Ultra Trail Cape Town 2019 – How it went down…
A race in our own old hometown and gorgeous city of Cape Town, South Africa.
Having left Cape Town back in 2010, I had only just started to enjoy the trails around the city and all the mountains had to offer. The furthest I had run whilst living in South Africa had been a few 50k events as trail running hadn’t quite taken off in these earlier years.
Cape Town – the tip of Africa
Ultra Trail Cape Town (UTCT) is easily accessed via Cape Town International Airport, frequented by numerous international airlines. A 20min drive from the airport would have you at the start grounds and expo. UTCT is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) which brings a large amount of running talent from around the globe, all set to tackle the trails of Table Mountain. The week preceding the race I chose to stay near the seaside suburb of Muizenberg with my folks, using that week to build miles leading into the event. Most entrants tend to stay in the city, close to the event or along the beautiful Atlantic seaboard.
This was my final big week and test before my “A-race” goal being the Ultra Trail Tai Mo Shan, a 100miler held Hong Kong during January 2020. The plan was to go into the race somewhat fatigued, following a bigger than normal training week and see how I could push and maintain a decent pace throughout the run. I had tweaked my training during the months leading into the event and wanted to see how it would all pan out.
Wednesday before the race the organisers hosted a 10k evening trail run along the slopes of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. All the big names were in town for the event: Lucy Bartholemew, Amanda Basham, Ryan Sandes, François D’Haene, Cody Reed and Courtney Dauwalter were amongst those in attendance. A great “get to know the pro’s” event with the run ending at a hotel on the Atlantic ocean front with free Jack Black beers and burgers laid on by the organisers. Solid way to spend an evening! Definitely worth signing up for when in town for the race.
Thursday is the pre race registration held below the slopes of the iconic Table Mountain. What an absolute gas this was! The registration area was on the green grass under a very festive beer tent with music and healthy (some not so healthy) food stalls, great coffee, oh and did I mention beer? We ended up staying there for hours chatting to friends old and new and sinking many many beers. All in the name of carbo loading, right?
Friday was spent revisiting the expo/registration to grab some last minute panic items, otherwise a relaxing day was had. A small pre race day 5k to keep the legs ticking over and a sports massage was all that was needed to get the pins primed for the following days race.
The night before the race I migrated to the city and stayed with Mike (float.one) and family and managed to get to bed early. Only a few beers this time haha. A very early start awaited us on race day (03h45) to be in the start pen for a 05h00 start. As the first few km’s of the race meander through the city in the dark, a head torch is a necessity. The gradual climb out of the city onto the dusty trails just as sunrise broke was a great start to the ultra and a day ahead. Forecast weather indicated it was set to be rather warm and it sure was sweaty business during the climb out. Training throughout the summer months in Hong Kong gave me an advantage with this weather being in my favour. The big climb of the day (860m over 5.5km) was up Table Mountain and took a solid >1hr grind to complete during the late morning heat. On top the weather was cold and misty and a quick kit change was required in order to stay warm. Vastly different to the temperatures down at sea level. The course takes in some beautiful scenery through the odd break in clouds/mist and the city views make you want to stop and take a few snaps. Once off the mountain, the course is relatively flat (for trail) but rather technical in places making for some slow going. As the day progressed, the temperatures continued to rise with a large majority of the latter stages of the course being unshaded. The final aid station at the University of Cape Town was a welcomed sight, providing fresh watermelon along with other aid station staples (including ICE) and a DJ spitting out some solid vibes. A large crowd was present and the cheering helped send us off on the last steep section with a kick of energy.
A final dusty climb to the blockhouse from the University was a brutal reminder that the race was not quite over just yet. With that behind me only a flat section and a lengthy downhill remained. Unfortunately my legs began to cramp on this final leg and made the going rather tough. I continued to hobble on running through the cramps and pains. Rounding the corner into the final stretch I could hear the cheers of the crowd at the finish line and almost taste the beer. Into the final 100m chute I went, crowd shouting, finishing in a solid 9hrs 12mins (was aiming for 10h30) and given an ice cold Jack Black Pale Ale big-mans-can as my reward. Superb ending to a superb race.
The finishing grounds offered some much needed shade and portable showers. Would recommend a change of clothes in your drop bag for a post race shower as well as a wallet full of beer money to replenish lost fluids. Jack Black Pale Ale & Lager flows freely here (more like beer tent)! Great music and various food vendors make for an enjoyable afternoon watching and cheering all the other runners along to the finish. A well organised event by the UTCT team.
Elevation: D+3100m (official)
Time: 9hours 12mins (24th/415)
Shoes: Hoka Mafate Evo 2
Shorts: T8 + T8 underwear
Top: Kalenji HK100
Pack: UD with Naked belt
Poles: Leki MTR
Nutrition: Spring energy gels, Tailwind lemon/natural, Hammer salt tabs
Aid Stations: Nuts, fruit, water, energade, salt, potatoes, watermelon, ICE
Sustainability factor: Good
End beer: Jack Black Pale Ale
Notes: Would plan on entering the 100k next time (4am start time), 17hr limit
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