Return to the trails

me editAfter all the blood, sweat and tears over the past few weeks it felt so good to just go out there and be among amazing friends and hit the trails at KZN Trail Running WESSA Trail Run yesterday.

I am so greateful to know so many wonderful people who make up this trail community and to catch up with everyone!

It was really fun to tackle a shorter distance race for once and to be able to come second to the incredibly talented and inspiring Kim Westbrook, who is so humble and down to earth and sweet!

Huge thanks to my coach Clinton Hunter of RacePace Coaching and my strength and conditioning coach Rhain Hoskins Personal Training for working so closely with me and keeping me strong!

And to the awesomest running shoe Vivobarefoot Vivobarefoot South Africa for keeping me running healthy!

Advertisements

Hitting my wall

IMG-20180325-WA0063
Photo by Ryan Quevauvilliers

This weekend was a whirlwind of emotions and experiences: breathing takingly beautiful scenery and mountains, joy, love, happiness, anxiety, despair.

IMG-20180325-WA0023Drakensberg Northern Trail is a special race to me. Last year it was my first skyrun and this year I hoped to better my time and to take it all in… but you cannot always predict what is going to happen on the day.

IMG-20180325-WA0009

About 19km a loose rock ended in a tweaked knee and strained the ligament. The remaining 20kms I spent in excruciating pain. So by the time I hobble jogged to the end I was in tears and pain, feeling frustrated with myself for deciding to push through the last 20kms and for allowing the disappointment to affect me so badly.

A message from my coach Clinton Hunter of RacePace Coaching really helped put things into perspective though, and its something we could all probably hear at times.

How you handle the disappointment is important and provides you with an incredible learning experience.  When things go wrong we don’t appreciate the massive mental barrier we have overcome, but sometimes we need to celebrate those victories too. And celebrate out mental toughness.

So I finished the race in the same time and position as I did last year- which is not what I was hoping for, but I finished it and sometimes we need to allow things like that to be good enough as well.

IMG-20180325-WA0047

A massive thank you to event organisers KZN Trail Running for this epic race!

And a really huge thank you to Ryan Quevauvilliers for being such an incredible man and for being at the finish to catch me as I fell, literally and figuratively.

A massive shoutout to my conditioning and strength coach Rhain Hoskins for preparing me mentally and physically and to my dietician Laura May for making sure I fuel properly as a vegan athlete!

And to Vivobarefoot and Vivobarefoot South Africa for keeping me running healthy and strong. The proprioception in these shoes is essential in the mountains!!!!

I’ve had an incredible group of people behind me, my amazing mom and friends, and I truly love and appreciate you all so much.

 

Being present, finding my happy

The problem with social media is that we filter our lives, we eliminate the struggles and only post the good.

I’m tired of that crap.

Today I woke up feeling so unmotivated to run today. You know those weeks when you feel run down and everything is just off. That was me.

This whole week my training has been off and it has left me feeling unmotivated and dare I admit it, even emotional.

So today as I rode my car through the rain to go do a five hour run, on my own, I was not feeling it.

Then I reached this look out point and my heart was filled with peace, contentment and awe. 20180225_080203

I have a point, bare with me.

See, ALL of us wake up to days where everything feels like a schlepp (so don’t even let social media fool you)

But even in the worst times, there are moments of amazing beauty in life. It is all fleeting, the good and the bad, and we cannot hold onto the good but we can cherish them as they arise.

I am told I overthink things and I guess sometimes we need to stop and just be present in the moment and forget about the other stuff.

Powered by Vivobarefoot Vivobarefoot South Africa the brand that takes you back to natural movement and healthy running with amazing shoes designed to work with your body, not to constrict it.

Be brave

“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.

Powered by Vivobarefoot and Vivolicious

 

23473281_1914560838807063_24077964186122447_n

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?

20507316_1268699379905161_3144876477607301191_o
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.

17498982_1812892965640518_7342999710071594703_n
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.

20953400_10154580680876213_4488884275603441722_n
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.

21463225_10154715268410800_2853899317534128095_n
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.

 

 

17952991_10154322407707353_7091984073846250337_n
powered by Vivo

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!