Sitting at my desk on a Monday morning, my stiff, scratched legs are a reminder of a weekend well spent, full of adventure and exploration!
I don’t often stop to take photos on a trail race, but the unexpected, overwhelming sense of exhilaration I felt as running through the mountains in Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve, forced me to pause, dig my phone out of it’s zip lock bag and try to do the experience justice with my panoramic shots. Either way, that sense of pure, natural, unburdened freedom is still lingering with me into the week.
Up early on a Sunday morning, with the dismal weather report I had periodically been checking the day before still imprinted in my mind, I was not particularly keen to drive out to Franschhoek by myself. After a bit of mumbling, I suddenly wasn’t alone anymore as the seemingly lifeless form tangled up in bed sprang up and decided at the last minute to accompany and support me.
Driving into Franschhoek, I felt a bit apprehensive as the mountains were being devoured by thick clouds. I also seem to have a tendency to under-prepare for cold weather and have taken a long time to learn from my previous inadequacies in the warm clothing department. This time I doubled up on apple jackets and buffs.
Milling around at the start, it was clear the weather had put a few people off. But, as soon as we set off on the 18km, the apprehension building inside me eased off and was replaced by anticipation of the adventure I was heading up, and up, and up into.
We quickly entered the misty, drizzly cloud and although this obliterated the fine views of the Franschhoek valley, to me it only added to the thrilling, atmospheric experience. Up and over and running along the ridge, I looked up into the grey fog, thinking it was wide open space until I suddenly realised I could make out the silhouette of the highest peak, Perdekop, looming above me. Further on, running along the grassy slopes, the cloud started to give in and pull its tendrils back exposing some of the dramatic, jagged peaks.
The route was very well marked, and especially nearer the top where there was no discernible path, my eyes were constantly scanning the misty surrounds for the little, bright neon orange markers that were guiding me along my seemingly solo quest. One of the best aspects of trail running, especially in a longer race with a smaller field, is that you often end up alone, just you, the trail and your thoughts.
A steep scramble through the soaking grass and along a purposefully, winding path, suddenly there was the summit!
This was the first time I noticed hints of civilisation as the manicured fields and vineyards of Franschhoek peaked through the clouds, breaking into my world of isolation, at once completely immersive and restoring, but then also fleeting and fragile.
As much as the up hill leaves you with a feeling of hard earned satisfaction, embarking on the downhill instils a certain sense of abandonment in me! I love taking the risks, losing and gaining balance, skirting sharp corners with your arms out wide, focusing all my attention on timeously placing my feet, relying on quick judgement as to the sturdiness and or slipperiness of a rock! And coming down from the peak, there was no lack of slimy, smooth rocks, winding paths and steep drop offs, accompanied by gusty wind.
And 2 hr 46 min later, I was back, soaked through, a little cold, and although one feels physically depleted, emotionally and mentally, I was replenished and invigorated. That is why I’ll be back for more.