Lady Khama, 10k Trail Race Recap (4/17)

My fourth race of my ’17 in 2017′ Challenge was the beautiful Lady Khama 10k Trail Run held on the 9th April, 2017. The organisers promised that this race was “not just about the RUN, but about the EXPERIENCE” and I think they delivered. 

The Lady Khama Trail Run is in its fifth year and it just keeps getting bigger in terms of runner and spectator participation. In 2013, there were only 200 runners but this year there must have been over 2000! There was a Lady K Wellness Area with various fitness and health exhibitors. There was also an iPad up for grabs for the fanciest dress! Once we heard that, my friends and I quickly started thinking of outfits to wear! 🙂 I finally decided to go as a Ladybird and my friend Polelo also organised fabulous Team #17 t-shirts for her family and mine to support my 17 in 2017 Quest! The t-shirts looked absolutely amazing!

I am usually quite tense before a race but this time I felt slightly better maybe because 1) I had no real expectations as I had just recovered from a cold, 2) A trail run is a different experience from a road race, 3) I was in fancy dress, 4) There is no luckier race number than 888, right?!, and 5) I was so pumped and inspired after watching “Remember the Titans” starring Denzel Washington. 🙂

The Race: The starting point of the race was the National Stadium. It was really exciting arriving in Fancy Dress, but also disappointing that there were so few of us! In our small team we had a moth, Nala from the Lion King, the Easter Bunny, Girl Power and a pirate! We really stood out and people commented so positively.  The vibe and energy was fantastic and aerobics instructors helped to warm us up. At 06:39, the gun sounded and we set off!

It was a really nice route, a combination of tarmac, uneven dirt track and some grass. We also ran along the fence of the Gaborone Game Reserve and those doing the Half Marathon were lucky enough to run inside the Game Reserve with all the antelope, warthogs and other wild animals. It was a relatively flat course with a a slight uphill section around the 3 km mark. There was also a special bridge that had been made for the race.

Photo Credit: Run 21 – 2017 Facebook Page

Towards the end, the course went through parts of the University of Botswana campus and then back to the Stadium. The uneven terrain made it seem like quite a tough course. There was also a lot of congestion at the start of the race. I almost sprained my ankle at one point, but luckily recovered quite quickly. I had a very steady pace for most of the race with my last km being the fastest at 07:15 min/km. My slowest pace was around the 2/3 km section.

I felt strong for most of the race. There were also some interesting comments thrown in my direction, “You are doing quite well ladybird, keep going!” or “Wow! The ladybird is managing!” I guess ladybirds are not expected to do too well on a 10k trail run?!? LOL! The last km seemed to take forever, but entering that Stadium was a fantastic feeling and I had a nice sprint finish, with my signature move – hands up in the air and a big smile!

My time: I ran the course in 1:16:44 minutes. My pace of 07:34 min/km was actually faster than my average in the last race, which was 07:38 min/km but because the last race was a slightly shorter 10k course (9.84 km) and this one was slightly longer (10.1 km), it didn’t work out to a PB even though the pace suggests it should have!

After the Race: As usual, I don’t think I could have done this without the support and camaraderie of my friends. We all went to High School together. We have studied, lived or worked in other countries, but at this point in our lives we find ourselves right here, getting fit together and having so much fun doing it. We truly make a great team!

All of us in Fancy Dress had to get on stage and put forward an argument as to why we should win.

Sadly, we lost out to the “Chocolate Cinderellas” but I got a hug and a picture with Vincent Crosbie! Vincent Crosbie became a national hero this year when he became the first motorbike rider to take the Botswana Flag across the finish line at the Dakar Rally.

Photo Credit: Vincent Crosbie Facebook Page

This photo is WORTH ten iPads in my books! 🙂

Pros/ Cons of the race:

  1. Very well organised (map routes out early, structured pre-race package pick up, very clearly marked routes)
  2. Brilliant atmosphere and spirit – such a great vibe in the Stadium and brilliant warm-up aerobics session
  3. The route was quite congested at the start
  4. It was a very late start even though everything else was so well-organised (06:39 instead of 06:15 because of some problem with the timing chips)

Would I do this race again?

Yes, yes, yes! I loved the atmosphere. But next year, I am bringing home that iPad! 🙂

Once again I am linking up with the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap! For the FIRST time, I am also very excited to be linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run! Linking up is such a great way to get motivated and to get to know other bloggers! So please take some extra time to read some of their stories.

Gabs 1/2 Marathon (10k) Race Recap (3/17)

So… do I start with the part about me running 10 km without walking? Or do I start with the part about me getting a new PB? Or do I start with the part about me having a phenomenal morning with awesome friends all pushing to achieve personal fitness goals?

Yesterday, just a week after completing the Mini-Monster Race in South Africa, I did another 10k race! For those of you who are new to the blog, I am on a great mission to complete 17 races in 2017 and this was my third race. My body was shattered after the Monster but I had a lovely Pilates Class on Monday which helped to stretch things out. On Tuesday I felt strong enough for a run and did  3.02 km  in 23:19 min (7:42 min/km pace). On Wednesday, I ran with my cousin and she upped the tempo a bit so we did the same stretch we had done a couple of weeks ago but increased our pace tremendously, making it my new fastest pace for a short run (2.77 km, 20:28 min, 7.22 min/km). This run was followed by another great pilates class. The excitement started building as the race approached and on Friday we collected our race numbers.

The day before the race I was quite tense. I desperately wanted a PB because I felt that I had put in all the hard work. When I ran 10k in 1.18.41 last year, I had only been running for 4 weeks and I felt that I “deserved” a better time now especially as I am so much fitter. I had some gluten free cheese and tomato grilled sandwiches for supper and then went to bed shortly after putting the kids down.

The Race: This time the race was a 5 minute drive from our house so nothing compared to the 4 hour drive last week! 🙂 We were scheduled to start the race at 05:45, 15 minutes after the half-marathoners. But the gun only went off at 06:07. On the plus side this gave us some time to catch up with friends and shake off the nerves! When we finally started, I had not really warmed up nicely but I got into a very good rhythm early on. I didn’t feel like I was going fast but it turns out the first km was actually my fastest stretch – 7.27 min/km (not counting my sprint finish at the end!). I quickly found a few pace-makers and some I actually stayed with for most of the race. This kept me focused. I had a very steady pace for most of the race, even when going up the small incline I stayed strong and steady.

It was a linear route and mostly flat (A 34 metre ascent; compared to last week’s 286 metres this was a “walk in the park” LOL!) Wstarted at  Airport Junction, then went up  Nelson Mandela Flyover, straight down to Kgalagadi Breweries where we turned around and  headed back to Airport Junction using the same route).  

As it was linear, it was great seeing Ditiro and my friends as they made their way back after the 5 km mark. At the halfway point I was still feeling very strong and was completely aware that I was now in unchartered territory. It was only two weeks ago that I managed my 5 km stretch without walking! So to pass this mark and STILL be running was a feat on its own. But as the race continued, my body went into autopilot. When I got to the 7 km mark, I was certain that I would manage to run 10 km without walking. At the 8 km mark, I toyed with the idea of stepping it up a notch but at this point I was too scared to burnout and have a weak finish. However, when I got to the 9 km mark I pushed, averaging 07.02 min/ km for the final last km. With 500 metres left I threw my water bottle to the ground and just stepped on the accelerator a bit more. I steadied myself at this new faster pace until I could see the finish line a 100 metres away and then I just gave it all I had left. It was one of my strongest finishes yet, with my sprint at the end being 06:02 min/ km. I started pumping my fists in the air, and came through the finish line dancing and smiling.

My time: What a day!! What a PB!! I ran the course in 1:15:11 minutes, a 3.5 minute Personal Best! But for me, what was even more significant is the fact that I ran 75 minutes without walking!

After the Race: It was soon back to mummy duties so I rushed back home to take Kaia for her tennis lesson. She told the coach that I “won the 10k race”. I didn’t exactly correct this minor detail! 🙂 We later had a hearty lunch at Sanitas Tea Garden and I treated myself to a lovely bowl of chips in addition to my main meal!

Lessons/Discoveries: 

  1. I feel like a runner: Ditiro always said if you can run 5 km without stopping, then running 10 km is just around the corner. I didn’t actually believe him. Well… turns out he was right!
  2. My gait needs a lot of work: I need to figure out how to improve my form. Do any of you have any ideas?
  3. My breathing is starting to sound more effective: I felt like I was more in control of my breathing and I used pilates breathing techniques (in through the nose, out through the mouth) when I started to feel tired.

Pros/ Cons of the race:

  1. They provided a route map a week before the race and this really made a difference in terms of mental preparation.
  2. Official times were already up when I checked in the afternoon! Definite plus point for me!
  3. The pre-race package consisted of an old running magazine from October 2016 and the promised t-shirt was nowhere in sight! 😦
  4. It was a very late start, almost 20 minutes after the official start time so on the return leg of the race, it was already quite hot.

Would I do this race again?

Yes, I loved the route. The best part of this race though was celebrating my small victory with these beautiful people. Each one of them achieved something great yesterday, with Ditiro getting an awesome 47:01 minute time.

Thank you to all my friends who ran yesterday, thank you to my friends and family out there who are always cheering me on, and thank you to all the bloggers around the world who keep me accountable every single day.

(Once again I am linking up with the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap!) Click here to link-up and join in on the fun!

Medihelp Sunrise Mini-Monster, 10k Race Recap (2/17)

I have this crazy goal to run 17 races in 2017. However, getting to this number means travelling outside Botswana for some of them. So in my second race of the year, I suddenly went from “novice runner” to “runner with international experience”. 🙂 I chose the Medihelp Sunrise Mini-Monster (10k) in Pretoria, South Africa. My training was far from ideal leading up to the race, but I was still quite excited. In the last week of training, I did two classes of pilates but only managed one run on Wednesday (2.77 km, 20:47 mins, 7:30 min/km pace). On the 4-hour drive to Pretoria we enjoyed the scenic views and happily sipped on our cappuccinos, blissfully aware that we didn’t have kid duties for the next two days 🙂

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We arrived just on time to collect our race packs (bibs and temporary license numbers) and then had supper.

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The Race: I tossed and turned all night so when my alarm went off at 04:30 I was only too happy to get up. We forced down some cereal before heading to the race. There were SO many cars and people. I knew it was a big race but it was a complete shock especially coming from the races we are used to. We only found parking 2 km away so the walk to the start ended up being a nice warm-up session!

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I knew Pretoria was a lot hillier than Gaborone which is very, very flat. However, I too quickly realised why the race is called the “Monster” and why this statement was made about it: This undulating route is not for the faint-hearted”. The course is set in an area where there are only ups and ups and more ups! The first uphill was within the first km and this quite simply defined the race. Every time you got down a hill, another one was just around the corner.

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My Strategy: Ditiro had reminded me before the race that “What goes up must come down” and had advised that even if I have to walk up the hills I should run down each one and run on all the flat bits. This is exactly what I did. Even when I was so out of breath after the climb I made sure I recovered while running down the hill. It was intense. It was painful. But I kept going. My pace on some of those hills was down at 16 min/ km, but I did my best to bolt down the hills and at one stage even managed 06:32 min/ km. In the last 2 km it was relatively flat and I maintained a good pace of between 07:23 and 07:35 min/ km all the way until the end which turned out to be my fastest stretch overall.

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Route: Started at the Harlequin Rugby Grounds and made our way through a pretty and HILLY residential area including the University of South Africa (UNISA) campus. 

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My time: Ditiro has been running for 25 years and confidently says this is the toughest one he has done. He still managed a great 54 minutes. I asked him what he thought when he was waiting for me and he said: “I knew you would do your best to finish because you are a fighter. I knew you would push until the end. But what I didn’t know is whether you would come back on foot or in an ambulance”. 🙂 So he was shocked when he saw me coming through in 1:28:33 hrs, beaten down but still with a little bit of fight left. There will be many more races to come and most (if not all) will be done in a better time. But this one will always be one of my greatest running victories because I had to dig so deep to finish it.

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After the Race: We met up with our friends from back home who were visiting South Africa and we had a great breakfast! When they left, we did some shopping and enjoyed several well-earned cappuccinos and even a slice of gluten free cake! 🙂

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Lessons/Discoveries: 

  1. I have come a long way: When I turned 36 in October, I committed to getting fitter. This “17 in 2017” goal is all part of that bigger picture to get fit. It has not been a smooth journey but this race showed me that I am a lot stronger than I think I am. Those hills kept coming at me, but I kept pushing back. I felt strong.
  2. Secure a place closer to the starting line:  All the races I have done so far have had far smaller crowds. I have never seen crowds of this magnitude and I had thought they would organise us into batches (according to our predicted finish times). However, this was not the case. So in future, I will need to get to big races a whole lot earlier so I don’t end up so far back and having to wade through all the fun walkers.
  3. I still run funny and don’t breathe well: Knocked knees don’t make for glamourous running but hopefully my form will improve as I get even stronger. My breathing still doesn’t sound like what I think it should but at least it is now more rhythmic! 🙂
  4. Temporary license numbers are needed for South African races: Luckily we purchased this online so when we collected our bib numbers, our license numbers were already included in the envelope.

Pros/ Cons of the race:

  1. The registration process was on-line and very easy. The race pack collection was also extremely well-organised. When we arrived, several volunteers were standing next to alphabetised boxes, (e.g. A – C; D – F) so we were in and out in no time.
  2. The marshalls were a huge highlight – cheerful, funny, and encouraging as they tried to convince us that “there will be a surprise at the top of the hill, just keep pushing” and “No smile, no drink!”. 
  3. The distance markers were very accurate. When it said “7 km” you knew that it was 7 km which helped with pacing and just morale!
  4. The runners were phenomenal! Such a beautiful atmosphere and as we got to each hill some would shout: “Up! Up! Up! Monster! This is the Monster!!!” 
  5. No goodie bags!! For the few races I have done in Botswana you always get a goodie bag (drinks, sweets, t-shirts, etc.) before the race. So we were shocked that all we got were our race numbers! At the end of the race though we did get a t-shirt and cap after we collected our medals.
  6. There were no chips/ transponders – so two days on and we still don’t have our official times.
  7. There were no corrals  and with maybe 10,000 people, this was a struggle! A lot of fun walkers were way ahead of us and blocking faster walkers and runners. It took one minute for me to get to the gantry and then maybe four minutes to get through all the congestion.
  8. At the end of the race, we had to go through a very narrow, muddy path to get to the finish line which prevented a nice sprint finish at the end.

Would I do this race again?

I went into this race completely ignorant of the Monster! Would I do it again knowing how gruelling it really is? *long pause* I think so. It is a one of a kind race which can’t really be compared to other races. Even if I never do it again, one thing I know for sure is that I will NEVER forget the day I conquered the Monster!

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(I am linking up with the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap!) Click here to link-up and join in on the fun!

Jack’s Gym, 5k Trail Run Recap (1/17)

**For an introduction to who I am and why I am doing this, please click here**

My first race was a 5km trail run on the 4th February 2017. Since January, I have been following a walk-run programme and two weeks ago, I joined a pilates class twice a week. I usually run when I get back from work on a treadmill as the kids are too young to be left alone, but where I can – I squeeze in a run outside. What a difference there is between the two! By the time the race came, I had really not trained as much as I would have liked but I had a good run on Thursday where I managed to run consistently for 3 km (around 21 minutes).

The Race: I felt surprisingly good at 04:20 in the morning when I woke up. The weather was cool and humid as we had enjoyed some light showers overnight.  We had a nice aerobics warm up session at the Wharic Rugby Grounds and we set off at 06:22.

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I managed to jog for the first 2.5 km (at a pace of between 7.52 min/km and 8.34 min/km). However, it was most definitely a struggle. I have never run on a trail before so although there were not a lot of ups and downs, the surface was uneven and I was probably a bit too cautious. I also struggled to breathe properly and started getting exhausted way sooner than I expected I would. The route though was absolutely beautiful. The rain over night meant that the track was not as dusty as it otherwise would have been. It was beautifully green which is not a common sight in Gaborone, and we ran up a section which allowed us to catch a glimpse of the Gaborone Dam. There were also lots of cattle and donkeys along the way. At around 2.5 km I found myself on my own. Many people were doing the 12 km race, and those doing the 5 km one like I was were either way ahead of me, or way behind. Trouble struck when I missed the 5 km turn that would have taken me home. So I ended up redoing parts of the path I had started with. I panicked when I realised that something was wrong but then decided to backtrack as far as I could until I saw the turn-off for home. By then I had lost so much time and when I finished the race, I had actually covered 6.11 km!

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So it was not the best way to start my running journey. I am extremely disappointed, but I keep telling myself that at least I did it; plus I did an extra km and survived and as my cousin put it, “You got more than what you paid for!” 

Route: Started at Wharic Rugby Grounds and ran in the bush surrounding the area. (So from Point 3, I should have gone straight through to Point 6. But I went all the way to Point 4, then back to 5 then 1 and finally 6!)

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My time: When I had done 5 km, it was around 44 min. Of course, by the time I finished the race it was a different story. So my final time was 53:53. (Thoroughly disappointed that I got so lost and ended in that time, but it can only get better from here!). My husband Ditiro did the 30km trail cycle in a time of  1:20. He was very pleased!

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Lessons/Discoveries: 

  1. Keep your eyes up when running so that you don’t miss any critical signs! This is a big lesson for me so early on in my running “career”
  2. I need to learn how to breathe: I really struggled to breathe. I was already panting during the first km and I haven’t figured out how to time my breaths to the steps I take. Too inefficient and in the end I just felt like I was huffing and puffing. I have to work on this, otherwise, I may be struggling for a long time.
  3. I run funny: I have a very strange running gait. Firstly, I am knock-kneed (which I knew) but when I run my “thigh internally rotates during ground contact” (thank you Dr Google) and on top of that (or maybe associated with that??) I have major over-pronation of the foot. So I need to figure out what I can do to fix this before I damage my knees.

Pros/ Cons of the race:

  1. Lovely aerobics workout session in the morning. It reminded me of my aerobics days and definitely helped to warm me up.
  2. Beautiful track – can’t emphasise this enough. A really scenic track with cows, donkeys and all! 🙂
  3. 5km and 12km markings were the same green colour which seemed to contribute to some confusion on the track not just for me, but for others too. I think if they had been a different colour, then when I went off track I would have quickly noticed and turned around before adding a whole km to my run!
  4. Signing up/ collecting packs for the race was a struggle as the organisers didn’t seem to know what was expected. The collection process took almost 2 hours!

Would I do this race again?

Yes! In a heartbeat – and this time I would probably try the 12 km race!

Till next time, keep fit!