The year Annie grew old

It felt like she grew old overnight. One day she was running around outside chasing birds, the next day she needed help getting onto the couch. An adrenalectomy to remove a tumor which was growing on one of her adrenal glands and suddenly we were told that “12 years is a good age for dogs like her”. Since January, my dog Annie has never been the same.

Before and after.

According to Dr Carter, we were “lucky to catch” her tumor before it was too late to be removed. The op, although successful, was incredibly invasive and for a little dog who had been healthy all her life, it was a massive shock.Animal hospital stitches operation

Visiting her in the Fourways Vet Hospital, seeing her lying in her own little hospital bed was heartbreaking. Just when I thought it was all over, I had no idea of what was yet to come.

The remaining adrenal gland will not ‘wake up’. She is therefore unable to control her blood pressure which causes her to fall over a lot. She can’t control her temperature properly and often gets depression. This means that Annie lives off high levels of Lenisolone (it’s the canine version of Prednisone. If you’ve been on this cortisone, I don’t need to explain. It’s demonic!).

The op was such a big shock to her body that she has grown old very quickly. She is showing signs of cataracts in her eyes, is hard of hearing and limps slightly every now and then from joint pain. Her little back ‘chicken legs’ (KK calls them this) shiver. And then … a growth was discovered in the lining of her stomach wall. She won’t survive another op…

Monthly checkups with Dr Carter and she stands at the door waiting to get outta there!

Monthly checkups with Dr Carter and she stands at the door waiting to get outta there!

I’m so blessed that my parents have been able to look after both Annie & Emma. Living in a retirement home, it was the perfect setting for Annie to recoup and get 24/7 attention. The hugs and kisses don’t just stop with my parents! All the neighbors shower the girls with attention too! I am so grateful to have the parents I do.Staying with my parents in the retirement home hugs and kisses

KK and I realise that our house is not conducive for an old dog. Annie falls down the stairs and slips on the tiles. But more than that, our lifestyles are not suited to looking after her anymore. We have a full time helper so she has company in the day but when we leave at 6:30 for work and only get home after 7pm after track, that’s a long day without us. Then weekends, we’re out again at track sessions or running races or shopping.

For now we will take each day as it comes. Dr Carter is very happy with her progress. But as he says, “Annie is old.” We need to come to terms with that. Annie Brussels griffon

The Jacaranda stood tall

On a recent Saturday morning training session with Coach Dave, we were instructed to run up to the top of a hill towards an orange bush and jog back down. We were to do this until he said stop. The “bush” at the top of the hill was in fact the most beautiful tree. The Jacaranda mimosifolia. The name stood out because it was signposted on the bark as most of the trees at Emmerentia Dam are.

Hill training at Emmerentia Dam

Hill training at Emmerentia Dam

The beautiful Jacaranda tree

The beautiful Jacaranda tree

Up and down the hill we ran and each and every time I reached the top, I would touch the bark of the tree and repeat the words “Jacaranda mimosifolia”. It occurred to me that I had never noticed that Jacaranda trees change to orange during winter. How odd because their majestic beauty when they are in full bloom during spring paints the streets with their exquisite colours of blue and purple.

Up and down…. Jacaranda mimosifolia. When I did stop to catch my breath at the top of the hill, I took time to appreciate the tree and reflected on the past couple of months.

It’s been a tough winter. I have not been able to get into a proper training routine. My running has suffered. I have missed races, missed track sessions and missed the discipline and consistency Coach Dave taught me from the beginning.

The Jacaranda trees in bloom up my street

The Jacaranda trees in bloom up my street

Worse is that the last 6 months have been really hard at work. Challenging. Maybe because it’s me that has been the challenger for a change. Nobody really likes that. No one likes the orange leaves.

I’ve lost a bit of my sparkle. I’ve lost my shine. I’ve become that orange Jacaranda tree which is still the beautiful tree that people marvel at during spring time, but fades into the background when the leaves turn orange and waits for winter to end.

I am bordering on desperate for spring to arrive. It hasn’t been that cold, but it’s been dry and long. You could see it in the brown dead grass as the sun rose during our training session. The frost melting as the air warmed up.

Soon those Jacaranda mimosifolias will be blooming and showing off their majestic blues and purple showers again. The colours of the leaves may change, but it’s still the same tree. And of course, it gets easier to run.

The purple carpet...

The purple carpet…

 

A bit of “trail running” running

When I woke up that Monday morning, it felt as if I had been hit by a bus! My shoulders ached, my toes were sore and my ankles were stiff. All the signs were there. I had finally run my first proper trail run at the Spur Gauteng Winter Trail Series event at Segwati Game Ranch.Trail running landscape Segwati game farmCars parked at Segwati trail runninggwts_3_of_4_-_segwati_-_as_-_012_0049

Trail running is definitely different to road running. My fellow running junkie (and comedian) Shaun captured it quite well when he posted this to his Facebook wall:

“I need to work on my beard, grow a man bun and eat more organic granola bars to be taken seriously as a trail runner.” ~ You had to be there but trust me, I LOLZ’ed for days at this!

But seriously, here’s my list of some of the more positive (& negative) aspects about the trail runs:

  1. You get to lie in! Trail runs begin later in the day. My race only shot off after 9:30. BONUS!
  2. But then is was hot. VERY hot and I struggled. There are no water points and I had left my camel pack in the car.
  3. It’s dusty. And dry.
  4. You do a lot of looking down to prevent yourself from falling (which explains the sore shoulders!) I was determined not to fall so I made a conscious effort of watching where I was going the entire time.
  5. You need the right shoes! I was happy to have an old pair of casual Salomon’s to run in. They kept my feet super protected from all the stones and sand, but they were not the right size for racing. At the 3km mark, my toes were taking strain already. I don’t even want to explain how sore those downhills felt.
  6. The hills take forever to climb! And I’m not talking an extra 30 seconds to your time, I mean minutes!
  7. The views are spectacular! The air is fresh and crisp. And at Segwati, I dodged some “bok drolls” along the path which meant the animals were close by.
  8. I made it to the finish before prize giving! This is a first. Usually I’m still out there on the road when this happens.
  9. You had to run 3 out of 4 races to qualify for a medal. I know, right!

Me and KK after the trail running raceDusty trail running shoesBut it’s loads of stress-free fun and in fact a lot more casual than the road runs. I do wish I had more time to enjoy them but with limited time in the week and weekends, I have decided to stick to my road running programme and focus on my 10kms and 21kms. Expect a blog post soon on my goals leading up to the end of the year.

Photo credit: http://www.trailseries.co.za/gallery/gwts-race-3-segwati-1

It takes a little bit of veldskool to find yourself again

It was a last minute invite from our friends, Dan & Linda, which saw us packing our bags and heading to the majestic Drakensberg mountains for the long weekend. KK and I always promise to make time for shorter weekend getaways but land up never getting around to organising them.

I knew that the weather would be chilly but somehow I still didn’t pack enough warm clothes. I ditched my warm puffer jacket at the last minute and regretted it the first afternoon when we were sitting outside having sun downers. As that sun dipped behind the mountain, the temperature dropped very low. Brrr!Drakensberg Sports Resort sun setting

It reminded me of my old veldskool trips where we would be bussed up in the middle of winter to Pilgrim’s Rest in Mpumalanga to sleep in rows in army tents in the pitch dark. I remember not taking enough warm clothes with me then and having to borrow my friend Vicky’s track suit top. I also remember my takkie slipping off my foot during the obstacle course and disappearing into the mud. It was my only pair of shoes. It sounds cruel when I write about it, but trust me, these were the best of times growing up!

But I digress..Drakensberg sports resort

Cuddled up in fleecy blankets with glasses of wine in front of the log fire was exactly what I needed after a few weeks of hectic work pressure. I had been working 12 hour shifts and hadn’t made time for a run for over 5 weeks. My body felt the effects.

So I let go… I over ate. I over slept. I drank too much wine and allowed the beautiful mountains to engulf me. It felt like one huge hug. My favourite was the Village Bakery which was overflowing with the most divine baked goods! Of course, I had to have my favourite… a jam donut!Village Bakery Drakensberg

On the Sunday we managed to visit the Falcon Ridge Bird Sanctuary for a show. If you go to the ‘Berg, add it to your itinerary. It’s an amazing place and the show is full of snippets of info on these wonderful birds. This is Dan and Linda saying hello to the fastest bird on earth, the Peregrine Falcon.Dan and Linda Falcon Ridge Drakensberg show Falcon Ridge Drakensberg Vultures Drakensberg Falcon Ridge

As we drove home, I had already mentally re-set my goals. I had refreshed, recharged and realised what I needed to do to get back the balance I had somehow lost. What helped was this view…Drakensberg views Sunrise over the Drakensberg mountains

A sentence out of a blog post by a friend hit home. It said, “You’ve been gone so long from all that you know.” Sometimes you have to leave, to come back and find yourself.

Last week, I went back to track. I made the Monday and Wednesday session. It felt so good! And I have my first trail run coming up.

Thanks Dan & Linda for a fab weekend!

A run down of our Comrades 2016 marathon

This was KK’s third Comrades marathon. He has successfully run the up and the down run, receiving his back-to-back medal, but one thing I’ve learnt is that even if you’ve run Comrades before, each year is different. The training was different, the build-up was different and yes, even the weekend down in Durban was a different experience this time around.

We stayed at the Fairmont Zimbali Resort for the first time. It’s beautiful and when I forgot the stress of the race that hung over KK’s head, it felt like we had escaped to Bali for a getaway weekend. The resort was nice and quiet too which was good for KK to rest his legs and head before the race.Feet up Zimbali Resort

First things first, the Expo which was packed with both nervous runners and excited supporters. It was a bonus to pick up KK’s race pack in record time.Comrades marathon 2016 expo

Back at the hotel and I forced KK to put his feet up and relax. We did lots of napping and snacking and just walking around the gardens of the hotel. And yes, wine for me. It was bliss.File 2016-06-05, 7 12 12 PM (2)

Preparation on my part meant packing a bag of sunscreen and more snacks. Mapping out my supporter’s route was to ensure that KK knew exactly where to look out for me. Here’s me being all clever with my Comrades route map but KK knows I can’t read a map. Thank goodness for Waze. LOL!Mapping out my supporters route

The morning of the race is always incredibly tense. As much as you’ve prepared for the race, it all comes down to how you feel on the day. KK had been battling with an Achilles heel injury which weighed heavily on his confidence to predict what time he would run.Two very nervous runners at the start of the Comrades marathon

Only runners are permitted beyond these gates which somehow looked like once they were through, they were trapped in a cage with no escape!The starting line of the Comrades marathon

The first stop was Cato Ridge. I must admit that finding the right spot to stop was tough because it was pitch dark. I have serious night blindness and even though it felt like I was sitting on the dashboard trying to see the road, my supporter companion Linda, looked very nervous!Cato Ridge Comrades stop

Cato Ridge Comrades marathon down run 59km mark

The first batch of runners started to trickle passed. I was amazed at how fast they ran! And then I even spotted a partially blind runner. Amazing!Blind runners running Comrades

The first stop where we met KK and Shaun W was at the 30kms mark. I have run 32kms before and felt like death. But they looked fresh and were still smiling – a good sign!The first Comrades stop at Cato Ridge

It’s hard work being a supporter but one family had a good idea. While standing on the side of the road, a runner ran up to me, handed me a card and ran off. On the one side of the card was a beautiful motivational message from his daughter. On the other side, a message to me with a cellphone number, “Please can you send my wife a message and tell her where I am and that I’m fine.” Brilliant idea and of course, I sent the message with pleasure and a smiley face!Updates for family

After a while, we shot through to our next stop, Hillcrest. Here we were able to find some toilets, a Woolies and a place to grab some lunch. #priorities

Somewhere along the way, KK and Shaun W had split up. When KK reached us at Hillcrest, he was still smiling (still a good sign) and felt strong but running alone. I knew that once he had reached this spot, the head was required to take over the work as the legs had done all they could. Comrades is a mental race after about 60kms…I was nervous!Meeting KK at Hillcrest 60km mark

The advantage of the down run to Durban is that there is ample place for spectators to sit and watch the runners finish the race. It looks much bigger on TV and we chose the spot where we could watch the runners enter the stadium as well as run down the last strip to the finish line.Comrades finish line

I don’t know how people were able to track their loved ones during the race in previous years, but with new technology, we were able to watch all our family & friends who were running via the Ultimate Live app on our cellphones. It helped to know exactly where KK was and allowed me to be ready to see him enter the stadium, still smiling!Ultimate Live Tracker app

He did it! My heart leaped when I finally found him on the field. It was a PB and he was thrilled with his run.Comrades finish

To take on an ultra marathon such as Comrades means you have to not only have done the hard physical training, but your head needs to be right. Many of the Comrades runners have admitted to dropping into a very dark head space along the route when they were overwhelmed with with negative thoughts. To pull yourself out of this and not quit must take incredible strength. For me, this is what stands out as the most inspiring and amazing quality a Comrades runner possesses.Comrades medals

It’s been a week and KK is itching to go run again. He was told to rest for at least two weeks but every now and then I catch him checking out Strava and looking at trail running sites. He loves Comrades and I know we’ll be back again next year. I can’t wait!

It’s all in your head

There’s just one more week to go before the Comrades marathon and life at home has started to mirror the actual race day. The many months of training has prepared KK for the first 60kms of the race. But it’s the last 30kms or so where his mind needs to take over and he will have to rely on mental strength to get him to that finish line.

These last couple of days has felt like those final 30kms and KK has gone through every emotion possible. But he’s not alone. I’ve seen other runners going through the same thing, many of them posting to social media. Here’s a few which I know both runners and supports will relate to.

  • The struggles with tapering and worrying if they’ve done enough trainingcomrades
  • The nightmaresComrades nightmares
  • Trying desperately not to get sick
    Comrades flu 4 Comrades flu 3
  • The false niggly aches and pains in the legsComrades niggly
  • The inability to concentrate on anything non-Comrades relatedComrades days off work
  • The fearsComrades leave it there
  • The joysComrades rest days

As supporters, we feel it all. But hang in there! Keep calm. You’ve We’ve got this!Comrades countdown

Posture problems

OMG! Look how bad my posture is!

I’ve known for ages that I slouch and every now and then I’ll catch myself out and quickly sit up. But looking through a bunch of race photographs has really made me realize just how horrible it looks. Quasimodo me! Slouching runner

I know every runner has a different form and a very different way of running. But this doesn’t look great and must slow me down big time! Okay. Noted. Something I’ll need to work on. This might be even harder than running!

Tapering for the “BIG C”

After months of intense training, KK has started tapering down for Comrades. It’s a relief for sure, especially since the recent weeks have involved nothing else but running, sleeping and eating and running and eating and running, then sleeping. Aiming to run between 100kms and 120kms each week has been insane and I could sense the exhaustion setting in.

Running shoes

We ‘park’ our running shoes at the front door when we return from our runs.

I’m thrilled! Tapering (for me) means:

  • Not having to wake up on Sunday mornings in an empty bed
  • Less water bottles stacking up on the kitchen sink
  • The freedom to go to Saturday movie again, even if we do go to the 5pm show
  • Hopefully packing less lunch for work?
  • KK not falling asleep as often in front of telly at 8pm in the evenings
  • Less ‘what time are you going to bed because I need to sleep’ comments
  • Eating curry again and not having to worry about the “consequences”.

The dedication to his training regime has been quite impressive and shows his dedication and commitment to what is required when tackling a race of this magnitude.

gas mask to avoid sickNow begins 3 weeks of avoiding any sick people and ‘overdosing’ on vitamin C.

The mental prep and countdown has begun.

The excitement is starting to build!