Kgale X-Country Trail Series, Race Recap #13/17

On the 28th October, I participated in the Kgale X-Country Series (15 km) Trail Run. What a tough race this was – physically, but more mentally! For those of you reading my blog for the first time I am a newbie runner on a mission to complete 17 races this year! Enjoy Unlucky Number 13! 

Some of you may recall that the last time my cousin Tapiwa and I did one of the Kgale X-Country Series Trail Runs we got MUGGED on the course with 5 km left to run… It was a horrific experience and I concluded my blog post by saying, “It was a beautiful trail run. I will choose to remember it for that. I will choose to remember it for being my first 15 km race. I will choose to remember it for bonding with my cousin. But I think it will be hard for me to return to this same place at least not without a team of bodyguards, police helicopter, maybe even some armed forces!” So when another race in the series was advertised I had no desire to sign up. But as I am fast running out of races to complete my 17 Race Challenge, I felt I had little choice but to participate in one of the Kgale X-Country Series races again…

What was comforting this time round is that they changed the location to a much safer area – the Mokolodi Nature Reserve where we did a relay event in August. Tapiwa and I arrived at 05:45 to collect my race pack for what I thought was a 06:00 start. As I am a bit nervous driving out of town, Tapiwa volunteered to drive me to the venue and then do her own workout while I did the race. But when I realised that manual registrations were still on, I somehow forced encouraged Tapiwa to do the race with me. In hindsight, I am so glad she agreed! We quickly warmed up and got ourselves ready for the race which ended up only starting at 07:00.

The Route: A beautiful trail run through the Mokolodi Nature Reserve, alongside a lake through some dry river streams, and in the bush that’s now turning from brown to green.  

The Race: We had such high temperatures (35 – 40°C) in the days leading up to the race but race day was cloudy and very cool. So much so, that we waited in the car as the race organisers were setting up. There was a very small group of runners (maybe around 30) and the race announcer said there would be one water-stop at World View which he said was between the 9 and 10 km point. He also said that if we were still on the track after 2 hours, we should starting looking out for the cyclists who may start passing us at that point. But given that we finished our last 15 km race in 2:05:18, I was not too concerned about this. At 07:00, we set off.

1 – 5 kmSplits (min/km: 08:15/ 08:49/ 08:42/ 08:10/ 08:18). After we had shaken off the usual first 2 km yuck feeling, we found a comfortable, conversational pace. There was a bit of elevation at the start but after that it was quite flat and the dirt path was smooth with only a few loose stones and rocks. It was lovely to see how green everything is becoming now that Spring is here and all the impala droppings along the path was a nice reminder that we were in a nature reserve. We went slightly off track when we misread one of the signs but quickly found our way back.

6 – 10 kmSplits (min/km: 08:15/ 07:50/ 08:07/ 08:34/ 08:20). Although my splits are not too different from the first 5 km, I remember this is where I found my groove. We missed a turn but soon realised our error and only lost a couple of minutes. For most of this stretch, Tapiwa was ahead of me and at one point asked “Are you okay?” to which I responded, “Feeling good. I can comfortably do the 15 km”. And indeed at that point I did feel comfortable. However, two things happened here that show I need to work on my mental game: 1) When we got to 10 km (which is my usual distance) all of a sudden I felt like my race was done; 2) We were nowhere near World View water-stop which they said was between 9/10 km. At that point we had been running for 01:19 hours so technically we were well on track for a 2 hour finish. However, those two factors seriously played with my mind and I wasn’t quite the same after the 10 km point… My race fell part after that.

11 – 15 kmSplits (min/km: 09:30/ 10:24/ 09:50/ 09:22/ 11:57). I slowed right down and did a lot of walking in this stretch. Tapiwa was still quite strong and I told her to push ahead. I struggled to keep up and then I started feeling slightly disoriented, like we were going around in circles. After a while, Tapiwa walked back to me and assured me that we weren’t going around in circles (looking at the route map after the race I see now that we were definitely on track). But it just felt like it was this never-ending road with bush that looked exactly the same. And I kept repeating –“Where is the water-stop?” We had enough water on us, but the big worry was that as they had said the water-stop would be at the 9/10 km point… this made us wonder whether we had lost our way and that’s why we hadn’t seen it. Tapiwa said we should only worry when we get to the 12 km point… and then we got to the 12 km point, and there was still no water-stop and we got a lot more worried.

I think this is around the time we became trackers looking for fresh foot-prints in the wilderness. “Look at these Shathiso – these are fresh ones.” And then I would ask, “But are they facing in the right direction?”. Oh dear, I can laugh now… but oh dear! All the while, the time kept ticking away. At the 13 km point, we met a marshal! Such a good feeling but then he pointed us up a path that he said would take us to World View. World View??? How was this even possible??? He then told us that other runners before us had already complained about the distance. Around 14 km, we met another marshal and we asked for some of her water. After a bit of a climb, we were finally on top of World View and there we found lots and lots and lots of water bottles piled up high in one giant stack… The distance done… 15 km!! How did they get the measurement so wrong!? The guys with the water then said we probably had around 6 km still to go…

16 – 17.6 kmSplits (min/km: 09:55/ 11:09/ 10:44). 6 km to go?? That would make this our first Half Marathon then!?! Thankfully, we didn’t have 6 km – “only” 2.6 km more but on this stretch we had to keep jumping off the path as mountain bikers came through. We had been warned… we just didn’t think we would still be out on the trail. Walk – jog – walk – jog to the finish line and that was that. We hunted for someone to give us our hard-earned medals! We were the last to come in and it most certainly wasn’t the usual “feel-good” finish but Number 13 was in the bag and we still had energy to laugh as we drove home. What a crazy morning!!

My time: 2:46:17 – not my finest hour, not my best race, but hey! Still got my medal!

Learning:

  • I need to work on my mental game. Race problems aside, I should have stayed a lot stronger between 11 – 15 km. I really let the external factors get to me. At 10 km, we were sitting at a healthy 01:19 time … I am glad Tapiwa was there to push me, but I didn’t dig deep enough on my own. I allowed things to fall apart… Yeah, I did…
  • I need to work on my endurance. I was disappointed that my body started feeling like giving up after 11/12 km. My mind played a role, yes. But my body also needs to get stronger, I need to get a lot fitter if I am to do a Half Marathon next year.

Pros of the Race

  • Beautiful trail run – just enough elevation here and there to get the heart pumping; lovely streams and a beautiful dam. At one point, we also saw a warthog scurrying into the bushes as we ran past!
  • Nice executive toilet at the start/finish of the race
  • Free burgers at the end of the race

Cons of the Race:

  • I am beginning to sound like a broken record – this was not a very organised race; the online registration system was erratic. I emailed them to say it was down, and then they fixed it. But by the time Tapiwa was registering, it was down again which is why she ended up doing a manual registration in the morning. A lot of the information said that it would be a 07:00 start but in an email I got the day before the race, they said it would start at 06:00. But it ended up being 07:00 after all. What if we had had the temperatures of previous days? They were just lucky it was a rare cool and cloudy day.
  • I know I need to work on my mental-game but it doesn’t help when you are told there will be water at 9 – 10 km and then it is only at 15 km. As I said earlier, I did have enough water, but because of that information I kept thinking we were lost when in fact we were never lost.
  • The race course was too long – over 17 km and not 15 km. The 15 km distance was already a tough ask for me, so adding over 2 km didn’t help matters.

Would I do this race again? 

No – although the trail itself was amazing. I am just tired of disorganised races. Once my 17 Race Challenge is over, I am going to be a lot more selective about races I choose.

I am linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for the exciting Tuesdays on the Run! I am also linking up with the Wild Workout Wednesday crew – Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama and Nicole from FitFul Focus

Time Adventure Team Challenge, Race Recap (#9/17)

My ninth race of the year was on the 20th August 2017. It was my first ever team event and I earned myself a nice 13-minute PB on a 5k Trail Run! What a fun and exciting day we all had! Enjoy Number 9…

The Time Adventure Team Challenge is a four-stage event held at the beautiful Mokolodi Nature Reserve, a 20 minute drive from Gaborone. It is home to a variety of species, including rhinos, giraffes, zebra, warthogs and various antelope. It also has an abundance of gorgeous bird life. Stage 1 of the Challenge was a 10 km Trail Run, Stage 2 was a 15 km cycle, Stage 3 was another 15 km cycle, and Stage 4 was a 5 km Trail Run.

Our Team: We had three members – my friend Elisa was our 10 km runner, my husband Ditiro was our rider for both Stages 2 and 3, and I took on the 5 km Trail Run. We arrived at the race, excited and READY for action! Our team’s name was “Trail Attack”. How fabulous do we look in our green outfits!?!

The Race:

Stage 1: At 08:30, Elisa set off into the wild bush. Standing on the sidelines, we felt so excited that our little adventure had begun!

In Elisa’s words, “The Time Team Challenge was a very tough and challenging trail run but at the same time incredibly enjoyable. The surroundings were beautiful; savanna bush, hills and lakes. I didn’t come across any animals but the sound of hippos as we ran past the lakes was a lovely reminder that we were running in a game reserve! The time just flew by in this race. There was a lot of focus on many things which distracted from the actual activity of running. You really had to watch where your feet landed so as not to break your ankle on the abundant sharp stones along the paths and in between your eyes had to keep darting up to check the markers to ensure that you were on course and did not veer off and get lost! The trail was fairly flat until 6 km where there was a sudden and steep ascent to the top of the hill, which they call World’s View. Just when we thought we had made it… we were confronted with stairs to take us all the way up. After finally making it to the top, the descent was such a relief and a chance to make up for the slow ascent. From there it was home free, with a sprint finish at the end!”

Stages 2 & 3: Ditiro was determined to do both riding stages, meaning that he would ride a total of 30 km on the somewhat unforgiving terrain.

In Ditiro’s words,“I found a place in the line-up where Elisa could easily spot me, and once she did we had a smooth baton handover.”

“The first bit of the track was hard but slightly rutted and within 3 minutes of the race, I lost one of my water bottles. After a few minutes of solo riding, I caught up to a few riders who I passed. The track varied from beautiful winding single track to extremely bumpy bits to thick patches of sand. There were some hills and two dry riverbed crossings. I maintained a brisk pace but was slowed down a couple of times where riders couldn’t move out of the way or where I had to negotiate obstacles. It was beautiful scenery although I only saw one impala. After finishing the first leg, I was quite tired but also anxious as the second leg had a big climb. About halfway, I felt my left quad starting to cramp slightly. I quickly sucked on my electrolyte gel and tried to increase my water intake which I had forgotten to do in the first leg. I also spent a few minutes helping a guy fix his bike. I managed to do the big climb with the cramp still niggling and I stopped to get more electrolytes and water at the top of World’s View. I also took a selfie with one of the marshals who just happened to be my dad-in-law!” 

How cool that my dad was a race marshal!!

“I then blazed down a very bumpy downhill. I nursed my cramp slightly using lower gears but just as I got to the dismount area, my left leg caved in! Shathiso came running and the marshal helped to transfer the batons.”

Stage 4: At 11:30, under a beautiful blue Botswana sky, I set off like a bullet. Don’t laugh! I really did set off quite fast. But then 30 seconds in, huffing and puffing, I thought, “Hold on! Relax. Run your race!” So away from the crowds, I slowed right down and found myself alone in the quiet bush. I made sure I focused on where I was stepping to avoid any loose stones, but I also made sure I looked out for the bright pink markers on the trees as on my first race of the year (also a 5k Trail Run) I ended up getting so lost, finishing in 53:53 minutes! Within the first km (07:40 min/km pace), I had caught up to two runners who I overtook quite comfortably.

The Route: I was very happy that my section was quite flat. Compacted sand and not too many loose rocks and stones. Sadly, I didn’t pass any wildlife on the way! 

There was a slight elevation in the second km and my pace slowed to 08:18, but after that I stepped it up and hit a 08:02 pace in the third km and 07:39 in the fourth! I know I was working hard because my average heart rate was 170 bpm! I remember looking down at my watch and seeing 4.1 km and thinking, “Okay I am almost halfway” but then realising that this was a 5k and not a 10k run! That jolted me into action and I took it up a notch, hitting an average pace of 07:33 for that last km! Ditiro says he was pleasantly surprised to see green emerging from the bushes. I could hear the crowds cheering… and the MC shouting “Team Trail Attack!”

That’s when I lifted my arms, held up nine fingers to signify my ninth race and came storming through the finish line! Oh, what a beautiful day! What a special moment.

My time: I did my 5k stretch in 40:05 minutes, a massive 13 minute PB on a 5k Trail! I was beyond ecstatic!! Our Team Time was 03:42:17 hours and we placed No. 67 of the 102 Teams/ Individuals who completed the race! Just look at our beaming smiles!!

Lessons/ Discoveries

  1. Team Events add a whole new dynamic! I absolutely loved it – it’s not about individual performances, it’s about what the team does. We had so much fun, rooting for each other and hearing how each of our races had gone! There is also a bit of added pressure because you don’t want to let the team down. But what a fabulous time we all had.
  2. As I am slow and steady, I do prefer the longer distances, but having said that – it felt good for the race to be over so soon, especially in that heat!

Pros of the Race

  • Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful! The setting, the natural surroundings, the stunning blue skies, just everything.
  • The brightly coloured markers were fantastic – there was no chance of getting lost this time! I kept chanting in my head, “Follow the Pink on your Left”. It was always clear where I needed to go and what direction I had to take. The marshals were also strategically placed in the ambiguous spots!
  • Executive porta-loos with sinks and even air-fresheners. Big plus!
  • Very clear instructions on how to do the “baton” exchange
  • A kids’ play area with lots of activities and childminders. We didn’t bring our kids along, but now we know we can for next year’s event! A HUGE plus point for people with small kids.

Cons of the Race

  • No medals! I was looking forward to adding one more to my growing collection! 😉

Would I do this race again?

Oh yes! Most definitely! Yes! Yes! Yes!

I’m linking up with HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap! This week they have Finding Fabulous at Fifty as a guest host! I’m also joining Courtney at Eat Pray Run who is busy training for the Berlin Marathon!