Author: Nicolette Griffioen | 5 April 2019
Image by Peter Kirk Media
The Cape Town weather forecast for Saturday the 30th of March looked good. It would be overcast in the morning becoming partly cloudy towards midday with mild temperatures and only a light breeze. Almost perfect, I thought suspiciously, the day before the staging of the 2019 Hout Bay Trail Challenge. Perhaps I should be packing my K-Way gloves, just in case!
Race day, however, dawned as predicted and with minimal kit competitors lined up outside the Hout Bay Yacht Club just before sunrise. Despite its status as the 2019 South African National Trail Championships, and the presence of some of SA's top trail athletes, the atmosphere was relaxed and chatty. Once the start gun had sounded though the banter didn't last long! The first climb of the race began immediately and we gained almost 600m over 6km. I took it easy on this section and soon most of the other elite ladies were ahead. But it wasn't long until I started to warm up and gradually catch up to my competition. My new inov-8 TrailTalon 235s were phenomenal on the descents and by the first check point at Suikerbossie I was running with Landie, both of us setting a decent but sustainable pace. On the climb up Hout Bay Corner and rocky Llandudno Ravine I put all my energy into forward and upward movement, running my own race and not bothering to look behind me. Rather enjoying this approach, I ran most of the Table Mountain section alone, oblivious to other runners and focused only on the path ahead, my foot placement and some magnificent trail-side flowers.
The descent to Constantia Nek was the first section of non-technical route in many kilometres, and I used the opportunity to take a mental break and fuel my body with a ButtaNutt. This allowed for just a quick stop at the Constantia aid station to refill my water before setting off up the last and most challenging ascent of the day. Hot, dry and seemingly endless, Vlakkenberg has no mercy. This twelve kilometre section to the finish seemed to take forever. Even the flat contour path and gradual descent felt taxing at this point in the race. And on top of that, I was convinced that a fresh athlete, having eaten or drunk all the right things at the last water point, was breathing down my neck and attempting to pass me at every opportunity!
Finally, the trail spat us out onto the Chapman's Peak Drive. From here it was a quick run down to see the old cannon before continuing down the road and onto the Hout Bay Beach for the final leg to the finish line. The beach crossing was uneventful except for a few close calls with ball-chasing-dogs and high-reaching waves, but after a final glance behind me I was up onto the harbour platform and crossing the finish line. I stopped my Suunto 9 at 4 hours and 58 minutes. Not a record time by any means, but enough to secure me the title of 2019 South African Female Long Distance Trail Champion and hopefully a place on the flight to Portugal for World Championships in June!