Day Two (for Tea)

Every day is special on the Three Cranes Challenge. The kicker on the second day was no less innovative and welcome as the other two. What would really cheer you up after 20km of running through trails in a Midlands mist with nothing more tasty than water and bland energy bars for fuel? If you said a hot tea with a smorgasbord of sweet and savoury treats, you’re talking the Three Cranes language!

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Having really scuttled hard on day 1, I had been promoted to B batch for the second day of battle on the trails. Fortunately I tacked myself on to the back of a strong group of runners who pulled me through the early segments, including some extraordinarily difficult hills. These were deep slopes, mostly covered in a squishy layer of mud, dotted with stones, rocks and roots. The word was hike rather than run.

As the route flattened out, the bus of runners spread and I found myself in a smaller group of three with two Durbanites. Eugene and Michelle were the chatty sort of runners who help distract you from burning legs. Soon we had dashed into the picturesque Mbona.

Through the plantations and past trout dams, we arrived at our tea stop just before exiting. Organisers take down your race number and stop the clock for as long as you need in these neutral zones. Needless to say, the smiles were bright one every face as participants trotted up to the tea garden for a hot beverage, some chit-chat about the preceding miles and a few rejuvinating pastries.

With some regret, it was then off to Benvie and some nearly interminable but gentle uphills. Scheduled to be 42km, rain had made several portions of the course dangerous, and the day had been taken down to about 37km. The closing stretch was the sort of fun, flowing, varying section of trail that makes the runner’s heart sing. River crossings, undulations, interference from stubborn cattle and a touch of rain saw to that.

The finish line almost came too soon. Almost, but not quite. It was time for a thorough rest and preparation for the final day.

It's a huge help to join a strong bunch in any trail run.
It’s a huge help to join a strong bunch in any trail run.
I even used this stout fellow's calf muscles for some aerodynamic drafting early on!
I even used this stout fellow’s calf muscles for some aerodynamic drafting early on!
This swirly GoPro screen grab captures the muddy uphills rather eloquently.
This swirly GoPro screen grab captures the muddy uphills rather eloquently.
My pacemakers, Michelle and Eugene, stop for an obligatory photo just after entering Mbona.
My pacemakers, Michelle and Eugene, stop for an obligatory photo just after entering Mbona.
Even the spiders had taken refuge from the drizzle.
Even the spiders had taken refuge from the drizzle.
A rusty old contraption I thought looked interesting. Anyone know what this was used for?
A rusty old contraption I thought looked interesting. Anyone know what this was used for?
At last, tea time! The community really comes out to make it fun.
At last, tea time! The community really comes out to make it fun.
Some sections of the forests would be mighty spooky to be in at night, I reckon.
Some sections of the forests would be mighty spooky to be in at night, I reckon.
The final leg of day 2 was not for wimps, but it's always fun negotiating flowing streams.
The final leg of day 2 was not for wimps, but it’s always fun negotiating flowing streams.
Three-Cranes-Kids
Occasionally we even got some encouragement from the local kiddies.
Of course, "Jerry Can" Jack was ever on hand, rumbling about in his super-cool Jeep.
Of course, “Jerry Can” Jack was ever on hand, rumbling about in his super-cool Jeep.
Don't forget to take a selfie before it's all over!
Don’t forget to take a selfie before it’s all over!
Soon enough, the glory of the finish line! What a feeling...
Soon enough, the glory of the finish line! What a feeling…
That thrill of achievement hit everyone just as hard.
That thrill of achievement hit everyone just as hard.
But we weren't done yet. We had one more misty afternoon, one more night in the tent and one more run to complete.
But we weren’t done yet. We had one more misty afternoon, one more night in the tent and one more run to complete.

 

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