The story of this race starts with me thinking I will not be able to run. Yes, on Friday evening I was still about 80% sure I won’t be able to run. I was flat on my back, literally, the whole Friday, with a weird stomach bug. Anette stayed positive and assured me it was a 24 hour bug and that I would be ready to run on Sunday morning. She was right!
I felt better and better through Saturday and by the time we arrived in Sabie I was about 88% myself again.
Sabie is a beautiful town in the eastern lowveld of Mpumalanga, one of the most beautiful provinces of South Africa. The town is a favorite tourist destination and one of the main hubs of the wood and paper industry of the country. It is surrounded by plantation after plantation of pine and blue-gum trees. It was between these trees that we ran most of the race.
The morning started with registration and packet pickup and judging by the quality of this we were looking forward to a first class event. Everything was perfect and this eased the nerves of those who were a bit worried about what to expect.
Registration and the best goody bag I've ever received!
I was entered for the pro race (16km, 11km, 18km) and Anette for the lite race (8km, 11km, 11km)…her first stage race. I will let her tell her own story, but believe me, she did great!
Ready for stage 1. Me with new sun prevention cap.
After some standing around the race briefing was done and we were ready to start stage 1. I was very excited…stage races are growing on me very fast. I think they are my new favorite type of race.
Ready to start.
With little hoohaa the countdown was done and we were on our way. The field was quite small with this being the first time the race was held. Runners sped off into the distance very quickly, leaving me and a few back of the packers in their dust.
About 500m into the race we had a water crossing…these seem to follow me around where ever I race. I love water crossings and don’t mind wet shoes so I was happy and feeling great as I completed my first kilometer of the stage.
Water crossing. I love water crossings!
We ran along a dirt road for a while and the field spread out very quickly. By the time we turned onto the single trails there were not many runners close to me.
Dirt road for the first 2km.
Onto the trails!
The trails were fantastic and we were in the pine forest soon. Running between the trees was unreal and I definitely felt some magic. The magic stayed with me for the whole stage.
Into the forest!
Magic between the trees...
There was a water/check point at 3km and after this I didn’t see another runner for the rest of the stage. I was in runner’s heaven and the forest/plantation was spectacular. There is something very special about running or just being among the trees like that.
The trails were all runable and we followed some forest roads every now and then. There were two climbs of note in stage one. I certainly felt them, but they were very manageable. The spirit of the race was to give runners the chance to complete the event but still keep the relaxed holiday feeling at the same time. Perfect for December!
In the second half we got a glimpse of some waterfalls in the distance, trademark of Sabie. It was beautiful!
This is a beautiful place to run indeed!
As we turned back towards the finish we followed the Sabie river. The trail on the river bank is great and I was really feeling super. I was very happy that the stomach bug did not influence my first stage in any way.
Trail along the river.
About 2km from the finish we ran into the Merry Pebbles resort. It was packed with campers as there was a very big mountain bike race happening at the same time as our race. Everyone was super friendly. We ran on the outer boundary of the resort and once through the resort it was only 500m to the finish.
Merry Pebbles Resort.
Trout fishing in the Sabie river.
Friendly RD at the finish.
Stage 1 completed!
Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!