Spectacular views, endless climbing, boulder hopping and technical downhills…also known as the Helderberg Mountain Challenge.
For some reason I had decided to enter the extreme (24km). Why enter the 15km when there’s a 24km? Us trail runners are a little crazy!
Before the sun had risen the start gun had gone. At 7am you could already tell it was going to be a beautiful warm winters day. Small pockets of warm air teased us as we headed off up the jeep track to take us up into the mountain.
We quickly reached the single track where the serious climbing began. Up and up, meandering back and forth, rock climbing and scrambling. Sweat was dripping off me like I was in a spinning class. I already knew it was going to be a tough and hot day and I had to make sure I kept hydrated.
We had the most amazing panoramic views as we reached the West Peak and now the first decent began. Having not been trail running for a few months, not the best preparation for this race!, I took it quite easy as I didn’t want to injure myself. My legs were already feeling a bit heavy and any silly mistake or loss of concentration could have ended in disaster.
On a fairly non technical part of the decent I came across a runner who had fallen. Another runner was already phoning for help. The injured runner was able to speak but was in a lot of pain. I pulled out my space blanket from my camelbak. (It’s been up a few mountains always being surplus to requirement so I was quite excited to be using it!) I covered him best I could. I wasnt sure if I should stay with him and the other runner or just continue. There wasnt really any more I could do. Is it bad that I kept checking to see if any ladies were coming along the path and were going to over take me?! If it was me lying injured I would obviously want fellow runners to stop and help but equally I wouldnt want to spoil someone else’s race. So I ran down to the next marshalls and made sure they were aware of the situation and that help was on its way.
It was very cruel for the race organisers to make us climb the same route twice! I’m not sure if it was better the second time up; tired legs and knowing what was ahead or the fact you didn’t have to do it again! We then headed off along the saddle to the Dome where we encountered some proper mountaineering. My inner thighs were cramping and my water was running low. It was a relief to reach the top but now to get back down the mountain (if only I’d packed a rope I could have abseiled down!)
Since we’ve had very little rain recently all the streams were dried up so there was no chance of some cold fresh mountain water. Fortunately I managed to scrounge a sip of water off a couple of friends – and it made eating my foodbar a little easier.
The mountain rescue helicopter was whirring around at the side of the mountain – a gentle reminder for me to keep concentrating and not drag my weary legs. I definitely didnt want to be hosted up on a stretcher into that!
I knew there was quite a large gap back to the 4th placed lady so I could take it easy. Just as well!! I was struggling with dehydration for the last 6kms. And the non technical jeep track down to the finish should have been a breeze but with legs of jelly every step was taken with caution.
It was a very well organised race with excellent timing by Mobii and chances are that most of us will be back again next year, unless we become sane before then!
(3 days later: my legs are still sore and I have another blue toe nail!)