in knee deep snow and in whiteout conditions we came upon Rockeries pass.  Then and there the sun came out in all its glory and with it the heat.  This truly was an eye-opener for me to have had every season in the space of 7hrs and 38km with the elevation gain of about 2300m in one race.

At the bottom of Mnweni pass

My Goals for the sport are as follows,

Become a top 100 miler ultra trail runner, run for my country, participate in the trail world champs, Run Barkley marathon, run in most and or all of the top Ultra trails in the world and finally spread the love of the sport where ever I go. With the help from my coach (Neville Beeton) and hard work I will one day achieve these goals and many more.

The Build-up to Drakensberg Northern Trail (DNT)

Wow, it is another year and DNT is upon me once again! What can I say?

Drakensberg Northern Trail 2017 is the first ever marathon I have ever completed and one of the hardest races I have ever attempted and completed. For those who are interested… ..Drakensberg Northern Trail is the first race in the Skyrun Series.

Now on to a post-mortem of last years race…

Last year’s DNT was an emotional race for me. Not only was it my first marathon and Skyrun, but it was cold, wet and misty at the start.  As far as idea race conditions go, the weather was perfect for speed as you did not have to re-hydrate and your body stays cooler for longer.

The only problem with the weather was that it made the rock faces that we had to ascend slippery and treacherous.  Unfortunately, within the first 10km, I slipped on a wet rock and fell hard.

Consequently, I had two choices: either call the race or push through and complete the race. Fortunately, one of the top Skyrunners in South Africa, Bruce Arnett decided to stop and see if I was okay and told me to push through it.

Furthermore, Bruce and I decided to run the race together and he mentored me throughout the race. What was a painful and disastrous start, turned out into an amazing experience running with a legend in the Skyrunning community.

The tactics and lessons I learnt from him that day have stayed with me to this day. And as I look back after nearly 1 year I still can’t believe we could chat and run through some of the wet, rocky switchbacks in those conditions and not break any bones or injure ourselves for over 30km of technical trail.

Bruce in the front and I’m just behind

As I finish off, there is one thing for me to say, and that is: “DNT I am coming for you, and I will conquer you!”