Thoughts on a run, when everyone else is on a plane

I’m surrounded by a rather small group of people in my life. A close-knit family, a handful of friends and then colleagues who I share pretty much majority of my week with. But in recent months, I’ve started to notice that more and more people are moving away, leaving me somewhat ‘behind’.

My decisions to dedicate myself to the blue bank has been largely influenced by the people I work with. Inspiring leaders, thoughtful team members and colleagues who have become good friends. But some of these leaders have left, team members have changed roles and some of my good friends are leaving SA.

Talking about leaving SA, the number of close friends who have left is now being counted on both hands, not just one. Friends who have made the decision to start their lives in other parts of the world. A re-start for some, an adventure for others.

Even though we have the technology and social media to stay in touch, I’m feeling a little sad. Actually very sad.

I’ll admit that it’s a heavy burden to carry knowing that I’ve decided to stay & commit to a life in Johannesburg and South Africa on a continent I call home, knowing very well that KK would be on a plane to any other destination without hesitation tomorrow.

My reasons for staying have always been my close-knit family, my handful of friends and colleagues. But what happens when they’re all gone?

Thoughts such as these make my escapism afternoon runs actually mentally exhausting.

Throw out, make a list and run less. 2018, here we come.

I don’t usually set New Year’s resolutions. I admit to starting off January knowing I’d take the rest of the year to lose all the extra weight put on from all the festivities during the holiday. KK and I typically map out the road races we’d like to run in the year and also book our holidays around these dates.

But in terms of actual goal setting, all I have in my head is a list of really bad experiences that I don’t want to repeat going into the new year.

I did make a few minor behavioral changes which I’m hoping make a difference.

Here’s five things I’ve changed going into 2018:

  1. Ditching the plastic

The new Woolies grocery bags. We just need to remember to take them with us shopping.

During our weekly grocery shopping, we collect around x10 plastic bags to carry our groceries. We use the excuse that “we use the bags for dustbin bags during the week.” But we don’t need to, so we swopped the bags for Woolies enviro-friendly bags. I must tell you, they’re huge and carry quite a lot of goods.

  1. Americano vs. Cappuccino

Confession: this pic was taken in December while we were in Cape Town. It’s a cappuccino. LOL

I know that diets don’t last but if I make small changes to my eating, then that alone should help. Those Vide ‘e cappuccinos are just mucho grande cups of frothy milk and when I’m having two or three a day, it adds up (around the belly). Americano is purely black coffee and while I know the best solution would’ve been to swop for water, one or two coffees with less milk won’t hurt. Baby steps.

  1. Getting organized

Labelling all our cupboards & drawers makes it a lot easier to pack items away too.

My sister stayed over in December and exposed just how disorganized we really were! She helped me re-pack my cupboards, throwing out old clothes, linen, pots and food. Oh gosh, my medicine cupboard was a mess! The trick is to keep it clean and organized.

  1. Making a list

I make to-do lists all the time at work. But I’ve never made a shopping list before. KK and I head over to Woolies and buy the things we think we need. It’s only by sorting out my cupboards with my sister that I realized that we had loads of food that was going old or duplicates of items that we were not using. Let’s not even talk about my freezer! Just by making a list, I’m buying less now too & saving money.

  1. Run less but more

I’m loving my new Garmin fenix 5S. With such a great strap, I’ve been wearing it to work. Hitting my 10 000 step goal is tough!

KK and I are both coming out of 2017 with injuries. KK missed Kaapsehoop, he pulled out of Otter, did not enter Two Oceans. With my pulmonary embolism recovery and sprained ankle treatment, my running has been slow & reserved. It hasn’t entirely stopped us. KK has been walking a lot and I’ve been enjoying the shorter runs. We’ve become Parkrun fans! But there have been discussions about whether or not 2018 is a rest year for us both and a refocus on strength training. (The verdict is still in the air at this point. Notice that KK still entered Comrades & Otter 2018).

I’m unsure how I feel about 2018. I’m cautious. Overall, I’d like to have a better control over my life and I suspect the only way I can gain this is by focusing on the small things.

The small things, the small differences which eventually are the big changes. I can only try, right?

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.

 

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!