Last updated: 19-12-18
I am competitive. There is no point in pretending that I’m not.
And if there is one person that I am the most competitive with, it’s not hard to guess that it’s myself. I mean, to the point of seeing how far I can be from the bin to throw my apple core away, it gets a bit ridiculous sometimes. Everything in my life is about records, personal bests, and statistics.
Needless to say, when I commit to anything, be it personal, career or a race, I set myself a goal and go full-bore until I’ve achieved what I set out to do as best as possible. Generally, this is in the form of a running race (be it on-road or off), and it usually involves me setting a goal finishing time – and then the blinkers are donned the training begins in earnest!
As a brief history, I moved to Cape Town at the start of 2016, from Joburg. The best description of my running was probably “erratic” and I was predominantly a roadie who claimed to be a hybrid trail-runner because I would occasionally come home with dust on my socks from a dabble in Delta Park, or a stretch of the Braamfontein Spruit. I’ve run one Comrades in 2010, and because I achieved my goal time (of just sneaking under the Bill Rowan cut-off of 9hrs), I ticked the Comrades box and have no desire to go back. And you can keep your comment of “you’re not a Comrades runner until you’ve finished an Up and a Down” to yourself.
Moving to Cape Town meant that I “had to” run the Oceans Ultra and I’d entered before we’d even found a house to rent! I ran the 2016 56km aiming for a sub-5hr and probably had the best road run of my life, finishing in 4:35. Again, mission accomplished, Oceans box ticked and I moved on.
“Moving to Cape Town meant that I “had to” run the Oceans Ultra and I’d entered before we’d even found a house to rent!”
Another side note is that my wife was the instigator for our move to Cape Town. I was quite happy in Joburg. Mommy’s boy was close to home and things were comfortable. But my water-baby companion wanted a change of scenery and new way of life, nearer to the ocean, so down we came. Little did we know that the move would turn out to be more beneficial for my soul, than hers, because that is when something marvellous happened – I became that stereotypical guy who I used to thrive on ridiculing – I fell in love with the mountain.
Our dog walks in Newlands Forest evolved into jogs and in turn into “hey, where does this path go” adventures. Every spare hour that I could find was spent exploring everything from jeep tracks to single tracks to river beds and even a few “oh, this is a dead end and I’m feeling pretty uncomfortable” trails. However – and this is the most important part which came to me in a ray of light with angels singing all around – I learnt you don’t always have to be racing them, and it’s ok to slow down, even walk (“shame on you”, says old Ross!), and just appreciate what we’re spoilt with.
Obviously everyone has their favourites in life, and I am no exception. If was told (for some bizarre reason) that I was only allowed running one route on the mountain, the choice would be immediate and very easy – “My” loop (as I generally call it) of Devil’s Peak. Thirteen jam packed kilometers of goodness!
I always complete this circuit in a clockwise direction, heading up Newlands Ravine from the forest (after mixing up my climb to the Contour Path, which has a myriad of options). I just love standing at the top of the saddle and looking back down to suburbia in one direction and then forward into the CBD in the other. And no outing is complete without a visit to Pulpit Rock – about 500m off the main path (but yes, still with a path through the fynbos) looking down to Muizenberg.
“I just love standing at the top of the saddle and looking back down to suburbia in one direction and then forward into the CBD in the other.”
The loop of Van Hunks Peak above Vredehoek also has a few options, but I generally stick to Oppelskop (or the 580m contour, as it’s labelled on Strava) because the rock scramble down to the Blockhouse is simply a lekker jol! Although the Blockhouse is a go-to for most off-roaders (bikes, hikers, runners, etc.) it holds a special place in my heart. My uncle passed away when I was 10 and his ashes were scattered at the Blockhouse – on a particularly windy day mind you, so essentially scattered across the whole mountain. But what I didn’t know at the time is that he was also an over-active mountain goat. So I always take a moment, overlooking the Waterfront, to say hi and reminisce over the outings that might have been…
Getting back into the forest from the Blockhouse can be as easy as dropping down to Rhodes Memorial and coming along the road, or you can open up the taps down “Jou ma se fynbos” – Most definitely my favourite strava titled segment out there! It links the turnstile to the top of Plum Pudding with a brilliant downhill single track. And that just leaves you with a gentle downhill of some jeep tracks, back to the heli pads, which can be done in 90 minutes at a push, or in 3 hours if you want to make sure your Instagram stock library is topped up!
Now I don’t want to sound anti-social here, because I certainly do love running in groups and catching up with mates while out and about, but nothing makes me happier than when I’m on “my” loop I have the freedom to rev things up and test my limits or slow things down for some existential contemplation. When it’s just me and the mountain.
Feel free to checkout my Strava route here
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