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Race Report: Chrissie Viljoen – Tortoise Tuff (21 km Trail Run)

The Sedgefield Striders club hosted the 21 st edition of the ever-popular Tortoise Tuff event, the past
weekend. The 21km trail run (more like 23!), are described as follows ‘The challenging trail
run includes sections along the beach, through the Goukamma Nature Reserve, and up
some serious sand dunes. Cape Nature’s co-operation makes it possible for runners to
enjoy stunning views and almost untouched trails as a reward for their hard work.’
Perfect weather greeted the 600 plus entrants on the day. Having suffered from shin splints on my
right calf since 70.3 East London triathlon, I didn’t do much run training at all the past six weeks.
When I heard that the trail run would include a 3.5km run along the beach, I decided to take it very
easy to the end of the beach section of the run and decide whether I would continue with the rest of
the run, depending on how my leg was feeling.
It took a bit of self-discipline to not run hard from the gun with everyone else, but it turned out to be
a good strategy. The beach section came early on in the run and the sand turned out to be very
loose. I quickly looked for a runner with similar stride length and matched him step for step, him
doing all the hard work by compacting the soft sand a bit for me.. yes, sneaky I know, but desperate
times call for desperate measures!
Even using a simple technical ‘advantage’ available made it possible to conserve energy for later and
in that short section, I probably passed seven to eight other women.
It really does pay off to think about the execution of the sport you are busy with and finding ways to be
as fast and efficient as you can be whilst burning as little as possible matches that you might need
later.
The next section was into the Goukamma Nature Reserve up and down a number of dunes. I was
feeling good; my calf was still feeling great, so I decided to go for it! With about 8km’s to go I saw
another lady far ahead on another switchback and it really motivated me to pick up my pace. My
favourite section was running at the top of Platbank looking down on the spectacular Groenvlei lake
and the steep, sandy descent down to the Goukamma Bushpig trail.
As we exited the Bushbig trail going towards Lake Pleasant I caught up with her and managed to drop
her on one of the descents.
The run was challenging with all the loose sand and many hills and descents, but I really felt good on
the day and the scenery, as promised, really made it worth it!
At the finish I was pleasantly surprised to hear that I made the podium, coming in 3 rd overall in the
ladies race and the winner of my age category.
The Tortoise Tuff is definitely a race I would keep on my race calendar and recommend to any
runner.

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