Let me start by saying that the UTCT was by far the hardest race I've ever tried. It was my first attempt at an ultra. It was on my dear departed dad's birthday and I decided to dedicate my race to him. It was also the day before our wedding anniversary and in the tradition Clint and I started - this year's anniversary adventure. I went into the race well prepared (I thought) and full of first timer's bravado. At registration we were told that the weather forecasts were favourable for the next day. Of course, the one thing that can not be controlled is the weather...
On race day we arrived at the start to be greeted by rain. It was cold, but the anticipation was that it would clear up later in the day. We set off through the city streets towards Signal Hill. The excitement was palpable! People from all over the world were running and everyone was in high spirits. The rain was gentle but persistent, and so started my first challenge. I wear prescription glasses. By the time we went onto the trail it was like I was looking through glasses of water. I was better off without my glasses, which meant I could only see about 5 m ahead of me.
Still, the trail was wonderful and we continued on schedule as per our plan. Eventually we reached PlatteKloof and started the serious climb into the mountain. The rain started belting down and it got colder and colder. Our water resistant jackets were soaked in no time. The progress going up was also slower than anticipated and we started slipping on our plan.
On top of the mountain, we encountered ice rain and howling wind. The trail became an ankle deep rivulet and the cloud was so thick we couldn't see other runners or the next marker. We were freezing, quite literally, and lost feeling in our fingers and feet. The terrain was slippery and treacherous. Clint slipped and twisted his ankle and his knee. His muscles cramped and wouldn't release. It was the first time I was truly scared that we would not survive a race. I knew the longer we stayed in those conditions the worse it would get. I rubbed Clints leg and coaxed him up. A friend shared a salt tablet with him and that helped too. We hobbled along for a bit until he could jog again. Then, we lost the trail! After searching around, we found the trail again. By now we had spent vastly more time than anticipated on the mountain.
After what seemed like an eternity we started the climb down. This should have been a relief but it wasn't. I don't know if it was triggered by the cold or the extra exertion of navigating the slippery terrain half blind, but my arthritis in my right knee flamed up. The descent became Increasingly painful. By the time we reached the Constantia Neck check point I could no longer run. I decided to walk to the next check point at Groot Constantia to see if the knee would ease up. Unfortunately my knee just wasn't having any of it.
At 7:23:59 and 32 km in, I had to concede that I was defeated. The disappointment burned in my heart and I couldn't type this race report until now. My husband was absolutely amazing through the whole experience and next year when I try again (yes your eyes are not deceiving you), I can't think of anyone else I would rather have by my side.
Of course, I believe we either win or we learn. The UTCT was rich in learning for me and I will share some of that here:
1. Never trust the weather
2. When things go wrong, dont panic. List your options and pick the best one.
3. The compulsory kit can save your life. Don't ignore it.
4. To run mountains you have to train on similar mountains.
5. Run with a partner you trust and have trained with, understanding each other is important.
Things that were positives:
1. The UTCT race organisation is sublime. The water tables are postively luxurious and manned by competent and caring volunteers.
2. My 32Gi endurance fuel was fantastic. I had enough energy at all times.
3. My Inov-8 roclite 295 saved my skin and neck on the super technical slippery terrain.
4. My amazing supportive and understanding husband.
I look forward to my next attempt in 2016, hopefully better equipped and prepared. And yes, I have already entered!