Race: Salomon Bastille Trail Run

Everyone that has done the Salomon Bastille Trail Run says that it is a very tough one. Not just because of the technical trail but also because of the weather conditions on the day usually. Last year I was unable to do it due to holiday, but it was definitely on the list for this year. I had already registered last year when the registrations opened and knew that I would be fit enough to do the 25km.
I was not too worried about this trail as I saw the route profile 2 weeks ago and having done the JMC and HMC mountain challenges I was prepared for the climbs. The only thing I know I was not prepared for was the river crossings! Yes, more than one as a matter of fact!

Pickup of one’s race numbers was at the Salomon store in Canal Walk which was way too far during the week so decided to pick them up on race day. Got an SMS to say I would be starting in batch D. ggrrrr. I have to admit though, at the time I was very annoyed seeing that as I know I should be at least C, however, the way the race starts and how the first 4km pans out, I did not mind it at all as the starting pens are not that cramped!

The weather on race day seemed to be a perfect one, except for the 8 degrees and at least no rain and snow!
5:45am we were off to Franschhoek! Once there, we were met with a very cold chilly wind but at least we were greeted with some sherry! We picked up our race numbers and headed to the firepits with some coffee to get some warmth. The atmosphere was amazing! The 50km guys had already gone before we got there and you could see their headlamps in the distance on the mountain going up and up. The 35km guys were already in their pens and the announcer was giving them their race briefing. He was so damn funny, we were laughing pretty hard most of the time.
We went back to the car to go get our gear and do our final preparations and was met with this sight.

Sunrise over Franschhoek
Sunrise over Franschhoek

I had forgotten my iPod at work on Friday so I did not have any music. I then contemplated to download some albums on my phone but the signal was non existent so I decided to just not bother. It was just going to be me and my thoughts keeping me company. Back to the firepit we went to stay warm until they called out our batch. Took a couple of pictures before we started and once in the race pen a final one before the race briefing!

Batch D!
Salomon Bastille Trail Run Batch D!

At race briefing the announcer mentioned earlier that the 50km guys had a false start due to them not following the correct path in the beginning and said we must follow the Salomon banners to the left. Low and behold when he told us to go, people managed to go right and not to the left. It was hilarious.

The first few kms were uphill, there was about 450m elevation and some parts you just had to walk it because it was very vertical climbs! The views were unbelievable and every now and then I had to take a picture and also stand in awe to take it all in!

Franschhoek Panoramic
Franschhoek Panoramic

Once we got to the top it was a very long single track around the mountain. It was a long drop to the left so you had to be very careful and some people were so scared to even jog and were walking which resulted in being stuck behind people at times until it was safe to pass. This went on for about 2km or 3km. After that there was a nice fast paced downhill section, technical, but very manageable! I was happy to make up some time here. Before the race I had the goal of 4 hours to finish. I went on the fact that I did the JMC, which was just as much elevation and distance and did it in about 3 hours 50 minutes so I set myself that sort of time. At the 10km mark I was on 1 hour 15 minutes which was not too bad seeing as most of the climbing was done now and it was basically now to make up time.

About 2km later there was a photographer and I decided to it would be a fun idea to do an action jump shot. Did I regret that! I fell and took a nice chunk of skin off my hand and all the photographer said was, “Don’t worry, we got it all” I laughed. I had forgotten to pack my gloves this morning, so if I had those on I would not have injured my hand! Picked myself up and carried on making up some time and took some more pictures and some selfies of the beautiful views.

Just before the 15km, I was sitting at 1 hour 45 minutes and I did some calculations in my head and figured, I could definitely make it under 3 hours. I just need to keep this pace going. There were a few river crossing on the way, but I am sure I could make up time. Well, first river crossing came up. I was 1/3 way in and there were slow people so I decided to go slightly to the left and try and make it across quickly. ooops. I lost my footing and under I went. The river was colder than an ice bath. I was drenched from head to toe. Not ideal to be freezing cold. I even went off in the wrong direction for about 100m not realising it but managed to correct myself. Went through another 2 crossings without me falling.

2km later I was still freezing and I could not get my core body temperature back to normal. I was shivering while I was running and I went past a water point or so I thought, only to find out 1km later that it was hot chocolate!!! That would have helped! There was an uphill and I pushed through trying to get warm and not even that helped. That ice cold river really put one on my body. I just dug deep and carried on with the pace I needed to, I was still on track for that sub 3 hour!
With 5km to go there were marshals taking you number to make sure you did not take any short cuts and I took some pictures of the dam.

Berg River Dam
Berg River Dam

35 minutes to do 5km, this is so doable! 200 meters later I was down. I had somehow tripped over a rock and banged my knee and just sat there on my arse contemplating on what just happened. Also noticed that my TomTom Runner now had a cracked screen but was still functional.My body was so cold, it was at this stage it decided it kind of had enough and I think unknowingly that I was not lifting my legs up made me trip. I said to myself, get up and you can do this. I got to my feet only to find that I had damaged my knee and it was hurting. I tried to jog but it was painful. I walked a few hundred meters and tried to do a light jog but to no avail. It was done. The next 4.5km was torture. Seeing people pass me left right and center was meh. I was frustrated and angry, all I wanted to do was curl up in a little ball and cry. To top things off, there was ANOTHER river crossing. This time it was bigger than the previous one. I just stood at this things and asked myself, how are you doing to cross this? I at least managed to do it slowly but it was challenging.

About 200 meters from the end my buddy caught up to me and he was struggling too with cramps. We decided to give it everything for the final 100m to get over the line and took a light jog. It was done. When we crossed the line, there was a sigh of relief. 3 hours 14 minutes. I was happy with that considering the circumstances at the end. If you asked me then if I would do it again next year? I would have said no, but if you ask me now, hell yes. They say Trail Runners are crazy, and now I know why. We are. No matter the challenge, we will not back down.

Sadly, my TomTom Runner decided to stop working just after I uploaded the run and now I am sitting without a watch *cries*
I think the injury to my knee is just some swelling but hurts like crazy when I try bend my leg back. Going to give it until Wednesday to see. Got two events this weekend which I am hoping to still do.