African not-so Xtreme

It’s taken a lot of convincing on the part of Trail&Techno James, architect of GoTrail., to get me blogging. I’ve resisted for ages – after all, who ever reads these things, I asked him, who has time to read someone’s waffles about their day, their traffic moans, who they think will win the soccer, and so on. But James can nag well. And here I am, writing my first blog. A scary thought, at first, but then, by my own protestations, no one reads these things anyway so I shouldn’t worry.

In my blog I won’t be whingeing about traffic, politics, economics or how sweet little Johnny’s first day at nursery school was. I’m here to talk about trail running – my thoughts, muses, and really anything about everything to do with trail running. Like so many of us, trail running is my passion – I love it, I want to run trails forever. Right, enough rambling, I promised not to waffle. That’s the only rule.

I’ve just come back from competing in AfricanX, the three-day trail run set in the mountains around Kleinmond. Today should be Day 3 of the race. Today was the day that my partner, Tatum Prins, and I had planned to put the finishing touches to our strategy and win the Open Ladies category. But alas, Day 3 didn’t happen. Instead the weather gods moved in and took charge. In the early hours of this morning, a predicted storm lashed the Western Cape and convinced the race organisers that, for safety’s sake, the race should be called off. At 6am everyone was up and getting ready, pulling on their warmest technical gear and preparing for what we trail runners do, when the SMS came through: the final day was cancelled, the race was over, and prizegiving will take place in CT in two weeks time. It must have been a difficult call for the organisers to make. After all, they’d put so much time and effort into the planning and execution of the race, they had doubled last year’s field, and all had gone well so far. And then this, something quite out of their control. They’d made the call, the race was off. But nature plays nasty tricks: within the hour, the rain softened, the wind eased off and the sky cleared to overcast. The race, which at been due to start at 8am, could’ve actually gone ahead as planned.

There’re many disappointed trail runners in the Western Cape today. So many have unfinished business with the race. Some were contending for top spots in the categories, and needed today to pull out all the stops and clinch their positions. Many were excited to be completing their first stage race. Others had demons lurking from last year’s race that they needed to conquer. Many had been holding back, waiting to give the final day horns. For all of us, whether relieved or restless, there is disappointment – we didn’t finish our race... our African not-so “Xtreme”.

I suppose I have to say it: isn’t running in all conditions exactly what trail running is about? Battling the elements is a large part of our sport, and hey, if we’re not tough enough to handle rain and wind, we shouldn’t be calling ourselves trail runners.

And so the event is over, but the race is unfinished. Tatum & I feel we won our category without crossing the finish line. We can't help but wonder if we'd still have won if we'd run today's leg, or might we have been pipped at the post by yesterday’s chasers? I guess that's something we’ll never know.

Ryan & Cas had just 60 secs to make up to put them just ahead of their rivals, which would've placed them 2nd overall. Again, unfinished business.

All those runners with demons from last year's race will have to keep them in check for another 12 months. And let’s hope that in 2011 we can come back and all achieve our goals, come rain, sleet or snow.

That’s me for now. Happy trailing!

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