My PUFfeR 2013

After trying to get an entry for 4 years, 2013 was finally the year for my debut at PUFfeR. Officially my first ultra distance run, and way over my prior distance limit of 46km (Knysna Forest Marathon 2013), it was an experience I was really looking forward to.

PUFfER 2013 logoAll competitors had to be outside the gate to the Cape Point Nature Reserve by 04h45 to be loaded onto 2 buses to be transported to Cape Point. The weather was cool and slightly overcast as predicted.

I started out in CAPESTORM Motion Tights, Garmin T-shirt, sleeves, HI-TEC Microfleece, CAPESTORM Helium Jacket and New Balance road shoes. I had my Salomon XT Wings 5 Hydration Backpack on with an assortment of snacks and two bottles of water.

At 05h30 sharp the race was started, and so began a long day out which truly lived up to the “Running in heaven, feeling like hell” slogan.

Running in the dark through the Reserve which was still closed was pretty special, and the fresh cool air was laden with fragrant fynbos. The road is tarred and fairly level with only a small hill before the gate. There was lots of light-hearted banter as we headed through the first water table. I stopped here to take my fleece off.

The first Checkpoint was just outside the gate. I had no particular strategy other than not losing the field early on in the day. With that in mind I caught up to the indefatigable Nice Girl, & her partner Caro who I have paced on the final section of PUFfeR in previous years.

We headed north up Plateau Road towards Scarborough. The road is flat and the pace was maintained. One or two raindrops fell as predicted.

I was still feeling strong up Red Hill and could run up it. At the top of Red Hill we cut across the veld just before the Pinehaven turnoff, and then back onto tar up the valley to the picturesque Lewis Gay Dam. This section is a section I had never run before, and was one of the reasons I wanted to be with the rest of the field. At Lewis Gay Dam we headed up into some rolling single track and had our first real taste of trail for the day. It was comfortable running on moderate single track which was quite sandy at times.

Coming out of this section we popped out onto Blackhill Road (Glencairn Express) and turned left down the tar through Sun Valley.

david-fox-puffer-2013-2 david-fox-puffer-2013

Heading up Ou Kaapse Weg we immediately took a shortcut through the bush on the right. I felt one or two tweaks in my right calf as I hit the road coming down to the Ou Kaapse Weg checkpoint. I NEVER cramp, so this was a bit unnerving.

I sat down at the Checkpoint and had something to eat: half a chicken wrap. This was also the point at which most of the runners switched to trail shoes so I pulled my Salomon S-LABS on.

By the time I was ten minutes into Ou Wapad my system went into meltdown and I knew I had done something terribly wrong. I wasn’t sure whether I was “bonking”, “hitting the wall”, or a combination of the two; I felt grim mentally and physically. I mixed some double-strong carb drink and sucked it down. I ended up taking a long walk through a perfectly runnable section.

I had a long sit-down at Silvermine. Luckily I had tossed some gels into my seconding bag as an afterthought. I had one, and asked Leanne to go and get more, as well as some 32GI and banana bread (the last item saved me at Knysna MTB Challenge).

I started feeling better almost immediately and managed a trot up the jeep track and a speed-hike up the short-cut. The trail toward Elephant’s Eye and then down to Level 5 of Tokai was quick, and I maintained a reasonable pace across to the switch-backs into Vlakkenberg saddle, followed by a fairly slow walk up Vlakkenberg. I made a slowish and careful descent of Vlakkenberg, saving the quads for the immediate ascent of Table Mountain that was to follow. I had forgotten how steep the switch-backs down to Level 5 are, and how beautiful the section from the end of Level 5 (from the top of The Cobra MTB single-track) to Vlakkenberg are.

The Constantia Nek checkpoint is always a buzz. I took some time to catch my breath, and switch back to the Salomon Hydration pack. I ate some more banana bread and stocked up on gels and 32GI.

The climb up the Back Table was slow; the first set of stairs a slow slog. The second set of stairs was closed due to erosion so we had to follow the road up to the Bailiff’s Cottage. I am never sure which is harder. The extra-steep section before the Iron Bridge was soon over and then more smiling faces at the Checkpoint.

The climb up to Maclear’s Beacon via Smuts Track was slow as I was reduced to a crawl by tired legs. Two ladies came by and it turned out to be Belinda seconding her mom, Michelle. It was great to have some company again, and at the Maclear’s Beacon Checkpoint they suggested taking the trail along the front of Table Mountain as the conditions were spectacular still (this path is fairly close to the edge of Table Mountain and should under no circumstances be attempted in anything less than perfect conditions). This was a good choice as I think this route is a bit more level, easier to follow, drier than the main route down the center.

We descended Platteklip gingerly and went straight down onto tar and along Tafelberg Road. No heroics here: I walked every step of the descent resisting the temptation to make time by letting gravity take over. I switched back to the Salomon Twin Belt, and pulled my CAPESTORM Helium Jacket on as it was starting to cool down as dusk approached.

The descent of Signal Hill past the Noon Gun is scrappy and ugly as you wind through undergrowth trying to avoid getting entangled in the nasty barbed wire fences. Once on High Level Road we headed down through the streets of Green Point, down Portswood Road and then left into Beach Road for the final few hundred meters before turning right into the Oceana Boat Club and the finish line.

Amazing to think that my average pace was 10:22 min/km which is not that much slower than my 9:11 sub-6 Otter Trail Run in 2011.

Overall Position Position Men Position Ladies Name Time
1 1 Paul Brittain 07:59:30
6 1 Charmain Salvage 09:02:39
108 71 David Fox 13:09:18

There were 119 finishers.

A massive “thank you” to everyone involved: my fellow competitors for the company and camaraderie, the organisers for a great event, all the volunteers at the refreshment tables and checkpoints for keeping us going, and the sponsors for some great swag! And most of all the amazing Leanne who was out there all day and rescued my ass when things started falling apart!

Things I did wrong:

  • Nutrition
  • Carried a bit heavy, especially the beginning of the day when it was easy to get gear from seconds

Things I did right:

  • Adapted my food strategy quickly when it started going wrong
  • I got my gear right: I was comfortable temperature-wise at all times
  • Kept a good pace and stayed with the field as long as possible
  • Used my Garmin Forerunner 910XT to follow the Course I downloaded; it was reassuring to feel it buzz as it notified me if I went off course and then buzz when I came back on course


Outdoor adventure enthusiast living on the Garden Route.

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