#AsicsFrontRunner

I enjoy being outdoors, which is one of the reasons I love to run.

My biggest motivation is inspiring others, while still having fun!

It’s not only great for my body but also helps relax my busy mind.

The runners are like family to me, this community is one of a kind!

 

The people I have met while running, have helped change my life.

This journey has shaped me into a better person, friend and wife.

ASICS is the brand I have always trusted to run in, right from the start.

I am a loyal fan and believe in what they stand for with all my heart.

 

The FRONTRUNNERS are passionate athletes, many are friends of mine.

Some of the incredible women include Charmaine, Jani and Caroline.

The guys are great too, Quaniet, Admire, Nicholas and the rest of the team.

Movement is in our blood and if chosen to join them, it would be a dream.

#IMoveMe

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You’ve Got What It Takes

I get a lot of enjoyment from running and sharing my journey with others. While social media can have a negative side, one of the positives is that it provides a great platform to impact people (which is far better than wasting time and energy trying to impress them!)

Although many people admire ‘famous’ people, just as many, if not more, look up to everyday people too, those they can relate to and connect with. After over a month of not running, I was worried I may not get my ‘mojo’ back when I returned. Supporting friends, sharing photos and chatting to others definitely helped motivate me but there is nothing better than actually being back on the road or out on the trails to lift my spirits.

The year has only just begun but I am already inspired by my running family who are training towards their goals and the sense of belonging and community is something I don’t take for granted. I have found that loving acceptance and being a healthy example if far better than preaching or criticizing others when we are trying to encourage them, especially those new to our sport. In running, like in life, we need to respect other people’s motivation for doing things and their reasons for taking on new challenges.

We all have the ability to inspire others. It’s contagious! Whenever you feel like giving up, remember there is probably someone who is watching you. “Accidental inspiration” was a phrase I heard recently and I love it. By simply being real and telling your story, you may be inspiring someone. You’ve got what it takes!

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Intentions Not Resolutions

As I type this tonight, newsfeed is filled with #transformationtuesday posts and I am sitting on the stairs (which is great after spending the day on my feet doing DIY) taking a few moments to reflect on how I have ‘transformed’ since this time last year. Since I like to share my thoughts, I am writing them down rather abruptly (in case I am needed again) however, I think I am in luck, as a VIP soccer game is starting soon, so the toolbox may be packed away until tomorrow!

Most people nowadays are living complicated lives and they are constantly worn out and weary. The January to-do list has already begun and instead of enjoying the holidays, they are worrying about what lies ahead and robbing today of its joy.  It is easy to get sucked up in what everyone else is doing and spend your life wishing things were simpler, but wishing doesn’t change anything. I’m not somebody who makes New Year’s resolutions but rather prefer to re-evaluate my priorities and goals on a regular basis throughout the year. Often this means making daily decisions to adjust my approach to circumstances and keep things simple.

One of the ways I have transformed this year is to not let my fear of what others think of me stop me from pursuing my goals. Many of my problems stemmed from being insecure and trying to please people, which left me miserable and frustrated. I finally realized I can’t change people and circumstances that are out of my control but instead can only change myself and my approach to them. There are plenty opportunities to get upset about something every day but as someone once said, ‘Choose your battles’ and rather let things go and remain peaceful, especially if they don’t make any difference in the bigger picture (and if we are honest with ourselves, most of the stuff we get upset about, isn’t all that important.)

Things are going to happen that we didn’t plan for and we don’t like (the water leaks we are busy repairing are a good example!) Things like this used to make me very upset. Luckily, I have learned it is not worth losing my joy over it and instead accept that this is life and deal with it, without having a bad attitude. Many of us usually visualize a perfect Christmas and perfect holiday but we all know that isn’t reality. Unrealistic expectations set us up to be miserable. If things haven’t gone as planned for you, don’t be so hard on yourself. Decide to enjoy it all anyway and going forward, tackle each day as it comes.

“Lay down the bat, and pick up a feather.” -Anonymous

I am now putting myself to the test by adjusting my priorities and letting the house mess remain ‘as is’ until the morning and instead I’m off to join the husband on the couch to watch his favourite soccer team play their match. He loves it when I enjoy the game with him and so for the rest of the night, the to-do list is forgotten and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” will be the only thing filling my head!

#metoo

It’s easy to wear a smile and give a fleeting, “Fine, thanks!” when asked how we are doing. Outwardly, most of us seem to have it all together, but inside we are broken. Often it is our pasts that have left us wounded inwardly and we feel isolated and ashamed.

“Wearing a mask wears you out. Faking it is fatiguing. The most exhausting activity is pretending to be what you know you aren’t.” Rick Warren.

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The #metoo movement is being covered extensively by the media and every brave person who comes forward is taking off their mask and exposing their darkest secrets to the world. The shame is finally being squashed as the stories are brought to the light and empathetic cries of #metoo are being verbalized as we hear and acknowledge these struggles.

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Sometimes we pretend for the sake of others but we also pretend for ourselves, so we do not have to deal with difficult issues. I have realized that facing the truth takes hard work and you have to want to get well. You need to learn to love yourself again, from the inside, and remove the shame, otherwise you will eventually search for these good feelings from other sources, even if they only provide temporary relief.

This epidemic in our culture needs to be stopped and one way we can do our part is to listen, without judgement, to those who have the courage to step out and speak up. Shame is a trap that tricks us into believing that if people knew the truth, they would see us differently. Healing is painful but when you are hurting anyway, you have nothing to lose. Like I have learnt with my ultramarathon running, endurance produces joy (eventually!) Sometimes you have to push through the pain and allow it to accomplish its purpose.

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You can’t do anything about the past but nothing is wasted if you use your story to help others who find themselves in similar situations. Set your focus on a new direction and do something about your future.

Adjust Your Altitude

“These mountains that you are carrying, you were supposed to only climb.” (N. Zebian)

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The Lesotho Ultra Trail went into its 5th year in 2017 attracting a top class local and international field. It is classed as an Ultra Skymarathon because it exceeds 45kms in length and 2500 meters in vertical gain at high altitude. The course adventures to over 3200m above sea level in parts and this year I was invited to come and run it!

Our accommodation for the weekend.

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Below are two photos I took during the race. I was in awe of my surroundings.

Lesotho is a landlocked country, entirely surrounded by South Africa. It is of similar size to Belgium or Israel and has a population of 2 million inhabitants. In the heart of the Lesotho Highlands lies the Maluti Mountains, with an intricate network of trails existing along the valleys and mountain flanks. These mountain passes are used primarily by livestock and shepherds, allowing them to pass through the Maluti Mountain range on foot. Many of these mountain passes have been established by hand and provide terrain for some of the best high altitude mountain running in the world!

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Interesting fact: the lowest point above sea level in Lesotho is 1500 metres, making it the country with the highest low point in the world.

It is no secret that I love a challenge and I was tempted to do the 50km race, purely fuelled by my joy and passion for the trails (with minimal training!) but then came to my senses and decided the 38km course would be more than enough for me to tackle for my first high altitude mountain race. This proved to be the right decision, as two weeks before the run, I developed a painful Retrocalcaneal bursitis (inflammation of the bursa, which lies over your heel where your Achilles tendon inserts). However, I tried to remain positive and wanted to give it my best and honour this generous gift I had been given.

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I limped into registration, with eyes welling up and a quivering lip but was determined as ever to find a way to scale that mountain range! I lay awake in the tent most of the night but got up in the morning and showed up at the start. I stood at the back of the group (this is where I remained most of the race!) and began with my walk-hop-jog around the lodge for the initial 8km loop. I wasn’t sure if I should carry on after this and make my way up the mountain, but I decided to go for it.

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I could write many pages describing the events that unfolded over the following 10 hours. However, let me share one highlight for now: the weather! We experienced four seasons in one day, from sunshine, to rain and even a snow storm thrown into the mix. Being caught in the storm on the mountaintop at 3000m was almost too much for me to handle. I was scared and sore but the tears froze as soon as they hit my cheeks and I had to suck it up!

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It took everything I had inside me to push through the pain in my foot and go from a walk to a jog to a run, simply to keep warm and keep the blood flowing. Luckily my new friend, Kirsten (aka snow sister) was not too far ahead of me and I managed to catch up to her just before the storm hit. Together we kept each other company until we reached the Camp JubeJube Aid Station.

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These guys were my heroes. They rubbed my frozen legs, wrapped a space blanket around my waist and held my hand for the first few metres down the steep descent before waving us on our way.

I have never been in snow before and this was something I will never forget. It was the hardest run ever but also the most thrilling! Besides the pain, the altitude and terrain was also a huge challenge. (Even if I was injury-free, I would have struggled!) I was completely out my comfort zone but also in awe that I was in such a majestic place. I felt like one of those athletes in a National Geographic documentary, running on the edge of cliffs and leaping over rocks!

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The winners of the race each received a Basotho Hat and a Basotho blanket. The Basotho Hat (or mokorotio) is a recognised symbol in Lesotho. It is made out of grass and has a shape of many of the mountains in the country. The Basotho blanket is almost entirely made of wool and is the traditional dress. They are a common sight in Lesotho and worn as a status symbol and cultural identification, while also providing protection against the cold.

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Almost 10 hours after starting, the adventure came to an end and it was my turn to finally cross that finish line!

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“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.” – Barry Finlay

Miscarriage – Shattering But Not Shameful

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.” -Unknown

My previous post – “It Takes Guts To Grieve” struck a cord with readers and it has been humbling to receive such a positive response. It even helped prepare me for an unexpected wave of emotions that followed a few days later, when I comforted a friend who had recently experienced a miscarriage and all my own memories came flooding back. Like I mentioned before, there are no standard ‘stages’ of grief and you can feel the denial, anger, depression and mourning in any order, at any time.

Miscarriage affects nearly one in every three pregnancies, yet it is still considered a taboo subject filled with stigma and misinformation. As a result, women are left feeling emotionally and physically traumatised and totally alone. I have felt this way, more than once, and the same can be said for the estimated one million would-be mothers every year, who lose a baby they have never met.

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Hollywood has a big influence on our world today and society will often follow its example. There have been a few celebrities recently who have come forward and shared their loss, but usually only after they have had a successful pregnancy. It is a topic that makes people uncomfortable but I often write about things like this, on purpose, because it helps to break the silence and start a conversation. Women usually keep their pregnancy to themselves until they have passed the twelve week mark, when the risk of miscarriage decreases and I respect that (and planned to do the same when I fell pregnant.) However, we should not feel ashamed if we do experience a miscarriage and certainly not carry around guilt.

This week proved to me that these emotions will likely carry on for years but I have learned to identify the triggers and prepare myself. It reminded me that if we don’t make enough time to look after ourselves spiritually and emotionally, it leaves us vulnerable when hard times come. For me personally, I am making a deliberate effort to improve in this area and in the same way that I spend hours training my body physically, I need to ensure I am working just as hard on my emotional strength too.

The vast majority of miscarriages are not caused by a mother’s actions and a failed pregnancy does not mean you have failed as a woman. There is no need to suffer in silence and carry this secret. All women will respond differently but every emotion is valid and normal. Couples also need to be aware that each of you may process grief differently and it is important to keep the lines of communication open. It can unite some people but unfortunately tear others apart and you need to support one another, realising that we all have our own coping methods and may go through the stages of grief in waves.

This week three friends announced they are expecting a baby early next year and while watching the final day of the Nedbank Golf Challenge on television, Brandon Grace proudly shared he and his wife had recently found out that they were having a baby boy. Sometimes there is no escaping and you have to ride the waves of emotion, which can rise at the most unexpected time.

Celebrating with friends and family who have announced a pregnancy is easy but when you know someone who has recently experienced a miscarriage, it is hard to know what to say. Ignoring it can minimise their experience but often words like “You can always try again! That’s the fun part!” simply compound the pain and hurt us deeply. I think a simple, honest “I’m sorry for your loss” shows you acknowledge what has happened and then let them know you love them and are there for them, anytime they need you.

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It Takes Guts To Grieve

There is a lot that has been written on the stages of grief. Usually they are listed in chronological order: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Mourning, Acceptance.

This week I have had a few unexpected conversations with a variety of people about loss. This has ranged from the death of a family member, to personal belongings destroyed in a fire, to the loss of a dream as doors have been closed.

I love lists and neatly ticking boxes as I complete each task, however, I find my ‘stages’ often overlap and even go in circles (and I’m not alone!) When I think I am making progress and weeks go by without an incident or breakdown, suddenly something will trigger a memory and tears will slip down my cheeks. I often get a physical ache in my heart or stomach as the pain demands to be felt but I think this is natural and necessary and I’ve learned not to fight it and rather see it through.

“Grief is like an earthquake. The first one hits you and the world falls apart. Even after you put the world together again there are aftershocks, and you never really know when those will come.” -Unknown

About 10 years ago my infertility journey had me messed up. Properly! The loss of control, especially over the ability to predict the future, led to frustration and desperation. The compounded feelings of helplessness and the strain of treatments and even low self-esteem all contributed to bringing on depression. I recently saw my friend’s Strava profile after he had put his Garmin watch on his dog and let him run around the garden. It was a messy maze and looked like a toddler’s scribble all over the page! It’s a good illustration of my grief graph, especially in the early days when my empty womb was a heavy burden to carry.

Loneliness is a huge factor, which is why I take the risk to share my story and help others break free of the isolation by bringing these topics into the light. You feel that nobody understands. You cry, sometimes in public, but mostly in private, as you mourn the loss of your dream, until eventually you reach the point of acceptance. Although the pain never completely disappears, through my writing, running and fitness adventures, I have been able to reach others and encourage them. This has helped me gain a sense of purpose and the ache becomes more manageable. However, like I mentioned in the beginning, there are still times when an insensitive comment can trigger anger and hurt and I backslide a few ‘stages’ again.

It’s unrealistic to expect us to all follow these steps and then graduate and be done with it. I believe my tough days will never completely disappear but they do diminish, in frequency and intensity. Taking control of your negative thoughts is also vital, while maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Instead of seeing ‘acceptance’ as the goal, it’s more about adapting and coping.

“It’s okay not to be okay as long as you are not giving up.” – K. Salmansohn

The Best Is Yet To Be

There is a saying that goes, “Only look back to see how far you have come”. So let me dedicate #flashbackfriday to thanking God for helping me through one of the darkest times of my life. My first miscarriage.

Below is my poem I wrote ten and a half years ago and I can’t begin to imagine how different my life may have been, if I had stayed in that place of bitterness, self-pity and depression, which threatened to smother me. I was stuck there for some time but by the grace of God and the daily decision to choose to move forward, even when I didn’t feel like it, eventually it was possible to slowly crawl out from under that blanket of despair and find joy again.

“Don’t stay in a place that causes you pain. The world is too big and beautiful.” – Unknown

With the final school term underway, Grade 12 learners finishing school today, and children’s Christmas photos being taken, the phrase “…they are growing up too fast…” is thrown around in conversations with friends and I can’t help but respond (in my head of course), if you think that is hard, try not seeing them grow up at all! I am only human and battle to control my thoughts at times but generally I’m able to delight in sharing these milestones with the moms but it doesn’t mean my heart isn’t breaking too.

As always, I share my story to encourage others to do the same. I challenge you to be vulnerable this weekend. If you need to talk to someone about your own struggles, find a person you trust and share with them.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

PAIN TO PURPOSE

First it was one, then another two.

Painfully, I lost the three of you.

A few short weeks was all we had.

May I grieve, Lord, perhaps be mad?

You gave them to me, then took them away.

It was hard to understand You on that day.

My dream of becoming a mom has not come true,

But I’m doing my best to bring glory to You.

I’ll focus on blessing others to help ease the pain.

Not hang on to questions no one can explain.

Must capture my thoughts, learn to control my mind,

Still believe a more caring God, you cannot find.

I know I will see them face to face,

And this promise, along with Your daily grace,

Lets me live a life of freedom and victory.

Even without child, still leave a mark in history.

My precious little angels whose early flight,

Carried them into my Saviour’s sight.

I’ll never forget you, simply trust and obey,

That we’ll love and play in heaven someday.

 

Debbie Ivins, April 2007

The Girl In The Blue Dress

“Do not lose hope. Please believe there are a thousand beautiful things waiting for you. Sunshine comes to all who feel rain.” (r.m.drake)

Last week I was reflecting on my 50 miler race and wrote about moving forward during hard times and not getting ‘stuck in the mud’. Today, almost 2 weeks since that adventure, I am finally ready to share another story with you. I don’t know how to put it into words, as it’s something that is hard to explain, and good stories take time to tell, but I will give a short, simple version for now and perhaps expand on it again in the future. It will be worth the wait!

The conditions over the race weekend played a big role in the overall outcome and the 100 milers particularly had a tough time out there. The rain, cold and low temperatures saw one runner having to be carried off the course and others withdrawing before hypothermia set in. Our race directors were vigilant about checking up on us to ensure we were okay and despite declining a pair of gloves and an offer to use a plastic bag to protect my head from the pouring rain, I never refused the hot cup of milo on offer at the aid stations! It did the trick every time! I was freezing but managed to regulate my core temperature and was fortunate to finish with flushed cheeks and a good bill of health. This little body is stronger than it looks and once again did me proud.

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I believe magic happens when you do not give up and I had many magical moments during my race. I prayed (a lot!) and was in a fair amount of pain at times, especially when running downhill. I actually looked forward to the climbs because it was more comfortable to run up than down. After a few hours of running, I turned a corner and saw a long, steep dirt road in front of me. I was brought to tears and cried out, ‘God, give me strength!’ I started walking and talking to myself (‘You’ve got this Debs!’ and other things that don’t sound as nice!) and then suddenly out of nowhere a young girl appeared next to me.

We had run through a rural settlement a few miles back and at first I thought she must have followed me from there and hidden until now. She didn’t say anything, simply smiled and walked beside me. I remember thinking, she must be freezing in her blue summer dress and bare feet but she was in fact warm and dry. A few days later, this is what puzzled me the most. It was pouring with rain, yet her face was dry and her body too! She started jogging slowly and I followed her lead, happy to have company. After a few steps she grabbed my right hand and squeezed it tight. Her palm was soft and warm and I felt guilty for my icy, shrivelled up fingers that I gave her in return.

I wondered if I would get in trouble if I reached the aid station with my unofficial ‘pacer’ as the 50 milers were not allowed any help in this regard and it was almost as if she sensed my concern, because as we reached the top, she let go of my hand and stopped running. I said thank you, as I wiped the rain out my eyes with the back of my hand and in that instant she was gone. I turned around and looked back down the hill but she had vanished.

Low body temperature impairs the brain and some may argue I did experience a symptom of hypothermia – confusion – when I tell them this story. Whether she was a human girl or a spirit, either way, she was an angel to me and gave me peace and hope as we climbed one of the toughest hills in the race. I know God was watching over me the entire time and I certainly didn’t do it in my own strength.

“She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.”

Life is full of miracles and we need to take the time to notice them. We know pain is real, none of us need to be reminded of this, but hope is real too. It wasn’t an easy race after that and my angel didn’t appear again, even when I was scared and by myself in the forest, struggling to carry on. But I know I was never alone.

I read a quote this week that said, “Every storm runs out of rain.” Remember those words when you face your next challenge. Stay patient and trust your journey.

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Don’t Get Stuck In The Mud

The rain is falling outside, triggering memories of my cold, wet run last weekend. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the icy drops landing on my head, before they slowly dripped down the back of my neck.  The swishing noise from the fabric of my oversized jacket is the only sound I hear, as my arms pump back and forth, propelling me forward on the muddy road. It’s easy to let my mind go back there….

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Part of the allure of endurance running for me is to see how deep I can dig. It is a brilliant way to build mental toughness and help you learn how to manage discomfort. When I look back on my life and some of the things I have endured and overcome, perhaps I was born to do this. I have had a lot of practice when it comes to dealing with physical and emotional pain and giving up has never been an option.

Tonight I am fortunate to be indoors, warm and dry and I wonder how did I do that? How did I manage to run 50 miles in those conditions? My mind is about as clear as the muddy puddles on those farm roads and it will take a few weeks to process all I went through during those 11 hours (10 hours 40 minutes to be exact!) I look forward to sharing many stories and lessons learned in future posts, when I can see clearly and the rain is gone!

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Winston Churchill said, “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” We can’t allow difficulties to intimidate us and instead need to face them head on and in doing so, we develop the determination needed to be everything we were created to be.

This post is a bit of a muddy mess but I hope I have conveyed some kind of message and encouraged you to face your own challenges with relentless determination. Don’t get stuck in the mud. If you are going through something, keep going. Hypothermia was a real concern at the race and one way to keep my body temperature regulated was to simply keep moving forward to keep warm. Step by step. One mile at a time.

We will go through difficult circumstances but that makes us people who know how to overcome adversity. We grow when we persevere and don’t give up. It comes at a cost and you will have to be willing to push through obstacles that stand in your way and perhaps you are tired of doing that, but let me encourage you to press in one more time. You can do it!