Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Training log - 09.12.13 - 15.12.13: Training starts again

Chilling at the top of Skeleton Gorge (photo source: )
Despite a pretty busy week at work, I was still able to get in a decent training week. Following my Cool Impossible training program involves running 6 days a week. 2 of these days are optional rest days so it allows some flexibility but I want to try and either run or CrossFit on these days. The runs are more structured than just trotting it out for an hour so it is quite cool to have something else to think about instead of just losing myself in the wonderful sounds of Mumford and his sons. This added distraction helps because I have limited my running to flat road to try and work on technique and pacing. This involves repeating the same route in and around Century City quite often which, although it has a certain developed beauty, can get really boring after a while.

Monday - Run - Century City

10 min Heart Rate Zone 1-2 - warmup
45 min Heart Rate Zone 2 with 15 seconds sprint every 5 minutes and cadence count every other 5 minutes
5 min Heart Rate Zone 1 - cooldown

Felt pretty good and calf held up even on the sprints. My cadence seemed to get quicker as I got more tired which I don't know if that is a good or bad thing. When I felt like I was running quicker I was on about 84 strides per minute and then when I didn't really think about it I was between 88 and 92 which is where I want to be.

Ave pace: 5:59/km
Ave HR: 158bpm

Tuesday - CrossFit

This was an optional rest day so I hit TAGG CrossFit for a long overdue session. This involved deadlifts which my form seemed to be a bit off and then a metcon of hand stand push-ups and deadlifts. I really struggled with the hand stand push-ups but I know this is a week point so I was happy to sacrifice a good time for the extra practice.

SKILL/ STRENGTH: Work to a heavy deadlift
8x60% = 80kg
5x65% = 90kg
3x70% = 95kg
2x75% = 100kg
1x80% = 105kg
1x85% = 110kg

MIDLINE: 3 Rounds
x10 Hollow Rocks
30 Sec Side Plank Hold

MET CON: 15-12-9-6-3
Deadlift at 50-60% of established weight - 60kg
HSPU - on 1 ab mat (I made it until the 6 round)


100 D/Us or 200 Singles - I did singles as tired double unders still need some work.

Wednesday - Run - Century City

15 min building up to Heart Rate Zone 3
4 x 30 second sprints with 1 min rest interval
6 x 2 min in Speed Zone 4 with 2 min rest interval
5 min Heart Rate Zone 1 - cooldown

See below pacing chart for the variations in sprints vs Heart Rate

Ave pace: 5:33/km
Ave HR: 156bpm

Thursday - Run - Century City

This was an optional rest day but I ran it anyway which turned out to be a good thing as I had to take Friday off.

10 min building to Heart Rate Zone 2
45 min steady in Heart Rate Zone 2
5 min Heart Rate Zone 1 - cooldown

Ave pace: 5:35/km
Ave HR: 163bpm

Friday - Rest - worked late

Saturday - Hike - Skeleton Gorge

An awesome morning out with the members of TAGG to celebrate the end of the year. It has been a crazy good year with this Box that has seen it grow to capacity in only 7 months. What has also been incredible to watch is the formation of a really strong community of people who didn't even know each other this time last year. The hike was a fitting celebration of this and served to further strengthen these community ties. We met at 7am (FYI Kirstenbosch opens at 6am) and cruised up the top for a swim and then back down for some cupcakes and sparkling wine. It was a most of the guys first time doing this route (or any route) so I really enjoyed showing them how great it is to have fun on a mountain. It also got me eveready to get back on the trails next year.

Sunday - Run - Blouberg

I substituted my Saturday morning early long run for a Sunday afternoon late long run. A pretty simple route from Paddocks centre along the beach for 45 minutes and then back again. Steady running the whole way. I felt strong and looking forward to building up my distances over the next few weeks.

Ave pace: 5:28/km

Total week running log

Mileage:    45.55km
Time:   4:17:12

Some pics from Skeleton Gorge (from

Full team setting off

On the way up

Long flight of stairs

Rest and gather in the forest

Never get bored of views like this


All worth it

Full team summiting

Monday, 9 December 2013

My Cool Impossible

It's been a while since my last post and not at all because I  have been too lazy to write, it is just because I have had nothing to write about. I like to use this blog as a means to log my training but I have taken some serious time off over the last month and a half so hence, no training to log. I took a break after Matroosberg and was about to kick-off with my new training programme but then suffered a calf strain so had to take even more rest. Finally this last week everything started feeling better and I start this week motivated and ready to kick off the 2014 season.

As we come nearer to the end of 2013 it is time to reflect on what has been an awesome year. I started the year having entered 2 Oceans Ultra very apprehensively and quite cautious about my expectations. My first decent distance race, being Bay 2 Bay, I cramped up and then later, in Feb, struggled to finish Peninsula. As the year progressed however, I got more and more into this sport of running and really got to know the struggle that occurs from start to finish of a marathon or Ultra. As my passion and fanaticism grew I realised that I no longer wanted to just run a race to get from A to B but wanted to do it in the shortest time possible. The desire for speed turned into a need.

So after hobbling through the Rhodes Run I decided to a make a concerted effort to work on getting faster. This was more of a mindset change as my training programme still lacked structure and my new thought was to just run every training run as fast as I could. This saw some minor results and my times did start coming down however it was way too haphazard to really get me to the point where I want to be.

Then I discovered "The Cool Impossible", a book written by Eric Orton. If you recognise the name it is probably because you have read "Born to Run". Eric Orton is the guy who coached Chris McDougall from injury to running a 50miler with the Tarahumara. This book has provided me with exactly the structure I need to approach my 2014 running year. I have always been weary of attempting to follow a programme as I generally lose interest about 37% of the way in. This book, however, has provided me with a lot more than just a list of mileage to cover each week. It has given me a new mindset and attitude to adopt, kind of like the difference between following a diet and making a lifestyle change.

From the very beginning Orton discusses what makes someone an "athlete" and the core ingredient is awareness. It is an awareness of how every input into the machine that is your body affects the combined output. Being an athlete means being aware of aspects like your stride cadence, speed intervals, technique and of course heart rate. Now, I have had a heart rate monitor in my man-drawer for over a year that I have never tried, as I was cautious of the time it would take me to learn to analyse the results. Orton makes it that much easier though by describing exactly what the purpose is and how to use it to your advantage in a concise and very easy to understand manner.

I guess the biggest benefit of The Cool Impossible is that it has helped me to see running as a sport as opposed to a hobby or something to keep fit. Whilst that might sound stupid (obviously running is a sport...if you sweat it's a sport), many people don't really treat running the same as other sports. People think they can just go and run as we are all born to run, however our bodies have changed a lot from the way we are born and so very few of us naturally have good technique. So, much the same way as you can't just pick up a golf club and swing it without learning the technique, you can't just go and run how you feel comfortable and not think you are going to get injuries. Similarly, in other sports, athletes spend hours on different aspects of their game, such as skills training, technique practice, drills, strength work, so that this can all come together on match day. Why do I then think just running every day as fast as I can will make me faster, better, stronger?

The outcome of all of this is my new approach which is guided by the detailed training programme in the book. I have started this weekend by doing the 5km Heart Rate Test and the 1 Mile Speed test. From here I plan to follow the 5 month programme which should see me build a sufficient base on which to train for specific races in the future. I will also use this training programme as preparation for 2 Oceans (roughly 5 months away). It is a lot different from how I am used to 'training' as it involves only one rest day a week (there are some optional rest days but I plan to use these for CrossFit). It is generally 5 days of shorter runs of approximately 1 hour focussing on different aspects e.g. technique, cadence or hills, and then a longer run on the weekend. The benefit of this is that you do your long runs when your body is already fatigued so it trains you nicely for those dreaded last 4km of a race. My approach to this is to treat the weekday runs as the equivalent of a golfer's trips to the driving range, the weekend run as a round of golf at the course and then races as actual golf tournaments. Who would have thought a runner could use golf as an analogy of how to be an athlete?

So ultimately what is my Cool Impossible? I am hesitant to put formulized goals down but ultimately I want to be in a position in 2014 where I can finish my goal races for the year feeling that I gave it my all not because I finished, but because I was adequately prepared. For a notorious procrastinator preparation is a common stumbling rock and so it might sound quite impossible at this stage, but if I achieved it, it would be pretty cool.

Test results

5km Time Trial
Time:   21:57
Max HR:   191
Ave HR:   186

1 Mile Speed Test
Time:   6:30
Ave speed:  4m04/km

For more info on Eric Orton and an awesome network of runners on the path to their Cool Impossible, check out

Also check Eric out on the Youtube for clips on some good drills and details on good technique

Finally, if you looking for a way to drop hints for a good Christmas gift, send this post with the below links to your friend.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Race report: Matroosberg Skymarathon® - 26 October 2013

Run in this direction
I always considered myself one of the world's worst campers but this weekend assured me that I am definitely in the top 3. I entered the Matroosberg Skymarathon® not only because it promised to be an awesome trail running experience but because I felt I was on the need of a solo adventure. I didn't know anyone else running and it was in the part of the world I had never been before so I excitedly set off on Friday afternoon with visions of getting out of the city and experiencing nature from the comfort of my 'not used often enough' tent. After battling the mountain mist I eventually arrived at the Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve ( just as the rain started coming down. I was thinking I should have gone for the cabin option. Nevertheless I was committed to roughing it and after a quick registration and goodie bag collection (complete with BUFF - you can never have enough of these) I set out into the darkness and rain to set my tent up with my new mate, the Wildman. The Wildman is a unique character well known in the trail running circles who had just returned after a 5 month stint freerunning around the Alps. When I say 'just returned' I mean the day before. Somewhere along the line he noticed how apprehensive I was on camping in the rain and offered to show me what to do. Thank the Chief for his pity as after unpacking my tent I realised my tent cover was on a different adventure so I was left with the option of sleeping in the rain or in my car. Luckily, after dinner  and the race briefing, a third option presented itself and we were able to pass out on the floor of the front of the fire...camping is easy.

Start climbing
With not the greatest pre-race rest, I woke up early and excited to take part in South Africa's first official Skymarathon. A Skymarathon® is defined as "Races within a minimum of 2000m total elevation gain and between 30km to 42km in distance. The course may be over paths, trails, rock etc (a limit of <15% on paved or tarred surfaces) and may reach or exceed 3500m." This race made  history in that it was to be the first South African race officially designated as a Skymarathon by the South African Sky Running Association ( The Matroosberg Skymarathon® is a 36km race ( with the general route being up 4x4 track to the top of Matroosberg Peak, around a bit up top and back down again. Matroosberg, at 2249m is the second highest peak in the Western Cape and the 7th highest in South Africa.

Standing at the start line there was weird kind of relaxed excitement in the air. Looking around I could see this was not the usual group of people that you find at races...these guys were serious. Everyone looked fit and ready for the challenge, these were not runners keen to go offroad, these were trail runners keen to run in the sky (some even after smashing 15 beers the night before). As a relative newcomer to trail running, I felt out of my depth but keen to join this fraternity. The buzz in the air felt like everyone knew they were about to go through hell but would be closer to heaven by the end of it (in the sense of spiritual enlightenment, their proximity at the top of the peak, as well as being almost dead).

The race can basically be split up into three parts of approximately 12km each, I call them "The Climb", "The Top" and "The B*TCH".

Part 1 - The Climb

Keep climbing
The race starts with about 3.5km through the surrounding farmlands, very scenic and the pace at the beginning felt very conservative. As one guy running next to me remarked about 1km in, "I am getting worried as I can still see AJ Calitz". From 3.5km it gets hectic with some sharp ascent. The "road" you are running on is classified as 4x4 track which I learnt once I got there is a lot tougher than normal Jeep track (I don't know why as Jeeps are clearly the best 4x4 in the world ever). It is some pretty relentless climbing and I managed it okay just trying to keep on a routine of 150 steps and then 10 seconds rest. This technique worked well and I enjoyed the progress I was making. As we got higher, the mist got more dense; I don't know if this was a good or bad thing as it is sometimes better to not know where the finish of the climb is. The last 2km of the climb got pretty hectic, I would say the road changed from Landrover to Hilux to Wrangler. It was motivating however as you can see the guys ahead of you coming back down the mountain so as soon as you start recognising people, you know you're getting closer. The turnaround point was just short of the actual peak which we could not get to due to bad weather. This was the 12km point and as I turned I thought, well at least the hard part is done.

Part 2 - The Top

Wrangler Track
The next 9/10 km consist of running back down the Wrangler track for about 2km and then you do a loop around a flattish portion of the mountain. There was not too much climbing here but the terrain was seriously tough. You are on mountain paths up here and the rocky terrain made it difficult to get momentum. That and the fact that we were doing this at altitude meant I really struggled. The mist didn't help either as you don't really know what direction you are heading in and struggle to see what is coming up ahead of you. After the loop was finally done I was still in good spirits but pretty keen to get down off the mountain. I got what I wished for as next is about a 3km fast decent single track down past the ski hut. I should have really enjoyed this but at this point I was struggling to concentrate and felt quite fidgety so was just keen to get to the Aid station that I knew was coming up. I lost track a bit up there and my eating was a bit all over the place so was keen to pull myself toward myself and get started on the last chapter. At about 24k there was the best Aid Station I have ever seen in my life, sponsored by Wintergreen ( I took the seafood approach and just devoured everything I could see that my body wanted. This involved about 7 salted baby potatoes, a handful of jelly babies, a handful of mini bar-ones and 2 Strawberry Whirls. After chatting for a bit I thought, well the second part turned out to be tougher than the first but at least it is easy from here.

Part 3 - The B*TCH 

On the way home
I left the aid station in good spirits and despite feeling bloated from definitely overeating, I managed to put in some good kilometres and even caught a few people that I hadn't seen since the start. The race briefing had told us there was a 250m climb still to come at the end but I thought that was not too bad and was hoping to still come in well under 5h30. The climb started and after a decent portion it levelled out and I thought, that's not too bad...then it started again...and didn't stop for long. This turned into the craziest most relentless climb I have ever experienced. It just didn't seem to end which I guess can be attributed to the pace at which we were climbing. I felt like a guy in one of those clips of mountaineers climbing to the summit of Everest where every step is a massive effort.  Eventually we reached the top of this thing, and then it reared it's b*tchy side. The decent on the otherside was basically down a rocky stream. There was no free flowing water but a little trickle which was enough to make the rocks extremely slippery. The water and a layer of light moss in most places meant most of my decent was ass to ankles. I have never hated the plastic type soles of my New Balance so much and was considering tossing them and barefooting it home. This was the super low point of this race. Eventually we reached the Red Bull station which marked the 5km to go point. I downed a Red Bull which gave me wings for about 2km and from there it was a 3km grind to the end. Through beautiful farmlands and across an awesome dam wall I hobbled it out focussed on getting in under 6 hours. I finished in 5h57 and went straight for the nearest chair which coincidentally was next to the nearest beer. The third part was definitely the toughest part of this race for me.

Judging by the expression on the spectators faces,
I could tell I wasn't in first place
The vibe, the people, the setting and the organisation (by ) all combined to make this an unforgettable experience. I didn't exactly cover myself in glory with my performance but I gritted through and will definitely be coming back next year to tackle the B*TCH again. I am honoured to be an official Skyrunner and to run in the same race as legends like the winners AJ Calitz and Robyn Kime. I learnt that I definitely underprepared for this race and was utterly defeated by the amount of climbing and the altitude. It is an incredible race and I am sure with better training and more experience I would not have found it as tough as I did. Defeated but not destroyed, this experience enhanced my love for running, trail running and now Skyrunning. I wanted an adventure this weekend and although it didn't go as planned, if it wouldn't really have been an adventure.

Race summary
I usually place inside the top 33% of the field. My goal is to consistently place in the top 25%. I was way off this time!

Distance:    36km
Time:          5:57:03 (2h14min behind winner...yikes)
Position:      43/69 (62%...not great. I needed to be 53min faster to be in top 33%)

Male:      37/57
If I was a Female:   7/12

36 Clicks Later

Monday, 28 October 2013

Race report: The Gun Run - 13 October 2013

Since I ran the 2 Oceans Half Marathon 2 years ago I have done everything in my power to avoid extremely popular half marathon road races. All I had heard about The Gun Run is that it is loaded with so many people that, if you want to run fast, you will be dodging lampposts the whole way. I had absolutely no intention of entering but, 3 days before the race, a colleague pulled out and offered a free spot so I thought it would be a good opportunity to push a half marathon and see if my focus on speed training has helped at all. This would be my first road race since 2 Oceans Ultra, so I dug out the tights, singlet and New Balance 1080's and headed out to pound some pavement.

Cruising down beach road (too much heel strike?)
(Photo credit:
The Gun Run ( is a race that any self-respecting runner in the Western Cape has done at some point. It is a scenic flat run that takes place as soon as Spring has sprung. For those that took it easy in winter it is a wake-up call as road running season begins and for those who kept the training up in the wet and cold, it is a rewarding opportunity for a PB. Approximately 8,000 people take part in the half-marathon and another 8,000 do the 10km (and about a gazillion do the 5km) which makes it one of the biggest events in the country.

I was petrified of starting at the back so got to the starting line excessively early. I could have started right at the front but thought I would leave that to the serious chaps (and the arrogants) and positioned myself about 10 metres into the crowd. This strategy resulted in the toughest part of the whole race in that with 20 minutes to go I started needing the porta-loo badly but, after turning around and seeing the 8,000 strong crowd, I decided to hop it out. At 7am the cannon fired and we were off past the Cape Town Stadium. My early arrival worked well and I didn't lose too much time finding my comfortable position.

I had done a good recon of the route beforehand and I run around the area often so I have a pretty good idea of the distances. It is a pretty flat course with the only hill up Kloof road which is not really much to worry about. I don't do many half-marathons so I was keen to beat my PB of 1h47 which I set at Milkwood in March. In the week building up I had planned to get under 1h45 but then I made a bet with one of the guys at TAGG CrossFit on Saturday that he would do a burpee for every 10 seconds I came in under 1h40 (and I would have to do the same for every 10 seconds I was over). So that confirmed a new goal, I would be shooting for my first sub-100 half.

My strategy was to split it into thirds of 7km each and try get each one under 33min (3 x 33 = 99 = sub-100). This means an average pace of 4:43/km. I started decently with the only hiccup being a toilet break about 3km in (it was the longest passing of water ever). Running from the stadium out past the lighthouse and through around the side of the Waterfront I was feeling good. My first split was 34:09 so I was a bit over but I put that down to a slow first km and the toilet break. I was feeling good and ready to push.

The next leg takes you back into the stadium precinct past the McDonalds and then back onto beach road. There were loads of people around here and the atmosphere was electric so you don't even think about feeling tired, you just go for it. In trail running you can draw your energy from the incredible surroundings but on the road it is the people and the vibe that get you to that line. The next split was at the top of the hill on Kloof road which I hit in 33:08. I was happy with this as it was pretty much downhill from there. I basically then had just over a minute to make up on my last third which I knew was the easiest part of the race.

Down past Camps Bay High School was quick and refreshing. I ate my only nougat of the race and was ready to push the last bit. I let loose and was chuffed to see I was passing people (not something that I get to experience often as usually I start races too fast and the last 4km I have nothing left in me). I managed to finish strong and comfortable and was psyched to see my time of 1:36:55. A full 3 minutes under what started out as an ambitious goal and negative splits on the way home. I made up 3 minutes on that last third which I did in 29:38 and also somewhere in there I got my second quickest 5km time ever. Conclusion: the speed training is helping.

Below is a an illustration of how I did. I was happy to keep fairly consistent the whole way with the only real blips being my P break and the Kloof road hill. I really dipped under the average at the end there which felt really good.

Pace per km vs average

Pushing for the sub-100
(Photo credit:
So with a new PB by 10 minutes I can definitely say it was a great race. What added to this was the incredible weather which made the amazing scenery that much more enjoyable. Also it is an exceptionally well organised event which just makes everything so much better. I am glad I have ticked it off my list and will definitely do it again one day...maybe when I feel I am ready to shoot for sub-90.

Race summary As a benchmark I usually look to get inside the top 33% of the field. My goal is to consistently place in the top 25%. I think I should change this for road races though.

Distance:    21.1km
Time:          1:36:55 (33min behind winner)
Position:      401/5341 (7.5%)

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Training log - 30.09 - 13.10: High mileage and half marathons

A bit of a mixed bag fortnight that saw some good surprises. The first week I did some consistent short runs which ended up with a decent higher mileage week and the second week busy-ness saw me taper nicely for a good gun run.

30.09 - 06.09

Monday - Run - Barefoot and time trial

I continued my training program for the barefoot running trial I am currently doing with SA Institute of Sports Science. I hit the promenade so that I could run on the grass for 3 x 4min runs with 2min walk breaks in between. I am finding these barefoot sessions are an excellent warm-up to my main run as it is a good muscle activation exercise. A bit out of ideas on what to do next, I hit the 5km time trial route on the promenade and was quite happy with a 21:36 time.

0 climb
38 min

Tuesday - Run - Newlands Forest

My mate Slothmobile was down from Durban and I have been trying to get him started on trail running for a while so I took him on my favourite loop at Newlands Forest. We took a slow casual jog and the regular stops on a perfect evening reminded me to focus less on training goals and more on training scenery.

575m climb
1h15 min +-

Wednesday - Rest

Thursday - Run - Sea Point to Camps Bay

Again with Slothmobile and now I was out to convince him to move to Cape Town so I took him on one of my favourite road runs from Sea Point to Camps Bay and back. Again a beautiful evening and nice chilled run.

0m climb
1h00 +-

Friday - Run - Barefoot and time trial

I rocked up for a CrossFit class only to find it booked up so I headed down to the promenade to do the same workout from Monday. My barefoot sesh was a bit longer with 3 x 5min runs with 2 min walk breaks. For the time trial I was wearing my CrossFit shoes (New Balance MT110) and although they are meant for minimalist running I don't really run in them as I am still transitioning. Setting out I really focussed on correct barefoot running technique but I was feeling tired so although I went as fast as I could I knew I could go quicker. Checking my watch at the end I was shocked to see I was almost a minute under my Monday time (when I ran in shod shoes) and my PB 5km clocked in at 20m51. Stoked with that and more convinced that minimalist running is the way to go.

0m climb

Saturday - Run - LSD to Hout Bay and back

I haven't been out for a long road run in a while and with Matroosberg coming up I was feeling a bit stressed about what is going to happen after the 30km point. So I packed my backpack and headed out for a nice slow jog from Sea Point to Hout Bay and back (pretty much the Bay2Bay route). 1 minute into the run and terror hit as my iPod battery went flat so Mumford and Sons had to remain mum and I would be running with only my thoughts. A nice chilled flat run with the only real hill being Suikerbossie on the way back. I felt really comfortable running up it and remembering Bay2Bay earlier on in the year, I realised how much more difficult trail running must be as I really struggled on this hill before shifting my running from road to trail. A great morning out, these types of mornings are what running training should be about.

874m climb

Sunday - Rest

Week run total
Mileage - 61.8km
Metres gained - 1,449m
Time - 6h22

07.09 - 13.10

I was happy with my last week, I managed to rack up some decent low stress mileage and ran 5 out of 7 days which will be the type of training program I will follow for 2 Oceans. I ran consistently and felt strong. This week I decided to take it a bit easier as I secured a late entry for Gun Run so it was time to rest and try push for a PB.

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - Barefoot run

2 x 8min runs with a 3min walk break. I started really feeling the technique click into place here of the more prose style of running but realised I have a lot more work to do on strengthening my feet before I can do long distances like this.

0m climb
19 min

Wednesday - Barefoot run

Same as yesterday but a bit less distance covered as I ran barefoot on the road causing some blisters.

0m climb
19 min

Thursday - Rest

Friday - Rest

Saturday - Rest

Sunday - Gun Run

What I fail to mention in those 3 preceding rest days is that 3 of them involved social events which meant my beer consumption was peaking. Not ideal for pre-race hydration but I still had a great race. Race report coming up.

Week run total
Mileage - 27.7km
Metres gained - ??
Time - 2h15

Monday, 7 October 2013

Race Report: Rhino Run Kenton - 22 September 2013

The Rhino Run
(Photo credit: )
Last minute holidays are always the best as you don't have all those months of planning and pondering on what to do with all your free time, so you naturally do the first thing that comes to mind which is usually the best thing anyway. So when we decided last week to head down to our old romping ground, Grahamstown, for some well-timed nostalgia, naturally the first thing I did was to hit the worldwide to see what trail runs were on offer. We had played this well as we drove up to the G-town on the Saturday just in time to shoot off to Kenton on Sunday morning for the local edition of the Rhino Run.

The Rhino Run ( is a heap of trail runs happening in cities and towns all over South Africa on the same day and raises money for the continuing battle against the endangerment of these incredible animals. The Kenton run had a 20km, 12km and 6km run on offer and I entered the 20km with the Lady Falcon doing the 12km, her longest run in about 3 years due to injury.

We got there early and managed to registere pretty quickly however it seemed that everyone had the idea of arriving exactly half an hour before the start without preregistering. This meant a long queue and a delayed start by about 40 minutes. Usually this would have frustrated me but we were on holiday and everyone was just in such good spirits (one guy was even drinking the spirits at 9am) that we just chilled and enjoyed the sun. The delayed start meant we kicked off at about 09h40 and were running in the heat of the day. I really struggled with this as the cold summer in Cape Town has left me quite unprepared for running in the sun.

Running over dunes is a totally different story
(Photo credit:
The first 5km were all on the beach including some running over the dunes which was difficult. I set off at a pace but I felt comfortable so I thought I would keep at it and see how far the early energy would take me. I ran in my Inov-8s which have exceptional drainage but unfortunately this also meant that a lot of sand got into my shoes which added on some extra grams, not ideal when you running on soft sand. At about the 6km point I started to tire and realised that beach running is seriously different from normal trail running, I started readjusting my long term plans of one day competing in one of the desert races.

After heading back towards the start we went on a brief beach forest type trail (on a bit harder sand) and then back on the beach for a long coastal stretch. This was the best part of the run, the sand was wet and harder and we got to just head out beside the sea on one of those untouched type beaches that only the Eastern Cape can deliver. It included some good rock hopping and even on the slippery seaweed my Inov-8s had loads of grip and I felt confident.

At about the 10km point there was a much needed water table. I was really struggling at this stage and I was considering changing to the 12km run but then I thought that that would be really lame. To drop from a 20km? Come on. So I pushed on, hurting and realising that a 2 plate portion of curry and rice is probably not the best pre-race dinner.

Some of the incredible terrain we were running on
(Photo credit:
From the water table we headed through a new eco estate type complex and although I got passed by a few people, I was happy enough not competing but just running to enjoy the scenery. At one point I was leading a group of 3 of us and we got a bit lost but managed to get back on track after not too much wasted time or energy. I thought I would get over it at this point until I saw how bleak one of the guys I ran past was and I realised that things could be a lot worse. He had serious sense of humour failure which was surprising as he was wearing a Rhodes University vest and they are normally awesome people with lots of humour in their senses.

The last 5km was back along the same stretch of the beach which was incredible once again. I was really tired at this point and pretty dehydrated and very hot but still loving every step. We ended with a short swim across the river (not quite the Bloukrans but still hectic) and up to the end.

It was a hot and tough race and I didn't feel or do well but I still loved it. The vibe afterwards was awesome as everyone hung around on the beach and enjoyed some morning beers. The Eastern Cape has a certain chilled atmosphere about it that you just wish existed everywhere in the world, but then I guess you also wish that it remains unique to the Eastern Cape as that is one of the things that make it such a special province.

Race summary As a benchmark I usually look to get inside the top 33% of the field and for interest sake look at where I placed amongst the other categories. My goal is to consistently place in the top 25%.

Distance:    20km
Time:          2:00:26 (29min behind winner)
Position:      14/37 (37.8%) - Not the best but quite a small field. I needed to be 1 min faster to be top 33% (quicker swim!) and 4 min faster to be top 25%
Open men:   13th

Where I would have placed in:
Open Ladies: 2nd (no 1 lady was 15 min ahead of me and 5th overall so I would have been a comfortable 2nd)

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Training log - 16.09 - 29.09 - G-town and Jackie

It has been quite a frustrating 2 weeks, one of those patches when I guess life just gets in the way of living. I had planned for these 2 weeks to be quite high-mileage before I start chilling before Matroosberg Trail Challenge but unfortunately an exam, heavy workload and some road travel meant I had quite a few rest days.

16.09 - 22.09

The running accountant
Monday - Study i.e. rest

Tuesday - Study i.e. rest

Wednesday - I was all set for the final Merrell Night Series run but at the last minute I pulled out as I realised that I was way underprepared for my 6 hour Tax exam the following day so I opted to hit the books instead. I guess in the unlikely event that I don't make it as a pro trailrunner, I need something to fall back on.

Thursday - Exhausted from writing about tax for 6 hours so I rested...again

Friday - CrossFit - Fist pump Fridays

Quite a fun session involving some strength work.

3 rounds of 1 min per exercise rotating on 45 seconds. Max number of reps.

Kettlebell swings   16kg Russian
Rope climbs
Burpees onto bumper plate
Push press   20kg

Saturday - 10 hour drive from Cape Town to Grahamstown

Sunday - Run - Rhino Run 20km Kenton

An awesome but tough little run down on the picturesque coastline of Kenton to raise funds for the rhinos. Race report to follow.

23.09 - 29.09

Monday - I had planned to do a track session at the Rhodes track but instead got stuck into the Rat and Parrot realising that my long-term plan of being an Academic may be more detrimental to my running goals than beneficial

Tuesday - 10 hour drive from Grahamstown to Cape Town

Wednesday - Run - Newlands Forest

My loop was a lot slower than usual. I put this down to a lazy few weeks and an indulgent weekend. Also I had a bad day nutrition wise and didn't take anything with me on the run so felt really weak for the last 3km. Not the best run.

My future kicks
Thursday - Rest - I had my second trial at Sports Science Institute so I can't really count it as training. We did pretty much the same as last time (running up and down with a whole lot of sensors on). Highlight was getting a chance to run in some minimalist shoes which I found out I can keep but only after conclusion of the trial. The Adidas Adipure Gazelle's are incredibly comfortable and I did not want to take them off. Once I get them for keeps I will be able to put them to the test but I am hopeful that they will be a good option for road races, probably up to half marathon but maybe further.

Friday - CrossFit - Fist pump Fridays

Boys vs Girls in teams of 3 we did 4 rounds of:

30 x Pull-ups
30 x Wallball throws
30 x Box jump overs
30 x 20m Shuttle sprints

Lots of fun and definitely got the heartrate up.

Saturday - CrossFit - Jackie

The guys at TAGG ( have got us started on a Wellness Challenge. We took some physical assessments (weight, body fat %, cholesterol etc.) and performed some indicator exercises (max deadlift, handstand pushups and benchmark workout Jackie). For a month we then track various challenges e.g. how well you follow the prescribed eating program, flexibility work, skills practice and healthy food recipe challenge. We get points on a daily basis working in teams of 2 which helps for accountability. At the end of the month we measure all the indicators again and get points on where we improved. This challenge kicked off on Saturday with us all doing our benchmark exercises. It should be a good month and couldn't come at a better time as it is OctSober after all and it is a great way for me to ensure I peak for Matroosberg. 


Max deadlift - 140kg
HSPU - 3

Jackie (scaled pull-ups)
For time
1km run
50 Thrusters   20kg
30 Pull-ups   Purple band

Result: 8m17

Fortnight run totalMileage - 28km
Metres gained - ??
Time - about 3h30

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Race report: Table Mountain Challenge "Lite" - 14 September 2013

The Crazy Store Table Mountain Challenge is a 37km route around the perimeter of Table Mountain which can either be run as an individual or as team with 3 legs (8km, 13km and 16km). It is one of the most popular races of the year and entries always get sold out really quickly. I was not planning to run until 2 weeks before the race when they announced they were holding a "Lite" version. This was to be just the first 2 legs of the team event to be run as an individual race of 21km. Stoked to be a part of such a race, I arrived 2 hours early to watch the elite runners go off. The weather looked seriously ominous with the mountain under cover and some rain. I think I was the only spectator there that early but I couldn't resist getting up to go and see the likes of Ryan Sandes start out. In fact, 5 min before the start I was beginning to wander if Sandes really was running as I couldn't see him toeing the line. Then I spotted him casually cruise through, greet a few people, pop his earphones in just before the start and set off on a blisteringly fast 3h44 victory run.

Crazy is the right word
After the elites went off, the remainder of the field started in batches until finally it was our turn to start. By now the weather had cleared which I was not entirely happy about as I was wearing a thermal long sleeve so I knew I would get hot. The "Lite", being a new event, had a small field of only 64 runners so I felt pretty confident on the start line. Probably too confident as I set off way too fast. I sat in 4th place for about the first 2km...until the hills started. Once again, not doing enough pre-race research got the better of me as I completely underestimated the first leg.

Our route would be from Kloof Nek car park to Constantia Nek mostly along the contour path. The first leg involved us dropping down into Deer Park and running on the mountain bike trails for about 8km. I thought this was going to be relatively flat with the hills being gradual and on gravel road so I planned to run as much as I could. I was way wrong, the hills were a lot tougher than I expected and I found myself walking a lot of it. My too fast start got the better of me as people started passing me. This psyched me out and I started getting bleak that I was not getting any faster or stronger despite my attention to this in training. I got to the first checkpoint in 55m33 and in 9th position. I was 13 minutes behind the leader but only 2 minutes behind a batch of runners from 4th - 7th.
Not too happy during the first leg
(photo credit: Mark Sampson - Thribe Media)

The second leg followed the contour path pretty much all the way to Constantia Nek. Just after the checkpoint I took in my first gel (my attempt at following an actual race eating plan) and the boost it gave me as well as my familiarity with the Newlands Forest section of the trails meant I had a good patch of about 7km. By now we had caught up to the team runners that had set off in the batch before us which I thought was going to be tough to navigate but I think everyone was just enjoying it so much that they had no problem moving aside. The contour path keeps pretty much at the same level the whole way and although it has some rocky sections, is an incredible place to run. The recent rain meant the rivers were in flood which made for some fun river crossings. As we hit Kirstenbosch I was feeling strong. I had been jostling with one of the other Lite runners in bright Salomons most of the way and I had started recognising a few of the people we passed which meant I was moving up the field.

Shortly after we reached Kirstenbosch we hit our last real climb at Rooikat Ravine. This was tough and my legs were tired. I realised that in training I usually climb first and then wind my way down the mountain so I need to incorporate more climbs once my legs are already ready to crumble. I still managed to pick off another 2 "Lite" runners however and as we popped at out Cecilia Forest I was keen for a fast paced finish. Then I cramped up. I really didn't expect to cramp on a 20km run and I can only put it down to fatigue from pushing myself too hard. Physically I felt fine so was quite bleak to have to waste some time stretching it out. I popped an electrolyte tablet (not sure if this made a difference) and managed to push myself for the last couple of km to finish in 8th place.

Navigating the waterfalls
(photo credit: Govan - Totalkaos)
Another awesome event and at the end of the 2nd leg I was keen to keep going for the full lap of the mountain. Definitely one to add to the list of races to do in the future. I was happy with my 8th place finish but not happy with my cramping. I think I just need to work on more leg strength. Good news was no ITB issues. I finished 20 seconds behind 7th place and the bright salomon guy who I was running with for most of the way finished in 5th so I think if I hadn't cramped up I might have been able to get up to 6th place.

Race summary
As a benchmark I usually look to get inside the top 33% of the field and for interest sake look at where I placed amongst the other categories. My goal is to consistently place in the top 25%.

Distance:    21km
Time:          2:22:45 (36min behind winner)
Position:      8/64 (12.5%) - I needed to be 3 min faster to be top 10%
Open men:   8th

Where I would have placed in:
Open Ladies: 1st (yeeeeea!)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Training log - 09.09 - 15.09 - Research and reward

I ended last week with water on the knee in the form of ice for my ITB pain and determined to not let this become chronic. Being cautious, I knew this was going to be a low-mileage week.

Monday - Lynotherapy

I can't describe this as a rest day as my first lynotherapy session ever was a workout in itself. Lynotherapy ( is a method used to correct biomechanical imbalance by restructuring and releasing of the fascia (connective tissue). It was incredibly painful but in a good way (it's a deep burn). They found that I have incredibly tight hip flexors and my alignment was biased towards my right side which meant I was basically running skew and therefore getting injured. The cool thing about this rehab is you don't need to stop exercising but I did need to take it a bit easier.

Tuesday - Rest day

Wednesday - Run - Merrell night series # 2

(Photo credit: Peter Kirk - Peter Kirk Media)

The second of the night series and after my top 10 placing last week, I was determined to give it everything. I started with the front runners and could quickly see that it would be a different race to the week before as the front group was a lot bigger. The started out flat which meant the guys were pushing it at under 4min/km and I tried my best to keep up but eventually started falling back at about the 3km point. Not long after that I had a spectacular face plant (when it was still light and on some flat gravel road) which shook me up a little. Feeling tired and bleeding I was not a happy night runner and as people continued to pass me I realised I was not going to make top 10 again. The course was a lot more difficult consisting of a relentless uphill on a path that had been corroded by heavy runs making it quite tiring to run on. I walked the uphill and then ran the downhill to the end as quickly as I could. I managed to catch back one of the guys who passed me and finished in 15th spot. Not my best race and I learned that I really need to run my own race, not matter how short, rather than trying to race the competitors.


Thursday - Sports Science Study

Running around the Sports Science Institute Track
I have volunteered to participate in a study by a doctoral student from UCT on barefoot running and on Thursday I went for my first session. The study will continue over an 8 week period where I will follow a program aimed at introducing a shod runner (one who runs with big bulky shoes) to barefoot running. I go for assessments every 2 weeks to see how the program affects my running technique and strength. The first session involved them shaving patches off my previously hairy legs to stick on little electrode things and some reflective lights which projects a stick image on the computer. I then ran up and down a patch about 10 times with and without shoes on. From there they will be able to assess all sorts of things about my technique. Then I had to put on this darth vader type mask and run around the track 8 times with and then without shoes. The purpose of this is to assess whether I am able to utilise oxygen more or less effectively with the different types of running. I am very excited to be involved in this study and am hoping that I can get some good feedback by the end of it on aspects of my technique.

Friday - CrossFit

TAGG hosted my guys from work again for our Fist Pump Fridays workouts to train for the Impi Challenge. A group workout again involving running, wallballs and box jumps which are fast becoming my 3 favourite exercises so it was a lot of fun. I didn't push too hard as I had a race the next day.

Team wod for time (teams of 2)

 5 rounds of
400m flat run
30 Wall balls (6kg)
30 Box Jumps (50cm)

Saturday - Run - Table Mountain Challenge Lite

An awesome event which turned out to be a lot tougher than I thought it would be but I was still happy to get another top 10. I put this down as a reward for that crazy lynotherapy session. A full race report to follow.


Sunday - Rest day

Week run total
Mileage - 29km
Metres gained - 1,776m
Time - 3h04

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Training log - 26.08 - 08.09: Time off and Top 10

After feeling some ITB pain the previous week, I decided to take a week off to recover. I am petrified of chronic ITB so I played it safe. Also I have hopes for September to be a high mileage month so I needed to make sure I was ready.

Mon - Sat - R and R

Sunday - WoD in the Winelands

TAGG Team WoDding in the Winelands
I joined the TAGG team at Groot Constantia for a CrossFit event to raise money for Guts 2 Glory which is a non-profit organisation that raises money primarily for disabled athletes. There was also a 15km run which I decided to do. The race was unfortunately poorly organised with a bad turnout which was a pity as it is such a good cause. I think I would have placed well however some of the lead runners missed one of the turnoffs which meant they ran a different route to the rest of us and so there were essentially 2 races going on (??). I finished in about 45 minutes which means either the route was not measured properly or I ran at 3min/km for the 15km. I think I will write this one down to a fun-run, which is a pity as I think with better organisation they could raise a lot more money for their athletes.

Whilst all this was going on, the CrossFit workouts continued through the rain. The teams had to do an event of running and sled pushes then another of burpee box-overs and shuttle runs. All quite high heart rate stuff. The TAGG teams did exceptionally well with the Men's team winning the whole competition. Once again our little box brought the gees and performed really well.

Monday - Run - Newlands Forest

The usual 8km route wearing my new Inov-8s. This was the first time I could test them out on the trail and I was really chuffed. For the first time I felt like I could glide over the rocks like I see all the small ladies doing at the races. They are incredibly light and the grip really helps the confidence on the technical sections. Good bye New Balance.


Tuesday - Rest day

Wednesday - Run - Merrell Night Series #1

And they're off
(Photo credit: Mark Sampson - Thribe Media)
This was the first of the Spring edition of the Merrell Night Series. My first trail race was actually in the summer version so I was keen to see how I got on. This is an incredible series of 3 weekly runs (you can choose either 8km or 5.5km) starting quite late which gives people a chance to kit themselves out in their winter gear and headlamps ( The field was small so I decided to position myself near the front at the start to avoid spending the first bit tripping over toes. About 1 km I realised that although I started conservatively, I was overtaking people and I could still see the front I decided to give it all I had. I got myself into a good position and duelled with a chap named Danie and a Polish chap of unpronounceable name most of the way. My excitement got the better of me and I started to tire with about 2km to go. Danie and Unpronouncable left me behind but I couldn't see any headlamps behind me so I knew my position was set. I blitzed through the last km and came through in 7th place! I am very happy with my first top 10 finish and being only 3 minutes off the winner. Also being in the top 10% meant I was way ahead of my usual goal of top 25% so it felt really good. I really pushed hard which made me think that maybe I am being too conservative on the longer races and I should go out a little harder (this strategy could well be very wrong). This was also the first race that I have never been "chicked".


Giving everything in 7th spot
(Photo credit: Mark Sampson - Thribe Media)

The leaderboard

Thursday - Rest day

Friday - CrossFit

TAGG are running a series of 6 classes for my fellow auditors in order to train for the Impi Challenge on 18 October. It is a lot of fun and a way to get some new people into CrossFit as well as get their bodies stronger for the obstacle course race. We did events in teams of 2 which was a good way to get the teamwork aspect going as well.

Team Saggers rocking it

Teamwod for time (teams of 2)

2 rounds of
400m 20kg Barbell carry
20 Pull-ups
30 Push-ups
40 Sit-ups
50 Squats

Result: 13:15

Saturday - Run - Table Mountain

A nice long run all around Table Mountain on an incredible sunny day which to me marks the beginning of what I plan to be a summer of lots of running. I started at Newlands Forest and made my way up to the Contour Path. I turned left to experience some of the trail I will be doing next week in the Table Mountain Challenge 'Lite' Race. At Kirstenbosch I headed up Skeleton's Gorge where I did not see a single person the whole way up (unusual as this is quite a popular route). At the reservoir I smashed a Bovril sandwich and then headed up to Maclears Beacon. After Maclears I was feeling a bit faint. I had tried something new foodwise, only taking sandwiches with me. I realised I needed something sweet also so I made my way to the upper Cable Station to get some Jelly Beans. That helped me out a lot and I headed down Platteklip. On the way down I started feeling ITB pain again which was a worry but nevertheless I made it to the bottom and then pushed myself as hard as possible down Kloof Nek and back to TAGG (the rugby was starting at 12 so I had to move). It was a good run with lots of climbing but what followed was an intense afternoon of ITB pain and lots of ice.


Sunday - Rest day

Week run total
Mileage - 40.3km
Metres gained - 2,714m
Time - 4h29

Some pics from Table Mountain

Which way to go?

Nice one Jan

Percentage runnable?

I bet some people thought it was overcast today

Good morning

Breakfast time

Looking back to Cape Point - the route I plan to run next year for PUFfeR

Climbing up

High point of my day

The way to beat bad weather is to rise above it

The only chap I saw on the run

Long day out needs a reward