"We need to kill the hill and then it’s all downhill after that. It’s a piece of piss, trust me," I told Mike just minutes before the start of the final race in the Cape Winter Trail Series in Kleinmond.
I really have to stop setting myself up for failure.
The words rang heavy in my ears as I laboured up the "hill", my quads screaming in agony as my back "twinge" turned into a full-blown "tweak". It occurred to me that talking about killing the hill and actually doing it were very different prospects.
I chose to forgo carrying a hydration pack again, something I was beginning to regret as Mike – who had wisely held onto his own pack – began to open up a gap on the climb, taking the precious commodity of water with him.
It did occur to me that he was perhaps a little upset with my taunts in the last race report, but I dismissed that as paranoia, courtesy of a sleepless night brought on by my son’s latest bout of teething. Yet it continued to nag at me as Mike (now forever known as "Iron Mike") powered on relentlessly with his new best mate Ian…
As I summited the hill, I took a moment to take in the view, the Kogelberg Biosphere Nature Reserve in Kleinmond stretched out below us, and at the risk of sounding schmaltzy, it reminded me of why I continue to drag myself out of bed before sun-up every weekend to take part in these races.
Honestly, I can’t think of a better start to my day.
Mike, of course, was nowhere to be seen and I consigned myself to the fact that I would be running alone for the remainder of the race… again. I spotted another mate not long after I began the descent, but when he bolted up the hill searching for a tree, I decided to steer clear. I think he wanted some privacy anyway…
The first two races I took part in didn’t have a lot of single-track and I was expecting much the same in Kleinmond, but I should know better having run the area a couple of times before. The descent was not as fast as I expected, with jutting rocks and narrow corners making up the bulk of it, and ensuring that I had to stay switched on all the way down.
So no thundering downhill for me in Kleinmond I’m afraid.
I have been told before that you should try and throw caution to the wind on technical sections as you are less likely to come a cropper if you back yourself, but to be honest I’m not there yet. Sure, I might still fall on my face as I shimmy down the track like a pensioner with two dodgy hips, but I can guarantee that when I do it won’t hurt as much.
And anyway, I have tripped over my own feet on a section of jeep track as wide as a highway, so what chance do I have on a single-track descent?
The descent was tricky, but well worth it. You can’t be challenged if it’s easy right? And the fourth race in the series was definitely the toughest of them all. A little less climbing, but the technical aspects definitely made up for that, which in my mind was a good thing.
At around 10km, the single track fell away and opened into the suburbs of Kleinmond, the tar road giving my aching shins some relief, before we broke a left onto the wooden boardwalks running alongside the beach, which I remembered from the Africa X earlier this year.
It was at around 12km that my body officially ran out of juice, but I had been on autopilot for the past three anyway. As I wound my way around the final kilometre and surged into the finishing chute I found a beaming Mike, flanked by his wife and sisters-in-law, patiently waiting for me.
It’s funny how the pain always leaves you the moment you cross the line isn’t it?
The Summer Series can’t start soon enough!
For more information on the Cape Winter Trail Series and Summer Series, visit the website.