Why Do I Run

 

“Running is Freedom and Freedom is Life.”- David van der Veen

When people ask me why do I run the response that usually follows, “I run because of the freedom that running gives you. There is nothing that compares with the high you get after compleating a gruelling and exhilarating  challenge accompanied with the satisfaction of being Free.”

I started Trail running two years ago with the Spur Trail Series in KwaZulu-Natal, from then the running bug took hold fast, as many runners know. It has now morphed into a passion and a dream that will consist of pain, suffering and joy for the love of this amazing and challenging sport known as Trail running.

My First Trail marathon was Drakensberg Northern Trail 40km last year.

It is an amazing race. The conditions were wet, cold and thick with mist. DNT was one of the best introductions I could have had to the Ultrarunning community, just because of the difficulty and the beauty of running in those conditions and the feeling of pure joy and happiness after crossing that finish line.

My first trail marathon Drakensberg Northern Trail

My first Ultra Trail was Umgeni River Run 50km last year.

Umgeni River Run was part of the Karkloof 100 miler training camp, the training camp consisted of running 30km on Saturday on some of the most beautiful flowing trails in Karkloof area. The second day on Sunday was on the challenging hills and bushveld of the pristine Umgeni River run.  It was an 80km weekend of tough but exhilarating running with some of the best people.

Umgani River Run 50km running into the finish

I have compleated five trail marathons, two ultras in the last two years and many 20km races. It has been an amazing journey with bold, sweat and tears.

In my journey so far as an Ultra Trail runner I have compleated the following races, they have brought the best out of me and have seen me at my worst. I have made lifelong friends and have met amazing and talented people along the way.

2017

Drakensberg Northern Trail 40km, Mnweni Marathon 38km, 1000 Hills Challange 38km, Umgeni River Run 50km and Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge 50km.

2018

Drakensberg Northern Trail 40km and Mnweni Marathon 38km

I have run in nearly every condition thinkable and worst was in one spectacularly dangerous self-navigated trail marathon called Mnweni. Mnweni is one of those bucket list races and where once the entries open it is sold out. On my first Mnweni Marathon there was snow predicted, but what we got was beyond expectation. The route is mainly technical single track with the start and finish on a dirt road. The single track is rocky and full of shale, in places on the route, there are a few clambers in sections. The weather at the start of the race was a light drizzle and as we made our way into the mountains it started to hail. Then the hail then became sleet and the sleet became snow as we hit the snow line. While ascending Mnweni pass we were hit with howling winds that morphed themselves into a full out blizzard. Once finally at the top of the escarpment the weather then turned for the worst into an absolute whiteout, you could not see a thing. after struggling for 2km in knee deep snow and in whiteout conditions we came upon Rockeries pass.  Then and there the sun came out in all its glory and with it the heat.  This truly was an eye-opener for me to have had every season in the space of 7hrs and 38km with the elevation gain of about 2300m in one race.

At the bottom of Mnweni pass

My Goals for the sport are as follows,

Become a top 100 miler ultra trail runner, run for my country, participate in the trail world champs, Run Barkley marathon, run in most and or all of the top Ultra trails in the world and finally spread the love of the sport where ever I go. With the help from my coach (Neville Beeton) and hard work I will one day achieve these goals and many more.

The Build-up to Drakensberg Northern Trail (DNT)

Wow, it is another year and DNT is upon me once again! What can I say?

Drakensberg Northern Trail 2017 is the first ever marathon I have ever completed and one of the hardest races I have ever attempted and completed. For those who are interested… ..Drakensberg Northern Trail is the first race in the Skyrun Series.

Now on to a post-mortem of last years race…

Last year’s DNT was an emotional race for me. Not only was it my first marathon and Skyrun, but it was cold, wet and misty at the start.  As far as idea race conditions go, the weather was perfect for speed as you did not have to re-hydrate and your body stays cooler for longer.

The only problem with the weather was that it made the rock faces that we had to ascend slippery and treacherous.  Unfortunately, within the first 10km, I slipped on a wet rock and fell hard.

Consequently, I had two choices: either call the race or push through and complete the race. Fortunately, one of the top Skyrunners in South Africa, Bruce Arnett decided to stop and see if I was okay and told me to push through it.

Furthermore, Bruce and I decided to run the race together and he mentored me throughout the race. What was a painful and disastrous start, turned out into an amazing experience running with a legend in the Skyrunning community.

The tactics and lessons I learnt from him that day have stayed with me to this day. And as I look back after nearly 1 year I still can’t believe we could chat and run through some of the wet, rocky switchbacks in those conditions and not break any bones or injure ourselves for over 30km of technical trail.

Bruce in the front and I’m just behind

As I finish off, there is one thing for me to say, and that is: “DNT I am coming for you, and I will conquer you!”

Trip Up to the Rhino

“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.”
― Edward Whymper

 

The Rhino

WILSON’S PASS TO MASHAi PASS VIA THE RHINO

On a misty winter day, four intrepid mountaineers decided to brave flooded rivers, weather and the mountains of the South African Drakensberg Mountains.

As we left the Garden Castle car park, it was overcast and cool – perfect weather for hiking. The only challenge at this time of the year is the afternoon  Drakensberg (Berg) thunderstorms that one does not play around with.

The route that we took was up Sleeping Beauty Valley, into Cods  Eye Valley and up to Wilson’s Pass to the top of the Escarpment to spend the night in a tent. The next day we headed from the overnight camp below Mashai Ridge to Mashai Pass and back down the mountain via Rhino Peak.

CODS EYE VALLEY

We headed up Cods Eye Valley, the once well-worn path in a state of disrepair, covered in vegetation from the lack of use. Consequently, we had two options open to us: push through dense vegetation in the valley that would need the use of bush knives to help us cut a path through the thick vegetation, or head up the side of the mountain and find our way through the less dense bush. The latter was chosen and we made our way it to the head of the valley, where we were met by a cascade of waterfalls. Consequently, our only way out of the valley was to use a precarious, near-vertical, muddy deer-path out of the valley to get to the path into the bottom of Wilsons pass.

cascades at the head of Cods eye Valley

WILSON’S PASS

Wilson’s Pass is considered to be one of the difficult passes in the Berg due to the fact that it has no path and markings and there are some steep scrambles on the way up. It does, however, have a wide gully filled with alpine lawn.

The walk into the pass was rather difficult because there was no path to be seen and the terrain was rocky and full of grass tufts, making for strenuous and tiring walking.

As we headed up into the pass, the cloud cover started dropping making the pass even more dangerous as we did not have any GPS tracks of the route up the pass. The route consisted of navigating the first quarter in the river gully, then migrating to the steep grassy slopes in and out of the gully, when we hit opticals like an 8m waterfalls that stood in our way. Eventually, after much turmoil, we made it to the top to top of the infamous Wilson’s pass at 4 pm. Dusk was upon us as we headed down the valley in Lesotho to make camp for the night.

Wilson’s pass overlooking the lower berg

CAMP TO RHINO

As morning broke so we broke camp with a long day ahead of us, through the Mashai valley in Lesotho to the Rhino. The morning started with a hot cup of instant coffee to get us up and going. while breaking camp a local herdsboy decided to observe us packing our tents, (the herdsboys head out to the fringes of Lesotho for there rights of passage). Once we broke camp it was a pleasant trek to the top of Mashai pass, through rocky marshes, wild horses and sheep. After 7km the top of  Mashai pass was upon us, from the top of the pass it is a 2,31km trek to the top of Rhino Peak along a well-worn path, it is used by hikers and trail runners alike. Once at the summit of Rhino, peaches and custard were cracked out.

Taken from the top of the Rhino

MASHAI PASS

Mashai pass is the most trafficked Pass (between SA and Lesotho) in the berg but it is also one of the most misnamed passes in the berg,  Often called Rhino Pass after the Peak that sits next to it (Rhino Peak). There is a pass to the North with a bad reputation next to Rhino Peak that is the actual Rhino pass. (Rhino Pass is one of those passes with a long walk-in and walk-out, It is a rocky pass but not as shaly as Mashai Pass.)

The way down Mashai pass I noticed that the pass was worse for wear and sections that were once considered hairy are just downright scary. One of the sections of the pass before you cross the river it is a near vertical descent on lots of grass and gravel. Once you cross the river you have to descend on gravel that loves to slide, one step forward you slide five steps. Mashai Pass is an amazing pass, once you get past all the hairy parts you are in the bright green wild grass with wildflowers in the shadows of the mountains.

Looking at Mashai Pass

THE REST

Rest of the trip consisted of trekking out of the bottom of Mashai Pass, including falling on my head like an idiot, passing some foreign, many river crossings, passing through Pillar cave and finally a hot shower at the end.

 

 

 

Musings: A Time of Change Leads to New Beginnings

The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be… It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” – C.S. Lewis

Sunrise at the beach – new dawn; new beginnings

C.S. Lewis is one of my favourite authors. I have read his Narnia Chronicles over and over again, and still, they resonate deep within me. The first book in the series, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” speaks to me of new beginnings and new opportunities. It also shows that change is okay as well as possible to manage.

Changes are in the air

As most of you have guessed from the title of this post, significant changes are afoot. I’m moving to a new home at the end of April, my daughter leaves for the European summer cricket season, and I’m relaunching my fabric dyeing business.

  • The daughter is stretching her wings
The DD and her passion for cricket

As you can imagine, it’s not easy to say good-bye to the DD (Darling Daughter); however, juxtaposing the sadness is immense pride in her achievements and her strength of character. Fortunately, online connectivity makes it much easier for families and friends to communicate no matter how scattered they are around the globe.

  • Moving homes

Secondly, while moving is stressful, I am excited at the new opportunities afforded me in the guise of a move. I’m looking forward to moving out of suburbia into a more rural setting. My new home has a front porch that runs along the entire length of the house. I’m looking forward to relaxing on the porch, watching the sun both rise and set. The house is south-facing there will be equal opportunities to experience the majestic start and end to each day.

  • Hand-dyed fabric

Unfortunately, due to the fact that my raw fabric supplier was forced into liquidation, I’ve had to relook at how to rebrand my part-time hand-dyed fabric business. I was in the fortunate position where I could get loomstate fabric that woven from cotton that was grown and processed in Southern Africa. This allowed me to market a unique product at affordable prices. Sadly, I now have to use the same 100% cotton fabric that all the other hand-dyers currently use.

Playing with ice dyeing and Shibori folding techniques

Upon further reflection, it does not make sense to copy all of the other hand-dyers’ products; therefore, I am spending the next six months having fun and playing with different techniques. Of course, the ultimate test will be whether my different samples sell or not. One of the first things one learns in marketing is never to assume that your consumers will purchase your products. Ergo; it is vital to test the market before launching a production line.

Final musings

While I’m not really looking forward to the DD leaving, nor am I looking forward to packing and moving all of my stuff from the soon-to-be old house into the new house, the future looks as though it is full of hope and promise.

Finding Peace and Solitude on the Mountain Trails

 

“Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.” – Jeffrey Rasley, Bringing Progress to Paradise: What I Got from Giving to a Mountain Village in Nepal

Continue reading “Finding Peace and Solitude on the Mountain Trails”

Underberg, Bushman’s Neck, the Drakensberg, Mountain Running, & Dog Training

 

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” – Sylvia Plath Continue reading “Underberg, Bushman’s Neck, the Drakensberg, Mountain Running, & Dog Training”