Jwaneng Desert-Bush Walk 30k, Race Recap (8/17)

I am on a crazy but wonderfully fulfilling mission to complete 17 races this year. Here is the story of Number 8 – a gruelling, exhausting, intense, and dare I say just plain UGLY 30 km walk through the desert!  

Road Trip:  On the 28th July 2017, I set off for Jwaneng which is a 2 hour drive from Gaborone and is home to the richest diamond mine in the world. My hubby was still in the US so my mum volunteered to join me on the trip for moral support! We set off around 15:00 on Friday and arrived just after 17:00. After checking in to the Hotel, we had a lovely dinner and then collected my race pack which was at the same hotel we were staying at. After dinner, we chatted for an hour or so, and then went to sleep. I was very excited albeit a little bit nervous as this would be my first event without any of my friends or family on the track! But I was also proud of my independence and my decision to take on the desert alone.

The Start: After a gluten free muffin and banana, I set off to the starting point of the race. The event this year attracted a couple of thousand people and when I got there, the place was buzzing with excitement. Some people were well-kitted out in boots, gators, backpacks and walking sticks. I made sure I looked the part of a “desert-hiker”, and having learnt my lesson from last year’s event, I bought myself a proper pair of trail sunglasses to protect my eyes from the glare. I also invested in a nice backpack where I carried my drinks and snack supply, as well as sunscreen lotion, tissues, a whistle, headache tablets and lots of packets of re-hydration salts.

It was fun to see big South African and Lesotho groups dismounting buses, waving big country flags with smaller ones perched neatly on their hats. There was a big aerobics warm-up session that I didn’t participate in though it looked like fun. After some welcome remarks by the organisers, we hit the road and within 300 metres we were in the sand.

The Route: The track was extremely sandy and the surrounding areas varied between barren expanse and thorny shrubs and bushes. There were also some cattle posts along the way. 

The Race:

1 – 5 km: This was a solo race for me but I wasn’t alone. I was always surrounded by people and in those first 5 kilometres, the walkers were loud, excited, enthusiastic, and full of energy. I didn’t actively join in on the conversations but I enjoyed the banter.  The thick sand took a while to get used to and the effort put into walking didn’t correlate nicely with the distance covered! I remember looking down at my watch and being so disappointed that I had only walked 2.7 km. At the 5 km mark, there was a drink stop and those doing the 10 km walk separated from us at that point. My splits for the first 5 km were (min/km): 14:42/ 12:31/ 12:19/ 13:08/ 16:17).

5 – 10 km: There was still quite a bit of banter in this section of the walk and when someone from Botswana made fun of those from Lesotho (who are not used to sand), they quickly responded with, “You guys must come to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, and we will see who struggles then!” As we approached the 10 km mark, people started getting quite concerned with the sand which was becoming increasingly harder to navigate. For some sections, we chose to battle the thorny shrubs just to get a break from the sand.

But the fear of snakes and scorpions always brought us back to the main track.

Close to the 7.5 km mark, two wild horses crossed our path with great speed. What a majestic sight they were!

“Find your happy place”

Looking at my splits, this was actually my quickest section of the whole race: 11:38/ 11:30/ 11:27/ 11: 14/ 12:31.

10 – 15 km: I started this section strong but around the 12.5 km mark I started to have some discomfort in my upper thigh area. It almost felt like cramps waiting to happen so I consciously slowed down a little bit. My splits for this section were: 11:50/ 11:41/ 11:43/ 12:20/ 17:20.  I was so happy to get to the 15 km stop and even felt brave enough to ask a fellow walker to take a photo of me! 🙂

15 – 20 km: After the short break at the 15 km mark, I felt motivated to continue. But around the 17.5 km mark, I started feeling blisters forming on my left foot and all I could hear was my husband’s voice, “Make sure you wear two pairs of socks” which I had purposefully decided not to do. Gggrrr! I didn’t want to stop as I felt I wouldn’t want to get up. I also didn’t want to start falling back. So I continued but could feel my blisters getting bigger and bigger.

I was generally good at listening to my body. When I felt dizzy or just weak, I mixed re-hydration salts into some water and felt better almost immediately. Sometimes all I needed was a cookie or a couple of sweets to feel energised again. The last thing I wanted to do was to get dehydrated so I made sure I kept sipping water.

20 – 25 km: This was the 20 km sign – how amazingly appropriate!

This is around the time I started to struggle. My back was sore from carrying my bag, my legs were aching from trudging through that thick sand, but even more – my mind started to play games with me, and I reached a point where I wondered whether I would finish. It didn’t help that this was around the time when we started getting casualties. Many people could not go on, either because of cramping, blisters, or sheer exhaustion. And that’s when the pick-up trucks/ medics started to come through and for the remainder of the race more and more people were carted off. That was tough to take. I remember passing a guy who was writhing in pain and seriously cramping. He was gutted that his race was over, but he just realistically could not go on.  It must have been at the 21 km point when I met a radio presenter who asked to interview me live for Duma FM, a local radio station. I must have really looked awful because he asked me, “Are you defeated?” I answered somewhat courageously that, “This race is tough. It takes everything – heart, mind and soul. But I still have 10 km left in me.” My pace was painfully slow though. It took everything to just put one foot in front of the other. I then decided to play a game, counting down from 10 as I did each km… 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 but when 1 km takes 15 – 16 minutes, it is tough… LOL! It was great to see the next two signs:

My splits for this section were: 19:09/ 16:07/ 16:13/ 15:50/ 14:56.

25 – 30 km: My mum called me just after the  26 km mark and I had run out of water. I sounded horrible. I just wanted to cry. I grabbed some salts and mixed it with the last bit of water I had left. It was a good pick-up. But I was overjoyed to see another water stop just around the 27.5 km mark.

What a relief. My lips were sunburned, my body was tired and I just wanted out. I told myself that I would never do this again. It didn’t help that we got to 30 km with no end in sight! The course ended up being 31.39 km according to my watch. When I emerged from the desert onto the tarred road, my mum was waiting for me. She later said I looked so dishevelled as if I had been at war and had narrowly escaped to freedom. If that’s how I looked, I most certainly felt it. The transition from walking on sand to tar was awful. Those 300 metres took forever, but as I passed other finishers who were sitting on camp chairs, grilling meat, I knew the end was near. Some of them cheered me on, and the radio presenter from Duma FM shouted, “You did make it!” I said to him, “I told you I would!” I shouted at someone else who had a medal, “How far to go? This is taking too long!” She laughed and said, “You are almost there!”  My splits for this section: 19:04/ 16:17/ 15:57/ 13:50/ 14:45/ 15:23.

My time: After 7:25:39 hours in the desert, I walked through the gantry to claim my well-fought medal! I sat down on a curb-stone and put my head in my hands. My mum was so excited and wanted us to take photos, I simply said, “Give me a moment!” We then took a couple of photos. How beat do I look? And I am not sure if you can see it very well, but the eight fingers I am holding up are completely swollen!

Lessons/ Discoveries

  1. After 8 races I am beginning to see that my 17 in 2017 Challenge is more than just a physical challenge. It is a mental challenge too. I am learning so much about myself and who I am as a person. One thing that I know now more than ever is that I don’t quit. I just don’t. Out there in that desert, there was ample opportunity for me to throw in the towel, but I didn’t. So long as my legs could carry me, I was determined to push through until the end.
  2. Listen to your body: I did well to listen to what my body was telling me out there. That helped me to know when to eat or drink something or when to take a little break.

Pros of the Race

  • This event was really well-organised. It was easy to buy tickets, and t-shirt distributions started long before race day. This is only the third time this event is being held, but they did so well. Well-placed water stops and cheerful and enthusiastic marshalls at each one of them.
  • The distance markers were fantastic – and the motivational messages were so clever – it was always just what you needed to hear at that specific time!
  • All the money raised goes to fantastic projects dedicated to children and their education. That just makes all the blisters and pain so much more worth it. 🙂

Cons of the Race:

  • No porta-loos! Unfortunately for women, squatting in the open desert is not quite a feasible option! Even if there were just a couple at the 10 km and 20 km mark, I think this would have made such a difference. Many women probably got dehydrated as they were trying to avoid having to go to the toilet.

Would I do this race again?

Yes. But not alone. I couldn’t do it alone again. The sheer will power that I needed to get through those last 10 km which took me around 3 hours… It was just too mentally exhausting. I have proven to myself that I CAN do it alone but next year, I am bringing my crew along!

I’m linking up with HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap! This week they have the lovely Ponder ‘N’ Wonder as a guest host! I’m also joining Courtney at Eat Pray Run which is such a great place to get motivated about your training! Please hop over to their blogs and others to really get inspired!

Kgale X-Country Series 15k, Race Recap (7/17)

My Winter Training Plan has not gone that well. My runs and workouts have been erratic and my blogging has been non-existent! I had a lot of optimism, enthusiasm and energy when I launched my plan 9 weeks ago. As I was recovering from a knee injury, I was keen to really listen to my body. For Weeks 1 and 2, I did just that and kept things slow and easy on most days. But then the wheels came off… My husband Ditiro was selected as one of the 1000 African fellows for the Mandela-Washington Fellowship Programme (yay!) but this meant that he travelled to the USA for two months, leaving me behind with a 3 and 5 year old (boo!). Quite suddenly, my work situation changed with added work deadlines… Throw in a new course I had recently embarked on and things just got hectic. When I look back at the two months now, I am very proud that I survived and in some places even thrived. But I am keeping it real on this blog so I have to confess that my running and workouts took a big hit. On so many days I found myself too exhausted to squeeze in a workout.

But that’s okay. I did the best that I could under the circumstances and I still managed to participate in TWO races – bringing it to 8 of the 17 I have planned this year! And you are not going to believe what I have to tell you about the race that was Number 7! On the 8th July, 2017, I took part in the Kgale X-Country Series, 15k Trail Run with my cousin Tapiwa. I was ecstatic to be back racing but a little bit anxious for a number of reasons, 1) this was my first race since recovering from my knee injury, 2) this was my longest race distance, 3) it was the first one where I didn’t have Ditiro to motivate me, and 4) I had a slight cold. We arrived when it was still dark and cold, so we chatted in the car for a while. Once other runners started arriving, we started warming up, collected our race packs and had a last trip to the toilet. The slightly delayed start worked in our favour as we were able to put in a good warm-up session and take the mandatory selfies! At 07:17, we were off. There were only 41 runners. We purposefully started at the back of the pack with our strategy being to take it nice and slow, gentle on the knee. We were there to finish the race, not to set PBs, and not to be heroes.

The Route: This was such a beautiful and stunning trail that took us past a cemetry, alongside the Gaborone Game Reserve, around some farming land, water treatment ponds, as well as a stream that ran somewhat parallel to us for parts of the race. It was peaceful and quiet, and at times so hard to believe that this was actually part of our city. 

The Race: Looking at our splits for the first 5 km (min/km: 07:47/ 07:58/ 08:25/ 08:27/ 09:13), we started off a bit fast, but slowly pulled back. I felt so happy that my knee was okay – just a minor tinge here and there, but otherwise it felt well oiled! By km-5 we had dropped all the way to a 09:13 pace, but we didn’t get this low again. The splits for the next 5 km were: 08:37/ 08:30/ 08:40/ 08:35/ 08:25. As we approached the 10 km mark, we really got into our stride. Still slow, but comfortable and focused. We were deep in discussion about politics, life, family, our aspirations – it was like a fabulous coffee date only out in the open, on a trail in the bush, and without the coffee! I don’t quite remember what topic we were on when it happened. It’s funny, but what we were saying just before the incident has completely gone. I remember the feeling of contentment, the feeling of achievement, the feeling of peace at that moment, but I don’t remember the topic.

The Incident: I saw him walking towards us. By this stage the trail was quite thin. Tapiwa was in front. I was behind. I remember thinking, “He doesn’t look like he is going to move out of the way. Maybe he is drunk.” But at that point I wasn’t scared. Why would I be? But then he was just there. Up against us. Not moving. And then I saw it. The knife. Brown wooden handle. Dirty looking blade. It has been 5 weeks so some of the details are hazy. But not that knife. I still see that knife very clearly. Tapiwa had a camel-back on which had her water, phone, jacket and car keys.  My brave cousin. She was extremely calm in that moment, telling him that we didn’t have anything. We were just running in a race. He didn’t believe us. His wild eyes kept looking at the bag and at one point it looked like he wanted to rip the bag off. Tapiwa quickly told him she was removing the bag and shoved it at him. He then very deliberately opened the bag, and started searching. He took out her jacket where her phone was. I remember Tapiwa whispering, “He’s going to find the phone”. At the start, I prayed he wouldn’t find the phone but at some point, my thinking changed, “Please find the phone”. Looking at his frantic eyes, I felt… No. I KNEW that if he didn’t find anything, he would hurt us. And then he found it… He turned towards me and I started saying frantically, “I don’t have anything”. I remember Tapiwa saying, “It’s okay. You don’t have anything. Let him see.” And then he waved the knife at us menacingly, and he was off. Just like that. My watch reported later that “04:38 min: Stood Still. Removed from your overall averages to more accurately reflect your effort”. 4.38 min. That’s long.

Finishing the Race: Everyone says how well we did to finish the race. But the truth is, there was no other way out. We had to finish the race to get to safety. We had to keep following the markers to get out. It was about getting home. Tapiwa set off really fast and I remember telling her after some time that I couldn’t manage. After 10 km of running, I was exhausted. We soon came across another runner who had also been mugged by the same guy. She was completely deflated. Fortunately, not hurt. But she had been alone. I had had Tapiwa by my side. We kept going, at times stopping, at times crying. But we kept moving. I was no longer frantic. I had one mission and that was to get us out. So I tried to keep upbeat. I kept an eye on the kms we were clocking, remember we still had 5 km to go after the incident. But what became more real with each km was that, the phone saved our lives. I kept seeing those frantic wild eyes and I knew deep down that had he not found that phone, something more sinister would have happened on that trail. We slowed down considerably when we saw the finish flags in the distance. Our splits for the last 5 km: 08:46/ 08:32/ 08:51/ 08:42/ 10:12.

My time: I ran the course in 2:05:18. That’s the official time so it includes the time spent being mugged!

After the Race: We reported the case to the race organisers and of course to the police. All race photos were lost with Tapiwa’s phone but I got my mum to take photos once I was home.

What happened to us was awful. Five weeks on, I didn’t realise how hard it would be to write this blog. But I don’t want the story of the mugging to over-ride what was for me such a great achievement. I ran 15 km, my longest ever distance and on the back of a recent knee injury. I did it. I ran 15 km. And you know what, we didn’t set out to be heroes. But we were. On that day, we were heroes.

Lessons/ Discoveries

  1. Run your own race: We started off way back. I think at the end there were only 6 runners behind us. But we were not intimidated or worried about potentially being last. We ran our own race. We stuck to a pace that was comfortable for us. We had our own vision for what we wanted. Not someone else’s vision. Our vision. I think that’s so important. We finished the race, and did it our way, in our time.
  2. We are all stronger than we think: Something so terrible happened to us out there but we dug deep, and we came out on top. We got out of that bush and lived to tell the tale.

Pros of the Race

  • Beautiful trail run – so scenic and well-marked.

Cons of the Race:

  • No safety/security measures put in place. Hey, we got mugged on an official race. Aside from a lady at the water point (around 7 km mark), there were no visible marshals. We were all alone out there. All alone in the bush to be mugged by some random stranger.
  • The race was not that well-organised in general. We weren’t told when/where to collect our race bibs. When I emailed on the Friday, I was told between 3 – 4 pm – a one hour slot during working hours. Fortunately, they then said we could collect them on the morning of the race.
  • After the incident, their handling of the mugging was poor. The MC kept saying he is just there to MC and he is not part of the organising team. That isn’t really the point is it? Listen to our story (we’ve just been mugged at knifepoint, we are upset) and then direct us to the right people to talk to. Tapiwa did return to the race later that day to express her concerns on how they had handled the matter. They said as soon as they heard our story they sent cyclists out to survey the area. And they say they will no longer be using that area for their trail x-country series.

Would I do this race again?

It was a beautiful trail run. I will choose to remember it for that. I will choose to remember it for being my first 15 km race. I will choose to remember it for bonding with my cousin. But I think it will be hard for me to return to this same place at least not without a team of bodyguards, police helicopter, maybe even some armed forces! LOL. No one should ever get mugged on an official race. Period.

So pleased to be linking up again after such a long while with Courtney at Eat Pray Run as well as HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap! Please hop over to their blogs and others to really get inspired with your running!

Diacore 10k, Race Recap (6/17)

On the 7th May, 2017 I ran the Diacore 10k Race – my Goal Race and the 6th Race in my “17 in 2017 Challenge”. It was the first race where I found myself looking around and really enjoying myself… it was the first race, I felt I wasn’t faking it… I felt like a runner… in a sea of strangers I felt like I belonged. But I am getting ahead of myself…let us take a few steps back…   

Eight weeks ago, I had just run my 3rd race of the year. That 10k race was the first I did without taking any walking breaks. That in itself was a victory and the new PB time I set of 1:15:11 was the added bonus. With my new found confidence, I started an 8 week training cycle to get me prepared for the Diacore which is Botswana’s biggest race and a qualifier for Two Oceans, Comrades, Commonwealth and the Olympic games. In those 8 weeks, I got a coach, Nicola from Running Happy, and I ran two races – the Lady K 10k trail run and the Palapye 10k which gave me a huge (self-timed) PB of 1:08:02. Going into Diacore I felt nervous but prepared.

I enjoyed a relaxing Saturday minus the kids who were at my parents’ place. In the evening we enjoyed a nice pasta meal before heading to bed. In the morning, I had my usual shower to warm up the muscles and my cereal before we headed out at 05:20. On the drive to the venue I made a mental note of the Route:

The Route: They call it the flattest and fastest race in the region and aside from a gentle incline at the start, it really is. Grand Palm – Right onto the A1 – Left at the Rainbow Circle – Left at the Nokia Lights – Left at the CBD Lights – Grand Palm.

The Race: We only found parking about a km away from the start of the race. We tried waiting for Tapiwa but with all the crowds we quickly realised it was a futile exercise. So I walked Ditiro over to the Half Marathon Start and then headed for the loos where I found a long queue of runners. Knowing that I had to warm up my knee to ensure a good start, I started vigourously stretching in the bathroom. I swear, the others must have thought I was one of the elite runners! LOL. With just a few minutes to spare, I took a slow jog to the Start and my knee felt okay. Unfortunately, the long wait at the bathroom meant that I started quite far back. At exactly 06:30 the gun sounded and it took me 3 minutes to get to the Start Line.  After that I had to wade through several walkers so my first 3 km were not the most enjoyable and I struggled to get into gear (Splits, min/km: 06:51/07:41/07:29). However, just after the 3 km mark I found my stride and really started to enjoy myself. I felt truly happy to be out here doing this. I looked up and saw a man holding a banner, “Run it like you Stole it” and I burst out laughing giving him a thumbs-up. I waved at the cheerleaders on the track with their pompoms and as I started having fun, I started feeling stronger and my Splits for 4 – 7 km reflect that: 07:04/ 06:50/ 07:05/ 06:49. As I headed into the last 3 km, I turned it up another gear and remembered my pilates breathing to get me through the final stretch:

As I saw the finish line, I still had enough energy for my final sprint and despite some pain in my left knee I just pushed it until the end. I was elated and on the longish walk down the “passage” to get my medal, I truly felt like a runner. It being such a big race I didn’t see anyone I knew at this stage, and Ditiro still hadn’t finished his Half Marathon so it gave me some time to reflect and enjoy my moment. As I got my medal, a guy tapped me on the shoulder from behind and said, “You ran such a good race. You had such a consistent pace and were my pace maker for most of the race”. And that my friends was the cherry on top!

My time: I ran the course in 1:10:24 minutes (07:01 pace) according to my watch which I started at the Start Line, 5 minutes faster than my last officially timed race. Unfortunately, when the official race results came up, they had recorded our times from the gun start (and not from when we actually crossed the Start Line). So the 3 minutes it took me to get to the start are now included: 1:13:11. 

After the Race: I found a good place where I could watch the Half Marathon and Marathon finishers. Thankfully, my cousin Tapiwa soon found me and we chatted as we waited for Ditiro and our friend Elisa who were both doing the Half Marathon. At 1:42:12 Ditiro came through at a blistering pace and we started screaming, “D!! D!! D!!” and then we waited for Elisa who had such a strong finish and a 20-minute personal best! We were later also reunited with Polelo and were all so happy with our personal journeys. The Half Marathoners had some entertaining stories of Concert Goers who had decided to go straight from the Concert Venue, drunk as ever, to some parts of the course to cheer on racers with their camp chairs and cooler boxes!

Lest we forget – this was NUMBER 6

Lessons/ Discoveries

  1. Start closer to the front of the race: I must admit I was very disappointed that the 3 minutes it took to reach the Start Line are included in my official time but I have learned that in cases where there are no corrals I just have to hustle a little harder to get to the front of the line.
  2. A good warm up is essential: In Palapye and for this race, I really made sure I warmed up and in both races I felt stronger than I had in previous races. I am a little bit worried about my left knee at the moment but I will just make it a habit to warm up even before short training runs.

Pros of the Race

  • Extremely well organised (registration was easy, the race pack pick up was very efficient, website provided all the information including route maps, all races started exactly on time!)
  • Fantastic vibe and atmosphere – on the course there were cheerleaders with pompoms, there was a stage with people dancing and singing at one of the water stops, cheerful marshalls). As a Gaborone resident, this was a very proud moment as we hosted people from across the country and 38 different countries! I saw on Facebook that there was an American couple who are on a mission to run a marathon in every single continent and they were ecstatic for having chosen Botswana and this marathon to represent Africa.
  • Our race bibs had our names on them! I have seen this on other running blogs but this was a first for us! That really was something special 🙂

Cons of the Race:

  • You know what I am going to say right?! For the 10k race which had the highest number of participants, they didn’t record the time we actually started. So I took 3 minutes to get to the start of the line which was included in my final time. Not fair.
  • No corrals/ seeded groupings meant that walkers/ people with no timing chips were in front and once we were through the start it took so long to pass people.
  • Apparently there were several porta-loos but in the dark and with no clear signs I couldn’t find them so I used the hotel loos!

Would I do this race again?

Oh yes!!!  For any Gaborone Resident this race is so much more than just a race. I am so proud to have been a part of it this year and to have run such a strong race. I will definitely keep coming back!!

Once again I am linking up with the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap! I am also 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 and link up if you can!

Palapye 10k, Race Recap (5/17)

For those of you reading this blog for the first time, I am on a mission to complete 17 races this year! Yesterday I ran my 5th race in Palapye which is a 3-hour drive from Gaborone. This race also served as part of my training for my goal race next week – The Diacore. 

We left Gaborone at around 15:00 on Saturday afternoon, picked up our good friends Polelo and Paul, and had an enjoyable drive to Palapye with lots of chatting and dodging of crazy bus drivers. Palapye is a fast growing town, situated about halfway between the two big cities, Francistown and Gaborone. Its strategic position makes it a convenient stopover on one of Southern Africa’s principal north–south rail and road routes. The Morupule Colliery coal mine is located here, and supplies Morupule Power Station, Botswana’s principal domestic source of electricity.

It is also home to one of Botswana’s largest universities, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST). Our drive was uneventful and we arrived at the Majestic Five Hotel at around 18:00.

We had a lovely dinner before heading off to bed. For some reason I had put a lot of pressure on myself for this race, so I had a restless night as well as a headache which fortunately had worn off by the time I got up at 6am.

The Race: The starting point of the race was at our hotel so there was no big rush in the morning. After eating some cereal and getting dressed, we headed down to the Start for our warm-up. Unfortunately, this race was so poorly organised. I don’t want to be too scathing in my attack because I know a lot of work goes into preparing for a race… but… it was a huge disappointment. Race bib collection was from 6am – 7am on race morning but by the time we got there at around 06:30am, they had run out of race bibs and t-shirts stating that they had only made enough for 93 participants. Did they not know how many tickets they had sold? There was no attempt at an apology and we were simply told that we should run with our tickets and then show people our tickets as we finished. To make matters worse, we were supposed to start the race at 07:30 but only set off at 08:11, 41 minutes late.

The Route: Majestic Five Hotel – onto the A1 (big motorway) – over the Lotsane River Bridge – towards Cresta Hotel – turned left into the Palapye Bus Station – and then back to the Majestic Five Hotel. 

The A1 Road

Bridge over the Lotsane River

Clock at the Palapye Bus Station (Around 5k mark)

Ditiro was running this race alongside me and in the week leading up to the race we had “talked race strategy”. I knew I wanted a 2 minute PB which meant running an average pace of 07:19 min/km. This was a slightly faster pace than I had done in training so I was a bit sceptical that it could be done. We agreed that as I always do the second half of the race faster than the first half, I should aim for 37.5 min for the first 5km, leaving me with 35.5 min to get back, to finish in a time of 1:13 hrs. The plan was clear. However, I started the race around 07:00 min/km and Ditiro even said to me, “This is a bit faster than we are supposed to be going”. At that point I thought to myself – “Well, this is really a training run. I feel so comfortable. I am talking nicely, my breathing is okay, my body feels good. So let me stick to this.” And stick to it I did! When we passed the clock at the station we were at the 5 km mark, and were 1.5 minutes faster than we had planned for. My slowest pace (per km) was on the incline where I did a 07:17 min/km pace, still faster than the average pace I had planned for.  With 1.5 km to go, I turned it up a notch and headed for the finish with a pace of between 06:53 and 06:04.

My time: I ran the course in 1:08:02 – a remarkable 07:09 minutes Personal Best, and smashing my Goal A which was to do it in 1:13:11! I was in complete and utter shock that in just 1.5 months I have improved so much. This was not my goal race and because of the complete chaos of the race, there were no official times, but I am claiming this “unofficial” PB! And of course, there were not enough medals to go around so these photos next to the race banner will have to do! No race bib, no medal – I promise you I did actually run and PB! LOL!

Pros/ Cons of the race:

  1. There were not enough race bibs/ numbers/ t-shirts to go around
  2. No timing chips or proper timing method that I noticed
  3. Not enough medals to go around
  4. 41-minute late start – and we were only saved by the fact that it was a cloudy day, otherwise the heat would have been ridiculous at that time
  5. No distance markers on the roads
  6. Completely dangerous route – we were running on a very busy route, with no safety measures in place – too few marshals and no police officers at key points where we had to cross roads. No orange cones along the roads; no warnings for drivers that there were runners on the roads. Some of the 21.1 km finishers, sprinting in at the end of their long race, were almost knocked over by a taxi.

Would I do this race again? NO – for a race that had so much potential, it was a complete disappointment. But I will choose to remember it for my 7 minute PB and the phenomenal time I had with my friends!! 🙂

Some Shout-Outs: I am still one of the slowest athletes on the track but I have a phenomenal team behind me – Thank you to my dear friends Polelo and Paul for putting aside so many things to join us on this trip. Thank you to Paul for the great photography. Thank you to Ditiro for sacrificing his own race to run alongside me. Thank you to all my friends, those who run and those who don’t, for all your support and encouragement. Thank you to all the runner bloggers for your advice and kind words. Thank you to my parents and in-laws for taking care of the kids so we can participate in these races. Finally, thank you to Coach Nicola from Running Happy for giving me such focus, guidance and clear direction.

Once again I am linking up with the amazing Courtney at Eat Pray Run for the Training Recap and the awesome bloggers HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap. I am also joining Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run. Linking up is such a great way to get motivated and to stay accountable! So please take some extra time to read some of their stories.

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!