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Big ups and big downs

It’s incredible how life presents you with all sorts of different experiences, each to give you an opportunity to grow. Sometimes, these experiences are ones of elation and confidence, and sometimes they feel horrible at the time, and only afterwards do you see the opportunity in them.

Coming off the back of my 3rd consecutive African X win and my first DNF of my running career, I’ve had all these experiences squashed into 2 weeks. And what I’ve learnt, is that I’ve learnt more from the DNF than the win…

African X was absolutely wonderful! Landie and I had fun, ran strong, felt great (despite an infected blister on my foot) and really just had a beautiful 3 days of quality time together with each other and the trail community. It was really perfect and I loved every second of the event. Huge thank you to KPMG for supporting Landie and myself to compete in style! I’m so chuffed with a stage win on each day and an overall win, it’s a fantastic event.

The big lessons, as always, come from the ‘bad’ experiences though. 5 days after the 95km African X I had committed to running the Drakensberg Northern Trail 40km. I usually sleep relatively well the night before a big race. I drift off with a smile on my face at the thought of what the next day will bring. I go through the route in my head and it makes me feel so excited but peaceful. The night before Northern Drakensberg Trail, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned and worried and paced. I even woke my brother to express my worries. I knew I had tired legs from African X but my mind was telling me I was fine. The conflict was causing me anxiety even before I started. I finally slept, assuring myself that once I got going, I would be fine… And I was! I enjoyed the first 20ks, I felt relaxed and confident. But I still didn't feel myself, I wasn't sparkly and light... I was running with the heavy weight of 'just getting through it'. It felt like a chore. Any trail runner knows this should not be the case! Of course, there is always pain involved in a marathon distance skyrun, but this was different. It wasn't pain, it was just that my heart wasn't in it. Suddenly after the 23k aid station, my mind decided enough was enough. My ITB was hurting but nothing was particularly sore and I wasn’t nauseas. I just couldn’t bring myself to run one more step… And I stopped. And I calmly turned around and walked back to the aid station. It felt like a dream! When I reached the aid station I was in floods of tears. What I had just done sunk in, and I felt extremely disappointed in myself.

When I got back to the finish I was contemplating how to get out the car and face everyone, when suddenly I heard a cheer and saw a flash of Johardt flying towards the finish! This got me out the car in a shot, and I totally forgot about all my worries. I’m so happy I got to see him cruising to his second consecutive SA Champs title. He’s a phenomenal athlete, friend and human (not in that order). It was so awesome to see the beaming proud smile on his little brother – Andreas’ face. Congrats to Nicolette, Su and Marzelle on fantastic performances over that tough course.

The next few days my mind felt like a see-saw between the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘you made the right decision’. Deep down I know it was the right decision. My body knew what was best, and that wasn't hammering through another 20kms of mountain running! Altus gave me the best advice, explaining that failure is not in the falling, it’s in the not getting up. And I can see that now that a few days have passed. It’s so easy to

blame the circumstances, make excuses and stay down. I could easily lose confidence in myself and my abilities. I could even just stay in bed and not bother to carry on training…. But I am choosing to take responsibility for my choice and I admit I was taking a big risk. I chose to race 95ks the week before SA Champs – high risk high reward kind of behaviour! I’m really not upset that I made that decision, I choose to live all out. I want to experience all the highs and lows, learn the lessons and get stronger. I don’t want to play it safe and that’s why I took on both races.

So all in all, I’ve accomplished exactly what I wanted out of the challenge. I’ve learnt more about myself and my body, about trail running, about people, about physiology, friendship, responsibility, recovery, grit… And all those other human things we crave to learn every day. So with that, I’m extremely grateful!

A last but certainly not least shout out to my sponsors for supporting me to dream big. I got my new Suunto Ambit Vertical the day before African X and I can now analyse even more about mountain running than before with functions to display vertical speed and accurate ascent and descent! Thank you Salomon SA, RUSH Natural Nutrition, BOS Sport and Julbo Eyewear. Massive thank you to KPMG for supporting myself and Landie to do African X in style! Thank you to my coach, Ian Waddle, for ‘getting’ me. Thank you to my family and boyfriend for all the support, belief and consolation. And to my awesome physio – Iain Sykes and Nicole from Advanced Therapy Massage for each and every second you spent before, during and after African X on my legs and tired muscles. I don’t know what I would do without you!! Those are some big thanks yous, but there’s one more, and one that often goes unacknowledged. Altus Shroeder. If I can give half the amount of energy, passion and inspiration back to the world as Altus does, I will be content. HUGE thank you for every ounce of energy and time you give to our trail community…

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