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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Dr’s instructions

I know I made light of the spider bite in my last blog but I really didn’t realise how bad it was and I realise how lucky I was to get all those runs in whilst in Knysna last week. I have had to stay away from all exercise all week due to the bite and some other ailments (just to add insult to injury)

Even if I wanted to disobey the Drs orders, the hectic antibiotics that I was given would not have allowed for it. I didn’t actually realise till today how hectically they affected my body, nevermind the revolting spider bite.

So I now have a somewhat healing crater and am on the mend but I think a lot of runners can relate to the frustration of not being able to do what you love for a prolonged period.

I experienced this first hand last year when I decided to try this rock climbing thing that my coach Fred was so into. Fellow Bubbly Sofi and I rocked up at the awesome City Rock and gave it a bash. We started on the bouldering walls and Sofi, with her tiny frame, was clambering up with ease making it look so easy. I tried it a few times and then made it to the top on a very easy climb but upon grasping for the final block at the top, I slipped and fell. But that’s ok, when you land properly and not try a Olympic gymnast landing when you aren’t an Olympic gymnast. Needless to say it ended badly and I ended up with an avulsion fracture and a torn ligament in my right ankle.

I was out from the 20th of September 2017 to December 2017. I thought the forced rest was going to be torture as I have experienced frustrated runners who are injured and it wasn’t pretty. I surprised myself however. I made sure I stayed active with all my running buddies and joined them at races and played the supporter which I think I do better than running to be honest. I also went to gym and did upper body exercises with Helen so it wasn’t a complete loss. The actual injury didn’t get to me, it was the crutches. I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy. I hated them even more when I somehow managed to knock my baby toe on my good foot on the crutches one morning and broke it. When I went for my ankle check up at the Dr they were not convinced it was broken but we did an x-ray just to be safe and she was rather shocked. I nearly got the moonboot transferred from one foot to the other. Luckily sanity prevailed and the orthopaedic surgeon said it just needed to be strapped. The broken toe was so much more sore than the ankle. I think it’s safe to say that when I do things I do them properly!

I must say the way back from injury has been much harder than the actual rest period. I still don’t have full mobility in my ankle and have been so frustrated with my running since returning properly in January. It just doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Seeing small improvements but I still get so jealous seeing others around me doing so well and running so fast. But I don’t let it get me down and just keep trying and enjoying it.

So rest isn’t all bad but I can’t wait to get out for a run today….