21 May 2019

Radio interview: #RunAMUK to #RazeABar with OLLI

Kingfisher FM said: "They have moved from caring to doing and we were so blessed to have Steven Lancaster, the tree (haha!) and Wayne Bolton in studio with us on the SPAR Big Breakfast with Gareth Burley this morning! Please throw a few pennies into his hat (pounds better...) via Backabuddy (search #RazeABar). We appreciate the efforts of Steve and others such as Havilah Designer Jewellers and #FNB Volunteers who move us from caring to doing. #JointCustody #OLLI #OLLIMove #runAMUK to #RazeABar #macmacultra

Listen here... click on the picture... 

19 May 2019

Suzuki: that brand!

A disclaimer is what I start with here... I own one. Undoubtedly my Alto is the best value for money I've owned; and of course it is discontinued. A few years ago I had the privilege of driving a Ciaz for a few hours and an Ignis that reminded me of the Tardis!

When the Suzuki Ciaz was launched in South Africa in April 2015, it was headed with the words, “A
touch of four-door class”. Yes. The Ciaz GLX comes with leather upholstery including the steering wheel . From when you sit to when you stand, this car is class. The design belies its supposed size. It is big for its class, ideal for a growing family to transport. Looking at the outside is easy on the eye, too; not in the super-model kind of way, rather in the familiar city popular looks kind of way.

The standard safety features (here I’m thinking of that family again) on all models are good. The only feature missing from the GL is the front fog lamps, which in South Africa will only be missed once every couple of years. I'm not a fan of those who leave them on normally, so maybe not having them is a safety feature?!

4 sets of golf clubs should fill the size of that 495l boot… My family of 5 might be able to get away for a self-catered long weekend if we pack it just right. Of course, there’s no pram space, but the toddler is growing up and needs to practice his walking anyway (but why would we want to walk if we could spend it on leather seats driving some of the scenic passes of the Eastern Cape)?

Power was not lacking from the 1.4l engine. It easily climbed the coastal hills, took off in good time from a standstill and engaged all the gears comfortably. A test at altitude might reveal something different.
Road noise was minimal in this car. It provided for easy listening to both my co-pilot and the radio (6 speakers and good clarity from them… I know what music I’ll get going in this car). The Ciaz range comes standard with Bluetooth for those phone calls you simply can’t miss. And eyes never have to leave the road. The instrument display and center console are both well laid out and intuitive.
Suzuki has made some fabulous vehicles, not least of which is the Alto which has sold so many units globally. I can’t see them failing with the Ciaz. In a C-segment car in the so-called budget market you’re looking at something almost like luxury. There are bells and whistles, with a couple of optional extras.

For the up and coming, this car will offer suitable credibility. For the family, this car offers full functionality. For those wanting the luxury, I recommend the GLX over the GL. For those wanting the extra bit of lazy, go for the automatic.

Now to the Tardis... small cars have a way of covering their interior space. The Ignis is probably the best example I've had the privilege to test. For an A-segment car the length of legs that would find this vehicle comfortable is superb. You would normally have to jump two segments to find that kind of legroom. Can you tell, i have long legs?

The electric blue color and uniquely cupped running lights give this vehicle an attitude that befits those who are cool. It is not average. The interior takes a little getting used to visually, but it is practical in a right-brained way. 
It is where engineering meets art and tells you stories that won't be easily forgotten.

If you look closely at the rubber and cloth in this baby dragon, you will notice that it is built to last. The quality is very good. I know this from my Alto, but you might not, so it is definitely worth a mention (and I've used mine as a working vehicle!!) The touches of color and strong design features ensure an engaging experience.

The ride... oh boy. Like any car, it isn't a fan of wind, but it remained sure footed at speed even in windy rain and water lying across the road. I never felt like it was going to go anywhere but where I was steering. And the steering was almost light enough that I could direct it with my thoughts. 

The ride height of both the driver's viewpoint and ground clearance gave a confidence on gravel roads that was backed up by having the wheels in the 4 corners. While it isn't a Jimny, negotiating trips to out of the way romantic getaways should be fun... I didn't unfortunately have time to find out. And while the boot is not exactly big, a night out hiking is definitely something that you could do...

Of course... I run. A lot. And this car had to be given back at some point.... and then I ran home. The trip home into the wind was hard; mainly because I had to leave the car knowing I wouldn't get it back soon! This car is a little legend and remains firmly entrenched as a favorite little memory.

16 May 2019

Travails of trail to the head...

"Will I make it to Mac Mac Ultra?"

This last 10 days has been a matter of will and finding a way. After my falls on UTD, with the old ankle injury causing me to adjust my running style for a "loose foot", I've not been sure I have enough recovery time to sort out a couple of niggles... And so ended my #RunStreak.

Ilona Hearne Biokineticist has been working hard to get the tight tendons and muscles to relax and fire naturally. We're getting there. Its a race against the clock I must win; I will win! The funny thing is, its a race to relax...

"On your marks! Get set! ... ... R. E. L. A. X.!"

And so I've been doing some thinking and planning instead. (But more on that in future posts.) The aim for Mac Mac next week Friday is to finish. Just finish. Take it easy uphill, easier downhill, and relax on the flats. 


08 May 2019

Ultra Trail Drakensberg... Part 3

Strapped. Fed. Hydrated. Champing at the bit. We were about to leave Cobham. All 3 of Deon, Tobie and me ready to move through the night. Tobie stops us about 100 meters out and says, “I’m going to hold you two back, and jeopardize your finish. Go.” Deon and I looked at each other as Tobie adjusted his pack. “No, we’ll stay with you”. “Go,” Tobie insisted. Again, we exchange looks, check that Tobie is really serious and not just saying it. We all know that he is most likely giving up his finish so that we will have a chance… It really is that fine. We will have to be marching and “running” at 4km an hour.

Motoring up a hill... Thanks, Xavier Briel for the photo
If you’re a road runner reading this you’ll laugh at nearly 4km an hour (15 minutes per kilometre). It is seriously slow even on challenging roads. Knowing you’ve got 50km to go (if you don’t get lost) over some serious climbs and descents with little visibility and challenging temperatures… and you’ve been going for 115km already (actually closer to 120km, with all the “detours”… but don’t tell the organizers, they’ll charge me more!!) 4km an hour would be a challenge if everything went right… But what if…!

Keletso and others were not far behind Tobie, this we also knew and it made our departure less of an issue. Also, the weather was going to be favourable and the track much easier to follow (mostly) with both the UTD marking and the white Ezemvelo foot prints. Deon and I settled into a fast march uphill. It was a conversational pace, but we were walking with purpose. These are large mountains, and as Tobie said, we needed to respect them.

The kilometres dropped off as we climbed into the clouds… mist. Deon thanked me for leading the pace. I have long legs, so maybe it’s easier? Having my knee strapped with black and pink tape certainly helped my ascent. Deon was getting sleepy tired… An editor who steers clear of caffeine and meat was talking about having coffee at the next check point Mzimkhulwana! I told him it was what got me going again at the top of the 12 Apostles, and had been key to my strong finish at Addo 100. I am a good salesman.

However, with the light mist and the heavy pace adding to Deon’s fatigue after about 9km, he also said to me, “go”. We were (apparently) less than 1km from Mzimkhulwana with quite a drop in altitude to get there. We’d seen the lights resting in the valley, waiting patiently for mad men to meander down.

A view we were missing...
I was feeling uneasy and coming in fast like you have this feeling you’re being watched, possibly followed, even stalked. About 250 meters before the swing bridge and the check point you traverse just below a ridge and cross a stream. While traversing I looked over my shoulder, and as I swung my head back to the path I saw them. Them seeing me. Six red eyes. All standing stalked on silhouettes against a dark sky. The one on the left bobbed. Was it a baboon or a dog. Or a jackal? I recalled that warning in our race briefing… bend down for a rock and pretend you may throw it. The eyes bobbed more, didn’t flinch, and stared. I stared back as I slowly moved off the ridge making the odd growling bark, and down the path and toward the bridge. They didn’t follow and soon disappeared. The hairs on the back of my neck settled and I had some welcome food and conversation, ordering Deon his cup of coffee as he pulled in and I pulled out.

The next section to Castleburn was a mad rush of ascent and descent. It was also through the mist, and although I’m sure there were some superb views in daylight, it proved the power of the mind to get you through darkness to the next point of light. We are capable, more so than we know; and it had me thinking of the inherent capacity in uBuntu… the power of “being” in a community! Toward the end, this section had us crossing two rivers. It was only here that I realised my toe wasn’t broken after playing soccer with a Drakensburg rock… but that the plaster had come loose and started causing a blister where no sock or shoe touches, but under the toe where a loose plaster gathers! For the rest of my feet in the wet, the stones, and narrow paths there was nary an issue. I am so grateful for great gear like Balega’s and Altra’s. Damn that plaster sitting under my toe. I should have heeded the warning to take it off earlier… It came off at this very next checkpoint.

One of the views I did see before sunset... captured better than I could have.
The doctor awaited at Castleburn. A warm tent, conversation and food. New socks, no plasters! I got a quick bill of good health to continue and encouragement from Spurgeon if I didn’t waste time he'd be handing me a bell on Sunday. I asked if there was a mattress on which I could stretch, but chose the ground instead. Then the mattress arrived, and I’m glad I chose the ground… I’m not sure I would have risen from something that looked so comfortably inviting! Stocked up, refuelled, mildly rested and stretched, I headed off. 28km left in 7 hours.

Up again… strongly hiking into the stars I went. Have you had that sensation that a mist falls on you when you lie in bed and fall asleep into blackness and dreams? I have. That night the physical presence of mist suddenly descended sleep into my mind and my eyes drooped, blinking took a fraction of a second too long and I stumbled like a drunk. This continued for about half an hour as I forced myself awake, searching for stars, white footprints, neon tags...

There are two other memories I have of this time, but I can’t tell which was first. A moth with wings the size of my one glasses lense landed on my spectacles while chasing my headlamp. I switched off the light and that sleep-dark descended. There was no difference between open eyes or closed, no stars, light or any frame of reference other than touch and the sound of the moth departing. Oh to lie down…

The other memory woke me up… In this thick mist I could see the path for 4-6 meters, the white footprints up to 7 meters and the neon trail markers up to 8 meters away. But as I crested yet another small climb there was but one white footprint pointing slightly left, and no path to follow directly. That’s okay, I was sure it can’t be too hard… but for the lack of visibility and sleep! I went 5 meters forward, stopped and returned to the foot. I did this 5 times in different directions. Nothing. Lost. Alone. Determined. Setting myself on the course of the footprint I went 10 meters forward, looked right and left. Nothing. Took two paces left and saw a path… I followed it making sure there were no gaps so I could find my way back if necessary. I was awake. And it was the right path, as the next footprint 50 meters on confirmed. I think it was a short while later that I descended out of the mist making markers easier to see!

Looking well awake on the Saturday morning!
Leading into Swiman checkpoint is a path on which you double back. Seeing a few lights ahead of me, I chased them directly. It was Chris and Bianca heading out of Swiman… looking like they were going to make it, but it had been a tough day and night for them, too. Onward for us all with barely a greeting. And I reached the checkpoint 10 minutes later. Knowing what sleep deprivation can do, I asked for a cup of coffee and a mattress with blanket. They said, “it’s the last checkpoint and only 13km to go; we want you to carry on!” “Sleep first”, I said. It wasn’t even 15 minutes of lying down. But it was necessary and worth it.

As I’d passed the Malkoppies, so I passed the last of the runners and the sweeps on my way out of Swiman. The temperature was moderate compared to the previous night, but with under 15 minutes of sleep in 2 days and 152km down, my body was aware of the chill in the breeze. I considered another layer, but also thought it might get too hot if I did.

Again alone going up… and knowing I needed to go down. My knee was starting to hurt again, and while I had considered removing the strapping while in the sleep-deprived state before Swiman, I knew I had made the right decision to leave it on. There was some seriously technical climbing and descending over this last 13km. Again, I regretted not being able to complete this in the light. I could see lights ahead of me, but in trying to time the distance to them I knew I wouldn’t catch them… they were just too far ahead. Or were they? I did some sums in my head. “Crap!! This kind of concentration has me dawdling and cutting it fine”. I wasn’t even 100 percent sure how I had to go. It had been too cold to charge my watch last night, and the battery was about to run out again. It was 50km from Cobham and I’d stopped it how long ago? Oh man, I can’t remember! Where is a watch with power to last?

So I started chasing… forcing a good pace uphill, getting my heart and muscles into the “red” zone (or at least orange). And downhill manoeuvring my knee into positions that didn’t hurt and keeping up the effort. It was slow and sore, but it worked… Those lights ahead of me were getting closer. They were. And then I crested the hill with a campsite shining its bright lights! It’s not Bushman’s Nek… is it? Those headlamps I’m chasing are half way down the hill… it doesn’t look too steep. I can catch them! I will catch them… and I did. Chris and Bianca! And as I’m asking how it’s going Chris tells me to bugger off and not hold them back! Haha, good man. The river crossings and fine dirt were taking its toll on more feet. But that Bianca had the smiles and Chris the pluckiness meant I knew they’d make it.

The sun was starting to fade the stars and lighten the sky! We passed the bright camping ground and rounded it on the left and headed over a little hill... 

It wasn’t easy to keep ahead of them. As we passed through a ranger’s yard they caught and overtook me. It was the last “sprint”… a gravel road up to Bushman’s Nek. We each reeled in a few more people… All spent after the last 24 hours and more chasing this finish line.

I decided to beat that sunrise… and ran until we left the road; it was more than a kilometre at 6min/km pace; impressive. The last 200m we took a detour uphill into a field, through one last culvert, traversed a path cut into the side of the hill below Bushman’s Nek and then up some steps before a 20m dance to reach the finish line. A happier place on any run will be difficult to find… the finish line.

My hero: a gentleman, & a stubborn, articulate, encouraging, intelligent, runner.
So, my initial “goal” was 37 hours. That goal left the building on day one when I realized how altitude affects a person… I adjusted to 40 hours. That was possible, even with a cold night on the mountain. My learnings: Waste less time at the aid stations (damned chairs!), take the hills more gently (especially downs), and don’t trip over your poles. I ended with a 43 hour and 8 minute race. Well inside cut-off, in the end, and a healthy last among those attempting to #RunAMUK; but I’m still in it. And Deon finished before cut off, too!

Ultra Trail Drakensburg was rounded out by a great prize giving later that day exchanging war stories with organizers and participants alike. Of course there was the ceremony of the cow bells, where the 100 miler's get to make a noise... Congratulations to all of those that finished and met their goals! That race is beautifully brutal. It checked a box on my bucketlist I didn’t know I had.

The recovery has been harder than after Addo. Naturally. And for a while I seriously doubted my start at Mac Mac Ultra to come… Its too soon, I thought (or maybe hoped). But with some great nutrition (thanks Neolife), rehab and prehab (thanks Ilona Hearne Biokinetics) and an awesome family (spiritual, and human), I will be ready to continue #RunAMUK to #RazeABar!

04 May 2019

Ultra Trail Drakensburg... Part 2

“This is the hardest thing I have EVER done”, was a thought that returned to my consciousness regularly going up Thabana Ntlenyana. And it was true, but not present as we left Lesotho. Here's the first part of this race report if you haven't read it yet.

The first sunset and sunrise had passed. The doctor had said I must go… Coffee/hot chocolate mix, banana bread and left over Neolife bar were my breakfast. I put a fresh pair of socks on (because they were there; my feet were still fine). Off, out of the door. Tobie followed shortly behind as we headed up the road, turned left through the border and… wow… what a view! No, not the four 100km guys watering the sidewalk, but the view of the sun rising up over the Underberg down Sani Pass. Glorious. And warm!

Knowing I was 3 hours behind my “ideal” time, but only 30 minutes behind my “take your time” time, and feeling relatively fresh (or so I thought), I decided to push a little going down the pass. It was the pass we’d driven up and there was a good portion of the road on which to run or at least walk with intent and not worry about tufts of grass, hidden markings, or loose rocks and water erosion.

In short order I passed Chris and Bianca (aka the Malkoppies), and Nick and Kim who were all approaching the turnaround for the UTD 100. It had been a stress-filled few weeks waiting for Bianca’s passport that didn’t come. Thankfully the Malkoppies decided to still enjoy the ‘Berg… and seeing them lightened my mood. Kim is an inspiration on a number of different levels… and experiencing an effervescent greeting was magic: another energy boost! (Seeing how comfortable and strong Kim looked, I had no doubt about the outcome of her goal… getting the 100km monkey off her back was already guaranteed). Kim and Nick were merrily marching their way to the end.

About half way to turning off the road a shadow joined a silhouette in a culvert… Cindy popped out of the bushes to join Stuart… and another fun greeting and exchange of encouragement! “You look good”, they said. I replied, “It’s my makeup!” We made futile plans to do a “Paul Freeth Squirrelling” tribute afterwards… What is fun if it isn’t full of life?

Dropping off the road on my bottom through gushing water was fun… so much water; water everywhere. Us drought-encumbered “Kaapenaars” (those from the Cape, Eastern or Western) were awe-struck. The grass was long and green. The trees, neither many nor big because of altitude, were all thriving; what a pleasure to see and experience. A series of short, sharp climbs and descents punctuated by some contour travelling followed along the side of the 12 Apostles that line the Sani Pass like sentinels. By this time all the 100km runners had run past me as my power failed. This was completely unlike what happened to me at Addo where I powered past even the 76km runners! What?!

In every ultra you will experience high’s and lows, and they will come at you in different ways. The trick is to know how to deal with them… Don’t stop! Usually a good dose of food helps anything (sage advice from Nelson Mandela Bay’s own ultra king, Andy Wesson). And hydration key… you don’t survive without liquid! I’ve used Tailwind in my water for nearly 6 months. Carrying the powder is definitely easier than carrying litres of coconut water (which I’d used effectively before). And of course my trusty Neolife bars, with 720kJ per serving, offer superb energy and all around nutrition for ultra events. A little shot of caffeine to wake you up can do wonders, too.

Knowing I was hardly half way, I took it easy along the ridge, running seldom and slowly, but choosing to walk with meaning all the time
sucking in the views, the experience and the folly of fitness. I even saw a Dragon's Potty! It really is different up here, and there were no sane humans to confirm nor deny my swim... 

Standing at the top of the last ridge I thought it would be a great place for a zipline! But then, that would be the easy way down… why not just do it the hard way and walk! The welcome at the aid station from Andrew Booth and family was magic (I’d have carried on following the markers instead of stopping had he not hailed me from across the fields… and it wouldn’t have been the first time!) Stew. Water. Other food. A flush toilet. Happy conversation. I stayed too long… but what comfort. And of course another miler caught me: Deon Braun, you yster! (tr: Strong man).

It was time to move. My biokineticist would be pleased as I stretched out my back and legs. The only thing I couldn’t do was foam roll my ITBs. No worries, with the stretching done, I hitched on my pack, looked up at the blue sky, saw the treetops respectfully bowing to the breeze, and headed back to the mountains leaving Deon to enjoy the hospitality in Sani. Ahead lay the “easy”, “run-able” section of this event: the Giants Cup Trail on Ezemvelo Parks land.

Just into the park again and I had a mishap… I was running. It was 5 meters up the side of a kloof (gorge) where the water was gushing down. The sound was akin to rock music; beautiful. The trees grew great and green overhead, and out of black cliff faces. The water was clear and dark, and you could see the stones and rocks at the bottom of the river and pools. Water gave its percussive tempo as it tripped over boulders into pools and along eddies. The grass was long and it didn’t like the way my trekking pole brushed it. It sent the pole in front of my leg… and I tripped and fell. Had the poles not been tethered to my wrists, they would have been lost in the water below. As it was, my knee twisted and I clung to the grass and path as I hung off the sloped cliff. My running was done. And my sports tape was 3km away in my bag at the last check point.

Rest. Stretch.

Walk it out. Try run. Stretch. Rest. Search my pack again. Nope. If I go back 3km, that is the end of AMUK. It would be another 6km. Not an option. Keep going. Rest. Stretch… walk it out… it WILL get easier.

Clamber through the kloof and water, mount a rock that would have been tough to climb 5km into a run (let alone 105km in). See Deon on a section of trail about 1km back… he’s catching up! I climb a hill and see people resting there! Stop… have a conversation about the beauty of the area and the madness of running through it instead of savouring a hike; and get offered pineapple. Those 3 pieces were the most delicious fruit ever,… sweet and pungent. While enjoying the fruit, I now had a new pain to worry about: I bit a hole in my tongue! There is something to be said for “pain transference theory”… Not a lot to recommend it, but in certain circumstances it may assist the sufferer!
500m on and I round a rock. Another big hairy baboon-sized rock 10 meters to my left jumps up and down! It is not even 4pm, this is NOT a hallucination! Yes, it’s a baboon and his congress; as he lands he strolls off through his mates as if he didn’t get a fright; he’s the boss. I walked on keeping a wary eye out behind. No worries…

By this time, although the knee was still sore, I could run a little, and I did. Until another tuft of grass caught my ankle… Run-able? Not for me! I descended gingerly through a channel of rocks, and allowed Deon to catch up. He knew the trail. He didn’t have sports tape… but we weren’t far off of Cobham. We marched. Fortunately it was comparatively flat and I could keep up. Slowly the pain subsided and I began to move more freely, taking in the amphitheatres created by the ‘Berg, scoping out Dragon’s lairs for later exploration, and enjoying the story of how Trail Magazine came to be.

There are certain sponsors who stand out… Squirrels Nut Butter has to be one of them. On the lead in to Cobham SNB had posted signs and a Strava Segment to get runners to run (or try to). But Deon is a friendly guy, and just before that segment started we were about to cross a river; he greeted some cops on horseback… and lost his one trekking pole into the river. We chased up and down the bank, but found nowhere to get in. The pole was a gonner. We trudged the last 500m to Cobham. Dammit.

Medic? Yes, please! Strap my right knee, please? Yes, sir! Coffee? Banana Bread? Banana? Water? Farbar? Don’t mind if I do! What will the temperature be tonight? Nothing like last night… its looking clear, so it will probably get chilly! But this is the mountains… what chance of mist? Maybe, but… you’re chasing cut off and will have to push if you want to make the end on time!

As Deon and I were just about ready to get going, in walks Tobie. He’s asking for us to wait a bit and lead him through the dark… Do we wait? Do we go? Who sacrifices what?

"I HAVE to finish this race," I think. "#RunAMUK to #RazeABar".
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one10run Revived

It was in September 2019 that teams of fun arrived to run loops around the Sardinia Bay parkrun route at Grass Roof. Tens of thousands of Ra...