K-Way Athlete Nicolette Griffioen Dominates The Beast 50km Trail Run

Date: 9 June 2019
Location: Cape Town
Author: Nicolette Griffioen

"The Beast" was never part of my 2019 racing calendar. At the beginning of the year I went out on a limb and rearranged several of my veterinary degree final-year practical rotations to accommodate the South African National Championships (Hout Bay Trail Challenge), as well as the World Trail Championships (Trilhos dos Abutres in Portugal). The university did not take my requests lightly and I was quite surprised and relieved to eventually receive the nod of approval to take a few days off and compete. Now the rest would be up to me - train hard, run well at Hout Bay, and secure a spot in the team to Portugal. Or so I thought...

To cut a long story short, I fulfilled my part of the plan, but three weeks before the World Trail Champs, Athletics South Africa (ASA) informed us that they would not have the budget to send a South African team overseas this year. Having prepared for an event of such magnitude, both mentally and physically, for six months, this eleventh-hour announcement came as rather a blow. My motivation dropped to an all-time low and I forgot why I was training, although I continued to do so. Fortunately I've dealt with some disappointments in my running career to date and it only took a few days to realize that a "replacement" run would be in order. A quick Google search revealed The Beast 50km to be the only long distance trail race of the weekend and minutes later my flight to Cape Town was booked.

An unusually warm wind swirled fallen Winter leaves around the "Forries" parking lot on race morning. My partner (@the.flying.runner) and I joined a small group of athletes at the start, listened to "Trevor Trailrunning's" tongue-in-cheek race briefing, and then at sunrise took off up the road to the starting horn - a chorus of "The Beast"... 

I was anticipating a challenging but relatively comfortable run, thinking that my one hundred kilometre race of April (Ultra Trail Drakensberg) would have conditioned my legs for the climbing around Table Mountain. I set off without much of a plan and after a fun first 10km found myself at the top of Nursery Ravine with good friend Derrick Baard and @the.flying.runner still keeping me company. With the subtle but unrelenting undulations of the table-top ahead I decided to maintain an easy pace until the descent down Corridor on the Camps Bay side. Shortly after reaching the Pipe Track, about 30km into the race, my first issues were arising. Excessive water intake at a particularly enticing cold mountain stream resulted in a stitch which would plague me on and off for the rest of the run. Still having @the.flying.runner with me at this point was a big plus and I resolved to stick with him for as long as possible. After a brief refuelling at the perfectly situated Kloof Nek water point we climbed slowly back up to the contour path and began the long traverse around the city bowl. By this time I had recovered somewhat and @the.flying.runner was taking strain on sections with positive gradient. I dug out two macadamia ButtaNutt sachets to sustain us for the last 12km. Now the true nature of this "Beast" was finally showing - the trail was rough and rocky underfoot, narrow with scratchy, scrubby bushes tearing at clothes and skin, and kilometres seemed to drag while time flew by. And just when the technical trail began to ease up the 50km route did a solid 180 degree turn and headed us off for an extra loop in the opposite direction!

Six hours and twenty-two minutes after sunrise @the.flying.runner and I finally crossed the finish line. I came away with 1st lady and him with 3rd male. But for both of us, having run the whole way together was the real highlight. Anyone who has tried to run with a partner for an ultra-distance will know that it is impossible for individuals' highs and lows to correlate, which means that both patience and tenacity need to be exercised by both parties at different times in order to stick together. Perhaps this was the greatest "Beast" we tamed on the day...

All in all, a really good day out on the spectacular trails of Table Mountain. Slightly underestimated perhaps, and my recovery from UTD 100 overestimated, but very happy to have done a new event and added another 50km race win to my CV. Looking forward to two months off of racing before tackling the Whale of Trail - a very different beast - in August.