Stage 1 of Fairview Dryland Traverse. 26.5km. 1000m ascent. Over the Swartberg Mountain. Not your typical Friday morning. We got woken up by Mr Carel Bezuidenhoudt over the mic around 6am. After a rather successful prologue I felt confident, although nervous. Boots on I slowly made my way to the bathroom to get race gear on. Then it was breakfast time. Big plate of scrambled eggs and a banana for me, oats eggs and a banana for team mate Frank Smuts. Then it was a scramble to get our race nutrition ready and hop in the shuttles which took us to Old Pine Plantation, our start line for the day.
Naturally with 1000m ascent for the day you would have an idea what to expect. What I expected and reality were polar opposites. Starting with a 5km climb, and a steep climb, saw me walking already. Not something I would ever be proud of but with tight Achilles and no desire to be injured, walking it was. Thankfully Frank was patient with me throughout all my walking episodes. Team running is actually quite tough, you have to be willing to carry your team mate through the pain and suffering. And by this I mean mentally.
Having not trained for this event, and as a roadie, I accepted the passing people and knew that I was giving my best under the circumstances. I thought that if I could just get over this hill, the rest of the day would be less of a pain cave. Boy was I wrong.
The upside was, I could take in some of the scenery and even take a few snaps along the way, turning a negative into a positive. Water table one followed. Stocked with everything a runner could dream of. 32gi bars and energy drinks, droewors, Bar One chocolates. Then off we were again. Oh what a lovely surprise awaited us. A few more kilometers of hills. This is where the humour was lost and reality sunk in that today would be rough. Luckily the trail running fraternity are an amazing bunch. We are all overcoming the exact same obstacles and the support along the way is humbling. I was even offered a disprin to ease my Achilles. However having never run on any painkillers before I did not want to test it at this stage. So my walk run strategy was applied again. I took a little stumble uphill due to lazy leg turnover. Luckily it was on soft sand, this is when I knew I had to concentrate a little more.
We then hit the downhill, a whole next level scenario. Having suffered a knee injury beginning of year I was taking it really slowly however started feeling my knee niggle from almost the beginning of the descent. Being more of a road runner, I am not used to the looseness under my feet. A lot of braking was done, at the same time a few other competitors passed me which was ok, even for my very competitive side. I am really just happy to experience this event. According to top trail runner Iain Don Wauchope, multiple winner of amoungst others the Salomon Sky Run, the descents today get a 90/100 technical difficulty rating due to the looseness of the terrain which in essence made me feel ok since Team EverFit came well in the top half of the competitors today.
Last 4km found us mixed with a great bunch all with the same mentality. Get to the finish. Get to the bar. Get our feet up. And that is what we did.
With an ice cold Savannah Dry in my hand, I think back on the day. The troubles I faced seems like a blur because being surrounded by all the other athletes who faced the same obstacles yet are smiling and laughing brings you down to earth. You were not the only one cursing your way over the rocks, you were not the only one in the pain cave and the experience is what we do this for.
Tomorrow we face stage 2, another day out. But for now, we sit back, wait for my 5pm massage (which was so generously donated to me by our fellow camp site buddy) and enjoy the Dryland vibes.