After the technical vagaries of the Silvermine course, I must confess, I was looking forward to the second race in the Cape Summer Series in Grabouw, which judging by the route profile was a slightly “gentler” course than its predecessor.
This time around I also had company, with my regular running partner “Mike” (he still doesn’t want his real name used), recent trail inductee Ryan – who despite arriving for runs with an assortment of excuses ranging from a hangover to a dodgy burger, continues to punish all of us – work colleague “Beans”, and my AfricanX partner, Roberto.
The company would prove helpful in Grabouw and illustrated that while running may be considered an individual sport, it is seldom better to go it alone.
With Roberto coming back from injury, we decided to split up from the start, leaving myself, Mike, Ryan and Beans to shoot out of the start at a decent pace. Knowing that the first 5.5km of the course was dominated by hills, we held back. A raggedly breathing Ryan complained about a lack of sleep and poor dinner choice the night before and claimed he had never felt weaker, while Beans – despite seldom training – was keeping pace manfully.
Mike and I, who are around the same pace and fitness, led the way up the hills (how times have changed), declaring that we would rather take it slow and save our legs for the downhill. The rest of our group coughed out an affirmative and we had our game-plan in place.
Replacing rocks with trees
I have always loved the Grabouw area, ever since I took part in an off-road triathlon about five years ago, and I could not wait to enter the Lebanon forest for the promised single-track.
While race one in Silvermine will be remembered for some punishing, technical single-track downhill sections, race two – for me at least – will stand out for a spectacularly fast downhill track through the forest. After a tough climb, the shade from the trees was a welcome reprieve and it was here that our merry band split up.
Ryan, as we expected, seemed to have forgotten about his rough night and sped down the trail, his legs a flurry of movement as he opened up a gap with ease – within about two minutes, we had lost sight of him and the next time we saw him he was lounging around at the finish line.
Mike, Beans and I kept pace with one another, but Beans hit a bit of a wall on a sneaky little climb thrown at us, and dropped back at around the 7km mark. Mike and I decided to finish together at that point, alarmingly something we had never actually managed in a race.
Mike, you see, generally smokes me at the halfway mark, leaving me to my own devices.
Finding our stride
I have known Mike since we were six, so it’s fair to say we have a pretty good understanding and it came into play on the downhill as we opted to stretch our legs and try and hit a good time.
Matching each other stride for stride, we burst out of the forest into the heat – Grabouw must have been cooking by lunch time – and continued to pick up the pace. All that training in December finally paid off as we began to pass a fair number of other runners in the pack, and for the first time since I began my foray into trail running, we sped past some of the competitors in the short race.
There are few better feelings than hitting your stride in a run and Mike and I were both in high spirits by the time we hit the bottom of the short hill that marked the final 50 or so metres of the course.
We crossed in 58th and 59th place, with a time of around 1:18, which smashed my prediction of 1:30 before the race. Ryan, who stopped to dispose of his dodgy burger, had come in two minutes earlier with Beans a few minutes after Mike and me.
We all seemed pretty happy with those times and with the exception of Beans – work commitments – are all set to line up for race number three in Silvermine West.
- For more on the Cape Summer Series, visit their website HERE