I can’t say enough great things about the Giant’s Cup and how exceptionally well organised it is…but even more than that, how fantastic everyone involved in it is. The support, encouragement, laughs (many) and (in my case) tears, made it all unforgettable. I had a tough time but would do it all over again.
My friend Hutchi and I were so excited yet petrified as we flew to Durban on our long-planned, unknown adventure. We screeched into registration as it closed at 6pm and then stumbled into the bar to see a room full of strangers that were so welcoming and friendly, it made it rather easy. Looking around though my nervousness increased as everyone looked both calm and fit. Two things I did not feel! After hearing all the pre-race info, we went off to have supper and then an early night before our 5am wake up.
Climbing on to the bus that first morning (like lambs to the slaughter we were driven to the start) I felt terrified. It was freezing (read: raining, cold, miserable) which didn’t ease my stress and I couldn’t have worn more clothing and gear if I tried. But before I knew it we were off. And that’s when my shin splints decided to rear their (very ugly) head again. I was in agony from almost the beginning and after landing badly on a rock, was beginning to despair.
I had half-joked before the race that I would become good mates with the sweepers but it was now becoming a reality (luckily they were fantastic and I can’t rave enough about them either). I hobbled on (while 1 runner left after pulling his hamstring again) and hoped that it would get better. It didn’t. By the time I reached the 1st checkpoint around 14km’s, I had to make a decision as it would be very hard to turn back after that. I decided to go on but not even a km further realised it would be madness and had to turn around. I found the sweepers (I had only managed to get ahead of them as they had stopped for a coffee!) and began to weep (mortifying) because I felt so disappointed, frustrated and sore. They let the checkpoint know I was returning and I hobbled back to find a sea of very concerned faces which set me off again and this time I bawled like a baby. Not my finest moment.
Through all the despair, the overwhelming kindness I received from everyone made it a little better and I was taken back to my hotel to get warm and recover. I can’t remember when last I felt so down. Seeing everyone come in later didn’t help either. I was so happy for them and especially for Hutchi who did really well but so grumpy for myself. After dinner and an early night, I decided I was going to go out and try again. I knew it would be tough to get through 30km’s in the mountain with my painful leg (luckily it was only my left leg so my right leg could take more of the slack) but I had come all this way so had to do what I could. And worse case I could stop at the (only) checkpoint which was around 14k’s again.
Standing at the start I suddenly felt this wave of determination that I had lacked the day before and off I went. Not with great style but enough grit to ignore my leg as much as possible and take that mountain on! After about 8 or 9 km’s I was really feeling it and thought I’d be lucky to even reach the checkpoint but I had managed to catch up to some runners who were fantastic and kept me going. A few kilometres away from the checkpoint I said I’m more than likely going to stop because I couldn’t imagine doing another 17 or so k’s. Paul, one of the runners, said “What? Don’t be a loser! We don’t quit!” and it was just what I needed to hear for that little competitive side in me to jump up and say, “fine, I’ll do it!” (thank you, Paul!). I raced towards the checkpoint, picked up a piece of orange, waved away everyone’s concerns (some said I really should stop) and off I went. I was on a mission and no matter what, I was going to get to the end. I wondered if anyone (read: trail runner Darren) was checking my progress via tracking and the thought that he/they could be, also motivated me to keep going. Darren (@DazMSmith), you really helped!
On I went. Jennifer, another runner, had very kindly said she’d do the hills (read: uphill, horrible, tough) with me and she did…I can’t thank her enough. She stuck with me until the end and was not only great company but also fun to share it with. I kept asking her “is it the end yet?” (my Garmin had died) and she didn’t once get annoyed but instead repeatedly said “no”. Ha ha. Finally though we saw the end and by now, about 1km away, I was nauseous from both pain and exhaustion (and not eating enough). I doubled over and groaned and Jennifer whipped out a sweet and fed me, then gave me some of her water (which she had shared for a while as I had finished mine) and it was all I needed to get me to the very end. Coming up the last hill (yes, they make you come up a hill at the end grrrr) I couldn’t believe I’d made it. I literally stepped over the finish line and sat down. Amazing Matt from Giant’s Cup rushed off and got me an ice-cold bottle of water and I ate my Marmite sarmies and recovered. Life was good!
While I am upset about only doing 15km’s on the first day, I am thrilled I got through the 2nd day and am still on such a high. The final dinner was filled with laughs and fun and I couldn’t have felt better. I was also fortunate to sit at the same table as Iain and Su Don-Wauchope – what incredible athletes. I spoke to Iain for most of the time and besides been in awe of all he has achieved, I was overwhelmed at how humble he is. Trail running (any running!) is rather new for me and yet he was kind in his conversation – in a world where I find generally people are becoming more selfish and where achievers can be somewhat arrogant, it was so refreshing to meet a legend who was anything but. What a winner.
I can’t end off without saying another huge thanks to Matt and everyone else involved in making it such an epic event – you are all fantastic. And also to the sponsors – what an amazing goodie bag!
I will be back.
See race highlights here: https://vimeo.com/167615740
See www.thegiantscup.co.za for more info!
#TheNorthFace #UnderbergSPAR #aQuelle #racefood #EzemveloKZNWildlife #EndangeredWildlifeTrust