With the 8km Prologue under our belts, we awoke the next day to face a tough 27kms of running. Ahead of us the mountain looked angry and it was clear that we would be getting rain along the route.
At 7:45am, our minibuses left De Hoek to take us to the start halfway up the Swartberg Mountain Pass. This was the most challenging day of the weekend with more than 27kms of trail, a few big climbs, some technical descents and a good dose of thunder and lightning thrown in for funzies – not sure if the race organisors planned for that last one 🙂
In the words of Carel Bezuidenhoud, our MC for the weekend, it was time to Go Big or Go Home!
The first 6kms consisted of a 4km climb along the dirt road to Die Top (yes, that’s the actual name). The rain started when I was 1km from Die Top, and it quickly got too cold to ignore forcing me to reach for my jacket. It was then a quick 2km blast down some single track towards the first water station.
From Water Station 1
The Dryland Events team know just how to feed you. Each water station was stocked with enough biltong, fudge, date balls, fruit and all the 32Gi products needed to keep you feeling like someone was holding down the nitrous button for the entire 27kms.
The remaining 20kms would be played out along the Bothashoek trail which then linked to the De Hoek trail and base camp.
Between water points 1 and 2 lay a tricky section of about 12kms which had some big climbs, awesome descents, a waterfall and some of the most stunning protea fields. The terrain also changes from tightly packed gravel roads, to sandy stretches and even technical rocky sections which were then followed by paved tracks. The Swartberg throws everything at you.
FYI: Do not disregard the compulsory equipment list. The Swartberg can be very temperamental and I witnessed this first hand. Make sure you have your medical kit, enough water and a rain jacket as a minimum.
From Water Station 2
The second water station emerged like an oasis for you to recover before the final 8km section of the course.
A one kilometre tough climb up to a crest behind the water station revealed one of the most spectacular views of the entire weekend – I would jump at the opportunity to repeat this entire stage just to witness that view again.
That final descent to De Hoek was intense. Switchback upon switchback, with enough technical rocky areas to make even the sure of foot hit the brakes hard. Your concentration and technique will be tested here.
Thankfully, I managed to join up with Ant and Caitlin (a team who I’d met that previous evening) and they allowed me to latch on and join them for the rest of the route – and boy did their banter help me get down that mountain.
A last 500m of muddy track had us slipping and sliding to the finish with big smiles on our faces. A hard day out in the mountains battling the elements, making new friends and feeling like a hero – this is trail running.
Now for that warm shower…
Have you taken part in the Fairview Dryland Traverse and lived to tell your tale? Feel free to share your comments below.