I found my self on the trails

I’ve been so absorbed with training and trail running, so much so that this post is way overdue *cue dramatic sigh*

Still, better late than never right?

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Running free in my Vivolicious capris

The bulk of my year has been focusing on training for my first Skyrun, 50km ultra trail and stage race- three things that have been on my bucketlist for ages.

Words alone are not going to do much justice describing the emotions leading up to and following these momentous occasions but what I can say is that it has been the most incredible, revealing, trying and wonderful journey.

If I could use one word to capture my 2017 I’d go with raw.

Raw because the year kicked off on a heart breaking note. Raw because I went into the new year mourning my old life and dreading massive change.

Raw because that is how I felt: broken, bleeding, tender.

Raw because I was so far out of my comfort zone already that it seemed like the perfect time to tackle the things I had always wanted to do but feared.

Raw because I quickly realized how that independent girl I once was had disappeared, I had lost my identity and sense of self over the years, and that was probably the hardest pill to swallow. But running has always been my saving grace and it led me back to that former self.

That first sky run was where it all began.

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Skyrun done

I was petrified to make the trip alone, then to go run a distance I have never run in mountains I have never been in and add to that the fact that it was pouring with rain, it was freezing, I didn’t really know anyone… I was scared.  So conquering something like that, it was the most empowering gift the universe could have delivered. I found a bit of myself in those mountains.

Doing that 50km was another moment that defined me- but it was also raw. A different kind of raw.

Training for that run was intense and I found myself out on the trails alone for hours on weekends. That kind of solitude will strip you down emotionally and mentally. It forced me to visit some dark places and learn some hard truths about myself but it also forced me to build up a different kind of strength- one that I would need on race day, which is exactly what my coach, Clinton Hunter of RacePace Coaching, knew.

He always seems to sense exactly what I need in order to be a better athlete, which is why he is so phenomenal. He and my strength and conditioning coach, Rhain Hoskins of Paragon Fitness/Crossfit Ried have this uncanny ability to see parts of my mind that I don’t let anybody see, which is how they know automatically what I need as an athlete, and how they can also cut past my bullshit.

They see the insecurities, the strengths and weaknesses, those self-limiting boundaries and help you past them- THAT’S what defines a good coach.

Their guidance has been instrumental, not just in me achieving my goals, but in helping me realise so much about myself as a person! All the training, all the hard days, the blood (literally!), sweat and tears really helped me on race day.

This run was in aid of Child Welfare Durban and District (CWDD) and thinking about those children really pushed me through the hard moments. Everytime my energy started to drain I thought about their beautiful, smiling faces, I thought about the amazing work CWDD are doing to help these kids- it was enough to elevate me.

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Running for Child Welfare Durban and District

I finished that run feeling so happy, relieved…emotional! And it’s weird but something changed in me that day.

There has always been this little girl somewhere deep inside my heart who has been afraid: of being alone, of failing, of life, the future. But that day I felt that fear drain away. I cannot really explain it but I have heard athletes say it before, that a single experience can change you.

For me, I think I found my inner strength in that run, and it was only magnified when I finished my first stage race.

Strangely enough, I found that run the hardest of the lot, something I was NOT expecting. I probably went into the event cocky and over confident that it would be a breeze compared to a 50km trail run. How silly.

That race was RAW.

Day 1 was hot as hell and day 2, the last few kms were really testing. I fought back tears that last km: I was tired and sore.

Then I fought back a different kind of tears when I crossed the finish line and saw all the familiar faces of people I had met this year, some who have become my closest friends, and my heart just filled with so much love for these crazy people.

This race was a different kind of lesson. I realised how lucky I was to have such incredible people in my life, to have such wonderful, supportive friends, and to be able to feel such overpowering love for them, it was humbling to be able to feel that kind of real human emotion again.

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yay for friendships forged on the trails

That day I realised that life had put me on this insane journey this year and it may have shaken my world up, but it also allowed for me to meet the most important people in my life who I love with all my heart. Interestingly enough these relationships were all forged on the trails or through trail running, which goes to show how special this community is.

 

 

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The spirit of trail running shines at 1000 Hills Challenge

Trail running is often defined by its camaraderie and greater sense of community, with like-minded people from all walks of life come together to support one another on the trails. The 1000 Hills Challenge, which took place at Nagle Dam over the weekend, captivated this essence perfectly, featuring an incredible atmosphere and keen display of togetherness amongst the trail running communities.

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women’s winners

This premier trail running event is renowned for its tough routes, incorporating undulating climbs, sharp descents and a tricky river crossing or two across the various distance options. Yet it was in the face of these challenges that the spirit of trail running truly shone, as participants cheered one another on and assisted each other through the tough times.

Commenting on the event, photographer Graham Daniel noted that, watching and photographing the river crossing, there was no sign of division.

“Everyone was working together and putting their own advancement aside to make sure their fellow runners got across the river fine,” he said.

The 1000 Hills Challenge, now in its sixth year, proved to be a massive success, with over 600 runners flocking to the beautiful, scenic Nagle Dam to participate in either the 38km, 20km, 10km, or 5km runs.

“Someone commented that it wasn’t 1000 Hills but 2000,” laughed Lauren Booth of KZN Trail Running (KZNTR), the event organisers behind the 1000 Hills Challenge, as well as KZN’s other prestigious trail events. “The smiles and grimaces of satisfaction on the finish line told a story of achievement.”

38km Mens Results:

1st: Eric Ngubane (3:00:23)

2nd: Linda Zondi (3:01:18)

3rd: Sanele Maphumulo (3:02:39)

38km Womans Results:

1st: Carla van Huyssteen (3:20:36 )

2nd: Sue Chapman (4:03:37)

3rd: Zoe Papadakis (4:09:23)

For full results, visit http://www.kzntrailrunning.co.za/2017/08/01/1000-hills-challenge-2017-results/

 

Runners explore sacred trails at KZNTR’s Winter Series Table Mountain

The atmosphere was jovial at the base of Pietermartizburg’s Table Mountain on Sunday, as runners lined up at the start of the second leg of the popular KZNTR Winter Series event. The clear, crisp winter morning set an idyllic scene and, as the sun rose above the glorious mountain, it cast its rays upon the beautiful trail that the athletes were about to embark upon.

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happy running in my Vivolicious capris

Table Mountain is shrouded in folklore and considered to be a sacred place by the local community. Being able to access this venue and run through the sweeping trails is a special privilege for runners.

“We are very lucky to be allowed access to run on the mountain, which is a sacred place for the locals,” said Lauren Booth of KZNTR. 

Andrew Booth, also of KZNTR, added his thoughts on the event, stating that PMB’s Table Mountain was a trail event like no other on the calendar.

“It’s all a great coming together of the trail running community and the local Maqongqo community at Mcoseleli Secondary School, once again showing how sport can unite,” he said.

The event, which featured a 7km, 12km and 20km route, proved to be a massive success, with runners, and walkers, from all walks of life coming together to enjoy the vibes and scenes. Adding to the festivities, WESSA were on hand once again, providing delicious bacon and egg rolls to hungry athletes, as part of their ongoing fundraising initiatives. Exploring Coffee also celebrated it’s one year birthday and there was much cake to be eaten.

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Stoked to have won the Table Mountain trail run

Adding value to the series, KZNTR has partnered up with Thirsti Water and West Coast Fish & Chips and have also introduced a Kidzone with experienced child minders and fun activities so that parents can enjoy a run knowing their kids are safe and having fun.

The final instalment of the KZNTR Winter Series will be held at Aloe Wildlife Estate in Camperdown, on 2 July. For more information log onto http://www.kzntrailrunning.co.za or email lauren@kzntrailrunning.co.za

 

20km Results

Men:

  1. MTHOBISI MZELE 1:22:28
  2. SIYABONGA NGCONGO 1:23:16
  3. SPHELELE GUMEDE 1:23:26

Women:

  1. ZOE PAPADAKIS 1:51:37
  2. LISA DANIEL 1:57:41
  3. LINDA GATHMANN 2:04:49

Thrills, spills and upsets at Rocky Bay Trail

Media release: Things were hotly contested at the Rocky Bay Trail Run as top runners from across Durban made their way to Scottburgh to participate in the scenic KZN Trail Running event over the weekend. The mens’ 20km was a standout event, which saw Derek Wasserfall, Rhain Hoskins and Joshua Chambers fighting tooth and nail for top spots on the podium.

No stranger to the trails, Wasserfall has dominated races across the province, accumulating numerous wins over the years. His combination of speed and endurance have always made him a tough opponent to beat however, armed with speed, strength and agility, Hoskins’ was hot on his heels over the relatively flat and fast course. At the end of the day, Wasserfall managed to lead the pack home in first position, with Hoskins in a close second and Chambers in third.

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Rhain Hoskins and Derek Wasserfall

The nail biting finish proved that there is some serious emerging talent on the trails, with Hoskins carving a name for himself locally. The athlete, who represents local gym, Paragon Fitness/Crossfit RIED, said the race was an incredible experience.

“The trails were thoroughly enjoyable, especially the incredibly fun and well maintained single track, not to mention how well marked it was,” he said. “A bonus was that there weren’t any really bad climbs. Definitely one to come back to next year and hopefully improve on what I did this weekend.”

2The women’s 20km was another stand out affair which saw Simone Barrett and Zoe Papadakis neck and neck until the very end. Barett managed to squeeze in a 23 second gap ahead of Papadakis, winning the raise by a breadth. Patricia Dammann rounded the podium off in third. The ladies have been putting up solid performances on the trails as of late and this particular race was no exception. Barrett and Papadakis managed to finish off in fifth and sixth position overall, proving that the women meant business.

Papadakis, who is also representing local gym Paragon Fitness/Crossfit RIED, is fast making a name for herself on the local trail scene. Last week the Vivobarefoot brand ambassador finished in a strong sixth position at the Drakensberg Northern Trail. This was her first skymarathon and, speaking about the Rocky Bay Trail Run, Papadakis said she things could have gone either way.

“I have never run that far before,” she said. “So I was not sure if my legs would be up for a race today. I started off a bit slow but found my groove midway and, by the end, I felt great. Simone really pushed me, she is an incredible athlete!”

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Paragon Fitness represented on the trails

Interestingly enough, both Hoskins and Papadakis follow plant based lifestyles. Their solid performances are defying misconceptions that vegan athletes are weaker and malnourished by promoting a healthier side to the lifestyle.

The 12km route saw U16 athlete, Delphinus Sauer, clinch first position ahead of Dane Davies and George Schultz while, in the women’s division, Shenne Davies came home first, ahead of Kim McNally and Mary Murray consecutively. Meanwhile, the 6km saw some upsets with Kristen Williams finishing up as the winner overall, ahead of Daniel Hale and Simon Schaaij.

Conquering my mountain

Last weekend I conquered my mountain- literally and figuratively.

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I conquered my mountain

For two years, from when I first started running, I have wanted to tackle a skymarathon but there has always been a voice in the back of my head telling me I can’t. It took some coaxing from my coach, Clinton Hunter (RacePace Coaching) and from race Drakensberg Northern Trail organisers KZN Trail Running (KZNTR) but I finally decided to swallow my doubts and just commit to #2017DNT. It was the best decision ever.

Driving to Oliviershoek in the Drakensberg, I had no idea what to expect. Weather forecasts had predicted treacherous conditions, with showers, cold, mist and even a suggestion of snow. I know unpredictable weather forms part of the mountain running experience but I could not help but feel apprehensive of what was in store.

Arriving at the pre-race briefing the evening before, temperatures had dropped drastically and we were freezing. However, spirits were high as fellow runners gathered at the venue, all nervously excited for the mammoth task that lay ahead the following day. The jovial mood was infectious and, by the time we returned to our chalet, I was feeling really excited.

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taking shelter from the rain

The following morning, we woke to pouring rain but, by then we were all beyond caring. The atmosphere was somewhat solemn as the 150 or so skymarathoners contemplated the run but we all found solace in the idea that we were in this together. Taking shelter, I did a last minute equipment check.

Felt a bit like a hamster hoarding copious amounts of food in my Ultraspire Alpha 2 hydration race vest but a vegan athlete’s gotta EAT! I love this vest because it is lightweight but features a significant packing capacity so I could store all my dates, banana chips, gels and other munchies with my phone, space blanket, bladder and basic medical kit.

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Life is better in Vivo

Checked my Vivo Primus FG. Aboslutely love these shoes. I remember over a year ago, suffering from repeated injuries and strains, I decided to switch to barefoot/natural movement running. A few seasoned runners said it would be crazy to run a skymarahton in these shoes. I’m glad I didn’t listen because my Vivos got me through the race comfortably, with no pain, strain, hot spots, blisters or chafing.  There was nothing left to do but get this run over with. 

Walking to the start I noticed a cold runner huddled under his space blanket, shivering. I couldn’t help but smile and, looking at me, he grinned goofily.

“We are all $%^#$ mad,” I said, my sentiments echoed by a dozen or so other participants.

Counting us off, Andrew Booth of KZNTR left us with a reminder that this was what trail running was all about (a reminder to perhaps put on my big girl panties?) and then we were gone. The first few kms were cheerful ones but, as we began our first big ascend, the banter eased up. Freezing rain beat down on us as we navigated up the slick, misty mountain and to the escarpment.

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the massive climbs

I remember looking at my watch and thinking how the hell we could have possibly only covered 12kms. I felt the first wave of mild panic rise in my chest. My hands and nose were numb, my muscles were aching from the cold and we were only a quarter of the way in. Would I finish? There are huge chunks of the race that I don’t really remember but what really kept me going was the sight of Kim Westbrook’s red jacket up ahead.

I need to backtrack here quick. Kim Westbrook is a phenomenal local trail runner and person. I met her last year at King of Phezulu and her warmth, happiness and spirit really made a huge impression on my soul. This amazing lady has all the talent in the world to warrant her acting like an arrogant athlete but she is humble, caring and sweet. She is not phased about winning, she is there to have an amazing time and, to me, she epitomises what trail running is all about.

At DNT, I ended up associating Kim with familiarity, with warmth and joy so, in an environment completely daunting and new to me, she was my beacon of hope. At the half way mark there was a fuelling station and we spoke briefly and it gave me second wind. We made a pact, our goal was to survive this race. Nothing else.

The last 20 kms were tough but I found my groove. Admittedly I had an embarrassing  moment where the paramedics had to ‘rescue’ me when I froze on particularly daunting section of rock climbing, but it was something to laugh about and I appreciate their chivalry.  By the last ten I had found momentum to go all out. I felt the months of training on the trails and also put in the gym, under the guidance of Rhain Hoskins from Paragon Fitness/Crossfit RIED, pay off.

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I love my mom

The thought of seeing my mom’s face at the finish really pushed me through it and I sprinted the last two kms home. Crossing over the finish, there was my mom and Kim and I got teary eyed. I had did it, we had survived. They both engulfed me in a bear hug and I felt something in my heart give way.

It is weird. you hear about people having revelations up in the mountains and I had always scoffed at that. The thing is, I have been going through some personal stuff (yes, a divorce- a nasty word that makes you feel like a failure, a bad person) and, these past few months I feel as if my heart had turned into stone. That is one of the reasons why it was so important for me to do this race. I wanted to prove to myself that I am strong enough to survive- this and my life. And up in those mountains I felt my layers stripped away until there was just my own truth left.

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‘clean’ post race legs

Climbing back down and to the finish I realised that I have so many amazing friends and experiences to be grateful for. I realised that I had closed myself off to so much joy because I had become a bitter, miserable person. Engulfed in that bear hug with Kim and my mom I felt tears of joy spring to my eyes. I felt my heart open up and an overwhelming sense of love for all these incredible runners wash over me. Then Kim said something that left me stumped, astonished, inspired, beyond happy. I was the sixth lady! In a race where we planned to ‘survive’ she and myself had made fifth and sixth position in a field comprising of elites.

I get it now. Why we put ourselves through such physical stress, why we keep pushing through the pain, why we spend all our time and money training, recovering, planning and running. Trail running, Skyrunning is a deeply personal and incredible experience. And I will do it all again in a heartbeat!

Overcoming the slump

To be honest, these past few weeks I have been feeling really blah lately. You know when you feel sluggish and stagnant on your runs? Like you are  putting in all this training and yet your performance is stale.

It is probably because I have been feeling very nervous about running my first SkyMarathon this month (this is the furthest I have ever run, let alone at altitude). However, after weeks of slogging along feeling desperately demotivated, everything just came together on Sunday and I know it is because of the amazing team that have been working behind the scenes with me.

On Sunday morning I was still whining to my coach, Clinton Hunter from RacePace Coaching, about how despondent I was feeling. You have to admire a coach who is at hand at 5:30am on whatsapp to give you a much needed pep talk, which I really appreciated.

He has just had massive success with one of his athletes,  Stewart Chaperon, who clinched an amazing second place to Ryan Sandes at the 76km Addo Elephant Trail Run.  He has a way of nurturing the best in his athletes and he has been a key component in my performance last year. When I am exhausted I know that there is method in his madness and I can now see the gains.

kettlebellEndurance running is a whole other ball game to me but I have been lucky enough to be working with Rhain Hoskins and his team at Paragon Fitness/Crossfit Reid, a really awesome gym based at Durban High School that focuses on various training styles from Hardstyle Kettlebells to Crossfit, TRX suspension training and functional training.

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Rhain killing it at Paragon

Rhain has been offering me custom one-on-one training designed to meet my specific needs as an athlete and a lot of our focus has been on Hardstyle Kettlebell training with some functional stuff thrown into the mix. The training techniques use maximal explosiveness, high tension and power breathing, and this has translated directly into positive results in my running in a few short weeks. I can feel my endurance has improved, I have more power and my overall strength and fitness has improved drastically.

Training aside, I have wanted to take a more holistic approach to my life. I have gone through a stressful time in my life and admittedly, have neglected my body a bit. I have been feeling a need to nurture body, mind and spirit and finally decided to get my butt into gear and explore a more natural way of eating. Laura May, an incredible dietician, athlete and fellow vegan, has been so incredible in helping me in that aspect.

She sat down with me for hours, chatting about my training and dietary needs, devising an incredible meal plan with the most delicious vegan recipes that are healthy and easy to make. The results were immediate. I was no longer feeling dizzy and sluggish on my runs, I was sleeping better, feeling less hungry and loving food again.

I have a history of eating disorder from my teenage years that included bingeing and purging as well as starving myself. It was a long time ago but you will always have a timid approach to food. Which is why it is important for me to work with someone who can understand this, why I am so pedantic about certain foods and and the role ‘trigger’ foods play in my life. To have Laura by my side really means the world to me.

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exploring in my Vivos

The correct equipment is paramount to any athlete and I have been so fortunate to have the encouragement and support from Vivobarefoot, an incredible brand that shares my love and passion for barefoot running and natural movement as well as concerns about the environment. I have been running in Vivos for over a year and would never go back to a regular shoe brand. I have to admit that every run has been a comfortable one in these shoes and I am stoked to tackle DNT in my Vivos.

Our evolutionary success as humans is directly related to our ability to run but that natural talent isn’t foolproof. 50 years of padded running shoes and poor posture mean about 80% of runners suffer from injury every year. With its complex system of springs, levers and nerve endings, the foot is one of the body’s major sensory organs. Humans are naturally good at walking, running and sprinting. Jogging, or, slow, sticky heel-striking in padded shoes is not a natural movement and is responsible for countless runners’ injuries.feet

This is why I am such a big advocate for Vivo, because they make shoes designed around your natural foot shape, to give your feet the space to function naturally and gain the strength, flexibility and sensitivity needed to live barefoot.

Running for a good cause

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Cruising in my Vivo Primus 

The wet weather did not dampen spirits when over 350 runners braved the rain and took to the trails in support of the Ryan Walker Foundation on Sunday at Stainbank Nature Reserve. This special event was held in support of Ryan Walker, farmer and ex-sharks rugby player is currently living with Motor Neuron Disease (MND/ALS).  He was diagnosed in August 2013 at the age of 35. Together with his family, and through the Ryan Walker Foundation, he aims to create awareness about the disease and contribute where possible to the MND/ALS community.

This fundraising 5km and 10km trail run was something very close to the hearts of the zebracommunity and it was heartwarming to see how many runners and walkers showed up to support the event. The spirit of unity is what makes trail running so special and there was tons of camaraderie on show on the day.

Going into this run, it was not so much a race for, but an opportunity to spend the morning with my extended trail running family. I am training for my first Sky marathon, which looms weeks ahead, so my running coach, Clinton Hunter of RacePace Coaching, is focusing more on mileage with one or two tune up races in between. So I had already tackled 10kms before lining up at the start for the Run-For-Ryan.

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What made it so special is that I got to stand alongside my strength and conditioning coach, Rhain Hoskins from Paragon Fitness, at the start of the race. This fellow barefoot runner and vegan has been my role model and inspiration for ages. So to say I am excited to have joined the Paragon Family, receiving tailored training to meet my running needs, is an absolute understatement! Rhain ended up annihilating the trails, coming home in fourth by seconds!

I was ecstatic to be the first lady home but I need to commend the performance of Mary Murray and Phillipa Brebner, who came in second and third respectively- both ladies show that trail running in KZN is in very good hands!

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A massive thank you to Alison Chadwick and the guys from Riverside Trail for putting together such an incredible event. I see that they raised R20,343 for The Ryan Walker Foundation and R7,760 for Stainbank Nature Reserve and the Coedmore Castle. It is so inspiring to see so many kind hearts in Durbs!