Race Report: Greg Avierinos – 3 Cranes

3 Cranes, 3 Days, 3 Inov8’s and way too many k’s and supplements later I was a rather broken but very happy chappie!
This was my first proper stage race and wow, what a race to start with! From arriving at the venue late Thursday evening and seeing the setup with all the tents to the large dining hall and awesome food I could see this was going to be a well-organised event!
Friday morning was an early start, get up walk around in the dark, listen to the sounds across the race village, make coffee, get a banana and some water into the system, get dressed and check gear. This is more or less how the mornings went, with a small trot to kick out the legs and try to loosen them up before hitting the trails. As it hit 6 am we hit the trails, I was really excited for the trails to come and to see what this whole stage racing is all about.
The race started off fairly fast with Ruan taking an early lead, I tried to stay just behind him. The trail got very steep, very fast! Trying to keep pace was tough but I managed to hold on for the first while, 2 runners came past us and ran off, then another overtook me and settled in behind Ruan slowly increasing the gap they had on me. The hill just carried on and I had to drop off the pace to ensure I didn’t blow later, once reaching the escarpment it was into the Karkloof grasslands and what a view! Running was still tough with rolling hills and some rather grassy trails I struggled to get my rhythm at times. Coming off the escarpment on the other side was some of the best single track downhill, through the forest, I’ve ever run! It just carried on and on, until it opened up and became gravel road taking the enjoyment and focusing it all on how sore this downhill is now making your legs trying to keep up ridiculous speeds. Luckily shortly thereafter we were into the neutral zone for the Karkloof canopy tours, giving the legs a bit of time to recover. Here I also rehydrated and took in another High5 gel, trying to use the time it took to do the zip lines for maximum benefit. With one of the coolest zip lines done it was time to hit the trails again for the final 6km to the finish. Again going out with Ruan for the first 3km and then struggling my way through the last 3km with the legs and even the top of my forearms starting to cramp… The last few hills weren’t enjoyable but luckily I knew the end was near! After 30km and almost 3hours of running, I was very glad to cross that finish line in 6th place!
It was then, straight into the dam, recovery shake, massage, food, sleep under the trees, more food, more sleep and then we come out to see what was happening around the race village and probably find more food. The legs were feeling rather tired, but with a good nights rest and some good recovery, I was hopeful that they’d feel good in the morning!
Saturday morning was again an early start, get up walk around in the dark, listen to the sounds across the race village, make coffee, get a banana and some water into the system, get dressed and check gear and fill up with energy gels and every drink for the long day ahead! This was going to be my longest run and with doing a hard 30km the day before I knew it was going to hurt, I just didn’t know how much. The race started out a bit more open this time with the first 6km fairly open road and with an average downhill gradient it was rather fast. There were about 8 of us in the front batch with Ruan and day 1’s leader pulling away up the big climb we hit 10km in, I was really enjoying the running and the downhill to follow through the mist was really awesome!! From about 16km I had to slack off a bit watching 3rd run off into the distance, I was starting to feel yesterday on the legs! The last 5km to the neutral zone at Benvie garden was tough, trying to hold off the ever nearing 5th place athlete, who in the end he got me just before checking in. The plan was now to take a proper rest as the legs were taking strain!! After over an hour of refuelling and resting it was time to tackle the last 16km. I started off with Carla and Dumasani with the aim of trying to finish with Dumasani and hopefully, in front of Carla and for the first 6km it was still looking good but then things started going south fast! Started cramping again, first (weirdly) it started on the top of my forearms, the legs were tired so running the downhills now became rather slow and sore. From 8km out the legs were starting to cramp and running was reduced to more of a slow jog later to be reduced to a slow shuffle trying to get myself to the finish. Jogging up the road to the finish was slow but man did it feel awesome to have reached the end!! Can’t imagine what I looked like coming in though, with both legs cramping in both my upper quads/ hip flexors and behind my knees I imagine I looked more like a duck trying to run! But 40km and 4hours later all cramped up I was very happy to be finished for the day! Even though Carla beat me!

Strangely this time we couldn’t really sleep but there was a lot of rehydrating and refuelling going on! But that night I had no problem sleeping! Think someone could have dropped a bomb next to me and I wouldn’t have woken up!
The 3rd and final day started even earlier with the start at 4:30 through the mist and into the darkness this was one awesome start! I opted to take this start easier and then once reaching the escarpment after the first major climb, to pick up the pace from there. I really enjoyed this run, and although the legs were tired I found I could still hold a fairly comfortable pace once on the mountain. I really enjoyed running through the mist and the rain as it slowly becomes light. This stage was also known for a very technical downhill for the last 6km and with it being all muddy and wet from the rain that was bound to be super exciting! The last climb up Mt Gilboa was quite a drag and lasted a bit longer than I thought but I was still able to run it out which I was happy about. A quick check in at the CP on top and it was time to make our way down the slippery trails back towards the finish. Managing to take one more place in the last km of the run I finished the day in a sprint finish to secure the 6th and after making up a lot of the time lost on day 2 I was able to secure my 6th place overall.
Stage racing is tough! The trails are awesome! The vibe and chill time after is awesome! Looking forward to many more!

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