The adventure of African X all started off with a drive out of Cape Town, through the beautiful Houw Hoek mountain range and into a stunning suburb situated just before Hermanus, which is where the My Training Day teams were going to be staying for the weekend.
We were kindly hosted by Ian van Rijswijk and his family in their exquisite home situated right on a picturesque beachfront. After settling in and dropping all our bags off, we headed to registration where we checked in for the race after which an unanimous decision was made to leave before race briefing and instead go home and enjoy a nice meal.
Race morning day 1:
The 5am wake up was most unwelcome, but after a substantial amount of coffee and my forever ridiculed sweet potato breakfast it was time to head to the start of the race. Kent and I initially decided that we should take the first day relatively easy as most guys tend to go out too hard the first day and then be completely spent come the final stage. I envisioned the start as being a mass brawl to see who get to the front first and set the pace, but as the gun went off, a smooth transition into the race unfolded, there was no intense jostling to get to the front and everyone seemed super relaxed and chilled. The energy was undeniably competitive, but also super friendly and relaxed, after having experienced the start of basically any triathlon, this was a major reality change.
Apart from the fact that we were initially told that the first day would be roughly 35km, only to find out at kilometer 35, to our dismay, that we would in fact be running 38 km, of which the last 2.5km out of the final 3 were heading further up the mountain pass that we were originally on. I could see the anger bubbling inside of Kent that we had to run that extra little section, and to be honest, after all of the suffering that he has put me through, I felt a sheer sense of joy and happiness as the roles of coach vs athlete had momentarily reversed.
Following our 38km stint through the mountains on an uncomfortably warm day, it was time to eat, and eat as much as humanly possible, sleep, wake up, eat dinner and then go back to bed.
Race morning day 2:
I usually don’t cope very well with early morning wake ups so having to get up at 5am two mornings in a row was a serious struggle. After consuming an even greater amount of coffee than the previous morning, it was time to try and attempt running another 33km. The pace initially was a bit more heated than the previous day, and guys were trying to push from the front to drop any of the lingerers.
Kent and I managed to stay with the leaders for most of the way until we encountered some of the technical descents where the experienced trail runners just absolutely took off and left us in their dust. All in all, the second day was a success, Kent and I managed to catch up to the third place group at the 29km mark only for them to finish just ahead of us, leaving us feeling very satisfied with a fourth place stage finish ahead of some elite and well established trail runners.
Once again a very large amount of food was consumed and then it was off to bed again.
Race morning day 3:
Much to our delight, the top several teams started an hour later than the main field, which meant that we were able to sleep in a little bit on the final morning. However, trying to get out of bed was somewhat challenging to say the least. Creaky joints and stiff muscles meant that the getting out of bed process amounted to a whole lot of muttering of some inappropriate words, but after a solid 20-minute rant I was able to get out of bed, consume a whole lot more coffee and then head to the start line for the final stage.
The last day consisted of 24km with gnarly climbs and some very technical descents. The pace at the start was super fast as everyone was trying to leave it all out there on the final day. The last stage started off with a relatively flat section for the first 10km, with a few cool switchbacks to make it interesting. At about the 14th kilometer we hit probably the most intense ascent of the whole race, followed by some extremely technical downhill’s.
With a few kilometers to go for the day, I knew I needed to relish this moment and make Kent hurt as much as possible because I knew I would not have a golden opportunity like this to do so for a little while. So after commanding Kent to run faster and draining any sign of happiness from his being, we were able to push the final few kilometers and end off with a very solid 5th place finish overall.
The most epic experience from the weekend came not only from the result, but rather from the vibe and community that encapsulates the trail running scene. Everywhere you turned you would see a smiling face, and for that reason, I am too keen to head back to African X next year to relieve that epic adventure.