Golden Gate Challenge Day 2

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When Day 2 is even better than Day 1, you’re onto a good thing. At 29km in distance, this second day route is only two kilometres further than that of the first day. It still packs an accumulative elevation punch with two big climbs. What made this day so magical for me was the in between section through valleys.

At last night’s race briefing we were treated to a presentation on the endangered bearded vulture. The conservation of these birds is a Wildlands project. There are currently only 350 to 400 individuals and they live only in the Lesotho and Drakensberg area – their distribution has been significantly reduced in the past 100 years – primarily affected by human activities. Half of the entry fee from this event goes to Wildlands and it is put into projects like this.

We were also shown a magnificent short video from the first day (spectacular drone footage) as well as photographs from the event photographers which so beautifully capture the spirit of the participants and the beauty of this National Park.

And then the route. After such good climbing on Day 1, I was unfazed by the prospect of the two climbs. It is the descents that nail my quads…

We had seven or eight starting batches – decided according to your Day 1 performance. I was slap-bang in the middle in Batch D. Comfortable.

The route fortunately began with a one kay downhill tar run which was just was I needed to warm up. The first trail section climbed steadily upwards and contoured into the hills. Then, ahead, we could see the coloured dots of runners on ‘the climb’. I found myself in a friendly bunch moving at a good pace. Over the top and a valley view.

This gave us the first ‘runnable’ stretch through to the first water point.

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The aid stations here are manned by honourary rangers who dedicate their time to the park and to being present at this event. They are friendly and helpful and encouraging. The stations are all well stocked and leaving there I need to walk for a bit to let the drinks and munchies work their way down.

I usually suck my hydration reservoir dry but with these regular aid stations I’ve been drinking less than usual from my pack and enjoying drinks at the aid station – dispensed into my fabulous reusable plastic cup (it is probably a silicone more than straight ‘plastic’).

I have especially enjoyed today’s scenery through valleys. The rock features and bare rock slabs of surrounding hills, fresh green grass cropped by grazing antelope and the openess of the terrain. A lot of this was pleasantly runnable so I trotted merrily along.

A strong, cool wind blew for most of the day – quite pleasant when you’re running. Eric Ngubane was again today’s winner in 2:30. He was a minute off the stage record that he set. He felt that he would have been able to beat his time were it not for the wind. At my pace, the wind has little effect…

From the second waterpoint we had a pleasant stretch to the base of climb #2 which we’d been told at briefing was one with a second summit. So when you’ve slogged to the top you are not at the top – another ascent awaits.

Again I really did well on the climbs today and even though the first part of this climb was steep and wicked, I got up feeling really good. Up again and a photo at the top.

Heading to waterpoint 3 we passed the most lovely chalets overlooking a deep and spectacular valley. The chalets have grassed roofs! More drinks and a few snacks and it was time to get my stiff quads to run down the cement road.

Here I met Chris, a paediatric rheumatologist from Cape Town. We had the same comfortable pace so we ran together to the finish – chatting where the terrain allowed. The last couple of kilometres were runnable and mostly easy and friendly terrain where total concentration on every step was not required. I finished feeling almost ‘refreshed’ as the run to the end loosened up my legs.

My time is very similar to yesterday at around 5:20. I hope to have improved my age category ranking.

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The photos that I took today show a bit of what we saw but really don’t do justice to the terrain – you’ll just have to come here to see for yourself.

There is a lovely vibe in our runner camp and every meal is an opportunity to meet and chat to other runners.

We have our last race briefing tonight ahead of tomorrow’s final 17km stage. I look forward to seeing more of this magnificent area.

Until tomorrow.

How to blow your nose while you run

Today I picked up six used tissues and two wrappers (yesterday was four tissues and a wrapper). While I’m fairly certain that runners do not intentionally drop them, what concerns me is that the runner just behind the person is not saying, “Excuse me, you dropped a tissue” (if they see the drop happening) and also that there could be five, 15 or 50 runners going passed dropped tissues without picking them up. Tissues are revolting to pick up and they are so unnecessary. Out on trails, you do not need a tissue to blow your nose.

This is how to blow your nose without a tissue:

I find that I need a critical mass of snot to build up for a successful blow. When you’re ready, block one nostril using the pointing finger of your dominant hand. Taking note of the wind direction (never blow into the wind), turn your head to the side of the open nostril and give it a good hard and sharp blow. You need to be assertive here. A too-soft blow will make a mess. Repeat with the other nostril – sometimes only one side is necessary.

Here and there you may hit your shoulder or thigh but this is usually due to inattention of wind direction or a mediocre blow.

This event has a superb waste – litter – environmental ethos; the runners need to come to the party too.

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