goal setting

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:

exxgend

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:

poiss_rtb

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

IMG_0749

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)

IMG_0683

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!

IMG_0688

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

 

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!

sprintbreakprofile

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.

SpringBreakRun

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.

Red Wine Season

Every Sunday for the past two weeks Webyogi and I have woken up (albeit a little later than usual), put on our running clothes, and competed in a Winter Spur Trail Series event. Every Sunday when I pick up Webyogi we agree that we were insane to have signed up for these races at all, what were we thinking, and we’d really rather be gaming and drinking red wine, both in large quantities. Because winter.

redwine

Sweet, sweet nectar!

For those of you who think South Africa experiences a perpetual summer (because it is on the continent of Africa?), think again. It hovers around 0oC at night in the highveld, and is only getting up to almost 10oC by the time we hit the trail running on a Sunday. (For those of you in America that’s 32oF at night and into the mid-40s during the day.) To add to that, June, July and August might get one day of rain each. Essentially, it’s hat and mitten weather these days. So it is difficult to stand in your running tights and short sleeves waiting for your batch to leave, we all jockey for a patch of sun in the line up.

To compensate, South Africa makes the best red wine on the planet, which is what I’ve been doing lately- compensating. In large quantities. And I feel pretty good about it because I have spent the last six months getting off my butt and running. So for these three frigid months, I’m going to enjoy my winter drink and not worry about where I’m placing these days in the series.

And by the way, the Spur Trail Series is very well organized and I’m loving the new terrain we’re running through every Sunday. So I’ll overlook the fact (for now) that Spur is a meat-based semi-fast food chain with few vegetarian options. I will however suggest/beg that they make their soya burger available at these events along with the beef burgers they’re serving up because when I finish running I am super hungry but the smell of charred meat really puts me off.

Two more trail events and I’m done with this series. I’m curious to see where I place as they are giving out prizes to the veterans for a change, but it doesn’t make me want to put down the wine glass at all.

Winter Running

Winter doesn’t officially start here until 21 June, but it’s been pretty frigid for the past few weeks. To keep myself active during the cold months I signed up for the Spur Winter Trail Series, 4 trail runs on consecutive Sundays starting 14 June. So I know I’ll be running once a week in June at least. The cool thing about this series is that you have to run 3 out of 4 of the races (long or short course), they drop your slowest time and average the 3 remaining times and then place you in your age group, which does give someone who is more tenacious than speedy (like me) a chance.

As is my habit, when the cold sets in and the mornings are dark my yoga practice tends to die off. I just can’t face a cold, hard mat in the pre-dawn chill. However, I’ve noticed that the more I run, the more I really need to get on my mat and work out the odd kinks and tensions that running brings. Tight hamstrings, tight hips and hip flexors, an aching lower back not only from running, but also sitting long hours at work trying to finish time-sensitive projects. I need a yoga practice to keep my body happy. So every Monday I make the effort, even if I don’t make it to the mat again for another week.

So before I start blogging about the Trail Series, here’s an overview of all the races I’ve run this year:

Date Race Distance Garmin Time Avg min/km
18-Jan-15 Biogen Resolution Run 5.9 52:56:00 8:52
25-Jan-15 Leafy Greens 5.3 42:22:00 7:53
22-Feb-15 Hedianga Beast 4.9 45:27:00 9:13
01-Mar-15 Vivobarefoot Nature’s Way 8.5 1:04:40 7:34
12-Mar-15 Merrell Night Run 5 39:39:00 7:51
14-Mar-15 Merrell Day Run 5.4 1:09:14 12:38
19-Apr-15 Rosemary Hill 6.4 45:42:00 7:06
05-May-15 Klipriviersberg 4.1 32:25:00 7:50
10-May-15 Nogwaja Trail Run 11.2 1:29:10 7:56
17-May-15 Chase the Sun 6.6 54:25:00 8:12
chasethesun

Brrrrrrr

I’ve averaged about 2 races/month, even over the time I was sick in March/April. I hit my goal of running a sub-35 minute 5km during the Rosemary Hill Run (34:44), and I managed a 10+km long before I had planned to do one. Note that the first run (Biogen) and the most recent run (Chase the Sun) were almost the same course- so in 5 months I’ve managed to drop my average min/km by 40 seconds, on that course anyway.

More blogs from me coming soon over the month of June. The first Spur Run today was a really great trail, challenging, but not agonizing. I don’t think I’ll be able to report the same next Sunday.

Surprise, 11km!

nogwajatrophy

Photo courtesy of Alka.

I had a little too much to drink tonight and “accidentally” signed up for another trail race this coming weekend. So far, I’ve raced 3 weekends out of the last 4; so this will be 4 out of 5 of the last weekends that I’ve woken up at the crack of sparrows. But honestly, I’m still high and burning lots of calories from the 11km I did on Sunday. Yes 11km, advertised as an 8-10km. But it was gorgeous!

I decided a few weeks ago to take my first vacation in 2 years and spend one night at Ezemvelo ahead of the Arnold Chatz Nogwaja Run, orchestrated by myroadlesstravelled.co.za. It was so worth it, as I could just meander down to the start of the 8km, no, make that 11km run, on Sunday morning. Apparently the extra kms were added for Mother’s Day. I wanted to protest (loudly) that my mother was not, in fact, in country to run those extra kms for me. But I set my GPS watch and started off with the rest of the (somewhat surprised) runners. Note: The 20 km was actually a 25km, so I shouldn’t complain.

nogwaja

A little less chubby than in January.

Honestly, the scenery was so stunning that I didn’t notice how far I’d run until about 9kms when I searched the horizon for the finish and saw it, rightfully, another 2km away. The difference between 8km and 11km is less than 30%, but I train in the 5-6 km range, which makes an 11km greater than 50% more I usually run. (Can anyone spot the data manager?) A more experienced trail runner than myself remarked that the race brief did say 8-10km, and this is a trail run and so we must be prepared for anything. In addition, I shouldn’t really complain, I paid R90 for an 8km race and got 11km, so- a bargain!?!

So now I’ve run my first 10km (~1:17), which is a major achievement considering I had only set my sights on shorter distances. Overall I was 38th of 67, 21st female, and 7th veteran (official time was 1:28:59). I’m really proud of myself and feel I’ve definitely, finally recovered from my sinusitis and upper respiratory tract infection from March. I’m also truly amazed at what the body can do; I never considered dropping out. My body pulled through, and my mind kept up, and an Epsom salt bath took care of the rest.

Maybe it’s just endorphins, but I’m totally looking forward to Rabbit #2 (Captain Carrot) on 16 July also coordinated by myroadlesstravelled.co.za. Nina has a good sense of what constitutes a beginner trail run, one that still includes challenges so we can level up to the 20km (25km?) runs eventually. Not that I’m considering a 20km run in the future. The scenery was simply stunning, it was a true joy to run through the Ezemvelo reserve, bokkies everywhere! Pics, including me winning spot prizes at the end, can be found here. Definitely worth a look-see (more pics to follow on Wednesday, allegedly).

So this Sunday, an “easy” 6km, the Illumin8 Techniblock Chase the Sun Trail Run, right back where I started in January.

BenAnnaFargo

Fargo?

I must mention now, under other things that make me happy, my brother Ben has completed his goal of running 50 marathons in 50 states before he’s 50 (+1 in DC, making it a 51 marathon total). He ran the final North Dakota marathon this past weekend. I’m not sure how many years he’s been doing this, but he’s only 41, so finished well ahead of his goal. Definitely inspiring. What could possibly be next? Trail running in Africa perhaps?

On the trail again

rosemaryhill

Note it does not specify how far I ran, I could have done the 21km.

After a few weeks of feeling like hell, I’ve finally run another race, the Rosemary Hill 6km. I can’t say it was a beautiful Gauteng autumn day, but it was a good day for running- overcast and cool. The course was flat and I managed to run the whole way, despite my breathing starting to rasp just like it did during the last races I ran in March. I placed 64th woman, 10th female veteran, and 127th overall, still in the top ~50%, time: 45:38. And I managed to hit my goal of a sub-35min 5km. Hooray!

My previous two races, which I haven’t yet blogged about because I’ve been so under-the-weather (upper respiratory tract infection + sinusitis), were the 5km Merrell Autumn Night Run (12 March) and the 6km Merrell Autumn Run (14 March). Yes, I’ve been sick for that long.

mostly dead

Hallucinating about funny things. Like people taking my picture 1km from the finish of a hellish trail run.

The Night Run was a great experience; it felt amazing being out at night when the air is fresh. I wrote a short blog about the experience here. But I should have guessed by my time (38:36, 74th of 140) that something was up. By Saturday (which was a beautiful Gauteng autumn day, by the way), I was definitely feeling off. My breathing was a problem within the first 2kms, and as I headed up the incline into the 3rd km (you really need to check out the profile on Strava to believe it) I think I was starting to hallucinate because I saw all these tiny little people hiking up a giant rock ahead of me. These tiny people were going very, very slowly and as I looked at my watch I felt I had entered a time-warp where 1km had taken me 20 minutes. I actually stopped for water at the top; and seriously considered bailing. But these races were a birthday present from the Mindful Runner, I couldn’t give up. My arms felt like lead, I couldn’t feel my legs at all, and everything was hazy. (This could have actually been true because Johannesburg can get very hazy, and you could see the whole city from where I was running.) I finished 5.5kms in 1:08:15 (170th of 225) and was booked off sick for the next two days.

But I’m back up and running (and now cycling and circuit training), and I’m going to have lots more to blog about because I’ve entered two trail series events to keep me active this winter: The Rabbit Trail Series starting 10 May and the Spur Trail Series starting 14 June. I’m very excited to have some events to look forward to as winter is when my yoga practice tends to dwindle in the dark hours of the mornings.