ultra marathon

All posts tagged ultra marathon

300 days in Africa.

Published November 20, 2014 by kokoinsouthafrica

Boy, that clock sure has been ticking since I landed in this beautiful place!

Here’s an update of what I’ve been doing lately, a glimpse of what’s gone wrong and a taste what my future plans are.

I haven’t written much about work-related stuff lately, but I swear I’ve been working every day! Sometimes I get so caught up in running and working out that I neglect my writing, but not to worry, I’m committed to my work and making the most of my time here. Not much has changed work-wise; I’m still helping develop the HIV Counseling & Testing outreach program at my organization and every week we go out to different villages/areas to offer free services (HIV counseling & testing, blood sugar testing, blood pressure check, Tuberculosis screening, etc). This type of work has been extremely rewarding for me, but it also has its challenges. Sometimes there are  language barriers, sometimes I get hit on/proposed to, sometimes I get people who cry, etc. It can be emotionally draining, but the rewards far outweigh the minor hindrances.

I’ve started up a couple yoga programs- one is at my gym and the other is held at my organization. The main focus is building strength, flexibility and equanimity amongst the mothers and adult women I instruct. Being a Kinesiology major, obviously I love all things related to fitness and I love opportunities where I can workout with others, share my knowledge and help cultivate healthy lifestyles. Having 7 yoga classes sprinkled throughout my weekly schedule can be taxing at times but I’m finding ways to make it work.

They tell us that our first year in country is all about developing relationships and fine-tuning ideas while the second year is where the real work begins. I am coming close to my 1 year mark and can say that even though I don’t feel I’ve made leaps and bounds towards changing the world, I have found fulfillment in the small victories and I’m looking forward to kicking off some more projects in 2015. As a community health volunteer my main focus is on HIV prevention, but any work I do relating to health promotion and education, nutrition, hygiene, fitness, healthy lifestyles and cultural exchange is acceptable in Peace Corps’ eyes. This gives me a lot of creative room to play and implement project ideas.

Peace Corps service isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and although I strive to preserve my blog for the purpose of sharing positive experiences with my loved ones back home, I wouldn’t be giving an accurate depiction of my life in rural South Africa if I didn’t include the bad with the good. There are more good days than bad, but the bad days/moments do happen. Some days I just don’t want to get out of bed, most days I know once I leave my house I’m going to be faced with uncomfortable amounts of “hey baby”, “come talk to me”, “I love you”, and “I want to marry you” from all the questionable men lurking the streets. These phrases may seem harmless but when you hear them constantly while living in a strange place and not having the secure feeling of being in your normal environment, it can be scary, it can seem threatening, and it is for sure mentally exhausting. I can try to numb myself to it but I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I can accept it as respectable human interaction. It’s just plain obnoxious.

I do, however, have several exciting things to look forward to in the upcoming months. In December I’m attending a Peace Corps conference in Gauteng with PCVs from all over South Africa. I’ll be spending Christmas and NYE in Cape Town with a bunch of other volunteers. Cape Town has a myriad of entertainment options and I know I’ll have plenty of time for the beach, to explore local wineries and to see the nightlife. In February one of my best friends is coming to visit from the States, we’re grouping up with some other volunteers to check out Ultra South Africa. I’ll probably lay low in March & April to focus on training for Comrades in May! Not to mention my 26th birthday, YEESH.

If my math is correct, I have something like 480 days left until my time in South Africa comes to an end. I have no idea what I’m doing yet post-Peace Corps, but I have a lot of time to figure that out. Until then, stay tuned for more adventure stories!



Races: #4. SuperSpar Bela Bela Marathon

Published November 12, 2014 by kokoinsouthafrica

It was hot as balls, but I survived!

My first alarm went off at 1:50am and by 2am we were in the car and on the road. We arrived at the race site by 5, giving us just enough time to check in at registration, use the restroom and get ourselves prepared. My host mom gave me a big, warm hug and we wished each other good luck [she was running the 5k]. The gun went off at precisely 5:30 and away I ran!

The SuperSpar marathon in Bela Bela was a race of contrasts. The first 20km or so was pretty flat and I was feeling good about it. It would be quite misleading to any runners that hadn’t already studied the course map for elevation gains. I was constantly checking my posture and making sure my alignment was good. I knew that if I was kind to my body in the first half, it would be kind to me in the second half.

I was making good time strutting along the streets of Bela Bela, drinking water whenever it was available with an occasional cup of Coke. I never drink soda- I detest it- but when that’s the only option, I had no choice. I knew that my body could not survive on coke and water alone, and was wondering when the heck I’d find some real sustenance. Alas! An aid station that had banana chunks! I slowed my pace to grab some snackies, inhaled the banana chunk and washed it down with a gulp of Coke. Just then, Bassjackers EDCLV 2014 came up on my playlist and almost instantly my feet pick up faster, my body felt lighter and my stride easier. I love these moments in running, I live for these moments where everything in the universe aligns perfectly and the race doesn’t feel like a race but rather a Saturday walk in the park.

I tried not to get too cocky though, I knew the real race began in the second half, where I’d face over 200m elevation gain in less than 2km of distance. I knew that hitting a sub-5 hour marathon would mean I’d need to hit the halfway mark no later than 2 hours in, giving myself the remaining 3 hours to climb some hills. I was making good time, and was super happy when I hit the halfway mark by 1:45.  The halfway point was disappointingly anticlimactic, there wasn’t even an aid station, just a marker saying “21.1km”. At this point I could ease up on the gas just a bit, I had 3:15 allowance to cross the finish line, which may seem like a lot of time but the African summer sun had been high in the sky since 5:30, and I still had 8 or 9 hills to climb.


I came running around a corner and that’s where I finally saw it, the first daunting hill. I gasped, this was not going to be fun. Luckily an aid tent was right at the base of it and I decided to bust out a sports gel I had stashed in my shorts pocket. I gulped it down along with a sachet of water and began the monstrous ascent up the first hill. I have mixed feelings about sports gels. I appreciate the consolidation of so many nutrients in 1 pocket sized packet, but I loathe the stomach cramps I get while my body tries to break apart the sticky, gooey glob. As I was taking my time up this hill, I was wincing and gasping verbally because my stomach was turning and it hurt. I forced myself to jog through the pain, but that was an unpleasant 2km or so.

I got atop of the first major hill and knew the rest of the course would be a roller-coaster of hill after hill after hill. By this point I had gotten in the habit of grabbing two water sachets at every aid station. The first one I would drink, and the second one I would squirt all over my body in an attempt to cool down. Also by this point the aid stations had water-misters for us.

There were tons of motivational signs set up along the race course, and I always smiled when I passed by them. They said things like-

“With every up there is a down”

“Enjoy the down”

“Remember why you started this”

By 27km I hit the last switchback on the hills and knew I would be doubling back all the way up and down to the first hill. For a bit I had been pacing a pack of 4 guys, 1 guy had set a cadence for his group by tapping a small tambourine against his leg. I stayed close enough behind that I could hear the chime over my headphones, and keeping this pace was helping me a lot. We didn’t stay together through the end, but there was a solid stretch of distance where that consistent chiming pulled me through the hills.

I saw the 30km mark and I still had 1:45 allowance left. I slowed my roll and just tried to enjoy the ride. It was hot, I was tired, but I had plenty of time left on the clock and didn’t feel the need to push myself any more than I really had to. My only concern was finishing under 5 hours, and I was on pace to do so. Eventually I passed the 32km mark, then 35km, and so on. I ran when I wanted to, walked when I wanted to, and stopped to chat with people at the aid stations. All the while I was checking my watch and making sure I was pacing myself appropriately. By 37km I decided to just run the final 5km and finish feeling good. We had come down the final hill a little ways back, and now we were on flat ground once again, I thought this final stretch would be a piece of cake. The only problem I faced was that my body was dyyiinnggg for some salt, but all that was available was soda and candy. I pushed past the cramping, but I would have given anything for some salted potatoes. I passed an aid station that had Simbas (similar to Cheetos) but I didn’t have enough saliva to chew them, so I just sucked the powder off and spit them out as I ran.

Then, I could see the finish line! Finally! It’s an exhilarating feeling to run with your eyes closed. It’s pretty stimulating. I did this for a minute or so as I approached the finish line. I opened my eyes as I came around the last bend and it was a straight shot into victory! This is exactly what I wanted, a sub-5 so I could qualify to run Comrades next year. Exact finishing time- 4:57:14. I don’t think my time was particularly impressive but I did what I set out to do, and I was incredibly humbled by the fact that the 1st place finisher had a time of 2:32:39 – he finished in like half my time! Gheez!

Personal victories for this race:

-Did not need to use my knee braces or my inhaler

-Finished without any blisters!

It’s the little things… 🙂