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October 27, 2014

Ultra Trail Cape Town

“Have a great run gents”

We are at Constantia Nek, about 28km into the run and everything is going so so smoothly. I am running with Raynard Tissink and Eric Ngubane who are doing the 100km, but we have dropped the rest of the field and in my mind, have done so quite easily.

I feel fresh, my stride rate it good and my nutrition is 100%. I bid them farewell as our paths separate. I have a simple plan for the road ahead – run smooth through Constantia, Cecilia and Newlands and give it the beans up the hill to the Blockhouse and my favourite contour to the back of Platteklip, then an easy cruise down the hill home.

As I am descending into Constantia down a steep dirt road, a sharp pain comes from my right knee. It’s a pain I know. It’s the same pain that kept me from running in November, December and January this year. I worked bloody hard to get rid of the alignment issues, strengthen the weakened areas and work at my balance.

“F*&*&^%&^$^%$*)(*& *&^%^%$$%£^(*&)(* ^%&^$^%”

I had not felt this pain since February. In my long runs up till 40km, no pain.

“It’ll go” is all I can say to myself. I convince myself.

“Just the concrete road down from the dams that hurt it” is another comment that crosses my mind.

I can beat this.

“F^%^%$£”

It’s not good.

Out through the aid station at 31km and I am struggling to run downhill without losing control of my right leg. So quickly, so cruelly, my day has changed.

I stretch what I can, but I know its neural. I thought we got to the root of this thing, but here it is, like a slap in the face, while leading the race.

The steep downhills of Constantia Glen / Groot Constantia reduce me to a walk. It’s a sharp, powerful pain. More so, the voices in my head are screaming now.

32km. Stretch. Suffer through the next 1000m.

33km. Stretch. Suffer through the next 1000m.

“It will come right”

“There aren’t many downhills after this.”

I take a pain killer. I hate doing this, but I am desperate. I make a deal with myself though, that if it doesn’t ease in the next 20min, I need to pull out. My pursuer is not closing yet.

It’s a long 20min. I stretch a half-dozen more times, but the foot is locking up now and the hip is seizing too.

“&*^&^%&^%)*()”

In 45min, I have gone from full control to full downward spiral, rolling towards a DNF like a freight train out of control. A million fights go on with myself, by myself, to myself, with myself. It’s BROmotional.

Quitting is such a horrible thing.

Yet, at 39km, I am looking for the next piece of tarmac to sit under a tree and make the call. I figure at least Uber can find me there. As I stop, the eventual winner of the day comes by, offering me magnesium. What a gesture. I tell him I am ok, that my day is over.

I stop my watch, remove my backpack, and sms the wife to tell her I have pulled the pin.

I am gutted. Utterly, totally gutted. My muscles feel fresh, my mind is awake and I am reeling to go and yet, my injury is back.

It’s a long 15minutes for the Uber to get there and a very long, reflective drive back.

I will be back.

+++

The day started easily, with a nice 1km stretch through town, on a clearly marked route, with a couple hundred other people running the 62km and 100km races.

The first 15km is steep, going up Signal Hill, Lions Head, Kloof Corner and Platteklip Gorge. My movement is controlled, my speed hiking faster than I expect and I feel amazing. I slowly make my way up from 10th to 1st by the middle of Platteklip, where the wind is howling so hard I have almost get blown over a few times.

The run to Maclears is leaning left and I have Mr Ray Tissink for company, with Eric up ahead, maybe 30seconds up. We keep putting time into the field, just cruising, chatting.

The weather improves, the route is well marked, and life, its great. I am euphoric.

Cape Town Ultra Trail is the business. I take photos, check my pace and life is good.

“You can win this thing today, just be controlled.”

I make the turn at Constantia Nek circle, and little do I know, its about to change.

+++

So the rehab process starts. Chiro, balance, and hopefully this time, getting to the very origin of this thing. What did I do differently in the last few weeks?

I came out of Pioneer flying, with no issues, and had a check-up this week to be 100% sure. Chiro was super happy with everything, no concerns.

What happened between Wednesday and today?

Was it overload on the quads from the downhills? Is it the repeated breaking action?

Why didn’t I pick anything up?

Maybe its time to stick to shorter events?

A million thoughts, but really the just of it is I stopped before it was debilitating. I was struggling, and knew there were some serious downhills ahead. Those would potentially do more permanent damage to me and there is really no point in that.

The grown-up decision was made, which was the most emotional one I have had to make in ages, but then again, I wrote about knowing the limits just this week.

I knew it was the right thing to do, as much as it hurt, emotionally.

+++

Ultra Trail Cape Town is an amazing initiative and I wish I could do more to get you involved next year. The idea of being able to run 100km of trail (for the insane) from our doorsteps, around our city, without much tarmac, is testament to the trails available to us out there, in this incredible city.

Follow their progress as they rebuild after the first event, towards next year. Get involved in the 17km if you are not sure, the 62km for a challenge if a marathon has been your biggest distance, and the 100km for the truly brave.

You can check out their info here to keep abreast of what is going on.

Here are some of the images from the day and the route. It was amazing, while I was going:

Race start with a flare.

Race start with a flare.

Heading up Platteklip with Raynard Tissink

Heading up Platteklip with Raynard Tissink

Views from the top were limited on the day, but this was a few weeks prior.

Views from the top were limited on the day, but this was a few weeks prior.

Heading for Constantia Nek on a clear day.

Heading for Constantia Nek on a clear day.

Top of Platteklip in the heavy mist.

Top of Platteklip in the heavy mist.

Crossing the dam wall. Ray Rissink is just ahead somewhere.

Crossing the dam wall. Ray Rissink is just ahead somewhere.

This is the trail home, which I never got to run. It's one of my absolute favourites.

This is the trail home, which I never got to run. It’s one of my absolute favourites.

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