Tag Archives: trail running

Dear Coach #10

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umgeni river valley 1

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!


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 #4 & #5

A Rudimentary Map of a Journey into Madness

Dear Coach,

Week 4 down and week 5 almost finished. Only slightly more than 11 weeks to go until the 50-miler. Oh my word.

This is what I have to report this week:

Last Monday I managed a 5km PR. It was on tar at the coast and not on our normal dirt road but I haven’t done 35:35 for one hell of a long time so that was exciting.

My other small victory is being able to go for 6km on the t-mill without taking a walk break. I can do it on the road as well if you leave out the hills. This is key to cutting down my times I hope.

My Old Goat is still languishing around with his post-Comrades sore knee. He is very stubborn about getting professional help but Dr Google and I have diagnosed it as ITB. He is also too stubborn to build up slowly with the run/walk method so he’s on his own here.

The problem is that he has also entered the 50-miler. He needs to be able to trot along next to me looking out for snakes and mountain leopards and disposing of same in a suitable manner. He also needs to make sure I don’t end up in another province altogether.

Mind you he can probably walk 50 miles in the same time that I run/walk it so maybe no need to panic. Not yet anyway.

Dear Coach #3 Continued

Dear Coach,

When I first got onto Strava I thought “Good God this is embarrassing – almost everyone I know goes like a bat out of hell, whether they run or cycle. None of them seem to have an Inner Sloth.

Now that I have been on Strava for a while I am changing my thinking. It is actually a brilliant tool – especially if you subscribe to the premium version and get heart rate and pace analysis. But the best part is when Strava is impressed  like this:

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Last Saturday’s Trail Run Rietfontein Mountain

When Strava is impressed by my performance I am ridiculously proud – like a kid with a gold star.

And while I am running and my Inner Sloth starts getting out of hand I think to myself “What would Strava say?” and I klap that Inner Sloth.

Onwards and Upwards Coach!

Dear Coach #3

Dear Coach,

IS is a running term albeit a lesser known one. IS stands for Inner Sloth, something that us back of the packers often battle with. I definitely have an Inner Sloth. She hates any kind of stress, mental or physical, and does not understand that one has to physically stress one’s body to get stronger.

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I have eventually persuaded my Inner Sloth that gorging on snacks and Netflix is not the way forward, but she still likes to walk better than she likes to run. She cannot understand why Comrades is not a two day stage race. Good Lord, the thought of doing 90km in one day makes my Inner Sloth reach for the Rescue Remedy.

live slow


Anyway Coach I am KLAPPING my Inner Sloth. Yesterday I did my 6km Easy with 4 x 1 minute T-Pace and I only allowed her ONE WALK halfway. On Tuesday I did an 8km with 2km of M-pace and 2km of T-pace included and I totally ignored her. 

2 x 12km back to back on hilly trails was quite a way to kick off my trail season but we’ll chat about that another time – needless to say my Inner Sloth is fond of trails because there are some hills so steep that I cannot run!

Cheers for now Coach!

The Year of the Trail

Okay, so we know that it is the Year of the Dog, making it essential for those of us born in 1958 to wear red underwear and jade accessories.

But I have also declared it the Year of the Trail, first by entering the Karkloof 50-miler and second by getting my hot, sweaty paws on these beautiful babies pictured above.

Right, so that was the easy part….now for the hard work. I need to get super strong (enter my biokineticist at Balance Sport and Wellness) and I need to build muscle (enter my dietician at Complete Living). And I need to run and run and run…….but not overdo it. The bio has advised me to cross train with some cycling. She reckons that up to a third of my training can be done on the bike. Now I need to figure out how to do that – I know that one hour of cycling does not equal one hour of running, so I need to do a bit of research here. Watch this space.