Last year’s Kuitpo race was my first trail half marathon (you can read all about it here) and was a great race for me, and I somehow managed to sneak in for 3rd place, my first podium finish in a trail race! So naturally I was all too eager to sign up and do it all again!
The timing of it was the same as last year – 2 weeks after the Heysen 105. It didn’t seem to affect me negatively last year, although I was having thoughts about downgrading from the 21k to the 10k. Possibly if I’d entered AFTER Heysen I would have entered the 10, but as I’d already entered and couldn’t be arsed changing, 21k it was!
My prep was somewhat more conventional than last year. I did actually eat dinner the night before, and while I did drink a fair bit of wine on Saturday, the wine was consumed in conjunction with a lovely hearty lunch.
Kit-wise I’d opted for the same green lululemon T-shirt I’d worn for Yurrebilla and my purple lulu skirt. This may or may not have had something to do with the fact that my pretty new trail shoes were green and purple! I also went with my purple 2XU compression socks (21k is about the maximum distance I’ll wear them for, because of the damage they do to my toes on longer runs, and I had pre-taped the night before), rainbow arm warmers and my cycling gloves to protect my hands if I fell.
I used my large hydration pack rather than the small one I used last year (even though the small one IS purple and would have been better for colour coordination!) as I didn’t want to use my leaky bladder and the large pack holds 1 litre in the bottles – 1 litre of Gatorade would be enough. Thankfully the weather forecast was good – no rain, and not too warm.
Riesje, Beck and I went together in Riesje’s car. We were there in plenty of time for a portaloo stop and a quick application of sunscreen.
I didn’t realise it at the time (because I’m not one to study course maps, yeah I know, with my history of ‘creative navigation’ I’m probably not the best person to be ‘winging it’) but this year’s Kuitpo course was the reverse of last year’s. I had read last year’s race report and noted that I hadn’t walked until 19k so naturally I was hoping to replicate that this year. I had finished 3rd in about 1:48 and while I didn’t think that was likely to happen this time around, I thought sub 2 hours was a reasonable goal. After all, if I’d managed sub 2 into a howling gale at McLaren Vale, surely I could do it here!
At 8am, after the race briefing from RD Maurice, and a quick start line selfie, it was go time!
Last year I started slowly and gradually made my way through the pack. This year, I somehow found myself at the front at the start – not where I like to be! However, order was quickly restored when people overtook me and I was back in my comfort zone.
Things were going OK early on but I knew I was going to have to work hard for anything close to last year’s time. I felt every uphill, even the smallest gradient!
I reached the 10k turnaround point (about 5k in, also the first decent climb) and immediately had a sense of what I like to call ‘Rungret’!
The next 5k was reasonably comfortable too. During this section was the first little ‘out and back’ where we got to see all the fast people looking way too comfortable! I stopped counting the girls in front of me after I’d seen 4 – Riesje was 4th at this stage and MILES ahead of me. Unsurprisingly, a podium finish was out of the question!
We also got to see the people behind. At this point Beck informed me that I was 10th female, to which I responded “That won’t change!”
Just before 10k I walked for the first, and by no means last, time! This was when I realised it was not the same route as last year – even when I was having a good day last year, I DEFINITELY would not have run up that hill!
I was running with Scuba for a lot of the race. He, like me, was going for sub 2 hours. At 11k he said ‘2 parkruns to go’. Somehow, that didn’t seem to help a great deal!
I could see one girl in front of me, her name was also Jane! Every now and then I’d go past her and then soon after she’d be back in front. I wasn’t too concerned – if I was indeed in 10th place, I wasn’t fussed if I stayed there! Top 10 is not too shabby – 9th wouldn’t make much difference to me. I used Jane as a bit of a guide – whenever she would start walking up a hill, I’d follow suit, and ditto when she started running again!
On the next ‘out and back’, around 17k, I started to really struggle. I was breathing heavily (I’m normally a quiet breather because I like to sneak up on people!) to the extent that the guy behind me (soon to be in front of me) asked if I was OK! I quickly assured him that I wasn’t actually dying and tried to keep my breathing less audible!
Soon Scuba was with me again and was super supportive. Like towards the end of Heysen, I did not seem to have much capacity to run up ANY hills. He’d encourage me to run the downs and the flats, and walk, breathe and drink on the ups!
Also helping me at this point was Adam, who always seems to be around my pace in whatever race we do. Today he came from behind and ended up finishing just ahead of me. Along the way he gave me great encouragement. I owe a lot to Adam and Scuba as I was in a world of hurt at that stage and their support really helped to get me through!
As we got to the last little bit I encouraged Scuba to take off if he wanted to, which he did, but I tried to keep him in sight. By now, I could run uphill because I knew at the end of the hill would be the finish line. And Maurice’s legendary vegan brownies!
Finally, I could see the glorious sight of the big green finishing arch! I crossed the line in 1:57:09 and, 10th female! (Just like I told Beck!)
After going behind the marquees to sit on a tree stump and die quietly for a while,
I went to indulge in some brownie deliciousness and get myself a well earned coffee while catching up with so many friends who were there!
Thanks as always to Trail Running SA and all the amazing volunteers. I say it every time but their importance cannot be overstated. You guys/girls are the lifeblood of these events! Thanks to all the awesome, super supportive runners – we truly are blessed here in SA to have such a wonderful running community. And special thanks to Scuba and Adam for giving me the boost I needed at the end!
And now – back to the short stuff!