Posts Tagged ‘trail running’

Three Peaks Challenge: 10 Done – more to come

Running up and down Cape Town’s three peaks (Devils Peak, Table Mountain and Lions Head) isn’t most people’s idea of fun – but it is mine. This is kind of strange as I used

Three Peaks Challenge 2011

Three Peaks Challenge 2011

to hate running. Well hate is a strong word; I just didn’t like it much. I loved hiking though and found once I got into it that I could hike pretty fast up some fairly steep mountains. Then I saw an article in the paper about the Three Peaks Challenge which caught my interest, but after reading that they start in town near to Greenmarket Square and return to the Square after each peak – I laughed to myself “fucking crazy” and lost interest.

The following year, 2002, the Three Peaks reared its beautiful three heads again and a friend, a Celtics runner at the time, told me to phone fellow Celtics runner Gavin Snell, the organiser of the event. As sceptical as I was I soon found myself chatting to Gavin who told me about the event, showed me some pics and hauled out his shoebox of memorabilia including the hand carved trophies of the Three Peaks that every finisher gets. The trophies are made by Don Hartley, founder and co-organiser of the event. All well and good I said but I don’t run. Don’t worry said Gavin you’ll be fine. Far from convinced I decided to give it a bash and entered.

I started doing some running, completed my first half marathon in the process, and on the first Saturday in November, 2002 I found myself lined up in Long Street at 5am with a bunch of other nutters. About 8 ½ hours later I completed my first challenge, had the best time and was hooked – not just on the Three Peaks but on trail running in general.

A Don Hartley orginal - my reward for completing my 10th

A Don Hartley original - my reward for completing my 10th

November 2011, nine years later, I have completed my 10th Challenge. Those years have seen me become a seasoned trail runner who now loves running and has his own shoebox of Three Peaks memories. I have watched the local trail running scene explode into a main stream sport with many roadies finally seeing the light and now stretching their legs regularly if not exclusively on the mountains. Where once there were a handful of trail events there is now one almost every week.

While the trail running scene has changed I’m glad to say the Three Peaks Challenge has not. The organisers are the same, the atmosphere is the same, and the entry fee kept affordable, unlike many events which charge almost 3x that amount for far less, and you still receive a hand carved Three Peaks trophy if you finish. More importantly I still love this event. I have roped in many an unsuspecting runner who landed up running next to me at some run or another, burning their ears with tales of this special event – some of them completed their 5th challenge this year. The one difference is that nine years ago you could phone Gavin the night before and get an entry – that is no longer possible.

Thanks Gavin, who has not only organised all 15 events to date –read the history of the event here –  but has run every one as well –  and thanks Don for starting this event in 1997, 100 years after it was first completed. Looking forward to no 11.

Testing out my new Salomons on the Ocean2Ocean

I bought my first pair of Salomon shoes about five years ago. An entry level pair that lasted a year, about standard for any decent pair of trail shoes, depending on the distance you cover.

The shoes were comfortable right out the box, drained well when wet and I really liked the draw string “laces”.  The down side to them was too little support for my ankles, I found my ankle kept going over, not badly, but too regularly for me to run freely and rely on the shoes. After six months the shoes were showing serious signs of wear and tear, more so than their owner for once. I stretched them to a year and then despite some of my misgivings about the shoes, and armed with a Salomon discount voucher, I bought another pair. Things were pretty much the same so I swapped brands when that pair retired.

I have worn various brands since, NB and Montrail to name a couple but in desperate need of new shoes I decided to go for the Salomon XR Crossmax.

My big race for the year was going to be my first attempt at the Tuffer Puffer. I did not get in but the run encompasses about 160km of tar and mountain in the Cape Peninsula. The Puffer is run from Cape Point to the Waterfront and the Tuffer Puffer starts at the Waterfront and runs there and back, this year’s route is lightly different I believe. Either way the event involves a large chunk of tar including a -+ 56km stretch in the middle, something I am not used to running on in any large distances. I would have needed to buy two pairs of shoes, one for tar and one for trail. This is where the Crossmax come in.

New Tyres

New Tyres

The Salomon ARCrossmax is a multipurpose shoe which should do as well on trail as it does on tar or vice verca. Perfect, one pair of instead of two. They are fairly pricey at about R1400 pair, (Cape Union Mart shelf price) but I managed to get a discount from the good people at Salomon and soon my shiny new red AR Crossmaxes were been  ripped from their box.

First up – they are comfortable and I managed a few easy runs of just over an hour on both tar and trail without any hassle. I did a two hour road run on tar and experienced some pain/discomfort under the soul of my foot. I put this down to them been new shoes and me running longer than usual on the black stuff. Two weeks later I put them through a much tougher test; the Ocean2Ocean, a 50km guided trail run from Muizenberg to Camps Bay via the mountains, about 95% trail including some beach running.

I love this run, I have done it often. I have run it all conditions from very hot to well…very cold. This year was cool – cold at the peaks but otherwise pleasant without much sun. Dirk lead the faster group of 20 who finished in 11 hours and I accompanied the slower group of 10. We finished just after 6pm, more than 12.5 hours on the go – remember this is a pack run with two seconding points and regular stops but always a fun day out on the Cape Mountains.

The shoes, I’m happy to say were fantastic, comfortable, no need to take them off for sand or pebbles, no pain, good grip in the dry and not bad on the wet rocky sections as well. I did discover a large popped blister once I took off the shoes but never felt it on route.

The shoe is a neutral shoe; they also have a guidance version with more control for over-pronators. So far so good – my next longish run on the hard stuff will give a better indication of their suitability to my road running needs – but off road – very happy. Next 020 is on June 11.

Three Peaks Challenge – Will the record go?

The record for the Three Peaks Challenge (Next event – November 6, 2010) is one of the longest standing trail records in the Western Cape, if not the country. (Quick disclaimer – I have based that on no more than the fact that the record was set in 2001 and as most trail runs these days only started after that and others have had their records broken regularly – I came to that conclusion – am happy to be corrected – end of disclaimer.)

The Three Peaks Challenge, for those that don’t know, is an annual event which starts at Greenmarket Square in Cape Town, pretty much at sea level, and involves running (or walking for some of us) up Cape Town’s three peaks; Devil’s Peak, Maclears Beacon via Platteklip Gorge and Lion’s Head, returning to the square after each peak.

A fun and challenging day out for most of us fun runners but there’s always a group of super charged, super fit and super fast runners, who go out to win it and break the record if they can. The record is held by Chad Ulansky, a Canadian cross country skier, who in 2001 entered at the last minute, you could in those days, and blitzed the tough course in 5:27:29 – a record that still stands today, albeit with a bit of luck.

Guys have come close but the record stands. Three time winner (1998, 2002, 2003) & multiple comrades gold medallist, Danny Biggs, threatened the record in 2002, winning in 5:33:51, Bruce Arnett, one of the country’s top trail runners, came agonisingly close in 2008, finishing in 5:28:08, missing it by 39 seconds. Considering that Arnett is from out of town and did not know the route that record is lucky to be still standing.

But stand it does, last year’s winner, Andrew Hagen (also the 2007 winner) also came close with an impressive 5:34:27 .  So can the record go and who can win it? Not knowing all of the entrants and their abilities, two names stand out for me; double winner, Ake Fagereng (2004 and 2005), won this year’s Hout Bay Trail Challenge, looks in good form and is probably just favourite ahead of Hagen. Hagen, always a threat, is an effortlessly fast runner with a well disguised, competitive edge. Should be a good one and I think that record may be in danger.

Me, I’ll be enjoying outing number 9 in my favourite run on the calendar. Those mentioned above are the ones that I see at the square after my first two peaks – they are already finished and sitting around drinking beers.

See the history, results and  pics at

Three Peaks Challenge

Running & hiking from Muizenberg to Camps Bay over the mountains.

Last year the Ocean2Ocean was run twice. Once in April, under very hot conditions, and once in June when it was cold, misty, wet and windy. This year was perfect, blue skies, a warm sun, a slight cooling breeze and views in every direction. Nice.

The O2O was originally conceived as the Real Two Oceans, a tongue in cheek reference to its more famous and popular long distance cousin, the Two Oceans Marathon, the 56km tour of duty for any road runner worth their sweat. It was originally also run on Easter weekend (although not on the same day as the marathon) and on some occasions runners have run the 56km tar version on the Saturday and then the 50km off road version on the Monday. This year we ran a week after Easter so the tar bunnies had a week to rest up and get their mountain legs in shape.

Dave enjoying the views from Noordhoek Peak

Dave enjoying the views from Noordhoek Peak

The run, now called Ocean2Ocean, is led by my mate, Dirk. I had run the 50km twice with him before finding myself at the back of the back in 2008 and in no mood to catch up. At the first seconding table at Silvermine, fellow runner Winston and I decided we weren’t going to play catch up all day and we would do our own route, a slightly shortened one to the finish, and so we did. The next year I suggested to Dirk that we offer a 42km (approximate) route to those who don’t want to go as far and as fast, he agreed and the shortened version was born.

We ran the 42km twice last year and once this year on April 10. Make no mistake the 50km is the tougher one, its longer and faster and comes with the added bonus of being a Puffer qualifier. The Puffer, for the unaware, is the grand daddy of Cape Town trail races. It starts at Cape Point and takes in 80km of mostly mountains (barring the chunk of tar at the start and bits here and there) ending eventually at Ferrymans at the Waterfront.

Dizzys was our target for this year’s run. Dirk led 20 runners on the longer route and I had nine in mine. I had five pullouts in the week prior but a small group works well. We started at Muizenberg and ran along the dark and empty beach, the tide low and the wind still. We made our way to St James where we headed up through the sleepy suburb and onto the mountain. We ran/walked through plenty Fynbos, an indigenous forest and some single track before hitting the jeep track back to Ou Kaapse weg, crossing the road and running via the River Trail to the waiting snacks and drinks at the Silvermine car park.

With the sun warm but pleasant we headed up to Noordhoek Peak, along the roller coaster route that is the skyline

Noordhoek Peak - 42km run - 10 April

Noordhoek Peak - 42km run - 10 April

panorama before stopping for a rest at the Hout Bay lookout. We spotted Dirk and his crowd well on their way up to the Constantiaberg mast but we headed down and around passing the abandoned manganese mines and stretching our legs on the flattish slightly undulating path before going up and over Vlakkenberg to our next seconding stop at Constantia Nek.

Having refueled it was a hop, skip and a jump over Table Mountain to

Camps Bay, where we enjoyed cold beers and pizzas at Dizzys. 10 hours and some change to cover about (and some change) but its not about numbers, nor speed, its about spending a day out on the Cape Mountains enjoying nature at her finest and Cape Town at its best.

The 50km crowd arrived an hour and a bit later looking tired but happy and the following week Dirk led another 50km run which I joined from Constantia Nek to sweep the last leg. We might run another this year – watch for details.

50km runners @Maclear's Beacon - 17 April

50km runners @Maclear's Beacon - 17 April