Melody Mentz-Coetzee

5 posts

Going gold: Sanlam CT Marathon race review

G is for Gold, Green and Generosity!

Sanlam Cape Town Marathon (SCTM) is Africa’s only Gold Label Status Marathon, and it truly offers participants a golden experience. It is no easy feat to achieve Gold Label Status. The criteria include (but are not limited to) sufficient depth and geographic representation of the elite field, obtaining an AIMS international measurement certificate, no vehicular traffic, equality in prize money regardless of gender and nationality, fully electronic timing and the list goes on. Hosting an event of this stature in our city is something to genuinely be proud of.

But wait, there is more. The SCTM was voted the Greenest Marathon in the world (2017), is certified climate neutral, and was the first event in the world to achieve 100% zero waste to landfill. If that does not impress you, last year the event won the South African Sports Industry Awards’ Participation Event of the Year for being ‘a leading event that stands out from all competitors, embraces new ideas or technologies and improves the industry standard’. 

As part of its impressive credentials, the SCTM Run2Change campaign focusses on sustainable development goals including health, fundraising, the empowerment of South African athletes and of course, peace. Each year the peace torch lights a flame at the start of the marathon and this flame is kept alight throughout the race until the last athlete finishes. Something about this gesture moves me; knowing that someone is keeping a flame alive while others, including myself, go through a literal and symbolic (often painful) journey sparks a deep kind of inspiration to keep going.

So considering all the above, simply being at the start line is an experience. According to event media coverage, 86 countries were represented at the race. I tried to count the number of clubs on the results page, but when I hit 300 (and I was not even nearly finished counting) I gave up. As for West Coast Athletic Club, close to a quarter of our members took part in this prestigious race on 23 September 2018.

SCTM has a vision of becoming one of the World Marathon Majors. Now of course it is not in my hands to bestow this upon them, but I do believe that they are brewing a winning recipe.  I for one will be back every year showing my support. To see why I think they have all the right elements in the blend, read my Sanlam CT Marathon race review in the infographic below.

G is for GEESies!

2018 saw SCTM launch its GEES competition, offering prizes in total of R500 000 to members of the public, charities and running clubs who come out in support of athletes. How to qualify? Show up, be creative and bring GEES to the event! Clubs qualified for prizes up to R100 000. Since we at WCAC are in the process of building our very own clubhouse, the response to such an invitation was a resounding “Hell Yes! We will bring the GEES!” Cos well, you all know we can.

The leader of the GEESie pack, Gillian Grobbelaar, is a force to be reckoned with. Is it a coincidence that her initials are GG – like gold and gees and go get ‘em? Me thinks not! It was weeks of build-up with daily social media motivations and GEESie elves working tirelessly to prepare costumes, make posters and cook finish line treats.

In the end, every ounce of effort paid off. The WCAC GEES station at 18km was phe-no-menal. Many of us whose families live far away, do not have the privilege of having a loved one on the side of the road to shout your name or to give you a hug while you challenge your body to go beyond its limits. Hearing your name called out loud by a crowd of crazy people with pink hair and blue tutus makes you feel like you got a family away from home.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who came out to support. You moved me! For more about our GEESies, read the special insert infographic below. 

G is for GO, GO, GO after your goals!

This whole event had me feeling all the feels – from hand shaking anxiety, to tears, to jumping up and down with excitement. And that was just in the the first five minutes after I woke up on race morning. This was my third SCTM, and both previous attempts found me bonking at 28kms and slogging myself to the finish line through pure mental tenacity.

So I came with a new strategy this year, based on a different training approach. I formulated a plan after hours of painstaking analysis of the route, race prediction tables, training data and insights of fellow runners (who very patiently listened to my anxious mumbling in the weeks before the race).

I stuck rigidly to my plan, but at 28km I felt the fear. What if it happens again? What if my body just tells me it is done with this self-torture? There was only one way to find out what would happen – follow the plan. And then it did not happen, I did not crash and burn – the strategy worked and it was all guns blazing till the end.

I managed to finish with a new marathon PB, taking about 5 minutes off my official course time and 7 minutes off my best net time (the time I record on my watch minus the delay at the start). I managed to run the coveted negative splits (second half faster than first) and the final kilometer was my fastest on the course.

G is for give yourself a pat on the back

No matter what your goals, your experience, or your talent, the marathon has the potential and tendency to humble you. It can teach you things about yourself you are not interested in learning or show you just how deep you can dig. One moment you are flying high, and the next cramps cripple you. This time round, it was all golden for me. Next time who knows.

People of the West Coast tribe, well frikking done! Whether it was your first, worst or personal best marathon or if it was just a regular day out running the city streets, I am humbled by your achievements and inspired by your stories. 

And now finally I have a question for the GEESies, are we thinking Rio Carnival next?

Battle of the Sexes Medihelp 10km Race Review

And now for something completely different

Ever wondered what would happen if we neutralised the effect of gender at a race, and pitched the efforts of the top males and females against each other on equal grounds? Well, wonder no more. The Battle of the Sexes Medihelp 10km Tekkie Challenge does exactly that. How is this possible? By staggering the start times for males and females by the time difference between the personal records of the top participating athlete in each gender. 

While staggered-start, battle of the sexes type races are relatively well-known in the United States, the Tekkie Challenge is the only one of its kind in South Africa – therefore as a participant in this race you get a taste of something truly innovative and unique. As a female athlete starting out in the front, the “wait”  for the elite males to catch up adds a real element of excitement to the run and you find yourself pushing to see how far you can get before the boys come flying by.

There are countless events taking place in and around the Western Cape, and athletes are spoiled for choice every weekend. In this environment, I believe, event organisers who build innovative elements into their line up increase the attractiveness of their event and, over time, may see their races emerging onto the list of must-do-runs. In my opinion, the Medihelp 10km Battle of the Sexes is definitely one of these must-do-runs. Not only because of the staggered start, but also because the logistics of this event ran like a finely tuned machine in 2018. To top that off, the event is hosted in aid of a worthy cause. More about all of these aspects – and how far I got before the boys caught up – in the official ratings graphic below. 

Battle of the Sexes Medihelp 10km Review

Came close, but not quite as fast as I had hoped!

With the competitive nature of the start line I would have been hard pressed to stick to a low heart rate on this run. Lucky for me this week the programme prescribed a “flat out race”, dividing the run into three sections of 3-4-3. Tekkie Challenge Route Profile

The goal I set myself was to try break 50 minutes. However, sticking to the planned pace without tiring myself too much in the first five kilos proved hard since all the climbing was done on this portion. Although I made up time on the descent, I just did not have the leg speed to bring the pace down enough. In the end I finished 10km in 50:13 and the course (which was just over 10km) in 50:28 (my watch, not official stats). Still very happy with the outcome of the race, and will have to come back next year to try and beat my course best of 47:52. 

Proof that many little things all add up to something great 

At the risk of repeating myself, I would not fault this event on anything this year.

The event master of ceremony was a great entertainer, creating a good amount of hype leading up to the announcement of the staggered-start time difference. The 5km and 10km routes intersect at points, but enter the finish line area through two different gates which worked brilliantly. Yet, everyone finished under the same arch which was surrounded by a lively crowd. It was this type of logistical engineering around all the small details that added up to an outstanding event.

For all my raves about the pre- and post-race details, check out the infographic below. Battle of the Sexes Medihelp 10km Before and After

 

 

A short runcation: Langebaan Half Marathon Race Review (2018)

Dialing the pace of life down, and the pace of the run up

We are at that point in the year when time is told in relation to the start of the December vacation. The tell-tale signs are everywhere and Whatsapp groups are flooded with memes of cute puppies reminding you that there are only 17 more Mondays until Christmas. The truly exhausted among us have already Googled and bookmarked a Christmas countdown clock telling the exact number of days, hours, minutes and seconds until holiday bliss. Honestly, 17 more Mondays is a long way off and adulting prevents me from taking a vacation right now.

Thankfully we runners are blessed with the opportunity to sneak in a short runcation to rejuvenate the spirits. Runcation is listed by Merriam-Webster as an obsolete word meaning “The act of weeding by hand”, but some creative runners have taken to using the word runcation to mean the type of vacation that involves a running event. My perfect opportunity for a short two-day runcation came in the form of the Arcelor Mittal Athletic Club Langebaan Half Marathon. This annual half marathon starts and ends at Club Mykonos Langebaan, and was held on the 25th of August 2018. 

You could imagine that on a runcation one turns the pace of life and your run down a notch. In my case the battery of my heart rate monitor died somewhere between race day and my last run, so I decided to forget heart rate and run my heart out! I paced myself according to perceived effort – a steady 10km, a harder 5km and then all guns blazing until the end. Disclaimer, this strategy was not advised or approved by any coach – but it was an utterly enjoyable run. Below is my Langebaan half marathon race review.

The end of trolling for profiles and routes, well at least partially

I decided it would be useful to add two additional elements to my reviews, (i) a screenshot of the route profile from Strava and (ii) a link to an interactive route map. I find myself trolling the internet and stalking stranger Strava profiles to find route profiles and maps far too often, since these are not always available on the race website or social media feeds. Having access to a route profile and map help me get my mental game ready, it borders on obsessive, but I have made my peace with obsessive. So, now you have the chance to experience this route vicariously on my review, and next year when entries open I can revert back to see what I am in for. Unless they change the route, and then, well, back to trolling and Strava stranger stalking. 

Route profile Langebaan 21.1km

As noted in my review, there is that not-so-little hill at the end of the course, and then after coming down from that, an ever so slight bump in the road before the finish line.  The route profile, unbeknownst to me at the time, lent itself well to my race strategy, with enough energy preserved for the second half of the course where the difficulty picks up quite substantially. 

What cannot be seen on this route profile is the large number of twists and turns this route takes. Several times you loop back to and through places you have passed earlier in the run. Just by looking at the route map it is pretty impossible to “get” which way you would be running.

Luckily we have many fancy sports apps that can help with that. Click here to access my Garmin Connect activity and press the black play button on the bottom of the map to “watch” the route. 

What else to do on a runcation in Langebaan?

Weather predictions for the weekend were not optimistic, and surprisingly the predictions were pretty accurate. On the upside, the rain (mostly) stayed away till after the runners were done but it came pelting down shortly thereafter. Stormy and grey conditions prevailed for the whole weekend, but it was just right for fireplace conversations, post-run massages and just plain laziness. The Coetzees were celebrating Dries’ entry into mid-life and booked into the historical Farm House Hotel which has majestic views of the lagoon, delightful staff and a must-try Americano. 

The 8am start of the race allowed “sleeping beauty” some extra snooze time on race morning (big plus point for this event). This start time also allows for those not on runcation to leave the Blouberg area at a reasonably humane time. For a full overview of the pre- and post-race ratings, have a look at the official reviews below. 

What to expect before and after the Langebaan 21.1km

Back to reality with a slightly elevated level of enthusiasm

Just a breather away was enough to add some va-va-voom back so as to get me through these next 17 weeks. I was reminded again this weekend of the innumerable benefits of running. In this case, the benefit of being able to combine (soulful) rest and racing in a 48-hour space just up the road from home. 

I am pretty sure many West Coasters have taken runcations over the years, some may be planning their next adventure as I write. What is your favourite or dream runcation destination? 

John Korasie 30km Road Race Review 2018

Same race, new strategy

Conditions were good for the running of the John Korasie 30km road race on 19 August 2018. It was cloudy (but not raining), cool (but not unbearable) and best of all the wind was not blistering. 

Many runners, including yours truly, use John Korasie 30km as a training run for the upcoming Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. There is enough time for the body to recover well before taking on the 42.2km event in September and for me it helps instill the confidence that I am ready to tackle the marathon distance. 

This was my third running of the event, but the first attempt to use it as a low-heart rate (LHR) training run. As a recovering race-a-holic who typically employs the “run like a wild rabid boar is chasing you” approach to events, it certainly ain’t easy to switch the modus operandi that drastically. 

It was a case of team work makes dream work

Enter a bunch of the Cool Cats from Norrie Training Group C. We chose to run the course together, stopping to walk together each time a member of our “bus” needed to bring their HR down. The five lovely ladies, and our dashing bodyguard made the vexing challenge of keeping my HR below 140 a pleasant and entertaining experience. Our team spirit was high and the support from fellow athletes and supporters on the road added to the genuine enjoyability of the run. It was great hearing the comments about the “sea of red and blue” as we passed by. And then there was the scenery, it is quite astounding just how much of the proverbial view you miss out on when charging along at (your version) of breakneck speed. 

My favourite moment in the race was our sprint finish in the final kilometer as we chased down the Spartan Harriers with whom we had been back-and-forth bantering with all along the route. One of the spectators shouted “West Coast team work is dream work” as we entered the Sports Fields grounds and the race MC welcomed our bus seconds after the Spartans. It was high fives all around and of course a group photo, special moments since I generally do not have the air in my lungs to enjoy these at the end of an event. 

So a BIG shout out to Ingrid Minter, Nicky Stander, Angela Lurssen, Zita Brandon and Lizl de Klerk (aka the lovely ladies), as well as Matt Smith (our bodyguard) – it was a delight to run with you. 

So how would I rate this race?

The race is certainly growing in popularity with an increase of more than 50% in entries from 2015 to 2017 when there were more than 2000 finishers. My estimate is that this has increased further in 2018, but we will have wait for the official race results to come out to confirm my observation. 

Readers of my earlier blog will be familiar with the set of criteria I have selected to rate events that I participate in, and below you will find my review of the John Korasie 30km road race on this set of factors. 

John Korasie 30km race review

What worked and what did not?

Let us start with me before we comment on the race. What did not work was my watch battery, or let me rephrase, my attempt to charge my watch battery the night before the race. It was plugged in, but obviously not properly because at 25.5km it died on me. I am not too fussed as this was a training run and not an attempt at a lifetime PB – but still my Strava now looks like I jumped off one of the cliffs en route! Meh. 

Now on to the event itself. I have to commend the race organisers on their continued improvements managing the race entries and collection. My experience this year was by far the best of the three. There remains, in my opinion, only one aspect of this race that needs tweaking – the infamous queue for the loo. Its long, and it takes long to get to the front. Longer than usual it feels, although this may be due to the fact that the drive from home is further than a typical drive and thus the wait feels worse. The pre-run bathroom stop is never going to be the best part of anyone’s race day experience, but perhaps just a few more porta-loos would do the trick. 

Read on below for a more detailed review of what to expect before and after the event.

John Korasie what to expect before and after

Want to rant or rave?

We all experience events differently, so keen to hear from other West Coasters what your favourite moment of the day was. Or alternatively, what did not work out?

Race review: Totalsports Women’s Day 10km 2018

What makes a race great?

It may sound like a simple question, but when you sit down to write a run race review and reflect deeply on this question (as one does when you are an amateur-athlete-wanna-be-sports-writer), it soon becomes apparent that the answer may resemble a cringe worthy Facebook relationship status. Basically, it is complicated.  

So, as any respectable researcher would, I set out to develop a set of criteria to review and compare races I participate in. The result is a set of six race-day, four pre-race and three post-race factors that I believe make a race great. 

So how did the Totalsports Women’s Day 10km run fare on my set of criteria? Take a look below….

Race review - TS Womens 10km 2018

What made this race stand out for me?

The race was a special one for me for two reasons. One, I got to run with a school friend (we were together from Grade 1 to Grade 12, not that we referred to them as grades back in my day!). This was thanks to the combined efforts of two awesome West Coast ladies – Mary Langebrink and Gillian Grobbelaar. These two superstars helped us track down an entry for Janine and get the substitution process done. Two, issues related to the well-being of women are (for obvious reasons) important to me, and the work #thepinkdrive are doing is truly noteworthy. Don’t believe me, take a look at their stats.

A race will always get kudos from me if results are available online and in (near) real time. If you are a data junkie, results can be viewed here. Filters on the site will help you do quick comparisons and you can download your finisher certificate.

My ever supportive husband and fellow West Coaster, Dries Coetzee, was the official support crew for the day and our official photographer (although somewhat reluctantly). He did a great job and managed to catch most of the West Coast ladies in action. The fact that he treated me to breakfast at Arnold’s after the race did not, I repeat did not, influence my rating of his photography skills. 

So now that we have established that this race gets rave reviews for race day experience, how did it stack up in terms of pre- and post-event criteria?

Pre-and Post- race review TS Womens 10km 2018

How would you rate this race?

Let us know what you thought of this race by posting your comments below. Oh yes, and what criteria would you add for rating a great race?