The Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  Theodore Roosevelt

I learnt this quote earlier this year at GIBS and thought it profound but I forgot it much too quickly. It really does epitomise my journey into running. After the race that was UTCT, Fred sent this to me and it really helped to digest the disappointment of this race and the year that was.

I took on the challenge of my life this year. That is not an exaggeration. I know a lot of my friends couldn’t be bothered with my running but it has changed my life profoundly. Running 65km was always going to be a big ask but as they say, if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. I regularly have to remind myself of how far I have come because I am my own worst enemy. Whilst I am an expert supporter and absolutely love encouraging my friends with their running journey, I absolutely stink at motivating myself. I just can’t seem to tell myself that I am good enough. I think in my eyes I will always be that fat girl who never did anything. It is a problem and I think my self doubt irritates people. It is something we will be focusing on in 2019. Don’t get me wrong you will always have me smiling on the trails but I am very quick to tell everyone how useless I was or how slow I was. I need to change it. It is difficult to rewire your brain. I have tried to be more upbeat about my abilities but I don’t seem to be winning the battle.

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I made this my WhatsApp Status before the race to try and motivate myself and keep the self doubt at bay

So UTCT….. I have been dreading telling the story. I am so bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t make it. For myself but mostly for my Coach and Sofi. I really wanted that medal but it was not meant to be.

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Sofi and I at the start – all smiles

My first goal for UTCT was to make the Kloof Nek cut off at 8:30. This meant that I had to do 18.5km in 3,5 hours. It was going to be a tough ask considering I have never run that fast on trail before in my life. Luckily the first three kilometres are on tar and downhill so the plan was to not stop for a walk till we reached the foothills of Signal Hill. Mission accomplished and we had a lekker warm up through the quiet streets of Cape Town. We then went up Signal Hill and the trail undulated along towards Lions Head. Unfortunately both Sofi and I got sidetracked by the tourists on Lions Head and we missed the turn off the mountain. Luckily Sofi realised we had gone wrong when she saw the sweepers removing the markers down on the mountain. We very quickly turned around and made our way back down Lions Head. We were both cross with ourselves for committing the cardinal sin of following other people. There was another lady ahead of us. I am not sure when she realised she was wrong. We then motored down an awesome downhill section and went all the way around Signal Hill and back onto the foothills of Lions Head. At this stage I was starting to panic. Sofi was pulling me along and I was giving it my everything to try and make that cut off. The little detour had not helped my confidence.

We were nearing 18km and I wasn’t sure how far our little detour had been. I saw some people up ahead and thought it was the aid station. I got so emotional and squeaky. I lost my voice in CT for some reason. It remains a mystery why it disappeared. Stress may explain it… Anyway, the people turned out to be tourists who had no idea where Kloof Nek was. I was grumpy. This is where I started giving up. We were approaching 8:30 fast with no Kloof Nek is sight. I started drifting further and further behind Sofi with the realisation that we weren’t going to make it. The clock had struck 8:30 and we had gone past 20km. I had done my fastest 18km on trail but it hadn’t been enough. We found a tar road with a marshal who said it was still about another km through the Glen which was a hill! At this stage I was completely over it and asked Sofi to phone Fred to make sure he could fetch us. Good thing we did because they had extended the cut off to 9 so we still had some time. We summited onto Kloof Nek road to be welcomed by my trail buddy Darren Smith. I was hoping to give him a huge squeal of delight when I saw him but it was a very dejected hug instead. I think I was tired from pushing it but I think I was more mentally broken. I now had to get my head back into the game.

It didn’t help that they were packing up the aid station. But Fred, Debbie and my mom were there to refill my bottles and send us packing. Fred gave me a pep talk up to the mountain but I was seriously struggling. The emotional rollercoaster of thinking you out but you not was messing with my head so badly. Kloof Nek wasn’t that bad a climb but it felt like Everest. Even Daz couldn’t cheer me up. Sofi was smiling up, I was swearing up. It wasn’t pretty.

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Darren said “we love this shit” and I disagreed loudly
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Sofi was all smiles however and Daz got this awesome pic of her at the bottom of Kloof Nek

Luckily we had a herd of sweepers who took my mind off the fact that I was not a happy camper. I have a lot of experience with sweepers given that I often run at the back of a race. This herd of sweepers have to be the worst of the lot. My climbing strategy is walk as many steps as I can, rest and then continue. One of sweepers kept physically trying to push me on. He also kept insisting that I take out my poles. We had discussed the use of poles before the race and agreed that I would only need them on Alphen so they were safely tucked away. I was getting so irritated. When we got to the top of the climb under the cable way he was insisting that my quads were cramping and was trying to spray me with some stuff. Anyone who knows me knows that my legs don’t get tired, its my lungs that let me down. I nearly shoved the stuff down his throat. Sofi nearly kicked him in the nuts. We made a hasty retreat from them and motored along the contour which was stunning and by now I was feeling a lot more chirpy. I suppose I should thank the twit for distracting me.

While we were heading for the infamous Platteklip I looked up and low and behold there was Fred coming along the contour towards us! It was so awesome to see him and immediately lifted our spirits. He chased (me) us along to the foot of the climb where another surprise was waiting in her slops! Debbie had climbed up the bottom of Platteklip in her slops (she now has a nice blister as a result – sorry Debbie). The tourists were amazed! Totally hardcore! Her cheering voice was so awesome that I really felt motivated to get up the mountain.

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That’s us being chased by Fred on the contour heading to Platteklip
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Smiling face for Debbie just before Platteklip

That lasted all of 5 minutes. Fred patted me on the shoulder and said right Liesl up Platteklip in 40 minutes. I thought ok how hard can it be. Well…. Platteklip is without a doubt the hardest climb I have ever done. It didn’t seem to want to end. I hit the proverbial wall with every turn of the trail. I would turn and sit (I swore I wouldn’t sit…) and look up at Sofi and she would smile and encourage me to keep going. I kept saying “dis so moeilik”(This is so hard) which was part of the problem. I just couldn’t breathe going up the climb and it was hindering every step that I took. Considering that it was lower in altitude than Jhb, this shouldn’t have been a problem. In hindsight, the fact that my iron levels are still low (which I didn’t know at the time) is probably to blame for this. I will have to go back and do this race with normal iron and haemaglobin levels to test this theory.

I honestly thought it would never end. Some bright marshal come trotting down and categorically informed us that we were 45 minutes behind the cut and then the CP marshal came trotting down and scanned us as he went past. That didn’t help but perhaps the most frustrating thing was the tourists. Both Sofi and I are used to having mountains to ourselves, its where we recharge. Going up the mountain we had people playing boom boxes, sliding down the rocks because their converse takkies had no grip, we even had a group of opera singers belting it out on their way down. It was a bit of a dog show.

We ran out of water up Platteklip because it took a while and it was another 7km to the next aid station from the top. I wasn’t too happy and I drank the irritating sweepers’ water. I was a little selfish at this stage because I was so happy to be at the top that I didn’t even ask Sofi how she was at this stage. Turns out she had a hell of a headache and wasn’t feeling so lekker. I recovered quickly and just assumed that we could continue. I feel so bad I didn’t ask. I went trotting off, completely oblivious. My lungs don’t bug me on the flats! As soon as the angle changes, it becomes a problem! Sorry Sofi! *blush*

Running on top of Table Mountain was lovely, we chatted and ran and it was one of the best parts for me. We then headed down in a very pretty but hot valley with some rather treacherous wooden walk ways. The aid station seemed miles away. At this stage I knew we wouldn’t make the Alphen cut and thought we could catch a lift from the Table Mountain aid station. The valley got a bit hilly but we eventually made it down and met some lovely ladies who cheered us on and told us that the aid station was not  far at all. I needed more people like that on this race. They were so awesome.

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Yay – we made the aid station at last!!

Nearing the aid station who popped out of the vegetation but none other than Fred. What an awesome surprise. I assumed he had come to fetch us… with the car. Next was Debbie cheering us in. Fred told me they had 7 litres of coke which may be enough for me LOL. I inhaled about 4 glasses of coke and 3 of water as I was so thirsty at this stage. We were all out!

This is when Fred said ok lets go. I was like ok where’s the car? It was then that I realised that we had to still run to Constantia Nek to get to the car. So off we trotted with Fred and Debbie and had a lekker chilled downhill run all the way to the car. In hindsight I shouldn’t have inhaled all the coke cause I think it made my tummy grumpy but it settled down and it was so nice to run with Fred. Running back to the car I realised that Fred and Debbie had climbed up 5km of super steep route to get to us. I was so grateful cause it made the last bit so much more bearable and took my mind off the fact that I would have to abandon at Constantia Nek. I was still running…

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Running down to Constantia Nek with Fred

Sofi and I ran to the aid station (what was left of it) together and we had to take out our phones and let the race know that we were stopping. We wouldn’t make the 6km to Alphen in half and hour and it wasn’t worth it to run there just to get in the car there and prolong the issue. Pressing that button was the toughest thing ever. I was devastated that I had not made it. I just burst into tears and have tears in my eyes writing this now. I hated quitting. I felt that I had let both Fred and Sofi down and I was devastated. It is still a very bitter pill to swallow. I had three DNFs this year but this one hurt the most as it was the goal race.

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Now to believe this…

But yes I stepped into the arena. I pushed the limits this year. I tested the boundaries. It exposed a lot and taught me a lot. I am hoping that 2019 will be a better year with normal iron levels, no broken bones and no more arachnid encounters (I got another bite in CT). I am going to focus on 40km races in 2019 and build my speed and confidence.

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My awesome support crew on Kommetjie Beach

So I am still on the road to Ultra…. the story continues…join me on the journey

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2019 Goal

The Training Run….

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On the beautiful contour paths (Photo credit Toy Dupper)

Blog time after a some uneventful training weeks. My training has escalated to hills, hills and more hills. Last weekend I had a spectacular melt down after 6 repeats of the famous GOAT at Kloofendal. I was tired, I had a rough week and all my demons came to haunt me. When I get tired on the trails (especially during training) I start to doubt myself and it all seems too much. I am so extremely frustrated at the moment with the fact that I can’t seem to speed up on the trails. I am training so hard but something seems to be holding me back. However, I have committed to starting to be positive about my running and try put those demons to bed.

So this last weekend was the Uitsoek Mountain Marathon which I planned to use as a training run to gauge where I am. I put no pressure on myself and I wasn’t stressed about it. It did help that there were no cut offs looming. I promised a certain trail buddy (Peter Yberburg) that I will from now on believe in myself. I went to into Uitsoek with this attitude and it paid off. I enjoyed every minute of the race. I spent the first 10km of the race with my favourite trail buddy Darren Smith which was special. I also got to spend a few kilometres with my Bubbly Linda Rorich who had never experienced a trail like this. I think she is hooked…. 🙂

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At registration – yes it appears we had a weekend of synchronised wardrobes (Photo credit Darren Smith)

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At the start taking a mandatory selfie (Photo credit Darren Smith)

The race certainly has to be one my favourites. The indigenous forest and grasslands made my heart sing. I pretended not to see the pine plantations LOL. The mud in the forest slowed me down unfortunately but I really didn’t want to get injured. I nearly bought a farm a few times. My trekking poles were a real lifesaver and I managed to stay on my feet. One of the many river walkways that we crossed however nearly brought about a spectacular face plant which was only saved by my poles. The wire on the walkway caught my shoe and ripped the whole toe box open. My toes kept popping out after that! I tried to strap them with some of my ankle strapping but it fell off after 3 kms. The Hoka’s are now in the bin… RIP

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RIP Hokas….

I may have been slow but I have never felt so strong on a race. I used my hill counting and rested on the climbs and I felt amazing when I got to the top. I never once felt defeated and I had good spirits the whole way through. Had great fun getting to know the sweeper Toy Dupper who recently completed the Karkloof 100 miler. He was a great motivator and we were gunning for 8 maybe 9 hours. The mud had other ideas however and the sneaky climb out of the kloof was a bit mean, but when I got to the top I knew all the climbing was done and I was on the home stretch. I had a new spring in my step and I was off. Poor Toy was laden with all the markers and I couldn’t even see him behind me in the mist. I just thought the mist was thick because we were at the highest point and it didn’t phase me. I wasn’t cold, I didn’t even have my rain jacket on anymore. I saw a green light drifting in the mist and thought it was a check point. I waltzed up to them and was veering left with the markers. I was quite chuffed because it looked like I had caught the guy I had seen on the contour paths ahead of me. He said to me that they are taking us off because of the weather. I thought he was kidding, laughed and carried on going. I then turned around because no one laughed…. So yes they took us off the mountain at 28km. They said the conditions were changing too drastically and the muddy route back would be too treacherous in the dark. The temperature was dropping drastically so Search and Rescue made the call. I wasn’t too disappointed to miss the mud but I was disappointed because I felt so good and didn’t need to stop. I had prepared for a long day with a head torch packed. So I have some unfinished business at Uitsoek that I will need to address. I will have no problem going back though and really think I will make this one a regular. Sven and his team have a real gem. I would just like some sunshine and dry trails next year please! 🙂

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This is what it looked like when they took us off

The important lesson is that I achieved what I wanted to and that was to get the elevation without dying. I am still however very frustrated with my pace. I can’t seem to get any faster. I have been losing weight (ok not as fast as I would like – I love food too much) and I have been training so hard so why can’t I get that little bit faster. I am going for blood tests today to see if there is something physiological holding me back. Not sure if my iron levels or something may be out of wack. I hope it is something that simple which I can fix easily. I will be so happy. I know I can do UTCT now. I just need to get past those cut offs. I don’t want to have to stress about them. I want to have the same attitude as I did this weekend at Uitsoek. Just go and have fun. With a little bit of speed and an awesome trail buddy with me (I am saving this titbit for a special blog) I know I can do it.

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I leave you with a pic (Darren Smith) of the waterfall at our first water table manned by Otter hopeful Johardt van Heerden. It doesn’t get much better than this.

 

 

 

 

 

The life of a Race Director..

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The easy part..

Whilst I am predominantly a trail runner, I do my weekly runs on the road. For this reason I joined a running club in 2015 in order to find a safe place to run. I decided to join Randburg Harriers which was the nearest to me. I had no idea what it meant to be a part of a running club but have been thoroughly educated ever since. Joining Randburg Harriers has been one of the best decisions of my life. I have made such amazing friends and met such interesting people. The first road race I ran with a license was the epic Randburg Harriers Valentine’s Night Race for which I had to get permission to run and helped with the set up (members are encouraged to volunteer at club races). This planted the seed.

Inevitably because I can’t keep quiet and because I can’t ever say no, I ended up joining the club committee in 2016. In 2017 I became the Race Director for the club. So every year I now organize with the able assistance of an amazing race committee the very same Valentine’s Night Race and the Adrienne Hersch Challenge.

Let me tell you, race organising is not for sissies. I have now done two years of races and it is seriously hard work. But it is also rewarding. It is very satisfying when everything falls into place and you have a fabulous event. The secret to this is of course team work. Yes I am at the coal face being the director but without a team of committed individuals to support and depend on, it would fail dismally without a doubt. This year I had an amazing team and they made my life infinitely easier.

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My amazing Race Committee (minus three special ladies)

But even with this team, the pressure of making sure everything is going according plan is still huge. I handle it really well during the pre- race stage and actual race day but every year it catches me after the race. Its like coming down from a drug binge (not that I have any idea what that feels like LOL). For the past week it has felt like crawling into a ball and the world swallowing me. What didn’t help is that the beautiful mare who I used to ride before I broke my ankle had to cross the rainbow bridge and whilst she wasn’t mine, she had a very special place in my heart. I will be returning to riding in Dec after “the Race” and will now need to find another special steed who will address my paranoia as well as special Thess did. I am not the bravest horse rider….

Miraculously my running didn’t take too much of a beating with all the race organising. I managed to complete I would say about 85% of my runs which I am happy about. This last weekend was an epic fail however. I started to run on Saturday but the stress I was feeling got the better of me. I was completely stressed out on Sunday with our race helpers run and never got to run myself. I did however do the middle part and managed a quickie. It was also what appeared and felt like the coldest day of the year! I have never been so cold in my life. Thank goodness my race committee decided that an urn would be a good idea! Coffee was the first thing everyone went for when they got back to the club house!! Luckily the race is now a thing of that past and I now have a short reprieve before we start planning for Valentine’s.

In parting, one of my awesome running buddies Dave Funnell recently completed the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) CCC which is 100km. It is hardcore trail running with HUGE elevation and about 25% of the field fell out and never completed the race. It is a dream of mine to go run in the Alps. I don’t think I will ever get to do this epic race (even if I do get qualification points if I finish UTCT LOL), but I need to run on the Alps!

Something that stood out for me in all the conversations about UTMB was when someone said “If we do not try….”. This resonated with me. I keep harping on about how slow I am and how hard getting faster is but I will give myself this much. I will always try. It is something I promised myself when I starting my fitness journey. JUST TRY. I have yet to excel at any sporting activity but I just keep trying. Whilst not being good at it does frustrate me, I just try focus on the positives.

Keep trying…

 

Breathe in Breathe out

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Skukuza Half Marathon Start – sharing my happy place with special people

How hard can it be?

Last year I developed sports induced asthma out of the blue. I suspect my body was saying WTF after no exercise for so many years and I was telling it to do more than it had ever done. I was like the little train that could but I couldn’t. So I went to the doc and got some asthma pumps and it seemed to settle down. I then broke my ankle and undid all the hard work!

In January this year whilst getting back into the swing of things I was so focused on protecting my ankle and concentrating on what was happening to my feet that I never even noticed that I couldn’t breathe! I had been frustrated that I wasn’t making progress but I had complete blinkers on. It wasn’t until after I was feeling very down in the dumps and was summoned to the trails by Coach Fred that I realised my asthma was back. We were running up a tiny incline and I had to stop at the top because I was wheezing so badly! You would think this would be obvious! Fred immediately told me to get it sorted which I promptly did and went back onto the pumps.

Whilst it has improved in terms of wheezing, I am still really struggling to breathe while running. One of my awesome running buddies Riana is an OT and she picked up on some issues whilst we were away in the Berg. She has given me some exercises which I am starting on Monday. I couldn’t do them with the spider bite. She did an assessment on me and it appears, if I have this right, that one of my primitive reflexes from childhood has not integrated fully i.e. the Morro Reflex. This reflex just happens to have a lot to with breathing. So whilst I am going to go for a chest x ray next week, I am really hoping that the exercises that Riana has given me will do the trick. We live in hope.

Last weekend was one of my favourite races of the year in my happy place – the Skukuza Half Marathon. The Kruger National Park is where I go to recharge my soul, I absolutely love the place. And when I started running and heard about this race, it was a no brainer. To run and contribute to conservation – wow! This year was my third run and I am planning on doing this every year.

We spent the most amazing weekend in the bush with awesome fellow Randburg Harriers who just happen to be awesome friends. One was a newbie and now she is hooked – that’s you Miss Linda 🙂

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The mandatory pre-race selfie – this is a keeper

The actual race is deceptively tricky. It is undulating with no major climbs but these steep little inclines that kill you. On last years run I came across a gentleman from Irene who had formed a little bus and was counting us up all the inclines. It is a technique I have implemented quite a lot since then and it is very effective.

I thus decided that this year I would do this on every single hill before I walked. My Bubbly Linda decided she would stay with me (after I tried to convince her otherwise as she is much faster than me). I always feel so guilty when people stay with me as I know I am holding them back but flip we had a good time. I loved every minute (except the one part….).

So the plan was to slay the hills. Well I think I did it a little bit too effectively as by the time I got to 7km where most of the hills are done, I was starting to feel a little green (the one part…). It is the first time I have felt remotely nauseas on a race. I have always secretly thought ag I don’t get that!! Super proud of myself! Well I had clearly not pushed hard enough. So I told Linda that I was feeling a little “groen om die kiewe” and I had to walk a little.

We slowly got the rhythm back and off we went. We had to dodge some creepy oke at one stage who kept looking at our legs… we eventually shook him!!

Once we hit the tar road, we met a lady from Bedfordview, Dalwyn I think her name was, who was doing her first 21km. She was taking a bit of strain. This is why I love running and for about 4km I forgot about myself and Linda and I helped her through a tough part of the race. We got her to run for almost 2km without stopping. By focusing on her, I forgot about myself and we just enjoyed the park. We showed her our hill technique and she did so well! She even caught up to us when we were walking. She finished her 21km and came and gave me a huge hug afterwards! That is what I love about running. I am certain she will be back!

My friend Natalie met us at the 19th hole aka the 19km mark with the SAB tent!! She had had three beers and was feeling merry. She had been waiting for me which I thought was so flippen awesome!! Just shows you how slow I am though! LOL. Linda and I skipped the beers. She ran in with us and we finished together, three Harriers in a row! So cool!

As much as I loved the race for all the other reasons, I was heavily disappointed in my finish time especially after putting in so much effort on the hills. I was 4 minutes slower than last year. The hill running was definitely a victory for me so I need to focus on that but I need to get this breathing sorted out. My legs were fresh at the end but I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my lungs on the last km of the race. I was huffing and puffing like a locomotive. It is beyond frustrating at the moment. I really feel that it is holding me back! The ebb and flow of emotions that I get while training is quite ridiculous! One minute you feel amazing and UTCT feels doable and then next day you think you never going to make it!!

On the plus side however and never one to dwell on the negative (even if it is driving me nuts) I got the spend this long weekend on a beautiful game farm in White River with fabulous friends. To hike and run in nature is just such a privilege and we took full advantage this weekend. My friend Peggy and I spent most of the weekend out on the trails and the kms just faded away. Peggy is a very keen hiker and you can follow her on Facebook as “the Backyard Hiker”. We plan on doing a hike in Kruger together next year. I can’t wait. I wish we lived closer together because we run very similarly. But it just means I have to come to White River more often. Going to be so tough.

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Peggy and I on our morning trail run

Spotted:

Giraffe, Wildebeest, Impala, Zebra & Nyala all within 100m

 

#WeLoveThisShit

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My running buddy Darren and I after our hill repeats

I managed to complete a full week of training last week which I was pretty chuffed about considering this nasty spider bite which now thankfully is on the mend. I still can’t climb as the harness sits right on it but we getting there.

This week my coach wanted us to be mindful whilst running aka focus on the job at hand one step at a time. He asked us to focus on our big toe and what it was doing etc and shut out all other thoughts.

Well on Saturday Darren and I headed to Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve to tackle some hill repeats on the steep side of the famous red Sunbird route. Instead of using the “big toe” mantra which Fred had suggested I used the “baby steps” mantra. On the very many runs and races where Fred has been sweeping me or hauling my ass back to the group, he taught me to take small conservative steps to keep the heartrate low and not die. So I focused on taking “baby steps” up each climb. We did four of them and each one felt different to the other in terms of difficulty. By number four however, the mantra went out the window and the swear words started, extensively.

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The infamous Red Route at Klipriviersberg

So some observations from this weeks activities. Firstly, and most importantly, running and most sports are more mental than physical. Yes you need some natural talent (I wish) but your brain is what you need to train the most. When you are in the gym and you have to do 20 kettle bell swings by the 18th rep you taking strain but when you do the next set of 30 you sail past 20 and start taking strain on the 28th one. Its all in the head. I always try fool my brain and tell it you doing 30 and surprise it by stopping at 20 but no such luck! LOL. It amazes me how mentally strong you need to be to train well, it is half the challenge. Reading up on the subject, there is lots of research into this. It appears we need to try fool our brains and actually train our mind as well as our bodies.

The common trends in the articles I have read are positivity, visualisation, being in the moment and remembering what you have done and where you have come from. Whilst I am an extremely positive person I find it quite hard to be positive about my running. I have a very positive attitude on the trails and I am always smiling but deep down I am always conscious of the fact that I am so slow and feel like I am not getting anywhere. This manifests hugely when I am climbing a huge hill and dying. So definitely a focus area for me on the trails. I need to use my positive attitude to my advantage and drown out the negative thoughts.

I struggle with visualisation and I think this comes from the lack of confidence in myself. I really need to start believing that I am going to cross that finish line in December. My support crew have been so amazing and I almost feel they want it more than I do at this stage because I just can’t see it. I think I need to put a photo of the UTCT finish line on my wall so I can see it every day, perhaps that will help with making me believe I can do it.

The easiest part for me is remembering where I have come from and that is perhaps my saving grace. This keeps me going and no matter how badly I eat (yes I love food way too much) I know that I will never go back to where I was. I so enjoy making these big audacious goals, even though I am slower than a snail in custard, just to challenge myself more and more and give my previous life the finger.

 

So this weekend its onto the hills again at Klipriviersberg and why? Because #WeLoveThisShit

 

Venom enriched running – aka Spiderwomen….

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Running on Leisure Isle with Sally 

This week was an awesome holiday week which was long overdue. I visited my sister and the family who live in Knysna. I have been visiting Knysna for many many years but I wasn’t the fitness fanatic that I am now. So after a bit of drought from visiting (mostly because of travelling to trail races ironically) I booked a trip to Knysna to visit the family and actually participate in some of the well know Oyster Festival activities.

My trip coincided with the arrival of a huge cold front but luckily this passed before any of my activities started. It did however provide some frosty mornings.

On the Thursday before I flew down I discovered a tiny bite which I thought was actually a pimple on my tummy and didn’t think much of it. Maybe I should have…..

So my first challenge for the trip after having taken full advantage of not having to get up at 4:30 for gym was to run the Featherbed Trail Run organised by the famous Collins brothers. A 15km race from Buffalo Bay back to Knysna. It was rather weird rocking up to a race where you didn’t know anyone. I felt a little lost I won’t lie. I missed my trailies. Luckily I met up with Chandre Boshoff from Garden Route Trails who was very welcoming. I now have trailie friends all over the country!

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The start of the Featherbed Trail run on Buffalo Bay beach

The run involved about 7km of beach running which was rather intimidating but turned out to be beautiful. Luckily the sand was hard and easy to run on.

Running on the beach I met AJ a fellow trailie who is on an amazing weightloss journey. He was 300kg and has lost a substantial amount of weight and is still going strong. He was doing the big 5 challenge and was inspirational. Ironically he ran in a spiderman shirt (he wore the same shirt when I bumped into him on the half marathon). Unfortunately I couldn’t stay with him as it would have been fun! I left him with the sweeper which I was a little relieved about. Its always a relief to shake the sweeper!

With a nasty climb up to Brenton it was a fabulous downhill run to the finish. I just had to contend with the 11km runners coming past which forced me to run on the railway track and did disrupt my run. I saw this as an opportunity to practice strides. Running across the lagoon was such fun. We were told by Mark Collins that it was illegal to fall on this run, particularly on the lagoon bridges! LOL

I must say the race was super well organised and the lucky draw prizes were amazing. I hooked up with some fellow Harriers at the end and Dave won a Suunto watch which was pretty cool! Put this one on the to do list. Its not very hard and very picturesque. You also get a lekker meal at the end which is always a win… 🙂

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Running across the Knysna lagoon along the unused train line

I realised after this run that the bite I thought was nothing may be something more than just a pimple. It was starting to look a little red and angry but I felt fine and did some self medicating. How bad could it be…..

On Thursday, my fellow bubbly Sally arrived which was fabulous as we would be running the Knynsa Forest Half Marathon together. We took a nice trot around Leisure Isle to loosen the legs. Bit of trail, bit of road. What a pleasure!

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Friday was a tourist day and got to spend some time with my 16 year old nephew who I haven’t seen for ages! I even got a selfie with him! We spent some time on Brenton on Sea beach and showed Sally some of the sights of Knysna in beautiful winter sunshine.

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My handsome nephew Josh

We also realised that I definitely had a spider bite which was not looking so lekker! But there was running to be had and despite instructions from mother dear I just patched it up and hoped for the best…

Saturday morning we dragged my poor sister out of bed at 4:30 to drop us off at the taxi’s to take us into the forest for the start of the marathon. Luckily it was just a free wheel down the road so she could go back to bed shortly thereafter.

What a well organised run. We arrived in the forest just after 5:30 and then proceeded to freeze. Luckily Sally and I had purchased some warm blankets to bring with. Momentum sponsors blankets for the first 2000 runners to arrive in the forest and these are then donated to charity. We were concerned that we wouldn’t be in time so came prepared. I must say I nearly took one anyway as they were so nice and warm but ours worked just as well. No blanket was going to defrost our toes however which was the biggest problem. We caught up with Loskop buddies Rose and Lynette who were styling dressing gowns! It was rather comical but very effective! I will be doing that next year. It was rather funny to see blankets going flying when the start gun went off! Luckily it was a rather warm day and the cold didn’t last long.

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In the start shute with Sally, Lynette and Rose

Whilst they call it a forest marathon you actually run through plantations. Now all my trailies know I am a bit of a purest and loathe exotic trees and alien vegetation. I did however enjoy the route and it was much tougher than expected.

So about that bite… I realised whilst running with a lady from Greenstone (we found out later that she actually follows me on strava! Small world) and enjoying ourselves that my heart rate was a little high but I felt fine. That bite was definitely having an effect. But there was still running to be done…

Sunday morning I woke up with very sore calf muscles and a VERY sore spider bite. Not being the skinniest person my stomach tends to move when I run – not a pretty picture I know but this was going to be a problem. But I wasn’t missing the Houtkapper. From exotic forest the day before, this was going to be indigenous forest which I just couldn’t miss! Hey, maybe I would see an elusive Knysna elephant (you would have heard me back in jhb if I had). The forest was super special, I loved every moment even though I couldn’t run the downhills. There were lots of steep uphills which made it quite a challenge but luckily I had my trusty trekking poles to help me! And I didn’t even see the sweeper whilst power walking so that was a win!

Beautiful indigenous forest – heavenly

The week was special in that I had some awesome supporters. Josh took some pics of me at the marathon and I had Josh and my sister cheer me in at Houtkapper. That certainly made up for the lack of trailies.

Back in jhb now with a huge infected spider bite and feeling a little sorry for myself. Can’t run until it heals which may take a while but hey.. just call me spiderwomen…

Never forget your sports bra…..

So I am Knysna this week to visit my sister and family and experience some of the trails and races on this side of the world. I will report back on those next week.

My training has certainly been upped by both my coach and trainer at the moment. I have been feeling rather shattered this week but I remind myself that it will all be worth it in December!! I have even given up horse riding which I had to stop when I broke my ankle last year which is rather sad but I will be back for horse therapy soon enough!

Part of my programme at the moment is do improve my consistency and build some speed. I can certainly feel the difference in my training as the runs seemed to be getting that little bit easier in terms of actually running with less walking. This is a small victory which I will take!

A critical part of this training is hill repeats and I have them once a week in my programme. Making these easier has been the fact that I have had awesome company for these sessions for the last few weeks. Doing these mean sessions alone is torture so having my running buddies with me has been awesome. Linda, Darren and Hennie have been enduring the hills of Randburg for their sins! I think the drivers who pass us think we are nuts going up and down and often collapsing in a heap at the top of the hill. Must be quite humorous to watch to be honest.

This week Tuesday I got to the club to do hill repeats with Hennie and was horrified to learn that I had left my sports bra at home. Now ordinarily I would have turned around and gone straight home because those who know me will know that I am not the smallest of people and sports bra’s are rather critical to my running kit. But because of the fact that Hennie was joining me and that I couldn’t let him down, I decided to grin and bear it and run…..well… I learnt the following:

  1. You can’t do hill repeats without your arms
  2. Underwire bra’s are not meant to be run in
  3. You can bruise your boobs
  4. Its good to have a running buddy – keeps you accountable
  5. Just don’t run without your sports bra though

Ja it wasn’t great hey. I was so uncomfortable and I told Hennie once we actually completed the hill repeats that I was walking back to the club and not running. He however didn’t object after our tough session! LOL

All my running buddies will fully comprehend the challenge of chafing on a run. It is a real problem. When I first started running I didn’t have the correct equipment. A good sports bra for my size will put you back a good R1000 so I needed to know that I was actually going to run and stay running. I have subsequently invested in some awesome Anita and CW-X ones and they are the best. However back when I started running I learnt about chafing the hard way. I am quite sure I am not the only one who got the rude awakening when getting into the shower after chafing the first time! When that sweat runs down your body in the shower and reaches any chafe marks on your body it isn’t pretty! Some choice swear words were certainly heard from me and are still heard when it happens periodically! There should be a runner starter kit for newbies!!!

I have heard some hilarious recounts of chafing horror stories after long races which are all fine and well to recount after the time but not so funny at the time I am sure. It is one of the main reasons you should not wear new gear on race day! One of my good friends wore her Compressport tights for the first time at Two Oceans and got a rather rude awakening after the race. Luckily we had lots of wine to make it better….. I always feel sorry when I see guys running in after a race with these long red blood trails on their shirts from nipple chafing!! Eina!!! Plasters are your friends guys. I had to bring plasters to Lion Park at Comrades this year for a friend who had forgotten his! I think he owes me some bubbly……

Luckily we now have anti-chafing miracle creams which we all swear by. I do not go anywhere near a race of more than 10km without being lathered from head to toe with Bennetts baby bum cream. It is honestly amazing stuff and I even use it on my toes to avoid blisters.

So the moral of the story is….never forget your your sports bra girls:-)