Trail Blazing with Ryan and Thandi

How amazing would it be to wake up on another continent, looking up at a sky speckled with stars that are unfamiliar to you? Stretching and yawning, while drinking your coffee, and amazed at the opportunity to be where you are. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Well, this is the upside of being an ultra-trail runner, there’s always a new adventure waiting. Then the hard work starts!  From here, you pack your kit, put on your running shoes and run for a full day if you’re lucky (and only entered for one day). If you opted for the multi- stage race, you do this for five to six days. You stretch your motivation muscle to the most extreme extent of your capacity, and keep putting one foot in front of the other while facing the unyielding terrain, the blistering sun, and possibly, the howling wind and blinding rain.

The amount of willpower it requires to build a career in ultra-running is astonishing, to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like a good bit of trail running myself, and this is exactly why I am able to say: “Ryan Sandes is a legend.” Tim Noakes has referred to him as an enigma, because even he can’t really explain how Ryan does what he does.

Starting his running career in his mid-twenties, Ryan did the unthinkable and dived into his first 250km race having only about a year or two of running experience under his belt. Guess what! He won the race!

We are talking about the Gobi March. A race hosted in Mongolia, consisting of six days of running through desert places, with harsh weather conditions. One of the biggest obstacles faced is carrying your kit with you for the entire race. There are constant debates on the running forums about how heavy a couple of litres of water can be, and how that can slow you down, but the people endeavoring to run the Gobi March have to carry food, water, clothes, shoes and sleeping gear. How hardcore is that? These days Ryan competes in challenges such as the 13 Peaks and 100 miler expeditions. (That’s miles, people. Roughly 161km for a one day challenge. To put it in perspective, we are talking about almost two comrades marathons, back to back over mountain terrain.)

The 13 Peaks Challenge was born when Ryan decided to link up some of his favourite peaks on Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula area.

Starting with Signal Hill the route makes its way to Lions Head, followed by MacLears Beacon, Grootkop, Judas Peak, Klein Leeukop, Suther Peak, Chapman’s Peak, Noordhoek Peak, Muizenberg Peak, Constantiaberg, Klassenkop, Devils Peak and back to Signal Hill.

The idea behind the initiative is to get people moving and exploring the scenic routes and wilderness area. This route can be done by runners and hikers alike, and will guarantee a fun challenge.

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Ryan has always been very competitive, even as a  child, and tells of numerous occasions during which he was upset if he did not win a prize at a birthday party, or a similar occurence, in his book, “Trail Blazer”. The book is a testament to Ryan’s career until now, and tells of his life in general. The book started out as a passion project, with Steve Smith behind the pen, and has been wildly popular with fans around the world. It’s funny and real, and everyone will find something to relate to while reading about Ryan’s upbringing, party days and finding his passions in the most unexpected places.

Growing up in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, and Houtbay, especially, Ryan paints vivid pictures of helping his grandfather in the garden as well as times playing with friends. One of the resounding messages that also comes across in his talks and videos is his connection to nature and his love for trees. Choosing a career in Trail Running, specifically, was destiny.

It also should come as no surprise that Ryan loves animals. Ryan shared his childhood with a Jack Russell called Raptor, and later on a rescue called Buzzbee. And, why not, running through the forest or farm lands won’t be the same without a K-9 at your heels, right?!

These days the Sandes family share their home with an adopted dog, called Thandi. Thandi was adopted by Ryan’s wife, Vanessa, from Randburg SPCA, when she was looking for a companion. There were a lot of dogs looking for homes that day, but the two just connected, and Thandi, also fondly referred to as T-dog, found her forever home.

You can find Thandi anywhere the Sandes family is. She is so involved in their everyday life that when you watch a promotional video for Red Bull or Salomons, you’ll see her in almost every second shot. I think this is thanks to Ryan, who has admittedly been the instigator of allowing Thandi on all the furniture when Vanessa wasn’t looking.

This thirteen- year-old rescue also still takes on trails and beach outings with her family. Carefully selected routes will feature Ryan, Vanessa, their son Max, in a stroller, and T-dog, all taking on adventures.

The silver-faced K-9 has also learned that having a three-year-old accomplice in  the house isn’t too bad. It makes begging for snacks that much easier. Her human brother loves her so much, he would never deny her a piece of whatever is on his plate.

Now, if you were as stunned as I was about Thandi’s great form, you would be wondering what she eats. The answer is a simple diet of rice, veggies and some chicken or mince. Regular vet visits make sure that she isn’t uncomfortable, and a bit of flaxseed oil helps with her joint health.

Even though the life of an ultra-athlete  is busy and sees Ryan away from home a lot, he still makes time for doing good.

Ryan is also the CEO of the Southern Lodestar Foundation, an organisation that focusses on the nutritional needs of children. Through education and the supplementation of a breakfast program to students, they are hoping to improve the cognitive and physical health of learners to help them reach their full potential.

It isn’t hard to see why this is such a passion for Ryan. One of the key components of being a professional athlete is knowing what your body needs to perform at its peak. Using this knowledge to the advantage of an NPO shows the selfless nature of a guy who just wants to help everyone he meets.

If you see Ryan on one of the trails in Cape Town, please stop and say “hello”. He is the friendliest guy ever. One of his promo videos also captured a wish that he had to one day be the “old ballie” on the mountain that everyone knows.

Ryan is a true South African legend and we are very proud of all that he has accomplished. We can’t wait to see what he gets up to next!

Dogzcool Tricks and Treat – By Lloyd Bristow

I’m going to tell you a story. Perhaps even a story within a story. It was back in my school days. I recall going to my mother one day and telling her, in a very excited tone, that I had heard about a place in town that trains dogs, and I asked her if I may go there.


Well, my mother answered, “Yes,” which was followed by a moment or three of silence before I spoke up and enquired further: “Are you going to take me?” to which she promptly replied “I’m sorry, I have too much to do. You can walk if you really want to go!”. The thing is that I lived on a farm!


I did walk. It took about two hours to get to training. I got there late, but the important thing is that I got there. I showed the commitment and took the steps (literally) to change my life, forever. In case you are wondering, my mom did come and fetch me (she does love me …lol) and, subsequently, always took me to training and home and, in later years, even came to watch me competing at the agility world championships on a few of the occasions that I competed overseas. She loves watching my dogs and I working in unison.


I excelled at dog training from the very start. I made my special border collie, Chap, into the first Free State dog jumping champion in history, at the young age of 17 months (undoubtedly it would have been at a younger age, if we had had the opportunity, but we were limited by the amount of championship shows in Bloemfontein). I had to travel to East London to win my third championship qualification certificate, which Chap and I managed to achieve after a night of zero sleep, because we had attended a 21st birthday party which moved from a friend’s house to the beach just after 12am, and continued until sunrise. Chap and I sat around the fire bonding that night, while my friends and I chatted away and told jokes around the fire until the sun rose in beautiful pink, orange, yellow and gold glory over the ocean, on Nahoon beach. What a night, what a wonderful memory and how awesome to have made history that morning with my amazing boy Chap.


I also made up the second ever Free State dog jumping champion, as well as the fourth (this was back in the years before agility was introduced to South Africa). You may have noticed that I never made up the third champion. Indeed not, my good friend Xandi Dearden (née van den Heefer), made up the third Free State dog jumping champion with her wonderful dog Sam. Sam was related to Chap and he also became a famous phenomenon, dancing in front of packed stadiums at the Cheetah’s home rugby games. Dr Xandre Dearden, as she is better known now, was probably only 12 or 13 years old when Sam became a champion. Once both her and I opened the doors of belief, many new champions started to hail from the Free State and, dare I say that, within a few years we grew from one of the weakest provinces in South Africa to probably the top dog jumping and agility province in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. What happens when you achieve greatness is that you inspire others to lift their game and become great too.


I’ve been living in the Cape for around 12 years now. When I arrived here, WP was probably one of the weakest provinces in agility. That changed quickly. In the last 10 years WP has totally dominated the podium at the SA agility championships. I stand in second position with six wins and several reserve champion placings over the last 10 years, and an old student of mine, Annaret Meintjes, has pummelled practically every South African record, has dominated the podium relentlessly for the past couple of years now, has proved that a student can indeed overtake a master (and even teach them a thing or two) and now stands in first position with the most SA agility champions in our history, to date.


What are you going to achieve? What are you going to do to raise the belief system of the people around you? What are you going to do to inspire someone, and make them lift their game? Be a game changer. Create a culture of belief. Share your success secrets and make the world a better place.



8 things your dog wants you to know about getting into shape

Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is important for health. In fact, research has shown that a 30-minute walk (and it doesn’t have to be high-energy) three times a week is good for blood pressure, joints, digestive function, and sense of well-being – for you and your dog.


  1. Make sure I’m up for it

I’d love to do some exercise – us dogs are built to move and it’s fun for us, but some of us can’t do as much as others. Some dogs have flat faces or shortened ‘windpipes’ which can make breathing difficult; some have very thick fur which makes it not so fun to walk when it’s hot. Oldies and puppies, as well as dogs with health problems like arthritis or diabetes, also can’t do as much as the rest of us.


If I’m not used to doing exercise or you have any doubts, please take me to the vet for a check-up? They will listen to my heart, check my joints, make sure I’m healthy, and help you decide what’s best for me.


  1. Don’t run before we can walk

Once we have the vet’s stamp of approval, we can get going – yippee! But, as exciting as that may be, let’s not overdo it, please? We can start with a stroll around the block or a walk in the park; maybe even just playing ball in the yard. Keep an eye on me to see that I’m doing ok. I will show you if I’m struggling by panting heavily, walking very slowly, dragging my feet, limping, or even refusing to walk.


  1. School’s cool

I love learning and making you happy. So, let’s find a dog club nearby so we can try a basic training class. Learning to walk, sit, heel and more, is super-fun and it will be such a proud moment when we do well – we might even get a certificate.


Some dogs are not well-behaved on lead but this is not their fault; just like human children need to learn how to behave, us dogs do too. If you haven’t trained us, please don’t get cross that we don’t know what to do? By having lessons and positive reinforcement, walks together will be much more pleasant and rewarding.


And, once I have had basic training, there are lots of other things to do, like agility, fly ball, and show-level obedience.  Who knows? I may just be a star in the making!


  1. Let’s try something new

We live in such a beautiful country with wonderful places to walk. There are beaches, forests, mountains and more – let’s explore them all! Check first, if dogs are allowed there and, if I’m not as well-behaved as I should be (sorry!), keep me on lead.


Also don’t forget to bring some – ahem – poop bags. For some reason, humans don’t like finding a dog’s business lying around (I, on the other hand, find it fascinating!) so, to avoid making people angry and maybe even banning us dogs from walking in certain places, please clean up after me.


  1. Social media for dogs

As much as you want to get fit, this is my walk too. You see gardens and plants – I see messages everywhere. Please give me a chance to stop and smell the roses (and everything else), find out what’s been going on in the neighbourhood and leave a comment of my own. Imagine you were scrolling through your newsfeed and someone chased you away…


I know it’s tempting to get the walk finished fast but sometimes I’d actually rather stroll and smell, than sprint and rush.


  1. It’s about more than just the exercise

Going for walks is good for our health, but it’s also a great time for us to bond.  Walking together makes me trust you more and, if we work on training while we’re doing it, my respect for you will grow.


If you can’t take me for walks and have a dog walker instead, please spend time every day hanging out with me. It’s so nice to work at something with you.


  1. Safety first

Always, always, always make sure I’m on a lead and that I have a tag and microchip. There are many different types of collars and harnesses and what works for one dog may not work for another, so do a bit of research and ask the vet for advice.


Going off-lead is fun and I know I’m well-behaved so you trust me but not all dogs are as good as I am; if a dog should attack me, having me on a lead means you can get me away safely. Also, let’s face it: I’m a dog and sometimes things catch my interest – like a squirrel or a cat – and I can’t contain my excitement and I run off.


Please don’t walk me when it’s really hot. Remember, I’m not wearing shoes and the ground gets really warm – I could even get burn injuries to my paws. I also overheat much faster than you do (imagine going for a walk in midday in summer while wearing a fur coat). Stick to early morning and evening and keep to the shade if you can.


TIP! Place your hand on the road and hold it there for five seconds; if it’s too hot for you to do that, then it’s way too hot for a dog to walk on.


  1. Please remember my friends at the shelter

I’m a lucky dog, because I have you, but not all dogs are as lucky; some dogs live in shelters and don’t have the luxury of someone to walk them. Find out if the animal shelter near you has dog walking and spend a day a week (or more!) taking them for walks. They’ll really appreciate the attention and the exercise.


If you don’t have a dog, then it’s perfect: you get to walk a dog and a shelter dog gets an outing – it’s a win-win situation.

Travelling With Your Pet

Mere domestic animals to some, an integral part of the family to others – when it comes to  security and comfort, there is no place like home for your pets. This is why changes to unfamiliar environments are traumatic for our furry friends.   Colleen Clackworthy from Pet Travel, South Africa, shares some useful hints on alleviating the stress levels of all  parties concerned.

Any pet owner can vouch for the marked change in pet behaviour at the outset of a planned move. Who said pets can’t sulk? Disruptions in a pet’s normal environment start from the moment the suitcases are strewn around the house,  and continue through to the actual day of the move, when all the activity, movement, noise and smells of having strangers on the property,  leave a pet in a state of    confusion and anxiety. Even owner’s behaviour changes, making matters worse! An individual pet’s temperament will affect how it travels. A carefully planned pet move will ensure that your precious pet arrives at its new home without any physical or emotional harm:

  • Consider the temperament, specific illnesses and physical impairments of each pet prior to moving and devise strategies that will ease the process. Pets should have all necessary vaccinations and be in good health prior to travel.
  • It is advisable to place a pet with a kennels, cattery or pet carer prior to the day of the move. This will also help you to focus on organising the final details of the move.
  • Pets have been known to execute a great escape during these stressful times, so consider proper security facilities when organising alternate accommodation for your pet. Caregivers should be able to meet the pet’s specific needs (food, medical, bedding etc). Remember that while families and friends are always willing to help out, they might not have the necessary secure facilities for “escape artists”, or the required experience to care for a stressed pet!
  • Cats should be secured in a warm, safe room prior to transporting.
  • Travelling is not only stressful, but can also upset your pet’s stomach! Don’t feed your pets two to three hours prior to road travel and four to six hours prior to air travel. There are various homeopathic remedies that will calm a pet when stressed – tranquilisers are not recommended. Rescue tablets can be given to your pet a few days prior to the move.
  • Secure pet travel boxes (approved by the International Air Travel Association) are recommended for road and air travel. The container should be clean and allow enough room for the pet to stand up and turn around. Water should be provided at all times. Travel boxes should not be oversized either; this could lead to injury and provide a less secure environment. Spacer bars should be provided to allow maximum ventilation through the air holes.
  • Familiar objects, such as a small blanket or owner’s shirt, can be included to provide a comforting scent.
  • Pets should be transported in specific vehicles that allow for efficient loading, safe travel     compartments, sufficient airflow and even air-conditioning, where necessary. Drivers should be   experienced with pet handling and be able to supervise pets while en route to their destination. The playing of classical music has proven to help reduce stress levels in animals.
  • Do not allow pets to travel in the same vehicle as your furniture. The pet will be traumatised by exposure to excessive noise, heat, lack of ventilation, falling objects and a lack of adult supervision. Open vehicles are just as dangerous, as pets are at risk of falling out at high speed. Pets can also be injured by flying debris, or become ill by having cold air forced into their lungs.
  • Once you have arrived at your new home, try to get your pets settled into their new environment as soon as possible.



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