Saturday, 24 May 2014

5 Lessons I learnt running the 2 Oceans

A hard earned Bronze
Race Report: 2 Oceans Ultra 56km - 19 April 2014

Despite this being my second 2 Oceans, I learnt more in this race than any other I have ever run. So rather than documenting it as standard tears and fears from start to finish I thought I would list the 5 lessons that I took out of it in the hope that I can implement this in future races.

1. Prepare for your current fitness levels, not for what you wish they were

Last year I ran my first 2 Oceans Ultra which was also only my third marathon. My running mentor, hero and friend El Hoborino (the guy who got me to start this crazy sport and veteran of three 2 Oceans and four Comrades) and I went at a decent pace until Constantia Nek when things failed badly and I limped home to a 5h28. I put that down to a poor first attempt and at the time decided that I would work to break 5 hours this time round. My training was going well in the latter parts of 2013 and when I broke 100 minutes for the Gun Run in October I thought I was on track. Unfortunately I struggled a bit earlier this year when I sprained my ankle and then got hit with 2 bouts of the great stomach bug of Cape Town '14 which meant I hardly ran in February. Despite this break in crucial training weeks, I was still convinced the sub-5 was a possibility and so all my pre-race planning and pacing strategies were built on this goal. I ran a 3h45 qualifying marathon and it was at this point that I should have adjusted my goals. I instead went into the race with the attitude of, let me go for the sub-5 and if I crash and burn, at least I put myself in the position. What I didn't realise however is that I was never really in the position of a sub-5 hour, I didn't possess the resources. It is kind of like a rugby team showing up to a match with only 8 men, they might put themselves in the game, but they will get drilled unless the bring the rest of their team with them. I could have saved my mind and body a lot of agony by realising this before the starting gun.

2. You never buy time, you only borrow it and pay it back with interest

I heard this said by Dr Ross Tucker on one of the route podcasts 2 days before the event. At the time I laughed because prior to that, my whole race strategy was on starting as fast as possible to buy time for Constantia Nek. I promised to start slowly and conservatively and then promptly broke my promise. We started on sub 5min kilometres which was completely unnecessary. I felt like I was pushing myself too hard but I was so focused on the sub-5 that I ignored it. It was at about 22km when I first realised I was being silly and at 28km I told El Hoborino to head on without me (he would go on to finish in 4h52). We crossed the half-way point in 2h24 so I had 'bought' plenty of time. From the bottom of Chappies it was pretty much a struggle most of the way to the end. Just over the top of Chappies is the 35km point which means there is just a half marathon to the end. At that point I needed to do about a 1h45 half marathon to finish in under 5 hours which wasn't completely crazy but once again the deceptively long downhill coming off Chappies killed me and I could see my average pace slowly climbing. The passage from Chapmans Peak Hotel to the bottom of Constantia Nek was painful and I focused on running for 9 minutes, walking for 1. As I continued I got slower and slower and that's when I knew I was paying my time back and the interest rates are very high in this race. I did the second half of the race in 3h09 which meant I added on a full 45 minutes on the second half. To put that in perspective, that is an average of 1m36 longer per kilometre (an interest rate of about 32%...I must have been borrowing from Joshua Doore).

3. The race begins somewhere near the end

Last year when I ran 2 Oceans I had such a fear about Chapman's Peak that it took up all my focus. I got to the top easily and was so psyched that I didn't realise that there was still another half marathon to do. This year my focus was a lot better in this respect in that I knew that I needed to make it to the top of Constantia Nek before even thinking about relaxing. Prior to the race, whenever I drove that hill (which is most days) I memorized various aspects of it in order to eliminate the fear. When things started going badly on Chappies this year I immediately started incorporating walk breaks to preserve my limited energy for the Nek. I started the hill knowing exactly where the markers were for 2km, 1.5km, 1km and 500m to the top. Despite my exhaustion, the hill didn't take as much out of me as last year which helped motivate for me the last stretch to UCT. By this stage, the sub-5 was long gone and I was trying to salvage my race from my earlier stupidity but I was too exhausted to do much. Despite my efforts, others still came cruising past me and I am sure many of them covered the last 14km at least 20 minutes quicker than me earning themselves respectable times. From this I learnt that I can't just be focused on how to get up that hill when I get there, I need to focus on it from the start of the race. I lost so much time on that final quarter because the damage was already done. The benefits of that final kick are incredible and so I fully believe that the entire pacing strategy for the first 3 quarters of the race must revolve around ensuring that there is plenty in the tank to blitz the last leg. It is basically a 42km warm-up and then a 14km race.

4. A long run is the same thing as brunch


In hind sight, not the
best pre-race nutrition
A highlight of my varsity years was when the residence dining hall would hold a brunch. This would happen one Sunday a semester and we would all descend on the hall which is where we would stay for about 4 hours continually dishing up more plates of food. After all, what is brunch but a meal that starts before breakfast and ends after lunch? I thought I had done my research on race nutrition but once again, realised I had no idea what I was doing. Nutrition is a personal bug bear of mine as I tend to (I think) metabolize food very quickly and hence get very hungry on my long runs. I am not a supporter of the low carb high fat diet as I believe that without carbs I will quickly waste away to the point that the strong Cape Town winds might cause a problem if I step outside. In my training I tried to do most of my morning runs of about 1 to 1.5 hours fasted in order to increase my ability to convert fat into energy (disclaimer, I have no idea if I am getting the science of any of this right but this is how I understand it based on what I have read). Partly as an act of rebellion against the LCHF crowd, I embarked on a massive carbo-loading drive the week before the race. This, along with my lack of exercise (I took tapering way too seriously), meant I probably started the race heavier than my body is used to which meant that my muscles would have had to work harder to power me along. I had read that it takes about 90 minutes to deplete my glycogen stores and perhaps longer if my heart rate is low enough to use more fat energy. So my plan was to eat my first Racefood Nougat at about 90 minutes in and then alternate between a Hammer Gel and a Racefood every half an hour. What I think ended up happening though is that as I started too fast I depleted my glycogen stores very quickly but then refused to eat until 90 minutes. I had half a Racefood only at about 1h45 (half marathon mark) and then lost my appetite after that. By the time I got to half way the cravings had taken over as I think my body was all over the place as it needed energy from somewhere. I had some par cooked potatoes at 28km and then half a banana at 34km and by the time I got to Constantia Nek I had no energy and felt I needed a boost. I was craving coke and offered myself a reward of a coke when I got to the top. Every time I have coke in a race it has a bad effect where I tend to spike and drop too quickly resulting often in cramps. I was in a world of pain by the top and quickly grabbed a coke and a Bar-one from the friendly people. My thinking was that this spike would give me the motivation and energy to beast the last 10km...it lasted about 1km. Filled with sugar I set off down the windy road enjoying myself for the first time since Noordhoek. About 5 minutes in the sugar wore off and both my legs cramped up completely. The energy and motivation were there but what wasn't there, clearly, was electrolytes. I resolved to just make it to the next water table to get some hydration but unfortunately this was a coke and powerade only table. I had some powerade (another mistake as I never drink the stuff) hoping to get some electrolytes in but it did little. That's when I remembered that all this time I had been carrying my Hammer Gels and had refused to eat them because my appetite didn't feel like it. These things are scientifically designed to replace electrolytes and fuel fatigued muscles, so what the blaze was I trying to do fuelling myself with my own concoction of potatoes, coke and Bar-one? I don't usually have gels without water but I had no choice this time so I started sipping slowly on a Vanilla. With every little bit I took in, I felt the muscles in my legs start working again. My energy levels picked up and I started passing people. From 7km to go I managed to run the whole way to the finish which was a huge achievement for me as I hadn't managed to put 7km together in about 3 hours and last year these last 7km were the worst especially the last 2km from when you hit the M3 and get blasted by the 2 sneaky finishing hills. So clearly my mistakes were not eating enough early which resulted in intense blood sugar lows which I think I tried to replace with high carbohydrate fuel sources which got me onto a blood sugar roller coaster. What I should have done is from the start, eat slowly and steadily with little regard for the taste but rather be more focused on the fact that I am getting food in for a 5 hour period...much the same as what students would do when presented with 5 hours of free food.

5. The bad times make the good times better

I have read and watched many interviews with Ryan Sandes where he talks about how in his ultra distance races he goes through some major low patches but what gets him through is knowing that on the other side of those lows, there will be a high. And generally the lower the low patch is, the higher the resulting high is. I don't think I have ever really run long enough to experience this but I felt in this race, for the first time, just a glimpse of what he means. Generally all my other long distance events have followed a similar script of running for as long as I can and when I hit the low, I shuffle, walk, crawl to the finish. In this race my low started quite early and lasted quite long and when I first started struggling I thought my race was over. I watched disappointingly as my average pace slowly increased and my final time calculations moved from 'sub-5' to 'beat last year' to 'bronze medal' to 'finish'. The 49km point gave me a nice surprise. I really enjoyed the last 7km and even managed to sing along to 'American Pie' as I ran through the mass of supporters near Kirstenbosch. I was excited when I came into UCT not because of my time as I was way over my goal time and 5 minutes slower than last year, but because I managed to fight my over that low patch to the point where, if I had to, I could have kept on running. This lesson is one that I am hoping will stay with me for a long time and when I feel exhausted in future races, I just need to remind myself that that feeling will pass and some good times are just around the corner...or around the next 5 corners...well at some point it will get better. Added to this, was finding out at the finish line that El Hoborino had annihilated the sub-5 and came in at 4h52 even dropping the 5 hour bus going up Constantia Nek. Knowing that he could do this made me even more motivated for next year and I will be there alongside him next year earning a Sainsbury medal. Although this year was a bad race for me, next year will be a good one and it will be so much better having learnt these lessons.

A few stats from my race this year

A tale of 2 halfs

First half:    02:24:54
Second half:    03:08:04

Last year vs this year

KM 2014 2013
0 00:00:00 00:00:00
28 02:24:54 02:27:47
42 03:55:42 03:49:06
50 04:56:01 04:47:22
56 05:32:58 05:28:30

A picture of a bad pacing strategy







Thursday, 15 May 2014

Training log: 07.04 - 05.05 - 2 Oceans and too little running



A mad mad month was April with the opening of the new TAGG CrossFit premises, family visiting and a thesis occupying some distant part of the back of my mind meant that although I had a great time, I had little chance to run (and evidently little chance to update my log blog).

Week 1

Monday - Run - Quarter Chappies

A pleasant little evening trot up with Big Dogg to one of the lookout points on Chappies with Hout Bay delivering some exceptional sunset photo opportunities.

6.0km
0:39:11

Tuesday - Run - Morning jog and time trial

I wanted to gauge my fitness levels before 2 Oceans so I did a decent warmup around Sea Point and then hit the 5km Time Trial. I came in at just over 21 minutes in the time trial which is not far off my PB so I figured I was doing alright (I was wrong).

10.7km
0:56:01

Friday - Run - Up Chappies with the lads


Chapman's Peak - Beasted
I had a day's leave so I took Big Dogg and my brother-in-law (let's call him Apache) up to the top of Chappies. The way down felt really quick and I think it was due to the company. This would prove detrimental to me at 2 Oceans where once again I struggled down this deceptively long downhill. Little did I know at the time, this would be the beginning of my taper for the big race

12.5km
1:23:35

Week Total
29.2km
2:58:47

Week 2

Life completely got in the way and I didn't get a chance to do any warm-up runs pre 2 Oceans which I think was a huge mistake. I struggled in the race, more details in my race report.

Week Total
56.0km
5:32:55

Week 3 and 4

Big rest weeks as I recovered from 2 Oceans and dealt with a few little niggles I picked up due to being incredibly underprepared. The only run I managed was a brief sprint through Sea Point as I raced the team from the old TAGG to the new TAGG. They were in a car loaded with equipment and started 6 minutes after me. They caught me with about 500 metres to go, it was tight and I am demanding a rematch.

Week Total
4.5km
0:18:00 (estimated)

So now 2 Oceans is done and I get to focus on trail running again. I have created a more structured and less pressurized training program for myself consisting of the following each week:

2 Medium distance runs very slow
1 Long trail run
1 Either interval or hill session
1 Pilates class
2 CrossFit classes

The main things I learnt in 2 Oceans is that my weak core is seriously holding me back (hence Pilates) and I need to focus on better quality training as opposed to simply going for mileage. Also I am not good at following a rigid schedule but I do need to incorporate some form of routine into my training as if it is too haphazard I tend to miss important sessions especially hills and intervals. The above schedule is flexible and includes plenty rest days which helps me fit it into my work requirements. The way I see it, it is 7 out of a total of 14 possible sessions in a week (2 a day). So I am trying to do double days on Tuesdays and Thursdays which means I only need to fit the other 3 in around that.

In addition to revitalising my training routine, I am working on my diet. In the build-up to 2 Oceans I was so focussed on taking in as many Carbs as possible that I was eating (and drinking) really bad quality carbs. So I set myself a challenge of going Vegan for the month of May. It is pretty extreme but I was keen to try it mainly to see what effects this sort of diet has on my energy levels. I will include a full detailed review of my #veganMay in June.

So with a new approach to training and eating, I am really excited about the Trail season and have entered some really cool races including Fishermans, Hout Bay Trail Challenge and of course Rhodes. It is time to embrace the winter!






Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Race report: Lourensford Traverse 20km - 5 April 2014


My first trail race of the season and this was an exciting one not only because I was keen to get off the road, but also because my brother ("Big Dogg") was visiting from Canada and so it was an opportunity to showcase the Western Cape Trail running scene. The day dawned with a sunny cloudless sky with the weather forecasted as perfect and we arrived at Lourensford Estate ready to rough it.

The Lourensford Traverse is a smaller trail race organised by Quantum Adventures (www.quantumadventures.co.za), the same guys who bring you races such as Grootvaderbosch and Berg & Beach. This was to be my first race by these guys and my first event in Somerset West so I was interested to see what it offered. The course profile showed that there would be a gradual climb for the first half and then some decent downhill to finish off and, although not too technical, it would have the odd challenge thrown in there.

We kicked off and cruised along at a gentle pace. The first half is predominantly on farm roads through the estate and some foresty area. There was the odd steep hill which reduced the pace to a hike which gave plenty of opportunity to enjoy the scenery as the view from the mountainside extended all the way to Strand and Gordon's Bay. The higher we got, the more tricky the road was and the steeper the incline but we were focussed on getting to the turnaround point where we knew we would be rewarded with some downhill. We hit half-way in just over an hour which was on track with our plan.

Canal navigation by Big Dogg
The downhill section started in the apple orchards and I can neither confirm nor deny that I sampled some of the local fruit...however I can confirm that it is export quality. We put together a few quick km until we hit the canals. Most of the second half of the race was run alongside the canals which for some reason was more difficult than normal single track even though it was dead straight. This was a lot of fun and definitely something unique to this race. A few pipe crossings and a wet clay descent (where I executed a perfect wipe-out) kept things interesting. After the canal section we took it easy for a bit as the Big Dogg was still acclimatising to the South African heat and hills as his pre-race preparation had been in -10 degree weather on flat roads. This resulted in a gentle trot to the end, back where we started.

My flying Lima impression (Photo: Peter Kirk)
I thoroughly enjoyed this race and I am quite disappointed to see that it is no longer on the Quantum Adventures website which I think means they may not be hosting it again. Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion amongst trail runners on the ever-rising entry costs to these events. This race was exceptionally well organised with everything from the entry and registration process, to the route markers executed professionally, and it only cost R195. Fine it is not in some crazy mountain range but, if my Strava is correct, it did still include about 730m of elevation over 20km which is not a bad morning out. A race like this will never attract the big name professional runners and I can't help but wander if one of the reasons is that people don't take a race with a cheaper fee that seriously. If this is the case, then what is everyone complaining about? The point is there are more affordable races out there but if you only want to run races that have youtube clips about them, then you can't complain about the price. I am just keen to run any race I can, and after running Lourensford, I will definitely be entering more races by Quantum.

I usually place inside the top 33% of the field. My goal is to consistently place in the top 25%. 

Distance:    19.6km
Time:         2:17:41(54min behind winner)
Position:      83/134 (62% a lower rating but I was happy enough just being out there)

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Training log: 10.03 - 06.04 - High mileage and Hout Bay

From the top of Ou Kaapse Weg

It has been 4 weeks since my last post which shows that I have been pretty busy. Thankfully not all of the busyness has been work and I have had some time to get in some decent mileage. These last 6 weeks before 2 Oceans was always going to be crucial and I feel I got decent mileage in 3 out of the 4 weeks which is not a bad average. The 4th week I basically started the taper but included some good trail running which definitely helps the strength.

Week 1: 10.03 – 16.03

Monday – CrossFit
The second workout of the open and this one did not suit me at all. Bearing in mind I can barely overhead squat a PVC pipe, the amrap of OHS and chest to bar pull-ups was never going to be fun. In the allotted time, I only managed 4 overhead squats at 44kg so didn’t even get to the pull-ups. It was 4 more than I thought I would get however, and this is what the Open is about, pushing yourself to uncomfortable levels...lovely.

Tuesday – Interval session at ATC
Some good sprints. A set of 20 of about 70 metres at 85% pace (whatever, we ran it at 100)

Wednesday – Run - Birthday Tempo
I really wanted to start a tradition of running my age on my birthday but I was a bit stuck for time this year. So I sneaked out for a quick tempo run to make sure I was firing for the upcoming Weskus Marathon. I managed to average under 5min per km so signs are solid.

11.4km
0:55:23
4:53/km

Thursday – Taper rest

Friday – Taper rest

Saturday – Run – Weskus Marathon

An awesome morning out, check out my race report here.

42.2km
3:44:42
5:20/km

Sunday – Recovery rest

Week total
53.6km
4:41:05

Week 2: 17.03 – 23.03

Monday - CrossFit
The third open workout and it was something that played more to my strengths. My strategy was similar to my ill-advised running strategy of going as hard as you can for as long as you can and I was quite happy with the result. I got through the box-jumps pretty quickly which gave me time to struggle through the deadlifts to a total of 92 reps.

The workout was:

Moonset! This is why I wake up and run
Complete as many reps as possible in 8 minutes of:
135-lb (61kg). deadlifts, 10 reps
15 box jumps, 24-inch

185-lb (84kg). deadlifts, 15 reps
15 box jumps, 24-inch

225-lb (102kg). deadlifts, 20 reps
15 box jumps, 24-inch

275-lb (125kg). deadlifts, 25 reps
15 box jumps, 24-inch

I made it 2 reps into this round.
315-lb. deadlifts, 30 reps
15 box jumps, 24-inch

365-lb. deadlifts, 35 reps
15 box jumps, 24-inch

Tuesday – Run – Hout Bay to TAGG Sea Point
I am loving this morning run more and more and running on a fullish moon made for a splendidly magical start to the day.

16.4km
1:27:00 (estimated – Strava not working properly)

Wednesday and Thursday – Rest – also attended the Trails in Motion film festival (trailsinmotion.com) which is a great initiative and the short documentaries really fired up my motivation for the upcoming offroad season.

Friday – Run – Trail to C-Nek
I had not been able to do the mileage thus far for the week that I had planned so my goal was to do 3 half marathon distances in 3 days to catch up. In the end I only managed 2 as I had to work the Sunday. The first was a part road and part trail up the Hout Bay pipetrack to Constantia Nek and back down. Every day I realize how happy I am that we have made the move to Hout Bay, it is a running mecca where although you always have to climb to get out of the valley, every route out is beautiful.

19.1km
1:53:34
5:58/km

Saturday – Run – Road Chappies
Apollo was out and blessed us with a peach of a day to enjoy a run to Noordhoek and back. My intention was to run Chappies at a decent pace to try tire my legs and then see if I can push the pace coming down the hill on the way back. I have identified this as the place where things fell apart in last year’s 2 Oceans so I was interested to see how quickly I could do it in order to determine pacing strategies for this year. I managed a few sub 5 kilometers which was encouraging so I think the strategy is to smash 2 Race Foods at the top and then pound all the way down, we just have to hope there isn’t another headwind this year.

Running hard on Chappies
20.1km
1:46:53
5:19/km

Sunday – work/rest

Week total
55.6km
5:07:27







Week 3: 24.03 – 31.03

Monday – Rest – After realizing I would get nowhere in this week’s open workout and having too much other stuff on my plate, I decided to retire from the 2014 CrossFit Games.

Tuesday – Run – Trail – C-Nek
Dusted off the Inov-8s and hit the trails to explore a bit around Constantia Nek. I need to get to know these trails better now while it is still light.

7.1km
42:35
6:02/km

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – Run – Run around Camps bay

From TAGG up Bizkop (those steps are tougher than I remember), up Kloofnek, down Camps Bay Drive, back through Clifton, up Bizkop again and back to TAGG.

14.5km
1:12:46
5:01/km

I was also lucky enough to be invited to attend a Garmin partner event  in the evening (more news on how I got the invite coming up). It was great to see some new products they are launching this year. I really like the look of their new range of GoPro type cameras which track all sorts of fun features and incorporate it into your film such as speed, maps, heart rate etc. Definitely a luxury purchase but it looks like so much fun that you may be able to justify it.

Friday – Rest before my annual big event

Saturday – Run – Flight of the Falcon
Running selfie mid Falcon
Last year I started an annual tradition of running this same portion of the 2 Oceans route about a month before the big day. This is also around the time of my birthday so I think it is a great way to self-celebrate. The route starts in Hout Bay, heads up Constantia Nek in the dark whilst still fresh, down Constantia Main Road, along Spaanschemat River Road, up and over Ou Kaapse Weg, down through Noordhoek and then up and over Chappies and back home. This is supposed to be a nice slow run with plenty of time taken to enjoy the scenery up all 3 of the big hills. Traditional stopping points are at the top of Ou Kaapse Weg for breakfast, at the start of Chappies for a snack with the view of Long Beach and then anywhere else you need to make it back.

42.5km
4:37:53
6:33/km
View for snack time

Sunday - Rest

Week total
64.1km
6:33:14

Week 4: 31.03 – 06.04

A slower week (I might have started tapering a bit too aggressively). My brother Big Dogg is down with the family from Canada so it has been great showing him a few of my local routes.

Tuesday – Run – C-Nek
The same C-Nek route as last week. It is a nice quickish loop with an ideal amount of climbing included.

7.0km
0:44:49

Saturday – Race – Lourensford Traverse
My second new race of the year and the second time I have been surprised by how awesome such an unknown event is. This race is barely even noticed on the race calendar but it should be one that people flock to. A full race report to follow.

20.0km
2:17:41

Sunday – big rest

Week total
27.0km

3:02:30

Monday, 24 March 2014

Race report: Weskus Marathon 42.2km - 15 March 2014

Aaaaah the beauty of the West Coast. This magical coastline is undoubtedly the most underrated area of South Africa but let's keep it that way to preserve it's unspoiled beauty. The Langebaan Country Estate Weskus Marathon (www.weskusmarathon.co.za) happens in March every year and is often forgotten by Western Cape runners as it is so close to 2 Oceans. Last year it was too late to be a qualifier for the Ultra and even though it was a qualifier this year, many runners prefer to break their knees at Red Hill or fight the heat at Peninsula leaving those of left who were either too lazy, too busy or too injured in Jan and Feb to use this as our last chance to qualify. All I was really expecting to get out of this run was an entry into 2 Oceans but was very pleasantly surprised with so much more.

The race starts at Tzaarsbank which is a beautiful little beach inside the West Coast National Park.  It is a point to point race and, because the park is closed to public traffic on the day, you have to rely on the organised buses to get to the start. The trip there was slow as the fastest the bus could go was at the 40kmph speed limit of the National Park and the morning mist meant it was even slower. I managed to catch a bit of a nap in between sips of my 32GI pre-race drink. Just over an hour later we reached our starting point. It was already 6h20am so I assumed we were kicking off at 7am (once again bad pre-race research) and I went off into the bush to commence a 40 minute warm-up routine. Just as I was getting going with the hip swings I heard the announcement that the last bus had arrived and we were starting in 4 minutes. It turns out the scheduled start time was 6h30am so I quickly dropped off my tog bag in the bakkie and squeezed into the front third of the runners.

We started as the sun was coming up and we were treated to an incredible sunrise over the lagoon. The pace was quite quick at the beginning but the smaller field meant it wasn’t long until I could settle into my stride. This being only my third marathon ever, I did a fair amount of research before the race on pacing strategies. The general consensus is to run the first half as slow as possible and then try and get an even or negative split for the second half. I purposely didn’t take my watch with me, instead opting for my phone, as I decided to only check my time at pre-determined intervals so I could see how I was doing against my goals. My life has changed since I realised that 42 is divisible by 7 meaning I can split my time goals into multiples of 7. I like to split my races into thirds so it would be 3 portions of 14 minutes this time.

The first 14km is mostly flat with a few little hills to keep it interesting. I much prefer an undulating course as completely flat gets really tedious. I kept myself from going out too fast and was content letting people pass me early on as my goal was to catch them in the last 5km when I would be flying in like Lusapho April. I finished the first 14km in just under 72min which was a bit slower than I had planned.

Sun, sea and fynbos
From 14km to 21km it is gently downhill with more amazing scenery where at any point you are either running alongside the Atlantic Ocean or the lagoon. The downhill helped me speed up a bit and I got to the halfway point in 1h48. I go into every race with 3 goal times: the time I tell people I am going for (4 hours), the time I tell myself I am going for (3h45) and the time I am actually going for (3h30). My first half marathon time of 1h48 meant I was well inside the pace for 3h45 and if I had a good second half, I could even get close to 3h30. At this point I was feeling strong and confident and thought that I was done holding back and could really turn on the pace. At 24km however, things changed drastically unbeknown to me. At the time I thought I was starting to run faster however my splits show that my pace changed from around 5min/km to around 5m30/km. It is really strange because physically I didn’t feel any different so I have come up with 2 possible explanations for this: I ate for the first time at 18km and then the second time at 23km so the additional energy spent digesting may have slowed me down; or the first 23 km I was trying to run slowly and it was only when I ‘sped up’ that I slowed down so maybe my technique is better when I am trying to hold back. Of course there is the outlier reason that due to an injury and sickness I was underprepared for the race and my body was fatigued at this point but I doubt that is correct. The slower pace meant that I did the second 14km in just under 74 minutes despite doing the first 7km of it in 36 minutes.

Tried to keep up with these Edgemead chaps but they were too strong
This left me some work to do in the final chapter.  The course continued with more of the same although it is never boring. The hills do get a bit more pronounced from between 30 and 36km however they are still gentle by trail running standards. At 37km we exited the park and faced the biggest challenge of the day, the infamous ‘Black Mamba’ hill. It is about a 2km hill that gradually steepens as you ascend it. You are helped along however by the friendly locals who, with typical small town hospitality, come out in their numbers to support, one of whom I think had his own version of a ‘black mamba’ in his plastic cup…he was quite vocal. I attacked the hill and was happy that after 38km I could get up without walking…Constantia Nek I am coming for you. This put a spring in my step and a misread sign at the top which meant I thought I only had 1 km left. I turned on the gas and gave it all I had only to find at the end of that km, another sign saying I still had another 2km. By now I was pretty poked and let the 55 year old lady from Durbanville who I was duelling with carry on. I shuffled along for the last 2km and came in just over my goal time of 3h45 with a slower last third in 78 minutes.

I was happy enough with my time but I know that if I had been able to train better I could have come closer the 3h30, at least I now know what goal to shoot for. My first marathon I did in 5h20 (Knysna 2011) and my second marathon I did in 4h06 (Peninsula 2013) which means that if this trend continues, I should break 3 hours next time!

Weskus is an exceptionally well organised and beautiful marathon and one I will definitely do again even if I don’t need it for a qualifier. It has everything you could want in a road race: scenery, a few challenges, lack of cars, plenty of water tables (some even stocked with snacks) and of course some incredible organisers and volunteers who drive around picking up after the dirty roadies who still drop their empty water sachets all over the course. Definitely my favourite road marathon and I looking forward to being back again.

I usually place inside the top 33% of the field. My goal is to consistently place in the top 25%. 

Distance:    42.2km
Time:         3:45:37 (1h14 behind winner)
Position:      156/916 (17%...I am very happy with this. 2 minutes faster and I would have been top 15% and a sub 3h30 would have got me into the top 10%)

Categories
Male:     137/655
If I was a Female:   20/261




Monday, 10 March 2014

Training log - 17.02 - 09.03 - Miles and Moving

The man-made beauty of Century City
An up-down-up three weeks have passed and as I head towards my qualifying marathon this coming weekend, and the crunch time training period leading up to 2 Oceans, I am in a position where I have no idea what to expect. My goal for the year was to enter every race feeling adequately prepared. Whilst I have had a tough time so far with injuries and sickness, I still think I have done more training than I had last year, or at least better quality training so hopefully I will be fine.

Week 1
A decent week as I did my last runs in Century City and for the first time, started to feel some pace in my legs since the ankle injury.

Mon 17.02 – Run Century City
A good start to the week with an early morning jog on a shortened Century City route.
6.1km
0:32:34
5:21/km

Tues 18.02 – CrossFit

Wed 19.02 – Run Century City
A good run for, what I didn’t know at the time, would be my last run in Century City. This place has been fun to run in, mainly because there are no cars to battle. The scenery is nice in a man-made sense but I need some hills man…the mountains are calling and I must go. I put on a decent pace and was happy to average under 5min/km for the first time in weeks.
8.1km
0:39:57
4:57/km

Thurs 20.02 – Rest

Fri 21.02 – Rest

Sat 22.02 – Run – Chappies (nearly died twice)
The lead Argus riders
We were fortunate enough to house-sit for the Leo Pride in Noordhoek for the weekend and I was pumped all week for a run on possibly the most beautiful road in the universe, Chapman’s Peak. I had not been back to the Peak since 2 Oceans last year when I felt quite comfortable on the way up but really struggled on the way down so it would be interesting to gauge my current fitness levels and my hill strength after mainly running on flats so far this year. My limbs were aching when I woke up but I put it down to the 2 glasses of red wine and not sleeping much the night before due to excitement of the pending jog.

I felt really good on the way up despite running in the gutter the whole way, this due to every bicyclist in the world also deciding to come to Chappies this morning. It was during this run that I came to the conclusion that not all bicyclists are idiots…only 1 third of them. I have generally been of the opinion that cars hate pedestrians, pedestrians hate cars but both cars and pedestrians hate bicyclists. This is not entirely accurate however as after experiencing wave after wave of bicycling schools bolting past me, I was able to determine that the proportion of those pedaling on the road can be split as follows:
  1.            1 third are genuine sportsmen who have been doing this for years, they follow the rules of the road, greet when you ride past, maintain 1.5m from pedestrians and cars and are generally there because they are somewhat competitive – if you put these people in cars, they would be the ones keeping to the speed limit and not drinking more than 2 beers when driving;
  2.            Another third are made up of complete novices doing Argus for the first time, you can spot them as they are usually wearing baggy shorts instead of tights and sit bolt upright on their bikes, they are more hesitant on the road and prefer to keep looking straight ahead, best to keep out of there way and let them do their thing – if these were car drivers they would have a massive ‘L’ on their back windscreen;
  3.           The last third are made up of the full-on weekend warriors, these guys only cycle in groups of 7 or more, are usually wearing kit with a corporate logo on it and generally ride 3 abreast either to enable them to speak to their boychie alongside them, or on their cell phone (so that they can do important business),  these guys are generally out of shape having picked up cycling at the age of 42 when they realized that years of pub-lunches give you heart problems (despite what people interpret Tim Noakes as saying), if you put them in a car they would be taxis and audi owners.


The first chasers
After making this analysis, I realized that this split is quite comparable to the split of drivers on the road which made me realize that the problem is not with the drivers or with the bicyclists, it is with the people in general. Bad drivers make bad cyclists and so, until South Africans change their poor driving habits there will continue to be accidents and conflict between cars and bicycles. Anyway, it was this last third that was causing me to run in the gutter because, despite the fact that I was running on the yellow line where they can’t ride without getting a puncture, they still needed more space.

I made it up and over Chappies with no problem but on the way back I started struggling. I had a similar feeling as my first marathon in Knysna where my pre-race meal of Oysters, Tobasco and contaminated water did not agree with me. I felt weak and completely lost my appetite and couldn't take in fuel so I had to run/walk the last 5km. I thought of phoning to get picked up but then my stubbornity kicked in and I thought, I can’t DNF a training run! What if this happens when I do my 100-miler one day? I made it home and then spent the rest of the weekend either on the couch or in the bathroom…the stomach bug had returned.

18.6km
01:55:06
6:11/km

The Peloton madness


Sun 23.02 – Stomach bug induced rest

Week total
32.8km
3:07:27

Week 2

Mon 24.02 – Sat 01.03
This week I was down with the stomach bug for the first half of the week and then the second half of the week was too busy packing up our flat as we prepped for our move. We were finally all moved in by Sunday and I headed out for my first run in Hout Bay.

Sun 02.03 – Run Hout Bay
A short little jog around the block in the rain. I had so much fun and realized that I actually way prefer running in cold weather.

Week total
5.9km
0:29:48
5:03/km

Week 3

My biggest mileage week of the year so far and it felt great.

Some of the crew going all out in 14.1
Mon 03.03 – CrossFit – 14.1
On a whim I decided to enter the CrossFit open. Workouts get released every Thursday night and we have until Monday night to submit our scores. It is a big deal for me as I don’t often do the workouts on the recommended weights i.e. I usually scale them down. My goal for this is really just to attempt each workout. This workout was not too bad, being ground to overheads on a light weight interspersed with double unders. I went at a decent pace the first 5 min but then my shoulders were finished after that. Most interesting was how much I struggled with high-intensity work which shows how much I need to do more interval training. I was really proud of the other TAGG athletes who all put in really good scores.

14.1 – 10 min AMRAP
30 Double unders
15 Ground to overhead of 34kg

My score -147
My position - T1010/1471 = 68.66%

TAGG leaderboard after Week 1


Tues 04.03 – Run – Hout Bay to TAGG
A good morning run, although I will remember to take the headlamp next time. The distance from our new place to gym is perfect for mid-week morning jog.
16.4km
1:32:56
5:40/km

Wed 05.03 – Run – Hout Bay
Hout Bay sun welcoming us to the hood
I worked out a nice little route around the block then up Chappies as far as the toll booth and back again. Unfortunately my phone GPS didn’t work so I realized I would have to do it again the next day to get the distance.
11km
0:56:00 (estimated)
5:05/km

Thurs 06.03 – Run – Hout Bay
Same route as the day before and although I picked up the mileage this week, the legs felt strong.
11km
0:54:59
5:00/km

Fri 07.03 - Rest

Sat 08.03 – Run – Long slow distance
With a week to go to my qualifying marathon I needed to get over 30km, if anything just for confidence. I left home and went over Suikerbossie past Llandudno. After dodging 3 million bicyclists I took a right up Camps Bay drive which I discovered is seriously long. Then to Signal Hill and back and down Kloof Nek. I developed quite a bad stitch on the downhill which I am hoping was just because I am not used to running with a backpack and is not a sign of a stitch habit. After going through Bantry Bay and down to Sea Point pool I made it back to TAGG. It was a good morning out, not particularly fast but I felt I could go further which means I should finish next week.
30.9km
3:01:59
5:54/km

Sun 09.03 – Rest
After watching the lead Argus guys coming through (and taking those pics above where I was ranting about bicyclists) we headed out to the winelands to taste their juice. Probably not the best pre-race nutrition but definitely good for the soul.

Week total
69.3km
6:25:54 

In other news, the mileage covered over this period means I have passed over 250km for the year so far so I am an 8th of the way to my goal (although I am already almost a quarter way through the year) and I have hit the 24 hours mark so I have spent over a day running this year so far.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Training log - 13.01.14 - 16.02.14: Intervals and Injury


It has been a while since my last training log, partly because I do not have much to report, and partly because I have been putting off writing about the injury that has kept me out of running recently. Things are starting to heal however, so I thought it best to get this post out of the way so that I can find my focus again.

This period started off well with a solid interval week. I was able to really push myself in these sessions and was feeling strong for a few high mileage training weeks, well that was the intention.

Monday 13.01 - Run - Intervals

15 min warm-up followed by 5 x 30second pick-ups
3 x 5 minute intervals with 2 minute rest

8.1km
0:42:54

Tuesday 14.01 - Run - Intervals

15 min warm-up followed by 5 x 30second pick-ups
8 x 10 second sprints EMOM

5.9km
0:39:01

Wednesday 15.01 - Rest day

Thursday 16.01 - CrossFit

Friday 17.01 - CrossFit

Saturday 18.01 - Rest day - went to watch the TAGG team throwdown at CrossFit D6

Sunday 19.01 - Run - Century City to Blouberg and back

I like to think that I am like the guy on the right...
but I am probably more like the guy on the left
What an awesome run. I finally managed to get my new shows, albeit not the ones I wanted, and headed out to break them in. I managed 28km comfortably and at a decent enough pace which left me feeling confident to tackle Peninsula Marathon as my qualifier. It was great to get out early and enjoy the sunrise and I found the answer to my running transport issues. I normally set off  loaded up with all sorts of running gear e.g. from head to toe I might carry buff, sunglasses, earphones, iPod, heart rate monitor, GPS watch, phone, water and plenty snacks. I also don't like carrying my backpack because then I have to take it off each time I want to snack (which is every 15 minutes) so I try and keep it all on the front part of my body. Running shorts these days seem to be making the pockets even smaller so I am often left carrying things in my hands or trying to tie them on. I have just realised that I am potentially 1 paragraph into the most boring story ever, but it was a watershed moment for me when I noticed that cycling tops have pockets, so I need to share this. Running in my cycling top solved everything, plenty pocket space and easy access so that I can keep myself busy when I am out there. Fantastic, cyclists have managed to make a contribution to this life.

28km
2:40:00

Week total
42km
4:01:55


The death trap
The rest of this post can't be tracked daily and is best described in the narrative. The Monday following my long run I rested as I had planned a heavy mileage week. On Tuesday I got roped into our office 5-a-side soccer team as they were short of players. I am not a soccer player and I don't enjoy this but thought it might be fun to get some sprints in and then follow it up with a longer run around the waterfront. Well that idea lasted 2 minutes. After making about 3 tackles and 1 pass, I was jogging very slowly towards the sideline when I rolled over my left anti-minimalist Salomon Crossmax and heard the dreaded snapping noise. The ultrasound showed 1 torn ligament which meant I would be out of running for 4 - 6 weeks and possibly out of 2 Oceans...well that is what they told me.

From there I started off with some intense RICE sessions (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and after about 4 days I was ready to start some rehab. I studied parts of Kelly Starrett's "Becoming a Supple Leopard" and watched a few Youtube clips to understand the injury better. The most interesting thing I learnt was that the tissue will never heal exactly, so I will always need to be aware of it and thus it is important to strengthen it and work on the mobility as soon as possible. After a week of rest and 2 weeks of rehab I was starting to feel more comfortable and even went to 2 low intensity CrossFit classes. Just as I was feeling confident, second tragedy struck in the form of the worst man-stomach flu ever known. I was bed ridden for 3 days and lost possibly all my muscle, fat and fitness.

Sidebar, while all this was going on, a sub-plot was playing out in the form of a new shoe saga. I take my shoe-buying very seriously. Up until this point, I was still road running in my NB 1080v3's which I ran 2 Oceans in last year (and should have dumped at that point). In about November last year I started to focus on road running again after doing mostly trail since Oceans. I needed new shoes back then but thought I would wait as New Balance had advertised the new version 890's would be available in December. From the first week of December I went to the New Balance store every week and tweeted them every week to find out when they would arrive and was told every time it would be the following week. Eventually on the Saturday before my injury I decided that this was detrimental to my training and bought the older versions. Murphy managed to arrange for me to do 1 run, then get injured and the day following that, I received a call saying the new shoes had arrived in store. If I had known I would get injured and would not be able to run any way, I would definitely have waited it out and got the newer ones but I guess we never know that and I am still psyched with my 890v3's.

So I started this last week with no energy and an ankle operating at 60%. The frustration got the better of me and I decided to head out on the road again. Sunday I managed a 4km which felt like the last 4km of an ultra-marathon, I basically crawled the whole way.

4km
0:23:59

Tuesday I managed the same route, still uncomfortable but I picked up the pace a bit.

4km
0:20:30

Thursday and Friday I had some good CrossFit sessions and then Saturday I headed out for a decent run. It was hot as I set off at about 9am, down the promenade and back through Green Point Park. I felt slow, sluggish and I think I am running skew but I am in no pain which can only be good. I have entered Weskus Marathon on 15 March so it is going to be a few weeks of finding the balance between training enough and not over-training and bringing the injury back. I can't wait!

12km
1:04:52

Week total
20km
1:49:21

Back out there