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/

 

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.

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.

Fun in the mud at Hilton

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.

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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).

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Paragon Fitness tribe!

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 Vivobarefoot Primus Trail shoes and UltrAspire hydration vest, and it made a huge difference.

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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!!!

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!

Finding my strong

Why do you run?

How many of us get asked that on a daily basis? Some of us do it for health reasons, others for stress management… for me, well my reasons are a little more complicated.

I started running simply as a way of dealing with frustrations of competitive surfing but ended up finding a whole other aspect of myself in the process. I had no idea that something so simple as running would completely alter my life’s trajectory and everyday I am so grateful for the journey it has set me on.

me-3Through running I have found my strong. Yes sure, the physical benefits are great, but what I mean is that, through stripping down and rebuilding all those layers, I have found my inner strength and centred-ness, and that has spilt into all other aspects of life.

Runners tend to rant and rave about the endorphins and the runners high, but we don’t always speak about our lows and hardships. For me, this is where I really got to know myself.

I had an epiphany during a particularly tough run in the gorge. It was hot, I was exhausted and alone and miles away from my car. The only option was to carry on going. I felt all emotional composure dissolve and all those fears that I neatly compartmentalise into boxes everyday broke free and consumed me. I am talking about the big insecurities that deal with life, death and financial security. Suddenly I was just so overwhelmed.

As humans, we tend to label our fears and insecurities, and then neatly store them in the depth of our consciousness, in a dark place where we can ignore them. But, sooner or later, we are going to lose our shit and these thoughts are going to come rushing at us. For me it was in the gorge. Alone. In the heat. Miles away from my car. 

It was interesting because, without the energy to put up any barriers or facades, I really got to see my true self that day. I got to see what my deepest fears were, I got to see what my greatest weaknesses were. More importantly, I got to see what my strengths were because, despite the fatigue and despondency, I really had no choice but to push through and carry on. It was so empowering.

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awesome friendships forged

Since then I have embraced every tough run with open arms because it is one more opportunity to master my own strengths, both physical and emotional. Last year I ran Table Mountain in PMB with heatstroke. I did 18kms, falling about eight times along the way, and dragged my feet over the finish line. It was a really bad idea and definitely wouldn’t advise ANYONE repeat my mistake but, by the time I realised there was something wrong, it was pretty much too late and I had to keep going. I honestly thought I was going to die, I felt so sick… but I didn’t. I DIDN’T… That was the key  lesson. I was not sure if I could cope but I did.

Life ebbs and flows like the ocean. There will be good times and there will be bad times. It is easy to stay strong when things are on an even keel, but when the world as we know it shifts and throws us off balance, THAT is where the real test comes in. Before I started this amazing running journey, I often doubted whether I was equipped to handle life’s curve-balls. However, all those tough sessions has shown me that I am stronger than I ever thought or believed was possible.

So, why do I run? I run because it is where I can be my true self. I run because it is where I am the most free, where I am the happiest. But I also run because it is tough. Because it makes me stronger, it makes me braves and it gives me courage to embrace life.