No, I didn’t run.
So after the Blinkwater Rescue, I saw that Hiker’s Network Mountain Rescue was looking for volunteers for the Ultra-Trail run and I thought that this would be a chance to give back so I signed up, not knowing what I was letting myself in for. Closer to the time I asked Anwaaz what time I need to be at the start and he told me 5am. Ok that is doable. I was also told that I need to be available for a couple of hours. Ok that is doable. I had visions of spending the day on top of a mountain and that I can do, even if there’s nothing to do and I would be very happy!
It was only during the week that I did a bit of research on the trail run and read that one of the routes is actually 100km long! Who would/could run 100km on the mountain?! I know I can’t! I was also added to the Whatsapp group with my fellow volunteers from HNMR. It was only the night before the event that I was informed that I needed to be at the base at 4am! Say what?! Ok, no use complaining as I did volunteer and I was told that I need to be available for the day. Not knowing how long the day was going to be….I didn’t have half of what was required for the event so Rashaad kindly offered to lend me his technical stuff which I picked up on my way back from the airport, after I dropped my brother and his wife off at 6am Friday morning. Also, why is there bumper to bumper traffic on the N2 that time of the morning?!
I am also house-sitting this weekend and I still needed to pack, go visit my uncle in hospital, take my mother shopping and shower and stuff that I only got into bed about 11pm setting my alarm for 2:20am. Koesiesters needed to be sugared, 2 flasks coffee, lunch and supper, about 3.5l water plus snacks and my prayer clothes in addition to technical stuff was packed making my 60l bag quite heavy but I need to be prepared hey.
So after only 3 hours sleep, off I go at the crazy hour of 3:40am and I’m at Gardens Rugby Club by 4am and wait on the rest of the volunteers and offer them koesiesters as they arrive. A brief was given and I’m assigned with Film and Event Medics, Steve and Warren and we are posted off to Constantia Nek.
A coffee detour was made and we arrive at our destination round about 5:30am and we wait. The marshals and water station peoples were still setting up and oh yes, it was drizzling. The drizzle didn’t let up until after 2pm! Non-Stop! It was cold so lots of coffee was consumed which meant lots of trips to the porta-loo was made which gave me a chance to stretch my legs as the paramedic vehicle is quite cramped and not made for passengers. I walked around a bit and chatted to the other peoples until I was cold and returned to the warmth of the vehicle. Repeat…several times…At this stage I am grateful that I am not cold, wet and miserable on top of the mountain but have the shelter of the vehicle. Its one thing hiking in the rain (which I love!) but something else standing around and getting cold in the rain.
Volunteer Wildfire Services was set up there as well for some training out in the field and hugged and chatted with them a bit thanking for them for their service. One of the veteran ladies were stationed at Tokai forest when the tornado like fire-burst happened in March and they were right below it! See #Supporting our Heroes blog post. Goosebumps! They risk their lives to put out wildfires! How amazing are they?!
Anyway, we wait. The first runners were expected around 7:30am and I want to cheer! I want something constructive to do! I took photos lol. Steve and Warren are used to this so they doze off quite a few times and it felt like a stake-out to me! To keep busy, I eat -_-
One of the other Water Station volunteers were wearing flipflops in the rain and eventually the runner start to trickle in and I get to take photos of them and cheer. The 100km and 65km split is at Constantia Nek as well which was a bit confusing for some of the runners as they didn’t know which way to go. I notice the runners’ legs. All muscle! And how it flexes as they run. Absolutely no fat! When I’m not out in the drizzle, I’m in the para vehicle chatting to Steve and Warren and listening to the comms radio and a few injuries are reported at Woodhead dam. There are people stationed there so my help was not required.
The cut-off time for the 100km was around 9:30am I think so those who didn’t make it to the Nek by that time, had to do the 65km. I can’t remember what time the 65km was but eventually we were the only people stationed at the Nek besides the Marshalls. We were waiting for the 100km runners who went through Orangekloof and turned around in Hout Bay and those who didn’t make it back to Constantia Nek by 3:30pm had to go back via the contour path.
When the sky started to clear and the drizzle let up! I rejoiced! I could play outside haha! Which meant taking photos of flowers now. Not much else to take photos of considering that I was in the area for about 10 hours! When the last of the runners were out of the immediate vicinity we are now moved to Alphen Trail Aid station but not before making a detour to Constantia Village for Coffee! I first go up the wrong trail (diep river) and turn back, cross the road and walk along the Alphen trail looking for the water point and the 100km Sweepers comes through. We take photos about 5pm when I am called back as we are going to Cecelia Forest now.
The walk back to the vehicle was the longest short walk I’ve ever taken! My legs are tired. From what I don’t know. It’s not like I ran/walked 100km, not even 1km! Not much happening at Cecelia forest and when the sweepers pass by, we are called back to base at about 6pm! YAY!
Steve and Warren is relieved from duty and I must stay as I am on Mountain Rescue standby until the last runner comes in. The Rugby WC match is on and some are watching in the Pub and others are watching inside the tent. I explore a bit taking photos of this and that and end up at the finish line and cheering with the others as the runners came in. Prize-giving was at 6:45pm and there was still many more runners still to come.
After sunset, the runners came in with headlights on and we cheered and admired these guys’ perseverance and tenacity and determination to finish this race regardless! I can relate as well as I had lower back pain when I did the 30km big walk (Yes I know it’s no trail run!) and 15km in, the pain shot through me that I had to stop at every medic and every pharmacy for a massage and deep heat patches and stopping every few meters to rub my back with Voltaren gel. I remember thinking of quitting but the thought of quitting made me want to cry so I soldiered on and finished the walk in pain!
One international runner bowed his thanks as he came in and bowed a few times more. I went after him to take a clearer pic hehe. Some other guy from overseas as well ran in sandals and the crowd (what’s left of them) is now waiting on Gift who won the Comrades this year. He eventually came in at 8:10pm! It was also now Cut-off time and the flood lights go out at 8:25pm and the very last runner was accompanied in with the flare 😀 How cute!
We had our debrief around 8:45pm and its home time! It was a looooong exhausting uneventful day as far as Rescue is concerned but that’s a good thing isn’t it. Also, carrying someone down the mountain in a stretcher is heavy work! Doesn’t matter how slightly built the patient is as dead-weight is probably double that and carry downs are at the slowest of paces.
I have a new-found respect for trail runners. I’ve only ever seen them on the mountain running past and thought why would they want to do that. I’m hiking for the love of nature, the beauty surrounding me, the sights, the sounds and the smells. Taking it all in and bonus, the endorphin producing exercise. Before the trail run, I had no idea the distances they run and challenges to their bodies. Watch this space, I may become a trail runner as well 😛 Ok, I confess its something Bestie and myself have discussed a few months ago but haven’t gotten around to actually starting lol…I first need to righten my eating habits and start training – to trail run..
Will I volunteer for the ultra-trail run again knowing what the day can be like? Yes 🙂
Thank you for reading. Need to write my hike blog now hehe
PS…between writing this blog and actually posting it, I’ve made new friends on Facebook with a few runners from Thailand and South Africa. The trail run bringing people together from across the Globe 😀