K-Way athlete Andre Calitz sets a new PUFfeR record

Wind and rain were on the menu for the 16th running of the 80-kilometre Hi-Tec Peninsula Ultra Fun Run, PUFfeR, which was held in Cape Town on Saturday. As weather conditions deteriorated, only the three front runners ran the original route – up and over Table Mountain; the rest of the field was re-routed along the contour path to bypass foul weather on the mountain. Eventual race winner, K-Way athlete Andre ‘AJ’ Calitz, made the final break from Nic De Beer and Will Robinson at Constantia Nek - and he never looked back. Calitz reached the finish at the V&A Waterfront in a new record time of six hours, 59 minutes and 36 seconds and he is the first runner to set a sub-7 hour time on the original course.

This was Calitz’ first time running PUFfeR. As the course is unmarked, choosing the optimal route is essential if you’re in for a competitive race. Calitz’ plan from the start was to stick with Will Robinson, who has won the race three times. As things turned out, Calitz was in good company with both Robinson and De Beer (2011 winner).
“As a novice, I didn’t know the route well, so I had to stick with the front runners. There are numerous technical sections and short cuts and specific checkpoints that I didn’t have a clue about,” Calitz explains. “Luckily Nic and Will have a wealth of experience between them.”

Starting in the pouring rain, howling wind and pitch-black night the men averaged under four-minutes per kilometer – into the driving wind – on the tar section through the Reserve and towards Red Hill. Here Robinson broke away and Calitz and De Beer let him go. “This was a tactical decision as there were still 50 kilometres to go,” says Calitz.

Over the next 30-kilometres the runners leapfrogged positions with Calitz and De Beer catching Robinson. Then it was De Beer’s turn to drop back, struggling on the ascent but rejoining the pair into Tokai. By Constantia Nek it was Calitz and Robinson together. Here, at 60 kilometres into the race, is where the hard work really begins with an uphill haul to Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain. Calitz’s seconding team provided him with a hydration pack and winter gear for the ascent up Table Mountain.
“I was really feeling strong, so decided to make it count on the climbs, which are my strong point,” says Calitz. He missed a short cut, taking the cement road all the way up. He thought he’d lost the lead to Robinson but this route proved to be in his favour.

“I could run up the road, which was much further but faster, and the others had to walk up the steps. The mountain and weather was having a proper go at us with heavy downpours and freezing wind! It was also very slippery with low visibility, which made things difficult.”

By Maclear’s Calitz was 10-minutes ahead of Robinson with De Beer now out-of-sight. By the time Calitz had descended Platteklip Gorge and reached the cable station – more than 20-minutes ahead of Robinson - it was evident that he had a shot at setting a new course record if he maintained pace over Signal Hill and down to the Waterfront.

“I was still feeling good so I picked up the pace on the tar section. I had no idea what my lead was so I thought at any moment Will or Nic would show up,” Calitz explains. “I got lost again coming down Signal Hill, but I bushwhacked a path down through stinging nettles, mud, grass and rocks! By then I knew I had the race in the bag and I just wanted to reach the finish under seven hours. I pushed hard the last couple of kilometers.” The race clock stopped on 6:59:36.

“The welcome at the finish was amazing with family and friends waiting for me – as well as the organisers with an ice-cold draught!”

Robinson maintained his second place – just - in a time of 7:23:12 with De Beer less than one minute behind at 7:24:09.

In the women’s race Linda Doke took the win in 8:29:54 with Melanie Porter in second (8:44:31) and Sue Ullyett in third (9:43:37).

Other exciting news from the race was that of Janette Terblanche’s overall win in 24h32 of Tuffer PUFfeR, which is a double running of the route. Seven runners started from the V&A Waterfront on Friday morning running to Cape Point and then back again. They were lashed by the storm that swept through Cape Town on Friday night and they endured challenging conditions throughout Saturday. Only two runners – Terblanche and Beryl Penny – finished Tuffer.

“I just had one of those days,” says Calitz. “My kit was right. My nutrition was good. The race organisation and stations were really good. I will be back. I want to tackle Tuffer PUFfeR next, as a personal goal.”

Photo credit: Jacques Marais