Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

My Awesome TMC Lite Escapade

On Saturday I took part in the Crazy Store Table Mountain Challenge Lite. It was the 9th time the TMC event was being held - and it seems like it gets progressively more difficult and challenging each year. From the very start it was a good challenge with the route broken into 3 legs circumnavigating the whole of Table Mountain. 

Original Route:
Leg 1 starts at the Kloof Nek Tafelberg Road intersection by Lion's Head and travels along Tafelberg Road around to the King's Block House on Devil's Peak. 
Leg 2 goes from the King's Block House along the contour paths above Kirstenbosch to Constantia Nek. 
Leg 3 goes from Constantia Nek through Orange Kloof above Hout Bay to Suikerbossie, up Llandudno Ravine, along the top of the mountain, down Kasteelpoort, and back to Tafelberg Road along the pipe track and along the 'Twelve Apostles'. 

The original 35km route:
It is by no means an easy event. Previously there were options to do the full TMC, or form a team of 3 each doing a single leg.

Each year or so the route has got progressively longer and tougher and instead of taking the direct route (on jeep tracks) for each leg they now make it as technical and challenging as they can finding every hill, step and rock they can find and making that part of the route. They have in the process added and extra 3km to the route and made it much more grueling and hard-core!

Last year's tougher 38km route... and this year they added to that and 'toughened up' leg 1 significantly too.

New Route:
Leg 1 now veers off Tafelberg Road almost immediately and runs up and down the paths of Deer Park, some so steep that all but the elite athletes end up having to walk sections.
Leg 2 now instead of being 'just' a lovely scenic contour path, this leg now includes the brutal climb up and down the beastly Rooikat Kloof! OUCH!!!
Leg 3 is unchanged as far as I know..?

I have known seasoned runners, runners who have completed the Comrades successfully, who have been broken by the TMC! So it was always something I observed from afar with a healthy dose of respect, doubt and fear. For the first 5 years or so it was not even within my realm of capability. Then in the past few years I have thought it sounded like a lot of fun and have been semi-keen on doing one of the first 2 legs, preferably the 2nd (most scenic & popular) leg. But entries to this race go like hot cakes and getting your hands on one is like trying to find hen's teeth. Also there is no way I wanted to tackle the FULL TMC and the mission of finding and forming and then performing in a team just seemed too much. So I just haven't had a real opportunity yet. Also I am really not a trail runner. I have done the odd social and casual foray on the mountains but never competitively and I don't even have trail shoes yet (as previously mentioned)...

However you look at it, this is a crazy event! However after having entered and then having so much fun at the recent Merrell Night Series Races when a friend told me that a batch of late entries were opening for the TMC and it was for a special 'Lite' version. Without thinking I snapped one up as fast as I could! YAY! I was so excited to finally be part of the crazy action, and with the word 'Lite' in the title it totally felt doable. Easy even! Right? Until I looked at the details properly and saw that what I had done was enter Leg 1 AND 2 together combined as a solo end-to-end race event. Hang on 1 & 2 together is now about 22km! Holy crap had I really just signed up for an off-road hard-core terrain Half Marathon distance race on a mountain!? ERMAGAD!?
Clearly I had lost my mind, and deciding I might as well embrace the spirit of it all I went all out. There was the most horrendous weather forecast for the big day and the day before was pretty bad too. I had already decided it would be a rest day, but it turned into a complete binge day too. Starting with the work 'Bake & Donate' day where Team Awesome put together a spectacular 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party' cos 'We are all Mad here!' where FAR too much cake, sweets, chocolate and and and was consumed until we all wanted to die... but did I stop there..? No of course not, I then went on a fantastic Brewery Tour, Beer Tasting and beer drinking session. Until I was actually quite rat-arsed to be honest. *Oops*

I had to pull myself together to get my race stuff together and was finally sort of ready and got myself to bed around 11pm. I then tossed and turned with racing heart and sweating (due to over-indulgence not nerves I think) listening to the raging storm outside. At 2am I eventually fired up my laptop to watch an episode of a series I am watching... so when I woke up at 06:30am to hear the wind and rain I was not super enthused to get up. I even started bleating about it on Facebook - where my 'helpful' friends told me to go back to bed. Since I am rather otherwise that actually spurred me on to get up and just do it, come hell, or high water. So up I got and got ready and set off. In the pouring rain.

Miracle or miracles though as I drove around the mountain the cloud started lifting and the rain cleared and by the time our race started there was even a bit of sunshine. It was meant to be! :)

After chatting to a few people at the start and being interviewed and mocked senseless by Trevor Ball about wearing devil horns we set off.

Clearly trail running in general, and this race in particular attracts a rather fit and athletic bunch as a sizable bunch of people zoomed off well ahead of me in the initial ascent. Much as I wanted to race I knew I had a long and grueling journey ahead of me and I had to focus on finished and not killing myself before the end! So I got into a slow and stead rhythm and plodded up as the seasoned runner filed past me. However soon there was a nice gravelly descent, where I was met by my favourite running friend GRAVITY. Embracing my friend I went careening down the hill passing loads of people and gaining momentum, speed and confidence with each pounding step. Soon though the lovely down hill was over and another steep climb faced me. I plodded up and all those people passed me again. This went on over several up and downhill sections. Eventually we had a serious stair climb section where everyone seemed to just walk it. Then a really muddy and slippery section where I decided trail shoes are a MUST for those conditions, you really do not have enough grip or stability with the 'marshmallow' road shoes I wear.

I had managed to pass and keep ahead of 2 women and decided my goal was to stay ahead of them. A blondie had run off into the distance at the start, she was nowhere to be seen. As I pounded down a hill a crazy guy on a mountain bike whizzed passed me, really close, he could easily have hit me actually. I kind of shook my head and left it at that. But I'll be damned he roared up the next hill and stopped next to none other than blondie.. he gave her some stuff, took her jacket etc. Yoh I was cross. Here I was lugging all my 'compulsory kit' on my back and this chick has here own private (and not allowed) second!? Ahem. My competitive nature was riled and I though damn here I WILL catch her. And I did I managed to pass her while she was still doing her exchanges with the guy. As soon as she saw me pass though she set off and charged ahead again. DAMN!

I kept her in my sights though and doggedly pushed myself forward. It's a looooong uphill slog to the Block House and I watched her up ahead stopping to walk several times (as were a lot of the men). I refused to let myself walk - telling myself 'real runners don't walk'. So even though I was running oh so slowly I made sure I KEPT running. Think Dory 'Just keep running, running, running'. It was pure willpower, dog-headedness and sexism (Yes I will admit I have no issue with men passing me and beating me and competing with me, but for some reason I get much more riled by other women on the course and get a bit of a 'killer instinct' with them and want to 'take them down'. I am not sure if that's normal or if there is something wrong with me. But when it comes to other women I WANT TO WIN! The same thing happened when I used to do fencing at Varsity...) that got me to the top of that hill.

I finally reached the Block House and Check Point 1 at the end of Leg 1 in a time of 1h04m - being 6th lady and in 25th place overall. I think I even said 'Oh thank-god I can stop for a second now!'. I grabbed a quick cup of Coke and decided there was no time to lose, since blondie was already through the style and on her way into Leg 2.

So I pressed on. Although I'd pushed hard and was a bit tired, and wasn't even half-way through yet. I know Leg 2 (or so I THOUGHT!) and felt confident that I would be fine. The weather was good, and despite the ground being very wet there was hardly any wind and the rain had given way to some sunshine, so everything was going great and looking good.

I proceeded onto the boardwalk enjoying the scenery, the view, the music on my iPOD, the relatively easy section we were on and realised I was LOVING IT!  I still had a long way to go but I was really feeling happy and enjoying myself. I was soaked in mud, sweat and water (we'd already had to run through several mud and water crossings) and my nose was running but I was feeling great and I think I had a huge smile on my face too. I soon reached the boardwalks which can get quite slippery and treacherous in the wet season. Thinking I'd have to take it easy I started gingerly but soon found my trust road shoes were handling them fine and I changed up a gear and went for it. I was flying along those boardwalks and blow me down if I didn't catch up to miss blondie! Whoop. I pressed and pressed until I was right behind her and tapped her shoulder and asked if I could pass. I was disproportionately THRILLED.

After that the race was on and I could feel her speeding up and running hard behind me. So I surged on and threw caution to the wind running as fast as my legs could carry me barely giving a thought to safety or caution. I couldn't seem to shake her though and this presence stayed right behind me. We got to the rocky section and I just kept going running and stumbling but going as fast as I could. Bashing my leg on a rock and not even caring.

In the next section of board walks a guy fell, thanks to some other guy going for a run in the opposite direction (not the right day and time for that buddy!) who caused him to veer, slip, pirouette and crash right off the path dramatically right in front of me. I stopped to check if he was ok and to help him up, and with that a guy passed me. It was not blondie who'd been on my heels but HIM. She was still behind me! So making sure guy who'd fallen was ostensibly ok I high-tailed it outta there. I did have a slight pang that I should have stayed, but the other guy who'd sort of caused it was there was with him. and I was on a mission to stay ahead!

I ran and ran and ran and realised this path was long and really not easy. The rivers and waterfalls were raging and the crossing were treacherous, tho exciting, and some even had marshalls stationed at them to aid runners across so they didn't end up washed down-stream. My shoes and legs were soaked through and in one crossing I ended up quite literally waist deep in the water. I have never run that kind of terrain or those kind of conditions before. It was insane and exhilarating and exhausting and liberating and challenging!

I think this was soon before...
Eventually the inevitable happened I was running to fast, and slightly recklessly, and getting tired and not quite lifting my feet high enough. My left foot must have caught a root and I tripped. I didn't just stumble I came down like an imploded building. I 'klapped out', thankfully in a soft clayish area and not on the boardwalks as I landed hard on my hand and knees, jolted my spine and my legs just cramped and seized up in unison. OUCH!

The guy behind me stopped and helped me up and I had to stretch my egs out a bit before I could go on... but I was still focused on staying ahead, but now my legs were complaining, and quite loudly. Dammit! I just couldn't get back to the pace I'd been going at before.

Eventually in the climb out of the Kirstenbosch valley blondie caught up with me and I graciously let her past with a big smile and we exchanged a few quick friendly (really) words and off she went. I did try to chase her down but from that point instead of it being the 'easy' jeep track on to Constantia Nek, the path took every difficult and challenging turn it cool. Up this stairway, down that one and then Rooikat Kloof. OMG. Kill me. That was so tough. It was just up up up forever with large stairs. It was basically like climbing Mt Kinabalu. I was not even trying to run at that point and realised I was actually starting to bonk a little bit.
I realised that I had not had breakfast and had been out there for quite some time and had not eaten nor drunk anything en route either. In a 10km or even 20km road run you can get away with this. When you push beyond 2-hours not so much. Also I was pushing my heart rate quite hard and keeping it pretty much over 160 the whole time. I HAD food in my running pack, but didn't want to stop to retrieve it. I kept telling myself 'just a bit further first'. I was still hell bent on racing. but I did have a couple of glucose sweets in reach so I grabbed 2 of those and drank from the next 2 streams I crossed - that water tasted like nectar! It gave me enough of a psychological and physical boost to perk up and keep going, although I was feeling slightly dizzy and was a bit worried I might push myself into dreaded migraine-zone-of-no-return if I wasn't careful. So I focused on breathing and paced myself and was beyond pleased to finally reach the jeep track leading to Constantia nek and the now much anticipated end at Check-Point 2.

However once my legs hit the jeep track they were SO tired I couldn't speed up and found I was just plodding slowly and painfully. My sacrum was aching, mostly due to the fall I think, and also just pain tired and my glutes and hip flexors starting to get stiff.

That section of Jeep track seemed never ending. I passed a young guy who also looked like he wanted to give up and I spurred him on saying 'let's finish this damned thing!'. Which encouraged him and he came to jog along side me. While proved very useful because when I stumbled and my sunglasses fell off and I was thinking 'oh to hell with them picking them up will be too hard now', he stooped down and got them for me. :)

He eventually dropped back though and I said I'd see him at the end and I decided I would finish in glory and race to the end. I think my running style got a bit peculiar then though as I was not feeling comfortable. I really was ready to be done!

FINALLY the end was in sight and thankfully it's nice downhill to the end, so I let my friend gravity jump on my back and off we went careening down the hill barely in control and just aiming for the end. I rounded the corner into the Constantia Nek parking and when I saw the mud bath I had to run through I very nearly just dived into it, thinking it would be a fitting way to end that epic amazing escapade. Letting sanity prevail though I simply stumbled to the end point and uttered 'Kill me!'.

What a race!

I finished in 2:48:45. I was 29th in the TMC Lite and 7th lady to finish.
All results can be found here. I am actually very pleased with my results. I ran and pushed as much as I could and coped a lot better than I thought I would ad had much more fun than expected. It was awesome.

I saw blondie at the end and shook her hand, telling her she is really good. She high fived me and said I'd given her a real run for her money. :)

They had organised luxury shuttles to take us back to the start/end of the main race and prize giving. So after socialising with some friends briefly I hopped in my taxi and off we went. Chatting and sms'ing up a storm. Soon the cold, stiffness and then nausea set i though and I really felt grim and was sure I was going to throw up. Again a symptom of pushing hard and not enough nutrition.  Once we were back at the start I felt vile. I got into my car ate a banana and some nuts had a warm blissful shower got some clean dry clothes on and felt so much better. I went up to socialise and enjoy the fun and games of the proze giving and even got a free massage which really helped to loosen up my aching hips.

All in all it was a fabulous race and really fun day out which I thoroughly enjoyed and would definitely like to do again!

Thanks to everyone involved!

There are more photos where you can see what it looked like and how hectic those water crossing were:   -> HERE <- b="">

Ryan Sandes won the Full TMC very convincingly and about 20 mins ahead of #2 who was about 15 mins ahead of #3. WOW. 

And Tatum Prins who arranges those Merrell Night Series Races won the Ladies race very convincingly too (and 14th overall nogal!) - and she has a 6-month old baby. HUGE RESPECT Tatum!!!!

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