March 2014 and ABSA Cape Epic with my client Alex had come and gone and made way for time to revert back to my own fitness goals.
Looking at the year’s race calendar it dawned on me that much like 2011, my main mission for 2014 will be to attend to unfinished business, dating back to August 2013 when my first attempt at an 100 miler, Tuffer PUFfeR, collapsed.
So it was all systems go when Tuffer PUFfeR’s 2014 online entries opened. With relief I opened the race organizer’s email confirming I got one of the twenty coveted entries for the race in August 2014.
With entry certainty ticked, the next step was doing a qualifier for Tuffer PUFeR, in other words completing a ultra running event, which by definition includes any running event exceeding 42.2 kms. Close to home there were less than a handful of options available for entry between April and August.
Serendipitously my qualifier got taken care of when my friend Cornel asked me to join him in a two man team at The Oorlogskloof Mountain and Gorge Run. Fortunately, for the first time ever, the race organizer Quantum Adventures offered a 52 km option, in addition to the traditional shorter options.
The Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve, spanning 4776 hectares of mountain, is situated in the Northern Cape Province outside Nieuwoudtville, almost 400 kms from Cape Town. Here the Oorlogskloof River cuts its way through mountains along deep river gorges. The reserve houses two multi day hiking trails and a few day hikes, winding through Fynbos and Karoo plant life, gorges, cracks and cliffs. Spectacular views, pristine beauty and remoteness puts Oorlogskloof right up there with South Africa’s most beautiful hiking trails, so it was an easy “yes” from me to team up with Cornel.
Our accommodation was on the Karoo farm Papkuilsfontein, in a traditional sandstone cottage with thatched roof and no electricity, complete with a kraal. We loved it and will definitely return for a few days of relaxation and lamb braais under starry skies, both of which the Karoo is renowned for. The farm is very popular during flowering season when the veld is covered by a carpet of flowers, so much so that bookings for Aug/Sep 2015 are already being filled!
Back to the race. Team iloveultra’s route kicked off with 10 kms of comfortable jeep track, the perfect warm up before joining the 42 km race’s route. We had to carry a heavy load of water in our hydration packs, as the only water on route was a pond three hours into the run. Terrain was extremely technical at times. With hindsight, I prefer doing this race in dry conditions with a heavy pack, as opposed to ample water supply and wet slippery surfaces.
Monotonous is the one word no one would ever use to describe Oorlogskloof Mountain and Gorge Run. There is constant climbing over rocks. Squeezing through narrow cracks, some so pitch dark that you either need a head torch or feel your way through very slowly. Up and down chains, ladders and ropes. We had to concentrate from head to toe: from where to place our feet right up to avoiding knocking our heads as we negotiated many arches along the way, some so low we had to resort to going down on our hands and knees. After 6 hours and 33 minutes we crossed the finish line victoriously.
I highly recommend the Oorlogskloof Mountain and Gorge Run if you’re looking for a very hard run, it won’t disappoint. When you need a breather, just stop for a moment, admire the scenery and ask yourself: do I really want to be anywhere else right now? The answer will be no, I am exactly where I should be.