|Stevie's finish sprint on Hout Bay beach|
For those of you who aren’t Latin boffs: she came, she (very briefly) saw, she conquered the Hout Bay Trail Challenge 2013 – in style and with a smile!
That’s Stevie Kremer through and through – an incredibly talented trail runner who makes dashing up mountains look easy, and does so barely breaking a sweat.
When I met this crazy American girl at Sierre-Zinal SkyMarathon in Switzerland last year, I told her about our great range of trail races here in South Africa. So it didn’t take much convincing to get her to squeeze a gap in her year of teaching in Italy to come to the world’s most beautiful city (my unbiased opinion) to run one of South Africa’s most favourite and most challenging 37km trail races, the Hout Bay Trail Challenge.
With wins at the Jung Frau Marathon (earning her the title of World Long Distance Mountain Running Champion 2012) and the Hermannslauf 31km in Germany, a third place at the Zegama-Aigorre in Spain, and a win and new course record at the Mont Blanc Marathon in France, Stevie is fast gathering pedigree. Snapped up by Salomon International in 2012, she is one of their most promising athletes.
Stevie landed in Cape Town on Thursday after four days of flying (New York to Munich, to Milan, to Rome, to Cairo, to Johannesburg, to Cape Town). I whisked her straight home to drop off her bags, she threw on her running kit, and we whipped her up the mountains to recce Legs 1 and 2 of the course. Any hint of jet lag was left in the mist and wind up there – conditions were foul and it was an into-the-deep-end introduction for what to expect on race day!
Anyone who’s run the Hout Bay Trail Challenge has utmost respect for this race – don’t be fooled by its “easy” distance (37.5km), the route is tough. Kilometre for kilometre, it’s the most challenging on SA’s trail calendar – not only is it technical, but the course is unmarked. And to boot, the scenery is exquisite – the route covers the mountains surrounding the valley of Hout Bay.
Starting and finishing in the Hout Bay harbour, the route covers 2 224m of ascent and, of course, the same again in descent. It has runners slogging up Karbonkelberg, around the front of Klein Leeukoppie, up Llandudno Ravine, over about seven of the Twelve Apostles, taking a right turn before the Valley of Isolation, running past Woodhead Dam, along the base of the Hely Hutchinson Dam wall, and traversing across onto the Smuts Track at Nursery Ravine. Popping onto the jeep track near the Bailiff’s hut and De Villiers dam, runners charge down to Constantia Nek, ready for the final slog – up Vlakkenberg (on race day only the polite leave the “l” in the name), onto the side of Constantiaberg (this stretch of single track makes the Vlakkenberg section worth all the effort – it’s one of the prettiest paths on the peninsula), down past the Manganese Mine to lower East Fort (nasty final click-point), and across Hout Bay beach for the final 1.5km stretch to the finish at the yacht club in the harbour.
(whew, I’m out of breath just describing all that)
The Cape winter weather strutted its stuff with all its might – from stinging downpours, sideways slamming hail and blustering winds, the runners had it all. And yet records ricocheted – AJ Calitz won the race in 4:00:21 (beating Will Robinson’s record by almost 6 mins); the mixed team winners Salomon (Christiaan Greyling, Noel Ernstzen, Landie Greyling) in 4:00:21; and Stevie had a stormer. She whipped the course into submission, smashing the women’s course record (which, importantly, was set on a 1.5km shorter course) by over 6 mins with a 4:34:55.
Congrats to the 209 finishers of the HBTC 2013 – you’re all the richer for the wonderful experience. No doubt you’ll be back in 2014 to run your personal battles with the world’s most special mountains!