Race Report: Carla van Huyssteen – African X Trail Run

The AfricanX trail run is one of the few multi-stage trail running events in South Africa that is a team based event. Teams of two run together for 3 days over 3 stages covering about 90km of trails. Why do I keep coming back to this event is a question I have been asked a lot and I have never answered the why with one answer, this year being my 5th time running and the race being 10 years old. Yes, it is a great running event, yes the views are stunning, but there is a lot of suffering involved trying to stay in the front of the ladies’ field and every year I somehow forget and then every year I am back on the start line. But I have come to the realization and conclusion that anything shared is worthwhile, worth the pain, worth the glory, worth the celebration and worth the effort. A shared experience whether good or bad, usually ends up having deeper meaning than solo soul-searching outings.  So if only for one reason, the camaraderie of the partnership, I did have a valuable experience out on the trails this last weekend.

My partner in crime this year around was Nicolette Griffioen, one of SA’s best trail runners, with a few amazing international results to her belt too. She is currently SA long distance trail champ and is a real running talent. We ran together in 2015 and raced ourselves to the second podium spot. I think in the back of our minds always wanted to come back and try claim the victory if possible.

 

Both Nicolette and I enjoy technical trail running and the change of this year’s route would potentially suit us a bit more, but we where challenged by a few strong female teams for the victory. For its tenth year, the race venue moved from Houw Hoek Inn just past Grabouw to Boschendal Wine Estate just outside Stellenbosch. Having access to some mountains in the area the race organizers tried to get the route a more technical route than the previous years.

 

DAY 1: JONKERSHOEK  33km

The first day in Jonkershoek was a 33km run with an abundance of technical trail running, rocky climbs and descends, traversing all along the Jonkershoek valley. We where in our element and took the 1st stage win. We managed a small time gap to Katya Soggot and Chantel Nienaber who was the second female team in, and a more significant gap on the other female contenders Kate Mapham and Danette Smith and Kate Roberts and Mari Rabie, both teams more comfortable on less technical terrain, and super fast road runners.

 

DAY 2: BOSCHENDAL 35KM

Day two was an interesting combination of running, not too technical, open road, jeep track and steep climbs was up and over some of the mountain sides of Boschendal Wine Estate. We started at our own pace, knowing that the girls will be out the gates very quickly, but as the terrain got more technical and steeper, we managed to reel the girls in and run our little legs off on the technical down hills to open a slight gap again. The stage was long and towards the end we got caught by Mari Rabi and Kate Roberts again on some gravel sections. For the last 10km it was a bit of a cat and mouse situation with them, going between us passing them on technical sections and them passing us on faster open sections. The last 4km was a long steep quad thumping downhill to the bottom of the valley, and a 2km flat dirt road run to the finish line. We opened a gap on the descend but my legs took such a pounding I could hardly run on the flat section to the finish line. Nicolette very kindly pushed, pulled and motivated me to the end and with minutes to spare took the win on day 2, something I did not think possible earlier on in the race.

 

DAY 3: BOSCHENDAL 20KM

The last day, day 3 was a bit of a death march for me. My legs were sore from the last few days of running and they refused to go any faster than I willed them to go. They where in pain and on the way of boycotting me. Luckily we did not have too much to push for but did try and run as solidly as possible, running ourselves to 3rd position on the day and 1st female team over the 3 days. Ecstatic!

 

Thank you Nicolette for being a great and patient partner! Thank you to my team, KeyHealth Nevarest for making this race possible for me!