Cell C AfricanX Trailrun presented by ASICS – Stage 1: Cool Weather, Hot Racing ~ By Jan Ham

Photo Credit:  Tobias Ginsberg

As the doors for supper opened last night, so did the heavens with a much needed down pour for the region. It did however not boast for a tremendously comfortable night’s rest, as in the past I have had an incident or to waking up soaked in the middle of the night.

I woke up a couple of times to the splitter splatter sound of raindrops falling down and the occasional gale flapping the tent sides, but eventually awoke this morning pretty much dry.

What the rain did bring was cool weather and excellent underfoot conditions, bar 1 or 2 wet patches and streams to cross, but not the red dust one would expect after a very dry summer.

So at 8am Stage 1 of the Cell C AfricanX Trailrun presented by ASICS started, and immediately is was the racing snakes quartet of Robert Le Brun, John McInroy, Damian Hewitt and Nicola Collins setting the pace upfront, albeit for a mere 200-300 metres. Then the real speedsters took over with Edwin Sesipi and Givemore Mudzinganayama eventually taking the 36km stage win in 02:31:42.

Now in the past adrenaline has kicked in and we have started to fast, eventually paying the price later in the stage, and with Cole being really strong at the moment I had a lot of work to do to keep him reigned in a bit. So we settled in for a more sedated pace, enjoying the first few kilometres and the route changes brought in this year.

All went relatively smoothly through the first few water points at 8km/15km/22km with Cole doing the necessary stops and I continued through after a quick splash of water. It wouldn’t take him long to catch up again, at times I thought he ran straight through as he was on me again in a flash.

The cooler weather made for easy running, the change in route direction made for interesting conversation (or less swearing than previous years as some big climbs on tired legs were now downhills on relatively fresh ones).

But all good things eventually come to an end, and it would for me soon after the final water station at 29km. The legs started to feel heavy, but I continued at a slow trot with Cole constantly giving words of encouragement every time he returned from his hills repeats, or so it felt as he would just drop me like a fly on the climbs.

The last 5 or so kilometres were familiar territory so I knew exactly what lay ahead.  One last climb would eventually bring one onto the single track switchbacks heading down to the finish line at Houw Hoek, and I got a second wind just as I went over the crux of the climb, bolting down towards the forest. That lasted all but 100m as a hamstring cramp brought me to an immediate halt. A quick stretch and I would soldier on, now having to try and catch the team we just dropped when I bolted down the hill.

Luckily we caught up again on the single track and sailed past. To be honest, one of those team members, André-Hugo van Zyl, just completed the ADDO 100miler two weeks ago, so his sore legs could be excused.

Eventually we crossed the finish line in about 3:30;17, Cole looking ready to start Stage 2, myself slightly broken but alive and ready to fight another day.

See you all at the start line in the morning!

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