Fear of the unknown…

It has been almost 7 weeks since I had my operation. I enjoyed being a princess for about 2 weeks and my mom and sister were amazing. They humoured my OCD bathing regime and it was fabulous. I quickly worked out a routine for myself and became self sufficient.

I have to pinch myself when I look at my new boobs! They are so amazing and so comfy! I certainly don’t miss the old ones!!!! I also have had no pain whatsoever. It was really just the focus on not moving my arms too much and sleeping on my back that kept me on my toes. I feel very lucky in this regard considering I lost 2kg (easiest weight I ever lost) in theatre.

I have been visiting Sheree, my plastic surgeon basically bi-weekly for dressing changes. Cancer boob is being a pain and I may need to get a stitch put in to close a little spot that isn’t in the mood for healing. Usually visiting a dr this often is a mission but visiting Sheree is such a pleasure and I just love hearing about the fascinating surgeries that she is doing saving little kids. I am going to miss our visits when cancer boob is healed.

After my surgery, Sarah my surgeon, said that she had found some tumour still left when she removed the tissue in the area. The tumour was removed completely and the margins were clear but this has been worrying me terribly because it means the chemo which worked so well at the start was not quite as effective as we thought. It means that I didn’t achieve a Pathological Complete Response (PCR). This freaks me out a little, I won’t lie. I have been so focused on the chemo and surgery and now suddenly I am faced with the next steps. Its a bit like I felt at the beginning when I was first faced with the news.

It’s a bit scary to think that this may come back and that keeps yelling at me from the back of my mind. I am actually cancer free now and I should be celebrating that!!

Yesterday I met with Ronwyn and Karabo, my oncology team. I got to show them my new boobs which they loved!!! Well done Sheree LOL. I wanted to see Ronwyn to talk about the chemo tablet that had been mentioned by my radiologist. I wasn’t too keen on more chemo side effects so I wanted to understand this fully so I could prepare myself (see brain comment above). Usually facts calm my brain down but I was quite tense afterwards with a whirlwind of emotions swirling in my head (not your fault Ronwyn & Karabo). My brain works in black and white! I don’t like grey areas!!

I went to visit my friend Haley afterwards. Haley has been in hospital for 7 weeks for cancer treatment herself. I just love our visits and seeing my friend and what she is going through ended my little pity party. As my friend Sofi would say “Suck it up Buttercup”. I do enjoy visiting Haley and its rather hilarious because the staff think we are sisters so I get to stay much longer than normal. Pity I didn’t realise this earlier!

Some very exciting news however is that I may be entered into a new clinical trail. I will report back on that in my next blog.

So the way forward… I start radiation for 4 weeks on the 18th of October, given my wound is healed, and then I have to take oral chemo for 6 months. The upside of this is that I get to see Karabo and Ronwyn every three weeks which is pretty cool. My dancing girls!!

The one side effect that is worrying me is Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesia or hand-foot syndrome because this could affect my running. I cannot wait to get back to running and back to the trails with my running buddies. I have missed it so much and have such FOMO watching everyone running awesome trails. This syndrome happens when tiny amounts of chemo leak out of your veins and it affects your hands and feet. Your hands and feet shouldn’t get warm or confined on the meds so I will be keeping ice buckets at hand to cool down my feet if it means I can do some running again.

On a more positive note, I am heading to the bush in two weeks for a very welcome spoil and I can’t wait to enjoy it with the family and my special friends. The leopards of the Sabi Sands better come out and do the hoola for me with honey badgers as the side show.

Be a Princess …

I have been a little quiet as I didn’t want to bore you with my frustration in waiting for the genetic test results. Then I got them and everything moved into hyper drive again.

My last chemo was revolting. After such a happy day on the day of chemo the following days were the worst I have felt. Boy was I glad that was the last one!! It certainly accumulated in my body. Yuck. I am more than convinced that coming in fit certainly helped me through it. I am VERY glad that is over.

So the minute chemo was over my surgeon Dr Sarah Nietz (enter my amazing surgeon💞) didn’t let me rest for a minute. Ronwyn my oncologist had messaged her at my last chemo so the wheels started turning so quickly again. I was feeling so uneasy without the genetic results which were taking forever. We booked the lumpectomy and reduction regardless (Sarah is telepathic and knew it would be negative 😂) and thank goodness the test came back that next week as negative. I was rather relieved, not only from the operation perspective but also from my family’s perspective. No one needed to be tested. Phew n

I also had the pleasure of meeting my new plastic surgeon who works with Sarah, Dr Sheree Koonin (enter other awesome surgeon💞). I certainly hit the jackpot in terms of medical teams. I can’t say it enough. Sheree took the dreaded before photo which was beyond gross and I asked her to go as small as possible. She promised she would do her best.

So Friday the 13th arrived. Lucky for some, lucky for me. Had the best anaethetist Daryl who I had told about my worst fear for surgery – the fact that my veins are shot from chemo. He tried once gave it up as a bad joke and I got the best gas ever!!! My hero😂 I woke with a drip which held the whole time so he did really well. Sheree also drew pretty pictures on me with her tape measure and spirit level. She says her dad is very proud she uses boy tools cause he only has daughters!😂😂

Surgery took almost 5 hours cause they were low on some manpower but all went really well. They gave me some goooood drugs and I slept well on Friday night! I saw both my awesome surgeons in my drug haze and got the just that all went well. I was so out of it I didn’t even notice my flat chest 😂😂

The next morning Sarah came to see me and told me while I was sober that all went well. We do have to wait for the pathology to make sure it’s all out but I have every confidence that Sarah did.

Then Sheree came to see me and for the first time I actually looked at my new boobs! Wow! It’s going to be an adjustment to put it mildly. They removed a kg out of each breast!!! That is insane! Sheree said she kept taking more cause I told her I want small. I am so excited!!!! Sarah and Sheree even gave me a gift for post surgery!!!

I also saw my fabulous physio Candice who happens to love the bush and knows my friend Kelly! Small world it is! She was just as fabulous and showed me how to move without arms. Thank goodness I have abdominal muscles!!!!

The underlying message of this blog, whilst I wanted to update you all, was to celebrate my medical team. I firmly believe that they are the reason this journey has been so seamless. Girl power to the max! Nobody has forgotten about me and have helped me every step of the way! They have just been amazing. I thought this is normal but it certainly isn’t. When in hospital my lovely neighbour was in agony and she just didn’t get any love or sympathy from her team. Her physio was like the gestapo and her doctor was downright mean to her. I was horrified and felt so bad for her. It was such an absolute pleasure seeing my team. They came early and all instructions were so clear. I also have so much post op information to instruct me. Thank you Sheree and Sarah for being so awesome! And thanks Candice for making me wear my slippers😂😂 ( I will tell you why when j see you)

So it’s 3 weeks of recovery. Pain isn’t bad but I feel rather useless. Instructions are that I am to act like a princess for the next three weeks! My mom and sister are here at my side doing everything. Not sure what I would have done without them. It sucks not being able to do stuff (enter control freak) but I know it will be over soon. Worst is I can’t shower for three weeks either😳😳😳 I very quickly installed a hand shower so I can wash nether regions until a proper shower (enter OCD freak😂😂). Works perfectly.

At least this boy can keep me warm for three weeks💞💞💞🐈🐈

I may bore you again if I get beyond bored at home. 😂😂 but hoping to start with some walking in about a week to get some fresh air so I don’t go off my trolley!! 😂😂

Thanks for all the fabulous messages of support. Each and every one is appreciated 💞💞💞 I won’t scare with the new boobs but trust me they are awesome. I think my back is confused😂😂😂

Bye Bye Chemo

So I wanted to write a blog last week and had some thoughts jotted down. I was going to moan about the challenges of chemo and covid. I miss my friends terribly and had some close calls with covid and I had to lay very low. But then all the unrest happened and it put things into perspective and I decided that my sacrifices paled in comparison soI changed my mind.

So prepare for a much more positive post cause I have lots to celebrate and lots of people to celebrate.

21 March, as I was reminded yesterday was the day I found my lump. Something in the universe told me that this was not ok. Don’t ask why but I just knew. The Monday was a public holiday so I had to wait to see a Radiologist. But got the fateful news later that same week and the journey began.

I never ever anticipated the outpouring of support and love I would get on this journey. It has made every step so much easier. I consider myself luckier and lucky (cheesy I know). From my friends and family to the amazing medical team that has been there every step of the way. I want to take time to thank these peeps so bare with me on this one.

Firstly though, the big news!!!!! Yesterday was chemo number 6 and you know what that means? I am done with my chemo treatment!!!🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉 Whoop Whoop. It was a happy day. Apart from the constant laughs with Ronwyn and Karabo (my doc and her assistant) the actual chemo sessions have been a rather boring affair for me who likes to chat. I take my blankie and pillow and have some series and movies on my phone to watch and proceed to pass out when I get the antihistamine. No chatty patties to talk shit to. The last time there was a young girl Jade who I enjoyed chatting to cause she makes the most amazing fluffy toys which was nice.

This time I changed my date to hook up with another one of Ronwyns patients, Aditi, who has the exact same cancer as me so we could chat. She is early on in her journey so I have been chatting to her to share my experience after Ronwyn introduced us. As luck would have it Jade also arrived and another two ladies who were also keen to chat. I think the fact that Aditi and I was chatting away kinda drew everyone out. So we had such a lovely morning of chatting. It was great and passed the time. Also helped because both Aditi and I had bad luck with veins!! I got poked three times on my right arm and in the end they had to use my left arm which is not ideal cause that is the arm where they removed my node. They can’t use this arm for risk of lymphedema. But all was ok hankfully.

I bought some beautiful cup cakes to celebrate. Taryn from Party in a Box by T made the most beautiful pink cupcakes for me and delivered them straight to the centre for me. I can highly recommend her!!

My beautiful cupcakes

My last day was made super special by Ronwyn and Karabo. I walked in for my consult to find them dancing to celebrate my last chemo! (I can’t seem to upload the video) It was so special. Every time I have my pre chemo consult it has been such fun with lots of laughs and not a sombre moment. In fact half them time I need to message Karabo after the time with all the stuff I forgot to ask😂😂😂 they have been so amazing and I am sad to not see them so often anymore. But they are my team going forward and they are not rid of me. Thank you Ronwyn and Karabo. I love you guys. Ronwyn and I shed a tear when I said goodbye, she is so invested in her patients. It’s special. You not just a patient. You feel like family.

Karabo and Ronwyn- my awesome Onco team

So this won’t be my last blog by no means but I feel like I need to thank some special people. It will be brief but they need to know how special they are. In no particular order they are (in point form cause if you know me that’s how my brain works)

Caroline – thank fuck (excuse my language) you are close by. I would have been lost without you close by. The universe knew💞💞💞 Love you lots and lots.

Andrew – thank you for your hugs and support always

Mom- not sure what to say cause you have been the best. Sister Fran kicked in immediately and looked after me every day. Thanks mom. Love you to the moon and back (except that one jab😂😂😂)

Josh – my new driver and also hug giver. Love having you here with me💞💞 love you lots

Sarah – my most amazing friend. For driving me to chemo, you and melody making me head scarves and pjs and just being there all the time. You are amazing. Thank you. Bring on Djuma💞💞

My musketeers Linda and Candy – what can I say? You two are there every day and have just been amazing support. I love you girls to bits. Bring on Djuma💞💞

Helen – my milk tart dealer. You have been the best. Driving me to chemo and being there all the time. I miss my running buddy so much and it has broken my heart seeing you run alone. I can’t wait to be back. Special mentions to Chris, Nic and Matt who always give me big smiles and hugest hugs 💞💞

Coach Fred – for keeping me going and encouraging me to do as much physical activity as I can. I have tried my best to keep as fit as possible and meeting up with all the mindful runners before they go on their runs in the mountains has been amazing. Just kept me going. This will continue. I can’t wait for my vaccine so I can start face to face gym again. This zoom gym needs to end now. Thanks Covid 🙄 thanks for all the support from all the mindful runners. You know who you are💞

My special bubbly girls for always being there. I love you girls💞💞

Ilze – you are just my special! For the pretty blommies and the many chats. 💞💞 and seeing you win Mac Mac 100 just made me smile wider than ever!! A definite chemo side effect drug I can recommend. Made me forget how shit I felt. 🤗🤗

Sally – for always checking in, asking to go for a walk. And making me my beautiful bag that came with me to every chemo. Thank you for spoiling me🤗🤗🤗

My riding girls. I have been able to ride throughout and it has been such good therapy. All the girls have been so great helping tack up and looking after me every step of the way. Missed you Sammy and Lainy but you were there in spirit of course. Thanks Tam, Kimmi, Phillipa, Sarah. Caleb, jadie, Nix, Jenna and Chane💞💞

Haley – this is a special one. Haley is battling breast cancer herself and fighting with every inch of her soul. Yet she always had time for me. I love this lady too much. My Haley you are so special and Thank you for everything. 💞🎀💞🎀

Magdel in Melbourne- dankie vir jou boodskappe en chats. Waardeur dit so baie. Ons gaan weer saam hardloop!! 💞💞

Jalene and Ed- thank you for all your love and support and for letting me stay in your beautiful home. It has been so good for my soul. You are both very special to me. A special mention to Carla and Ian for all your messages too. Love you two 💞

Ronel and Sam. My beautiful colleagues/ friends who have been with me every step of the way. Ronel wants to do my job for me and hers😂😂 I have to bat her off. Sam and her beautiful kids for all their love and support 💞💞 Ronel has also been feeding me which is also a win🎉🎉🎉

To all my work colleagues Jannie, Dumi and all the SHE team as well as colleagues from other depts, thank you for being so awesome. I am so lucky to work with such amazing people. It is so appreciated.

To all the family in SA and Ireland thank you for the constant messages. Ilse, Rita, Letchen, T Bets, Arlene, Mai, Patricia, Karen and all the other family I know are with me in this. Love you all. 💞💞

My Marie. I am so sorry for this last week! I am sending you lots of love. Thanks for all the messages and love.💞💞💞

My Chessie💞💞💞💞 I love you my friend! You have been with me from day one! Literally 😂 bring on salsa. Thanks my friend 🤗 and special mention to Aunty Ot you got this too!!! 🤗🤗 uncle Gerrie thanks for my new bed💞💞💞

Last but not least to every one else who has joined me on this journey. I will be here all day if I thank you all. Zoë you got this!!!! Irene dankie vir my hoedtjies, Tracy it’s good to have you back💞Nell thank you for my daily funnies 💞

You have all made my journey a breeze. I say it again, I am very privileged to have you all in my life.

So here’s to my new boobs – watch this space!!!

Hurry up and wait…

A BRCA Mutation Was Found in My Tumor. Does This Mean I'm a BRCA Carrier? |  My Gene Counsel

I am an impatient person and if anyone should understand how long and tedious it is to extract DNA it should be me. This last week I finally got approval from my medical aid to go for genetic testing. This is a rather pricy exercise so I am glad they agreed to pay. Once again I am going to educate you on what this means in my cancer journey.

Everyone talks about cancer being hereditary and it is easy to determine this when the cancer has occurred before in your family. This is not the case with my family so we needed more information. Understanding your genetic make up is critical to determining the surgery options in my case. Also it may help my family members with their decision making should it be hereditary.

We all have two genes in our DNA (there are others but these two are the important ones) known as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. BRCA standing for BReast CAncer. Incorrectly, many people think that if you have these genes you immediately are at risk for breast cancer. This is not the case. These genes are present in all of us. They are know as Tumour Suppressing Genes which means they actually stop you from getting breast cancer when they are working correctly. If however they have a mutation of some sorts, this means that the tumour suppressing job that they perform is faulty and voila a tumour can develop. Below is an illustration showing the two chromosomes which hold the two genes.

Non-BRCA Gene Mutations That Raise Breast Cancer Risk
https://www.verywellhealth.com/non-brca-gene-mutations-4173768

So when I got diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) I was advised to go for genetic counselling to determine if my cancer is of a hereditary nature. If I am BRCA positive i.e. I have a mutation present, it has implications on the surgery that I need to have. The best way forward if I am positive is to remove all the tissue that is affected by this gene mutation. This would be the breast tissue and ovaries. If I am BRCA negative I don’t need to remove all the tissue and I can have a much less invasive procedure.

Enter the plastic surgeon. My surgeon referred me to an excellent plastic surgeon at the Donald Gordon Hospital. A rather handsome one at that and I had to show this man my boobs! Anyway turns out he was very professional. He had to take photos of my boobs and his camera wouldn’t work so I told him my boobs had broken his camera! We had a good laugh.

He was really great and very optimistic about my options. So the two options are as follows. If I am BRCA positive then I have to have a bilateral mastectomy with a reconstruction. The reconstruction is a big operation and is called a DIEP flap reconstruction. In simple terms, they essentially remove the breasts and construct new ones with your tummy fat so you get a tummy tuck at the same time. The nice part is that they do not touch your abdominal muscles. So a win win situation but it is a bit of a massacre on your body so not the ideal option.

If I am BRCA negative, the other and much less invasive option is a lumpectomy i.e. they remove the “lump” and do a bilateral breast reduction. They make use of the marker already placed in my breast to remove the correct tissue. I was wondering about this and asked because the lump will essentially be gone when I do my surgery. I will then have some radiation therapy to nuke anything left over. My surgeon assures me and has shared recent studies to indicate that a lumpectomy seems to be more effective than a mastectomy these days (if BRCA negative).

Either way I get new smaller boobs! Whoop whoop!!

So why is my patience being tested? Well I have to wait 5 weeks for the DNA results to come out which is very frustrating but I totally get that extracting from the human genome is not a small task. I mean we spent three days just trying to extract the DNA from a leaf way back in honours at Kirstenbosch. I did manage to do it by the way. And then my lecturer made me walk up Table Mountain and nearly killed me. But that is a story for another day.

So while I wait I have two more chemos to go. I am dreading each one more now even though it really isn’t that bad. In the last week I have been walking and gyming and it has felt almost normal (apart from a certain virus). So I really can’t complain. I think I just want to get to the surgery now. I joined a cancer group on facebook and it has been very sobering to see other people’s journey’s and the hardships this disease causes. I have felt a lot of guilt at having a relatively easy, ok very easy journey compared to others. I wish I could spread my healing vibes around. I also keep thinking its too good to be true sometimes but I quickly send this thought away and stay positive cause its the only way I know how.

Till next time – keep safe

Chemo Chronicles

Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbons (5 designs) | Hatch Free Designs

So now I am in the thick of my chemotherapy treatment. How is it going? It is gross but I think I am getting off lucky. Many people have asked me about how chemotherapy works and why you get all these yuck side effects. Being of a scientific inclination I have also needed to understand the science behind the drugs.

The main function of chemotherapy is to attack fast dividing cells i.e. zoning in on cancer cells which are fast dividing cells which have lost their command essentially. The problem comes in that there are other fast dividing cells in your body and these also get affected by the chemo hence the side effects that you get.

Due to my type of cancer which I mentioned in my previous blog I am having a rather hectic chemo regime made up of three different drugs namely Docetaxel, Doxorubicin and Cyclophosphamide. I was quite interested to read that Doxotaxel is made from plant alkaloids and affects the microtubules in a cell. These are critical for a cell to divide so it makes sense to attack these. For my varsity buddies – revise mitosis LOL

Doxorubicin is the so-called red devil chemo and is the strong one apparently. Interestingly it is derived from soil fungus (Streptomyces), perhaps I should have paid more attention to my mycology prof at varsity…. Cyclophosphamide is not nearly as interesting LOL

So long story short these three cause more or less the same side effects and there is a long list but if you think about it, which cells in your body are replaced regularly, your mouth, hair follicles, your tummy, your gut etc so this is where the side effects zone in. Luckily my side effects have really been quite manageable. In fact I wait each time for it to get worse and am pleasantly surprised. I did lose my hair and am now beautifully bald LOL. I hardly have nausea and I feel maybe a bit tired. The worst has been my mouth. I get some sores in my throat and my taste buds have taken a sabbatical. You would think that if food doesn’t taste good that I wouldn’t want to eat it and maybe lose some weight! But noooo my brain knows what it tastes like so we eat it anyway. Sigh…

But enough about the yucky stuff. At my second chemo my oncologist examined me to see how the tumour is responding. I had felt a slight difference but to be honest I was ignoring it cause I didn’t need a reminder. So when she examined me and couldn’t really find the thing I was so excited as was she! I had responded so well to the yuck mentioned above. It was a good day and it made the chemo session all the more easier to handle.

Chemo no. 3 would have been a mission, I wasn’t in the mood. The three days after chemo are crap (selfishly so cause I know it should be worse) and I wasn’t in the mood for it. But I had decided on a whim to join my running buddies in Sabie to cheer them on at the Mac Mac Ultra and would be leaving the day after chemo. My awesome Ingy offered to drive me as she was going alone and to top it off my fabulous running buddy Helen decided that she was going to come too to second team Mindful Runner. I decided to surprise the runners and not tell anyone. This anticipation and fun really helped take my mind off the chemo. I was so looking forward to seeing their faces and get to cheer them across the finish line.

So off we went to Sabie and the weekend did not disappoint. The vibe at a race is infectious (no not in a CoVID way). It was the energy I needed and it certainly took my mind off the death taste in my mouth and the general yuck feel. I got to chill in my camp chair in the beautiful fresh air and scream like a women possessed when my friends came running in. Luckily my lungs still work well. It was such fun. I did have Dr Helen looking after me the whole time as well as everyone else being so awesome. I was put down for a nap at various times. Thank you my precious friend.

PS: I was very strict with my mask and social distancing.

It was an epic weekend and I am so proud of team Mindful Runner for their awesome achievements. I can’t wait to get back into the mountains.

May be an image of 15 people, people standing and outdoors
Team Mindful Runner – these are amazing runners and people
May be an image of 3 people, including Liesl Koch and Debbie van der Linde, people standing and outdoors
Fabulous support crew ( I still have eyebrows by some miracle)

And to end this blog with a bang, I went for my sonar yesterday to check the size of my tumour and the radiologist was unable to pick it up. So it has shrunk completely and we are now on the home stretch. I still have to go for the last three chemo treatments (yes I tried to get out of them) but is ok I just need to find something to motivate me through each session. hint hint nudge nudge

Diagnosis: Cancer

I am back on my blog but this time I am fighting a different battle. I went from getting so excited about being able to run with more ease after my asthma diagnosis and feeling so healthy to “you have breast cancer”. Yes you read that correctly. It was rather a shock I must say.

It was the 21st of March and we had just had the most amazing day mosaicing and drinking fabulous gin n tonics. It was such a lovely day with friends. I went to sleep that night with a happy heart. This was however rudely shattered when I fell asleep on my tummy and felt some pain in my breast. I rolled over and found a lump. My brain went into overdrive and I tried to convince myself that I was imagining it. It was however unmistakably a lump. The next day was a holiday so I couldn’t get it seen to or even make an appointment so I had a rather stressful day mulling and overthinking it. I managed to get an emergency appointment at the Breast Wellness Centre at Sunninghill on the Tuesday. They were really fantastic to squeeze me in and I was so grateful. The ladies in the waiting room weren’t too pleased as they took a while doing my biopsies. These were surprisingly not sore at all and quite fascinating to watch. The dr didn’t really like what she saw so I kind of knew there was something ominous.

They called me on the Thursday morning of the same week and it was the news I didn’t really want to hear. From that phone call it was like a garbled mess. There was so much to be done and everything happened at lightning speed. Appointments were made for me and I did nothing but rocked up! I saw the surgeon on the Thursday afternoon. This was the first reality check and it came down like a ton of bricks. My friend Sarah came with me thank goodness as I don’t think I could have done it alone. All the family were away and I was on my ace for this. My surgeon told me that I have triple negative breast cancer which means that this type of cancer doesn’t respond to hormonal treatment as it has no receptors for them. It thus has to be treated with chemotherapy followed by surgery. Chemotherapy of course means that I would lose my hair. This was the straw that broke the camels back and just cried with Sarah. Ugly cried! But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. My surgeon also commented that I have very big boobs. My response was “you think?” We had a good laugh!! So she gave me the options of the surgeries to think about and she soon realised that this would be the easiest part for me. Anyone who knows me knows that I have rather uncomfortable boobs and they are a pain. This is not quite the way I planned to get rid of them but hey I won’t complain. I also had to go into hospital to have my sentinel lymph node removed. This is the lymph node that first indicates the spread of the cancer. This was booked for Tuesday the next week.

I then saw my oncologist on the Friday afternoon and she gave me the treatment plan that is being developed for me. I really felt that I was in good hands with these two ladies looking after me. My oncologist tried to be more diplomatic about my boob size and we had a good laugh when I told her what my surgeon said. My oncologist also has an assistant who I can contact at any time on Whatsapp which is really fantastic!

Did I say whirlwind? Flip it happened so quickly. I had to go for an MRI and full body CT on the Monday which was uneventful with the staff at Parklane Clinic being awesome! I then had to go and receive an injection to enable my surgeon to find the sentinel lymph node in my armpit. This is a nuclear injection and I had no information about it. I thought it would be injected into my arm however I got the fabulous news that this would be injected directly into my boob so that it would flow to the node. This made sense but didn’t ease my nerves! I asked the technician if it was painful and the idiot responded by saying that he didn’t know as he had never had it. My dislike for this person escalated and he nearly got a slap! I then asked how the other patients reacted and he said some don’t and some say it feels like an insect bite. Well I can confirm that it didn’t feel like an insect bite, it left like someone was injecting fire into me! The gent got a lesson in swearwords and was feeling distinctly sheepish. I didn’t feel the second injection, I am not sure why but it was perhaps the fact that I was hyperventilating with adrenalin coursing through my veins. Luckily that was all the pain I experienced with this exercise.

I then checked into the Parklane Clinic on the Tuesday for my node removal. I had to stay overnight as I had a drain but it all went very well. The nursing staff at Parklane were really fantastic. I must say it was the best nursing care I have had in a hospital in a long time. I did give them a bit of a heart attack as my pulse rate was too low for their liking and it doesn’t appear that they get many fit people! The alarm kept going off when they checked my blood pressure and pulse! LOL

When I saw the oncologist before my first chemo session, she indicated that all my scans and lymph node tests were all negative so no spread. This was fantastic news and my prognosis is very good. I had my first chemo session on the 6th of April. Drip upon drip of stuff for 4 hours. I particularly liked the antihistamine which made me pass out! Pity I didn’t get that at the beginning! I was quite unsure of how the chemo would go but I came prepared with lots of snacks and drinks, my pillow and a new fluffy blankie. I watched series on my phone and was quite content really. I got an impressive repertoire of drugs for after the chemo and was prepared for anything. You just have the images of people hugging the toilet bowl after chemo. Luckily I have had minimal symptoms. I got a sore throat and a bad headache and my tummy was rather grumpy the second week (whilst in Kruger). I am really hoping to maintain this through the chemo but only the next session will tell.

I have just about lost all my hair and I am surprisingly ok with it now. Just one meltdown was required! I decided that I need to donate my hair for someone who needs a wig. My beautiful friend Haley recommended a lovely little place in Linden called A Few Grey Hairs. They arranged for my hair to be harvested and gave me a spiffy new hairdo. The best was that I arranged a hair cutting party and all my closest friends actually participated in cutting off my hair. It was such fun. My beautiful friend Helen also shaved her hair off for me. My sister had her hair harvested for wigs too. Did you know you can donate your hair without shaving your whole head? The other beautiful ladies are all getting pink hair strips put into their hair for me. My friends have just been amazing. To say I am lucky is an understatement.

Harvesting party

Please join me on this journey back to health! There will be a pink comeback run at the end of this all.

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 Distraction

It is quite fitting that the distraction was Sky Run 2018 and you will see why later. I decided last year that I would go and second my friend Sofi at Sky Run this year. It is a race that doesn’t quite feature on my radar quite yet and I quite like seconding. I have the voice for it…

I didn’t realise that it would be a really nice distraction from the nerves for UTCT. I got to focus on other runners and their stress rather than my own. So I have had two good weeks of running after the anaemia drama and I can certainly feel the difference. I am feeling so much stronger and not nearly as tired. I did some mean elevation training on the fancy dreadmills at Sasol so I was quite chuffed with myself. The treadmills at Sasol have been rather useful. I hate a dreadmill but these have the most amazing settings. They can go downhill (decline of -3%) and they can go uphill (include of 30%) so I did some very useful climbing training on them in addition to the famous GOAT at Kloofendal. I was glad to have a much better day out at the GOAT after my spectacular melt down there the last time.

I have been quietly confident that I will be ok for UTCT until the night before we departed for Sky Run. My friend Darren told me where he would be working at the race and it happened to be the first cut off. 18.5km in 3h30. I think I got heart palpitations. That is a tough ask. But I may have something to help me.

So this last weekend was Sky Run. For those who don’t know, Sky Run is a 100km, 65km or 38km race across the Witteberg Mountains in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It is mean. It is self navigated with night running on a mountain and is not for sissies. It often snows or has rain and thunderstorms. It takes a lot of training, guts and madness to do. We travelled the long way to the beautiful Witteberg Mountains near Lady Grey on Friday and met up with all the gang at War Trail Country Club. Unfortunately service delivery protests had forced the race organisers to change the route to start at War Trail instead of Lady Grey so we had to scramble on Thursday to get tents and camping equipment for the weekend. We managed to sort ourselves out and I think we were pretty well organized in the end. Sofi and I had two queen size mattresses in our tent!

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Sofi in our luxurious tent

Not only was I seconding my amazing Sofi, I had a small herd that I would help get through Balloch. It is quite a lot of pressure and I take it very seriously. I think I may have driven Sofi a little crazy cause I wanted to do everything for her. She is after all an elite runner so she deserves a servant. It is however such fun helping the guys. I really love being a supporter as much as I love being a runner.

The new route for Sky this year raised many eyebrows and blood pressures. There is one massive climb on this race that everyone talks about, Balloch Wall aka The Wall. It is mean and they decided that this year it would be a good idea to do it twice. Having seen the wall for the first time with my own eyes this year, I would have been pissed.

Throw a heat wave into the mix and the #hellofarun becomes a #hellrun, literally.

Humour me as I retell my day(s) of Sky Run as it was an interesting one.

We woke up at 2h30 (actually 1h45 as in a tent you hear all the neighbours who were clearly a little nervous) and I let Sofi do her thing. She was so calm. I would have been having 10 thousand strokes. Coach Fred and I saw them off with some loud cheering and I was looking forward to a nap before we went to meet them at Balloch Cave.

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The crew at the start – all smiles at 4am

Nobody told me about Raas Bekkie however…. I have experienced him on other races but none are quite as unique as Sky Run. He was on the mike from 4am on Saturday till 11h00 on Sunday. So sleep after the runners left was short lived as the music was going and sleep was not going to happen.

We left Wartrail later than morning and did a quick recce of Bridal Pass for Debbie so she would find her way in the dark later that night on the 38km. Then we headed for Balloch Cave. Balloch Cave is the main seconding point on both the 100km and 65km races. It is a small oasis which you don’t want to leave. It was quite an adventure getting there. There is minimal space at the cave for cars so they shuttle you down in a taxi. The poor taxis! They didn’t do well on the narrow dirt track. We had piled all our stuff onto the trailer and I had visions of the thing going floating down the river at one point! I was panicking as it was all our runners bags which had their important gear etc. We all had to pile out near the cave as the taxi couldn’t get over the narrow bridge with us in it! Needless to say we and the bags arrived safely and we took up position to watch the runners come in.

So about that heat wave. Conditions were insane, the lead runners took much longer than expected and listening to the race radios it sounded like utter carnage out there on the mountain. Dehydration was going to be the order of the day and with minimal water on the mountain, your hydration strategy would make or break you. I also neglected my own hydration by feeding my water to the girls!

It was a chilled wait for our team but when they arrived all hell broke loose. Enter Sofi, she was tired but determined. I had made her some soup on her fancy propane stove. It took me a good 15 minutes to read the instructions to ensure that I didn’t blow up Balloch Cave but I managed to get the thing going. What a cool stove! Anyway, she had her soup, we restocked her pack and she was ready for action. We all gave her a hug and when Fred gave her a hug I could see she was digging really deep to keep it together. I turned away cause I just wanted to cry on her behalf. But off she went down the road and onto the wall. She nearly gave all the followers at home a heart attack because she didn’t check out of Balloch. She wasn’t the only one, not many knew that you had to check back out at the tent. Luckily they all picked her up at the next Check Point and panic was averted. I was none the wiser with no signal. I didn’t get near the computer to check as it was being hogged by grumpy tannies.

One of my favourite memories of the day was when I was told that Dylan Vogt, doing his first run longer than 42km, and happens to be a very good climber, decided to climb a boulder problem when he saw a good one on the route and still came in 6th in the 100km. A real energiser bunny that one!

We had heard about a medical emergency on the mountain on the radios but they talked in race numbers so we were not aware that it was our very own Matt. He arrived in a car at Balloch looking very pale and was on his second drip. So scary. But we got him a nice cup of tea and a coke and I am pleased to report that he will be back next year to tackle some unfinished business.

The heat took so many victims. Some people, when weighed in at Balloch, had lost as much as 10kg in weight. The medical team had their work cut out for them and they unfortunately had to take people out of the race. They did this very well as it seems that apart from the numerous drips and treatment for dehydration there were no major emergencies (I speak under correction here). Watching the disappointment on the peoples faces was so hard. People who had been cut on the mountain had to walk back to Balloch and you could see their body language as they walked in. It was heartbreaking and I just wanted to hug them. I know what it feels like to be cut. It sucks, especially after all  your hard work. I was especially grumpy with the marshal at Balloch as she was very abruptly dismissing these runners out of her chute. I felt so bad for them.

My friend Yvette was one of these disappointed runners but I got to give her a big hug and she joined the seconding team and we had a lot of fun together helping our friends for the rest of the day. She was however relieved that she didn’t need to do the wall again.

Riana and Ilze were up next. Riana on her first 100km and Ilze smashing her 65km. They were both in high spirits and we were like a pit crew getting them out of Balloch. Ilze had an exciting morning. She had tried to kill herself by ingesting her tube of sunblock instead of her caffeine shot! She is still alive to tell the tale. Apparently she won’t have heartburn for a while.

I have to mention my friend Corne’s entry to Balloch. His dad had all his stuff laid out for him and ready. All but the Epsom salts bath was waiting for him. It was rather impressive and I felt a little inadequate! LOL Corne smashed his 100km too!

Then came Robyn. Robyn looooved Balloch. She didn’t want to leave and we couldn’t get her to focus. It was too funny. I had to shoot to help Owen but Yvette and Fred got her sorted and kicked her out!

My fellow Randburg Harrier Owen looked so fresh. He jumped up when the Dr asked how he felt and the Dr took one look and sent him marching out of the medical tent to continue his race. Owen told me to time him and he wanted to spend half and hour in Balloch. I got him out of there in 20 minutes and he was off up the wall.

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Awesome Owen

It was 4 hours of manic running around. I did 30000 steps and probably should have hydrated better myself.

I was missing one buddy at this stage and I couldn’t trace him! Matt and Yvette were tired, as you could imagine, and we needed to catch the shuttle to the car so we made our way to the pick up. As we were waiting there I saw this characteristic figure come trotting down the hill and I was so happy to see Peter coming past! I gave him a huge hug and sent him on his way. That was all my peeps accounted for at Balloch.

We then had another adventure with the shuttle. I refused to put the bags in the trailer and everyone on the shuttle proceeded to follow suit so we packed in like sardines and didn’t have the trailer. But when we tried to cross the same bridge Yvette was hanging out the window watching one wheel dangling awfully close to the edge. I was silently freaking out waiting for us to land in the river. So once again we had to pile out from under all the bags and allow the shuttle to go across the bridge empty. We eventually made it to the car and back to War Trail.

We had missed Ilze coming in for her finish but found her feeling very chuffed with herself and so she should be! She made 6th lady! I knew when she was looking so strong at Balloch that it would be good day and she smashed it out of the park.

We grabbed a shower and some dinner and made it to our tents by 10pm. So you would think it would be quiet in camp with lots of tired runners. Not so much. With Sky Run you get Raas Bekkie and he was now in full swing guiding runners down the ridge in the dark with the music pumping. So sleep came with difficulty. I snoozed till 3am and wanted to check on Debbie who was doing the 38km. She was tucked into bed and had smashed her race. Later that morning she relived her experience of accidentally mooning the 100km winner on the mountain. We laughed loud!

I came to Sky Run to support my friend Sofi, she won the 65km last year and is a phenomenal runner and one of my special special friends. A Bubbly of course! So I checked the leaderboard at 3am and decided to slip back into my sleeping back with an alarm to catch her coming in. Well you can imagine my disgust when I was awoken with her unzipping our tent. I wanted to sleep outside and wait but it was frigid and I would have given myself hypothermia and I timed it all wrong! I am so cross with myself. She came third and smashed it. By her own standards she wasn’t satisfied with her race but I am super proud of her. To run 100km in those conditions and come third is absolutely spectacular.

We let Sofi get some sleep (this was hard with Raas Bekkie) and waited for the others to arrive. Instead of dot watching we were watching for heads popping up on the mountain. Riana, Robyn and Owen came trotting in and it was a good morning. They are Sky Runners! It was super special to cheer them in. Even better is that Sofi, Riana and Robyn (much to her surprise) were all on the podium. I felt so guilty when I had to wake Sofi up for prize giving.

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Sofi and Riana with their gold medals!

I hadn’t been paying attention to the mountain for a bit and I was so excited when I turned around and saw Peter trotting down to the finish line. He has had a challenging year with races and I was so extremely happy to see him that I let my screaming voice out… loudly. Even Raas Bekkie handed me the mike and told me he couldn’t compete with that. LOL!

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A skew screaming photo of Peter

Fred was sweeping the back of the 100km and came in with a very broken Allison and Albert but even her dehydrated body understood that it was finished and her face lit up as she crossed the finish line. Being a back runner, I just feel for the people that come in last! I loved that AJ, the winner of the 100km waited to congratulate the last runners! That was pretty cool.

So as you can see, I was suitably distracted this weekend which was good considering its less than two weeks to UTCT. I am absolutely terrified but I know that I have done all that I can now. With a few hurdles along the way I think this is the most intense training block I have ever come through. I know my body can do it, my only doubt will always be my speed. But I am trying my level best to keep telling myself that I can do this.

I am picturing one thing in my mind and that is me and Sofi crossing that finish line together. Yes you read that correctly, my awesome friend offered to run UTCT with me two weeks after she has done 100km Sky Run. It will be more of a hike for her but she is doing this to help me make those cut offs. I don’t think I would be as positive as I am if she wasn’t doing this with me. I am not sure how I am ever going to thank her for this but her being by my side is going to be my saving grace. Dankie Sofi!

Cape Town here we come

Test your Mettle

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In the Gorge in Graskop specially for our Zen Queen

In my last blog, I indicated that I suspected that something was holding me back. Well it turns out I was right and I should have listened to my body long ago. I thought I was just buggered from all the training….

I decided I would get tests done after the Uitsoek Mountain Marathon. Nothing like going to run 40km when you can’t breathe properly. So I went to have some blood tests to see if I had an iron deficiency. I honestly didn’t think would because I have never had it before and there was no obvious reason for it. The frustration of no oomph in my running however made me question this. Turns out I have anaemia. My haemoglobin levels were so low. They were 10 and they needed to be 13!!! My iron levels were also far too low.

So when I heard the results I was quite excited! There was a problem and its easy to fix right? Wrong! I was immediately banned from running and any exercise that gets your heart rate up. Crisis. And on top of that, because I have no reason to be anaemic, I had to have tests conducted to determine if I am bleeding internally i.e. a bleeding ulcer or something. So off to the surgeon I went and I was booked into hospital.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love my food and when you have a colonoscopy you need to “clean out your insides”. Such a fun exercise which I will not be elaborating on. This process however requires you not to eat or drink!! I was supposed to go into theatre on the Thursday early morning before the surgeon did his big cases. However there was some emergency and I had to wait till 16h00 on Thursday to go in. That means I didn’t eat from 7h30 on Wednesday till 19h00 on Thursday. I was Hangry as all hell. It wasn’t pretty. Smelling all the other meals that wafted through the ward was utter torture. I was so grumpy. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I was just over it!

I was very relieved to inhale some chicken when I came out of surgery.  LOL!

So whilst my hospital trip wasn’t about starvation, there was actually a reason… All the tests came back clear and I have no internal bleeding. So after all that, all I need are iron supplements and I am back to running again… after a three week break.

Cue Kaapsehoop half marathon. I was supposed to do the marathon this year but decided that road is just so hard on your body that I downgraded and saved my body. I am also very pleased that I didn’t stress myself out with my first road marathon. I have enough stress coming up for UTCT.

I am so glad I did…

Kaapsehoop this year was planned as a Bubblies girls weekend with a bit of running. We actually run for fun and every now and then you need to remind yourself of that! This weekend was just that, a fun weekend. All my Bubblies joined us this weekend and we spent it on my friends avo and macadamia farm near the Sudwala Caves. They will never be the same again after experiencing 12 wild chicks! LOL

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The BG’s – so much love for these ladies

What an epic weekend. Whilst we had to get up at 1h30 to get to the start on time, it was worth every moment. We all had such special runs. Whether it was a PB or a PW (personal worst) it was just such fun. Two of our Bubblies are injured so they walked the 10km registering their PWs. They redeemed themselves with their DJ’ing skills later that evening :-).

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Selfie time for team 21km

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The Bubblies with our Honorary Bubbly Chante who happens to be our team Physio

Later that day, after we all forced ourselves to have a nap (turns out we all needed them and passed out for a good hour and half), we did what Bubblies do and cracked the champers. We toasted a Bubbly birthday and started the braai.

I was the braaimaster and we wined and dined under the trees. It was super special. We changed it up a bit this weekend and broke out the craft gin. We managed to flatten a large collection of gin and the party ended very festively with dancing in the farm pub. There was some hilarious laughter, some of us were more tipsy that the others and provided entertainment! I burst a blister I didn’t know I had whilst jumping wildly to some of other song.  The Innov8s are a little bit past their sell by date…

We rechristened ourselves the Bubbly Gins aka the BGs…. and we managed to stay alive.

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This is what happens after copious gins – the runners start to compare toe nails

We decided that we weren’t just going to drive straight home on Sunday. We visited the Mac Mac falls and then headed for the new Gorge Lift in Graskop. What a beautiful idea. You take a lift 51m down in the gorge. The forest in the gorge was just beautiful and we loved every minute of it. Apart from shocking service in the restaurant, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. We were all dressed in our Bubbly shirts and we looked stunning. It made you feel so special to be part of such an amazing group of beautiful ladies.

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The Gorge lift – some opted out 🙂

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Tree huggers

So whilst we did have an amazing girls weekend, I did also have a really good run. The iron supplements seem to be kicking in and a ran a PB 5km, 10km and 15km. The last hill killed me and I just couldn’t make the PB 21km but I am super happy with my run. I ran with Helen and we had such an amazing race. It is always a nice surprise for me to have company on a race. I usually make new friends so I don’t get bored but running with your fellow sweep is super special!

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Helen and I at the finish

So the next two weeks we do the final push for UTCT and then its downhill to the mountain! I am excited for now but as the days pass, the nerves are going to start escalating. I know my Bubblies and the rest of my support crew will help me get there!

To my specials, Linda, Sarah, Sharon, Sonja, Sally, Ingrid, Jaxy, Tracy, Sofi, Candy – you are awesome and never forget it! Thank you for an epic weekend. Here’s to the next weekend. To Bronwyn – so sorry we abused you but your gins were epic! Thanks for the pancakes!

The Training Run….

On top

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.