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.