beginner’s mind

beginner’s mind, learning, humility

Why I’m leveling up to “Extreme”

I sat my Biostats III exam this past Friday. It was very thorough. As study preparation, I took a squizz through the Run the Berg data from the last three years. Doing biostats while studying for biostats isn’t procrastinating, is it? And I did run a Poisson regression, and I did construct a Kaplan Meier curve. And even though I’ve mostly run descriptive statistics, it got me thinking about my next Run the Berg, and about my training in general going forward.

I downloaded Excel spreadsheets for each year (2014, 2015, and 2016) from Elite Timing for both the Challenge (15km/day) and Extreme (25km/day) distances. I then read them into STATA 14.1, and appended them into one dataset.

The first thing that stood out was the gender breakdown. Over all three years, in total, there is an equal split between men and women, on average 48.3% men, and 51.7% women. As you know, that gender split is representative of the general population. However, when you look at the gender split by race distance, a very interesting picture emerges:

distancexgender

These pie charts show the total number of entrants from 2014-2016 (N=1465), with male entries evenly distributed between the Extreme and Challenge distances. But three quarters of female runners chose the Challenge. This difference is strongly significant (p=0.000), meaning that the relationship between gender and race distance is not by chance. Why are 75% of women entrants choosing the shorter distance?

Run the Berg is a staged race, so I defined “finishing” as completing either both Extreme stages, or both Challenge stages. I was curious if there was a gender difference between those who completed both races, and those who only ran one. The answer is, marginally (p=0.096), yes, there is some evidence to suggest that females tend to complete both races. By the numbers: 14.4% of males only complete one stage, compared to 11.5% of females completing only one race. Note that possible reasons for not running both stages have nothing to do with gender; someone could have: 1) run the Extreme one day and the Challenge the other, 2) not been available for one day, 3) become injured (or bailed) on the second day (perfect example- me at the Busted Bunny). By the numbers: there were 189 people over the 3 years who only completed one stage, 165 completed stage 1 only, and 24 people completed stage 2 only. Also note: there is no difference between distance and finishing both races, 12.1% did not finish two Extreme stages, and 13.3% did not complete two Challenge stages.

Another difference appeared when looking at total times (stage 1 time + stage 2 time), women group more closely with regard to combined time in both distances. Take a look at these totally cool ‘box and whisker’ plots:

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chxgend

These plots show that male times appear to vary more widely than female times. For the Extreme, men ranged from 4:00-13:18 (that’s a 9 hour spread) with a mean of 7:23. Women running the Extreme grouped more closely with a range of 5:09-11:26 (6 hour spread) with a mean of 8:02. Men in the Challenge had a range of 2:08-6:57 (an almost 5-hour spread) and a mean of 04:00. Women in the Challenge had a range of 2:52-10:15 (a 7-ish hour spread) and a mean of 04:32. Too many numbers? Just look at the graphs. Women did have quite a few stragglers on the Challenge though…I guess my point is, ladies, stop straggling! You aren’t that far behind men in terms of times, and when you commit to something- you’re unstoppable!

To sum up, there are fewer women doing the ‘Extreme’, but more women finish both stages, and their times cluster more closely together (this could be what I refer to as the ‘two-to-the-loo’ effect- women don’t go anywhere alone). For my training this means that if I plan ahead, and train accordingly, I won’t be an outlier (i.e. come in last). In fact, I might actually be competitive (for my gender, within my age group). Though these data only represent a fraction of trail racing, I think that women are selling themselves short. I think that with proper planning and training (as the more OCD among us do), more women should consider ‘extreme’ distances, the numbers are behind you! So I’ll be signing up for the ‘Extreme’ distance when entries open for Run the Berg on 1 November. And I’ve already asked the Mindful Runner for a training plan, but there’s a year of tough running and conditioning ahead. I’ll see you all on 30 Sep-1 Oct, 2017, unless you’re behind me, in which case I’ll cheer you on at the finish. I hope I get another training rock!

Oh, and here’s that Poisson regression:

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Southern Trails Klipriviersberg 10km, 2016

As I said in my previous post, trail runs are looking a lot smaller now. Also, my Biostats 3 exam is looking pretty big and intimidating, with a low survival rate and a high hazard ratio. I had this fantasy of analysing the Run the Berg data to see the probability of completing day 2 given completion of day 1, and also a Poisson regression identifying both finishing rates, and also maybe graphing failure rates for each day via Kaplan-Meier just for shits and giggles, but I’m actually not that great at Biostatistics (#FeesMustFall).

I was looking forward to Klipriviersberg this year; having run it last year I could now compare times along the same course. Alas, Charles decided to change the route this year because he didn’t want people cursing his name again while climbing “that hill“. Fortunately, the trail was very runnable, and had some awesome technical downhill that I love, mostly due to my new Altra Olympus trail shoes. These pneumatic, 36mm lift platform running shoes give me ultimate advantage on down hills. They are da bomb! (I also love the road version, the Paradigm.) So really, the weakest point was…my other knee. Apparently, I taped the wrong knee. The first knee that gave me so much trouble during Buster Bunny is now fine, it’s the other knee that now needs attention. So back to physio.

But the weather was good (I almost got to use my UD jacket!). I finished the 11km in 1:42 (52nd of 73, 21st woman). I’m still not in the top 50% of the 10km distance trail runners, but I’m slowly getting there. It was, literally, a run in the park. Big events coming soon- and I’m very excited about a planned Trail Running/Yoga Retreat with the Mindful Runner in early December. More on that after I’ve done some exam prep.

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The home stretch, incorrect knee taped. Photo by Mindful Runner.

Run the Berg Challenge 2016

Two quick blogs before I sit down (again) to study for my (now scheduled) Biostats 3 exam (#FeesMustFall, but not for international post-graduate students). A quick note for all my readers: these blog posts are mostly addressed at my friends and family far, far away. They’re a diary of my experiences here in Africa, and my opinions about odds and sods. And if you don’t understand sarcasm I feel very sorry for you. So very, very sorry. To recap-

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My trophy, a training rock!

I registered for Run the Berg when it opened for entries on 1 December, 2015. Then I started training. Then I stopped training. Then after Buster Bunny I took some time off to recover and lick my wounds. Then around 15 August I realized that if I didn’t get over my distaste for trail running and start training again, I was going to repeat my experience at Buster Bunny. So I enlisted the help of the Mindful Runner and within an evening I had a 6-week training program that got me ramped-up from maybe two 5km a week to back-to-back 15km in a weekend. With proper training, and an excellent physiotherapist, I completed the weekend (17km on day 1 in 3:08:19, and 14km on day 2 in 2:05:13 = 31km in total) in 5:13:33. My goal was to finish in 5 hours so I’m happy. For comparison, I completed day 1 of Buster Bunny (12km) in 4:53:01, and a lot less happy.

Stray Obs and Sobs

  1. rtbday2sy

    Everyone who ran day 2 has this photo.

    I don’t remember anything about day 1, I was way too anxious. This reminds me of a story about my dad running the Montreal Marathon, but that’s for another time. Suffice it to say, running anything over 12km gives me stomach cramps. And combined with anxiety, it’s a real panic-inducer. Like I said, I don’t remember anything from day 1. Except…

  2. Gu comes in jelly format (for my American readers think gummi bears). Mind=blown. Thanks to the person who gave me two for the trail at the Cavern before we started. She didn’t want to trade for my Gu gels for some reason.
  3. Epsom salts. And yoga.
  4. Day 2 was cooler and great for running. It was fast, lots of down hill. Scenic. Overcast.
  5. I still haven’t been able to use my UD Ultra Jacket, despite threatening weather, and even more threatening race organizers.
  6. Nothing was so hectic that I despaired of ever seeing civilization again. Well-groomed, runnable trails, lots of people. I was never alone, and I realized this was a real “thing” for me coming out of Buster Bunny.
  7. I dislike being called a “runtheberger” because of a Cosby Show episode wherein women are referred to as “burgers”. Different root word (berg=mountain), I know, but as Denise said: “it’s a piece of meat!”
  8. OMG- pain-free! Holy shit I’m tired, but nothing hurts! (Thank you MR and Milyn!)
  9. Everything seems a lot smaller now (see my next blog).
  10. Lots of people commented that I “looked great” on Monday. It was probably dehydration. But still.

rtbd1shyUltimately, and I think this is pretty important and was my take-home feeling, Run the Berg is a real team effort on the part of the organizers and there was a cast of 1000’s. From the teenager who registered me on Friday, to the kid who scanned my barcode at the finish line, to the kid who handed me my trophy rock, I felt this was a family effort. I also really appreciated everyone out on the trail guiding me home: the trail markings (though I honestly don’t remember a lot of it), the marshals giving friendly, reassuring directions, and the snack table staff and random fans waving us on- this couldn’t have been done without a team of extras doing lots of the heavy lifting behind the scenes. Thank you! I hate trail running a lot less because of your concerted efforts.

And a final comment on my training rock. My family and friends have used this tool on the Appalachian Trail, it’s a special rock that you put in your pack and train with all year long until it’s time for Run the Berg 2017, then you take it out and, as if by magic, you run faster. So yes, I’m planning on going back to the Berg for another run in 2017 to see if I can improve on my time.

Buster Bunny Bush Hike (Stage Race 10km x 2)

I had been planning for the Buster Bunny since January. In fact, I registered twice: once in late January and once in late April, because I was so excited to do my first stage race. 2016 has been rough with work and getting my MSc, and I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend of trail running, and drinking with trail running friends. I was wary of that nasty knee/ITB thing that cropped up during Forest Run and my training had fallen off a cliff due to sitting in classes, and exams, and being under a landslide of work, but I was looking forward to the challenge of two days of running and generally just being outdoors.

So on a Friday I drove 3 hours to Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga to stay at the Protea Hotel Malaga (no I’m not linking to it, it sucked- see below). Upon arrival I rolled out my yoga mat and had a wonderful practice, working out the kinks from the long drive. Needing dinner, I phoned room service and was told that there was only buffet. I told them that they should then put some vegetarian pasta from that buffet on a plate and bring it to my room, and within 20 minutes I had what I wanted.

It was so nice to wake up at a reasonable hour on race morning and the weather looked fantastic! I prepared my instant flavored oatmeal (my race-day standard) in a teacup in my room along with a cup of coffee. I put on my race outfit and headed down to the start. The first stage was 12km and we were reminded to be very careful of our footing out on the trail. And then we were off. About 1.5km later my knee started hurting, but it was fine- we were on a nice gravel road headed into the hills around Waterval Boven. And then at about 4km we started climbing, but it was fine, my knee doesn’t hurt that much when I’m climbing. This is the terrain we were moving through during the first half. Don’t worry if you can’t see any discernible trail- there wasn’t one, just orange tape.

IMG_0736  IMG_0737

Somewhere during the shaded kilometer (below) I made a video (which I shared with my family on What’sApp) that showed me laughing maniacally about how far I had to go yet. I have another video later telling my phone that I had finally reached the top (6.63km in) and 2:09 into the race. And then I started heading down, in agony because my ITB had had enough of bushwhacking through tussock grass and cobble-rock. The second half of the race (5km), which should have been pretty easy as it was downhill, took almost three hours.

BBTH

I’ve indicated a few memories on the profile for reference:

  1. It’s getting a bit warm, I should get down of this mountain, it’s only 5km- so about an hour.
  2. That’s where I puked oatmeal and rush bar. And bile. And I had a sit down.
  3. Maybe a helicopter could land here. Yay, immediate evac!
  4. It’s only 3 more kms- so about an hour.
  5. Is there was a shorter way off this thrice blasted mountain?
  6. I need to get off this fucking mountain.
  7. Ah, the ignominy of sliding down the side of a mountain on my ass grabbing at thorn bush to slow my descent.

For comparison, here are two pictures, my feet after Adventure Lisa on the left (16km, 3:37:00) and my feet after Busted Bunny on the right (12km,  4:53:01), which one would you rather see after a race?

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16 km

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12 km

With my busy schedule I haven’t been able to train. And honestly, I’m a new 8-15km runner who’s really just looking for a weekend getaway and some fun trail running and drinking with friends. I am woefully out of shape for the My Road Less Traveled/Bunny Events. So I’m opting out of future Rabbit Runs. I didn’t finish the staged race (8km of easy running on the 2nd day) and I didn’t collect my trophy.  And unfortunately, I also had to pull out of Num-Num due to it being in the the middle of Biostatistics III and an ITB issue that I can’t really afford to get therapy for. So that’s my sad, sad story of my last Rabbit Run for this year.

But I’m still signed up for Run the Berg (and I finally found accomodation), so I’ll be blogging that race in October!

Addendum: Just to add re: Protea Malaga, because it’s unfair to say something sucked and not justify it. Here’s why I think so (and it has nothing to do with the event itself):

  1. I authorized R1100 to be charged to my credit card to reserve the room. When I checked out they had charged R2700 to my card with no justification for the expenses or who did it. That reeks of fraud. They were able to revers the charge at check out.
  2. I think if you’re going to pull people to a fairly remote location, you need to have food available during reasonable times. Shutting down room service because there is a buffet isn’t fair to those who aren’t part of whatever is being hosted that weekend. And telling me to go to reception to get a bag of chips for R35 to tide me over until dinner is just rude (remember I had puked up my breakfast and slept through lunch).
  3. It took 30 minutes (and 2-3 reminders) for the waiter to get a glass of wine for me at the bar, saying “there was a queue”. There shouldn’t be a queue for a waiter.
  4. The massage therapist told me they never get tips that are added onto the bill at the time of check out. Admittedly, it could be because they’re not fabulous massage therapists, or perhaps someone else pockets that tip.

Adventure Lisa Forest Run (16km)

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Look, LOOK!

A quick blurb about the Adventure Lisa Forest Run that I ran on 21 May in and around the Vredefort Dome near Parys. I was looking for a race that I could ghost- just disappear for the day, rock up, run, and leave. Sixteen kilometers is more than I’ve ever run, but I’ve known Lisa for years and I had heard that the route would be smart and accessible for someone with my limited experience. I figured if she can get through one of my Saturday morning Ashtanga classes, I can get through her ‘short course’ forest run. And I needed to see if I could actually go for 16km with Run the Berg appearing on the horizon in October.

And for the most part the run was amazing: I had the right shoes, the right pack, the right food, the right amount of water. The terrain was varied, from gravel road to jeep track to forest single track, to picking through some rough and rocky steep terrain. But at around 3-5km I started to get a nagging pain in my knee. A new pain that didn’t get better as I warmed up to the run, just a nagging freezing/locking sensation. Several times I stopped to stretch- hip openers, quad lengtheners, nothing worked. So I walked. I walked through sections I could have run, I walked through sections I wanted to run. I walked up that scorpion hill and when I started down the other side I had the most exquisite pain in my knee that several times took my breath away. And then I walk-jogged, or rather walk-slogged to the finish. Official time: 3:37:00, 41st place (yes, at the back of the pack). And honestly, despite my frustration at having to walk when I had the energy to run, I’m not too sad with that time for my first 16km. I was more just angry with a new ‘injury’ that I was going to have to deal with in my training for my next stage race (see Buster Bunny post next).

forestrun

Lisa runs an awesome race! It was the little details in the organisation that really counted, the personalized bib, the contour map (in a baggie, with extra pins!), the trail fairies along the way offering lots of encouragement, the regular water stations with great snacks, and the veggie burger option at the end of the trail (this was very much appreciated)! And above all, the trail was runnable and enjoyable. I wasn’t so shattered when I got to the Trig Beacon (where there was a ukulele player serenading the runners) that I couldn’t enjoy the walk/run and the terrain I was moving through. I will definitely be back for another forest run! Adventure-Lisa- you ROCK!

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Fresh-faced at Trig Beacon (insert ukulele music).

 

Southern Trails 10km Klipsriviersberg Race report

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View of the hill from around point 2 (see below).

My last Southern Trails run was 3 May, when I ran a 4.1km in 32:25 and placed 3rd woman (after a gym bunny and 12-year-old), and I remember it being frigid. Also, my last name got shuffled in the results list and I didn’t get my ribbon. But I met Donald, who was getting into shape via trail running just like me, and let me beat him; after everyone in the lead figured out we were running the course on the opposite direction. So I wasn’t expecting that much from this 10km run. *Update: I reviewed the Southern Trails website today and the 3 May results have been updated and my full name, time and place are correct.

The Klipsriviersberg area is rocky, technical, and undulating, but still very runnable. Charles, from Southern Trails, has redone all the routes and added a 20km to boot. The trails were very well marked and really stunning technically and also the terrain plus the scenery were awesome. I’m pretty sure my ass is going to be very sore for the next few days. And I’m guessing my quads will start aching sometime tomorrow afternoon. After the Rock Rabbit Run last weekend I thought I had seen my most challenging trail, but this one is now on my top 5 list (we will never speak of the Beast again).

On Saturday, I read on Facebook that my cousins ran the Sleepy Hollow 10km, Katie (triathlete) had a time of 55:31 and Christy (returning to fitness after her first pregnancy) came in at 1:08:15. Both admirable times. I was jealous- I takes me 1:04 at top speed to run an 8km here! And they measure everything in miles! And their miles were 10 minutes, and my kilometers take 10 minutes. My time for this race was 1:52:28; the Headless Horseman would have taken my head for sure! However, I couldn’t find a race profile for the Sleepy Hollow 10km on the website…and here’s the Klipsriviersberg 10km:

Klips18Oct

Seriously, my jaw dropped when I downloaded that profile to Strava. And I think I swore. And I started to feel less bad about being slow. We’re currently experiencing a heat wave here in Joburg, and any race that starts after 7am is destined to be a sweaty one, with a chance of possible sunburn. So here’s what I was experiencing at each of the numbered points:

  1. It’s going to be a warm day today.
  2. This is kind of steeper than I thought would be. Is that sweat dripping off my face?
  3. That headwind feels great!
  4. I think I’m at the top. There’s supposed to be a view of the Joburg skyline somewhere, but it’s too hot to stay up here and look for it.
  5. It’s even hot in the trees! And if I trip and fall I’ll be a puddle by the time help arrives. And probably both my arms will be broken. And my face.
  6. Geez, it’s even hot by the river! When does this get easy?
  7. I need to finish before I spontaneously combust.
viewfromtop

Where’s the view of the Joburg skyline I was promised? View from point 4.

Highs

Significantly more people were there than for the May races. It’s great to see trail running growing! Some sections of the trail I’d run before, so there was some familiarity. But it was definitely challenging, and fun! In total, it was 286m of climbing. Coupled with the 267m climbing for the Rock Rabbit Run last weekend that should mean I don’t have to do a Tabata/HIIT session this week! In truth, I may not be able to do a HIIT session this week. It was well organized and well run- but I’m going to hold back on full stars until I see that my first and last name are correct and I have an official time. *Update: Results were posted to the Facebook page this morning for all 3 races. I was 83rd of 116. Official time as above- Awesome!

Lows

It may have started off quite brisk in the morning, but it became quite warm quite quickly. Certainly no one is in control of the weather, but I’m now not averse to very early starts in summer. Like I’m ok with 6am now. And the earlier we start the sooner I’m home to catch up on my beauty rest. Also, I may have lived on a co-ed floor in college, but non-stinky, single-sex bathrooms are very important.

Mindful Running

Every time I looked at my watch to figure out how many kms I had left, I tripped over something. Considering that more deaths were attributed to selfies than shark attacks in the last year, I should be more mindful.

It’s great to look back at my first year of trail running and see how far I’ve come, and see how far others that I run with on the weekends have come as well. I now see lots of familiar faces at the start line, and when I look like I’m about to pass out on a uphill these, these familiar faces always ask me if I’m ok. Trail running is a positive, affirming community to be a part of.

Rock Rabbit Run Race Report (short course)

RabbitTrailSeries2015

On Sunday I completed the Rabbit Trail Series, run by My Road Less Traveled. My first MRLT race was actually the Vivobarefoot run on 1 March, which was also my first 8km. I loved it so much I continued and completed all four Rabbit Runs- they proved to be the best Sunday runs of this year, and really got me motivated and interested in trail running. The trails were challenging, but the community encouraging, and I’m now sold on trail running. I didn’t place for the series, but I now have a unique set of trophies, and I experienced some great territory (mostly) within Gauteng. Ultimately, the series, for me, went like this:

Date Race Distance Time Pace
10-May-15 Nogwaja Ezemvelo 11.2 1:29:10 7:56
19-Jul-15 Captain Carrot 7.2 1:08:35 9:33
23-Aug-15 Scrub Hare 8.6 1:26:11 9:57
11-Oct-15 Rock Rabbit Run 9.5 1:44:33 10:57

As you can see, I’ve slowed down significantly this year. Winter was definitely a low point for me, and I’ve also had a troublesome hip, which I’m now sorting out with my favorite physio (yoga, unfortunately, sometimes makes it worse). Regardless of my times, I feel I’ve accomplished something, and I’ll be back next year. I like that the Rabbit Trail Series is still small, and intimate, and I’ve made running friends this year. By comparison, I found the Spur Trail Series to be too big, and though it ran like clockwork, it also felt a bit soulless, and the trails weren’t as interesting. So I’ll be back chasing rabbits again next year.

RockRabbitProfile

Highs

  1. That hill. It turned out to be only 70m, but seriously, it was straight up. Ok, only a 27% grade.
  2. That other hill. You might have missed it, but check your profile, another 60m at a 23% grade.
  3. OMG the prizes! I won another bottle of wine for being the tallest female runner (though I think some taller runners already had enough prizes so let me have it). And running friends the Merediths won a Balloon Safari!
  4. Also the views! Stunning vistas from the top (wherever that was), though not much time to savour as one has to keep moving before the sun gets super hot.
  5. And I like technical trail. And the people on the trail are always supportive, and funny. And I have started wearing my skirt, which is cooler.
  6. Run Trail posted pictures the same day, awesome! And Racetime results were also available next day.
DSmithRRR

Special thanks to Darren Smith for this photo of me. We’ve never actually met, but obviously we’ve crossed paths. This is before that hill- the morning light is beautiful!

Lows- My Dark Night of the Soul (abridged)

Normally, I like to review the race profile during the week before the race, over and over again, so I can build up enough nervous energy to get me through the 8, no wait- 9.77 kms. Sadly, I only got to see the profile 10 minutes before the race start, which didn’t allow enough time to create the appropriate amount of anxiety for that hill. Also, between 6.5-8.5 kms my darker, surlier self reared it’s ugly head and reminded me that I hate running. It’s hot, and exhausting. What’s the point? And it’s dirty. Like, even my teeth were caked with dirt. And you have to like, train. Seriously, I am the laziest person on the planet. Why would I run trail? I was running so slowly that bugs were flying faster than I was, which was annoying. I should probably train more.

Mindful Running

Again, technical trail. I love it, but I’m also realizing that I need to be fit and whole. My yoga training keeps me balanced when dropping down hills, but this hip injury, I think, may be preventing me from accessing my mobilizers (gluteus maximus) making climbing tiring, and in the end, painful.

Next weekend, another race closer to home.

Rhino Run Race Report (10km)

rr-gautengI was very excited for the Rhino Run, my first charity run, and my second ‘official’ 10km. I entered (R160), I ordered a t-shirt (R200), and I even threw in R50 extra because rhinos are so adorable! Then Z ended up back at the vet for the weekend (R1000+) and I had to kennel Kinga (R130), and I took the N1 toll road (R80), twice (R120). So together it made it an expensive weekend. But it was worth it! The Rhino Run is a globally coordinated event taking place in 7 different locations (including Mississippi and Hong Kong) around the globe on 20 September. Funds go to other rhino conservation organisations and to help purchase supplies and build rhino ambulances. In Gauteng, there were a total of ~340 runners in all 3 distances (15km, 10km and 5km). They’re still tallying results to determine how much was raised this year.

When I signed up for the Rhino Run I didn’t know where the trail run would take place. I was horrified to find out it would be at Hedianga Farm, the same location and trail as The Beast. But I told myself it was for a good cause, and I was more mentally prepared, and I would be doing the 10km, so everything would be fine!

thathill

Hedianga Farm 10km profile. Yes, that is 4km of uphill at the end!

Highs

This event was really well-organized, and I’m appreciating that more as I run more trail races. For example: Racetime posted results the next morning, which was a nice change from last weekend’s race. I registered, got my goodie bag and my t-shirt (which fit perfectly), and all the distances started on time. Thankfully, the weather was overcast as the 10km started at 9:10am and it would have been blistering if the sun had been out. Between kms 4-8 I felt great, I was moving well, the scenery was beautiful and I was rethinking my negative attitude towards Hedianga Farm. There was jasmine blooming, succulents growing, and the breeze was brisk and cool. The terrain was very rocky and technical, and I was often slowing down to hike through rocky outcrops and ditches. All in all it was a great morning out, until…

Lows

LosingRhino

11 of my friends on Facebook liked this photo of me coming in last. Thanks guys! And thank you Nicky M. for taking the pic!

That hill. That terrible, 2km hill at the very end that goes up and up, forever. Like a stairway to hell. Every time you get to a bend in the trail you think it’s over, but it just keeps going. I remembered it distinctly from the 5km in February, I knew it was going to be bad, but it didn’t matter. Essentially, at 8km, I checked out and resigned myself to walking. And so: I came in last. Yep- you read that right: last finisher on the 10km (official time: 1:54:45). 87th of 87. To be fair, there were 3 people who didn’t finish, but it could have been because they injured themselves, or got lost, or gave up, or maybe they died. It was a really tough run (for me anyway).

Mindful Running

I’m new to trail running, so I would rate this trail as ‘technical’, meaning that if I’m not paying very close attention to where my feet are going I’m going to fall bloody and break something. In fact, there was someone who came off the trail with a sprained ankle. And there were others bleeding at the finish. Trail runs require you to have your head in the game. And for all my “I’m tired of being slow” talk, I was very slow on this race. In fact, I was 1min/km slower on this run than on the 5km in February. Being mindful, to me, means being conscious of my surroundings and adjusting my behavior and attitude to fit. I don’t regret taking my time on this race, and I did enjoy my almost 2-hour hike.

Regardless of my placement, I’m excited about up-ing my game and running the middle distances (8-15kms). There are fewer under-12s, and fewer chatty-Cathys. At this point, I’d rather be in the bottom half of these distances than in the top half of a 5km (and getting beaten by 12-year-olds). I’ve got my watch, my hydration system (including a whistle), and I’ve got time- so why not enjoy a morning of calorie burning and an ice cold brew afterwards? And there’s plenty of time to get my endurance and speed up before my next race on 11 Oct- the 8km Rock Rabbit Run with MRLT.

Spring Break Trail Run Race Report (10km)

I failed to write a race report of the Scrub Hare race I ran on 23 August (#3 of the Rabbit Trail Series from MRLT). It was a nice gentle-ish, scenic trail with some great views, but I was feeling off and didn’t run very well and most of all I felt soooooo sloooooow. My time proved it: 1:26:10 for an 8.6km, and 103rd out of 124 runners. And when scanning the pics I discovered quite possibly the worst picture of me ever taken- I look like I’m 80! To be fair, I’ve had bad insomnia for the last few months, have been stressed at work, and haven’t been training as much as I’d like to be. It was a good course overall, I just wish I had been more in the game and able to enjoy it. The great thing is that since that race I’ve gotten my butt back in gear and my mantra is now “I’m tired of being slow.” With the season changing to spring, it’s lighter, warmer, and I’m getting a bit more sleep. So I’m getting back into my training groove.

Highs

This past Sunday I ran my first official 10km- the Spring Break Trail Run. “Official 10km” means I signed up for a 10km, not I signed up for an 8km and it ended up being a 10km. The weather was perfect and the scenery was beautiful- proteas everywhere. And it makes a huge difference when there’s a little humidity in the air. All the big climbs were early on, and the last few kms was mostly flat and easy, which by that point I sincerely appreciated. My instinct that there are fewer children playing the hurry-up-and-wait game on the longer distances proved true. The trail ended up being 11.8km, but I finished the first 10km only 6 minutes over my target. My official time was 1:44:38 but I don’t know my place in the ~94 runners. It was a well-organized event with a small field, and close to Johannesburg- so I was back home before noon to sleep the rest of the day away. I will definitely be back again next year!

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My garmin clocked 207m of elevation gain.

Lows

Why can’t a 10km just be a 10km? Why does it always have to be more? I am always paranoid that I’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up on the 20km route, and that I will end up running for 4 hours rather than just 1.5+. Snaking through single track/jeep track and seeing other runners going in different directions through the trees contributes to my anxiety. Also, the timekeeping was a major SNAFU, I wasn’t even listed so I submitted my garmin results, so I don’t know where I placed overall or in my age group.

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Like I said, beautiful scenery.

Next weekend is the Rhino Run, and since I ran 11.8km this past weekend I think I’ll be able to take on a(nother) 12km this weekend. This is a new phase of my running- in the first half of this year I was mainly running 5-6km events with 8km at a stretch. Now I’m seeking out the middle distances, though I still only train running 5km around the botanical gardens. It’s interesting to be with a new group of runners, though some of them have also graduated from 5km to 10km over the winter- I’m actually starting to recognize people! Rhino Run race report coming next week and also hopefully some product reviews.

Captain Carrot Race Report (short course)

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Photo by Alka.

I’ve been looking forward to the Captain Carrot Trail Race (#2 in the Rabbit Trail Series from My Road Less Travelled) since the Nogwaga run at Ezemvelo back on 10 May. Remember the 8km that magically became a 11km? This one was a trail run that turned into a bush-whacking session (that’s bundu-bashing to you ZAers). There is never a dull moment on the Rabbit Trail Series. I think Nina creates good trails that have a variety of terrain and are challenging without being soul-destroying (e.g. Spur Winter Series #4 Leeuwenkloof). In addition, the event was well organized and had a more intimate, friendly feel than the races I’ve been to recently.

Highs

My Garmin measured the short course at 7.1kms and 212m of climbing. At about 4.5km, after the hike up to the highest point on the short course (1609m), we were running through thick bush single file and I started laughing. I started having flashbacks to high-school x-c ski season when, bored with training, a friend and I would set off into the woods, bush-whacking on cross-country skis. We ended up in gullies, streams, tripped up, falling down, and generally just exploring the great outdoors, it was wonderful! And so was this course.

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Short course profile available at myroadlesstravelled.co.za.

I’m always relieved when the toughest part of the trail is over during the first half, allowing the rest of the run to be relatively easy. But never doubt, this was a truly technical trail, and more fun for the scrabbling, bundu-bashing, getting lost, finding the way, and eventually a long tar downhill back to the finish. Also, spot prize of a bottle of Gentle Giant red wine makes me a winner, no matter where I place. Nina/MRLT always has great prizes, including a balloon safari (which I didn’t win, but there’s always the next race).

Lows

I think it was around 5oC when we arrived in Ingwe Bush Lodge around 7:10am- so brrrrrrr. I wanted to wear cropped tights because the weather has been warmer once the sun is up; this was not a good choice. The scrub was dense and a lot of all of the trail was ungroomed. It made it a bit of a challenge to follow the marking tape, and I ended up off trail, but not critically, a few times (Strava fly-bys shows the long course was a lot worse). My brush-cut shins were relatively minor, but those wearing shorts had it much worse, pretty much everyone had a cut somewhere by the time they finished. Those worst affected (both were on the long course) received a small medical kit during spot-prize giving. My long-sleeved top, which I had tied around by waist, got caught on thorn bushes more than once, and I even fell, tripped around the ankle by what I think was barbed-wire. But my Tabata training/mountain climbers saved me! I was a little sad that the course wasn’t a full 8km, since I have been training for it, but I’m thankful that on a course this challenging it was a bit shorter.

I was so busy avoiding the giant rocks that someone had left in the game trail that I never did see any game en route. Though hazy, the views were stunning, but I was too focused on my feet to get a good look. However, after finishing the run and waiting for friends to finish, we finally got our game sighting. Just through the bush, a herd of giraffe were seen thundering across the field below us. It was totally awesome!

And just a quick note coming out of the Spur Trail Series, vegetarian options next to the boerewors is always welcome.

Results

Since the Nogwaja/Ezemvelo Run this series has increased in popularity. There were 157 running the long distance and 138 on the short distance. By comparison, the Nogwaja run had 67 in the short distance and 41 in the long distance.

  • Long course (18.6km) Male: Eddie Sesipi, 01:49:10. Female: Nicky Booyens, 01:50:40.
  • Short course (7.1km) Male: Henco Erasmus, 00:40:04. Female: Elzani Smith, 00:47:25.
  • Me: My official result was 1:08:35, 34th female and 6th female veteran. I think I was 79th overall, but I never can tell by the way racetime.co.za lists the results.

Mindful Running

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Mindful running includes mindful post-race drinking.

I really had to stay focused on this run. There weren’t a lot of wide open spaces or even open track, and I was either looking down at where my feet were going or ducking and dodging to avoid low-hanging branches. I’ve been meditating more over the past few weeks as part of my training and I do believe it created a bit of mental steadiness, allowing any frustrations at getting lost or having to dodge rocks and branches easier to cope with.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next in the series, the Scrub Hare Run on 23 August.