Archives for posts with tag: South Africa

I apologize for not including any pictures in the last few blog postings.  While traveling through Africa we didn’t often have access to the internet.  But now that we’re back in the States and have had a chance to look through the photos, I realize that some of these places really have to been seen to be believed.  The scenery in Southern Africa is mind-blowingly beautiful.  Here are some of the places we were and some of the things that we saw.

Beach Huts in Muizenberg

Beach Huts in Muizenberg

On top of Lion's Head in Cape Town

On top of Lion’s Head in Cape Town

The Wild Coast

The Wild Coast

Cute Local Kids

For most people travel is a luxury–something that is easily “cut-out-able” when things get tight financially.  In the last few years I had forgotten that for us it is something much more.  Travel has made us who we are, both as individuals and as a couple.  However, it is not something that just magically happens on its own.  You have to make it a priority in your life.

South Africa Wine Country

South Africa Wine Country

Welcome to Namibia

Welcome to Namibia

Visiting Karley

Visiting Karley

Solar Cooking

Solar Cooking

It had been nearly five years since our last big multi-month trip and we both missed the joy of long-term travel.  We often talked about taking another leave of absence from our jobs, but never quite got around to it.  During that five year hiatus we had somehow acquired a condo, a car and an increasingly expensive taste in wine.  Life kind of sneaks up on you like that sometimes.

Sundowners with Peter and Karley

Sundowners with Peter and Karley

baboons

Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach

Working on the Farm

Working on the Farm

Even though we’d been both making more money these last few years, we had gotten lazy about saving.  At the end of the month there never seemed to be anything left over for the travel fund.  Finally we both decided to just fully commit to making this trip to Africa our top priority.  I’m so happy now that we did.

Maputo, Mozambique

Maputo, Mozambique

Our Cabana in Tofo

Our Beach Cabana in Tofo

Grilled Jumbo Prawns

Grilled Jumbo Prawns

Sunrise at Tofo

Sunrise at Tofo

It’s been three weeks since we returned to the States and the transition back to our lives here has been seamless.  Yoshimi got both of her jobs back and I actually got a raise while I was away (thank you International Longshore and Warehouse Union).  In addition, my department moved from the Burnside location to our headquarters in industrial Northwest Portland.  My new desk is just a few hundred yards from beautiful Forest Park and its many miles of trails.

I’m now run-commuting to work (five miles each way) and am already looking forward to indulging in some trail running “quickies” on my lunch breaks this summer.  The trails are still a bit muddy, but the days are long and the perfect temperature for attacking the hills.  Now that summer has kicked in there’s no where else I’d rather be than here in Oregon.  Life is good.

If you’d like to see more pictures from the trip, you can check out Yoshimi’s flicker account.  I’m warning you though, her food focus will definitely leave you hungry.

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“The cold can be dealt with my friend, but the wind…the wind is personal.”

I can’t remember where I first read that line, but I think of it often.  Any cyclist will tell you that a steep hill is preferable to a stiff wind and the same I feel is true of running.  The night before the Two Oceans Marathon it sounded like the wind was ripping the roof off the apartment where we were staying.  I laid awake in bed–my pre-race jitters getting ever jittery.

This year was the 44th running of this Cape Town classic and 11,000 runners from 74 countries took part in the 35 mile ultra marathon, while an additional 16,000 did the half marathon.  The race is always held on Easter weekend and serves as the traditional warm up for the 56 mile Comrades Marathon in June.  Only in sports-crazy South Africa would a 35 mile race be considered a warm up.

Comrades is the oldest and largest ultra marathon in the world and is on many South African’s bucket list.  It has a similar history and prestige as our Boston Marathon.  I would love to run Comrades someday, but the timing did not work out for this trip.  Oh well, I guess the 35 mile “warm up” it would have to be.

One of my biggest worries for the race (other than the gale force winds) was trying to figure out how to get to the starting line.  There was a 6:30 am suburban start with no public transportation available at that hour.  I left our place at 4:30 hoping to track down a taxi and not get ripped off in the process.  Luckily just as I was leaving the apartment building a car full of local runners pulled up and asked me if I wanted a ride.  It was a nice way to start the day.

Most South African runners belong to a running club and wear their club uniforms at races.  At the starting line it was fun checking out all the different club names:  the impalas, the lions, the elephants, the cheetahs.  I made a point not to try and keep up with the cheetahs.

At 6 am the national anthem was sung.  South Africa is called the rainbow nation and looking around I could see why:  black, white, Indian, Arab, Chinese and every possible combination thereof.  It felt like a meeting of the United Nations and was pretty cool to see.  The half marathoners then took off first, followed by us ultra runners.  As usual it was a relief to finally be going, movement itself bringing an end to the anticipation.

The first half of the race was flat, going south from the city along the coast.  The sun had just started to rise as I passed through Muizenburg, a little surf town where we had spent the previous week.  My goal was to not go out too fast, just keep it at a manageable 8 minute per mile pace and save some energy for the difficult second half.

I hit the halfway point at 2:16, felt great and started to attack the hills.  This section was the most scenic, going up and over Chapman’s Peak.  The wind had not been much of a factor up until this point, just a bit of head wind that could mostly be avoided if you stayed in a pack.  But now that we were on the Atlantic side (the second ocean) the wind picked up and was at our backs.  I felt like it was pushing me up the hill.  The views down to Hout Bay were incredible.  I could now see why they call this the world’s most beautiful marathon.

The winds shifted as we topped out on Chapman’s Peak and the gusts were strong enough to nearly knock you off your feet.  I put my head down and my hat in hand, but still had a big smile on my face.

Instead of cups the aid stations handed out little bags of water and sports drink.  I grabbed a bag at every station and carried it with me until I needed some nourishment.  It was fun to sink your teeth into it and suck it dry like a vampire.

I got the feeling that for many runners the Two Oceans was their first attempt at an ultra distance race.  After 25 miles many people looked absolutely spent and started to walk.  This is where a second steeper set of hills kicked in.  My goal was to just keep running, no matter how slow.  I passed dozens of the walkers and this provided motivation to push even harder.  I heard a few of shouts of, “Looking good, Shawn!”‘ and wondered how they knew my name.  It wasn’t until later that I realized that everyone had their name printed in their race number.

The last four miles were all downhill and were a fun, cruisy way to finish the race.  I tried to pass as many runners I could, hoping to break into the top 1000.  The final quarter mile was on grass with rows of stands filled with spectators cheering us on.

I finished in 4:36 and placed 651st overall.  The weather turned out to be perfect, the wind hardly a factor, and the support exceptional.  I grabbed a burger and a beer and sat down to cheer on the remaining runners.  My race was barely finished and already I was dreaming of returning to South Africa to run Comrades.