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