Dear Coach #10

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Dear Coach,

As you know I was VERY apprehensive about 50km on trail but WOW what an awesome experience the Umgeni River Run was.

We took it easy, walking the uphills, running the downs and doing our best in between which means we weren’t really too shattered when we came in. I am now confident that, unless I am eaten by a Mountain Leopard,  I will finish the 50-miler in September. In fact I am looking forward to it.

Sunday’s adventure did have its highlights though, the best being what I refer to as the Goat Crack incident.

The first river crossing (water up to our knees) popped up early on – there was still frost in shady spots. Oh no I thought – there is no ways I am going to run for hours in frozen, wet shoes – I’ll take them off. Rookie error number one.

Now anyone who has ever crossed a running river with rocks on the bottom knows that doing it barefoot is extremely difficult. No matter, I thought. I’ll just hang onto the Old Goat’s waistband and he can drag me across. This seemed to cause much squawking from said Goat as apparently I was pulling his pants down. When I looked up to see what all the commotion was about I was staring straight into a Goat Crack and I had just caused him to moon the bottleneck of runners behind us. A memorable river crossing indeed.

There were two more river crossings which, thanks to me keeping my shoes on, passed without incident.

Then there were what the race director described as two “big” climbs and which I would refer to as cliff faces. Being scared of heights I had to employ the Bear Crawl to climb out of the valley, which is possibly a new move in the trail running world. Things just seem less scary when my hands can touch the ground.

All in all a memorable day with the most stunning scenery anyone could have asked for (Goat Cracks aside) and nicely rounded off with the most delicious craft beer I have ever tasted – what a great recovery drink!


Time Out – Beauty & Skincare in the Park


This beauty takes her grooming seriously. Mud packs are essential several times a week.


Ellie also puts her fabulous skin down to the mud protocol, indulging twice a day sometimes.


Some of us forget to treat the skin on our legs – but at least we have been to gym to build those glutes.


Red-billed oxpeckers are often used to stimulate the follicles giving us a really silky smooth coat.


And then of course there is grooming-on-the-go for those of us who are busy.



Time out – Are Lashes For The Birds?

Check out the gorgeous eyelashes on this Yellow Billed Hornbill – he’s clearly using an eyelash curler.



And they have BIG attitude to match the lashes. One of them tried to commit suicide by pecking on the Old Goat’s toes. Toe poisoning is real.


Then there is the Southern Ground Hornbill, huge birds that march along at speed putting the fear of God into any passing snakes. They also have lashes fit for the catwalk.


But the poor old Cape Starling, he has no lashes at all. Obviously he has compensated by getting himself the craziest orange contact lenses.


Of course, if you are an eagle you have no time for such trivia.



Time Out – Letaba & Olifants River

I know this is a running blog but everyone needs time out and I am particularly happy when I can combine Kruger Park, photography and a smidgeon of running when we go on holiday.


This is Letaba in the early morning. We weren’t the only ones donning our running shoes and careering around the perimeter of the camp for our daily six kays. There are crazy runners everywhere!

It was in this camp that the Old Goat rushed out to deal with a noise in the night only to find a honey badger on our stoep looking for a midnight snack. Unfortunately my reactions weren’t quite as quick (or is my self-preservation instinct better?) and I didn’t catch the badger on camera. Apparently he (the badger) was so shocked at being confronted by an old goat in his underwear that he skedaddled pretty quick.

Letaba is situated right on the Olifants River where we often saw ellies coming down for a drink and hippos hippo-ing around.




Dear Coach #8 & #9

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Running through the krantzes – beautiful aloes….

Dear Coach,

The last two weeks have flown by. First was the week in Kruger which was fabulous – we even managed to clock up 36 kays around various campsites and then a 20km trail in the Umgeni River valley on the way home. That was week 8 done.

Week 9 was all pretty chilled until the 35 km LSD reared its ugly head this morning. I think we chose the hardest piece of trail in East Griqualand to do it on and there were times (many of them) where if the Old Goat hadn’t been dragging me along I would gladly have lain down and waited for the vultures. We saw a black eagle circling around us as we climbed the krantzes on our way home, but he didn’t seem interested in a stringy old trail runner.

Please check out my Strava screenshot – elevation of 1186 metres, hectic I’d say. Also I was quite chuffed with my overall pace as climbing those mountains I felt like I was taking 20 minutes per kay. I switched off the pace on my watch in case I slit my wrists with a piece of rock.

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Our LSD next weekend is 50km on trail and I will check in with you after that Coach – if I live through it, that is. But now it is wine time and I am absolutely convinced that vitamin W (a lesser known anti-inflammatory contained in a good bottle of red) is the only way to recover from such a huge run. Later ‘gator.


Dear Coach #7

Dear Coach,

Week seven down and only nine to go! It has been a crazy, crazy 10 days and it’s been all about the distance. I finished my 70 km stint last weekend as promised. Since Thursday last week until this morning – 10 days if your brain is feeling lazy – I have racked up 117 km on dirt road and trail. For me that is insane. I’m still alive but very, very weary.

The most insane part was the night running – something I was totally dreading. I was convinced I would be bitten by something wild, fall into an ant bear hole or stand on a night adder. It is also a good opportunity for my Old Goat to push me off a cliff. His chance has come and gone though – I LOVED my night running and I’m now like a panther in the dark.

Last night we came across two jackals heading towards us on the path, out for a little night jog themselves. I was ready with some civil jackal conversation but Oscar the Brave and Hercules the Bold decided that the chase was on and that was that. No civilised jackal chit chat for us.

Well Coach, now for a much deserved break in the Kruger Park – we’ll be back on the road in 10 days time.

Yours in trail,

The Night Panther

Dear Coach #6

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Dear Coach,

The proverbial pooh has hit the fan and my 10 percent build up rule is long out of the window. We booked an eight day trip to Kruger Park ages ago not realising it was slap bang in the middle of a serious build up of kilometres for the Karkloof 50-miler.

Not much running can be done in the Park unless the lions are feeling particularly sluggish which only leaves six more weekends for us to get our ultra on. This has resulted in me going from a 32 km week to a 78 km week – so much for build up rules. In the last three days I have racked up 52 km and Brufen has suddenly become my best friend. And lots of yoga stretching.

I am learning lots of stuff though (apart from the delights of Brufen and yoga). I have learnt that the biggest factor when doing the long stuff is to stay comfortable (relatively speaking of course) – this entails keeping the heart rate down by walking whenever I need to so that I feel like I could trot along for days. Slow, steady and strong is my new mantra.

Chow for now Coach – will let you know if I survive the full 78 km in my report back next week.