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GoTrail TM

APRIL / 2011

PARKINSON’S DISEASE WILL NOT BE THE END OF MY RUNNING!

magazine

5184m THE ALTITUDE

ABOVE SEA LEVEL OF THE WORLD’S “HIGHEST MARATHON”

Meet the family behind Ryan Sandes

RACING

one of South Africa’s toughest ultras

TO PROTECT ENDANGERED TOADS?!


Trailrunning Highlights 2011 thanks to all partners and runners

more information www.planb-event.com

zugspitz-ultratrail.com 4-trails.com 4-trails.com | APRIL 201106. GOTRAIL 224. 24. –– 26. 26. 06. 06.2011 2011 06.– –09. 09.07. 07.2011 2011

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trailrun-worldmasters.com 05. – 06. 11. 2011 10/100/100/0

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EDITOR’S NOTE Have you ever argued with someone, I mean really argued? You know the kind of back and forth conversation that if one of you doesn’t walk away from the table after an hour or so that you know it’ll simply continue for days. Well just recently, I found myself in that exact position and it just so happened to be with someone who is a 15-time Jungfrau Marathon finisher. Now for those of you that haven’t heard of the Jungfrau Marathon, this is one of Europe’s most prestigious mountain races, taking the competitors from 1000 meters above sea level to almost 3000 meters at the finish. About 30 minutes drive from Bern in Switzerland, the Jungfrau Mountain is an iconic Swiss landmark with the race route itself winding it’s way along stunning mountain roads and trails as it ascends from town of Interlaken in the valley below. Our argument: The natural biomechanics of the foot and the debate of minimalist running. Ok, so I guess most of you are thinking, well that is just plain ridiculous. Why talk about a topic that is already so heavily debated, the reason why so many shoe brands are researching the concept as they move forward in designing their next range of shoes, oh and then there’s the matter of arguing with a top Swiss trail runner. I guess my answer has to be my astonishment at the continued resistance I was coming up against the minute I mentioned anything about heel striking being bad for you, or that running on your forefoot will ultimately help eliminate injury. Boy was I in for a tussle, and it seemed there was no going back. Our argument raged on and on, with both of us even resorting to getting out of our seats to demonstrate the “perfect” foot strike, or jog up and down the room to literally “put our argument where our feet were”. Needless to say that after about 30 minutes or so, each of us had made our point and were smiling happily across the table from one another as if we were both the victors in this immense battle of opinions. And then it struck me! No matter how many Jungfrau Marathons we’ve competed in or whether we think minimalist footwear will help you enjoy you running more, the fact remains that we are all individuals out on the trail and it’s the connection you share with the ground that is as unique as your very own fingerprints. In this month’s issue, we once again are inspired by the stories of others. We get up close and personal with a man that, although is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, has made running ultras his goal to overcome this debilitating, and currently incurable neurological condition. We’re taken on an awe-inspiring journey through one of the most remote areas of our beautiful South Africa, a trail of discovery and of natural beauty. We get an in-depth look at the origins and sheer majesty of the world’s “highest marathon” where altitude sickness, yaks and steep cliffs are just some of the obstacles you as a competitor will face. And we meet the family behind one of the world’s top ultra distance trail runners, Ryan Sandes, as Linda Doke visits the Sandes residence in Hout Bay, South Africa for a “quick chat”.

On the cover / Unknown Runner at the

3 Cranes Challenge photographer Kelvin Trautman, www.kelvintrautman.co.za

Above image / Editor enjoying the

“challenging” trails of Table Mountain in Cape Town, photographer Linda Doke

Graphic Design / Made possible by Silvergate Design www.silvergatedesign.com

As ever we encourage you to sit back and enjoy the read, be inspired and discover more about what trail running holds for you.

James

CLICK HERE

James Hallett Editor

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE PAGE 14 Go Explore – The Amatola Trail Tatum Prins, one of South Africa’s most accomplished adventure and trail racers checks out the Amatola Trail near Hogsback in the Eastern Cape. With her current involvement in organising the Hobbit 100 trail event later this year, you’ll get Mark (her husbands) recollection of their experience and a good idea of what seems a truly beautiful part of the country to run in.

PAGE 20 Through the Lens The visual recollection of the recent 3 Cranes Challenge held in late February, as shot by one of South Africa’s top adventure photographers, Kelvin Trautman. This incredible 100km journey takes the runners through the Karkloof region of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, all in the name of conservation. APRIL 2011 | GOTRAIL

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OFF-ROAD FOR A TOAD By Karoline Hanks

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“This 80 km trail run described as a ‘no-frills, not-for-wimps ultra trail run’ is also considered the undisputed mother of ultra trail running. The route has most of the runners at it for well over 10 hours so it’s no wonder that the race’s by-line is ‘Running in heaven, feeling like hell’... “

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Competing in tough trail races is second nature to this Cape Town trail blazer.

While on one of my last long training runs before the 2010 Hi-TEC Puffer my eyes fell upon a very squashed, very dead female endangered Western Leopard Toad. Driven by instinct, she would have been making her way over the road to a breeding pond late the previous evening carrying a precious cargo - a belly full of eggs. Yet her journey would have been brutally cut short. She had no hope of ushering in another generation – thanks to the wheels of one of the many cars roaring up and down that busy stretch of road in Noordhoek in the Western Cape. I had been out on the same stretch of road a few nights before as part of a ‘toad patrol’. With a big flashing light on my roof, reflective yellow outfit and hazard lights flickering, I spent three hours cruising the roads searching for crossing toads. I think I helped about 10 toads cross over safely. For a species that really is teetering on the brink of extinction, that’s 10 lives worth saving! My voluntary efforts were part of the Toad NUTs activities. NUTS stands for Noordhoek Unpaid Toad Savers. NUTS was started up by two dynamic Noordhoek women about 3 years ago. Their mission is to save the save the Western Leopard Toad from extinction by mobilising volunteers during the short breeding season (amongst other things). For most people, toads are not the most endearing creatures. Yet when you get up close and personal with these little guys, you realise just how magnificent they really are. Far from being slimy, warty and unpleasant, they feel cool, quite dry to the touch and are incredibly beautiful and unique. When you pick them up, they emit a grateful little croak, which you can feel from deep inside their belly. I personally think it is their way of saying ‘Sheesh, that was a close shave - thanks for saving me!’

speaking)! I think the concept of running an 80 km race from Cape Point to the Cape Town Waterfront just had many of them intrigued. Many non-runners have never heard about the Hi-TEC Puffer, so when it is described, they tend to react with a combination of horror and disbelief. One incredibly generous (and possibly disbelieving?) friend pledged R20 per kay. That equated to R3 200 if I finished under 8 ½ hours. Before the end of the first day, I had R5 000 pledged. The figure kept rising and the day before race day we were on a healthy R24 000. That was if I made the 8 ½ hour mark, of course. The week before Puffer I had my eyes on the weather forecast and it was NOT looking pretty. Windguru.com (an online weather forecasting service) was looking particularly bleak. North-westerly winds and gusts of up to 30 knots were promised, along with low temps and rain. Charming. The prospect of strong headwinds in Cape Point was dire. I have raced Puffer in miff weather before and it makes for a deeply unpleasant day out. I kept convincing myself that the weather websites had got it all wrong. All five of them! Wrong, wrong, wrong! We were going to wake up to sunny skies and not a breath of wind. For sure. My biggest worry was that in those conditions, an 8 ½ hour Puffer would be hellishly difficult. Why had I set myself that time? What was I thinking? Why did I not rather settle on something nice and safe, like 9 ½ hours? I hadn’t even thought about inclement weather when I emailed everyone asking for their hard earned cash and making myself hopelessly vulnerable by claiming I could achieve that time... The night before the race I lay sleeplessly in bed listening to the wind lashing our roof and rattling the windows. It was rabid out there. I got my whole family up at the sociable hour of 3 am on race morning and we drove off to the reserve in horrified silence, with the wind buffeting our car all the way and the windscreen wipers slashing back and forth. The start of the Puffer has always been a delightfully casual affair. A couple of people lined up at the front – while others ambled around in the background checking laces, straps and chirping nervously while race boss Martin muttered that we would start shortly. I found myself standing next to Ryan Sandes (or Mach1 as he is affectionately known by his training buddies). I squeezed his arm and wished him good luck. Like he needs it! (The machine went on

I saw two more toad fatalities on my run that day and I started thinking about how I could make a personal contribution that would make a real difference. By the time I got home, I had the answer. It was a simple concept, but so obvious. I had run two Hi-TEC Puffers before – so why not run this one for a reason? I got home and compiled an email sponsorship appeal in which I outlined my intention to run the Hi-TEC Puffer and requested that people contribute R1 per km that I ran or more. I then decided to set myself a challenge. What if I finished the race under 8 ½ hours? Then people could agree to double their contribution? Before I really had time to mull over the implications, I pressed the send button and it was out there. The response was almost immediate. People were slapping those bank notes down like there was no tomorrow (metaphorically

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Enjoying some quality time away from the trails with her two dogs, Sammy and Troy.


Pushing on through the blustery weather. One of the remote mountain trails Karoline encountered during her run at the 2010 Hi-TEC PUFFER. Photo: Jacques Marais

to bag a phenomenal sub-7 victory – what a genius). The rain had stopped by the time the gunshot cracked through the crisp air and 125 pairs of feet started their Waterfront-bound journey. I watched Ryan, Nic and Ake hit the tar at speed – they were pushing a sub 4/km. I had them in my torchlight for all of 2 minutes and then they vanished. For the next 30 kilometres I was completely alone! It was me, my iPod, the sweet smell of fynbos waking up and wet tarmac. It was pitch dark the whole way. Strong gusts of wind came and went, but it was not a big struggle. I was running comfortably and averaging at about 4:30/km. I had worked religiously on my splits all week and had them scribbled on my arm, so there was no getting away from it! I had to be at the reserve gates in one hour. I met that target, and the next one, and the next. This really motivated me and kept me focused and pressing forward.

me. My heart sank and I thought he was sure to be followed by a gaggle of fresh runners, including a female one (or more)! These would be runners who had sensibly not gone out so fast and were not feeling like they were about to blow. According to friends and supporters who saw me at the bottom of Old Wagon Trail, I looked like hell as I set on up the hill. This stretch is many Puffer runner’s nemesis – it is up, up and more up. The wind was gusting very convincingly at this stage. I adopted the age old walk-run-walk strategy and it worked. I hit the next point bang on target. There I learned that my fellow female competition (Tatum Prins – adventure racer extraordinaire) was 12 minutes behind me. I know that she has a knack for blitzing the hills with those powerful legs of hers and coming up from behind in the latter part of a race. This was the last thing I wanted! I grabbed a coke and forged on and up. The next stretch went by in a blur. I shovelled dates and sweets into my mouth and sucked on my water and just focused on squashing the negative voices in my head, not forgetting that I still had the Vlakkenberg steps to do still.

By the top of Red Hill my legs were starting to mutter and grumble. I told them to shut up and hit the single track. Finally – now I was in my comfort zone!

My coach Ian was at the bottom of the hill in Constantia – an unexpected surprise! He had a huge grin on his face and as he trotted alongside me for a bit, he muttered kind words and was really thrilled that I was in the top 5.

My running club Satori’s water table on Black Hill was a blur of faces and encouraging words. I grabbed a sandwich from my husband and ran. No socialising, warm cups of tea, schnapps or gourmet nosh today... By the time I hit the wood-cutters path, which links runners onto Ou Kaapse Weg, my legs had stopped grumbling and were now SCREAMING at me. I had to walk. Out of nowhere a runner passed

At the Constantia Nek car park the organisers told me that the race had been diverted. We were not allowed over the top of the mountain due to high winds and icy conditions. We had to go around it! The inappropriately named contour path had to be tackled. There is nothing remotely contour about this path. It is just up, up, and more bloody up. The last time I ran Puffer I had been sent this way too, so I remembered how far it seemed then. APRIL 2011 | GOTRAIL

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A “Toad-sign” warning motorists to be aware of these slow moving creatures.

I was joined by my second at this point - Katya Saggot. Katya is a relatively new kid on the trail running block. She has come out of nowhere and totally blitzed several of the big Cape trail races with her winning style. She was fresh from a magnificent record-smashing Hout Bay Trail Challenge. Katya saw me through the biggest doldrums of the race....every incline was painful. I swore, bitched and cursed and she found something positive to say to every F-word. By the time we hit Tafelberg road the wind had reached an absurd strength and we both nearly got swept up to Devils Peak and over the other side. With 75 odd kilometres in our shattered legs, the race organisers decided to remind us Puffer runners that we really were on a trail run and decided to send us up the Platteklip path to meet up with the Cable Car contour path. Climbing that rocky path was the final straw for me and there was even more cursing. By the time we hit the Cable station which was swathed in mist, I had gone very, very quiet. Katya talked to me the whole time, saying things like ‘It’s in the bag, K....go for it....just the last little hill, and then you’re there’.... I remember saying nothing - just nodding or waving her offers of water and food away.

The effort was certainly worth it!! Karoline (left) handing over a cheque to the “Toad NUTS” to be put to good use in helping protect these endangered amphibians.

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By the time we hit the Signal Hill water table I had a little over 8 minutes to get to the finish if I was going to make the 8 ½ hour target. By this point I at least knew I was far enough ahead of Tatum and there was a sweet whiff of victory in the air. This was the last thing on my mind. My biggest worry was making that wretched toad cut-off! With the threat of having to email all my wonderful toad sponsors to tell them that alas, I did not make the cut-off, I put my head down, dug as deep as I could and LEGGED it like hell down the hill, onto the main road in Green Point and down the last stretch into the Victoria &Alfred Waterfront. I have probably never run so fast in my life. What a wonderful feeling to cross that finishing line and see 8:26 on the clock! I was elated to know that I had won the ladies race and that I had doubled the money raised for the precious toads. It is my hope the toads will benefit very soon in some form or other with the R24 000 raised. The latest plan is to use the money to build an underpass (something that has been highly successful in Europe) that will ensure these little guys get to where they want to go without meeting a sudden, sticky end. Thanks to all my generous sponsors, friends and to the Hi TECH Puffer team for yet another superbly organised event.

Visit http://toadnuts.ning.com to find out more about the NUTS work. Visit www.puffer.fishhoekac.com/index.htm for more on Puffer.


APRIL 2011 | GOTRAIL

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The

SA

By Linda Doke

The name Ryan Sandes has fast become a household one in the running world, and it’s rapidly spilling into other circles as more and more people hear of this young man’s astounding running accomplishments. The Republic of Hout Bay has proudly claimed the champ dubbed “Sandman” as its own – and so it should, as he’s Hout Bay born and bred. And quite coincidentally – or not – he spent the past 10 years living on the edge of a sand dune. Go figure!

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ANDES FAMILY

Nowadays Ryan is everywhere – in magazines, e-zines, newspapers, on TV and radio, and inevitably at the top of leaderboards in races. But haven’t you ever wondered where this wonderkid comes from, and what his genetic recipe is? In a GoTrail exclusive, we bring you the first ever interview of the parents of world champion ultra trail runner Ryan Sandes – Chris and Frankie Sandes. I popped in to their home near the dunes above Sandy Bay near Cape Town one Sunday morning and met the parents of Sandman.

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– Just another Sunday spent relaxing at home above Hout Bay near Cape Town

First impression: there’re more dogs than people in this house! Huge ones, weenie ones, middle-sized ones, all just casually draped around enjoying the morning sun as it streams through the windows overlooking the whole of the valley, the bay and in the distance, Chapman’s Peak. Frankie and Chris welcome me in, and we sink into the sofas, the dogs rearranging themselves accordingly. Ryan ambles casually in and gives his folks a hug hello. Some small talk ensues, then we begin. Chris and Frankie moved to Hout Bay from Franschhoek in 1980. Ryan was Frankie’s 21st birthday present, and Ryan’s sister Ashleigh followed three years later. “Two kids were perfect for us”, says Frankie, “and being a young mum, play time and fun always rated high on the list. I wanted Ryan to be my little horseriding champ and at age three he had his own pony. He rode well but he wasn’t really the horsey type – he was more interested in his dirt bike.” (Ryan sniggers in the background “Yeah, when I saw I had to muck out the stables, I realised horses weren’t for me!”) It seems it was Ryan’s dad who’s responsible for igniting the running spark in his son. Chris, the original Sandman, modestly admits he “ran a few marathons for about five years or so” but he found running on road dull so he stopped. Sandman Jnr made sure he put his dad’s marathon medals to good use: as a toddler he’d run around the house dressed only in undies and vest with race number clutched to his front and medals dangling around his neck. (Clearly planning things to come, eh Ryan?) But it seems that was the extent of Sandman Jnr’s exposure to running as a sport for at least 20 years. At school waterpolo and, more seriously, rugby became his passion, and he had his sights set on serious goals in the sport...

“... but then I stopped growing,” says Ryan. “I was too light for rugby, and all hopes for me in the sport went out the window.” And the rest is pretty much history: a friend invited him to do the Knysna Marathon, so he did a bit of training and churned out a tidy 3:29. A sub-3:30 marathon on his first ever race – what a way to find out you’re a speedster! Chris refuses to take any credit for Ryan’s running ability. “I don’t think he’d want my 5min/km marathon genes! He must take all the credit for his success.” 12

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Chris elaborates on his son’s ability. “Ryan’s training regime is incredible. Even before he turned pro he would spend his evenings and weekends clocking up enormous mileage and putting in gym work. When he first started, I couldn’t believe how he would head out on the trails for 6-8 hours on a Saturday and then do the same again on the Sunday. When I used to run, my training would peak at 40km/week, and even that was only an excuse to have a beer with the boys!” Chris reckons the planning and preparation that Ryan puts in before races is much under-estimated. “Training in the climate chamber at Sports Science before the heat of Sahara and humidity of the Amazon; going to Bolivia before Atacama for altitude acclimatisation; spending time up the Sani Pass before the Trans Alps; and running in the cold chamber at Cape Union Mart before Antarctica are all examples of how seriously Ryan takes race preparation.” “Everyone knows the mind is very important in any long distance running, but Ryan seems to be able to push himself and shut out the pain when others would have given up. In particular his duel with the Chinese and Chilean runners on the 80km stage in Gobi – his first ultra – must’ve taken enormous determination. There was only about 30 minutes separating them before that stage and he’d never run that far before. Also, his run-in’s with Salvador on the long stages in Namibia and the Jungle Marathon showed real courage. I think the defeat in Namibia taught him a lot about himself; six months later he easily defeated Salvador in the Amazon.” It sounds pretty lame to say I had a frog in my throat as I sat there listening to Sandman’s parents talking about their son, and hearing how unbelievably proud they are of him. Ryan was squirming and took the dogs outside into the garden, so I took the opportunity to ask Frankie what she considered to be her son’s strongest character traits. “Where should I start! His ability to love and to laugh; to take life as it comes and, quite literally, run with it, but still remain humble; he’s sharp-witted and very funny, is in touch with his feminine side, always completely honest and a perfect gentleman. But then I guess most mums think their sons are the ultimate in awesomeness!” Frankie says that when her son is out there, running ultras in extreme conditions, she feels an incredible sense of calm and peace knowing he’s living his dream. “When I hear the news of him winning a stage, it fills me with such pride I’m bouncing off the walls for days!” A quick family photoshoot on the dunes next to the house and it was time for the Ryan to dash off for a training session – a five hour run on the mountain, just another day in the office for Sandman.


“It seems that not only Ryan is in his element on the sand dunes above their house”

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GO EXPLORE

THE

AMATOLA TRAIL By: MARK LOFTUS

The Amatola Trail is a 106km, 6 day/5 night hiking trail through the Amatola Mountains in the Eastern Cape. A small group of unsuspecting individuals recently joined adventure racer, Tatum Prins, in scouting the Amatola Trail Run Route for “The Hobbit 100” trail race happening later this year. The trail starts at Maden Dam, Northwest of King Williams Town in the Eastern Cape and finishes just outside the village of Hogsback, high in the Amatola Mountains. This is their story. During the course of 2010, Tatum Prins was approached by Dave Gazner, the founder of the various ‘Bafer’ trail runs, with the intention that she takes over the organising of these events. She accepted without a seconds delay and as the end of the year approached we realised that we needed to scout the route for the event. The best option for us was over the annual Christmas break. We approached DWAF about availability and booked a night on the trail at Cata hut which is also the overnight hut used during the race and almost half way. She required side-kicks to join her on the scouting of this iconic run… 14

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The Runners/Hikers

My name is Mark Loftus and I am an ex-River Guide, who for my sins, is very happily married to Tatum! I am a ‘Jack of all Trades’ who enjoys a good run

Tatum – Tatum aka “Hobbit” is one of South Africa’s finest Adventure Racers who amongst many great adventure racing achievements recently won the 100km Skyrun in the southern Lestho mountains and is regarded as the ‘Holy Grail’ of Trail Running races in South Africa.

PLANNING

Hanlie - Hanlie is one of South Africa’s more accomplished mountain bikers and is a multiple Cape Epic winner. Hanlie makes all forms of endurance sport look easy! The only sign of discomfort was when she realized she had officially finished her Coca-Cola supply!

The plan was simple in that all we needed to organise was the permits from the local authorities at the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry offices in King Williams Town; a night’s accommodation on either end of the trip and the lift to the start. We had opted to stay at the local backpackers as they offer transfers to the start at Maden Dam. The trip to the start is about 110kays and takes about and hour and half Finally, we had to consider the kit that we would need for 2 days and a night on the trail. During the actual running of the event, the organisers drive the competitors overnight bags/sleeping bags into the overnight hut. We did not have the option of this luxury and would have to carry our food, foul weather gear /clothing, cooking equipment and toiletries for the 2 days. As for our kit we opted to travel as light as possible. We all had 30 litre backpacks for our personal and shared out items of equipment. Fortunately, due to the plentiful rains that had fallen in the region we did not have to physically carry much water on the trail. Reports suggested that the region had received almost 500mm of rain in the recent months and that the trail would be very lush and green, as opposed to the winter months where the vegetation becomes brown due to the very cold weather.

Esther - Esther is a great friend of Hanlie’s and her trusty training partner - This means she is also fit. Very fit! Esther is one of those individuals who finds humour in almost everything they do, no matter how tough the going gets!

Tatum had met up with Dave who had marked the existing race route, including various check points and escape routes, so I packed in a GPS that would track the route and record the waypoints. The real challenge was to get into shape so that I could manage two 50 odd kay days in a row! The rest of the party are pretty much Marathon ready all year round! My belief was that if I got hold of the map from the girls, they would not leave me behind...

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the drive Originally, the idea was to complete the trip from Cape Town to Hogsback over two days, with a night spent in Knysna. Our departure was delayed and because of that we had to negotiate the drive in 1 day. The drive from Cape Town is just shy of 1000 kms and took us just over 12 hours to get to Hogsback where we were booked into the local backpackers lodge. We followed the N2 to Grahamstown via Vida e Café (a popular South African Café) in Knysna. We then took a ‘Sho’t left’ and followed the very scenic R67 via various Frontier battle memorials commemorating the frontier wars that were fought in the region during the 1800’s. We eventually arrived in Hogsback to meet up with Hanlie and Esther who were very concerned as to how we were going to cope with the stifling 35 degree heat! Not to mention the humidity that would be dished up to us by the indigenous forest over the next few days! After our ‘Hullos’, we were welcomed by the management of the backpackers which included a rather large mole-snake that was making its way to the kitchen; we were assured that this was not normal! Who were we to argue! We spent a rather eventful evening eating very delicious pizzas, packing our bags, packing away extra items that we hoped we did not need and confirming our 5am pick up for the next morning. Eventually we got to sleep when the co-inhabitants of the backpackers settled down well after midnight! They certainly would not be up early the next day to wish us well!

The Run

We were up at 04:15am and after a quick breakfast of cereal and a coffee we presented ourselves at the collection point for our 5:00am pick up! 05:15… 05:30… 05:45… um! What do we do? YAY!!! 05:50 and our lift arrived and we were off to Maden Dam with the promise that we would cover the 110km of district and gravel roads in an hour!!! Fortunately, it took a bit longer as our driver, Sipho “Shumacher” had to yield for livestock on the roads and slow going taxis (yip – there taxis are slow when you are doing 160!) We arrived at Maden Dam on a cool overcast morning and were blown away by the beauty of the dam and its surrounds. Incidentally, the dam was built in 1910 and must rate as one of the most stunning settings for a campsite – unfortunately the existing camping facilities are run down and very overgrown. After a few pics of the dam and checks that we had everything, the girls hopped over the gate at the started down the ‘trail!’ Fortunately, at the start there is a small info hut that has a map of the trails - I had stopped for a few last pic and a look at the map and realised that the girls were already trying to get themselves lost! To follow the race route, we had to head off on a trail just to the right of the

This day can be broken up into 3 stages Stage 1 heads from Maden Dam to Gwili-Gwili hut and covers roughly 15 kms of which the bulk is in the forested slopes of the Amatola mountain range. After the initial confusion off the start line, we headed fairly confidently down the trail until we reached the 5/6kay mark where suddenly the race route was not obvious and we were really not sure which path to follow. We came to realise that there are various alternative trails that head between Gwili-Gwili hut and Maden Dam that cater for day walks and the various forest roads that were not on the map! There are also options for folk who would like to spend just one night on the trail in the area. Fortunately, the GPS showed us our breadcrumb trail and we could choose the correct path. All was going well until we reached an ominous sign indicating “Bees – No Entry!” We came up with a plan that we would follow the option that felt like it was going in the right direction which happened to be a very vague and overgrown path. Fortunately the odd ‘yellow foot’ was still visible for us to follow and we pressed on. The GPS coverage was also proving to be sporadic due to the thick forest canopy.

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gate and not the obviously locked gate that they had jumped over! From the outset, the Amatola trail throws you into a wonderland of indigenous forest, streams, waterfalls and fantastic trails. Armed with the map and a GPS laying down a breadcrumb trail as to where were heading we headed off at a steady pace following the ‘yellow foot’ markers that are painted on the trees and rocks en route. We soon realised that the going was not as quick as we were hoping for. The thick vegetation, slippery underfoot conditions and the additional weight of our packs made for easy speed hiking but not the easiest running. Our idea was to run/hike a ‘day’ at a time and take a short break at the two overnight huts between Maden Dam and our overnight spot. The distance for Day 1 of the run is roughly 56kms and we anticipated needing about 10 hours. The trip info on the DWAF supplied map suggested we would need about 24 hours to do these 3 legs!

Day 1


[continuing from day 1..] We pressed on hoping to find some recognisable feature and were relieved to find the MacNaughton Krans that was very obvious when we got there as it has ladders at its base and is very obviously a Krans in the forest! All was well and we were not lost after all!. The list of mental notes and questions started growing fairly quickly as we anticipated first time runners getting properly lost if they did not have clear directions. Fortunately, this particular section had the densest undergrowth of the trip and should be clearer by the time the race is run in October after the winter. It turned out this was the trickiest part of the trail as it is not well walked due to most hikers opting for one of alternative shorter routes to GwiliGwili hut. The first leg took us just over 3 hours with the hiking trail narrative suggesting it should take between 6-7 hours. We had a quick snack stop at Gwili-Gwili hut, saved the GPS track and waypoint. Stage 2 is a long leg of about 20kms and stretches from Gwili-Gwili hut to Dontsa hut. This strectch is non-stop sensory overload of indigenous forest, thick undergrowth and waterfalls; thrown in are stunning views looking out over the distant landscape. Stage 3 is from Dontsa hut to Cata hut and is about 19kms. This stretch spends a lot of time in the indigenous forests and then a

few kays in a pine forest plantation. One aspect of our first day that we were not expecting was rain! And it rained a lot! The end result was not so much the wet gear but more the problems caused by a healthy dose of chafe! Tatum and I got badly chafed courtesy of the so-called technical running shorts that we had opted for and opted to cut out the linings in the hope that they would dry faster. This option worked pretty well for me, unfortunately for Tatum this was not as successful and for about 20kms we witnessed Tatum wandering about the Amatola Mountains with no shorts on! When we caught up with Esther and Hanlie they almost killed themselves laughing when they spied a half naked Hobbit trotting down the trail! Furthemore, I can attest to the fact that camphor cream is not the best option should you be chafed on your soft bits! Much to everyones delight, I headed down the trail dancing a jig the Rain Gods were so impressed with that it bucketed down for the rest of the day! After almost 12 hours and a more confusion as to how the forest roads worked we arrived cold and wet at Cata hut! Our evening was short and sweet! We had a quick cold shower, tested the Jetboil’s heating capabilities and were done by 9.00pm; in bed by 9.01‌ and asleep by 9.02! The idea was to be up really early as we had another big day ahead with the additional challenge of tired legs.

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Day 2 We were woken to one of the most terrific thunderstorms that any of us had witnessed! The windowpanes in the hut were shaking and the entire building would shudder with the thunderclaps! When our alarms eventually went off at 4.30am we had realised that we were not going anywhere. With daybreak we noticed that our visibility would be less than 5 meters and figured we would hole up at the hut until it cleared or if really desperate we could make our way to the Cata forest station. At about 6.30am we saw a break in the cloud cover and decided to head out. What followed was the most amazing stretch of the trail, waterfalls, gorges, and beautiful mountains.

Again this day can also be broken up into 3 stages Stage 1 heads from Cata Hut to Mnyameni Hut and covers roughly 13 kms and starts with a solid climb cresting the highest point of the trail at Geju peak. After summiting you quickly descend into an incredible boulder garden. This section is very ricky underfoot but quite spectacular. The journey to Mnyameni descends into the Mnyameni River gorge, which includes waterfall after waterfall tumbling through the forest and definitely the highlight of the trail. Use image “2.jpg� Stage 2 is a long leg of about 20kms and stretches from Mnyameni Hut to Zingcuka Hut and includes another sharp climb out of the valley before traversing the highland plateau on the eastern side of the Hogsback Mountain itself. There is a steep decent into the ??? River valley and more forest trail to the very picturesque Zingucka Hut. Stage 3 is from Zingcuka Hut to the finish just outside Hogsaback and is about 15kms and took about 3 hours. This stretch spends a

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few kays following the jeep track until you reach the trail heading up to the Hogsback itself. This section provides the best panoramic views of the area and a great feeling of achievement as one passes around the Hogsback itself. The decent to the finish gets a little vague as once again the forestry roads create confusion. The official trail finish is beside the road leading into Hogsback but the race will finish after a couple of kays (and a small climb) into Hogsback itself. We got back to Hogsback and had been so absorbed and completely captured by the Amatolas that after only 2 great days on the trail we felt like we had been away from civilisation for weeks! I cannot wait to return to this wonderland for the race in October!

www.mountainrunner.co.za Tatum aka Hobbit on 083 4490 760


Useful Information CONTACTS The Hogsback Inn – www.hogsbackinn.co.za – 045 962 1006 DWAF- amatolhk@daff.gov.za / 0837551485 Backpackers - http://www.awaywiththefairies.co.za - 045 962 1031

“What to pack” List 30 litre Backpack 2 litre bladder plus extra bottles 1 x Waterproof outer shell – Jacket and Pants 1 x Warm longs for at night 1 x Mid-layer fleece top 2 x Wicking T-shirts 1 x running shorts 1 x Trail running shoes 2 x Pairs of socks

Cutlery, Mug/Bowl Leatherman/Knife Head torch Underwear Jet boil & Canister (Shared) Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste (shared), Biodegradable trail soap/wash (Shared), Suntan Lotion Food – snacks, tuna sachets with wraps, Defydrated Boil-in-a-bag style dinners, Oats-o-Easy,

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The 3 Cran Photo Jou By Kelvin Trautman

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nes Challenge urnal

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“A relaxed atmosphere with a hint of nervousness, but all in all a friendly, warm and enthusiastic bunch of athletes set the tone for the weekend that followed and we couldn’t have asked for a better crowd.” 22

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“The trails were out of this world. Beautiful, challenging and definitely out of the ordinary with those unexpected twists here and there! My favourite parts had to be the forest sections, I felt so blessed to be in the midst of such beauty.�

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�The sting at the end of day two made the day really tough, but there is nothing wrong with that for a trail like this, trail runners must be tough!!�

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“I have done a variety of running, trail and cycling races, but I have never seen such a well organised event. Arriving to such a beautiful environment was just the beginning�

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“The support out on the route was equally special, finding a group of smiling faces on a mountain in the middle of nowhere was wonderful, especially when I found myself running all alone.”

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“This event not only made me feel like I was part of something special, but also made me want to become more involved.� 32

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Would you run 10 Million Metres for Parkinson’s Disease?

Meet ALEX FLYNN the extraordinary athlete who is

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“I was diagnosed in June 2008 and since then each and every day I choose to have a good day and push my limits irrespective of my disease.” 36

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Hi, my name is Alex I’m a thirty

overwhelming. At least on the less scenic races

nine year old,

it serves as a distraction.

with a family and a history of

My 10MillionMetres campaign has taken me

running ultra-

to many places and I’ve experienced many

marathons

adventures. I have run marathons and trail

and triathlons.

races, including the Ridgeway85, Grand

I also have

Union Canal Race (getting to 119 miles) and

Parkinson’s

Europe135 (across the Bavarian Alps) to name

disease. If

a few. In 2010, I became the first Parkinson’s

you’re not aware of exactly what Parkinson’s

sufferer to complete the Marathon Des Sables.

disease is, it’s a (currently) incurable chronic

This is a seriously good stage trail race and one

degenerative disease of the brain, which

I recommend. Set in the Sahara in southern

prevents movement and effectively imprisons

Morocco, the race spans 150 miles (250km)

the sufferer slowly in his/her own body. Not the

of an unforgiving desert of sandy dunes, salt

greatest disease to have as an adventure racer,

lakes and plateau’s strewn with volcanic rock.

I think you’ll agree?

Throw in some serious climbs and descents and temperatures averaging over 140 degrees

I was diagnosed in June 2008 and since then

Fahrenheit with 12 kilos on your back; it’s a

each and every day I choose to have a good day

challenge! The 2010 attempt was the second, as

and push my limits irrespective of my disease. In short, I’ve decided to make the most of the now! I live life to the full and have taken those plans that we all have, to one extent or another, and decided to realise them by covering 10 Million Metres by running, walking, swimming, cycling or, if necessary, crawling. In the process, I hope to raise £1 million, or more, to fund vital research into Parkinson’s and, hopefully, find a cure! Although, I say that I run, my days of running marathons and ultras are becoming increasingly difficult. Nowadays, I run and walk (a fast walk – my friends have to jog to keep up) when the Parkinson’s kicks in and makes my leg do its own thing; like stepping over invisible boxes or doing what I like to call an Irish jig. It causes a lot of comment in each race but I have to laugh, otherwise the situation would be 38

GOTRAIL | APRIL 2011


the first in 2009 was cut short due to developing

set off down the other side. This route took

viral pericarditis and getting lost in the Sahara

me down into a gully with high stone walls

for a bit!

either side that had soaked up the hot sun all day long. The heat was unbearable. It was like

2010 was going to be different. I was

running through a never-ending oven, but an

determined to succeed. I recall traversing a

oven where your feet slipped smashing your

dried lake in 147ºF and looking up at the 1000

toes into the rocks; breaking your toenails!

metre climb that was to come. A Jebel with

The bivouac and finish line never looked so

sand abutted on the first two thirds of the

good as I mounted the dunes at the bottom of

climb. The type of sand that’s not firm, but

the gully. Ignoring the pain in my feet, I made

instead is soft as hell. This meant that on the

a mad sprint across the divide between me

ascent I was taking five steps to climb one.

and the finishing line, passing over the chip

Reaching the rock face there was no option but

sensors and hearing the familiar “beep, beep”,

to climb, with the sun bearing down. I started

signalling that that days run had reached an

to climb and reached a point where I had two

end. It was the second day, with five more to

fingers jammed into a small handhold in the

go. I was already smiling at looking forward to

rock above my head. An interesting position,

pushing further and harder the next day.

considering that there might have been snakes or scorpions in the crevice. That wasn’t my

There are more races to come; including a 1521

concern at the time. What was my concern

mile run across Europe in 30 days, an Ironman

was trying to get my legs securely positioned

distance triathlon and an entry into the Otter

on the rock face either side of a rock. To paint

African Trail Run in South Africa this coming

the picture, my right hand was in the crevice,

September. With the rumour of three Ironman

my right leg was secure (or so I thought) and

races and traversing the USA for 3000+ miles in

I was focused totally upon getting my left leg

2012 and even more in the following years, you

on the opposing rock. It was at this moment

can tell that there’s a lot going on.

that my Parkinson’s decided to make its presence felt and my right leg mimicked the

As the saying goes, “nothing is for free”, and

Lord of the Dance, doing a wild jig and leaving

this is true as some of the planned courses and

me hanging from the crevice. Flailing my legs

events will be the toughest and nastiest on the

around I eventually managed to get a foothold;

planet. Payment for these will most likely be

notwithstanding the grumbles of annoyance

made in pain, sweat and lost toenails. However,

from the Italians behind me. I was laughing all

I believe that I will succeed in each and look

the while! Well, what would you do?

forward to updating you on the races and events as they happen.

Moving up and around the rock face and pulling myself up a rope I finally reached the top. I

Until next time, keep moving!!

was shattered and keen to move forward and

Alex

website: www.alexflynn.co.uk or follow daily on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/10MillionMetres

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Running the World’s

HIGHEST MARATHON By Diana Penny Sherpani

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Image by: Everest Marathon

Image by: Ben Winston

Im K

The Everest Marathon in Nepal is a gruelling 26.2 mile race through the mountains below Everest and is featur base camp at 5184m, finishes in the Sherpa ‘capital’ of Namche Bazaar at 3446m and is a measured 42 km ov The idea of the Everest Marathon was born in 1985 when two

During the race there are aid stations about every 3 miles manned

Britons organised an impromptu race from Namche Bazaar to

by marshals and doctors. Every runner must carry ‘minimum kit’

Tengboche monastery and back. It took two years to organise the

throughout the race to cope with unexpected weather changes and

first race in 1987 when the course was measured in the worst snow

possible injuries.

conditions for over 50 years. Despite dire predictions from medical

In 1987 the only Nepali runners were members of the trekking team

and sports experts about running at high altitude, the event was a

who cooked breakfast at the start and then had to help with dinner

huge success and marked a first in athletic history. The race is held

preparation at the finish. If a Sherpa saw you running he would

every two years and the fourteenth race will be held in November

ask, “What’s the emergency?” But nowadays mountain running has

2011.

become a popular sport with the hardy mountain people of Nepal

914 runners from 30 different countries have competed to date

and there is only one ‘foreigner’ in the All Time Top Ten winners.

with an age range from 21 to 65 and there are definitely more ladies than there used to be! As well as the rigours of sleeping in tents at

Things don’t always go right! In 1995 more freak snows prevented

temperatures down to -20°C, those from developed countries may

the team from reaching the start at Gorak Shep and a half marathon

be appalled at the lack of amenities taken for granted back home

was run from Tengboche. In 2007 heavy snow in Namche Bazaar had

and amazed at the fortitude and cheerfulness of the local people

the finish organisers wondering what was happening up at the start

who live in such a harsh environment. All camping equipment and

line. The Namche youth committee turned out with ice axes and

meals are supplied by a huge team of guides, cooks, porters (and

shovels to clear the path through the town to the finish line. Most

yaks!) led by the famous Everest summiteer, Phurba Tashi Sherpa.

people are just pleased to finish the race within the cut-off times, or double their road marathon PB!

But the hardship is more than compensated by the incredible mountain scenery and there are opportunities to climb Gokyo Ri

The Everest Marathon has no commercial sponsorship: runners have

(5483m) and Kala Pattar (5623m) for the best views of Everest. This

to pay about £1,700 for the 25 day holiday in Nepal which compares

must be the most spectacular race in the world!

favourably with the price of a commercial trek to the Everest region.

Altitude sickness is a major risk and 16 days are spent in the high mountains, trekking to the start line, for training and acclimatisation

Quite separately from their holiday costs, runners are asked to raise

under medical supervision. There is likely to be snow and ice at the

money for the Everest Marathon Fund, a registered charity which

start of the course and the terrain is varied: boulders, grass, sandy

supports various health and educational projects in rural Nepal.

scree, stone staircases, trails through forest and exposed paths

Any profits from the race organisation are also donated to this fund.

which contour the mountain sides, as well as unusual obstacles

Well over £500,000 has been raised to date, as well as thousands of

such as narrow suspension bridges and yak trains! Although the

pounds which runners have also donated to their favourite charities.

course is basically downhill, there are two steep uphill sections.

The projects supported range from the highest dental clinic in the world (in Namche Bazaar), school building, water and sanitation projects, health posts and leprosy programmes.

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mage by: Ian Gebbie, Kilmarnock Harriers

Image by: Peter Buchanan, Portobello Running Club

Image by: Everest Marathon

red in the Guinness Book of Records as ‘the highest marathon in the world’. The race starts just below Everest ver rough mountain trails. Experience of mountain or fell running is essential in order to be offered a place. EVEREST MARATHON RECORD LIST • Men’s record of 3.50.23 was set in 2000 by Hari Roka (Nepal) • Ladies’ record of 4.35.04 is held by Anna Frost (New Zealand – 2009) • Veterans’ record of 4.28.38 by Ray Brown (New Zealand - 1993).

MEET THE ORGANISER The race has been organised since 1987 by Diana Penny Sherpani through her UK trekking agency Bufo Ventures Ltd. Diana has been organising Nepal treks since 1976 and is married to a Sherpa. Diana Penny Sherpani

For more information about the next race in November 2011 please go to the race web site: www.everestmarathon.org.uk APRIL 2011 | GOTRAIL

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Go Trail magazine April 2011  

In this months issue: Karoline Hanks shares with us her efforts at one of South Africa's toughest off-road ultra marathons...all to help pro...

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