Friday, 30 September 2016

This is Why I run - Highlands Trout Lesotho Mountain Challenge 2016

This is why I run.  Why I get up and get out while others are sleeping.

I run so that I am ready when the opportunity to experience THIS happens, I am ready to take it.

 And much to my amusement, I could not have scripted this better if given the chance.  If you asked me the night before the run to imagine my best day out I would've been limited to: able to run the downs and flats and have easy walks up the (many) hills.

It wouldn't have occurred to me to include meeting a netball team from the neighbouring village coming to play a match in Katse village.  It most certainly wouldn't have included being asked by a random man have his picture taken with me at the Katse Dam wall.  

Neither the little boy who held my hand as we walked up the hill or the microbiologist we chatted to at the turnaround point.  I couldn't have imagined running through falling snow. Nor the ladies who saved me water, our surprise at seeing pigs, the sounds of the cow bells echoing through the valley, the number of cows and shepherds and the number of policemen.

And seeing Ben so many times, getting out of his car to clap and cheer us on, even tho' we were stone last by a long margin.

And as much as I enjoy running with Shawn, I wouldn't have included the valuable, enjoyable conversations we had while walking our way to the end of the race.  And the moment when he stopped us and instructed me to be still and quiet and to just listen to the silence all around us.

And the cherry on the top - Bruce raising his finger in the air to signal the race cut-off, and that Shawn and I missed it and would have to be back next year to run the race.

I wouldn't have asked for any of these, and yet I experienced them all in 6 and a half hours. And then to make the weekend away even more magical, it snowed overnight and we drove through snow capped mountains on our way home.

The Highlands Trout Mountain Challenge 2016 was truly an awesome experience - in all senses of the word.

We stayed at the Orion Katse Dam Hotel which is reviewed here by Roxanne Reid. She also writes an excellent piece, 12 things everyone should know about Katse.

You can read Bruce Fordyce's race report, 'A Marathon as Tough as this deserves its long name' here.

And, if you do as Bruce and I both suggest and want to put it on your bucket list of races to run, you can be in touch at the Highlands Trout website.

Monday, 11 July 2016

9 reasons to run the Iron Crown 21km trail run

This weekend I went back to run the Haenertsburg Iron Crown Trail 21km in Limpopo. In 2014 I ran the half marathon (read the post here) and last year I ran the 10km.

My memory was kind to me! I forgot that the climbing started right at the start of this race. I remembered the undulating run on dirt road from the first water point to the second at 6.5km. The next 3.5km to the Sherry at the top of the hill were considerably shorter, flatter and faster in my memory. Up until then I had been running with Shawn and Ian but couldn't keep up on the single track through the bush. I had one runner overtake me on the single track and I had to step off the track a number of times to allow the top 10 fast runners coming down the mountain to keep their blistering pace. The winner finished in an impressive time of 1:42, but he couldn't have enjoyed the scenery as much as Shawn and I did - it took us just under 4 hours to finish.

A Supporting Run for Ian. At 11.5km, after having toasted sherry with Ian and Shawn at the top of the mountain, we passed Derick, still having the 1 and a bit kilometers to climb. There was talk of turning him back before he reached the summit so Ian turned back and went to walk with him. Shawn and I continued to the finish - his target finish time of 3:30 not looking likely. We ran, walked, chatted to each other, chatted to all the volunteers at the many water points (5 on the way down, not including the sherry at the top of the mountain). We were greeted by Rob, visiting after he had driven through from Joburg to run the nearby Polokwane parkrun. Then the final, fast and steep kilometer to the finish where we were cheered on by Paula who had run a fast 10km. Ian ad Derick had a slow walk down the mountain and finished the event in 6 hours. Long after the timing mats were picked up and the ladies selling pancakes can gone home to wash the dishes.

The weather was also very kind to us this year. The forecast was a 3 degree start warming up to 21 but my experience was that it was a lot warmer than previous years (when we had ice on the car windscreens). I started in my club vest, arm warmers and a long sleeve top, a buff on my neck and my ears. I removed my long sleeve by 6.5km but put it back on at the top of the mountain where it got windy and it was off again as we ran through the single track bush.

Eating in the village. On Friday night we ate burgers and steak at the local pub. The food is good, service not so much. On Saturday, after the race we had beer and pancakes in the park and then a delicious pizza lunch at Caffe Villa. In fact, the lunch was so good that we decided not to braai in the parking lot at our usual accomodation, the PennyFather, but to go back for dinner. The pizzas, pastas and T-bone are highly recommended - a causal venue, friendly and efficient staff, value for money and really tasty food well presented. Breakfast on Sunday morning at The Village Cafe was pleasant, nothing to rave about and no complaints.

So, the 9 reasons that you should go to Haenertsburg to run the Iron Crown trail run are:
  1. Rotary Haenertsburg deliver a well planned, supported and marked trail run
  2. Less than 5% of the critically endangered Woodbush Granite Grasslands still exist and are protected with the Haenertsburg Nature Reserve to be declared soon (FroHG)
  3. Haenertsburg is a historic town surrounded by lush plantations and forests, a hub for food lovers and book lovers. The village has a grocery store, ATM, post office, bottle store and a petrol station and three churches
  4. The cemetery above the village (you run past it on the way down the hill) is worth a visit for the view and historic graves
  5. The food at Caffe Villa is fantastic and they have free wifi
  6. Three caches available in the village 
  7. There is a craft brewery just up the road and down the beaten track - Zwakala Brewery
  8. Debegeni Falls is a magical spot for a picnic and swimming in the crystal waters and is also just up the road
  9. Wegraakbosch Organic Dairy cheese is available at a wooden hut at the entrance to the village
Again, a 10/10 race rating.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Get our Comrades to Comrades Fundraiser

Wow! It's come and it's gone already.

On April 8, I received a bulk email from the Barnyard Rivonia with regard to using Viva Las Vegas as a fundraiser.  I responded out of curiosity and the next thing I knew, I had agreed to take the minimum 50 seats.  Word of mouth and a number of supportive friends and the five tables were sold. More interested people and my final order for 8 tables was signed and paid for on May 6.

Yesterday we had a good afternoon out, after a cold and rainy start. An entertaining show and happy time spent with friends.  

My thanks go to Adam the MC, Bruce and Alan for drawing raffle numbers and Mark from Complete Marathons for handing out the prizes.

Thanks to Mark and Gillian from Complete Marathons for the generous donation of prizes worth R1850 and to Arnold Geerdts for his donation of a corporate talk.

Thanks to Bruce and Gill, Mark and Gillian, Glen, Diana and Shawn for their cash donations.

And, thanks to Libby, Taryn, Jacqui, Kerry and Myles for so enthusiastically embracing the initiative and getting their tables together.

Congratulations to Melanie, Beth and Judy - winners of the various prizes and to RAC, the club with the most number of runners present at the event.

Finally, the BIG thanks to everyone that bought a ticket in support of fellow runners who need financial support to get to Comrades 2016. 

We raised R11110!!! 

Enough money to sponsor almost 5 deserving runners.  Added to the money raised with the sale of t-shirts from the 9 Freedom Runs for Freedom Day, there will be 6 happy runners travelling to the Ultimate Human Race. (The travel package includes return bus transport, 3 nights hotel accommodation and all meals)

Leonard is already on leave from work. He will be running his second Comrades on May 29.  He is travelling with Vreni on the Comrades Travel Package, paid for by his employer at Engen.   

To those of you running Comrades, have an easy day out! To those supporting, enjoy it!

With gratitude and appreciation, Staci

Thursday, 17 September 2015

getting Leonard to Comrades 2016

I have just entered Leonard for the 2016 Comrades Marathon! He will run his second Comrades and should get his back to back medal.

Leonard, Comrades, RAC
Leonard, back at work, sporting his first Comrades medal

I first met Leonard a couple of months before we opened Woodlands parkrun in 2013. I had dropped off some fliers at the Engen garage where he works as a petrol attendant. He mentioned that he was a runner and I invited him to join parkrun. His employer, Ben, was an early supporter of our parkrun and would regularly supply the runners with water.

Over time, I got friendly with Leonard and he expressed an interest in running Comrades 2015. Ben agreed to sponsor Leonard and I said I would happily assist Leonard to join a club and do the admin of online race entries. So, this time last year I entered Leonard for Comrades 2015 and over the months that followed, signed him up with Nedbank Running Club, arranged his entry for City2City Ultra, Soweto Marathon, Tough One, Pick n Pay marathon and a few others.

Leonard had a good Comrades run, finishing in 11:03. He is capable of doing better (based on a PB at Woodlands parkrun of 21:05) but all went well given the circumstances of his training opportunities with his shift work. Travel to races was also a problem. He has since connected with a group of Soweto runners who assist him with travel at times but mostly with local long training runs. He is now training for the City2City ultra marathon, to qualify for Comrades 2016.

Leonard travelled to Comrades 2015 with Vreni of RAC. She organises a Comrades Trip for a reasonable rate of R2500 - R3000 depending on the chosen accommodation . The travelers get a return bus trip to Durban, 3 nights shared accommodation at a Durban hotel and 3 dinners and 3 breakfasts. This provided Leonard with the opportunity to meet veteran Comrades runners and a few novices. One of his great joys is that his room mate didn't finish this race, his 5th Comrades and Leonard did. Apparently a fair number on the return bus didn't managed to finish, which just makes Leonard even more proud. He is so grateful for the wonderful experience he had on the bus and the hotel, the support, encouragement and involvement of everybody and he can't wait to go again next year.

For this, credit is due to Vreni who provides the trip for people who don't have means and/or access to arrange all that is required to get down to the race. Fortunately for Leonard, Ben covers his costs and even throws in a pair of shoes but there are a number of road runners that don't get to experience Comrades Marathon.

I have committed to Vreni to do all that I can to raise money to assist in getting some of these runners down to Durban. In the past I have run Comrades as an Amabedi supporter, raising over R5000 for Pink Drive and World Vision. This year, even though I am not running Comrades, my goal is to raise R5000 to get two runners down to Durban to run Comrades Comrades 2016!

I am not yet sure how I am going to do this so, ideas and suggestions are most welcome!! We (if you have read this far, you are involved) have approximately 7 months to get this done!



Monday, 31 August 2015

Dawn 2 Dusk 12 Hour Circuit Race

On Saturday, Ian and I completed 83km in our second D2D 12 hour circuit race. (We did our first one in 2013 and then skipped last year because we were lazy and the weather was cold).

D2D circuit race, race review
A relatively warm weather, early morning start to the 2015 D2D
I signed up a couple of months ago when my friend Lisa said she had entered, and gave me a gentle nudge to join her, for fun. Given that she was going with a support team and the much needed gazebo for shade cover and that I knew a couple of other people taking part, I was in - it took a bit of convincing to get Ian to buy in too.
Circuit race, race review, dd2D
Great fun keeping good company as we go around and around and around

The event wasn't much of a focus for me and Ian and I were certainly not training to complete the minimum distance of 80 km as a team. And then I started getting emails from Lisa and Asa and I figured I had to get sorted, and quickly. (Asa is a friend of Lisa's, from Malawi, flying on to Jhb , originally to do shopping for his family back home but as all runners can relate to, he found an event that he could participate in that coincided with his shopping trip). So, as a way of ensuring our committed attendance very early on Saturday morning, I offered to collect Asa at his hotel in Sandton and transport him to and from the high school in Akasia, Pretoria.

In truth, Ian and I had not been training with any purpose and as late as Friday morning I didn't think we would even attempt to complete the required minimum of 80km. Until Ian said, "Of course we will, it's just 9 parkruns!

Our plan was to run 10km each as a start and aim to get 40km on the board by 11am. Random numbers really. After a number of conversations with various participants the consensus was that it's best to run 2 or 3 km at a time and that is exactly what we did after we had our 40kms on the board at 10:30. We also slowed down substantially, mostly because it got really really hot (over 30 degrees C) but also because we knew that another 40km is a long way.

We were thrilled to reach our target in just under 10 hours. I walked another two laps and Ian walked one more lap before we called it a day at 83km. One whole lap more than we did previously.

D2D, race report, circuit raceSuccessful finishers of at least 80km, individual and teams
Successful finishers of at least 80km

In summary - Dawn to Dusk is organized by a running church minister, Gerrie (and obviously a supportive wife and efficient support crew). He puts on a fantastic event, thankfully supported by generous supporters like Anatomic Sports Wear and 32Gi. He runs a tight ship and sends out humorous emails with very strict instructions in which participants are quite often threatened with death if they do not obey. It is a friendly, community orientated event (money is collected and raised for a local school charity's). The toilets and porta-loos are spotless at all times. There are shower facilities available. A green water proof jacket is handed out to all first time finishers of the individual event and a white jacket is given to teams after they have completed four events. There is a brilliant watering-tent which tempts you on each lap - ice cold water sachets, a bucket of water in which to dip your hat, fruit, sweets and chips so that you don't even need your own support crew! And this year, they even offered a car wash for R25, money raised there was being given to the school.

And then to top it all off, spending 12 hours with crazy like-minded runners, supporters and good friends makes the day out an extra special one.

Ian and I will be back next year (if Namaquaquest doesn't shout louder) and we have committed to keep going for the full 12 hours to see what total we can reach.

You can read Lisa's race report here.