Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Middle of the Road

As the year comes to an end, my mind turns to what has been achieved in 2013 personally. It's been a year of growth, although has rarely felt like it. It's definitely been a year of running PB's and eventually three wins in low key, small field races. Satisfying nevertheless. I've been lucky to have discovered the best trails I've run on. Witnessed Western States and Leadville firsthand and admired how anyone can run that fast, for that long! And then I got injured which is as usual the body saying 'enough'.

My favorite running pic of the year - Simon Gear nails the 2 Oceans silver
It's made me reflect on the past more than ever before, and decisions made.

I always thought that the term mid life crisis was an easy way for (generally) men to excuse their behaviour. However, now I realise that by the time you get to your mid to later forties, you have 20 years + of 'adult' experience, you aren't at the start of your journey in work, relationships, etc but at a pivotal point where your decisions start to have a finality about them. The road you choose now, had better be the right one, or be faced with those ever occurring thoughts of life on your own, in a job that doesn't inspire you, with a partner who isn't your soulmate, or in a place you dislike. Those all become real fears as you head towards 50. No-one is going to look at you for your young promise (job wise), for the chance to start a family with you, and the likelihood of starting afresh in a new environment becomes a big risk or a pipe dream.

A summer of great sunsets from Council Crest
Those who embrace change and are prepared to take a path that is rocky, uncertain and unchartered have my admiration. I've found it massively stressful dealing with three life events this year. New job, new continent, new life situation. It HAS been a year of growth, but felt more like a constant battle to remain positive, pull on my running shoes and start the day on an uplifting note. I've fought the desire to stabilise my moods artificially, believing that according to that saying, its better to feel emotional pain than not feel at all. I've seen the other side of my SA decisions, and appreciated the pain, hurt and frustrations felt by others effected by my decisions, although have mainly failed to rein in those frustrations myself. I've definitely realised that no situations are straightforward and however strong feelings are, and desire is, it's never that simple. I still have faith that somehow out of all this, I can find peace and contentment, despite understanding that I might just have a restless soul and maybe am unable to find peace. But that peace can only come from within and that's been the biggest struggle, to accept and work on that aspect. Again, I have admiration for people who can work on themselves to be better human beings and succeed. My occasional personal blogs have elicited an amazing response from friends, and for that I'm grateful.

I've been fortunate to visit, run in and experience some amazing places. Some of my favorite pics of the year are HERE

Wishing friends near and far a happy, adventurous, fulfilling 2014.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Medicine Ball

So the little bump in the road was nothing more than that. When my Achilles flared I thought the worst and prepared for a long time off the roads and trails. I googled and browsed and researched and came up with the Strassburg sock and the Foot Rubz ball, $40 and $5 respectively. The sock is a bizarre contraption that is supposed to keep your heal slightly 'raised'. The instructions suggested you wear it in bed, but it looked and felt odd and my toes cramped! So I ditched that after a day (available on Craigs List for $20, any takers?). The Foot Rubz is a spiky ball that you roll around under your foot, and I quote "simply roll the 172 stimulating fingers under feet for fast relief". As a sales pitch it takes some beating.

The Strassburg Sock - bizarre
Trying to find the ball in REI (for South Africans think Cape Union Mart) was more of a challenge. The computer said 38 units in stock, the shelves said zero. So after much hunting around in the store room they found one. AND it seems to have worked. I sat at my desk and rolled this funny ball under my foot, and hey presto, no more Achilles pain. Who knows if it helped or if the injury was receding anyway. Combined with regular icing and heel raises and drops, there's no pain after 4 consecutive days of running.

The miracle ball

As before, having a break of a couple of weeks is an odd experience. I found I got out of the habit of running pretty easily and found cycling, walking and generally keeping busy filled that running time. In two weeks I seem to have lost a lot of fitness! Runs are hard work and my muscles are sore afterwards! How can that happen?? Doesn't the last 2-3 years of injury free running count for anything :)

Also when you aren't running every day you quickly forget what a simple, pure joy it is to just run, especially off road. Maybe I need that day to day confirmation that running is the best medicine available? Although I wasn't consciously aware of it all the time, the 11 days off over 2 weeks made me grouchy and more than usually sensitive. Running time is my space for trying to logically think through situations rather than just reacting, which with my lack of patience I do far too often without completely thinking through the consequences. Running often acts in a similar way to the 'sleep on it' idea. That it's better not to act rashly before spending sometime working through the solution.

I'm glad I have access to the medicine cabinet again....

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Rainbow Nation

I remembering being in Clacton, Essex, with my girlfriend at the time when Nelson Mandela was released. Even for someone with no connection with South Africa at the time it was a momentous occasion. It seems to demonstrate that if you keep fighting for right, and keep fighting for right, you will eventually prevail.

Growing up in the UK in the 1970's and 1980's racism was rife, but everyone could vote and could go to the same shops, clubs, events etc. It wasn't easy to be anything but white, but I bet it was thousand times better than being black or 'coloured' in South Africa. 

in 1999 I went to Comrades and started to appreciate the issues in SA, although only from a cossetted tourist's viewpoint. I met an amazing South African at Comrades, who 'persuaded' me to move to SA. It's the best decision I ever made, bar none. We lived in Hout Bay, a 'middle class' part of Cape Town, but with some serious drug and crime issues that impacts on everyone, still. I spent the first four years sleeping at night with anything from slight unease to outright fear, coming as I did from an area where a punch up in a pub was the most serious crime you'd encounter. We were burgled, but luckily didn't wake up. Lindsay was mugged out running. We had two acquaintances and colleagues murdered.

South Africa is no picnic, and anyone who tells you it is, is lying, or living in an environment where their interaction with the real South Africa is severely limited. BUT, I miss it like I've missed no other place I've lived. I cried today when I heard Madiba had passed away. I cried when I was at Loftus Versfeld for the SA v British Lion rugby test match and 50,000 South Africans sang the national anthem with more passion then I thought possible. Its a beautiful song.

The country is special, unique, and abundant in things that are important to life. The people appreciate life in a much purer sense than many do in first world countries. There's a beauty simplicity to life at times, especially in CT. Life can be completely infuriating, especially when you tangle with government, large organisations, or try and do a relatively simple task! However, South Africans always 'make a plan', normally just now! They enjoy the climate, the landscape, the fauna and flora to a high level. They love sport, the teams that represent the country, beers, braais and talking shit. 

Standing on the start line at Comrades is the epitome of the rainbow nation, with runners of all backgrounds shoulder to shoulder, with the same road in front of them. The rainbow nation somehow gets along despite, or maybe because of it's history. 

"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended. Nelson Mandela"

RIP Madiba.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Always smiling

Last week at the Two Oceans marathon trail races, the organisation honoured Sonia with the trophy for the winning woman. It was a lovely gesture and Sonia's partner Brian Key presented the trophy to the winner Landie Greyling. My short blog post and new pics from Good Friday's race below.

Brian presenting Landie with the Sonia Beard Trophy
A beautiful trophy befitting Sonia's memory
I woke up today to very sad news. Sonia Beard, a doyen of Cape Town trail running passed away sometime yesterday. It appears to have been sudden and unexpected. My condolences go to her family especially Brian Key, one of the first runners I met in CT, and who at over 70, often finished in front of me. There was rarely a race where I didn't see him and Sonia. I don't know the details of Sonia's race record but I'd be sure there wasn't a race she hasn't run a dozen times.

Sonia always seemed to know how I was running, my results, how work was going. She was always interested in other people and was involved in organising the Tokai Forest race, where there was no entry fee, but a donation to a charity and where you would bring toys for the hospital that was being supported.

Thanks to Steven Hector for this great pic of Sonia (and Leo!)
Sonia and Brian were such a permanent part of the running scene in Cape Town, that I can't believe when I'm back in CT I won't see her smiling face at a race. Rest in Peace Sonia knowing you inspired and were loved and admired by many.