A loooong stretch of road

Yesterday I started my ninth Comrades marathon. It was to be my fifth medal as I had a few Did Not Finishes  (DNF) before but the goal shifted again when my first half of the tough 90km saw me have a very unusual discomfort in my belly.

My legs and feet were doing great, and my timings were fine but the nausea resulted in making me feel flat and bloaty. All through this yuck feeling, I was weighing up my choices and plans. Do I get in a ‘bailer bus’ and get a lift down for the second half or do I wait and see if it gets any better or do I make myself throw up? There were too many people throwing up so I scratched that option.

In running we have a thing called a ‘bus’ with feet. These runners are pacesetters who choose to devote their race to helping people get to their goal. I had seen a few sub 12  hour buses go past me so my confidence at finishing the race in the allotted 12 hour time was fading. But then a bus came up past me and I realised that I liked her pace, plus she was quiet. I was incredibly noise sensitive yesterday. I trundled along and made the halfway mark with my spirits lifting.

The second half of this race is actually my favourite. Scores of people give up their day to cheer us crazy, weary people on. It is fantastic. Music, applause, words of encouragement, smiles, food, salt, beer and drinks are all on offer and I love interacting with the friendly faces. The smell of braai meat really made me hungry and I thought that some sausage might help settle my stomach. Many people later, I eventually managed to get a small piece and it was delicious. Throughout all this interaction, I saw the bus leave me behind but I was feeling too good to worry. I stopped to buy an ice lollly just before a major long downhill and I greeted puppies and dogs with an ‘aw’ and some love.

On the long downhill the sea becomes visible if I remember to look. I pointed it out to some first time runners but I think they were oblivious to it. I remembered that in the next town there was a cut off point but I wasn’t too perturbed at doing the maths and figuring out my target because I had caught up with the sub 12 buses again. Feeling pleased that perhaps I might just be able to get this elusive fifth medal after all.

But as we entered the highway leaving the cheering festivities behind, my tummy feeling returned. I was doing the walk/run thing talking my options over in my head when a lovely gentleman started chatting with me. This helped me take my mind away from being too negative and the time passed quicker. He too had been having a tummy issue but he showed me his dad’s silver medal from a race in the ’60’s that he was wearing and we chatted a long way. My siblings were doing their first time Comrades support and I almost missed them because I was so engrossed in this conversation. I bade farewell to my new running friend and had a quick chat with the family. I warned them that I might not be in time for a medal but I really wanted to finish in the new-ish Moses Mabhida Stadium.

I ran off looking for my chatting friend but I wasn’t able to catch him. Someone mentioned the last cut off point which was coming up and I glanced at my watch knowing that it was going to be tight. My mind started to go between do I try or would I be okay being forced to get into a (real) bus. Dammit, I thought I need to try. But I forgot about the endless no name uphill that I couldn’t constantly run up. The people cheered me along and one lady said ‘the top is just over there ‘ so I dug in and picked up the pace. At the top I realised that I could see the activity and people were shouting out the time left. By now I could use the downhill and I started to sprint. On 80kay legs I was amazed at my speed and focus. I shouted at a fellow club member ‘come Spencer ‘ and galloped towards the man with the gun. The timing mat was before the cut-off line and the ten second countdown was being shouted out by the crowd. 4 seconds I flew past relieved that I now finally got through. Spencer made it with 1 second and we hugged each other in delight.

Spencer muscled down and continued running in an attempt to get his medal. My sprint shocked legs wobbled into a walk as I realised that the last 9km in less than an hour was almost impossible. I started remembering all sorts of feel good stories of the impossible but the long uphill on the highway slowed me right down and I realised that I was absolutely okay at not getting a medal. My goal was to get in the stadium. Darkness crept in as the clock seemed to speed up but the spectators remained cheering. I went past the old stadium with a good time and lamented the possibility of things being different.  But it was not to be. As I walked towards the glowing stadium about 2 kays away, it started to drizzle. The weather report that I had been watching all week came true. I cursed the clouds thinking that getting into a car wet would be less than ideal. It gently spat for about 20 minutes and near the stadium it stopped. The crowds were moving in droves to their cars, many wearing their tiny medal. I had a slight pang of envy but it passed.

The last few hundred meters seemed to  teasingly drag as runner after runner was being attended to by medics. I couldn’t allow any sympathy and I stomped into the last tunnel with tv lights screaming into my eyes. I knew the cameramen had stopped working but I waved anyway. The stadium opened up and ‘Tears for Fears’ sang a song from my teenage years. I gasped as I looked up at the amazing stadium spotting some stars between the clouds. I heard my tribe shout me as I had my rockstar moment while playing the air guitar. The sound, lights and soft underfelt had made the long slog all worth it.  I had my moment. I made it. 90km officially but my watch had closer to 92km. The furthest I have ever been on foot. And what a glorious place to finish in.

Thanks KZN. Thanks body, thanks friends, thanks fellow runners, thanks strangers on the road, drummers, bands and last but not least the Scottish Pipers.

Qualified….sigh

The word means a lot of things to different people but in the local running world it means that I am now deemed ‘able’ to take part in the 90km Comrades marathon in June.

I have had a fantastic running season so far. I have been fortunate enough to visit new towns, different races, great running weather  and have been healthy enough to do all of them.
The only thing that eluded me was this sub-5 hour marathon or sub-6 hour ultra marathon which would have given me the necessary qualification. I had come close… 5 minutes or 62 seconds but close doesn’t get me the privilege of standing on the Comrades starting line.

This past weekend saw me return to a 50km race last run in 2010. A good race but I somehow refused to do it for all these years. It may have been due to the previous camping experience but I can’t be sure for the reason, so I decided to go and get my ‘qualifier ‘ there. Even though meant more camping but I am getting used to that.

The weather was threatening rain on the forecasts but it behaved and kept the mud to a minimum. What it did do, was keep me cool and comfortable with great thick cloud cover and a pleasant breeze. An ‘out and back ‘ race means we get on a bus around 4am and drive the long dark route with 70 passengers. All of us dressed in our distinctive club colours which helps us identify each other and gives us a hint of individuals’ stories.

A different start location saw us clustered in a now-not-quiet street and wait for the scratchy announcements to set us off before sunrise. The long snake of people started to spread out far in the distance as we were cheered on but some pajamad spectators. The sun stayed behind the clouds but gave us the light of day to see the well maintained roads. A good road means that I can keep my head up and check out the sights and what a view of a beautiful area.

I hit a dull spot around 17km when I saw my watch start going slower but thankfully Marlene caught up with me and helped dull the noise in my head. Around 18km, I took my watch off my wrist and just keep familiar people around me. It was like a switch was flicked. I started to relax with the knowledge that I have this in the bag. A sub 5 hour marathon distance confirmed that I was on track and chatting with Marlene helped keep my spirit high.

On the last bugger of a hill, I found a determination seldom used and just kept moving. I didn’t say anything to Marlene and left her but she knew that I had to qualify. I was now using the road cat’s eyes to measure my run/walk strategy and I got to the top feeling strong with some vuma in my body. I looked up at the now breathtaking view of the dam and I motored the last two kilometres. I ran so fast in the last stretched that Debbie  (sister/coach) didn’t see me finish so she went from glum disappointment to sheer glee when she did eventually see me with my medal round my neck.

Now the relief of qualifying and the huge task of running almost double the distance in a few short weeks time. But at least my head is now in the game and I have done it successfully four times before , I think it is time for my fifth.

The unexpected

What a whirlwind of a few months. But I got through it and have come out the other side with brand new premises and a renewed passion for tapping.

Last year I had been looking at getting full time employment and then I realised that I can’t fit in to the regular style of job. So I started planning new projects involving the city, buildings and history (a newly discovered passion) At the same time I was going for treatment for my stiff back from my magic Bowen therapist. Fast forward to now and here I am, sharing business premises with him.

I knew things were out of my hands when he started describing his new premises and one of my favourite buildings in my area popped into my head. Turns out it is indeed the same  building I had my silent affinity with- complete with tall trees and curvy walls. With a blink of an eye and some hubby help moving my things, I am now ready to receive you and help you make positive shifts.

I now have  a great app that you can make your appointments on ( instead of waiting for me  to call you back after my sessions) and everything has been so smooth that I still have a slight feeling of disbelief. But I am tapping on that 😉

So come along and get a feel for the new office which is in RandparkRidge.

https://bookme.guru/eft-sa/

Running adventures

I am extremely fortunate. I have a sister who loves to explore and plan. I have my health. I live in a country with excellent running races. I live in beautiful sunny South Africa.

I used to work in a job that took me around the country but I don’t ever recall going northwards to Thabazimbi. This past weekend, sister had booked for a race in the Marakela National Park. I was a bit apprehensive because I am not  fond of trail running. She said it would be on the national road in the park. I agreed  to go with and I am so glad I did.

The landscape changed just after we drove through a familiar town of Bela-Bela. The bush got thicker and the mountains crept closer. We reached a dirt road and the deep red soil beckoned. We passed reserves and Debbie spotted all the wildlife lying on the ground while I spotted all the birds of prey perched on the poles. The greeness seened to vibrate with life as we turned into our farm. This area is ‘hunting land’ and I was a little squeamish until after a chat with the owner where it made sense.

Our chalet was up on a plateau on a hill with the most perfect view of the Kransberg in the distance. We had solar lights, and a ‘donkey ‘ to heat the geyser which meant that we had to light a fire. A gas fridge kept our supplies cool and lastly, the gas stove to warm up my prepared meal. ( Yes, I cooked the day before-it was full moon!) We approached the stove to make coffee when we realise we don’t have matches. Relieved, we open a cupboard and a box of ‘lion’ stared  at us. Unfortunately it only contained two matches. We looked nervously at each other and Debbie says ‘pressure is on sis’. I light the stovetop and Debbie turns the gas. Damn, it blows out. Nervously I try light the oven but to no avail. I turn to Debbie with the last mili second of flame hoping she is standing by with a toothpick or something but she can’t see me because her eyes are all squished up from laughing. The flame dies, I have to pick Debbie up from the floor from the rolling and laughing on it. I channeled my Dad she says.

By now we realise our options are a long drive back to town or cold food and no coffee. I propose we go to the still- unoccupied chalet next door. Their stove had a self- igniting flint so we don’t feel bad when we took their matchbox and their candle. We open the box to find one lonely match teasing us. This has to work. It does, candle, oven and stove sorted. Eventually the farmer brought our guest ‘neighbours’ up the hill and we arranged more matches from him. Morning coffee sorted.

That night we had the most perfect full moon rise in between two mountains which didn’t translate well onto camera. We sat in the glow of the moon surrounded by night sounds of the bush, and flapping of bats and breathed in the air of nature.

The run was magnificent. Well organised, gentle weather conditions, mean, steep hills ( although I only did the gentler half marathon). Debbie finished her run with a huge smile on her face secretly glad that I had changed my plans to not run the full marathon – she knows that I would have complained!

What a magical weekend. I could write more but this is already a long one. Much like the visit to the area – it needs a repeat visit.

Have trainers- will travel.

 

A friend like Alice

I met Alice when I was in my early thirties. She was older than my dad yet she gave me a completely different perspective on how to be an older person. Up until then, my future looked bleak but as soon as I saw Alice on the badminton court, I knew I could be different.

Alice was a life-long badminton player and what she lacked in speed and maybe some flexibility, she gained in strategy and placement. She taught me how to play soft drop shots that even the fastest opponents couldn’t return. Always first on the courts, she played to win and would often call the shuttle ‘out’ before it touched the ground, to which we would tease her.  She showed no mercy and made the most of every moment on the court. I learned more than just badminton tactics from this old dear.

Her life story was shared to me through the years and although I have forgotten specific details, I learned about her younger years with her being raised by her father in Natal. I heard  stories of her three children of whom she was immensely proud and a life with her husband who passed away some time before I met her. She would bring in photo albums of her grandkids and more recently her great grandkids and her chest would puff out proudly at her offspring.

Alice had an adventurous spirit and planning her holidays gave her immense joy. She would gently stick her toungue out when telling us of an upcoming overseas trip that she was ferociously saving up for. Australian summers, European boat trips and visits to the Uk were just some of the trips that would make her eyes sparkle. Badminton and travel were some of her joys and I enjoyed listening to her plans to make the most out of her holidays. I would marvel at her courage and perseverance and laughed with her when she chastised the other ‘oldies ‘ for being boring.

After some health issues it became clear that she could no longer play her beloved badminton without seriously risking more injuries. With a very heavy heart she stopped coming and I know it must have infuriated her immensely. I popped in to see her a couple of times and I think it may have upset her to be reminded of the game that she terribly missed. She proudly showed me her knitting and her projects and despairingly showed me the infuriating bruises and sores on her legs that were ‘taking too damn long to heal’.

Alice made a huge impression on my life and gave me a great example on not only how to play badminton but how to life my life to the fullest. We would joke that she and the Queen shared a birthday and in my mind she was a queen. A queen of life. After almost 90 years of living her best life, she will continue to remain in our hearts.

Rest in Peace, dear Alice

A friendship of truth

Debbie’s friend  Tony died. He was younger than me and had been friends with Debbie for over 20 years .

He told his truth. The truth is ugly. Not gentle and often hard to hear. Debbie heard and she stayed. She saw past the conflict, his pain of living and struggles and saw him fully. Whole. In turn, he saw her. It was a unique bond but a strong one.

Months, possibly even years, of no contact yet the underlying connection was one of knowing. Knowing that they saw each other. Neither of them were easily fooled.

She called him out when other friends may have let behaviour, words or pain interrupt the friendship. She stayed- logical; supportive and honest .

They seemed to get each other wordlessly. I watched their last interaction behind hospital masks. Standing behind Debbie I watched Tony’s response to her. It was clear. Tired, almost speechless but honest. She got that. She knew. He  knew she did.

Sometimes the best connections are without speech. Even when faced with the grim truth of a fatal end. The thanks expressed through a look in the eyes. The wordless acknowledgement of being a witness like no other. The future unimportant. In that momentarily connection, everything was said, felt and received without it getting gushy and pretty. Nor was it ugly.

It was beautiful. It was love.

RIP Tony.

 

So now what?

I love music. I have been a groupie, a fan, a fadget and possibly a stalker. I discovered at a young age, that I can jump inside the music and in between the notes and connect to whatever the musician connects to. ‘Live’ music does that even easier. When I was a twenty something, concerts fueled me, invigorated me, and made me feel alive.

I saw most of my favourite bands including David Bowie, in my ‘gap year’ but a couple remained elusive and one of them only formed years later.

I would boldly say, ‘there are only two bands left for me to see and I will do anything to see them’. This proved itself to be prophetic years later, with my zooming off to Dublin, last minute, to see Peter Gabriel for a crazy 3 day trip but it was worth every cent.

The last one remaining unseen was ‘Collective Soul’ – an American rock band.

Fast forward a couple of years and I see the magic words. They are coming to South Africa! I make sure that I will be in the country/city/universe and book tickets .

The day (or night) arrives and I am beyond excited. I feel like an electric cable- stripped and  left out in the rain. It takes a lot of self control to stay in my body all day and I want to go and camp out at the venue as soon as I wake up.

The grown up me is amused but the teenager doesn’t care. All I want is to feel the frenzy of the live music, the songs that have fueled me for the last twenty years.

I meet with my sister and friends rather reservedly and eat dinner, all the while I am restraining the ‘go, go, go’ in my body. I was concerned about the venue because I am an acoustic snob and this venue is not built for sound, but I know I will have to overlook this -for now.

A few short hours later, I am in front of the dudes who have sang, played and drummed   the soundtrack of my recent life. I keep blinking, trying not to sing over them so I can hear them properly and let it sink into my veins. I feel drugged yet surreal.  I don’t want them to stop. They have 20 years of tracks which adds to many hours of possible song play but can only give less than two.  The crowd is drunk wait- dronk- and everyone leaves too quickly. There is no encore. This can’t be it? Surely?

Ed takes his  guitar backstage while playing us Comrades runners’ theme tune ‘We’ve got a long way to run’. I can tell he doesn’t want this to end either.  But the crowd dissolves in search of their uber, or bar and my connection is rudely broken. My last band is done.

I listen to their CD in my car a day later and I feel tears well up. So many songs they didn’t play. It feels like I only read the menu but didn’t get to eat. My mind is searching for ways to fulfill this hunger. Maybe I could follow them to Cape Town, or America…. then Ed (with his dishy brother )would invite me into their basement and I could feed my body while they rehearse. I laugh at the teenage angst with the wisdom of an old person who knows the impossible.

I have to be content with their CD’s.

The electric cable is still flapping about a little, sadly the sparks are dimmer now.  But I do know that miracles can occur and I believe in the impossible. So maybe now, it is just a matter of making a new list….

“She said that time is unfair 
To a woman her age
Now that wisdom has come 
Everything else fades 
She said she realizes 
She’s seen her better days 
She said she can’t look back 
To her days of youth 
What she thought were lies 
She later found was truth….”

A run in the big kontrei

It is ‘running season’ which means many choices. Where to run, how far to go and what to do. South Africa has a unique running community that is growing larger by the Parkrun. In the bigger cities there is a race just about every weekend. These races are selling out in days. But, in the decade since I started running, my sister and I have adopted a philosophy of doing at least one new race a year. Preferably out of town, far from the chaos and madness. We have plenty to choose from.

Our exploring this past weekend, took us to a remote corner of a couple of provinces, to Volksrust. This dorp lies officially in Mpumalanga, but very close to Kwa Zulu Natal and also near Swaziland. Yet it feels like it is closer to heaven than any other town. Recent rains means the fields are green, mist lies low and the mielies are high. I forgot how calming road trips are. The early Cosmos flowers smiled cheerfully from the roadside and the hills began to welcome us to them. The clouds built up as we entered the town and the temperature dropped dramatically. I had packed in a hurry, and not thought that I could actually be cold in the Summer, but sister had a spare sweater and the b&b had an electric blanket (yes, I was that cold!)

 

The start of the race was a whole three minutes from where we stayed and we knew that it was a small field so we took our time in the morning although I was feeling slightly nervous at the thought of running so blerry far. Plus it had rained steadily since about 3am so everything was wet and cool. The start was politely delayed by ten minutes to give the latecomers a chance to register and we shuffled together on the school grandstand.

The gun went off and we sploshed our way across the field, trying not to focus on the fact that our feet were soaked after a short ten meters. The road beckoned and the hills ahead showed us how the front runners weaved the route into the mist. I ran with my sister for a while until she took off ahead. She was doing a shorter distance and I saw her orange top for most of the way until her turn around point. The field had thinned out at this point, but nothing prepared me for how quiet my extra ten km was going to be. I was still feeling good though, so after a quick ‘goodbye’ we both toddled off on our merry ways.

I don’t normally run with my phone, but I had an idea that I would be taking lots of photos of the beautiful scenery and I am so glad that I was able to see this lovely part of the world- on foot. There was a time when the camera became my friend as the other runners were often nowhere to be seen so it helped distract me. At around 18km I lost a bit of my good mood when we were directed off the tar road -quite frankly the tar ended- and the dirt road was a sluggish, squeaky mud trail. I am not fond of trail running due to my past penchant for falling so this time, I had to tread very carefully and sadly spent most of the time looking at my feet and missed a lot of the views. My mood dropped even more when the wind picked up when I turned around to run back and I must confess to some major cursing. However, the mud road back seemed oddly shorter and I made it back to the tar breathing a sigh of relief.

The sun began to squeeze the mist away and the countryside now looked completely different to before. The cows still looked at me curiously and some goats had escaped their wire fence to feast on the longer grass. The wild grasses gleamed in the sun and the whole world felt like it was smiling at me. The one glitch in this beautiful day was the loud digital ticking of my watch. Okay, it was only heard in my head, but I realised I was getting slower and what was going to be a comfortable finish was now beginning to slip away from the 5 hour cut-off. As I began to see the town come into view, I tried to keep my momentum going without getting stressed and miss the lovely views. I worked out that by now I would have to speed up and I tried to keep up with two ladies who ran by me looking hasty and fresh, but I lagged behind. The water point people were now packing up, but whenever they spotted me, they would rush to give me ice cold water, rather flat coke, big smiles and awesome support. I even managed to sneak a piece of just-cooked boerewors which went down a treat.

The clock ticked by and I saw the school and knew that I was not going to make it. I was kind of sad, but  not, because on reflection, my head stayed clear, I didn’t hit a major wall (only some mud puddles), I didn’t get negative and I thoroughly enjoyed my run. My sister looked miffed that I missed the cut-off, but I got the biggest medal in the universe and I have a real warm glow in my heart.

That is what it is all about, after all. Running in the country, feeds my sole!

 

 

 

The excitement of downtown

I could start this post with ‘I can’t believe I didn’t write in December 2017’ but that would be so last year!

December came and went with its exciting fabulous flurry. The city emptied a little less than usual with more Joziburgers realising that this city is actually quite amazing when you take away the crazy traffic, rage, queues and intensity. I had more glimpses of the city and its history with a walk downtown to see arcades, the revamped Gandhi square and some fantastic revamped buildings.

I am ashamed to admit that I knew nothing about the 10 year revamp going on downtown. My days of getting the number 19 bus from Berea to visit my sister who worked in town are but distant memories. Yet, there they were stirred up and gloriously bringing tears to my eyes when the brilliant light of the summer sun shone

down on me on the old Vanderbijl Square. I was ready to embark on another adventure exploring my own back yard on foot. What a pleasant surprise and happy experience. We were treated to witnessing the unfolding of history.

 

 

 

I am no history buff and I really can’t remember detail but I will never forget walking down

the steps on the old United Building society to the unlit skeletons of days gone by. What a privilege to bear witness to almost unhandled relics of a century gone by.

 

We walked a short distance towards the tallest building in Africa, the Carlton Centre and all around me, I could feel energy, pulsing and happy. It may have been my own, or the expectancy of the holiday season approaching but I felt like a kid in a candy store. Clean, well managed buildings and streets with people greeting us happily as we walked on by without purchase.

 

 

The tour ended spectacularly 18 floors up above the city, with the unmatched view of life every direction I looked. Remnants of gold mines reminded me of why I was actually standing there, a century later and appreciating a view that none of the original miners would ever dream of being able to see. What a fabulous day!

What a glorious city. Heart Jozi!

My local touring continues

In recent years, I became adventurous. I think mostly due to the fact that I am less afraid. Is it age? Is it life experience? I’m not sure, but I do know that my younger years of traveling was kind of wasted on my youth. My TV outside broadcasting job took me over the length and breadth of South Africa but my chronic anxiety prevented me, unknowingly, to fully appreciate the opportunity.

The good news is, that is never too late. I breathe- therefore I am!

I was shown the exact mechanism to reignite my sense of adventure in the form of tourism in my city- the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation. A brilliant start to develop my love affair with buildings.

Yesterday I explored the footsteps of Gandhi. Who knew? My history knowledge is abysmal but I am loving this awakening of discovering my heritage. Plus the added insight and delight of the architects creations in our very young city. 13 decades. Only 13 decades of construction and creation.

The natural beauty is also intriguing. 3000 years of rock. This beautiful Witswatersrand ridge cuts through the otherwise flat landscape creating spectacular views and left behind a deep vein of gold. Crumbs from nature which resulted in this modern city. A vast canopy of trees blankets the wide horizon and standing on the ridge I realised that I wasn’t looking at the city in 360 degrees, I was opening my skull to future adventures.

Bring it on!