Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 162 October 2023 | Page 58


Mission 100 Miler

Fresh from winning a wet and wild K-Way MaxiRace Cape Winelands 75km trail ultra , we sat down with Brandon Hulley to talk about his transition from rugby player to elite trail runner , and his unfinished business with 100-milers . – INTERVIEW BY SEAN FALCONER

The rain fell heavily in the mountains surrounding Stellenbosch , the rivers rose exponentially , and the mud got steadily worse , but Brandon Hulley was not going to be denied as he raced towards victory in the 75km main event at the 2023 K-Way MaxiRace Cape Winelands presented by Banhoek Chili Oil . That last weekend of September was indeed a wet one in the Western Cape , and all the runners had to contend with the same tough conditions , but perhaps being George-based gave 30-year-old Brandon a slight edge . After all , there ’ s a reason that the CAW lettering on George vehicle licence plates is joking equated to ‘ Cold and Wet !’

This will go down as one of the wettest , muddiest MaxiRace events to date , with heavy morning rain playing havoc with the 75km route , causing the race organisers to make the decision to re-route the course for safety reasons . “ We had almost 20 millilitres of rain during the morning , which led to many of the river crossings becoming increasingly unsafe for our runners , and coupled with icy conditions , we were very concerned about the possibility of hypothermia ,” explains race director , Andri Stander . “ We therefore re-routed those runners who had not yet reached the Assegaibos checkpoint back along the course , and from there we transported them past the most dangerous sections and then allowed them to complete the course from a safe location . The results were adjusted to reflect those who finished the entire course ahead of those who completed the adjusted course .”
Brandon , who runs for New Balance , came home in 7:58:20 , with second place going to Joshua Blackshaw in 8:14:49 , and third to Didier de Villiers taking third in 8:27:08 . We had the opportunity to chat to Brandon after his win , and get to know a bit more about him .
MA : So , Brandon , first off , tell us about your wet and wild MaxiRace experience !
BH : I ’ m sure this year ’ s edition will go down as one of the craziest ever , for many reasons . The weather conditions made for a tough day out , and there were no easy miles , but the racing was exciting from the start and I am stoked to have pulled off the win in a strong field . I still feel that my body is more endurance than speed , so although it ’ s 75 kays , it ’ s still a bit quick for me , compared to a 100km race , or a 100-miler .
It was my first time running in those mountains , and they did not disappoint . The route was fast , and obviously very wet , but it was awesome to be able to run up in the kloof . That was proper , raw and almost undisturbed trail running , and it was a great day out in the mountain for me ! I want to say thank you to MaxiRace for delivering an exceptional event , despite all the challenges . Also , a massive thank you to everyone for all the support , I appreciate it , and once again , my New Balance kit did not disappoint !
MA : So , this race went well , but you ’ ve had mixed fortunes with the 100-milers , it seems .
BH : The UTCT last year was my first one , and I actually haven ’ t finished one yet , unfortunately . I was 75 kays in when I had to pull out at UTCT , because I had ITB from early in the race , 20 kays or so , and battled with it all the way from there . I ’ d never had ITB issues before , and it just appeared during the race . I pushed as far as I could , hoping that it would eventually get better , but I got to 75 and literally couldn ’ t walk .
Then all the training went towards the MUT Miler , because it ’ s in my backyard in George . I did the 100K here last year , so I ’ m familiar with that route and distance , now I wanted to get that first 100-miler in the bag , and to be honest , I still don ’ t know what happened . I was going okay until 45 kays , but I think I ’ d picked up some sort of infection , because both my wife and daughter were sick that week , as well as the admin staff at work . I was dosing myself trying to stay healthy , but I think something might have come up as soon as the heart rate went up , and as soon as it started getting cold , because 45 kays in , my wheels just came off . Again , I pushed as far as I could , and I eventually got to 150 kays , but then I had to call it .
It felt like I had COVID again , with a fever , and body aches , and eventually I would take two steps and my heart rate felt like it was through the roof . It was just so just frustrating , because I was only 14 or so kays from the end , but obviously the time and position I wanted were long gone , so it was the safe decision to rather pull out there .
MA : I have to ask the question , do you not think that you should actually have pulled out earlier ?
BH : No , I ’ ve always wanted to see where my breaking point is , and to push the body as far as I can , and 150 kays in this race was my breaking point . I felt fine
Brandon Hulley on his way to winning the recent K-Way MaxiRace Cape Winelands 75km in Stellenbosch
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