June Fabian...Reflections from a Rookie
I am not a trail runner, nor am I an adventure racer. But for the spectacular scenery, the incredible adventure and really awesome people, I signed up for X-Berg, which has been one of the most amazing experiences I have had. The difference between not finishing first time round and doing much better the second time was in my preparation.
My suggestions would be to travel light (our packs were much heavier first time), always train with a pack on your back to get used to the weight and it gets your legs strong for the hills. As Andrew Porter says “if its high go up it as often as you can”. There may be the Westcliff steps, if youre in Jozi, but there is no substitute for the berg, some altitude, a wee bit of navigation, and some peaks. Rekkie trips to the Berg are invaluable for this. They helped me appreciate the scale of the mountains (which is huge) and just how tough the terrain is on foot. Most non-cyclists bail because of something to do with feet. I got hectic blisters first time round. Second time, I had none because I raced in a soft shoes (running shoes) and used a size bigger than I normally do. Spending long days in the berg with the shoes I raced in was the best way to work this out. Long days in the berg also helped me to work out nosh and drink. Um…. I still don’t think I have quite worked this out because at times I got nauseous, and this prevented me from eating and drinking enough.
When we raced with Shelley Plumb, a hard core adventure racer, she knew exactly what she needed to eat and drink to keep herself fueled up. Everyone needs different things, and this needs to be worked out. Most of us preferred actual food rather than bars and supplements so make sandwiches, carry fruit, salty chips, fruit and nuts (salted cashews and cranberries were a hit) and something sweet.
Knowing how to navigate and planning our route was a definite winner for us (thanks Peter). We did a training run for each section of the route, planned where to go and tested this with our rekkie trips. This helped us plan where we would sleep, so that we could race without our sleeping kit. Having a second to haul was a definite advantage and Marianne Schwankardt set a super high standard. Being part of a team, was such fun! We also carried each other through the downers and the pushed each other beyond our limits, so choose your team well!