Ultra-trail Cape Town has already established itself as a bucket list race for ultra trail runners, combining a range of beautiful Mother City sights with the rugged technical terrain of Table Mountain. There are four events: 100km, 65km, 35km, and for the first time in 2018 there is a 21km route. And since its inclusion in the Ultra-trail World Tour, this event is attracting some of the top international elite runners, with over 300 international entries confirmed for December.
We asked some Cape Town based athletes to share their advice for managing the different UTCT routes on race day, and the consistent message across the three greater distances is the same: Pace yourself and don’t go too hard up Platteklip Gorge!
Ultra endurance runner Ryan Sandes came second to Prodigal Khumalo in the 100km UTCT last year, with both of them smashing the previous 2014 record. For tackling the 100km distance, Ryan suggests: “Mentally, break the race down into lots of mini-goals and bite-sized chunks, getting from one check-point to the next. A key section for me is from the start to the first major checkpoint at the bottom of Kloof Nek, and then the next one is at Llandudno, then Hout Bay, then Constantia and then UCT. I find that really helps. If you’re really battling at one stage of the race, at least when you get to that aid-station you can almost put the whole section behind you, and you’re “starting afresh.” It just helps to make it more achievable,” he says.
Meg Mackenzie is a trail runner and coach at The Run Project, and recently placed 10th in the prestigious Salomon Golden Trail Series. When asked what advice she would give the 65km runners, she said: “Really hold back in the beginning. The more chilled you feel in the first 20kms the better your race will go! 65km is a long way and there’s always time to catch up. Take Platteklip like a relaxed hike, if you feel good after that you can start to open up. Don’t get caught up in chaos of the race start, if you spike your heart rate early on it’s extremely difficult to come back from that. With a race of this distance you want your body to click into fat burning mode early on, ie under aerobic threshold pace. There’s a lot of climbing in the first 20kms so take that easy and use it to fuel for later. Also, be a bit careful on the downhills; if you run too fast too early on you might find your legs become really heavy or cramp from all the loading. If you can still feel strong by the time you get to Constantia, you’re golden!”
Another local trail-running star, Kane Reilly, recommends that for the 35km: “Firstly I would say approach Platteklip very strategically. Unless you’re very conditioned to climbing very hard early on in a race, I would resist the temptation of going too fast on Platteklip, keeping in mind that the last climb going up to the Blockhouse is super tough and it’s normally pretty late in the day and warm, given the time of year. You really need to focus on nutrition, a lot more than maybe for some other races of that distance, just because the end part is pretty tough. That final climb up to the Blockhouse is gnarly, and it’s a lot harder than it looks on the route profile.”
We also spoke to Fareed Behaardien, “Leave the Couch” blogger and trail addict, who has previously done the 65km event and will this year tackle the 21km: “UTCT is one of those special events that you just have to be a part of. The 21km route provides a less daunting transition into the more hard-core mountain running races, for enthusiasts who were put off by the long distances. Don’t be fooled though, it isn’t going to be a simple walk in the park.
“It’s a race of two halves, a seemingly gentle start, but the true test will be how well you can power up Newlands Ravine and get your jelly-legs back for the final descent,” he says.
The Ultra-trail Cape Town 100km, 65km and 35km take place on Saturday 1 December and the 21km is on Sunday 2 December 2018. For more information on the races and routes, and how to support runners, visit www.ultratrailcapetown.com