Having got a fat DNF for TMC 2015, I was determined to finish this time, especially with the expectation that all my Atacama training would contribute to me crossing that bastard finish line! And finish I did!
Batch D (the fun is at the back of the pack!) off Eligh (the husband) and I trotted. The steep climbs to start off with are quite the anti-climax and I was sweating before we had even reached Signal Hill road. Stopped to peel off the jacket and gloves and buff and we were quickly last. Poor Eligh, who is a middle of the pack runner was so uncomfortable with this – enter a bit of marital trail running boxing (there should be a name for this?) with me saying he should go on ahead and leave me alone to plod and him getting ants in his pants! He quickly acclimatised and he enjoyed my pace (good man!) and along we went.
I was running very conservatively. I didn’t want to get injured so close to Atacama and the test for me was to be on my legs (albiet slowly) for as long as possible and to test out my nurtition and mental strength. Success is all areas, thankfully! But 9 hours 37 minutes is a long ass time. Although “only” 44km, it’s a ganrly trail and many areas which are simply impossible to run.
Starting from the school fields, up to Signal Hill road and then connecting with Tafelberg road is a good warm up. Along the jeep tracks beneath Table Mountain road, switching back and up all the ups and down all the downs, and around Devils Peak. It really boasts beaut views of the CBD as well as Signal Hill and Lions Head. Hammer Gel in already, and some Hammer perpetuem, and a quick chow of biltong and nuts and then through CP1. CP1 was just below the blockhouse, where we had a quick down-down of Mountain Dew and I made a start on my Lunch Bar. We chugged along the contour path (up those blasted steps!) through the top of Newlands: it really is a beautiful path, the shade was welcomed and the views quite glorious. Feeling nice and cool and somewhat great, I had my apple whilst climbing Rooikat – that really is a climb. Just when you think it’s over, there’s more bleeding steps.
The run down Rooikat and to the bottom of Constantia Nek to CP2 is quick, and I felt strong coming into CP2 at 4 hours 18 minutes. Topped up with some H20 and off we skidaddled down Orange Kloof, me finishing my Lunch Bar. It goes right down into the valley, and I felt quite bereft – each decline would ultimately mean incline and I just wanted to be LEVEL now. Then came Myburghs path, which felt like FOREVER, which luckily is really picturesque so it makes up for the somewhat tedious winding single track. More perpetuem and a gel, keeping up the carbs.
Then came the Llandudno corner and that was just up, climb, up, climb, up, climb. Mini Cheddars down the hatch, to keep me going! Beaut views of the gorgeous coloured sea and Llandudno beach, as well as Hout Bay and all the mountains. It really is worth taking a breath and taking it all in! Finally we came up onto Table Mountain, and I began to falter a little bit. Sweepers came up behind us (hello darkness my old friend) who were jolly and too friendly for me to really stomach at that point, followed by some pretty gnarly rocks and we got stuck behind a slow lady who wasn’t keen on letting anyone pass. Running along the top, we made our way to the Kasteelpoort turn off and that was up to that point that I struggled. It just felt relentless, I just wanted level, easy running, but so many rocks and technical bits made it tough to build any rhythm and even slight hills I couldn’t run up, I was just feeling too tired. At this point, I’d finished all my food, and finished all my water and I was getting rather grumpy. The water point at the Kasteelpoort turn off had run out of water, so it was just what I needed to kick my bottom into “time to wrap this up” mode. Feeling gatvol, I dropped a gear (Eligh high tailing it behind me) and raced down Kasteelpoort. Swiftly onto Pipe Track and the welcome feeling of “this is almost over” came over me.
Plunging through the finish line (Fairview cheeses and spekboom as “medals”, love it!) we sat on the grass drinking Pepsi and stoked we managed a sub 10. It’s a bloody long time to be running, man. Really! In the car I burst into tears, Eligh laughed at me – he’d watched my euphoria of completing the race dissolve to a tear streaked face in the car! I’m not even sure why I cried. But it was such a tough race, it was tough to approach it conservatively, knowing we were so close to last (I came 7th to last!) and also having to be so careful “don’t get an injury, don’t get an injury” like a mantra on repeat in my head. I was exhausted, but also really happy that I coped with that kind of time on my legs! I worked out that the “long march” day of Atacama (day 5) will roughly be about 16 hours, but with a mandatory break thrown in, so I know I can hack it. It was really encouraging to test that and to test myself.
The winner Kane Reilly finished in 4 hours 14. We hadn’t even reached CP2 at that point. I am truly amazed by these mountain goats! I imagine the sections where I would consider it “impossible to run” and how they’d just fly over the rocks. It’s amazing – true, natural athletes!
Conclusion: TMC is a rad race. Whether you do one or two legs or the full, it’s a great way to experience Table Mountain and to test the limits.