My Road Less Travelled

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.

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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.
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Nogwaja Race Report (13km)

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All views are totally worth it!

This is what has happened since my last blog post:

  • Work
  • Master’s degree in Biostats and Epidemiology orientation week
  • MSc Intro to Biostats/Computing week
  • Back at work + get sick
  • MSc Epidemiology week + sinusitis + GI issues + sister visit
  • Missed the Diamond Dash + MSc Biostatististics week
  • Work like crazy + try to finish biostats assignment
  • Missed the Drakensburg Northern Trail run + pack for move
  • Move house + Easter Holidays
  • Work and study Epi

So my racing season only started this past Sunday with the absolutely stunning MRLT Nogwaja 13(actually 11)km. Because of the previous 2 months of illness and barely any training I was apprehensive, especially when I saw the profile:

RUSTIG13KM-115631

Just in case you can’t quite make it out, that’s a 545m elevation gain happening in the first 5km of the race. Which is why I waffled several times last week about swapping to the 5km. But in the end I decided to view it as a “hike” rather than a “run”, and anyway it couldn’t possibly take more than 3 hours. I’ll just meander along at my own pace and have a nice cold beer at the finish line to celebrate. But it was not to be.

scenic route

“Scenic Route”

Because the Rustig Hiking Trail climb was so narrow and so treacherous I moved along at the same clip as pretty much everyone else, standing in line at fence stiles, zig-zagging up and down cliff faces, climbing up weathered ladders, down ravines and ditches, through trees and branches, and across rocky cobbled grassland. And listening to the chatter of everyone on the trail the whole way; it was one of the most social trail runs I’ve ever done. There were tons of photo ops, and the views were so stunning that you occasionally just had to stop and take it all in (though after about 4km I was too tired to take any more pictures). During the last several kilometers everyone’s legs were so shattered that we hobbled and walked, and occasionally jogged/loped to the finish line, which gave plenty of opportunity to joke with each other about how fun it will be not be able to walk the next day (I still can’t walk well and it’s Tuesday). The total distance ended up being almost 11km, which is lucky because my legs would not have made it another 2km. I finished in 2:47:40 and was the 73rd woman, ~151st overall of 173. There were about 20+ veteran women ahead of me and one of those vets placed 1st: Elizabeth Dlhiwayo with a time of 1:36:23. The first male on the 13km was Ryan Mathaba coming in at 1:15:18.

I stumbled twice, rolled my ankle, slid down a hill on a corner, and had more people looking up my running skirt than I’d like, but I am so grateful I didn’t downgrade to the 5km!

As always, Nina organizes a good trail run and MRLT is expanding from the usual 2 distances to 3 (a 5, 13 and 21km). She makes sure the trail is super challenging, but super rewarding! Registration went smoothly (we even got bracelets with the contact number on them in case we fell into a rabbit hole), we started on time, and the trail was well marked. I only missed 2 turns because I had to be so careful about where my feet were going. There was one water station early on, but I think the 2nd water station got lost in the bush somewhere, or maybe I missed it in the tall grass. I was extremely grateful that Active Sports Therapy was there because I got a lovely leg massage after prize giving was over. I’m so glad no one could hear me crying.

bridge

Of course it’s safe!

I would also encourage everyone to try an MRLT event this year because Mindful Runner is giving away certificates for free Trail Clinics (which I have done and highly recommend) and one certificate for Three Months of Personal Training at each one of the races. And Ekam Yoga (that’s me!) be giving away a free month of Yoga for Runners classes to someone in each of the distances for each race this year- so be there to win! The next one is the Buster Bunny Boven Stage Race, which I am really looking forward to.

See you all on the trails!

 

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.

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

winwine

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.