“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss
I entered 2018 with a handful of goals but they all tie into one big resolution- to be more brave.
That includes being brave enough to seek new adventures, to explore new trails, to love, to laugh, to be kind to myself and others, to push my boundaries and do what is required to be my best possible self… It’s going to be a good year.
I am taking a new approach to training in 2018- I always thought time spent training physicaly was enough- now I am incorporating additional factors and emphasizing aspects such as nutrition, recovery and the mental side of things.
So my focus this week is all about growing mental strength and grit- and what better way than to do it with snatches, which Rhain (my awesome strength and conditioning coach) of Paragon Fitness/CrossFit Ried insists are perfect training for speed, power, strength and stability-
I am looking forward to seeing this translated 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
The 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!”
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.
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 areputting 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.
Endurance 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.
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.
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.
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.
It was a wet, muddy day of fun at the KZNTR Hilton College Trail Run on Sunday. This is such a lovely route and the cool, misty conditions just added to it’s charm and intrigue. Still relatively new to the trail scene, I first tackled this race last year, finishing up in third place on the 12km. So I was excited, and nervous, to try my hand at the longer distance in preparation for my first upcoming Sky marathon next month.
Admittedly, I have been a bit weary about the slightly longer distances, it is something I am still tentatively exploring, but it was reassuring and calming to line up at the start next to so many good friends and familiar faces. The camaraderie and spirit of the trail running community is what makes this sport so special, and there was tons of that going around as we all stood in the rain, waiting for the race to get underway.
Last year, when I first ran Hilton, I was in a completely different place physically and mentally. I had literally just began working with my coach, Clinton Hunter from Racepace Coaching, so my strength and endurance was not up to scratch (he quickly changed that!), and my health was suffering from poor eating habits (I switched over to a plant based diet and my health and performance increased dramatically).
With all this in mind, I ran the first half of this race rather cautiously, only kicking it up a few notches by the tenth km. Recently, I have been working closely with Rhain Hoskins from Paragon Fitness, who has been overseeing my conditioning and strength training, and it was really great to run this event with him (although he was way ahead of me for most of the route). He is really inspirational, and somewhat of a mentor, always talking about digging deep and giving 100% effort, and that was what I drew upon to help me through moments of fatigue (I am still relatively new to longer distances remember).
The course was pretty tricky to navigate, with all the mud and some technical sections and climbs at the start. Again, last time I ran this route, I did not have the greatest shoes or equipment with me, which really made it more difficult. This time round I returned armed with my VivobarefootPrimus Trail shoes and UltrAspire hydration vest, and it made a huge difference.
By the last km, I was feeling stronger than ever and was so excited to come home as the second lady. This was such a wonderful event and I really take my hat off to Lauren and Andrew Booth of KZNTR for putting together such well run events. I also need to give a special shout out to my mom who stood in the rain and cold for hours, supporting us. And to all my wonderful friends for always making this such a fun day out. Massive respect to the podium winning ladies, Puseletso Dladla and Kirsty Bomford who finished in first and third respectively. such phenomenal athletes!!!