The “Trail Run Virgin” Diaries / 7 ~ Stage One by Jan Ham

So less than 3 weeks ago my ProNutro AfricanX Trailrun presented by New Balance journey took an unexpected turn. Having originally teamed up with my wife, training her for the past 6 months, it all came crashing down after she picked up an injury. I do take all the blame for it as my competitive nature got the better of me and I pushed her too hard too soon.

Up to the plate steps good friend, and Karien’s boss, Will Saaiman, who only recently took up trail running. To say the man was nervously excited/amped would be an understatement, and it was clearly visible at last night’s race briefing, rubbing shoulders and meeting some of the top trail runners this country has to offer, including the likes of AJ Calitz, Thabang Madiba, Nicholas Rupanga and the list goes on. After race briefing and seeing last year’s Stage 1 race footage, he might have been even more nervous!

A quick calm the nerves night-cap saw us settling in quite early, although I think Will might have slept with his feet outside the “little” 1 man tent in the race village. Setting our alarms for a 05:30 wake-up, I could hear him restlessly tossing and turning from just after 4am, ready to get the day’s proceedings underway.

A good hearty breakfast in the Bokomo Breakfast Zone helped to settle any prerace jitters, and by the 8am start Will was good to go. We started off with what I thought was quite conservative running according to previous training runs, but we found ourselves keeping in touch with the leading ladies and mixed teams up to water point 1, even taking into account Will’s two tumbles along the way, as he really wanted to take in everything AfricanX has to offer, even the hard earth that we were running over. So bloodied, his ego slightly bruised we rolled into the first water point, and took our time before setting off on the next section to Paul Cluver Wine Estate and water point 2.

But the battered knee and quick early pace started to catch up and from around 17km’s in he started to take strain. I constantly reminded him to eat and drink.  We battled our way up some steep climbs till he eventually could not handle his “slightly” overweight pack which I offered to carry for the next few kays to rest his shoulders and back a bit. Making use of a run, walk, run strategy up the climbs we eventually strolled into the last water point at 27km, just 7km more to go!

Having refilled bottles, Will got a second wind, and my running partner was back. The last few kays of flowing singletrack saw us passing a few teams, we even managed to run strongly up the final climb before the final switchbacks down to the finish line, and a sprint finish to catch 1 more team coming in just over 3h27.

So we survived Stage 1, and what makes it even more amazing is that Will’s previous longest run was 23km on a very flat road, thus putting 10km’s on that with nearly 800m elevation gain.

Lunch, and a massage later (I was screaming like a little girl, thanks Angelo, while Will was looking like he was having a spa day) saw us head home for the night to spend some quality time with the wives and kids, after an afternoon nap of course.

Tomorrow sees us taking on another 34km from Mount Rozier Estate below Sir Lowry’s Pass to the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre, and again another longest run for Will! But slow and steady will get us there.

See you all in the morning!

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