Fiona Butler went from hero to zero and back to hero at the Oxpecker 2-day stage race and learnt a good lesson in pacing ....
Due to the popularity of this race, the race organisers hold two events with the Yellow Billed Oxpecker last weekend and the Red-Billed Oxpecker this weekend
Day 1 is 20km of mostly scenic single track taking runners up to the top of the historic Spioenkop Mountain, site of a Boer war battle on January 23-24 in which British forces attempted to relieve Ladysmith which was besieged by the Boer forces. Day 2 is a shorter and faster 16km following the river and then single typical African Bushveld. Fiona was there ....
"So my partner and I decided to enter ITEC Oxpecker last year which takes place at the Berg and Bush mountain bike venue. We loved it. The route was a 21km run on the Saturday and a 16km on the Sunday through the hills of Spioenkop. It is 12km from Winterton and very chilly in the morning and hot during the day. Perfect weather for a trail run as you finish in time before the sun begins to get really hot. We loved running the race last year so when the new entries appeared as an email in our inbox we entered immediately. We only changed our accommodation from race tents to luxury race tent. Which was the best move ever. We also invited two other friends of ours and we knew lots of other people doing the race. It was going to be fun.
Roll on 2017 and we had done some training with Coach Neville having started with him in January 2017. Our plan was to get fit this year in time for some big races next year (possibly Comrades or Sky run). I remembered the race been an easy run on the Saturday with one hill climb and 12kms of down hill. I was feeling fit as we had stuck to Neville’s training program apart from been sick with flu two weeks ago. We were ready … bring it on. We were woken up on 6am with roosters, ACDC and loud banging and noises by the race organisers. It was chilly and we dressed warmly before going to breakfast with plenty of time to eat before our race start at 8am. As the race started I was in A batch and I immediately started sprinting with all the other A-batchers, first mistake. I pushed hard and looking at my watch I was at 5 mins/km, this was fast for my usual road times, second mistake. By three km’s I was sucking air and all I could think was “I' m sure this was much easier last year.” The first 8km is a climb and I was dead tired, my legs felt like lead. How was I going to run another 12kms? I finished in 1 hour 49 mins, but was very disappointed with my run. I had felt awful and hated most of the race. I was exhausted and completely finished and wondering why I had enjoyed the run so much last year. How was I going to run tomorrow was all I could think of.
I messaged Neville and he said that I had gone too fast from the beginning. I should’ve walked the hills and started slowly and ended strong. I mulled over this the whole Saturday even into dinner over some red wine.
When I woke up on Sunday for the taxi lift to the start of the race on day two I had decided that I was gonna take it easier and learn from yesterday. The race began at 8am again. I was again in batch A and this time I allowed most of the batch that I was in to pass me. I was tempted to run quickly again, but with Neville’s message ringing in my ears and remembering how I felt yesterday I carried on with my slower pace. I took in the magnificent scenery of the area, it really is a beautiful part of South Africa along the Tugela river. My heart rate was good and I started passing some of the people who had past me at the beginning. When we got to the water point at 10km I couldn’t believe it as the time had flown and I felt good. So much better than yesterday. I had a smile on my face and was breathing normally for a trail run, my legs were not heavy at all. I finished 6th lady overall and 2nd vet lady. I loved the race and I am going to be back next year … for sure.
The ITEC Oxpecker is a great race for all ages and people. Its hard, but not too hard that it is unenjoyable. It’s a nice distance that you can relax in the afternoon. It is very well run and organised and most of the runner's needs are taken care of.
Lesson learnt for a first timer trail runner - start easy and finish hard."