Friday, May 30, 2014

100km of Bliss

How best do you begin to reminisce about an experience that has filled you with feelings of happiness, greatfulness and accomplishment, well, the best way is to head back out on the trails and let the memories run through your mind with every step.

Running TNF100 in the Blue Mountains, Australia, was not in my plan until two months before the event. Living in Switzerland I sporadically planned a trip to see my family and friends in Australia, realizing that the dates would coincide with the running of TNF100, a race that had tickled my curiosity for a while. Having had glandular fever in january, I wasn’t very ambitious about this running season, moreso living by the motto – if it‘s meant to be it will happen… and with exactly that attitude I went on the waiting list for a start at TNF100. Sure enough, only a week later, a spot had opened up, and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

The day had arrived… I greeted it with both anticipation and excitement. I gravitated straight towards the window in the hotel foyer, running my eyes from sky to valley, checking out the conditions and taking in the scene of where I would be running for the day. The sky was clear with stars still twinkling in the distance, and the colours of the rising of the sun becoming obvious out on the horizon. It was going to be a good day, I could feel it!!

My training and preparation for TNF100 was far from ideal with the limited time I had to train specifically for the event. I just ran by feel, aiming to run because of the fun and love of it, rather than because I was training for an event. I also felt that this approach might help me cope better with the expectation I might put on myself, allowing me to take things step by step, leading up to the race and durning the race. Living in the Swiss Alps I had the advantage of altitude and (forced) hill running, but because we were just coming out of the winter season and it was hard to get any decent long Km’s up, my longest run maxed at about 30km (I never run with a watch so its a bit of a guess), which did leave me a little worried as to if I had undercooked myself and I was taking the whole thing a bit too légère…

Standing at the startline the energy was tangible and spirits high! I watched the start of the first 3 start groups, before I gravitated towards the startline in wave 4. I checked in with my body, it felt ready… my mind was calm and focused on the task ahead and before I knew it we were off and the adventure had begun!

The beauty about ultra running is, that you always meet really cool people and you’re running at a pace that allows you to have a chat and share parts of the journey. Soon enough I was talking to other competitors as we looped our way around the road for the first 4km of the run before hitting the trails. I was in my element descending down the stairs into the depths of the bush then gliding over some lush and fun single track trails. But it wasnt long before the congestion slowed the flow of the moment and I was slowed to a stop/walk pace as we ascended back up some stairs. In hindsight i am incredibly grateful for that, as I could conserve energy to take on the next 90 or so Km’s.

Trail running is incredible, it‘s like a dance with nature as you tip toe over its surface, jumping over stones, constantly changing pace and always alert of your surroundings. Trails are always an adventure as they are never the same, depending on weather and other factors. The trails in the Blue Mountains were very playful on the day, nice and dry providing a grippy surface, sometimes technical and steep, other times slick and fast but ever changing.

I had passed checkpoint 1 & 2 making good ground, feeling comfortable, happy and chirpy. As we hit the top of one of the climbs the sound of a didgeridoo was obvious in the distance, and sure enough two fellas were there cheering us on and leaving a great tune with us as we ran past them. We then ran into an open field, cows grazing, horses watching us carefully as we passed by and birds chirping their happy song. At this point I was excited to hit checkpoint 3 soon, where my friend Shayne would be awaiting me and I could fuel up on some chocolate milk.

Finding the right thing to fuel you for a 100km is not the easiest thing. I was very aware of fuelling and hydrating properly in the days before the race, allowing my system to be stocked with reserves, so on the day all I needed to do was maintain. The North Face did an amazing job with providing the participants with a variety of food and drink options at every checkpoint. A banana, some lollies, a chocolate milk and a red bull were enough to fuel me along for the day, keeping my energy levels consistent and preventing me from ever hitting that dreaded wall.

Checkpoint 3 was in sight, people were cheering from far away and then I spotted Shaynes face and ran straight up to her with a huge smile. I was keen to keep running, keep the flow going, so I quickly refilled my water bottles and without much hesitation set of on the next leg of the race.

The going got a bit tougher as the first set of gnarly stairs approached after the 50km mark, but there was no other option other than to take it, literally, step by step and share the whingeing and pain with other participants on the many following sections of steps. I kept in mind that it was all part of the adventure, and so far it had been a great one. We passed some highly populated tourist areas, zigzaging through the masses of people, feeding on their cheering and kind words.

I had done a few ultras before, but never a 100km continuous run. I was very aware of the mental aspect of such a run. I often visualized how it would be running TNF100, allowing various scenarios to go through my mind always focusing on a positive mindset, having an exit plan should my mind run off into a negative area. Luckily I didn’t have to tap into that exit plan, as I was always in a good frame of mind.

The weather couldn’t have been anymore perfect, warm and sunny keeping the spirits high!! Checkpoint 4 came and went, the sun was descending slowly announcing the imminent arrival of the evening, and with that, the last leg of the run. I had made a quick transition through checkpoint 5, realizing that it would be the last time I would see Shayne (who had done the most amazing job at crewing me through the race) but also realizing that a tough 20km was still awaiting me.

Running downhill is something I love, letting yourself be pulled by gravity and your legs run free on autopilot. However, approaching the long downhill section after checkpoint 5  my legs were not loving it as much as they usually would. I struggled to find a rhythm for the first few kms of the descent, but it didn’t take them long to get back in the groove.

The last leg was filled with anticiapation for the finishline, digging deep and participants motivating one another along the way. It was like I had changed a gear, something else propelling me forward driving me towards that finishline. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, with the last km of the run being 933 steps to the finishline. There was no other option than to embrace the burn and keep on keeping on until the finishline came into focus.

Typical to my style I didn’t stack it, although there would have been plenty of opportunity on some of the sections, until the last 50m of the run, where  was so excited to be running up the last few stairs that I actually forgot to lift my legs. But i didn’t care, the finishline was a visible reality and I ran as hard as I could until I crossed that line. My elation was undescirbable.

Going into this adventure without expectation I didn’t have a specific time goal, but i did want to finish under 16hours. I didn’t wear a GPS watch, I wanted to run within myself and that appeared to work for me. I crossed the finish line in 12hours 44minutes placing me 8th female and finishing in the top 8% of finishers. This exceeded any expectation I could have ever had!!

I will forever hold that day, running TNF100, as a treasured memory close to my heart, allowing it to add fuel to the fire of my passion for running!!

„When you run on the earth and with the earth you can run forever“ … and that is exactly how I felt that day!!


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Live Every Moment

There's something incredibly reviving about running as the seasons are in Transition. Running over vanishing snow as it washes itself of itself to reveal muddy trails and grassy fields ready to be brought back to life.

Under a pristine blue sky with the sun set high, warming up the ground, I wound my way up the backside of the mountain. At first I struggled to move Forward at a consistant pace in the slippery slush, but I soon realized that, if I adapted my stride to a quicker turnover, I could glide over the surface of the snow without too much Trouble.

In life it is easy to live one step ahead of the present Moment, focusing on what might be instead of what actually is. Running has taught me that I can't move move forward successfully if I'm already living in the next step, not focusing on the step that is the link to the next one.

As I was moving my way further and steeper up the back of the mountain, I could feel how my mind and Body were moving simultaniously in the same direction, enhancing all my senses. I felt the texture of the ground beneath my feet, smelt the earthy scent of spring that was drifting in the air and saw my surroundings with the wonderous eyes of a child.

Running fills me with a Feeling of freedom and an increased joy for life which is simply a reflection of how life should be lived and experienced every Moment.

I began descending the front of the mountain, first in heavy, slushy snow (ideal for shoe skiing down for a speedier descent) then moving on to muddy, slippery spring trails. My mind started running ahead of me, thinking about what needed to be done for the rest of the day. My mind and Body were no longer moving in the same rhythm, as my thoughts drifted from the present Moment, distracting me from where my feet were landing. I was rapidly pulled back into the present as I tripped over the root of a tree and ungracefully face planted in the mud. I picked myself up, chuckled at myself and marvelled at the irony of the lesson.

Live in the present Moment of your stride, be Aware of the next step, don't try and outrun yourself or your life... Live Every Moment.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Called out in the dark

"I was called out in the dark
By a choir of beautiful cheats"
I couldn't sleep, didn't want to sleep, something was pulling me outside into the Imperfect snow, under a perfect star covered sky. I began to walk aimlessly, planlessly up my endless backyard, which is my playground.
My senses were on overdrive - I saw clearly without extra light, I could hear the chatter of the snow as it crushed beneath my feet, I could smell the purity of the crisp, cool mountain air, I could feel the breeze on my Skin and in my hair, and how it was carrying me up the mountain.

"And how the heavens, they opened up
Like arms of dazzling Gold"
As I was drifting up the mountain, just as midnight hit, I glanced up at the sky and saw how the clouds had disappeared without a trace, revealing an army of majestic mountains illuminated by the glow of the rounding moon. I took a Moment to sit, far removed from any artificial light, allowing me to see the stars clear and Close. Hypnotized by the silence and Beauty, I saw something that resembled "arms of dazzling Gold" shoot by. Shooting stars, cementing the Magic of the Moment.
"Show me now, show me the arms aloft
Every eye trained on a different star
This magic
This drunken Semaphore"
Mesmerized by the stars, I kept walking... cross-countrying over whatever was left of, what was once, lush powder snow. My eyes drifted back to the heavens where I realised no one star is the same, the perfect metaphor for us living beings - all unique in our own right, passing through this life like a Shooting star. LIVE YOUR WISH.
"This drunken Semaphore" is the ultimate drug, and its called LIFE.
"We are listening
And we're not blind"
I crested the top of a steep hill welcomed by the comforting faces of the mountains. I pulled my iPod out of my pocket, lost all my apprehensions and began to Dance for, what seemed to be, an eternity, infront of an audience of mountains with the stars serving as natural Disco light.
Listen to the whispers of nature, they will not lead you astray. Open your eyes to the Beauty of life, it is perfectly Imperfect.
"This is your life
This is your time"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The wise old man

Special encounters happen more often than not when you run, but some encounters leave a beautiful stain on your soul, they ring words that will stay with you forever. An eternal Memory.

I was running with the playfullness of a little child over a carpet of glittering snow, smiling from ear to ear, laughing as I tumbled into a cushion of white fluff.
I felt like I was effortlessly floating over the ground... I felt how the beautiful crisp air was filling my lungs and cleansing my mind. They were compiled moments of complete bliss.

I had been out for over an hour without seeing a person. There was nothing but me and the uniterrupted wisdom of nature, until, as I crested the last little climb, I could see the silhouette of an elderly man. Still grinning, the distance between us decreased with every step. From a few meters away he broke the peaceful silence I had been drifting in:
"you really look like you love what you're doing", he said in a deep, Husky voice.
My step paused and I came to a standstill infront of the king of mountains, the Eiger. I took a Moment to catch my breath, glanced around me, and replied:
"I really do love what I'm doing!!"
He began to tell me that he once too was a runner, setting off and exploring trails for hours, eating berries along the way, drinking only from streams and fountains, enjoying that feeling that can't even be put into words, the feeling that could only be understood if felt yourself. I knew that Feeling he was talking about.

I was captivated by the truth of his words, the wisdom in his eyes and the strength with which he stood in life. He continued telling me that he had to give up running  20 years ago, (at which point I asked how old he is... I couldn't believe he is 90!), due to illness.
His dense beard was frozen with pearls of snow and I could see how his thoughts were wandering through his past. He told me he couldn't walk far anymore, but that freedom he felt when he was running  he could still feel now;
"things adapt, life adapts, if you let it".
I believe it was him telling me his freedom had adapted into enjoying the things he can do.

The sun was getting behind an army of mountains and it was getting colder rapidly. Although I could have stayed and listened to the old man for days, I needed to get home.
As we said our goodbyes he left me with words that will remain embeded in me forever;

"don't let anoyone take the freedom of what you love from you, because at some point life will."

That Moment will forever be a part of me, and so will that old man! I am grateful for unexpected Encounters!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The balance of dualities

I was convinced that I could ride my bike, just one more time, before winter set in. Reality proved to be different and my eyes awoke to a lush carpet of snow covering the ground. No big deal if you have a plan B, and that I did. I fixed my bike into my turbo trainer, perched outside my front door, where I watched the elegantly floating snowflakes settle on the white carpet. 

I often hear that people struggle with turbo trainers or treadmills, because you are on the spot... Not moving forward, not seeing anything different, a stagnant state of being. I  however, enjoy moving forward in the present moment without physical displacement. 

Exercise always heightens my senses and liberates my mind to wonder freely, which in turn helps me to find that beautiful state of balance between my mind & body.

As I was pedaling away, thinking about everything yet nothing, I noticed a difference in strength between the power I was exerting through each leg. An imbalance that began to irritate me and distract me from my state of bliss, because it wasn't optimal, it wasn't perfect. I began to shift in my saddle, attempting to find that perfect spot that might bring me into a perfect alignment, but this imbalance was telling me something else. That I have a weak side and a strong side. A dominant side and subordinate side.

As it so often happens, one thought leads to another and I began to think about the dualities of life. Every aspect of life I thought of had an opposite counter part. One is generally deemed the positive side, and the other the negative side. 
I began brain storming obvious dualities in life:
~ Day/night
~ Young/Old
~ peace/war
~ love/hate
~ hot/cold
~ salty/sweet
~ male/female
~ life/death
~ summer/winter
~ heaven/hell
~ mind/body 
~ fire/water
~ high/low
And the list continues infinitely...

I realized that, in order to move forward and evolve, the opposing forces need to be accepted and acknowledged, so that a state of balance between the two poles can be found. So I turned my focus back to the bike and how I could create equilibrium between my left and right side. Suddenly the Yin & Yang symbol flashed before my eyes and I recalled its definition: 
"used to describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another".
What I needed to do was use the strength of my dominant side to give rise to my weaker, submissive side. The opposing forces need to interplay so a state of balance could be achieved.

In life, we get too stuck in either the Yin or the Yang state and forget to see everything as a whole. We create positives and negatives, ironically turning positives into negatives because of the imbalance that is crated through giving one force too much power.

I realized that I was giving my strong leg too much power, in effect, allowing my already weaker leg to continue to get weaker. The answer was simple - working on my weakness with my strength could only make me stronger in the long run. 

Ultimately balance is about acceptance and realizing that dualities form a whole. 

Balance is the true definition of perfection.

Friday, October 4, 2013


"Its the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting."

For close to a year I have dreamed, day in day out, of crossing the finish line at the Grand to Grand Ultra,  a 270km self supported stage race along the rim of the Grand Canyon. So much time, energy, sacrifice and commitment went into this adventure, and nothing was going to stop me from crossing that finish line.
Something did stop me from crossing that finish line, my body. And I was the one battling with my Ego to, either, continue and realize my dream or not continue and have my dream burst like a bubble, just like that.

The adventure began on a beautiful morning with the sun rising over the Grand Canyon creating a breathtaking backdrop. The sun rose in a majestic way, quickly warming up out cold bodies and gently reminding us of her dominance and strength. The energy in the air was tangible with over 100 runners ready to embark on this Grand adventure. Some were grinning as big as they could, others were quietly within themselves meditating on the task ahead, and then there were others dancing around to the music that was playing, obviously ready to run and have fun.
I stepped up to the start line feeling calm and ready. My body felt great, my mind felt strong and my spirit was fueled by the idea of realizing the dream that had accompanied me for the past year. The first two days unfolded fantastically. I quickly learned that it wasn't only about how quickly you got to the finish line, but about what happened on the way to the finish line. Amazing bonds were formed with fellow runners as you covered many kilometers of ground together, helping one another through the hard patches, laughing about life and learning more about life by being, listening and talking.

I can't explain what it is about running, but it truly frees the spirit and makes you more open to life and other people. That is why I love to run with other people, especially in a race like the Grand 2 Grand, because most people seem to have this unspoken understanding between one another, and even though we are all strangers you feel this weird sense of familiarity and respect. We just get one another and are all equals. To me, running creates this beautiful reflection of what life should be like and how it should be absorbed. It is not always easy, on the contrary, it is often very challenging, but it shows that, when you love something it will bring out the best in you. Thats why we runners can relate, because when we are out there taking in the beautiful sights and absorbing life, we are the best version of ourselves, raw, real and free.

Day three was the day to overcome, a 53 mile day with a very high percentage of sand ( I mean VERY high), cactus dodging, scrambling and traversing sand dunes. I was lucky enough to embark on this day with one of the amazing people I met during the run, Rebecca. The day started out fantastically with lots of chit chatting and laughing which created the illusion that we happily floated the first 10km of the course. We crested the first climb and entered, what was to be, a long day in the sand. I began to feel this weird pain on my shin bone, a pain I didn't pay too much attention to initally, but as it began to intensify I began pondering over the cause of that pain. I decided that it must be because of all the sand in my shoes, creating tension in my tendons. I emptied my shoes certain that I would feel some relief with my next steps, but the pain was still there. I then decided that my ankles must be swelling causing the anklet that I was wearing to give me a pressure sore. I cut off the anklet, again convinced that my pain would magically disappear, yet again there was no difference. I gave myself no other choice than to persevere and ignore the pain, because this was not part of the dream, it wasn't in the plan.
In great company, we ran all day long and into the night. Conversations were helping me distract from the discomfort, but when we hit the sand dunes I had this sense that my dream wasn't going to come to fruition.

Hypnotized by the pain (I was familiar with) I followed behind Rebecca and Gianfranco. It was a pain I knew, a pain I'd had 3 times before, the pain of a stress fracture. As we got to checkpoint 7 I got the Medic to check out my pain, quietly hoping he'd say I'm being soft and I should just continue running. But thats not exactly what he said, and without a definite diagnosis, his guess was the same as mine - a stress fracture. My mind went into overdrive, I could be tough and just keep on going, taking on the risk of injuring myself even more, but, as a reward, realizing my dream. Or I could be sensible and listen to the voice of my body that was loudly speaking, acutally shouting, at me.

I once had another dream, to escape the clutches of anorexia. I realized that dream, and promised myself that I would respect and listen to my body, that I would treat it with compassion. As I was sitting at the campfire, stewing over my decision, I looked down at my right forearm, where I have the word compassion tattoed. The purpose of that tattoo took on its full power in that moment, because it reminded me of the accountability I promised to have towards myself and others. I went to sleep for a few hours, knowing in my heart that my decision was made, but still living in the hope that by the morning the pain would disappear. It hadn't, and with a heavy heart I took my running shoes off, marking the end of the race for me.

I believed that taking off my running shoes would also mark the end of my dream, but life loves to prove us wrong. Over the past week I have had alot of time to think and feel into myself. My dream is now more alive than ever, because previously I only dreamed of the finish line, in some ways already bringing an end to the dream. All dreams have a beginning, and I never dreamed of the start line, now I realize that, without a start line there can be no finish line. I'm lucky, because my dream continues in a much richer way. It is now filled with incredible people, vital lessons, a new sense of self respect and gratitude that this journey continues until its my time to cross the finish line.

 I am living my dream!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Comfort Zone

Why are you running the Grand to Grand Ultra? This is the question I have been posed most frequently over the past few months. So many People find it hard to comprehend why a Person would put themselves through the ordeal of running 270(ish) self supported Kilometers through the Grand Canyon. So everytime a Person asks me the question why I'm embarking on this adventure, I always get stuck on words, its simply a Feeling I can't describe.

After a month of injury and being plagued with a gnarly cold, I have had a lot of time to question myself on why I am doing this. Because my Training had to be comporomised due to the issues I was having, an avalanche of self-doubt came over me. The Training runs I did do were either uncomfortable because I had this nagging niggle above my ankle or I felt sluggish and powerless because of the cold I was fighting. For the first time though, I listened to the voice of my Body and decreased my running drastically to prevent myself from getting a serious injury. I usually embrace the attitude of "just one more run, and by tomorrow it will miraculously be better". That naive thinking has always run me into Trouble and resulted in stress fractures that have forced me to hit the wall and stop running for Extended periods of time. This time I decided to listen and test my willpower in a different way, to step out of my safety Zone or comfort Zone, which is enjoying the freedom of running everyday and the peace it gives me, and decrease my mileagae until my Body gave me the green light telling me it was ready to go again.

I was petrified of not running as much. I was unsure how I would handle myself, how I would occupy myself, where I would find a Substitute outlet. I was scared of having thoughts get stuck in my head, because when I run my thoughts are also in Motion, its as though I'm meditating in Motion. What if I was Standing still? Would my thoughts stand still as well and consume my mind like anorexia did? I came to find that my thoughts still moved, but I had to find a different way to let them move and observe them. I found a beautiful bench perched high above the village where I would hike to everyday to Meditate. At first I couldn't Focus... I had no Patience... I would get irritated by bugs and bees. As I persevered my mind began to calm down and my ears would trace the sounds of the things, first in my immediate surrounding, then Extended into the distance. My thoughts came and went, my Body relaxed. I visualized myself running through the Grand Canyon and a Feeling of joy and peace came upon me.

As I progressed back into running I felt comfortable with a slow build up again. I didn't have the Feeling that I had to make up what I had lost in physical Fitness during that time , because in reality I had gained so much more in a mental way.

I was so far outside of my comfort Zone CHOOSING not to run. Thats when I realized that the beautiful Thing about comfort is that we don't always have to move within it, but its always a place we can come back to and be rewarded with that welcoming Feeling like coming home!

I ran through the beautiful mountain hinterlands this morning and as I was (what it felt like) dancing down and gliding up the trails, I realized why I want to do this race. It's because running and the Feeling I get from it is simply an eye opener to how we should experience life regardless if we're running, Walking, sitting, living inside or outside of our comfort zones, on happy or on less happy days...

So here is my answer to why I am running the G2G Ultra - because running is my metaphor for life, its my life Mantra "RunWithLife, RunWithEndurance"!