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.

1
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!”

paragon
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.

17498824_10154182932591213_4353744234513539974_n
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.

s
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.

shoes
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.

17505088_10154182932621213_3815539318933386527_o
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.

17425956_10154182932516213_7040295157030010447_n
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.

17499069_10154182932586213_6663104549253107890_n
‘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.

rhain
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.

exploring in vivo
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.

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!   

I’m a veggiesaurus!

If you went vegan now, you could save over 1,8000 animals by the time you are 80!  That is based on analysis of the average South African in his or her 30s. And that is just for one person. Imagine if it were ten, 20 or even 100! Pretty awesome if you ask me.

cow

Why am I bringing this up now?

Well 1 November was World Vegan Day, which marked the start of Vegan Month. The aim of this is to encourage the public to adopt a plant based lifestyle while promoting awareness and creating a platform for engaging conversations.

These are exciting times as there has been a definite increase in the number of people pursuing plant based diets. However, Vegan Month is not just for the converted. It is also for people who are toying with the idea or who are curious about finding out more. With that in mind, I have gathered some information to further encourage you

Saving the planet

Most of us are already concerned about the environment and doing what we can to save it. However, not many people are aware of how effective a vegan lifestyle is in lowering your carbon footprint!

PrintAccording to the International Vegan Society, the production of meat and other animal products places a heavy burden on the environment. While the world’s population has doubled since the 1960s, world meat production has quadrupled.

In certain areas, livestock production has increased massively; there are now 4 and a half times as many tonnes of pig produced in 2013 compared to 1961, while world chicken production has increased by nearly 13 times.

These harrowing numbers are growing. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations predicts that by 2050 world meat production will have almost doubled, as the Western taste for meat, eggs and dairy products continues to grow (along with our waistlines).

This trend will continue to contribute to global warming, widespread pollution, deforestation, land degradation, water scarcity and species extinction. More animals mean more crops are needed to feed them: the planet cannot feed both increasing human and farmed animal populations, especially when there will be between 2-4 billion more human mouths to feed by 2050.

If we are trying to reduce our car use, limit the amount of water we waste, become more ‘energy-efficient’ and generally lessen our environmental impact, we must also examine the most important factor of our personal ecological footprint: what we eat.

For the animals

Avoiding animal products is one of the most obvious ways you can take a stand against animal cruelty and animal exploitation everywhere. The International Vegan Society reported that, when we look at the sheer numbers of other animals raised, caught and killed for food, and the types of suffering endured by them, we are right to prioritise the issue of farming other animals over other issues, and to focus on vegan food.

lamb

Animal welfare

Roughly 60 billion land animals and over a trillion marine animals are used and killed as commodities per year, merely to satisfy human taste preferences. This is needless, as plant-based food and drink alternatives are available in many areas around the world.

Non-human animals are living beings seeking life and freedom, and avoiding harm and danger. In every ‘livestock system’, no matter how high the welfare standards are supposed to be, non-human animals will suffer. The Five Freedoms, frequently used to measure welfare, will never be met completely. They include the freedom:

  • from hunger, thirst and malnutrition;
  • from pain, injury and disease;
  • from discomfort;
  • from fear and distress;
  • to express natural behaviour.

Individual animal welfare is never optimal in any husbandry system. Free living other animals Other animals living in their natural habitat may also experience one or more of the issues above, however, they have developed coping mechanisms and adaptive behaviour to help them deal with challenges.

Non-human animals are usually less well equipped when coping in unnatural and restricted husbandry environments or situations imposed on them by humans. Mental and physical suffering can be severe in captivity. And we haven’t even discussed the many painful procedures routinely carried out, frequently without pain relief.

Killing is not justified

As stated by the Vegan Society, humans ultimately take away life. Other animals do not ‘give up their life’ as some people believe – they have not given consent to be slaughtered. In over 95% of cases they are killed prematurely:

POF Infographic 1 - HealthCows, for example, could live to well over 20 years of age, while on ‘dairy’ farms they are usually shot between 3-4 years of age when milk production is no longer considered ‘profitable’. Cows bred for ‘beef’ meat are killed sooner.

Broiler chicks are just 6 weeks old and grown too rapidly to sustain their own weight and heart when they are killed. Chickens could live to 10 years old.

Pigs are slaughtered when they have reached a certain weight, which will be later in organic systems than in intensive farms, but they are typically killed between 4-6 months of age, while they could reach 15 years.

Sheep can also live to 15 years but depending on whether they are slaughtered as lambs or later, they are shot and bled between 3-10 months of age.

Every week in the UK 3,000 male calves are killed shortly after birth, usually within days, and over 40 million day-old chicks are killed each year, including those from organic farms. Males do not secrete bodily fluids destined for offspring (cow’s milk), or lay eggs like hens do. Calves are either shot or exported alive to mainland European countries where they are kept in small pens to produce veal flesh – deprived of their mothers and their natural food (milk).

At the end of the day, there is so much more to this. Veganism is the answer to a compassionate life and I’d strongly recommend you read more here 

For your health

A plant based lifestyle has been touted for it’s health benefits, with scientific evidence suggesting that it could very well be the way to go. The Vegan Society reports that a well-planned plant-based diets are rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals.

Print

The plant-based sources of these nutrients tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and packed with antioxidants, helping mitigate some of the modern world’s biggest health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Not sold? The Vegan Society reported on a recent study conducted by experts at the prestigious Oxford University’s Oxford Martin School that  found that by 2050, widespread adoption of plant-based diets would avert 8.1 million premature human deaths every year. This was found to be the case due to factors including the reduction of red and processed meat, which the World Health Organisation has classified as carcinogenic due to the risk of colorectal cancer.

Personal account

For me personally, switching to a plant based diet has been one of my best decisions. Animal welfare has always been close to my heart and I became a vegetarian at 16. A year working as an inspector at a local animal welfare organisation solidified my resolve. The next logical step was veganism.

cows

Most people believe that this diet could lead to a multitude of deficiencies but coincidentally, making the change opened my mind to a healthier way of living. It was only when I became vegan that I started to pay attention to proper eating and sports nutrition. My performance has increased phenomenally due to the change, my health has improved and I am more aware of my impact to animal welfare and the environment.

I would encourage anyone to try it out. The only thing I would stress is ensuring that you follow a well balanced nutrition plan that includes loads of healthy foods. The good news is that you can obtain a wealth of information here 

Also, locally the Frys brand have created an extensive range of animal friendly products that are super delicious and easy to prepare. Lacking inspiration? You can find amazing recipe ideas on their site

Environmentally sound cosmetics

I don’t know about you but I battle to find decent products that are environmentally responsible, natural and that have not been tested on animals. So when a friend introduced me to two really awesome products that ticks all those boxes, and more, I was so excited!

Protection from the sun

First up is Sunumbra Sport, a natural sunscreen made with organic ingredients that provides broad spectrum protection from UVA damage, in addition to the standard UVB (SPF) damage.

img_4781

As a trail runner (and recreational surfer and swimmer) I am often exposed to the sun  and have struggled to find a product that suits my specific requirements. The sport range is perfect. It has NOT been tested on animals, is PETA certified cruelty free and vegan and is made from natural ingredients. It also is super water resistant and contains added antioxidants, added vitamins and enzymes that helps to boost internal capabilities to protect from damage from the sun.

Earlier this year I had to have a very suspicious mole removed and it was such a scary wake up call. We can’t be too careul in South Africa’s harsh sun and it is so important to protect ourselves! The scary thing is that, accoding to the EWG’s Annual Sunscreen Guide for 2016, there are ‘persistent problems with the ingredients and marketing of sunscreens. Almost three-fourths of the products we examined offer inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor, or retinal palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may harm skin.’

Soothing aching muscles

img_4786Then there is the Dr.Hauschka Birch Arnica Energising Body Oil. I would love this because, with my training load being what it is, I am prone to stiff and sore muscles. What I love about this product is that it is all natural and also has not been tested on animals and is vegan. It is super rejuvenating, nourishing and soothing.

I’m so excited about the Dr. Hauschka range because their products are all natural and environmentally responsible.Their skin care range is certified natural and organic and cotains no chemical or synthetic preservatives, fragrances or colours.

We need more of that around and I urge everyone to  check out these two brands out. It’s so important to support those who are taking responsibility to the environment and to animal welfare.

 

Tales of a vegan runner

img_3652

“Oh my word… are you VEGAN??!!”

That question always get’s me. I imagine that, if one were to encounter the Flying Spaghetti Monster, they would ask for confirmation of identity in the same, shocked and uncomfortable manner.

“Oh my word… are you the THE FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER??!!”

Obviously there is not much difference between vegans and the The Flying Spaghetti Monster. We are both really weird creatures that are not of this world. Right? Truth is, vegans are not strange, alien creatures determined to destroy your burger (and happiness) by sprinkling a healthy dose of guilt over your conscience. We are just normal people who happen to believe in a cause.

It is not my job to convince you that we are good guys, or that you must give up meat and dairy. I just wanted to share my personal story in an effort to answer the very simple question… “WHY are you VEGAN??!!”

Four legged brat

When I was a kid I wanted to be a horse. So I did what any self respecting child would do. I started running around on all fours. Teachers were concerned, my parents were concerned and other children were scared.

There was talk about perhaps sending me to a school that could cater to my special needs- but in my tiny mind it made sense. I loved animals so much and just wanted to relate to them. It was kind of hard to communicate this through a series of neighs so, unfortunately, I went misunderstood for years.

After much prompting I started to walk on two legs again but my childlike obsession with animals continued. Shelves were filled with animal toys that were taken to school and confiscated by teachers who wanted to interrupt playtime with learning (so selfish). I was in trouble more often than not for living in a dream world filled with awesome ponies and puppies instead of paiyng attention to maths.

Save the animals

3While I was figuring it all out (was I a horse? was I human?) I decided to also stop eating meat and adopt a plant based diet. I was about 16 at the time. The heartache and guilt of knowing that the creatures I loved so much were being killed to be on my plate was overwhelming and I haven’t looked back since.

Later, that decision was solidly cemented when I started working as an inspector at an animal welfare organisation. The job really opened my eyes to the cruelty of the meat and dairy industry, as well as all the other incidences of animal cruelty common in our country. There were things I saw that can never be erased and, although I had to eventually change jobs because it all became too much, it firmed my resolve to do what I could to help those that cannot speak for themselves. Switching to a plant based diet and vegan lifestyle was the most proactive and logical step for me.

Food for thought

2Going vegetarian, or vegan, is a very personal choice but it is also a really exciting journey that I would encourage everyone to explore. The decision to cut out meat and dairy features numerous health and environmental benefits.  You also get to save thousands of little guys who would not otherwise have a shot at a decent life, which is always great!

The wonderful thing about living the lifestyle in this day and age is that there are so many fantastic recipes and products out there that taste delicious, making this lifestyle so easy to stick to. Personally, I absolutely love the Fry’s brand, which features strongly in my diet to provide necessary protein for sustenance during a hard training week. I also respect what they stand for and that they are actively involved in the community (the Fry’s Yoga Club is a perfect example).

Take the step

Someone once said to me that adopting a plant based diet and vegan living is a process. You can’t just jump into the deep end and eliminate everything all at once. You can start by making small changes and working towards adopting a fully began lifestyle. I really do believe that every little bit counts and, if you have been toying with the idea, then it is definitely something worth further investigating.

A great way to get started is to take the 30 Day Vegan Pledge, which helps you out with simple steps while you investigate and learn more about the benefits of a plant-based diet and vegan living. If that is too much, there is the meat free monday campaign, which is a simple way to start making a difference in the world.

Resources

There is so much information and support out there that make the transition easy and painless. There are still misconceptions out there and, creating a well balanced and healthy plant based diet, can go a long way in saving the animals, the environment and boosting your health. For more information check out the following links

1South African Vegan Society

Vegan Society

Frys Family Food

Conscious Cafe

Chilliplum

Make the Connection