Tuesday, 24 July 2012

RHODES Trail Run 2012 - Race report by Iain Don-Wauchope


Rhodes Trail Run 2012
Some events have a certain allure that makes them special and memorable. The UTi Rhodes Trail Run is one of these events. It doesn’t draw thousands of competitors, there are no television cameras and no prizes are offered to top finishers. While it is a race at the end of the day (even back markers race amongst themselves) it is more about the experience and exploring our beautiful country.

The drive alone, to and from Rhodes, is a challenge. Most competitors commuted 8 hours or more and no matter which roads you decide to take, the scenery is spectacular. Once it starts raining and/or snowing, the commute becomes even more interesting! We decided to take the whole family along and so with a 2-year old and a 5-year old strapped in, we took 2 days to drive from Mountain Splendour in the Central KZN Drakensberg to Rhodes in the Eastern Cape. We spent 2 nights at Rhodes sleeping in a classroom that has been converted to a self-catering unit with a fireplace, chalkboard and en-suite bathroom. We then took another 2 days to return home.

The fact that it snowed while we were in Rhodes, made the trip even more memorable. We built a snowman, Su and Abi made snow angels and we enjoyed a snow ball fight! The kids, despite having icy hands at times, absolutely loved it and were rather bleak when we drove down Barkley Pass and away from the snow covered countryside. Oh, and in the middle of all of this there was a fantastic trail run.
Unfortunately, the traditional route that climbs into the mountains and loops back into Rhodes was changed because of the severe weather conditions. The marshals and race officials could not access the high-lying remote areas and the conditions would have placed many athletes and officials in severe danger. Instead, the route consisted of 2 out-and-back sections along district and farm roads. We still had to contend with the cold, rain, snow and freezing river crossings along the way. It was snowing at both turn-around points and the race organisers actually moved the second turnaround point after the first 5 athletes had been through when they realised that the conditions were deteriorating. I believe it wasn’t too bad for us runners; it was much tougher for the officials, photographers and water station crew to stand around in blizzard-like conditions waiting for the next nutter to appear through the swirling snow. As least while you are running, you are building up more body heat and, thanks to First Ascent, having the correct technical gear is a huge bonus. Furthermore, we runners knew we were heading back to a warm shower or bath back in Rhodes sooner than the poor race crew and officials!

Despite the route changes, the scenery was still spectacular and it was refreshing to run in new terrain in these rather unique, to South Africa, conditions. I was privileged to get an invitation to this iconic trail running event and I am very grateful to the race organisers, Evie and Darrell, and to First Ascent for arranging my entry. If you ever get the opportunity to run the Rhodes Trail Run – Do IT!

To keep me toasty during the run I wore the following items: First Ascent P3 tights, First Ascent AR-X shorts, First Ascent Atacama Long Sleeve shirt, First Ascent Apple Jacket, Inov8 buff, Inov8 Roclite 315 shoes and 2 pairs of gloves; First Ascent Dawn Runner glove with First Ascent Soft Shell gloves on top. I started the run with a First Ascent Powerstretch beanie but tossed it to an official 5 kilometres into the race when I got too hot. However, it would have been nice to have the beanie at the 2nd turnaround point when it got very cold and windy! I also had my Nathan hydration pack with 750ml of Enduren Sports Drink mixed inside along with a First Ascent Neoprene hose insulator to prevent my juice from freezing. This combination worked very well for me. It wasn’t necessary to carry any food because there were feeding stations roughly every 10km’s. However, I did have some emergency food tucked away along with the compulsory whistle and space blanket.

To find out more about this fabulous event visit www.rhodesrun.za.net .To find out more about First Ascent and their excellent products visit www.firstascent.co.za, to find out more about inov8’s revolutionary shoes visit www.inov-8.com and visit www.enduren.co.za for the best natural sports.