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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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!

Paragon Fitness tribe

paragonI am super stoked to join the Paragon Fitness/CrossFit RIED tribe. Had my first session with Rhain Hoskins today and he is a legend! It’s difficult to find a balance, as a runner, between strength, power and endurance., but he totally gets my physical requirements and fuses it with solid body conditioning.

It helps that it is in such an epic gym, and that the crew share my love for barefoot running, natural movement and veganism! So excited about my new extended family!