Race Report: Ruan van der Merwe – 3 Cranes

This year-round it was my turn to convince a teammate to join me for the breath-taking 3 Cranes 100km Stage Race, so by Thursday afternoon myself and Greg were on our way with a fully packed Fortuner, as it seems that we were packing for a 2-month visit to the Karkloof area.

As you get closer to the Karkloof Conservancy, you once again realise why it is you are back for more punishment. The rolling vistas and indigenous forests have an allure to them that no other race can offer

I was definitely more stressed than last year, as I have been struggling with a bone stress injury since the beginning of the year and have been unable to train my running in any way, and my fitness was mainly maintained through cycling and swimming. But there was no point in worrying too much and at least I was able to do the run.

So, Day 1 starts with a race up a massive mountain! You soon come to realise that all the stages consist of doing all the elevation gain in the first few km’s to completely tire out your legs, then some nice flat super-fast running, and then down the steepest downhill they could possibly find in the area, which you have to try and navigate properly on dead tired legs.

Taking some lessons from last year I maintained a relatively good pace and didn’t push too hard on this 30km leg, as the next day was the 41km beast on which you could lose a lot of time. Overall I finished the day in 3rd position with only a few minutes separating the front 5.

Day 2 is a completely different beast and I lost a lot of time here last year, so I was adamant to not make the same mistakes. Keeping with the race leader up to halfway I ensured he could not get a gap on me, and I could hopefully close the gap in the 2nd half.

Seeing as day 2 has a timeout zone where the clock is stopped and you can mooch around until you feel like carrying on, I decided to make full use of this and waited a proper 45 minutes before heading out again. Unfortunately, Linda Zondi (race leader) headed out quite a long time before me, so I had no way to gauge how I was doing.

As it turns out, I finished a mere 1min and 3 sec behind him for day 2, which thanks to the previous day’s 2nd place finisher bombing out, I was now comfortably in 2nd overall with a 20min lead on 3rd and only 10min behind 1st.

Another big focus for me this year was the right nutrition at the right times, so using the High5 Energy Source 2:1 and Energy Source 4:1 in my water with the ISO gels every 30-45 minutes, I was able to maintain a strong effort without even a hint of a cramp or muscle failure. The only thing holding me back was my fitness due to injury, but nothing I could do about that. Also using a recovery shake within 15 minutes of finishing each day, I believe helped for optimum muscle recovery the next day.

Day 3 was the day I hoped to make up some time, as the technical downhills suited my type of running a bit more than flat out sprinting, but alas.. it appears the other runners also have a knack for bombing down slippery mudslides at breakneck speed.

So starting out in the rain, mist and dark at 4:30 am, we were all trying to kill each other as quickly as possible up the 15km of hill running to get to the top of Mt Gilboa, after which you do between 6 – 8km of downhill running/sliding. I still believe this is some of the most fun a grown man can have!

So although I got to run and I had one of my most fun races to date, I didn’t take the win but considering everything, I am super happy with my 2nd place and hopefully, we can make up for this next year, because I am definitely coming back for the win!