AJ Calitz sets a new record for the 65km K-Way SkyRun 2019 race

One of the highlights of my year (although when toeing the start line, I can't remember why) is the K-Way SkyRun.

500 runners descending on the quaint town of Lady Grey (with Mayor, Uncle Aubrey ) for a quick trot – ja, right - over the spine of the Witteberg Mountains.

Nervous faces and checking out the competition was the name of the game at the race briefing and pre-race dinner as we heard about what we were about to face.

For those that have not done the K-Way SkyRun, it is BRUTAL. There’s really no other word for it. This is most certainly not one of those races where you would wear your Comrades finishers’ t-shirts with pride- if you arrive cocky, you will be severely humbled.

A 2am wake-up and 4am start was how the day started. I had prepared a pre-race meal the day before, but it was unfortunately not as "fresh" as I had hoped, so I enjoyed an apple and a peanut butter sarmie instead.

It was chilly, but not too cold on the day of the race, so I opted for a K-Way Moisture Manager t-shirt, Flash Visor and shorts for my race gear.

Tick, Tick, Boom - we started at a quick pace and I shortly arrived at the single track, leading the pack. Luckily, the racing snakes had initially overcooked matters as the pace was slower than previous years.

We settled into a rhythm as Lucky Miya and I took the lead together. My plan was to stay with him and assist him as far as I could - I was doing the 65km and he the 100km. Lucky sped ahead early on, but after only a couple of km's, he somehow ended up behind me - route knowledge really is king!

I settled into a fast, but maintainable pace, focusing on the route and nutrition rather than my speed. I did struggle at the start because I didn't feel like eating at all, but I knew that eating early-on would be key for my endurance, so I forced myself to wolf down some Racefood and a couple of apples (apples are the best thing in the mountains).

2019 has been the driest year in living memory, so planning for hydration was extremely important. Luckily, it rained a bit on Thursday before the race, so there were some puddles along the way to feast on.

At the 40km mark, I was still feeling good; the km's passed quickly and I felt strong, but just before Avoca peak (the highest point of the race at @2785m), the wheels began to come off a bit. I knew it was pretty much all downhill from there onwards and that there were plenty of water points down in the valley, so I stopped mucking around and continued onwards towards Balloch valley.

I had no idea how fast the guys behind or in front of me were running, so I stuck to my own comfortable pace under the circumstances. Reaching Balloch was like reaching an oasis in the middle of the desert when you are absolutely poked! I planned to stop for 5 minutes to refuel, but after about 4 minutes I was already out of there and feeling reasonably ready to continue.

Walking up the infamous Balloch Wall was a great time to eat, drink and reflect on the meaning of life - why in the name of all that is good am I doing the K-Way SkyRun... again! Did I not learn my lesson the previous 7 times?

Left, right, left, right – my mantra as I trudged up the wall in decent time. I started feeling better as the furnace straight from the depths of hell began to cool down.
Balloch is a mean climb, but the heat on the climb is the worst part. The sun bakes on your back and there is no shade or respite. Once you get to the top, however, you are greeted with a beautiful view and a cool breeze to soothe your brow.

Initially, I took a wrong route down, but corrected it soon enough and continued past the Balloch bathtub. Yes, there is really a bathtub up there!

Down into the gully, over two fences and into a camp where I found a massive bull (he checked me out, I checked him out). I walked slowly along the fence as he watched me all the way. Luckily, he carried on eating as soon as I passed.

Onto the gravel road with 1km to go to the end of the 65km’s. At this stage I had no idea, nor could I care less of what the record was!

I proceeded to the finish as the rapturous applause of Carel Bezuidenhoud, aka RaasBekkie, erupted. And just like that, another K-Way SkyRun finish was in the bag and a record to boot!

Thanks to all involved - it was, once again, a magical experience!

Praise and Glory to Jesus for allowing us to run in His magnificent creation!