10 Oct My 2022 Karkloof Trail Run experience
My 2022 Karkloof Trail running experience Ben Wulfsohn 25-Sep-22
About 2 months ago, my daughter Erin encouraged me to enter the Karkloof 10 miler trail run. Erin was employed as the Media Director for the Karkloof Trail series with 100 miler as the main event. This is the same Erin who got me back into running in 2019 after a 40 year hiatus. At that stage closing in on 64 years old, I took it real slow and easy. Short distances and a weekly focus on the Park Run. However there was still muscle memory and experience that kicked in and in a few months I was able to do sub 30 minute 5km runs.
The lockdowns put a damper on my fitness and progress, I started doing a few Trail runs when they opened up again. Up to a max of 10km, the last one been in May this year.
For the last few months I had been running 2 to 3 times per week. Between 2 and 4km in the neighbourhood, slow to moderate runs, handicapped by taking my three dogs on leashes.
Now with 2 weeks before the race, I realized I was seriously under prepared. I decided to rather run in the nearby Pigeon Valley nature reserve. The idea to run slower on the technical up and down single track trails. My focus was on time on my feet Vs. distance. E.g. run for an hour, cover about 6km. Ok, at that speed it would mean a sub three hour 16km Karkloof run. Not too great! And another problem: flare up of knee pain and ITB pain. My chiro said now too late to do any distance, and even 6km is too far at this late stage. Ok some bicycle riding and half the Pigeon Valley excursions. Even those a bit painful. So resting for the last few days.
Big day of the race. Lovely start in the fresh midlands air from the Karkloof Farmers market. Bouyed by my fellow runners enthusiasm, I started off at a fair clip.
Striding on a downhill section, I swept past an older runner in his 70s shuffling along slowly with his head down. Did not think too much about it at that time.
Then by 5kms ITB pain starts, not too bad, but my thoughts were : I am only a 1/3 into the race, will I manage to the end? So I changed my gait a bit, more toe and foot relaxation, deeper breathing, relaxing back, taking a longer walk up the next hill or two. Within a few hundred meters, no more pain.
Great then in about 2km my hamstring starts to hurt, I had a Chinese medicine adhesive patch on my knee. Knee felt good, should I transfer the patch to my hammie? Contemplated for a bit, then thought too complex and might lose knee benefits. In all the contemplation, I noticed that hamstring is OK now.
Went well for quite a bit up to 10km mark, then going on the steep single track sections – sharp pain in my shins extending to my insteps . Aaargh, shin splints screamed my mind – I am damaging myself – this must be the end of my race! So I stopped, massaged a bit, stretched out my ankles and shins, and started walking (slowly) the uphill parts . While walking I became aware of someone on the trail behind me, I made space for him to pass. It was the ‘old guy’ I had swept passed 5km back. He passed me with same steady, metronymic shuffle. And given my now conservative state, I watched him slowly disappear ahead of me up the trail. The old tale of the Tortoise and the Hare!
After a few hundred meters, I gingerly started running again focusing on the Chi Running principle of getting one’s foot drive from the back/spine vs the legs, initially a bit stiff but after a while I did not feel the pain.
And so I just ran / walked happily to end. Legs started to feel tired, but I seemed to have more breath and heart. No more obstacles or pains, and so happy to hear the PA sound system a few kms out, and to get to the finish, greeted there by lovely children, Erin and Sahara.
So I suppose we all underprepared in some ways for these challenges, and meet dispiriting obstacles along the way. Some focus and modifications seems to help, even when thoughts are bad. And most aches and pains seem to pass with the ‘mindfulness’ of focus and attempts at remediation. Being underprepared necessarily means we go to ‘places’ we have not visited before – so in my case my longest run (by half) for 42 years and the longest time on my feet for that period too.
Another great remedy I discovered in trail running is WALKING. My son Sahara was one of the photographers on the race, so later that afternoon, he was deputized to get some shots of the first runner of the 100 miler in the forest just about a Km from the finish. I accompanied him, and we set up a good vantage point where we could see the leader exit the forest and enter a clearing. We were warned that he should be arriving to our point imminently. We had a description of our man. Then we saw a runner emerging from the forest fitting his description. Surely not the leader, he is walking! But he was the main guy and started running past us. So walking is part of trail running too and quite kosher for all.