As Ryan, Mike and I line up at the start of the third race in the Cape Summer Series we do so with a plan, mostly cooked up by Ryan, who is rather annoyingly turning into the premier runner in our merry band.
"You lead us up the hills Rob and then stick with me on the technical sections," he says with confidence.
I nod in reply. Mike seems happy enough with the plan, but then considering he has not been tasked with leading us up the hills, that’s not too much of a surprise.
The second part of our strategy is to go out fast to avoid any bottlenecks on the first hill and the three of us stick to that part manfully as the starter sounds… Well, we do for the first 800 metres, because after that Mike and I are forced to watch as Ryan once again pulls away from us.
It is the last time we see him. Race strategy is one thing, sticking to it is something else entirely.
Race three saw the series return to Silvermine (which was the setting for the first race), but this time it was on the west side, and as they did before, race director Owen Middleton and his crew threw out some steep climbs and some devilishly difficult technical single track to ensure those of us on the long course were kept on our toes.
My AfricanX partner, the "other" Rob, unfortunately failed in that regard, eating dirt on one especially tricky section of trail. True to form, Rob seemed excited by the experience, being that it was his first proper tumble since donning trail shoes for the first time. He was positively giddy with pride when I saw him after the race.
I very much doubt it will be his last tumble, and speaking from experience, the excitement tends to wear off when your body meets earth for the umpteenth time.
The first 5.2km of the western route is uphill – with the odd undulation to catch your breath – and with Ryan out ahead and other Rob somewhere behind us, Mike and I stick together. With him nursing a calf niggle and me coming off a bout of flu, we are once again well-matched in pace and fitness.
By the time we get to the top of Noordhoek Peak though, I am gasping for air and falling well off the pace, Mike, seemingly over his niggle, blitzes down the single-track and leaves me to my own devices.
Taking a moment to set myself, I begin my descent, stepping to the side on more than one occasion for more technically able runners to scream past me. I back myself to catch them again on the flats, but it’s pretty obvious I am going to have to work on my technical deficiencies if I want to improve my trail running.
I may be getting faster on the tough bits, but I am still well off the general pace and with over a kilometre of seriously tricky single track on this race, I lost a lot of time out there.
I managed to speed up as the route opened up onto jeep track and roped in a handful of the guys and girls that passed me earlier, but Mike and the others were nowhere in sight. Trying to make up a minute on a relatively short route was always going to be difficult and it further fuelled my angst at my serious lack of cahones.
The final four kilometres was positively gentle compared to the first part of the course and I made good time to finish on a positive note, but with my competitive streak now seriously fired up, race four in the series cannot come soon enough!
- For more on the Cape Summer Series, visit their website HERE