The Cape Mohair Funky Fynbos 30km trail run
We were small group of trail runners that gathered for race briefing at the super chill Flower Valley farm. The advertised total altitude gain of 1229 was made more graphic when the race organisers pointed out the highest part of the race (Swartkransberg) towering in the distance.
They said they won’t make a big deal of the start and they didn’t. A simple let’s go and we were off.
The race started with an easy jeep track but we soon turned onto the Fynbos Trail and onto single track :-) Wise runners were seen conserving their energy by walking most of the climbs. Having studied the route profile most of us took notice of the killer climbs at the 3, 12 and most importantly the 23km mark…
The fynbos fun rapidly turned more serious when we reached the first major climb through the Baviaansfontein valley. This led us to the beautiful Grootbos milkwood forest.
After the forest we were rewarded with our first water table :-) At 7.5km (apparently) and not the 6km that was advertised. At the time we was just relieved to find out that an extra 1.5km was in the bag and also to enjoy the refreshments (Coke, water and potatoes).
We were also rewarded with a short section of relaxing jeep track, to calm the leg muscles after the first serious bit of exertion. And, just because everything comes in threes :-) we were also rewarded with our first view of the Atlantic ocean (or if you ask my friend Casper Steenkamp, the Indian ocean, but that is a debate for another day!).
Here the race organisers displayed their sense of humour. At this stage all the runners were expecting the next big climb. So the organisers proceeded to send us through a series of rolling hills, each time I was dead sure... this is it, only to be guided down the mountain again…
We finally did reach the advertised climb and yes… it was a biggie. We had to summit Swartkransberg. It was a bitter sweet moment for me. Bitter due to the steep gradient but sweet due to the fact that I finally heard my sweetheart calling in the distance. We lost each other at the start due to my photography duties and it was a happy moment when I saw her halfway up the mountain :-)
Another sweet part was the spectacular views.
The summit of the mountain was also the finish line for the “King of the mountain challenge”. I was in line for an altogether different reward. The marshal asked me, friendly but firmly, if there were any runners behind me...
The descent down Swartkransberg was quite technical. I met up with Ans-Mari halfway down. Happy place :-)
She is not that confident on the downhills so I proceeded ahead, confident that she would catch up due to my frequent photo pitstops.
At the halfway mark we reached the second water table. We were informed that this was the last water table. This was a tad disconcerting seeing that the bulk of the race was still left…
After the water point we reached Steynbos forest, a relatively gentle single track through an ancient milkwood forest. Up to this point I was feeling fairly comfortable, considering my fitness (or lack thereof) but here I started feeling that this wasn’t just a little parkrun :-|
In fact we were slowly climbing. By this stage I started to get worried about Ans-Mari. I could see quite far behind me, and she was not in sight. Due to the fact that I was unsure if there was another water point, I decided to rather wait for her (OK this is my story and I am sticking to it. This has nothing to do with anything that was mentioned in the previous paragraph ;-) . Soon she was back and so was the happy space :-)
A nice aspect of this run was the variety. After a run through fynbos we arrived at Fynbos retreat, surrounded by a small patch of forest.
At Fynbos retreat, we were also surprised and delighted to discover the third water table. To be fair to the organisers, this was stated as such on the race website.
The highlight of the race was definitely the magical Witvoetskloof forest.
After going down the wooden stairs into the forest, it’s well worth walking 5m up the kloof to the first waterfall (this is not on the route so you will sacrifice a minute or two, but it is worth it (in my humble opinion :-)
The single tracks runs through a forest that would not be out of place in the garden route or one of Tolkien’s fantasy worlds.
The second waterfall is more spectacular than the first. I would strongly recommend that you take a moment and enjoy the serenity. Have a bite to eat and fill up your water bottle. You will soon be confronted with a simple law of nature… “what comes down must go up again” and you will need all the energy you can muster!
After the waterfall we exited the cool forest canopy and were confronted by the mother of all climbs. It was simply brutal. This was the only time on the run where we really felt sorry for ourselves :-(
After slogging and stumbling up this cruel climb we finally reached the ridge. Crossing over, we were dismayed to see another path going even further up the mountain. As we continued towards the path we saw a sign. Was is 7.5km to the finish? Surely not, no it appears to be 4.5km? Happily we discovered that it was none of the above but just the indications for the cycling routes from the day before. Our route turned left and not up the steep climb (by the way, the climb might not look steep to you but I can assure you that looks can be deceiving, especially after 27km :-) !
There was a small climb left but soon we saw the race finish in the distance. As we made our way down the mountain we could hear the prize giving taking place. Taking a leisurely approach to the race had its disadvantages but if ever there was a race that should be enjoyed rather than raced, this was it. One of the most beautiful trail running routes around. If word gets out I predict that it will soon get crowded.
Thanks to the race organisers and sponsors. This race was an amazing experience and we will definitely be back next year!