Rieghard Janse van Rensburg, Station Commander at NSRI Jeffreys Bay is an activist raising funds in support of Sea Rescue. He shares his thoughts on the Addo 100 Miler which he completed over this past weekend.
“As I turn on my Laptop early Friday morning to quickly review the race plan for the weekend, I am greeted by a very appropriate quote, Lao Tzu’s “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” for myself and 43 other Runners, that would be a journey of a 100 miles, starting in only a few hours.
This years ADDO 100 Miler would however be a different challenge, as the Organizers asked myself and good friend Andy Wesson [both ADDO 100 miler 2016 finishers], if we will ‘bring-in’ the 36-37 hour finisher bus and act as sweepers along this infamous 100 Mile route, running through the only national park in the world that can lay claim to having the Big 7, with the trails tracking the rugged Zuurberg mountains and beautiful valleys of the park. This will also be the 3rd race in my latest ‘Running in Support of Sea Rescue’ campaign with the aim of raising much needed Funds for NSRI. [Since inception in late 2015, the Running in Support of Sea Rescue campaign managed to raise in excess of R35’000-00.]
I finished my last minute preparations, had a proper breakfast and left for the start at the ADDO Main Camp. The distance from Jeffreys Bay to the ADDO Main Camp is approximately 168Km and as we drive, I cant help but think that this is almost the exact distance we will be covering, with only one difference, its not going to be on tar road, instead it will be on the single track trails, 4×4 tracks and old jeep tracks within the ADDO park itself, where we will have a chance to encounter some spectacular views, but also some extremely challenging climbs, as this 100Mile route has in excess of 5’600m of vertical elevation – to put than into perspective, it the almost the height of Mount Kilimanjaro.
It is extremely difficult to explain what goes on in your mind in the last hour or two before the start of such an event. Nothing is certain, other than the fact that it will get very-very tough and painful before it gets better and maybe in that I find comfort, knowing that it will be extremely challenging, but also knowing that I will finish.
The first 10km of the route is fairly easy running along the Armstrong Fence before crossing the tar road in the Zuurberg direction. At checkpoint 1 we get off the gravel route and take the single track up the first serious climb, with the beautiful views of Camp FigTree being the reward. After descending back into the valley, the almost 25km climb to the top of the escarpment and checkpoint 4 starts. We were treated to some amazing views and a unforgettable sunset. As beautiful as this all is, it’s also mentally the most challenging, as the realization sets in that in 24 hours from now, I will probably be in very much the same place, heading in the opposite direction, seriously sleep deprived and on very tired legs, with yet another 20km to the finish.
This is also the time in the race when you make peace with the fact that it going to be a very long time out there and that you are here on your own free will and running in support of a greater cause. As we run into the night, things start to all fade into a haze and for the next ±11 hours, all I will be seeing is what ever enters my headlamps circle of light. Running through the night is such a rewarding experience and interestingly, at the end of the race, we almost spend as much time running at night, as day.
As the sun rises on Saturday morning and we start to appreciate the heat from the sun, we arrive at the 1st serious water crossing. Over the next 10km, we crossed the Sundays River 3 times in knee deep fast flowing water, fortunately the ‘bag drop’ checkpoint awaited us after the final crossing, which we crossed with our shoes in our hands, as a dry pair of socks awaited us.
The biggest challenge of the day was still to come, with a very remote and extremely technical 17 km section, better know as the Valley of Tears, between 111km & 128km in the race. This would be tackled in the extreme mid-afternoon heat. We knew that a very hot day was predicted and prepared accordingly, but nothing can really prepare you for temperatures in the mid 40’s, whilst climbing switchbacks with the sun baking down on your back. Apparently temperatures as high as 49 degrees was recorded at some checkpoints. Looking back I am convinced we both suffered at least some of the symptoms of heat stroke / exhaustion, but with no other way out than through, we soldiered on.
Checkpoint 14 or better known as ‘Ellies Tavern’ was like an oasis for a weary desert traveller. We arrived there at 18:35 on Saturday night and spend a good 25-30 minutes getting rehydrated, eating and getting our headlights an gear ready for the final 35Km that will all be covered under darkness. Under normal circumstances 35Km is not a big challenge, but after almost 30 hours on my legs and another predicted 7 hours, to the finish, it required some extra willower to get-up and get-going.
Straight out of Ellies Tavern you are met with one of ADDO’s most notorious climbs, the ±5km Witpoort Climb, it would take us just under 90 minutes to reach the top of the escarpment and the next checkpoint, from were its ‘all downhill’ to the finish, but like any down Comrades runner will tell you – its not all that much fun running downhill!
We made good progress and although the miles ticked away slower than anticipated, we eventually found ourselves at the final checkpoint and a mere 10Km from the finish. It would take us another 3 hours to reach the finish and as we stood in the dark with our headlamps switched off allowing a fellow runner finish his 1st 100 miler and enjoy the cheers of friends and family, we looked at one another shook hands and affirmed ‘We did it!!’ 36 hours & 37 minutes almost exactly in the middle of our planned goal time. There were many times we seriously doubted our decision to bring in the ‘finishers bus’ and act as sweepers, but in the end it was all worth it. Will we do it again….that however is a different question!!”
Rieghard and Andy crossed the line as finisher number 28 & 29. Unfortunately ADDO’s thought conditions and extreme heat took its toll with 15 runners withdrawing from the race.
Next-up for Rieghard is The Munga a 400km single stage trail run between Belfast and the Blyderivier Cannon. This will also be the final challenge in the Latest ‘Running in Support of Sea Rescue Campaign’, but this is where Rieghard will need some assistance. His entry fee Sponsor just recently had to withdraw, so if there is any person or Company interested in supporting / sponsoring him and helping him get to The Munga, please contact him on 071 896 6831.
To support the ‘Running in Support of Sea Rescue Campaign’, simply go to the following website and make your donation – https://www.givengain.com/ap/r100100km/ All donations made go directly to NSRI and a SARS 18A certificate is available upon request.