Monday, 14 May 2012

Back for a fourth Mnweni Marathon

Ah... the mountains. And my fourth Mnweni Marathon. Tony and I travelled together, enjoying some audio book listening on the way down. Two of our buddies couldn't make it down with us but we were delighted to meet up with Steven, who came up from Salt Rock with his twin brother. Always good to see other familiar faces from the Mnweni Marathon family. And, I saw my old, old AR teammate Kevern there too. We raced together in mid-2000. That was a nice treat.

In previous posts I've written about the route and terrain (2007, 2010 - seems I didn't write about the race in 2008?). Not much to add here except to say that where I drew in the 'high route' in 2010 is wrong. I took it this year and really enjoyed the terrain; I'd take it again. It's only a little above the valley. I had a bit of a bush bash to get on to it - the start is hard to find - but enjoyed the trail and the scenery. I only managed to get on to it because I spotted another runner above; and they found it because they saw a local chap with his dogs on the trail. I can't really see it on Google Earth but it is there and seems to be used a lot by the locals. Bruce (Arnett) thinks the lower route is still the fastest but I think that for 'normal' people the top route is a little quicker.

What I did do differently this year was to miss Chi-Chi camp, which is the place to turn left and on to the Mnweni Pass trail. Goodness! I'm still not quite sure how this happened. We did find a camp but then the trail fizzled and so we dropped into the river. I said to Melvyn, who has done about seven Mnwenis now, that I didn't recognise anything. We must have been just too much to the right. Quite a few places have changed substantially since I last did this route two years ago and I must have just missed it and my usual spot to fill up with water. We didn't go badly wrong - just a little too far upstream - so again it was a steep (but short) bundu bash to get on to the trail.

Looking up the pass from the 'bump', which is - for me - the real start of the pass
(although you do climb big time to get to the bump too)
The Pass was as glorious as before. Steep and up, up, up! Took just over an hour to get to the top where I did my customary photo.

From the bottom of the pass I had company from Philip - this was his first Mnweni. He took this pic ;)

Up on top I tried out the panoramic feature on my new happy-snappy camera. My old faithful died about two weeks ago. I bought it five years ago and in this time it has been to every single event, race, weekend away, run, bike, O... Good solid lifespan.

This panoramic is looking back at the top of the Pass - in line with the person dot, which is Jacques.

Philip and I ran together for the rest of the way - we had bits of other company down Rockeries and on the descending trail. With about two kays to go I spotted the bridge and wanting to make under eight hours I left Philip. He came in just under two minutes behind me and just made sub-8, with seconds to spare. A really, really fantastic run.

Interestingly, this time I felt that our traverse across the top of the Berg was quicker than usual. I'm not quite sure why because the grass wasn't any shorter or longer. And the road section also seemed way, way shorter than usual. Obviously it isn't but the end really did seem to come much faster than previously.

As for my time... 7:58:10. Mmm... 24 minutes faster than 2010 (I made a route blunder here) and seven minutes slower than 2007. 2008 was somewhere in between; anything between 7h50 and a few minutes after 8hrs. I finished 44th (or 45th) out of 92 finishers (4th woman). I don't think I've ever been as far back - even though my time is same-same, which says a lot for the quality of the field. Some really superb results.

Most notable were:

  • Winning men's time of 5:03 by Matthew Kretzmann - on his first attempt! Only two men have ever got under 5hrs - Bruce Arnett and Andrew Porter. Close, so close. 
  • Winning women's time of around 5:45 (also will update with correct time when I get it). This amazing time was run by two women - tie for first. Tracy Zunckel was the one - she had the previous record of around 6:15. I'm not sure who the second was. As I recall Hilary Pitchford was third with just over 7hrs. All very, very good. Go girls!
  • Tony took almost an hour off his previous time to run 6:40-ish
  • Steven and his brother Andrew, for their first Mnweni, ran 5:42. Andrew ran the route in his regular Adidas Adizero road racing flats and seemed none worse for wear. He just complained about not having any grip on the loose trails. Doh!
I was really surprised at the small field of women overall - only about 10 of us. I'm sure we've had a bigger female contingent in past years?

As for running faster times... I couldn't remember what my previous splits were for getting to the bottom of Mnweni Pass or the top; that makes it harder to try to beat a time. So I just went with the flow. I got to the 'bump' at 3h34 and was at the top marshal, Clinton, around 4h40.

I had a really good run section in the early morning. It usually kills me to make my body work so early on, but I felt great. I took the trail section step-by-step, running where the terrain was nice and I could see my foot placements and walking where it wasn't. Definitely lost some time with missing Chi-Chi camp.

Ascent up Mnweni Pass was steady, as usual. My strategy here is to keep my heart rate and breathing under control and to work my way up step-by-step. I was trying out the new Black Diamond Z-Pole - just one. Really light and comfortable and I like the three-way fold; really comfortable to run with it in my hand. Philip did really well, keeping pace. He said later that if he hadn't been walking behind, in my footsteps, that he would have taken an hour longer, resting all the way up! He handled the ascent beautifully.

The crossing up top was, as mentioned, pretty quick. That's the way it felt. I have no splits from previous races to compare real time.

Descent down Rockeries may have been a little quicker than before...? It went well, felt smooth and my legs felt good. As soon as the trail flattens out, before the checkpoint #7 river crossing, the terrain becomes really runnable and I loooovvveee this section. Had a good run from here to the finish.

When I run this race again, I'm really going to have to concentrate on working harder over the first section to make up time. I do take this part pretty easy because 1) I know what is coming and 2) I love to run the runnable last section. The first time I ran this race in 2007 it was sweltering and I could barely run the road section under the scorching sun. The road seemed sooooo long and I felt pooped! Now, I blitz it, which means that I've got (too much) gas in the tank that could have been used a bit more earlier?

This is the only race that I've done four times (nine x Swazi Xtreme doesn't count because each year the route is totally different). It is a peaceful area, small field and a rustic type of event. Totally my thing.

Bruce, thank you for again presenting Mnweni Marathon and there's no doubt that you'll see me again for another lovely weekend in the mountains.


Pieter van Heerden said...


Great post! I also did the Mnweni this year running it for the 1st time. Was our mission to catch you down rockeries when I saw you cutting the corners of the switchbacks with utmost precision - which we managed :-) but as expected, the legs paid the price and you killed us on the "flat" road back home- the bit of the race that I guess we did not love that much, haha! Thanks to Bruce for organizing a fantastic and authentic trail run adventure!

richietarr said...

Hi Lisa, great post yet again. The winner of the race was Matthew Kretzmann, on his first attempt nogal! Looks like the weather was glorious at the top. Definitely on my radar for 2013!

adventurelisa said...

Pieter - run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me I'm the trail-loving woman ;) Going straight down those switchbacks worked really well for me 'cos I was slipping and sliding all over the place. I had much better grip on the grass. Well done to you too.

Richie - thanks for Matthew's name - have updated the post with it. Weather up top was superb - probably the best yet that I've had. Well worth diarising now for 2013. Usually first or second Saturday in May. See you there.

Cath Price said...

Hi Lisa
Remember me? Cath Price from AR days- Dave's sister? So nice to see you have been going so well still! I've entered the Mnweni Marathon 2 this year after getting back into running after 4 kids!! So any tips I'll gladly take...any route notes for me? It looks sooooo exciting!
Cheers Cath

Christelle van Wyk said...

Hi Lisa,

Great post, do you know of the race will happen again this year? I can't seem to find any information about it? Thanks Christelle

adventurelisa said...

Hi Christelle,
I don't think race info goes out... Bruce Arnett will probably put out something on Facebook closer to the time but you can be assured that the race will happen around about the first weekend of May.
If you're keen for something fabulous in the interim, check out my forest event - Lisa

Christelle van Wyk said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for your quick response. Will look out for more info. Your forest run looks great, will definitely consider it.

Thanks again.
Regards Christelle