I'm not a natural blogger and I'm no techie. I'm an ultra trail runner by passion, and a journalist by profession - in that order of priority.
In this blog I use the one to talk about the other - my trail thoughts, musings and meanderings about running mountains and trails.
I call it rockhoppin', just because... well... that's what we trail runners love to do!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

rockhoppin' the escarpment

Crazy adventure photographer extraordinaire Kelvin Trautman kicked off his Durban beach slops to brave the chilly air up here earlier this week to take some great shots of Ryan (aka Mach1) and I on the very edge of the escarpment above the Sani Pass, doing what rockhoppers love to do.

Kelvin said he was disappointed he’d missed the snow.

We weren’t!

Friday, August 20, 2010

two nine and counting...

Yesterday I learnt a new phrase – a rather astonishing one at that. But then, it’s American, so go figure! When something is absolutely brilliant, or really great, they say it’s “the shit”.

As opposed to when something’s awful, they say it’s really shitty.

So there I was, hauling up the Sani Pass in a 4x4, having made three unsuccessful attempts in a rather crochety Landrover the previous day, with two very enthusiastic American tourists and one polite Italian student, all travelling around SA on separate adventures. The pass was as winding and steep as I expected, but sadly we weren’t able to see the massive drop-off because the mist was so thick that in parts we had almost total white-out.

We took 50 bone-rattling minutes to drive the 8km from the SA border post to the top, and as we created the escarpment, we literally popped out from the wall of mist into clear blue sky and bright sunlight. It was spectacular.

And that’s when I heard it – “Hey man, this is The Shit!”

Ok, so we know they do things a little differently on that continent, but how can something so good be given such a terrible phrase??

“The Shit” or not, the top of the Sani Pass is incredible. And within 10 mins, the weather was proudly strutting its stuff... first mist, then drizzle, soon sleet, and by 5pm it was snowing. Overnight the temperature dropped to -13˚C. And this morning the landscape was draped in a soft white carpet of thick powder snow.

I’m here to get my lungs used to breathing thin air. Having done all my TransAlps training at sea level, there’s no doubt they’ll scream every time I run. Hopefully 12 days at 2 900m will see my system generating a whole crop of brand new red blood cells excited to hit the Alps!

Monday, August 9, 2010

From pole to pole

Well, I’m happy to report I’m back running again... again. It feels good not to feel, for the first time in more than a month, that I’m not popping a lung every time I run uphill.

So, to celebrate I thought I’d take up pole dancing.

Alas, there’s nothing exotic or erotic about this kind of pole – sure, it involves dressing in lycra, looking rather flushed and doing a good deal of heavy breathing, but graceful I am not. In fact, when I’m at my pole, I look as ungainly as a tarantula on a tightrope, or one of George Lucas’s giant metal walkers off the set of Star Wars.

You see, this kind of pole dancing involves not one but two poles, and no saucy sliding or gyrating. These poles are handheld and have only one purpose: to get me up steep, winding alpine paths faster. There’s not a lot that’s sexy about that.

I’m still a beginner at this poling lark, and I have to say, I’m pretty bad at it. I’m told there’s a technique to it – it’s all about rhythm and flow. But right now my poling technique, if I can even call it that, is more about clumping along at negligible speed, splaying these lightweight sticks about in every direction and desperately trying to think about placement for four feet instead of two.

I’m told that, like riding a bicycle or learning to balance on ice skates, running effectively with poles is simply a matter of practice, and that it won’t be long before I’m “one with my poles”. I’ve got to hope so... so far I‘m a trail hazard with the things – tripping up Ryan won’t be the ideal way to try and keep up with him in the Alps.

So, if any of you have any handy tips about mastering the poling technique - or have any pole dancing tips to offer, feel free to make them known!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Snot without the trauma

People say if you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen. Put it out to the universe, believe with all your heart, do all the necessary groundwork to prepare for it, and it will be.

I do believe that, and I live by it. I believe positivity attracts good things, and that self-belief is the way forward. There’s no point dreaming about goals and hoping that by some flash of chance they’ll just happen. It takes hard work, determination, planning and a lot of perseverance to make those dreams real.

And often, the journey is not a smooth one – there’re often bumps and hiccups along the way. I’m in mid-bump at the moment: as I write this blog post, I’m just 31 days away from Day One of the biggest, most difficult and exciting physical challenge I’ve ever taken on, and somehow I’ve managed to pick up yet another %*# bug. Unlike a month ago this one’s just a head cold and there’s no coughing involved, but my nose is so bunged up that I feel I’ve forgotten what it’s like to breathe through it.

Noses aren’t the most attractive appendages at the best of times but right now mine could win awards – for size, colour... and contents (sorry).

My TransAlps partner Ryan Sandes, aka The Machine or Mach1 for short, is being ever-encouraging – it’s just a hiccup, he assures me, the legs will enjoy the rest... But truth be told, I’m terrified these legs have been so long off proper training that they’ve forgotten HOW to run up mountains. And in 31 days, they must see Mach1 and I safely through 8 days and 296km worth of the most mountainous terrain they’ve ever encountered, up 18 000m of ascent, and the same in descent – all without flinching.

For months we’ve prepared, we’ve planned, we’ve visualised our race. We both want to do our best – for ourselves, for each other, for our sponsors, for our loved ones and friends who’ve supported and encouraged us along the way. We all want this race.

And damn it, I’m not going to let a snotty nose get in the way!

“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we’re made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.” (Patti-Sue Plumer, US Olympian)