Article written by our guest runner: Fareed Behardien aka leavethecouch.co.za
The popular Spur Cape Winter Trail Series kicked off last weekend at the Paul Cluver Estate with a memorable event that left first-timers (like me) and seasoned participants wanting more. Each year the number of entrants has grown and with the kind of quality that was on display, there will definitely be no slowing of this growth in the future.
I arrived early for pre-registration at the Amphitheatre since I’d missed the close of the online entries. After a quick sign-up, a short warm-up, some last minute kit checks and we were ready to go.
It’s been raining quite a bit in the Cape and as a result the start was a bit muddy, but with the great gees, pumping music and quality chirps being thrown around by the MC, I was reminded why trail races are so much more fun.
The GLB46 Ultra event started much earlier at 7:30am as these machines had to run 46kms. The Short Course followed the final batches of the Long Course at 9:20am. In the Long Course, each batch started about 2mins after the previous batch had left. This allowed for some of the faster runners to make their way past slower runners which helps tremendously when it gets to the single-track sections.
Supporters lined the first couple hundred metres along the trail making for an exciting start as we left the starting pen. As you can see from the race profile, we were in for some serious climbing for the first half, so I kept reminding myself to conserve some of that enthusiasm for the hills to come.
The first 5kms were run on relatively flat jeep track. These roads seemed to be regularly used by the staff on the Paul Cluver Estate, so it was a great opportunity to enjoy the views without worrying about any potential ankle wobbles. As we ran you could see the subtle changes in elevation leading up towards the climbs ahead.
As soon as we were in the Groenlandberg Conservancy, the real epicness started. A climb… from hell followed – DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!!! …okay I exaggerate, but it was really really tough J
This is where you will potentially run into bottlenecks of runners who may not be as strong climbers, or who started out a bit too enthusiastically. The climb lasts about 1.5kms and it is quite sandy underfoot with a few loose rocks that can slip you up. Best advice I can give you is to keep your head down and just power through – it is all worth it in the end when you reach the summit and take in all the beauty of the Paul Cluver Estate from this vantage point.
Once atop the long climb, there is a gentle descent that gives you a much needed opportunity to stretch your legs, but there are still one or two smaller hills to climb which are tough on tired legs. This brings you to the actual peak in the race at around 8kms and an epic downhill to the finish line.
The course seems to be designed to keep the heart pumping and the descent matched the massive climb pound-for-pound. The most apt description is that this was a really engaging single-track descent. Basically, look away and risk falling off the side and into the ravine…lol – so take it slow.
By this point you really want to make sure that you have passed slower runners as it is quite difficult to overtake on the downhill section.
As tricky as it is, the descent was a helluva lot of fun!
Winding down the mountain, through tall grass, over streams and past stunning rock features quickly drew you in and it all melded into a fun muddy Sunday morning adventure.
There was even a section which had a bit of an abseil past a waterfall. Helpful hint: Grad hold of the rope and don’t slip and get all muddy like I did – lol #facepalm
Past the waterfall, through the pine forest and we were back on the gravel road that would lead us to the finish.
The route had everything! Gravel, mud, great views, sandy trails, epic climbs, gnarly descents, waterfalls and forest sections. Make sure your shoes can handle all types of terrain.
My only gripe was that the last 4kms was left for us to trudge along what seemed to be a never-ending gravel road. After the highs that we just experienced, it makes tough mental work to face that long road to the finish.
I always enjoy a race where you can see the end from a distance away – it generally gives me an opportunity to take a last sip of water and wipe the suffering from my face before sprinting across the finish line like the entire race was a walk in the park…lol
Crossing the finish line and grabbing some refreshments and a few high fives brought an awesome close to a fantastic event.
If this was the first event in the series, then I can’t wait for the next event at the Tygerberg Nature Reserve.
Have you competed in the Spur Trail Series or run the Paul Cluver leg before? Share some tips on what worked for you in the comments section below.