Friday, November 6, 2015

On pedi's and life's most beautiful moments.

I sat there with my unkempt feet, painfully aware of the outgrowth clearly visible on my polish-overdue toenails and the condition of my poor heels. I wanted to hide my toes under the the toweling cover of the therapy table, all the while searching for excuses on why I didn't have time to take better care of my feet between moving house and life in the sticks and love and work and how me-time most often translates into wine-and-reflecting-or-recovery-time and so seriously not into grooming time. And because we were building and paving and I had to fix the leaking tank myself since the nearest plumber lives 110 km away and that I love the fact. And that sometimes I needed help with the heavy stuff but my helpers were doing more heavy stuff so I didn't want to seem weak and just sucked it up and did it myself and felt good that I did. And I have boys, two of them... marvelous, beautiful, energetic, silly-crazy male childs that LOVE to play outside and run and bike and climb and swim and mess, and they love their mama to play along. And we play but we just don't do shoes...

She took place at the bottom end of the therapy table and had a close inspection of the mammoth task at hand. She, with the perfectly groomed fingernails, single working mother of two teenagers in a private school, where most of her peers probably are more than content with the future that public schooling would offer their children. Without probing I realised that her work didn't start at 8 am or end at 5 pm, and that here breaks were few and very far in between. I was inspired by the her strength of character and  quiet confidence. 

She started to rub my feet. I cringed. She noticed the outgrowth.  She noticed the dry heels. She noticed the calloused second toes where I just can't seem to avoid blistering no matter which shoes I run with. I was holding my breath, waiting for a little snigger or a remark, even an admonishment.
She started to carefully roll up the cuffs of my jeans in order to get a full load of the situation at hand, all the while talking softly.  Working methodically, gently, yet purposefully. She rolled my pants up to the top of my calves. I shot up a quick prayer of thanks that I remembered to at least shave my legs, as some sort of redemption.

Then she looked down at my shins and noticed the bruises and scabs. 'You got hurt?', she noted.
I felt silly, thinking back of how I tripped over that low wall next to the garage, numerous times, while carrying large boxes that obscured my vision.
'I'm sorry', she said in a quiet voice.

No snigger. No reprimanding. No probing. No wise-ass remark, advice, or life-altering-lecture.

Just empathy.

And for a moment, one precious moment in a life weaved together by many...
I was breathless.

Riana

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sole vacation

In search of some light and new inspiration I took a trip down to Cape Town last week. It was the very first time in more than 5 years that I went on a trip without my family, and to say it was a Giant Leap would be an understatement. The boys got to spend some much-enjoyed quality time with their very brave and capable daddy, and from the regular updates and photos I received I could see that everybody seemed to cope rather fine.




I got to spend some amazing soul-time with my longest friend in the world. We have one of those friendships that doesn't need constant watering for it to survive or grow, we just pick up where we left off.


I owned every long drive and every solo meal was a celebration.  Sometimes I first had to console the waiter after 'table for, uhm...one....?' and sometimes I could see a glimpse of admiration and camaraderie, a proverbial high five served with my glass of wine.  And, as anticipated, I found a deep sense of contentedness in the solitude and quiet spaces. It was time. And it was good.


No trip to Cape Town would be complete without the essential retail therapy, especially when one hails from the sticks.

And last but not least... a very exciting new Venture finally started to take shape ...


On the final eve I took the long drive from Bellville to Greenpoint where I stayed. The light was getting low and soft and gorgeous Cape Town looked like a scene from a movie come alive, complete with a beautiful soundtrack. Traffic into the City was fast and driving was effortless. And then the Aviation Gods smiles upon me and treated me with a front row ticket to the Silver Falcons in formation. They passed twice up ahead of me, with a softly lit Table Mountain as backdrop and later the vibrant Cape Town Harbour as they banked in orbit. A more perfect farewell I could not ask for.

Photo credit (bottom photo of Silver Falcons): Justin de Reuck www.aviationphotographer.co.za

Thank you Cape Town. I owe you big time.
Riana



Monday, October 12, 2015

Lucky Star Marathon recap

Boy, what a week it was... During the days leading up the the Lucy Star Marathon we moved house, I didn't manage ANY taper runs (although it sure didn't feel like I was resting), we sorted various car and licencing incidents, traveled vast distances and kept 2 little boys happy during the entire process... so by the time we got to our pre-race accommodation on Friday night with race numbers in hand we were BEAT, to say the least!

Like I mentioned before here and here, the Lucky Star Marathon (and Cycle Tour, since 2015) is a yearly event that has been taking place at the Namibian west coast since 1985. It is a relatively flat and fast race and follows the beautiful coastal route between the towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. This year was the first time that the start of the full Marathon was in Swakopmund, with the Half-marathon and cycle races starting and ending in Walvis Bay. 

The Hubs was entered in the 21.1km that started at 7am in Walvis, after my 6am Marathon start in Swakop. Luckily the boys LOVE waking up early for exciting 'expeditions', so just after 5am we all piled into the car, donning race attire with last caffeine fixes in hand, on our way to Swakop. I was dropped at the starting line and Nico had to rush back to Walvis, picking up our amazing nanny to stay with the boys while he ran. He apparently made the start with only a few minutes to spare.

The Marathon field was a relatively small one, with a great number of familiar faces, so the pre-race banter was happy and exciting as always. I started my first km a little faster than usual, keeping up the chatting with some Strider buddies, but soon realised that I had to reign in the horses a little and thereafter fell into my own race pace pretty soon. I have to mention here that hardest part of the race was probably the first 3k's, as we had to make up 7km within Swakop before we hit the main road towards Walvis. The mental effects of running NORTH for 3k's, when you know the finish line is way down SOUTH, ai, is not a pleasant experience...


Swakop Strider friends. (Only Uis runners will feel compelled to run with their FULL hydration vests so as not to feel completely naked... Or maybe it is just and OCD thing... CDO.

Starting line of the Marathon, in the pitch dark...


This was my first road marathon, so I really didn't know what to expect after 30k's. Low and behold, 30k's struck right on a lovely, extended hill alongside Lang Strand. But there I realised that training on the gravel roads and koppies of the Uis surrounds paid off, and I was able to keep going at the same effort than on the straights. 

The race was, once again really well organised, with refreshment tables every 3km or so. This year I found motorists to be more cautious, and truck drivers especially so. This was really heartwarming, and more relaxing, of course, to feel a bit more safe along this usually very busy road.

A wise runner once told me that there comes a time during a marathon when walking hurts more than running, and true-as-bob, I can attest to that now. Your body just wants to keep going because stopping really hurts. I was grateful for having my music with me, and I bagged another handful of fantastic moments during this race, properly amplified by some good tunes. One of those moments that really stand out happened at the 5km-to-go mark. Everything was hurting and I was really tired. I approached the bridge into Walvis Bay and I knew that I was still able to make my goal race time (sub-4.5 hrs), but 5k's really seemed like a helluva long way to go still... Until this awesome song told me to just.... Breathe... and sure enough, we breathed and got through that as well.

In the true running spirit, one of our Striders buddies, a close friend of mine, who was unable to run this year packed a whole lot of food in her car and supported us along the entire route. She drove up ahead, laid her car's little white bonnet with droewors and snacks, and cheered us on like you would your family. Because that is what we are and that is what the community of running does. I had to swallow down some tears a few times.

Another moment that I will cherish for a long time came at the very last support table, a mere 1k from the finish. As I approached the station I spotted some orange segments, which at that time seemed like little beacons of hope (hope for a Superboost of energy, or at the very least a little diversion to take my mind of the pain for a second or 3). I plodded along at the same stead pace and reached for a segment on the plate that the friendly guy held out to me... but as I took it the orange slipped from my hand and fell back on the plate! I was devastated, but really didn't have the energy to stop for a second or two, so I just kept running. And then... another volunteer who saw the whole sad incident stepped over, grabbed me an orange segment and ran after me! It is hard to explain the emotions you experience during times like that, but it was really touching, to say the least. That guy, may he be a runner or not, knew exactly how much that orange meant to me at that very moment. Thank you stranger man!



I managed to finish in 4:28:57 and in 11th place. In so doing I qualified for the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon for 1016, so I am very pleased.

The Hubs finished his second ever half-marathon in 21st place with a time of 1:48:57, a more than 20 min improvement on his previous 21 which he ran in February of this year. He also smashed my PB by 4 mins! This is no small feat, and I take my hat off for his huge effort. And this time he didn't need a few days of bedrest after his Half, which is probably the best sign of overall improvement!

The Lucky Star treated us well and we will surely be back next year.
Riana

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Training update

Four days before the next challenge and I've not even posted an update on the previous huge adventure, our glorious time in Europe and the Zermatt Marathon! What a trip that was. Hopefully I'll get around to a proper recap of the whole Zermatt ordeal event. But first an update of the here and now.

This  Saturday, 3 October, I will hopefully line up for the Lucky Star Marathon taking place at the Namibian coast. The Lucky Star will be my second official marathon although this will be the first road marathon, where the Zermatt Marathon was an alpine trail run. The Lucky Star is a relatively fast and flat one, starting in Swakopmund and ending in Walvis Bay (this is the first year that the route is this way around, previous years' races always started in WB). It will also, hopefully, serve as a qualifier for me for the Two Oceans Ultra which I hope to run in 2016. I competed in the Half-marathon category of the Lucky Star last year and clocked a PB  in this distance. Hopefully we will experience nice, cool weather again with a slight northerly wind in our backs. One can hope..

Yesterday marked the official start of The Taper. Yes, Tapering needs to be capitalized, because for some it marks the start of an awful period of putting in less miles and the associated withdrawal symptoms. For me, currently, it serves as the mark to a wonderful week of blissful denial! I have to admit that, after Zermatt, I tried my bestest to commit to my previous marathon training programme again, but it just didn't stick. So instead, after a prolonged period of disappointment and a subsequent (short) loss of interest, I switched to a time-based programme (instead of the previous mileage-based programme) and I have to say it made things a lot easier. Possibly too easy... now with hindsight! But alas, we are in Tapering week and what will be will be. Nothing really I can do about it now, except blissfully indulge in some rest (hahaha, we moved house today... *follow ironical and cynical sneers*) and a few short happy runs.

Just a small peak at our current accommodations. ..


Our tiny castle in the middle of beautiful Damaraland...



Riana

Sunday, September 27, 2015

On tunes, tuning out and tuning in.

People, I have a confession. A big one... about something I was quite outspoken and judgmental about and never thought I would be confessing to...

You see, for all my years in running I have always professed that running is one of the purest, easiest and most basic forms of exercise there is. Most people don't need to spend much money to get into the sport. Put on some comfy trainers, a t-shirt and some shorts and you can easily get into a 5k run/walk regime for some weeks until you get the hang of it. Sure, if you want to go 'the extra mile' later you can invest in some good running apparel.  But you don't need loads and loads of stuff to get into running. It is the purity and simplicity of running that attracted me and that I keep celebrating. Getting into the run, feeling it and experiencing it with all your senses was very much what it was all about. Being aware of the crunch of your shoes, the rhythm of your breath, ambient sounds, smells, sights... just all 'n all being present with mind, body and spirit, pushing through the lows on your own steam and celebrating the highs with song of praise and a proverbial pat on the back. All you.

So for this reason, I usually frowned upon runners that trained with music in their ears that effectively cut out all sound stimuli and feedback from their run itself and their surroundings. I simply couldn't comprehend why one would tune out the sounds of the ocean while running at the coast, the sounds of the bush while running at Spitzkoppe or miss the friendly cheers and greetings from supporters or fellow runners while competing in a race. And really, I am still at a loss about aforementioned, to a large extent, considering the dangers of oncoming traffic and approaching predators (including vicious canines), but... I have gained some understanding.

You see, training for a marathon requires extensive time on the road. And sometimes, said road can be extremely lonesome, and ... behold...  extremely boring! Enter a wicked idea: lets throw some tunes in the mix to help alleviate the boredom. At first the idea was shoved off and suppressed, but as more time passed, I was it as a necessity to be able to continue. After another mile or 20 I thus scurried to the nearest tech store (which in itself was a huge feat) and acquired a tiny little treasure, a smart little  black mp3 player. I compiled some awesome playlists and behold... before long I was actually looking forward to my weekly longruns! Incredible! And although I would still not wear my headphones permanently and become dependent on music to make my feet move, I have a better understanding of why people run with music.

You see, music has an incredible capacity to transport us to and from places and events and enrich an ordinary activity into a soul-soaring, mind-blowing experience. And sometimes, just sometimes, such a soulful experience adds a much needed, sorely missed aspect to one's life that may have become routine and take it to the next level again. The bottom line is that I realised again that we should be adaptable, keep reassessing and discovering and not become disheartened or complacent by accepting the mediocre.

Proof in point was my longrun this morning. I commenced on the 1.5 hr planned run shortly before dawn, the most beautiful time for me in Damaraland. For the first few kays I tuned in and appreciated the ambiance of the pre-dawn veld, together with the damp smells of cool night as it started to heat up. After about 4k's I hit the district road and felt the need to pop in my earphones to distract me from the monotony of the wide, white, undulating gravel road. I enjoyed my newly prepared playlist, compiled for the last few days leading up the the Lucky Star Marathon next weekend. Fast forward a few kays and a few songs, and I landed up in one of those moments... One of those experiences that will just stay with you for a very, very long time....

Early morning runs in Damaraland with the Brandberg as backdrop... it just doesn't get old. 

I was approaching a lazy bend in the road at the foot of a range of low koppies, when one of our Uis friends came drifting by slowly in his ultralight aircraft, a beautiful and peaceful sight clearly etched against blue skies with its gentle patchwork of clouds. Of course my wild and wondrous aviator heart always skips a few beats at the sight of anything on the wing, no question, but this morning, what would usually be a mere sighting and happy wave, was transformed into an whole different, mind-altering experience. This experience may or may not have been brought about by the following song in my ears: Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
Click on it, I dare you, and tell me you are not moved.

Although I have always loved music, playing it or listing to it, the last few years with babies were possibly spent more  seeking quiet breaks whenever possible. Silent breaks were subsequently given up to the sounds of nursery rhymes and toddler singalongs. And although we still seek quiet moments and still indulge in happy times with rhymes and songs, I think the rediscovery of music and this to accompany/support my love for running was a necessary and well-timed one for me, well worth celebrating.

Riana

Monday, May 11, 2015

A warm hello again...

My word, seems like life got in the way of blogging again, and so much have happened since our last proper update. So we moved house... way out of town and into the small desert town of Uis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uis). Uis used to be a small little mining town where they mined tin, and now remains a tourist stop-over and oasis for travelers visiting the Brand Berg area or goes on northward towards Etosha. 

Brandberg is the highest mountain in Namibia, and sits like a majestic beacon among the gently undulating plains. With Uis situated to the south-east of the Mountain, we experience the most beautifully coloured views of her during early morning runs when first light falls gently on her eastern side. 

Early morning light on Brandberg during a trail run. My absolute favourite time and place.

Sunrise over the eastern koppies. Serene. Only the crunch of running shoes and birds chatting. 

And after a tough day of heat and dust we are rewarded with the most spectacular sunsets. We (the Hubs) literally drop everything when it becomes THAT time of day and grab the camera. Every evening is different, but always rewarding. After Lawrence Green... Namibia: Land of the Afternoon. The phrase etched into our minds, through experience, not by choice!

Sunset across the derelict Uis golf course. Magnificent Brandberg after a hot day.

Brandberg. Last light. Barking geckos. Peace.
The boys are having a tremendous time here. It is much hotter than the coastal weather into which they were born and pretty much were used to for all of their short lives. But true to (boy) human nature they adore water play and absolutely love the fact that they can be and stay wet most of the time.

Mud pools, artificial or after rain... a new concept for these coastal boys!

Eating ice lollies, a daily treat in this hot weather.

Our favourite bush outings: An empty skip and a huge can of water is an instant splash pool in the middle of nowhere. 
We are still training for our big events this coming July in Switzerland. Nico is training to climb the Matterhorn after I hopefully complete the Zermatt marathon on 4 July. When we were still in Swakop I started running with the Swakop Striders, a beautiful bunch of wacky runners, and I must admit that I would have LOVED running more weekend long-runs with them during this phase of my training. The camaraderie and friendly banter (not to mention the support when the going gets tough) is something that one really miss once you got to know it. I have been used to running alone for as long as I have been running, but having the option to run with like-minded friends now once in a while when we are in Swakop is just gets me so excited.

Which brings me to the event that we are organising in Uis late in June (after Comrades and before Zermatt). While we were still living in Swakop Nico and I started contemplating a trail running event hosted in Uis in aid of Save The Rhino Trust (SRT) (www.savetherhinotrust.org). With the recent increase in rhino poaching we (and the rest of Namibia, it seems) feel very strong to support organisations that actively protect rhinos from poaching. SRT has recently launched a pro-active anti-poaching campaign and restructured their previously, mainly monitoring approach. SRT essentially strives to protect the desert adapted black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) through monitoring and now active patrolling of the range of these black rhino. 

We introduced the idea of the Brandberg Rhino Run to our friends and colleagues and the support has been astonishing from the word go. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Namibia supports endeavours to protect our natural heritage, that which belong to our children and is only borrowed to us. Our fellow Uisers feel just as protective and proud of the natural splendour of this region as we do, and is just as eager to share it with our friends. So all in all the reception and support for the event has been tremendous, and financial support and pledges has been rolling in at a heartwarming rate. We are so, so thankful.

We will try to update more frequently, and would love to hear from you all every once in a while as well!

Much love and gratitude
Us in Uis
   

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gratitude

I was standing there in front of the stuffed trunk of our car, carefully planning where to pack the last of the bags and loose items. It was donation day. I was consciously feeling and experiencing the act of what I was busy with, and I was overcome with emotion. But perhaps not the kind of emotion one would suspect. 


Yes, for 2 months I have been packing and sorting the boys' baby clothes and baby items and excess toys. Initially it took me incredibly long, because I would sit with each babygrow or vest and reminisce about when I held a baby wearing it. What he looked like and what he smelled like...


Daddy burping our week-old Zee.

Loving our week-old Vee.


When revisiting those baby days became too unbearable I would usually just give up on the sorting and packing and go do something else. But my urge to de-clutter eventually got the better of me, thank goodness! And I also had  an epiphany. I realised that I am holding on to material things to keep beautiful memories alive. I realised that I had to let go of the things, but not in a sorrowful kind of way, but rather in a thankful way. That I should celebrate the many memories we have of the times when they were small and we were able to use those baby items. And most importantly: Celebrate the here and now. Then it became easier, and now I am so thankful for this whole process of cleaning, changing, embracing, finding more things to be grateful for, being in the moment and more grateful than I could ever imagine. 


You see, standing there in front of that trunk, I finally realised that the clothes that my babies had more than enough of meant that we had babies. Not one, but two beautiful, healthy babies! There was a time when the idea of little feet seemed like a dream.

Those baby clothes meant that our babies were cared for. They were warm. I realised how privileged we were that the boys were never once admitted to hospital during their baby days. And having enough warm clothes and blankets sure helped with that.

So many of the clothes and blankets were gifts. which meant that our babies were loved by our family and friends. Even before they were born. Our family and friends were excited with us and for us for our babies. And they often showed this by gifting us with the sweetest little clothes, warm and cuddly blankets and lovely toys. My babies' great grandmother hand-knitted them socks and hoodies. We are forever grateful for such love and kindness.  

I looked at the bags and bags of toys, which caused for many an hour of play and learn. Time that I was able to share with my boys since I am a stay-at-home mom. Most privileged under the privileged am I, how do I say thank you for that?! The most beautiful time of my life. 

Then I noted all the bath toys, which meant that our boys are able to take daily baths, to relax before  bedtime and have a final few minutes of play and learn in the tub. This also meant that we have uninterrupted access to water. I am grateful!

Today I am grateful for all we have, all that was borrowed to us, all that we have been gifted and all that was shared. The incredible amount of beautiful, everlasting memories that were created with these earthly belongings playing a role in. We have the pictures to prove it. We have two happy, healthy, smiling boys to prove it. My cup overflows! I can just say thank you. And can hope that there is one or more child that will benefit from warm clothes or a warm blanket. A boy or girl that may receive a toy which can bring a smile. And thank you to organisations that spend their time, money and effort to bring our previously much-enjoyed items to new homes where it can be used and loved.