Table Mountain Challenge 2015
Me: “You mean it’s a free race entry? No problem, I’ll be there”
I just can’t help myself when I hear the words “free” and “race entry” together. I’m compelled to say “YES!”
Luckily for me, I’ve been able to look back at those comp race entries with a smile on my face and a fun story to tell.
This impromptu call up came from Zaheer who’d scored a Duo entry for the Table Mountain Challenge two days before the race from a buddy of his who couldn’t get out of work commitments. A quick trip to registration to do a runner substitution and we inherited the team name The Muftis.
I would be running Leg 1 and Leg 2 of the race which stretched about 23kms from Jan van Riebeeck High School to Constantia Nek. Zaheer would then tackle the more treacherous route of Leg 3 (aka the knee-breaker) of 19kms from Constantia Nek over the top of Table Mountain across the Twelve Apostles and along the Pipe Track to the finish.
Leg 1 – Jan van Riebeeck to the King’s BlockHouse
While Zaheer was still warm in his bed at home, I was lining up at the start with some serious looking runners.
With the Crazy Store being the title sponsor, a certain level of wackiness was expected and I arrived to race marshals dressed up in ridiculous costumes. I marvelled at how everyone still managed to maintain their game-faces during the race briefing by the Mad Hatter.
There were even reports of a wild animal along the route that would be terrorising runners, but more on that later… 🙂
It was only a few hundred metres after the start when everyone was rudely awakened by some steep climbs up towards Signal Hill Road. Early walking would be the best warm-up here.
From Signal Hill Road, there was a short run down to Tafelberg Road and a quick march up to the booms before running the Mountain Bike trails which wind behind Deer Park.
In the shadow of Table Mountain – the star of today’s race – we made our way along the jeep track below Tafelberg Road. There are some long quad and calf-busting climbs that seemed to go on and on. The real test was that you could see the hills climb up in the distance while other competitors ahead of you were tackling them.
The closer we came to Devil’s Peak, the windier it got. But, the encouraging chirps from other runners made it feel like we were all heading into the same battle and it was only a matter of time before we would come out victorious.
And this was true as we rounded the final bend and checked in at the first transition point just below the King’s Blockhouse.
I was officially halfway through my race and feeling good. Now it was time to tackle the forests ahead.
Leg 2 – Contour Path to Constantia Nek
Through the turnstiles and onto the Contour Path – I wasn’t wasting time and got stuck in.
The path changed to single track and became more technical with roots and rock hopping characterising the second Leg of the race.
Once we reached the boardwalks it became easier to run, but the rockier sections still called for caution with some runners opting to take it slower – high probability of ankle sprains here
The running would come to a complete halt as soon as we reached the “Welcome to Kirstenbosch” sign and those dreaded steps.
That climb was not pretty – that’s all I have to say about that lol
Coming down the steps on the other side was tricky, but welcomed after the tough climb. Throw in a bouncy wooden bridge or two and it all made for a fun (tough) time.
The Contour Path above Kirstenbosch led us onto the Cecelia Forest area where we were directed to Rooikat Ravine. This was by far the toughest climb of my race. We all had no option but to accept our fate, not look up, breathe and just power hike as best as you could while trying to not swear too loudly – it will all be over soon(ish)
The route through this section is not flat and tends to rise and dip as you run. A long downhill section led us to the Cecilia Waterfall which is really stunning.
With only a couple of kilometres to go, the race organisers sprung their gorilla prank on us and the screams could be heard all over as runners got caught unawares by the furry beast. Luckily, I was running about 20m behind a victim when the trap was sprung as I’m sure I would have kakked myself if the gorilla had jumped out at me 🙂
I had to battle through some painful calf cramp during the last two kilometres thanks to being undertrained for the event. Thankfully, the last section to Constantia Nek was along jeep track and it allowed for an easy entry into transition 2 where I handed over to Zaheer to take us over the finish line.
Leg 3 – The tough bit and the finish
Zaheer would head on to do the toughest part of the race which takes you up Orange Kloof to the top of Table Mountain and over the Twelve Apostles, down Kasteelspoort and along the Pipe Track back to the finish. All of this and just a week after coming back from injury!
The route is affectionately known as “the knee-breaker” so I didn’t envy Zaheer as he had some monster climbs and some scrambling ahead of him.
I on the other hand went home for a shower, some food and joined him a couple of hours later at the finish line.
Zaheer arrived midway through prize giving after taking a wrong turn on a section where route markings were unclear. An awesome effort nonetheless and we were both really happy to have finished the tough 42km race injury-free and with very little preparation.
I completely understand why the Table Mountain Challenge is one of the most sought-after races on the trail running calendar. The vibe is pretty special, the course is challenging and the prizes are awesome. Both Zaheer and I walked away with some freebies from the sponsors.
Not bad for a last minute race entry 🙂
If you’ve taken part in the Table Mountain Challenge before (or maybe you just feel like giving a random shout out), feel free to share in the comments section below.