That’s it. I’m out!

I’ve sprained my ankle. I wish I had a more elaborate story as to how I managed to sprain it. I wasn’t saving a kitten up a tree. I didn’t fall off my bike. I wasn’t even participating in a trail run. I simply stepped off the patio onto the grass on my way to pick up dog pooh. Yeah, that’s it.

The timing is actually perfect. It’s year-end and the race calendar has run out. Spraining my ankle has forced me to go into a phase of forced rest without having serious FOMO about any races I’m missing.

Come to think about it, I have missed quite a few races this year. Not entirely out of choice, but because they’ve sold out so quickly. I blame Discovery and their ridiculous point system. Since they entered the game with their Vitality Series, things have been quite chaotic at races.

The entries have sold out fast. The fields have become bigger and bigger resulting in gridlocked traffic on the road as well as huge congestion in the race. I’m seeing an increase in litter at all the water stops from mainly inexperienced runners.

Running a race in Jo’burg has become quite painful. And the last time I checked, old favourites such as Om Die Dam and Oceans were already sold out. We used to have a few months to plan and think about the races we’d like to enter. Not anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. The increase in the number of people running and getting fit is wonderful. It’s positive. I mean, WTH! Sell out races is great. But the vibe has changed. I’ve started to choose an afternoon run around my neighborhood and the occasional run with Graham Block’s group over the stress of an actual running race.

I might feel different about the whole situation next year. Things might have changed. Maybe I’m just tired and winding down. Maybe I’m just really miserable and yes, maybe it is FOMO. With my ankle injury, I’m going nowhere fast and putting my feet foot up has left me with lots of time to think. 

I’m doing a lot of that lately.

 

Behind the Dassie lens

As we headed back to work after a thrilling weekend down in Nature’s Valley, I was swiping through a couple of photographs on my iPhone that KK had taken from the Otter Trail Dassie 10km trail run.

The mixture of pics show me as a bag of nerves before the race, my daring efforts during the middle of the race (just after I ran into a tree), followed by hilarious pics of me gripped with fear as I crossed the balance beam over shark & piranha infested water.

We had made the decision to go down to Knysna even though KK had pulled out of the Otter Challenge race due to injury. We had already booked flights, accommodation etc. and we thought we’d go down to support friends running the race and just enjoy a weekend away.

It’s not what KK had originally planned for his Otter 2017 trip. But his injury had forced him to drop out. Not being able to run, missing out of the hype, the registration, race number collection and then the race itself wasn’t fun. Playing the supporter role is not what he signed up for.

But when I see the photos, I realize that throughout the entire time, not once did he make others feel bad or guilty. He didn’t sulk or get irritated by our excitement.

But his weekend revolved around me. He helped pick out my new hydration pack, thank goodness, as there was no water point on the Dassie. He nudged me every morning to go for my morning runs and there would always be cups of hot tea when I returned.

And on race day, he was there. He gave me his usual prep talk when I got my nervous running cough attack, he made sure I had all my kit and he popped up at every possible moment to take photos of me during the race, cheering me on, at the start, during the middle of the race when I wanted to quit, and at the finish line. KK was present.

His happiness for me finishing my race shines through in the pics. I can still hear his cheers from the side of the road and he was genuinely interested in my over-analysis of every step of the race.

Sometimes it’s how you show up to a race, more than crossing the finish line that shows what kind of athlete you are.

I know you’ll be back to run your Otter, but this ones for you babes!

I Ran-the-Berg and loved it

I’ve always made lame excuses about running trails. Claims that I if I was going to train, I’d pour more effort into road running than trail. If I had time to run, my focus was going to be on tar. But with KK training for Otter, he hinted that I should try the Run-The-Berg Challenge trail run. Yeah, why not? How hard could it be?

Collecting race packs

I won’t lie, by the time the race weekend arrived, I was nervous! It was the unknown and when we were fully engulfed in the Drakensburg on the Friday afternoon, the weather was overcast and windy. An SMS from race organizers instructed that we had to pack in some of the compulsory items, such as a waterproof rain jacket and space blanket. Luckily with KK out of the race, he had loaned me all his fancy trail running gear.

The night before the race, I kept having visions of getting lost. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to complete the course. We were also given a pamphlet about snakes to look out for in our race packs. Great! If I wasn’t concerned before, I then lay awake till almost midnight trying to convince myself that this was going to be fun and that if all else failed, I could walk to the end.

The race is made up of two days of running. The Challenge event runs 15km each day and the Extreme event takes on the longer distance of 25kms. I knew that coming out of 4 weeks of bronchitis and undertrained that I would only run one of the two days. KK convinced me to run Saturday so that I wouldn’t spend the entire weekend stressing. I agreed.

The race started here…

We woke up to the most glorious of mornings on Saturday. The sun had come out, the wind was gone. It kind of takes your breath away looking up into those majestic mountains!

I clung on to a friend, Linda, at the start of the race. Experienced and uber confident, she showed no sign of nerves. Inside, I was like jelly. Following her guidance, we started in the middle of the pack and off we went. Within 500m, I was at the back with a few walkers behind me. Keep calm, just keep… calm.

It’s an odd experience. By the time we reached around 4kms, there were very few people running beside me. At times, when I looked around, I was all alone. What I expected to be a stressful situation was actually quite calming. I was able to breathe and take in the views. Gosh, they were incredible. Before I knew it, I had reached the 6km mark which was the highest point of the race. It was downhill from there.

As the terrain changed, so did the views. We weaved between forest trees, climbed rocky cliffs and then suddenly emerged into an open Savanah type grass field.

The race did not end at 15kms, something I learnt the hard way. In the end, my Garmin recorded 17.4kms. I was cheesed. But not once during the race did I feel like quitting. In fact, with no one around me, the only person I was racing against was myself. It dawned on me that while a road race is mentally tough, I didn’t feel the same pressures as I did on the trails.

The ugly sense of urgency & panic was gone. I wasn’t as hard on myself when I walked. I loved stopping a couple of times to take photographs.

And when I crossed the finish line, there was no big clock to remind me that I was slow or that I had missed a cut-off. There were only cheers, and a beer truck and boerie rolls. There is definitely a different culture at the trail runs. Refreshing actually.

On the Monday morning, I bought myself my very first pair of proper trail shoes. It feels like I’ve leveled up when it comes to trail running. I’m so ready for that Dassie trail run down at Otter now.

If anything, the Run-The-Berg trail race reminded me that running is about having fun. It’s about proving to myself what I am capable of. I didn’t get lost. I didn’t even come last. I am stronger than I thought. Yes, I coped and boy, I kinda love trail running.

At the race briefing the night before the race, the race director Warren quoted something similar to this:

And it will stick with me forever after I came and conquered Run-the-Berg!

Reflecting on this year’s Two Oceans race

It’s long overdue and regular readers of my blog might have noticed that I haven’t yet published my annual account of my Two Oceans half marathon race.

In previous blog posts, I’ve mostly bitched about the race and vowed (every time) never to return. It’s been a love hate relationship. However this year, everything fitted together like a puzzle and it turned out that I ran the race with very different eyes.

The race was a few days after a friend had let us know about the cancer moving to two parts of her brain. Her regular WhatsApp messages popped in and out of my thoughts sporadically & my mind flashed through what she was going through.

The night before the race, I had said to myself, how can I moan when I know how much Susan loves triathlons and swimming & would love to just get out there and run? So I didn’t moan and woke up on race morning looking forward to the race.

I started in race category D which kinda felt like I had golden circle tickets at a rock concert. It also meant less time waiting compared to category E and loads more room to stand in.

10 minutes before the race started, my mind flipped into panic mode. But instead, I thought, scared? Bron you don’t know what scared is. Susan is scared.

When it hurt near the 17kms mark and my legs were tired, I thought you don’t know what tired is. This is not pain. Not like what Susan is going through.

And when I wanted to quit, I remembered that quitting was not an option for her.
Finally, when I crossed that finish line, I said “this is for you Susan”. But somehow, the message was really for me. I had come through 21.1kms having learnt something quite humbling about myself.

two oceans half marathon medal and photoI moan about my running way to often. I criticize my pace and point out all my weaknesses. I blame the race, the race organizers and my training. It’s the backbone to my blog. But I need to stop. I am a runner and incredibly grateful to be able to cross those finishing lines at road races.

I am good enough. My body is good enough! There are so many people out there who don’t have the opportunities or the health that I have to be able to run. So from now on, every time I don’t feel like running, I’ll think of those that wish they could. I’ll think of Susan. Because what she made me realize, that every time I put my running shoes on, I need to be grateful that I am able to run. It doesn’t matter how slow or fast or even how far. We seem to forget that.