Christmas Dash 15k, #17/17 (Mission Accomplished)

The write-up of my 17th Race in 2017 is a little bit late – some of the details are a bit hazy but the emotions I felt as I crossed that final Finish Line are still so fresh. Quite by coincidence, my 17th race ended up being on the 17th December 2017! Here is the story of Number 17…

A Few Days Before the Race: “Doctor, I’ve had a runny stomach for four days. I challenged myself to run 17 races this year and my 17th is in a few days. I have to do it. Just make me better… please? Make it happen.” My usual doctor was not in, and writing this now I’m embarrassed to think what this new doctor must have been thinking when I told her all this! I ended up with a course of antibiotics. My last pill was to be taken on the morning of the race so I was definitely cutting it close. I missed out on the last week of training. Coach Nicola and I changed our strategy. No more time goals. The only goal now: FINISH! Finish what I started.

Road Trip: With no more races scheduled in Gaborone, my husband Ditiro, my dear friend Polelo and I travelled down to Irene, South Africa (about a four hour drive from Gaborone) for the Red Barn Christmas Dash. Polelo had also been battling a stomach bug and was still quite unwell. Fortunately, the journey was uneventful and as always there was lots of laughter. We stopped in Rustenburg for lunch and some shopping before heading on to Irene.

We had booked accommodation at the African Pride Irene Country Lodge which was a bit pricier than we usually would have gone for but we figured that some luxury was well deserved after 17 races! The hotel didn’t disappoint and our room looked out onto a beautiful lake with ducks, lush greenery with lots of rabbits and some guinea fowl, as well as a paddock with some farm animals.

As we started thinking about dinner options we realised that I had forgotten my gluten free cereal at home. By the time we tried the Irene Shopping Centre it was already closed so we headed to Menlyn Park which we were all familiar with and was only a 20 minute drive away. We got our breakfast stuff and then headed to one of the restaurants where we enjoyed a lovely meal.

Race Morning: The race was scheduled for a 7 am start and we arrived at around 06:15 to collect our race numbers. There was a Tom Tom Sports Watch up for grabs for the best dressed person, hence our very Christmassy outfits!

Number 17!

We looked out for our friend Karin who lives very close to Irene and who had been inspired by our 17 journey to run her first ever race! What’s even more exciting is that she didn’t tell her husband that she was training for the race and simply came back home later that morning with a medal around her neck! I was so proud of her and ecstatic that she was there for the last race!

The atmosphere was buzzing and the Christmas Carols in the background complemented our outfits!

The Race: After the prize was given to the best dressed runner (not us?! how?!), the gun went off at 07:06. Polelo proudly wore the Team #17 t-shirt she had made for our 4th race back in April! How appropriate that it be worn for the FINAL race!

We all started together but there were 3 different distances, the 5 km, 8 km and 15 km. Ditiro and I did the 15 km distance together. He was my coach, motivator, punching bag and photographer all in one! Our route was well marked and we were never in doubt of where we were going.

1 – 5 km: With the excitement of the crowd, the first km turned out to be the fastest of the race. The track was nicely padded with forest tree leaves and running among the trees kept us cool for long stretches. There were some long hairpin bends and even though the paths were often narrow, there were always some “overtaking” sections. There were a few ups and downs but not enough to slow us down too much and my overall splits for the first 5 km were: 07:51/ 08:17/ 08:11/ 08:13/ 08:35. In those first kilometres, I was a little bit nervous but also committed to doing this – I am here now. I am going to finish this race. My 17th race.

6 – 8 km: As the race progressed, there were fewer and fewer people with us. Some were way ahead, but those doing the 5 km and 8 km distances soon turned off to complete their races. My energy levels started waning and I walked for a little bit in one section even though it was quite flat. When we reached the 8 km turn-off point, I was disappointed that I hadn’t changed my distance when I still had the chance! My splits (min/km) were not too bad though: 08:43/ 08:23/ 08:33.

9 – 11 km: Things got a bit more adventurous after 9 km. We started jumping over logs and climbing up some steep bits. I was struggling a bit but the obstacles made things easier in the sense that I didn’t feel so guilty for going slowly.

The change in terrain was lovely and in this stretch we found ourselves running alongside a river. The weeping willows were a sight to behold against that beautiful summer sky. My body was taking a beating though and I was soon forced to take some hydration salts. My splits (min/km): 09:26/ 11:10/ 11:26.

12 – 13 km: We had been alone on the track for so long that we were surprised to hear voices behind us. Two older men passed us and one cheerfully said, “Is it still Good Morning or should we say Good Afternoon?!” A lady wearing a very colourful wig soon overtook us too. There were so many pretty flowers and quite tall reed-like plants. I mostly walked even on the flat bits. I was starting to feel a bit defeated. My splits (min/km): 10:24/ 10:19.

14 – 15 km: Those last kilometres were a bit faster as I ran more, 09:26/09:18. But they were tough because I was extremely emotional. At one point I cried. Not because I wanted to stop but rather because all I could think of was, I set out to do what seemed like an impossible task for a “non-runner” and here I am on my 17th race, not 100% well, but here I am. There were so many emotions – I felt happy that I had come this far, disappointed that I was sick, sad that the journey was over, but also relieved that I had done it. As the Tom Tom banner came into sight, I mustered up what last energy I had and put on my bravest smile as I made a dash for the finish. We could see Polelo jumping for joy as she held out her camera. Thankfully, she had survived her race too! The organisers were packing up and asked if there was any one else out there! We knew there were definitely four people but simply ignored their next question – “Did you guys get lost?”

My time: I ran the 15 km course in 2:18:34 (09:15 pace).  I would like to say I was overjoyed that my 17 Race Challenge was done. But that feeling only came a few days later. Of course, I felt proud. Really proud of what I had done. But I also felt exhausted. Battered. I think my comment on Facebook immediately after the race speaks volumes: “There was so much I was going to say. So many pearls of wisdom I was going to share. So many thank yous to give. But all I can think of right now, at this moment is, “I did it.” 17 races in 2017. Mission accomplished. Over and out.”

17 races. I did it!

A Lovely Photo-Bomber

After the Race: Karin (a proud new runner) and her husband Modibedi organised a fantastic lunch at a restaurant in Centurion. We were also joined by our lovely friends Taffy and Tich who are based in Johannesburg. It was great to celebrate with them – all of them had followed the journey so closely and supported us through it all. It was heartwarming to sit there and say: Mission Accomplished.

Acknowledgements: We ran. We ran again. And then just when we thought we had had enough, we ran all over again. To my running squad, I owe you my sincerest gratitude. Without your encouragement and commitment to the cause, I would not have crossed all those finish lines. Each one of you contributed so much to this journey and I drew so much strength and power from you. To all my friends and family around the world, thank you for your kind words at all times. To my parents for all the babysitting they had to do even on days when they had their own commitments, thank you for everything. To my kids who had to put up with, “I just have 7 minutes left on the treadmill, can you just wait on the toilet a little bit longer?” I thank you and I love you. To my husband, who had to put up with 2 am wake-ups to discuss whether my knee would be okay or whether the race strategy I had suddenly come up with was okay, thank you! To Coach Nicola, you have been my guide and the voice of reason, you have handled all my random challenges with absolute calm and wisdom. And finally, to all the blogger runners out there, thank you for your advice and your motivational comments when I really needed them. 

Even though this is a “throwback” Weekly Wrap, I am still linking up with Holly and Wendy as they followed so much of the journey last year! I am also linking up with Marcia, Patty and Erica for Tuesdays on the Run! Be sure to catch up on what all these fabulous ladies have been up to!  

Kgale X-Country Trail Series, Race Recap #13/17

On the 28th October, I participated in the Kgale X-Country Series (15 km) Trail Run. What a tough race this was – physically, but more mentally! For those of you reading my blog for the first time I am a newbie runner on a mission to complete 17 races this year! Enjoy Unlucky Number 13! 

Some of you may recall that the last time my cousin Tapiwa and I did one of the Kgale X-Country Series Trail Runs we got MUGGED on the course with 5 km left to run… It was a horrific experience and I concluded my blog post by saying, “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!” So when another race in the series was advertised I had no desire to sign up. But as I am fast running out of races to complete my 17 Race Challenge, I felt I had little choice but to participate in one of the Kgale X-Country Series races again…

What was comforting this time round is that they changed the location to a much safer area – the Mokolodi Nature Reserve where we did a relay event in August. Tapiwa and I arrived at 05:45 to collect my race pack for what I thought was a 06:00 start. As I am a bit nervous driving out of town, Tapiwa volunteered to drive me to the venue and then do her own workout while I did the race. But when I realised that manual registrations were still on, I somehow forced encouraged Tapiwa to do the race with me. In hindsight, I am so glad she agreed! We quickly warmed up and got ourselves ready for the race which ended up only starting at 07:00.

The Route: A beautiful trail run through the Mokolodi Nature Reserve, alongside a lake through some dry river streams, and in the bush that’s now turning from brown to green.  

The Race: We had such high temperatures (35 – 40°C) in the days leading up to the race but race day was cloudy and very cool. So much so, that we waited in the car as the race organisers were setting up. There was a very small group of runners (maybe around 30) and the race announcer said there would be one water-stop at World View which he said was between the 9 and 10 km point. He also said that if we were still on the track after 2 hours, we should starting looking out for the cyclists who may start passing us at that point. But given that we finished our last 15 km race in 2:05:18, I was not too concerned about this. At 07:00, we set off.

1 – 5 kmSplits (min/km: 08:15/ 08:49/ 08:42/ 08:10/ 08:18). After we had shaken off the usual first 2 km yuck feeling, we found a comfortable, conversational pace. There was a bit of elevation at the start but after that it was quite flat and the dirt path was smooth with only a few loose stones and rocks. It was lovely to see how green everything is becoming now that Spring is here and all the impala droppings along the path was a nice reminder that we were in a nature reserve. We went slightly off track when we misread one of the signs but quickly found our way back.

6 – 10 kmSplits (min/km: 08:15/ 07:50/ 08:07/ 08:34/ 08:20). Although my splits are not too different from the first 5 km, I remember this is where I found my groove. We missed a turn but soon realised our error and only lost a couple of minutes. For most of this stretch, Tapiwa was ahead of me and at one point asked “Are you okay?” to which I responded, “Feeling good. I can comfortably do the 15 km”. And indeed at that point I did feel comfortable. However, two things happened here that show I need to work on my mental game: 1) When we got to 10 km (which is my usual distance) all of a sudden I felt like my race was done; 2) We were nowhere near World View water-stop which they said was between 9/10 km. At that point we had been running for 01:19 hours so technically we were well on track for a 2 hour finish. However, those two factors seriously played with my mind and I wasn’t quite the same after the 10 km point… My race fell part after that.

11 – 15 kmSplits (min/km: 09:30/ 10:24/ 09:50/ 09:22/ 11:57). I slowed right down and did a lot of walking in this stretch. Tapiwa was still quite strong and I told her to push ahead. I struggled to keep up and then I started feeling slightly disoriented, like we were going around in circles. After a while, Tapiwa walked back to me and assured me that we weren’t going around in circles (looking at the route map after the race I see now that we were definitely on track). But it just felt like it was this never-ending road with bush that looked exactly the same. And I kept repeating –“Where is the water-stop?” We had enough water on us, but the big worry was that as they had said the water-stop would be at the 9/10 km point… this made us wonder whether we had lost our way and that’s why we hadn’t seen it. Tapiwa said we should only worry when we get to the 12 km point… and then we got to the 12 km point, and there was still no water-stop and we got a lot more worried.

I think this is around the time we became trackers looking for fresh foot-prints in the wilderness. “Look at these Shathiso – these are fresh ones.” And then I would ask, “But are they facing in the right direction?”. Oh dear, I can laugh now… but oh dear! All the while, the time kept ticking away. At the 13 km point, we met a marshal! Such a good feeling but then he pointed us up a path that he said would take us to World View. World View??? How was this even possible??? He then told us that other runners before us had already complained about the distance. Around 14 km, we met another marshal and we asked for some of her water. After a bit of a climb, we were finally on top of World View and there we found lots and lots and lots of water bottles piled up high in one giant stack… The distance done… 15 km!! How did they get the measurement so wrong!? The guys with the water then said we probably had around 6 km still to go…

16 – 17.6 kmSplits (min/km: 09:55/ 11:09/ 10:44). 6 km to go?? That would make this our first Half Marathon then!?! Thankfully, we didn’t have 6 km – “only” 2.6 km more but on this stretch we had to keep jumping off the path as mountain bikers came through. We had been warned… we just didn’t think we would still be out on the trail. Walk – jog – walk – jog to the finish line and that was that. We hunted for someone to give us our hard-earned medals! We were the last to come in and it most certainly wasn’t the usual “feel-good” finish but Number 13 was in the bag and we still had energy to laugh as we drove home. What a crazy morning!!

My time: 2:46:17 – not my finest hour, not my best race, but hey! Still got my medal!

Learning:

  • I need to work on my mental game. Race problems aside, I should have stayed a lot stronger between 11 – 15 km. I really let the external factors get to me. At 10 km, we were sitting at a healthy 01:19 time … I am glad Tapiwa was there to push me, but I didn’t dig deep enough on my own. I allowed things to fall apart… Yeah, I did…
  • I need to work on my endurance. I was disappointed that my body started feeling like giving up after 11/12 km. My mind played a role, yes. But my body also needs to get stronger, I need to get a lot fitter if I am to do a Half Marathon next year.

Pros of the Race

  • Beautiful trail run – just enough elevation here and there to get the heart pumping; lovely streams and a beautiful dam. At one point, we also saw a warthog scurrying into the bushes as we ran past!
  • Nice executive toilet at the start/finish of the race
  • Free burgers at the end of the race

Cons of the Race:

  • I am beginning to sound like a broken record – this was not a very organised race; the online registration system was erratic. I emailed them to say it was down, and then they fixed it. But by the time Tapiwa was registering, it was down again which is why she ended up doing a manual registration in the morning. A lot of the information said that it would be a 07:00 start but in an email I got the day before the race, they said it would start at 06:00. But it ended up being 07:00 after all. What if we had had the temperatures of previous days? They were just lucky it was a rare cool and cloudy day.
  • I know I need to work on my mental-game but it doesn’t help when you are told there will be water at 9 – 10 km and then it is only at 15 km. As I said earlier, I did have enough water, but because of that information I kept thinking we were lost when in fact we were never lost.
  • The race course was too long – over 17 km and not 15 km. The 15 km distance was already a tough ask for me, so adding over 2 km didn’t help matters.

Would I do this race again? 

No – although the trail itself was amazing. I am just tired of disorganised races. Once my 17 Race Challenge is over, I am going to be a lot more selective about races I choose.

I am linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for the exciting Tuesdays on the Run! I am also linking up with the Wild Workout Wednesday crew – Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama and Nicole from FitFul Focus

Road to Soweto: Training Recap, Week 7

I am training for the Soweto 10k on the 5th November 2017. The Soweto Marathon is one of the biggest races in Africa and I am really looking forward to being a part of that vibe! I am also doing a #17in2017 Challenge where the goal is to run 17 races this year! To keep myself accountable I am linking up with the inspirational Holly and Tricia this week for their Weekly Wrap! Be sure to check out what they and others have been up to this week.

Equipped with my new gym membership card, I felt like I new person this week. Work was also a lot easier, and although I had some deadlines, I had much more time to breathe and to think and to plan (and do) my workouts! A very successful week of training and I recorded my highest weekly mileage this cycle! 🙂

Monday, 23rd October: Easy Run (30 min; 3.75 km)

I say Easy Run but this run was pure torture. I struggled and luckily I was with Tapiwa otherwise I may actually have quit half-way. Remember last week I boasted about my body being “in flow” and feeling so light on my feet? Haha. Today’s run was the exact opposite – I felt like my shoes were laced with lead and every step took a lot of effort. I don’t think I have ever been so glad to be done with a run! It was also extremely hot so this may have contributed to how I was feeling out there!

Tuesday, 24th October: Boot Camp Class (50 min)

The last time I went for a gym class was probably 8 years ago… maybe even 9 or 10… So doing this class was big. First things first, I booked my class using an App — that had me laughing out loud. There was no such thing a decade ago! Secondly, even in my gymming days, I NEVER did an early morning class. But today I was up at 04:40 and by 05:15 I was in a room with many others warming up for the class. Who knew so many people go to the gym at that ungodly hour!? The place was buzzing with people. I think that alone was enough to shock my body into action! The actual class was really good – we did a circuit moving from station to station every minute. I did well on the rowing machine and the bike, and some of the leg workouts. I struggled with the exercises involving my upper body and I definitely have a lot more work to do. The instructor was tough but he did say to me towards the end that, “Yeah, even slow motion movements like that are okay!” I wasn’t quite sure whether to smile or to roll my eyes! By 06:05 the class was done – we were all exhausted and sweaty, but remarkably cheerful. I was home in five minutes, just in time to see my 5 year old off to school, and to get my 3 year old ready for nursery school.

Wednesday, 25th October: Rest Day

Yay – for rest day! My upper body was really sore from Tuesday’s Boot Camp Class! But sore in a nice way – I felt aches in muscles I didn’t even know I had! I was so grateful not to be running today – it must have been around 40°C out there!

Thursday, 26th October: Run (30:14 min; 4.01 km)

I decided to go for a run around 20:10 when it was a lot cooler (28°C as opposed to 40!). After Monday’s awful run, I redeemed myself! A much faster pace, and a lot more comfortable.

Friday, 27th October: Rest Day

Halloween was not big in Botswana when I was growing up but over the last 5 years or so, the tradition has slowly worked its way in! We were invited to a Halloween Event and the kids had a fabulous time trick-or-treating for the first time! 🙂

Saturday, 28th October: Race Day (2:42:18 hours; 17.6 km)

I participated in my 13th Race of my 17 Race Challenge with Tapiwa! I love trail races but I don’t think they love me too much! For the first one I did this year, I missed a turn and ended up very lost! In another trail race, I got mugged with 5 km left to run. And then there was Saturday’s race… It was supposed to be a 15 km trail race, but they had obviously not measured it well because it ended up being 17.6 km. We were told the only water stop would be at the 9 – 10 km point and it was actually at the 15 km point (?). As we were at the back of the pack, we spent so much time trying to figure whether we were lost or not especially when we reached 12 km and the water-point they had said was at the 9 km mark was nowhere in sight. The good thing though is that this was my longest run ever and it was brilliant preparation for the Soweto Race! 🙂 Here is the race recap!

Sunday, 29th October: Blogging Day 🙂

Mileage this week: 25.36 km

Mileage this training cycle: 82.22 km

What do you do to celebrate Halloween? Have you run races where the distance was completely off? How was your week of working out? 🙂