|A hard earned Bronze|
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
5. The bad times make the good times better
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
A picture of a bad pacing strategy