The spread of the Covid-19 virus has shoved most of us out of our realities and forced us into a situation nobody was expecting or ready for. People are running circles in their gardens and fighting to stay sane. Four weeks ago I took part in the 2020 ADDO 100 miler and the last thing I expected was to a month later sit in isolation with a whole country on tender hooks because of the biggest health crisis in recent history. When I was on the airport on the way to Port Elizabeth on the 5th of March I remember seeing a lady wearing a mask and my first thought was ‘Weirdo’. How wrong I was.
I see everywhere how people are trying to focus on the positive and with so many athletes, never mind runners, having their dreams ruined by a teeny tiny virus that caused events and even the Olympics to be postponed, I cannot quantify how extremely grateful I am to have been able to stand on the start line of ADDO 2020 and two days later finishing one of the hardest races in the event’s history. If you ask Sheena, she will tell you that I had a nightmare that the race was cancelled about five days before the event and that I woke up crying. I can’t even imagine how heartbroken so many of my friends and trail family are with UTD being cancelled and so many other events that are hanging in the balance. The whole situation makes me appreciate my ADDO experience so much more. Of course I have also really been neglecting my blog so this whole lockdown situation is a perfect opportunity to catch up and what better than with a blog about the hottest, hardest and most insane ADDO 100 miler ever.
My journey to the 2020 ADDO started more than a year ago when I ignorantly and slightly arrogantly entered for the 2019 event. It would have been my first hundred miler and as far as I was concerned I had done the training and I was ready. Something I learned from my 2019 experience is that excitement cannot be mistaken for readiness. ADDO is known as a hot place and I had done the 76km twice before in very hot conditions as well as four 250km Kalahari Augrabies Extreme marathons, so the heat did not really scare me. I was so arrogant before the start in 2019 that I told my friends Maretha and Eloff Hoffman that I would be ‘waiting’ for them at the finish, just assuming that I would finish before them. Thinking back to that I cringe and actually love how the trail gods can put you in your place if you disrespect the process as well as the trail. The three of us started the event together and after about twenty kilometres I was already completely broken. I came up with a whole bunch of reasons from the ‘Losers Book of Excuses’ why I could not carry on ranging from, ‘I am worried about my heart’, ‘I was sick three weeks ago in the Canary Islands’, ‘I will rather quit now, than 100km into the race’, ‘I have arthritis’, ‘My back hurt’, the list goes on… There was just no way my mind was ready for the beast that is a hundred miler. I was absolutely heart broken attending the buckle ceremony that Sunday, but I took it on the chin, put up a smile and took photo’s of all my friends. For weeks after ADDO I swore that the 100 mile distance was not for me and that it’s simply too far for my body. What I realised in the months after ADDO was that there was indeed a big illness in my life, but not one that I was ready to admit. It took me years but I was ready to admit that I am an alcoholic. I knew that I wanted to stop drinking but I did not know how. I didn’t see how my life would be able to carry on without alcohol until I woke up one day in August and just decided to go cold turkey and stop that exact moment. That is a story for another day, but it was in that week that I decided I would give ADDO another go and in one fell swoop the race became my biggest motivator and driving force.
Fast Forward 6 months. (I Promise I will write more about my journey with the bottle another time).
My preparation for ADDO 2020 was on a completely different level. My good friend Bennie Roux became my coach; I had moved over to a 100% plant based lifestyle, lost 13kg and trained my butt off. My aunt who I rent a garden flat from even one day said, ‘Sjoe, jy oefen darrem baie harder as laas jaar. Oordoen jy dit nie?’. The interesting thing is that even though I was working so incredibly hard I was still so worried that it wasn’t enough and that I was not going to make it. I am very glad I didn’t at that stage known what ADDO would all throw at us because I was very much not ready for it. My legs were definitely strong enough, I didn’t struggle with my feet, but a smorgasbord of issues jumped at me, and many other people on the day (two days actually) that I did not expect. I can categorically state that no matter what you do, how you prepare, how much experience you have, how strong your mind is, nothing can prepare you for how difficult the last 30km of a hundred miler is. I think if I take the most I have ever suffered (which would probably be at KAEM or Comrades) multiply it by a twenty, it still doesn’t come close to the depths you descend to at the end of a hundred miler. And that is exactly what makes it so special.
It’s very difficult to describe the excitement leading up to an event like this and I was one of those annoying people that kept saying stuff like ‘In two weeks from now.’, ‘In ten days from now’, ‘What do you think I’ll be doing next week this time?’, and now one month later I can’t believe it is over so quickly. I travelled down to Port Elizabeth with Tarrin van Niekerk who would be doing the 46km, Sandra Le Roux who is a past winner of the event and Tobie Reyneke who is the most decorated hundred mile runner in South Africa. There was no shortage of experience in our little troop. The biggest topic leading up to the event was definitely the weather and it promised to be another hot year to the dismay of many runners. I was however not unhappy about the weather because I have a lot of desert running experience. Funny enough, it wasn’t the heat that was the undoing of me, but so many other small things.
Friday the 5th of March came and the four of us jumped in our rental car to make our way to the start. As always I was in charge of music and Miriam Makeba, Heuwels Fantasties and Johnny Klegg carried us all the way to the ADDO National Park. The weather forecast was not wrong and it was very, very, VERY HOT!!
When your race briefing includes instructions about how to avoid a Hippo attack and what to do when you are faced with a leopard, your excitement which is bordering on totally manic, gets pushed into crazed. My biggest challenge in the days and final hours leading up to the race was to not waste too much energy on excitement which was really difficult and also to satisfy my constant hunger. It was as if my body knew it was going to do something crazy difficult and wanted to fuel up as much as possible for the hours to come. Myself and Sandra had a bag of food that we dragged around with us and when ever we sat down she would grab a bowl of beetroot and I had my massive pot of lentil pasta. I was munching down like my life depended on it.
I can’t really remember what exactly I got up to in the final hour before the event except take endless photo’s and fielded the ‘Are you ready?’ question a million times. I don’t know. Was I ready? I would soon find out!
Apart from being insanely hot I was very positive right from the start. Most of the runners were not over excited about the heat but I have run in those kinds of conditions many times so I was actually not completely freaking out. The first ten kilometres of the ADDO 100 is probably the easiest and most runnable of the race. Myself and Sandra had plans to run together but I saw in the first 200m that this was not going to happen and that she was on a completely different level out there in the stratosphere. Coming back from a complicated foot injury basically spanning over a year involving a Morton’s neuroma, surgery and then later a stress fracture, you could see she had a fire in her belly and was there to race. I told her after only two kilometres that she should go and ‘have fun’, knowing if I tried holding onto her skort tails that I would soon be reduced to an overheating heap of sadness. I am luckily used to running alone so was not that bothered to be on my own. My first big mental hurdle would be to get past where I quit the year before and as it was so very soon into the race it happened quick and without incident. In all honesty I didn’t spend too much time dwelling on the previous year and focussed on my plan which was to keep moving at a decent pace, not waste time at aid stations and to stay positive. The scenery as the first day got darker was just mouth-watering and being so early in the race, I still had an unshakable Birds and Butterflies attitude. Myself and Rene Volgraaf kept catching up and passing each other and every time that happened it was like getting some kind of energy infusion. She spent time at check points chilling out while stocking up and taking on fuel , where I blew through the aid stations not wanting to waste any time. I ended up making a bit of a game of it in my head to see how long it would take for Rene to catch me before the next aid station and if she would still be there when I got in. I could not really run with her, even if I wanted to, as she is actually a very fast runner. I think up to probably about 70km I was rushing through checkpoints without sitting down but then something started creeping up on me like a lion stalking its unknowing prey.
Before the race I went through a million scenarios about what could go wrong and how I would handle it. I was ready for sore legs, aching feet, blisters, bonking, injuries, nausea, gut bombs, wet feet, over heating, dehydration, pain, you name it, I had a plan. I however never knew how badly the late dark nights would catch up to me and how the sleep deprivation would turn me into a mumbling, stumbling zombie. I had run into and through the night before but for some reason this was very different. I think a possible problem which led to my down fall was that I have in recent months become a creature of very monotonous habit. I climb into my bed sometimes as early as 19h00 and most nights I am asleep long before 22h00 after watching 1.5 episodes of Forensic Files on Netflix. I am used to getting at least eight hours sleep, and most days I work in a power nap, or even a good old fashioned long nap for good measure. I also drink tons of coffee, sometimes even right before bed so caffeine doesn’t really have an effect on me. These two small things, I am convinced led to my downfall. Not my legs, my fitness, my feet or my nutrition. The fact that when the sun sets, I turn into a zombie.
I am also very clear on my memories of check points up to about check point five but after that it all becomes a big old blur. Before the race a number of people including Frikkie Pienaar told me running at night in ADDO was ‘fantastic’ and ‘wonderful’. I can categorically state that I disagree with this. I was not that crazy about it. My light gave me some kind of strange motion sickness and I ended up taking breaks every now and again switching it off and just sitting down in the dark to give my eyes a break. Taking breaks in the dark is all well and good unless you forget about the lurking jackals. At the race briefing Sian tells us that if you come across these jackals, not to worry if they follow you, and to just carry on, on your way. It was during one of these breaks when I was kneeling down, I thought to just maybe switch my light on and look around me that I saw a very nice jackal probably fifteen metres away checking me out. After this I decided to rather not take breaks where I switched my light off kneeling down all alone. I did not want to end up with a Jackal hanging onto my heels.
My resolve of not sitting down at check points crumbled somewhere between 70 and 80km and I’m not sure exactly which check point it was but I sat down on a chair with a few marmite sandwiches and it felt like the biggest gift I had ever received. Even though it was just a camp chair, it felt like I had put my ass down in the most comfortable lazy boy on the planet. I think it was somewhere around three in the morning and I was tired, in a bad mood and the sleepiest I have ever been. Stanley Reed came through the checkpoint, gave me one look and gifted me one of his caffeine shots. I think when he saw me falling asleep with a half-eaten marmite sandwich falling out of my mouth he knew I needed help. I remember falling asleep with the bread in my mouth thinking chewing is just too much trouble. Writing this I realise that there must have been some kind of mental problem going on because the furthest I had ever gone before the ADDO 100 was 90km. All three times I ran 90km, it ended before 19h00 in the evening and here I was sitting in the early hours of the morning just over halfway into the toughest race of my life and I was so tired I couldn’t even chew a sandwich. The birds and butterfly attitude I had as the sun was setting a mere nine hours earlier had turned into a Werewolves and Bats kind of feeling, but honestly I was actually too tired to care. I just knew I would carry on and quitting was not an option. After actually finishing my sandwich, legend Tobie Reyneke and Rianna Henning came into the aid station. I knew they would be the perfect pair to team up with, as I really needed some positive vibes going into the second day.
Leaving the aid station we had the biggest river crossing of the race and I came out the other side completely frozen. Luckily this combined with the caffeine shot woke me up and being with two friends really boosted my morale and got me moving again. If you don’t know Tobie, he is probably one of the most inspirational people out there. He is basically completely blind in the dark and Rianna was helping him, pointing out obstacles that could result in a fall or injury. This ADDO finish brings him close to 70 100 miler finishes and I knew sticking with him would result in a finish. As the sun came up the Birds and Butterflies chased off the Werewolves and Bats and all of a sudden I was a different person. I am sure people who have done many of these races know this but I could not believe that I went from a negative, stumbling, complaining zombie that could not even chew a sandwich to running a decent pace just 10km later with a smile on my face. I felt good and decided to leave Tobie and Riana and try to get to the drop bag point as quickly as possible so I could get to the infamous Valley of Tears as early as possible. All I can say about this is ignorance is bliss.
The next check point was the bag drop and when I arrived there my best running buds, Eloff and Frikkie were settled in nicely having a beer for breakfast while stocking up on goodies from their drop bags. Stan Reed, Dane Sweet and a few other guys were also around and in the kilometres to come the group of us would become good friends. Thinking back now it reminds me a bit of the hobbits crawling up Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings to toss the ring into the fire. Except I think Addo on that day was much hotter than Mount Doom.
I again didn’t want to spend too much time at the Drop Bag check point so ended up just changing my socks, restocking my bag and putting on some sun block before pushing on. Frikkie and Eloff were still busy with beer, or nut butter or something but I knew they would catch up to me on the climbs to come. It was a bit ominous with the temperature already around 37 degrees and it wasn’t even late morning yet. I was in a super mood knowing I was going into uncharted territory with the furthest distance I had ever run. I had stashed my trekking poles in my drop bag it was a nice mental crutch having them as a bit of a booster going uphill. I decided not to use them right from the start as I was worried my arms would turn to limp noodles, not being used to running with them for so long. In retrospect I would probably have been better off having them right from the start.
Long before I could see them I heard Eloff and Frikkie catching up to me. These two guys are honestly two of the best guys you can share a trail with. Even when things get horrifying and bleak beyond belief they always have time for a joke and I think the following 20km will go down as 20 of the hardest yet most memorable kilometres I had ever ‘run’. It was approaching noon and temperatures were going into the 40’s and we were catching up to other runners hiding from the unforgiving sun under trees. Any ambitions of getting to the Valley of Tears early was burning up in the unforgiving heat. Soon we were a merry band of five. Myself, Eloff, Frikkie, Stan and Dane. The focus was mostly on our watches as the temperature just kept going up and up and up. It was now around 48 degrees and the mood of one or two of the guys started to get a bit bleak. There was a very funny moment when a charging Tobie Reyneke caught up to us and said ‘Hey Frikkie, you won’t melt’ as we stood under the trees. The expression on Frikkie’s face said it all. It was almost like ‘But look, I am melting for Fucks sake’. I understand now why he kept going ahead, because myself and Eloff kept teasing him about melting.
Any plans of getting to the Valley of Tears early had been decimated and we were on track to hit the hottest and most notorious part of the route right smack, bang in the heat of the day. The closer we got the CP 13 which is the entrance to the Valley, the more grim and serious our troop got. It was now a solid 48 degrees and we weren’t even near the Valley yet. That meant it would be at least ten degrees hotter in the Valley. Nobody said it but you could tell everyone in the group was weighing up options. Quitting was never an option for me but neither was dying. I was extremely worried as I have been in this kind of heat before during a race and have actually seen people have seizures after their kidneys shut down because the unique combination of small things that happen to your body in an ultra such as this. In 2015 I took part in the hottest KAEM in history when temperatures also soared into the 50’s and two ladies ended up in ICU, one of them staying there for almost 5 weeks. I was not worried about myself, as for some strange reason my body copes really well with the heat, but I was worried about all my friends out on the course, especially Estelle Geerkens who has a heart condition.
When we sat down with the doctor the group of us had a chat with him and it was decided that the race would be stopped for about three hours giving the temperature an opportunity to cool down a bit. I honestly think this decision saved lives! Like doctor Charl Malherbe said at KAEM in 2015, you can only resuscitate one person at a time in the field. The decision was soon proved to be the best one as Estelle Geerkens who had gone into the valley just before we got to CP 13 had to turn around and make her way back. Luckily she is very experienced and she realised if she carried on she might have collapsed and it’s not difficult to figure out that the outcome of that scenario would have been a very bad one. She was assessed by the doctors and luckily no damage was done.
CP 13 was not a bad one to be stuck at for a while as it is by far the nicest checkpoint of the race as far as I’m concerned. The crew will do almost anything to help you, including borrowing you a pair of flip flops because walking on the concrete feels like walking on broken glass. They also let you take naps on their perfect white beds which will never be the same again after a sweaty disgusting 100 mile runner lay down on them and also they had ICE which in a hellishly hot race is as valuable as bitcoin! They also had a ‘plaas dam’ where you could take a dip which was something all of us looked forward to. It was on the way to the plaasdam that the very friendly lady borrowed me her flip flops. My feet were actually in perfect condition, they were just super sensitive, hence the concrete feeling like broken glass. I remember getting to the dam seeing one or two people in the water thinking ‘Why are you guys standing in the sun? It’s just going to give you sunburn.’ I would find out shortly exactly why everybody was standing in the sun. I made my way into the ice cold water and moved into the shade. It was actually so cold that my feet started hurting as if they were in an ice bath. Somebody said to me ‘Watch out for the leeches there in the shade.’ Needless to say I made my way out of the water and when I looked down at my feet I had a whole bunch of leeches on them. One part of me wanted to start screaming and running in circles but that wasn’t going to happen so I calmly (while screaming on the inside) started picking them off. They were only about 1cm long but none the less, it was gross enough that I didn’t go for another swim. I made my way to the house and lay down with my leech bitten, stinky ass on one of the white beds and had the best power nap of my life.
I’m not sure how long I was sleeping but I was woken by my friend Rianna Henning who had been brought to the CP along with a few other people. Our race was set to start again at 15h30 and the next mission was to get myself ready for the last 45km of the race. To put the Valley of Tears in perspective is to look at the fastest time through there. I’m not sure who holds the fastest time but it is just under four hours for only 16km at around 3h50. If you consider this time is run by an elite runner in the early morning hours when it’s nice and cool, it’s understandable why everybody fears this section. The break put on the race was justified as the temperatures measured over 60 degrees Celsius in the Valley. After 15h00 it was starting to cool down considerably and nine of us were cleared to do a restart at 15h30. Unfortunately some of the runners that got to CP 13 after us were not allowed to start as they would have missed the cut off set out by the race. I was very sad to see many of my friends not able to carry on.
We decided that we would try and stick together and keep track of where everybody was. If the group split up then we would try to make sure that at least everybody was paired up with somebody else. There was soon an explanation for the warm weather when clouds started rolling in and thunder was grumbling in the distance. Thunder soon turned to full on lightning and all we could do was laugh. I teased Stanley that he would get struck first as he was the tallest and there was a conversation about how trekking poles would influence getting hit by lightning.
I just have to give a special mention to Koichi, the Japanese runner from Hoka. I think he is the runner that I probably have most respect for in the entire race. He was obviously having difficulty with the extreme heat as I saw him the first time just after the first check point taking shelter from the sun. I tried chatting to him but the language barrier was a problem. The next time I saw him was at CP thirteen and when he took his shoes off he had the most horrible trench foot I had ever seen. He was still smiling and even though nobody could understand him, and he could not understand us, it was clear he was not going to quit or stop, even though of all the people there he probably had the best excuse. He was obviously one of the guys with a shot at a top place and here he was slugging it out for the bottom five positions! Seven of us were sitting on some rocks taking a break in the Valley and as the lightning was striking around us I was hit again with how incredibly special trail running is. There we were, an unlikely group of seven people, brought together by this incredible sport. Even though we could not chat to Koichi, it was not difficult to communicate how everyone was feeling and that is what makes this sport so amazing.
The lightning was soon followed by a massive downpour and our group split up some more. I ended up with Stan and I was so appreciative of his company. We slowly made our way out of the Valley and soon it was sunset on day 2. I was so motivated before the race to finish just after sunset on the second day and not go into another night, but that was not going to happen. The cut off was moved on to 06h00 the next morning because of the compulsory stop and we had nine hours for thirty kilometres. That sounds like a hell of a lot of time but it turned out it was not.
Amazingly I was not sleepy during the Saturday but then as soon as the sun set, my struggle started again. The first check point after the Valley was Ellies Tavern, and it felt like the longest slog to get there. I think we said ‘It has to be just around this corner’ about twenty times, and it never turned out to be just around that corner. We had caught up with Clinton and when we reached Ellies, all three of us plopped down on chairs. Clinton and Stan both had massive problems with their feet and we decided they would have them strapped and we would take a proper break. I have no idea what time it was but I had the best cup of Veggie soup followed by an awesome cup of black coffee which for a little while made me feel semi human. In retrospect I think we spent way too much time at this check point and when we got going again I was stiff and incredibly sore. I had felt nauseous for a while and because of this I made some big mistakes that almost cost me my race. Somewhere in the valley I took one of my nausea tablets and I gave the other one to Dane (I think). When we got to Ellies I was still feeling nauseous so one of the cp crew gave me another one. She gave me a few to take with me which was a mistake. My mental faculties at that stage was not very fresh and somewhere after Ellies I forgot about the previous two anti-nausea tablets I took ,so I took another one. One of the side effects of these pills is drowsiness, so needless to say if you take three of them over a period of a few hours because your brain stopped working and you haven’t slept for about 40 hours, it’s not difficult to imagine what will happen next.
I was starting to struggle keeping up with Clinton and Stan and needed to make a quick nature stop. Squatting had become the next unforeseen problem and at that stage was almost impossible. Taking a quick pee was almost as difficult as climbing a vertical mountain so it turned out not being that quick. When I got going again, the guys waited for me but I was having the hardest time catching up to them. I would run as hard as I could, but then as soon as I started walking, they would start shuffling again. I carried on trying as I didn’t want to run alone but it really felt like when you have a nightmare where you run and run and run but you are stuck in one place. I only managed to catch up to them at the next check point (CP 15) where I decided to tell them to rather go ahead without me. For the first time in the race I felt defeated and as if my spirit had broken. I was in last place and I had a massive uphill battle (literally) if I was going to make the cut off at 06h00.
I left CP 15 knowing the two sweepers were not far behind me and I even told the CP crew they must tell the guys coming from behind that I was in big trouble. I was broken, tired and sleepy! I was back in zombie mode. It was at this stage in the race where I made my first acquaintance with sleep monsters. The sweepers had not caught up to me yet so I was still on my own and I was convinced I was running next to the ocean. I even saw lights that I took to be ships. I kept thinking how nice it would have been to see the ocean in the sunlight. It was only the next day that I heard we were miles away from the sea and that it was my sleep deprived brain playing tricks on me.
The two sweepers who I actually want to call ‘Angels’ caught up to me with about twenty kilometres to go. I was in big trouble and I was so happy to see Steven Lancaster, whom I had not yet spent a lot of time with and Georgie Minopetros coming to my rescue. I trusted Steven as I knew he had been through the same deep, dark place I was currently wading through. Steven and Georgie have very different personalities and they were an absolute perfect pair, they managed to lift my spirits out of the mucky dark place I had fallen into and there were small glimmers of hope! The only think I could think of was that I wasn’t going to get a buckle and it was driving me to try and keep up some kind of pace.
Georgie informed me that I would have to keep up 15 minutes a kilometre if I wanted to make it and Steven kept telling me that I could do it. I was by this stage so delirious that I was falling asleep on my feet. Steven kept grabbing me by my backpack keeping me upright and every now and again he put me down in the grass for a quick one minute power nap. I was trying so incredibly hard to stay awake but it was an absolute impossible task. At one stage I asked the guys ‘Why do all the rocks have faces?’ and I was informed that it was just sleep monsters and that the rocks didn’t actually have faces. It was after 04h00 in the morning and I had about 2 hours to cover 8 kilometres. I was cutting it so close it was just crazy. I wasn’t really in pain anymore but I felt so far removed from myself, just putting one foot in front of the other felt like an impossible task. Georgie stayed in front of me and Steven stayed behind to make sure whenever I started keeling over he could help me stay upright. I kept confusing Georgie’s headlamp for a building which just never got closer. I saw so many cabins in the bush that was just not there. I was so beaten down that I made peace in my heart that I wasn’t going to get the buckle and that it was ok. I was going to finish the route without quitting and that is what mattered to me. The last kilometre of the route is on tar and Steven kept telling me that if I can run that last bit I would make it. I didn’t believe him and as my watch had died I didn’t really know exactly what was going on. I think even if my watch had not died I would not have had the mental faculties to actually work out what I had to do to make the cut off. I was stuck in a personal purgatory of suffering.
Dawn was breaking and the guys pointed at the top of the climb we were on and told me that the start of the tar road was just beyond the trees. If I pushed a bit I would make it within the cut off. The same as the previous day, as the sun was rising I got an injection of energy and together with the possibility of still making the cut off I got strength from who knows where and started power hiking up the last climb of the 2020 ADDO 100 miler. I think the last kilometre of the race was probably the most amazing seven minutes of my life. When we set foot on the tar I heard screaming and shouting that could only be my friends and trail family at the finish line. I did not expect it because it had been a million hours and two very long sleepless nights since the start of the race. The cheers ignited something inside me and it was proof of what David Goggins says in his book that when you think you have nothing left you are only at 40% because I started running like I was in a road race behind Georgie towards the finish of my first 100 miler. As I got closer Georgie and Steven fell back even though I asked them to cross the finish line with me because without them there was just no way I would have made it. They refused and I carried on, on my own. The cheers got louder and AC/DC was blaring from the speakers. There really are no words to describe the feeling of seeing all my friends that I love so very much at the finish line waiting for me and cheering me on. Sandra who knows me very well, and especially the long way I have come since I stopped drinking, even had a non-alcoholic Savanna for me which means so much even though it is such a small and silly gesture.
I made it. With 4 minutes to spare. Two days earlier 85 people started the 2020 ADDO 100 miler. I was finisher number 36. I was last, but I would get my buckle.
I know this has been an exceptionally long winded blog post but the 40+ hours that was the 2020 ADDO is something that is so big in my heart and mind that I can’t condense it into a short Facebook post. Before this race I had done close to forty ultras but nothing, absolutely NOTHING, could have prepared me for how deep I would have to dig to get to the finish. I can honestly say, take how hard you expect it to be, multiply that by ten and you are maybe starting to scratch the surface. Something I love about this sport of ours is that you never really get to a point where you can see yourself as an expert or guru of the sport (Unless your surname is Meltzer or Jurek). You always learn more and no matter how prepared you are there is always something that is going to happen that you did not expect. Some lessons were new; others were reminders of things I have forgotten.
- Respect the Distance, the Process and the Route, if you don’t you will be put in your place by the Trail Gods.
- Running through the night is not easy. Running through two nights is horrible. Be prepared for that.
- Squatting to take a wee or anything more serious when you pass the 130km mark is equivalent to picking up an elephant or putting out a bush fire with your feet. Consider incorporating a ‘Pee Squat’ routine into training.
- Don’t overthink your nutrition or hydration.
- Your friends on the trail get you through and are worth their weight in gold. Stan Reed, Dane Sweet, Frikkernator Pienaar, Buttercup Eloff Hoffman, Sandra Le Roux, Tobie Reyneke, Koichi Hirose, Jacques Mouton, Riana Henning, Estelle Geerkens, Rene Volgraaf, Tobie Reyneke to name a few.
- Sweepers are the unsung heroes of the trail. Steven and Georgie, I can’t thank you guys enough for what you did for me the early hours of that Sunday morning! Without you guys I would probably still be trying to get into a non-existing cabin that only existed in my mind.
- Anti-Nausea pills. Don’t take a bunch in a matter of a few hours. This is stupid. It will make you sleepy!
- Sian and Sheena, you guys are next level. Seeing you two at the finish WITHIN the cut off was too special.
- MOST IMPORTANT – THERE ARE LEECHES IN THE SHADE!
Stay positive, this lockdown will end, we will all be back on the trails soon.
Lots of love from a solo lockdown in Thabazimbi.