Conversation station: DANIëL CLAASSEN
We caught up with Daniël Claassen. Daniël had an important part to play in getting a competitive field of runners together for the 2021 TSE elite race. On the day he found some serious speed in his ultra legs, proving his versatility and finished third.
Daniel, you played an important role in getting an incredibly competitive and deep field at TSE in 2021. Why was it important for you to get the start line stacked with fast elites?
I've seen over the last couple of years that people tend to think, the longer the better. But the reality is, the shorter the race, the quicker the recovery, but more importantly, the more competitors can line up to give it a go. With ultras, you can only run a handful of races a year, which sometimes makes them less competitive, as everyone has their unique preference and racing plans for the year. TSE, being a shorter race, on great trails provided the perfect opportunity to gather the elites and have a full out sprint on the mountain.
You were the first South African across the line at UTCT in 2021, to an outsider, one could argue that the longer trail distances are your calling. What is the value of a short and spicy race like The Elite TSE in your calendar?
First of all, thank you. UTCT 2021, was one of those races where everything just went according to plan and I'm very grateful for that.
The shorter races are great to see where your fitness is at, get a good hard effort in and three days later go straight back into training. It provides a great training stimulus, and gives you the opportunity to race more frequently. It also provides the chance to get racing experience, and learn to suffer. If it is 5 kms, 25 kms or 100 kms. At the end of the day you will reach a point where you are so tired, everything in you just want to stop, so the more you get to that place and power through, the stronger you become.
In 2020 you ran both loops and finished second in the 50km. If you were to race the 50km again, which order would you tackle the loops in and why?
In 2020, just before I did a route recce, I was 99% sure that I'll run the Atlantic loop first. But after my recce I changed my mind and went with the Devil's loop first. I feel the Devil's loop (like the route was in 2020) provides more opportunity to run smoothly. And the beginning part of the Atlantic Loop is also quite smooth. So it gives you the opportunity to do the runnable section on fresher legs, and then just keep your head down and slog to the top of Platteklip and enjoy the downhill to the finish line.
Do you have any tips for race execution for the 25km races as well as the 50km race? This could include pacing, nutrition and mental tips! Anything and everything that gets you through races (and right at the pointy end).
The number one rule is, never try anything in the race that you haven’t done in training before. Everyone says that, but I have made that mistake before. Especially when it comes to nutrition. Keep eating, even on the 25km race, when you are hungry, then it is too late to catch upon food. So eat and drink enough.
Pacing wise, and this is the hardest part, but try to keep you heart rate down for the first half of the race, don’t burn any matches and try to run your own race. Trail running is a difficult sport, and half the time the race beats the contestants, so be clever and run to your strengths.
One mental tip, if you are tired, then there is a 99% chance that the people around you are just as tired, so don’t show them you are tired. That’s where the mind games come in.
Which of the two loops would you say is your favourite and why?
Both are great… but if I have to pick one I would say the Devil's Loop. I really like Newlands Forest, and have done a lot of training there lately. I think the Devils loop provides the perfect combination of runnable single tracks, technical climbing and depending, a beautiful forest and epic views. It is like a trail paradise. Hopefully on race day we get a slight drizzle just to make it even more fun.
Thank You Daniël!
Conversation station: Bianca Tarboton
Last year you were the winner of the 25km Elite race, what was your general impression of the event?
The event was incredible, I loved the race and the event so very much. The atomosphere was so vibrant and alive, it was truly amazing. The support en route was immaculate, more than any other event I’ve competed in yet. I had SO much fun and fed off all of the support, it made a massive help. I was extremely impressed by the event as a whole.
The elites ran the Devils Loop last year, what did you think of it?
It was a brutal but very fun course! I loved it. It had a great mix of all types of running - steep climbs, single track and jeep track. I really loved the variety. Also, it was incredibly beautiful running up towards devils peak during sunrise.
This year the Elites will run the Atlantic loop. Have you explored much of the trails on this loop? If so, what do you think will cause challenges and which sections do you think will be a highlight of the day?
I’ve never done the full loop but I’ve done all of the different sections of it. It’s a super beautiful route! I’d say it’s more technical than the Devil’s Peak loop but it’s also a lot more flowy. There’s one big climb and one steep down which, in my mind, makes things somewhat easier haha! I find going down Platteklip to be pretty tough.
The top part of table mountain is also a lot more technical than one might think which I think might get people if they’ve overcooked the climb. The whole route is beautiful but that top, front section of table mountain will probably be a big highlight!
Do you have any advice for anyone entering The Special Edition?
Practice climbing and technical downs! Both routes have their fair share of steep ups and downs and those definitely take a bit of getting used to. If you’re able to, recce the entire route. I did that before the race last year and it was a MASSIVE help. To have run the route before is always a big advantage.
Otherwise, don’t overthink it. Just go out there and enjoy our beautiful mountain and all of the city views that come with it.
Thank You Bianca!
Conversation station: KANE REILLY
We caught up with the 2021 Elite winner, Kane Reilly. Kane has been winning races on Table Mountain for 10 years now! Thanks Kane for your wisdom and time.
You’ve been racing (and winning) on Table Mountain for a few years now! How many years exactly and how has the trail running scene changed in this time?
Haha. 2022 marks 10 years of racing on Table Mountain for me!
Tons has changed over the decade I’ve been around the trail running scene. But probably the biggest change is the exponential growth in the sport! 10 years ago it was mostly curious road runners, a few mountainous folk (mostly older) and maybe a scattering of younger runners.
Nowadays so many Cape Townians are taking advantage of having Table Mountain on their doorstep. University students, surfers, people who previously excelled in teams sports, the list goes on. There is a much bigger and diverse trail community for it. We’ve also thankfully stopped wearing compression clothing.
What sets Special Edition apart from other races on Table Mountain?
I like how the Special Edition was born out of adversity. The original year was really all about the trail community getting together after a year of covid-chaos, that kept people apart. Last years Special Edition also felt like a real celebration, and I hope that this feeling continues year-on-year.
Last year you won the elite race, we tried to bring you as much local talent as possible, how was it starting on the start line with so many fast runners?
It’s was awesome! I really love a good all-out-throw-down, and last years race was just that. It’s always lots of fun racing against a strong field, and it’s a real treat to do it at home because it’s not often we have proper depth of competition in short distance races in South Africa. A few role players came together (Special Edition organisers, Run Project , Flat Rock Endurance and Daniel Claassen) to help assemble the field we saw last year, which really set it up to be a great race to be apart of.
The elites ran the Devil Loop last year, what did you think of it?
Great loop! Particularly for racing over. The loop has a bit of everything which that side of Table Mountain has to offer. And the routes profile, and out-and-back sections really lend themselves to to good racing and spectating.
This year the Elites will run the Atlantic loop, have you explored much of the trails on this loop? If so, what do you think will cause challenges and which sections do you think will be a highlight of the day?
I’m pretty familiar with all the trails that make up the Atlantic loop, and it’s a goodie! Certainly the more, traditionally, scenic of the two loops but by no means easier. In fact I reckon it’s a fair amount tougher.
Running on top of table mountain is never as easy as people who haven’t spent lots of time up there would believe. I think the crossing over Table Mountain will catch some runners out, who think the job is done once they’ve crested the corridor ravine climb. It’s actually pretty net uphill and technical from there until Maclears. I’d watch out for a potentially unexpected spanking by the route here. Particularly if it’s a warm day. The views will be the highlight. As I mentioned, the Atlantic side would typically be seen as the more “scenic side”, and you’ll get some spectacular views throughout.
Do you have any advice for anyone entering Special Edition?
Don’t underestimate Table Mountain! The better prepared your are, the more enjoyable your experience will be.