Race Report: Jacques Buys – Wildseries Three Cranes Challenge 2019

My first major trail race of the year was quite a spur of the moment idea as I entered a few hours before entries closed after Ruan van der Merwe convinced me to do Three Cranes. Still my preparation for the event was on point, or so I thought…

The race takes place in the beautiful Karkloof Valley and acts as a fundraiser for conservation and rehabilitation of the different species of cranes in the area. We had the privilege to experience the habitat of these birds first hand and heard some interesting stories about these birds at race briefings.

Stage 1 consisting of 29km was set to be a slippery day out as rain poured down through most of the night. The steep climb of the day came at around 3km in and Ruan and I was able to break away in front. I was able to stay with Ruan till about halfway up the climb when I realized that he was in a class of his own and I just set my own pace throughout the race. After an adrenaline pumping downhill we were greeted with the first time-out zone where we were treated with some drinks and snacks as well as a quick slide on a part of the Karkloof Canopy tours route. It was basically a 6km time trial from the time-out zone to the finish where some cramping niggles started showing signs but luckily I was able to retain second for the stage.

Stage 2 was set to be the race decider with 40km, two big climbs and to top it all off, some heat playing a big role in the second half of the stage. The race strategy was to take it easy and save energy for as long as possible as I knew endurance was not really my strong point in a field of ultra-trail runners. Up the first climb of the day I felt comfortable and held a very relaxed pace to the time-out zone at Benvie Gardens. Cramps started setting in just before Benvie Gardens and only worsened throughout the second half of the stage where the physical suffering turned into a mental battle. My body clearly is not yet used to running that distance at a decent pace and I lost a lot of time slogging to the finish.

Stage 3 personally was all about survival as my body was far from recovered from the battle of stage 2. The start was set for 4:30am bringing in a bit of night running to the race. This idea had a few people skeptical but the breathtaking sunrise at the top of Mt. Gilboa more than made up for the early rise out of bed. I ran with a lot of discomfort till the last water table where the 8km descent to the finish started. This downhill being very slippery and technical was kind of the selling point for me entering the race so I was very pleased that I could actually run some of it through the discomfort.

Through all the suffering endured in the Wildseries Three Cranes Challenge it was still one of the best trail running experiences I’ve had. The scenery was amazing and the whole idea behind the event is heartwarming. This event will definitely be on my event calendar in the future.

This being my first event in the Nevarest colors, I would like to thanks NEVAREST TEAM for recruiting me and look forward to the coming year of racing.