"I'd rather be seen on my bicycle than on a park run" - Quote from the dark side

Friday, 29 July 2011

I Met The Crazy Penguin!

Last night I was lucky enough to meet Tiina from One Crazy Penguin here in my own hometown. Tiina and her family have been on vacation in Africa and on their way home they had a stopover in Johannesburg. Yay, at last I could meet one of the bloggers from the other side of the world!

Tiina with her lovely parents.

We had a great time chatting but soon it was time to say goodbye. It was really great to meet these super nice and friendly people and I was sad that we could not spend more time together. We will certainly make a plan Tiina! Disney Marathon, Comrades...my list is long either side of the world.

Happy to have met, but sad to say goodbye so soon…

Tiina's mom, Tiina, me and her dad.

The three of us with my son, Rohann.

Have a super weekend everyone!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Back in the day.

I ran my first half marathon in 1981 and was hooked on running immediately. A lot of my races were run in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Medals were not common at all in those (good old) days. Badges were the in thing and covering your tracksuit or blanket with race badges was the cool way of showing them off.

I did the same and still have my old school tracksuit top covered with badges. Unfortunately the pants went missing some years ago as they were covered as well. Looking at my badges I sometimes wish we still received a badge after a race and not a medal.



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First Race
1981 SABC TV Road Race (21.1km)
First Marathon
1985 Pick ‘n Pay Marathon
First Ultra
1985 Milo Korkie (56km)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Q & A – Some Answers

I received a lot of questions for my Q&A post. Thanks everyone! Wow you are a nosey lot! No, just kidding, you are all the best!

So here goes, I decided to just let it rip in one ultra post:

Were you born in S. Africa? If not, where were you born?
Yes, I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa.

And how many languages do you speak and what are they?
I speak 2 fluently, English and Afrikaans. I also speak a little Zulu, Sotho and Ndebele. I understand Ndebele completely.

Hmmmm, one more thing, do you have a dog?
Yes, we have 4 dogs at home. I love dogs and all animals.

What is your “ultimate race”?
For me Badwater is the ultimate race. There are other’s that come close, especially the multi day desert races, but there is something about Badwater that really intrigues me. I’ve been following it very closely since 2003.

What's the best thing about living in South Africa, and if you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
The fantastic weather. I run outside throughout the year because we have such fantastic weather. It is also a country of extreme variety and I like that. Any where else…mmm Colorado, California…somewhere close to some awesome trail 100 milers. :) Having said that, I wouldn’t leave SA easily.

What does your job entail?
I’m in IT and specialize in software performance testing. I test software under load to find bottlenecks in systems. For instance, I’m currently testing one of the SA bank’s Internet Banking sites to see if it can handle 50 000 payments at once.

How long have you been running?
I’ve been running races for 30 years now. I did my first race in 1981. It was a half marathon. Before that I ran some x country at school.

Does anyone in your family share your love for running?
My dad is as passionate as I am. He is my running hero and inspired me to start running.

Where is the farthest you've been from home?
Many years ago when I was doing an army camp I escorted someone to China. I think that’s the farthest but will have to look which part of the world is how far from home.

Ok, so two questions, one personal, one political:
* Did you start out with road racing at all before getting into ultras?

Yes, my first race was a half marathon. However, here in South Africa we move to ultras almost immediately. This is mainly because of the Comrades Marathon. Runners here train for that as runners would train for a marathon in other countries. That’s what you run for. Marathons are just a step to the ultras here and are seen a bit low key by most. We have many road ultras here as well.

* It hasn't been that long since apartheid in S. Africa--how would you describe the state of racial relations these days? Has the country made true progress?
Well it’s been 17 years and a lot of changes happened. In general good progress everywhere and the country is heading in the right direction. There are problems for sure and some are definitely racial. I think the worst is people are getting fed up with the new government that, after 17 years, still blames their poor delivery on apartheid. They promised the world to the people in 1994 and now they don’t deliver that. The other bad thing is that a lot of black people still blame all the white people for apartheid while all the forces of apartheid are long gone. A lot of people see all white people as racists because they are white and that is really sad because it is so far from the truth.

What is your daily diet like...I mean...North American vs African?
Actually I think it’s surprisingly similar. I eat cereal for breakfast and take sandwiches to work. Supper is usually a cooked meal (maybe we do more cooked meals here) with some meat, veggies (green beans, pumpkin, spinach…the normal stuff), potatoes and rice. We do the same junk food as you do and also love pizza.

Coldest temperature you have run in?
-7°C (19.4F) some years ago. The coldest most years are -4°C (24.8F). So far this year it’s been -3°C (26.6F). I have never run in snow and really hope I get to experience that some day.

OK, so if you had a third arm, where would be on your body and what would be it's purpose?
Mmm probably in the middle of my chest to help with carrying and also climbing mountains quicker.

How much water do you drink before and after a race?
I don’t necessarily drink more water before or after a race than I normally do. I drink lots of water every day and even at night. I run at least 6 days per week so I always make sure I stay hydrated. In summer this will be about 3 liters per day and winter about 2 liters. I also drink lots of coffee and chocolate milk. After a tough, warm ultra I sometimes drink 3 to 4 liters of chocolate milk.

My questions all revolve around your previous career. How long did you practice as a vet? Where did you study? What was the most interesting animal that you treated? And why the career move?
Although I though it to be my dream career I realized very quickly that it was not really what I wanted to do as a career…more as a hobby. I was intrigued by computers and technology and somewhere I discovered that IT is where my passion lies. I’m lucky that I also found my passion within IT, software performance testing. I’m one of the lucky ones that can say I absolutely love my job and do it passionately every day. In SA only the University of Pretoria gives the Veterinarian course at the Onderstepoort Research Institute. I do regular caesar surgery on some live bearing fish…does this count?

When are you coming to Vermont to do the Ultra 100?
I’m looking into this one very seriously and hope I can make it in 2013. Would love to in 2012 but I don’t think it will happen.

What sites, cities or things-to-do would you recommend to a tourist coming to S Africa?
Me, you have to visit me! There is a great variety in South Africa. Obviously the game reserves with the big five and other game is always a must do for any non-African visitors. Then there is also Cape Town with Table Mountain and the Garden Route along the southern coast. Wine routes, the West Coast and one of my favorite places, the Drakensberg. There is really something for everyone.

What are some weird/different things you read about on American's blogs? (weird compared to life in SA)
Americans are all very weird! Lol! No, not really. On running I found it weird how everyone is training to run a marathon. Here everyone trains to run Comrades or some other ultras. Marathons aren’t the big achievement in SA, Comrades is. I also find it weird how everyone follows specific training plans and not make up their own. Then there is the coaching issue…we just don’t use coaches. I think South Africans run a lot more for the fun and social side of it. We are not that phased about times and splits. Oh yes, and the miles and Fahrenheit vs the kilometers and celcius…weird! And who measures fluids in ounces? But I love you all a lot!

If you were to get a chance to race in Colorado, would you rather do Hardrock 100, Leadville 100, or a shorter race like Pikes Peak Marathon? (or one of the other fabulous races in the mountains....)
I’d love to do Pikes Peak but when I take the journey and spend the money it will probably be for the Leadville 100. Hardrock might be too hard to do while actually on vacation…:)

Do you primarily speak Afrikaans or English on a daily basis?
Both. At home we speak only Afrikaans and my son goes to an Afrikaans school. At work we speak mostly English with some Afrikaans as well. Away from work I’m Afrikaans.

I'd love to know how you got into ultra-running...
Well if you read some of my earlier answers you’ll know ultra running is what we do here in SA. I ran my first ultra in 1985 with my dad as part of his Comrades preparation. It was a 56km (34.7mile) race.

And also, what's the story of the special lady you once mentioned in a comment to me, about racing and relationships? 
Ha, I’ll share this with you, but not with the world yet…when the time is right.:)

Have you always lived in South Africa?
Yes, I was born in Johannesburg and has always lived here.

What is your "dream race"?
The Jungle Ultra in Peru. Multi day race over 235km (146 miles). Part of the description reads “where the Andes meets the Amazon”…amazing!

Would you ever, for any reason, run naked in front of people you don't know?
If it is for the right cause and the people really don’t know me I might…

Have you ever run barefoot?
No, but I walk barefoot all the time when I’m not at work.

What is your stance on public displays of affection (PDA)?
I don’t really mind what other people do. I think if more people would show that they love each other a bit more love might be spread across the world.

Do you enjoy the Harry Potter series? Books or movies better?
Love Harry Potter! I prefer the movies and have them all at home.

The Black Knight:
How many pairs of running shoes do you "destroy" every year?
I’m actually quite light on shoes and get high mileage out of them. I usually go through four pairs every year, 3 x road and 1 x trail.

Beings your mum and Running Green Girl are approximately the same height, how tall are you?
I’m 1.71m. I think that’s about 5ft 6…?

When are you coming to run in my gorgeous, and steep, Colorado mountains? Pikes Peak 2012?
When the time and money is right I’m there! With the SA rand averaging 7 to the dollar it is not so easy.:( I have my eye on a few races that side so will have to choose carefully.

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner:
What are your long term running goals?
I have a lot of races I want to complete just once. There are some ultras and multi day events I’m very keen on. There are a few road 100 milers here in SA as well as the Augrabies Desert Challenge. The Namib Desert, Jungle Ultra, Leadville, Pikes Peak, ATY (across the years) and maybe one day Badwater. Money and time will unfortunately play its part too.

How do you think running/racing has improved your life and the lives of those around you?
Running has been a part of my life for many years. I’ve been running for 30 years now and my dad ran since I can remember. I can’t imagine my life without it. I can’t measure the quality of life that running has given me. Then there are all the people I know through running. They make it even better.

Have you ever been to Belgium?
No. Do you have any cool ultra races there?:)

What is your favourite food to cook?
I love making pasta and enjoy experimenting with various ideas. I usually make up my own recipes.

What and where is your favourite "eat out" food and restaurant?
To be honest I don’t like eating out. I choose eating at home any time. If I have to choose it would be any place that serves a good breakfast. Breakfast is definitely my favourite eat out food.

If you were able to read to here you deserve an ultra medal. Have a splendid weekend everyone!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Life Running and Questions

Life really caught up with me this past week and weekend. Besides the fact that I got a head cold there were also some family and other issues that needed my attention. The result of this was that I made the decision to skip the race I was going to run on Saturday. No matter how important running and racing may be, family always remains no 1.

I’m not upset about missing the race at all and I did get in some good training from home. I ran 7.5km on Saturday and did a tough 22.5km trail run on Sunday. My next race is on 30 July so not long to go anyway. I will however now only run 4 races in July and not 5 as I planned.

In blogger world I could not escape the Q&A side of things and was tagged by AJH from Age Groups Rock to be part of this. So please ask me anything you want! I’ll be very happy to answer!

Have a super week everyone!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Race Report - Vaal River Trail Run

The Vaal River forms the Southern border of the Gauteng province where I stay. This is about 50km from my home and the venue for the Vaal river Trail Run was 47km from home. It was a cold drive with the temperature going down to -2°C (30F). I think it went down more before the start of the race. I arrived quite early and after I registered chose to wait inside my car.

Watching the sunrise from the warmth of my car.

There weren’t many people when I arrived and as the time went by people started arriving but I could see this would be a small race. In the end there were 94 finishers for the 20km that I ran. There were a 5km and 10km run as well but even with everyone together there weren’t many at the start.

Waiting for the start.

I saw Staci, our sandal girl, at the start and even the very cold conditions didn’t keep her out of her beloved sandals.


I started the race with Staci and ran with her up to the point where the 10km and 20km races split. She was doing the 10km so this is where we parted ways.

Away we go! Staci in the yellow top.

The first few kilometers were through open grass fields. It was a gradual down run towards the river and I mentioned that we will have a gradual up to finish with.

On our way to the river.

The 10km split came before we reached the river and I think this was a bit disappointing for some of the runners. As I got to the river I was very happy I was doing the 20km. The river early in the morning was really beautiful.

Vaal River.

Some mud hopping had to be done. I love mud!

We followed the river for some time, turning away from it at times. We ran on several different surfaces and I enjoyed that. Single track, jeep track, grass, gravel road, tar road. I enjoyed the mixture. The only bad thing, and I think this is from my point of view the only bad thing about the race, were some areas that are badly polluted. Seeing the pollution made me angry and sad at the same time. The river is so beautiful, why can’t people just leave it like that?

Off the road back onto the trail.

Trail on the river bank.

When we turned away from the river to start the return trip, we ran through some area where they were digging (mining) for something. I don’t know what they do here exactly, but although not pretty, I enjoyed running through something I don’t often do.

Not sure what they dig (mine) for here.

Previously “mined” area.

Don’t want to get stuck in there…

Steep, slippery downhill.

The run was certainly not the most scenic, but I found it interesting. The second half took us back towards the residential areas, but we still had various types of terrain and obstacles to cross.

Back towards the residential area.

Stream crossing.

Some burnt grass.

We eventually made our way back to the point where the 20km and 10km races split. We then followed the 10km route back to the finish. We were away from the river now and just outside the local neighbourhood. We still had a steam to cross and a dam to look at.

Follow the stream

Dam with Vaal University of Technology in the background.

The last part of the run was mostly through grass. There were two runners ahead of me that were very aware of me and obviously didn’t want me to catch and pass them. They were tired and kept looking back at me when they took a walk break. I smiled and thought, don’t worry, I’m not a runner like that. I don’t care if I pass you. Besides, stopping to take photos to share with my bloggy friends is way more important. Aint I nice! (insert your approval here!)

I made it back to the finish feeling good. I could feel the week’s training during the last few kilometers but overall I felt great. This was good time on the legs. I finished in 2:15 and was happy. We received a medal in the form of a key ring.

I felt happy when I finished.

Key ring “medal”.

Some giveaways.

This was certainly not the most spectacular run, but for me the course was interesting. I enjoyed the river and all the different terrain we ran on. The pollution in some places was the biggest negative for me.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Fives For Friday

Africa and indeed South Africa are known for the big fiveElephant, Rhino, Lion, Leopard and Buffalo.


I am currently training for five big races or five main goals:
  1. Mont-Aux-Sources 50km Challenge on 10 September.
  2. Four Peaks Mountain Challenge on 1 October.
  3. Golden Gate Challenge on 27-30 October.
  4. Sani Stagger Marathon on 26 November.
  5. Three Cranes Challenge on 23 – 26 February 2012.
I will post more detail about each race as they get closer. Yes, two of those are multiday events (3 days each) and I am very excited!

In training for the big five races July and August are my main training months for the year. It also happens that this year July has five weekends. So to stay with the theme of five I decided to run five races in July:
  1. Northgate 10km on 3 July. I finished this in 58:59.
  2. 20km Vaal River Trail Race on 10 July.
  3. Springbok Vasbyt 25km race on 16 July.
  4. Rustenburg 25.5km mountain race on 30 July.
  5. Wits Half Marathon on 31 July (my birthday).
So that’s the news on all my fives for this Friday! Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Northgate 10km Race Report

Yesterday I ran the Northgate 10km race that was held by Roodepoort Athletic Club at the Northgate shopping centre in Johannesburg. I haven’t done a 10km race in two years now so it was nice to get one done for a change.

Runners on their way to the start.

I have a goal to run 2000 races before I retire from running and after Sunday my total sits on 1253 races. I keep count of the number of races I run for all the distances from 10km, 15km, 21.1km (half marathon), 32km (20 miles), 42.2km (marathon), ultras, and non-standard (any other distance).

The 10km race counter was at 135 for two years so the main goal of yesterday’s race was to add another one to get it to 136.

Finish area at Northgate.

The morning started cold but in the end the weather was perfect for running. I estimate about 600 to 700 runners started the race.

Waiting for the start.

Looking back.

We started on time at 7:30 and I made my way around the normal front of the pack walkers…this never ends does it?

On our way!

I decided to run the first half comfortably to see what my legs felt like after the trail training of the previous day. I felt good despite my normal sluggish feeling I usually have the first 7 to 8km of any run.

About 2km into the race, all good.

There were a few hills in the first 6km but I could run them easily, never pushing too hard. My legs felt the week’s training a bit, but I felt strong at the same time.

Last real hill between 6 and 7km.

The last 3km were more or less flat and I started feeling better and better towards the end. It was great to feel some fitness over the shorter distance and I could feel the tough hills I’ve been running on the trails at altitude (Johannesburg is at about 6000ft) is helping the lungs a lot.

In the end I cruised home and was happy to dip under an hour for the 10km. My time was 58:59 and for me that is just right.

Happy with my time!

The moment I stopped I felt rested. I was not tired in any way and I feel I have a good base to start my serious training for July and August, my two most important training months of the year.

Medal for the 10km.

I'm not sure when I'll be doing a 10km race again. There may be one in December that I will do.

Next up is the 20km Vaal River Trail Race this Sunday at 08:00. Have a great week everyone!