General club news and other interesting blogs contributed by members of the WCAC. If you would like to become a blog contributor on this page look here for more information. Contributions are welcomed from all running disciplines within the club. A blog about West Coast, by West Coasters!
SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED MAY 27, 2018UPDATED MAY 28, 2018
Stephen Seiler’s awakening occurred shortly after he moved to Norway in the late 1990s. The American-born exercise physiologist was out on a forested trail when he saw one of the country’s elite cross-country skiers run past – and then suddenly stop at the bottom of a hill and start walking up.
“And I said, well what the heck are you doing? No pain, no gain!” he later recalled. “But it turned out she had a very clear idea of what she was doing.”
Seiler’s observation led him to devote 15 years to studying how world-beating endurance athletes train, revealing that they push harder on their hard days but go easier on their easy days than lesser athletes. But, as research that will be presented this week at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference in Minnesota reveals, most us haven’t incorporated these findings into our exercise programs – which means we’re not training as effectively as we should.
When Seiler began analyzing the training of elite athletes in sports such as cross-country skiing and rowing, he found a consistent pattern. They spent about 80 per cent of their training time going relatively easy, even to the point of walking up hills to avoid pushing too hard. And most of the other 20 per cent was gut-churningly hard, with very little time spent at medium-effort levels.
This approach is often referred to as “polarized” training, since it emphasizes the extremes of very easy and very hard efforts. The pattern has now been observed in top athletes across almost all endurance sports, including cycling, running and triathlon. It was popularized in endurance coach Matt Fitzgerald’s 2014 book 80/20 Running. But it’s still not necessarily what athletes, especially less experienced ones, actually do.
In the new study being presented at the ACSM conference, a team led by Ball State University kinesiology researcher Lawrence Judge followed a group of collegiate distance runners through a 14-week season. The coaches were asked to assign an intended difficulty rating, on a scale of one to 10, for each day’s workout. Using the same scale, the athletes were then asked to rate how hard they actually found the workouts.
The results were telling. On easy days, when the coaches wanted an effort level of 1.5, the athletes instead ran at an effort level of 3.4 on average. On hard days, conversely, the coaches asked for an effort of 8.2 but the athletes only delivered 6.2. Instead of polarized training, as the coaches intended, the athletes were letting most of the sessions drift into the middle.
The new findings echo a similar 2001 study by Carl Foster, an exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, who is among the pioneers of using subjective perception of effort to guide training. The problem, he says, is that athletes have the misguided sense that the easy days are too easy – and as a result, on hard days, they’re simply too tired to push hard enough to get the biggest fitness gains.
To Seiler, who in addition to holding an academic post is a research consultant with the Norwegian Olympic Federation, the willingness to keep the easy days easy – “intensity discipline,” he calls it – is one of the traits that distinguishes successful and unsuccessful athletes.
Of course, the same principles apply even if you don’t have a coach. If you try to hammer every workout, you’ll never be fresh enough to really push your limits; if you jog every run, you’re not challenging yourself enough to maximize your fitness.
Figuring out the appropriate intensity doesn’t have to be complicated, Foster adds. According to his “Talk Test,” if you can speak comfortably in complete sentences, you’re going at an appropriate pace for easy days. If you can barely gasp out a word at a time, you’re in the hard zone. If you can speak, with effort, in broken sentences, you’re in the middle zone.
The hard part isn’t identifying the training zones – it’s having the discipline to adhere to them. Most of us, Foster believes, have internalized some vestigial remnant of the puritan work ethic, conflating hard work with virtue. But to truly push your limits, you sometimes need to take it easy.
Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience) is the author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.
85 Percent Effort Is Important
What does 85 percent effort mean and what’s the significance of that number?
If you have read running magazines, books on running, or any of the hundreds of websites offering running or training advice, you may have come across the following terms:
• Tempo Runs
• Anaerobic Threshold (A/T) Workouts
• Threshold Pace
• Lactate Threshold Pace
• Sub-maximal effort
• Cruise Intervals
• vVO2Max Runs
• Steady State Runs
In some of these more intense workouts you may see 85% as the suggested effort level. For the most part – without getting into minuscule technicalities – most of these terms represent essentially the same workout. Over the last 40-50 years of research on long-distance running, most scientists have drawn fairly similar conclusions. At this MAGIC pace (at either side of 85% of maximal effort) a lot of very special things happen to the human body.
For the beginner/novice level runner: 85 percent is the effort that “feels like you’re doing something.” You know the “no pain/no gain” mentality? Welcome to the threshold where you will soon be in pain if you don’t back off! When you are just getting into it – you may find yourself skyrocketing to 85% in no time at all. This is why WALK BREAKS are so important in gauging your pace to keep you more in the 65-75% range for most of your training. The 85 percent effort level is something to play with very occasionally. Until you establish a true foundation of aerobic endurance (the 65-75% range), the 85% level will be pretty hard on you.
For the recreational runner: 85% is the effort or pace that’s just slightly faster (I mean slightly – about 6-8 seconds a mile – just a step or two quicker!) than your half-marathon pace. Doing some running at this pace a few times a week will help you gradually get more comfortable at a slightly quicker pace in your half-marathons. As you may have figured out already, an improvement of just 6-10 seconds a mile is a BIG improvement in your overall time.
For the advanced runner: 85% is the effort that you begin to feel strong. Somehow when you hit this pace, you get the feeling as though you could “run all day long.” The truth is, if you are truly at your Anaerobic Threshold, you can probably hold this pace for 50-60 minutes (a little short of that “all day” feeling). Since none of us will be running any 50-60 minute half-marathons any time soon – the world record is currently just under 59 minutes – it is important to train sparingly at 85%. The “minutes” workouts, “tempo” workouts, and “cruise interval” workouts you will see on your intensity day will allow you to play in the 85% playground for short periods of time.
For the competitor runner: 85% is the effort that helps you control an opposing runner. If you know where 85 percent effort is for you and you learn to stay “just this side of it” – holding on to your extra gears for later in the race – while the person you are running against is “just the other side of it” and beginning to struggle or fade, guess what happens? Shift gears and good-bye. The “minutes” workouts, “tempo” workouts, and “cruise interval” workouts you will see on your intensity day will allow you to determine exactly where your personal gears are and help teach you how to conserve, accelerate, recover, and GO when you need to!
We follow this philosophy in our
Team GFR Training Plans. Take a look at our training plans and join us.
If you asked a stadium-size crowd of other runners to name the most important type of running workout, some would say tempo runs, others would say long runs, and still others would say intervals of one kind or another. None would mention recovery runs. Unless I happened to be in that stadium.
I won’t go quite so far as to say that recovery runs are more important than tempo runs, long runs, and intervals, but I do believe they are no less important. Why? Because recovery runs, if properly integrated into your training regimen, will do just as much to enhance your race performances as any other type of workout. Seriously.
It is widely assumed that the purpose of recovery runs—which we may define as relatively short, slow runs undertaken within a day after a harder run—is to facilitate recovery from preceding hard training. You hear coaches talk about how recovery runs increase blood flow to the legs, clearing away lactic acid, and so forth. The truth is that lactic acid levels return to normal within an hour after even the most brutal workouts. Nor does lactic acid cause muscle fatigue in the first place. Nor is there any evidence that the sort of light activity that a recovery run entails promotes muscle tissue repair, glycogen replenishment, or any other physiological response that actually is relevant to muscle recovery.
In short, recovery runs do not enhance recovery. The real benefit of recovery runs is that they allow you to find the optimal balance between the two factors that have the greatest effect on your fitness and performance: training stress and running volume.
Training stress is what your body experiences in workouts that test the present limits of your running fitness. You can be fairly sure a workout has delivered a training stress when it leaves you severely fatigued or completely exhausted. The two basic categories of workouts that deliver a training stress are high-intensity runs (intervals, tempo runs, hill repeats) and long runs. A training program whose objective is to prepare you for a peak race performance must feature plenty of “key workouts” that challenge your body’s capacity to resist the various causes of high-intensity fatigue (muscular acidosis, etc.) and long-duration fatigue (muscle tissue damage, etc). By exposing your body to fatigue and exhaustion, key workouts stimulate adaptations that enable you to resist fatigue better the next time.
Running volume, on the other hand, has a positive effect on running fitness and performance even in the absence of exhaustive key workouts. In other words, the more running you do (within the limit of what your body can handle before breaking down), the fitter you become, even if you never do any workouts that are especially taxing. The reason is that increases in running economy are very closely correlated with increases in running mileage. Research by Tim Noakes, M.D., and others suggests that while improvement in other performance-related factors such as VO2max ceases before a runner achieves his or her volume limit, running economy continues to improve as running mileage increases, all the way to the limit. For example, if the highest running volume your body can handle is 50 miles per week, you are all but certain to achieve greater running economy at 50 miles per week than at 40 miles per week, even though your VO2max may stop increasing at 40 miles.
You see, running is a bit like juggling. It is a motor skill that requires communication between your brain and your muscles. A great juggler has developed highly refined communication between his brain and muscles during the act of jugging, which enables him to juggle three plates with one hand while blindfolded. A well-trained runner has developed super-efficient communication between her brain and muscles during the act of running, allowing her to run at a high sustained speed with a remarkably low rate of energy expenditure. Sure, the improvements that a runner makes in neuromuscular coordination are less visible than those made by a juggler, but they are no less real.
or both the juggler and the runner, it is time spent simply practicing the relevant action that improves communication between the brain and the muscles. It’s not a matter of testing physiological limits, but of developing a skill through repetition. Thus, the juggler who juggles an hour a day will improve faster than the juggler who juggles five minutes a day, even if the former practices in a dozen separate five-minute sessions and therefore never gets tired. And the same is true for the runner.
Now, training stress—especially key workouts inflicting high-intensity fatigue—and running volume sort of work at cross-purposes. If you go for a bona fide training stress in every workout, you won’t be able to do a huge total amount of running before breaking down. By the same token, if you want to achieve the maximum volume of running, you have to keep the pace slow and avoid single long runs in favor of multiple short runs. But then you won’t get those big fitness boosts that only exhaustive runs can deliver. In other words, you can’t maximize training stress and running volume simultaneously. For the best results, you need to find the optimal balance between these two factors, and that’s where recovery runs come in.
By sprinkling your training regimen with relatively short, easy runs, you can achieve a higher total running volume than you could if you always ran hard. Yet because recovery runs are gentle enough not to create a need for additional recovery, they allow you to perform at a high level in your key workouts and therefore get the most out of them.
I believe that recovery runs also yield improvements in running economy by challenging the neuromuscular system to perform in a pre-fatigued state. Key workouts themselves deliver a training stress that stimulates positive fitness adaptations by forcing a runner to perform beyond the point of initial fatigue. As the motor units that are used preferentially when you run begin to fatigue, other motor units that are less often called upon must be recruited to take up the slack so the athlete can keep running. In general, “slow-twitch” muscle fibers are recruited first and then “fast-twitch” fibers become increasingly active as the slow-twitch fibers wear out. By encountering this challenge, your neuromuscular system is able to find new efficiencies that enable you to run more economically.
Recovery runs, I believe, achieve a similar effect in a slightly different way. In a key workout you experience fatigued running by starting fresh and running hard or far. In a recovery run you start fatigued from your last key workout and therefore experience a healthy dose of fatigued running without having to run hard or far. For this reason, although recovery runs are often referred to as “easy runs,” if they’re planned and executed properly they usually don’t feel very easy. Speaking from personal experience, while my recovery runs are the shortest and slowest runs I do, I still feel rather miserable in many of them because I am already fatigued when I start them. This miserable feeling is, I think, indicative of the fact that the run is accomplishing some real, productive work that will enhance my fitness perhaps almost as much as the key workout that preceded it. Viewed in this way, recovery runs become essentially a way of squeezing more out of your key workouts.
Practical Guidelines For Recovery Runs
Now that I’ve sold you on the benefits of recovery runs, let’s look at how to do them so that they most effectively serve their purpose of balancing training stress and running volume in your training. There are five specific guidelines I suggest you follow.
If you run fewer than five times a week, recovery runs are generally unnecessary. Recovery runs can only serve their purpose of balancing training stress with running volume if you run five or more times per week. If you run just three or four times per week, you’re better off going for a training stress in each run, or at least in three out of four.
Whenever you run again within 24 hours of completing a “key” workout (i.e., a workout that has left you severely fatigued or exhausted), the follow-up run should usually be a recovery run.
Do key workouts and recovery runs in a 1:1 ratio. There’s seldom a need to insert two easy runs between hard runs, and it’s seldom advisable to do two consecutive hard runs within 24 hours. A good schedule for runners who run six days a week is three key workouts alternating with three recovery runs, as in the following example:
Tuesday: Key Workout (High Intensity)
Wednesday: Recovery Run
Thursday: Key Workout (High Intensity)
Friday: Recovery Run
Saturday: Key Workout (Long Duration)
Saturday: Recovery Run
Most elite runners who train twice a day do a hard run in the morning followed by a recovery run in the afternoon or a hard run in the afternoon followed by a recovery run the next morning. The frequency is twice that of the above example but the ratio of key workouts to recovery runs remains 1:1
Recovery runs are largely unnecessary during base training, when most of your workouts are moderate in both intensity and duration. When you begin doing formal high-intensity workouts and exhaustive long runs, it’s time to begin doing recovery runs in a 1:1 ratio with these key workouts.
There are no absolute rules governing the appropriate duration and pace of recovery runs. A recovery run can be as long and fast as you want, provided it does not affect your performance in your next scheduled key workout (which is not particularly long or fast, in most cases). Indeed, because the purpose of recovery runs is to maximize running volume without sacrificing training stress, your recovery runs should generally be as long as you can make them short of affecting your next key workout. A little experimentation is needed to find the recovery run formula that works best for each individual runner.
Don’t be too proud to run veryslowly in your recovery runs, as Kenya’s runners are famous for doing. Even very slow running counts as practice of the running stride that will yield improvements in your running economy, and running very slowly allows you to run longer (i.e. maximize volume) without sabotaging your next key workout.
As you may know, I am on the “short side” in a few different ways (be it height, running distance, temper or concentration) – so the thought of even trying to run a marathon just does not even feature for me! So what else could I do when such an awesome event is hosted in the Mother City and when I belong to such a great club with awesome runners, on all levels……..what to do ???
SUPPORT – CHEER – ENCOURAGE – LOVE – UPLIFT and all the rest of it – that’s what you head out to do !!!
So that is what I decided to do at the SCTM on Sunday and what an experience it was. Usually when supporting at a race, I would find myself on the road somewhere, dressed up with pom poms or something silly to shout and cheer the runners along the way. But this year with the new fantastic finish in Vlei Road I thought the end of this grueling marathon would be extra special and a great opportunity to catch these top athletes as they crossed the finish line.
So I dressed up a bit, found a spot a few metres away from the clock and parked off, stood on a chair (yes because I’m short) and then waited patiently for the runners to come through…………
There is just something magical about being a spectator – you find yourself among all sorts of people, from all walks of life, almost making new friends for a short time as you discuss who is out there, who you are supporting, what times you are watching for, how you fit into this whole spectacular event…..and you ramble on with so much enthusiasm and excitement but then have to laugh when the questions get too technical and fly over your head!
But the buzz is just contagious – you don’t know where to watch, be it on the big screen, on your new friend’s cell phone (who is watching it live on SABC2), on the race App – or just keep your eyes peeled on that one corner… And then it happens and it is like the Mexican Wave – where the supporters further down the blue carpet start to cheer and you realize that something is happening! You can’t contain yourself and you just start clapping, cheering and shouting all sorts and get caught up in all the emotion around you, with your new found friends for the morning! The energy levels just rocket! It is goosebumps stuff, watching those long legged lithe bodies cross the finish line in just a matter of a couple of hours – and many of them still looked so strong as if they could have just kept on going. It’s amazing when you stop to think for a minute what they had just endured and in the time frame too! Record breaking stuff too – what an experience.
As time ticks by, the sun is baking your body, your feet start to ache, you need the toilet, you’re hungry, but you are just too scared to move from your spot for fear of missing out! And I hate suffering from FOMO !!! So you knyp, ignore the hunger pains and carry on cheering your heart out. I am not sure who actually heard what when they came running past our noisy bunch – but I will say, it was super rewarding when you are cheering for a random runner, who might be taking strain, who probably felt like just collapsing right there in front of you – but you shout out his club name and/or his name (if you can see it) and you get an acknowledgement of a wave or a smile….and then you just tell them how awesome they are! For me – that’s just the best!!! It may have lasted only 2 seconds but you know that someone appreciated your shrieks and cheers – and THAT is what support is all about – making a difference, bringing a smile, that little bit of oomph when you maybe needed it most. Of course the shrieks were that little bit louder when a familiar face came through – and I stood almost in awe watching the red, white and blue vests run past me. I felt like a proud mom almost – a mom to I dunno how many crazy WC peeps – and I even had many Gugs ladies in on my WC cheering – it was just awesome!
So here’s to many more silly outfits and screaming and shouting – this is what I love doing most and can’t wait for the next !!!
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?
Mention of the word ‘walking’ amongst most runners is equivalent of many other taboo utterances that in different contexts elicit the same sensations of disgust, weakness and inferiority. Such is the mind-trap that social pressures and at times conventional wisdom incorrectly leads us to believe.
Is there a place for walking in running? A fair number agree there is, but only within the narrow realms of easy runs, training runs or when tackling difficult inclines. Mention the word ‘walk breaks’ in the context of a race and the default vindication again falls back on tackling those difficult inclines and/or associated with a strategy usually applicable to ultra-endurance events. Mention ‘walking’ within the context of a 10km road race and people will think you are stark raving mad, unless of course you have hit the proverbial wall.
Conventional wisdom, social pressures and ego often dictate what we should and should not be doing or saying. And the same is often true when we run races. If one is dictated by one’s ego and the accompanying social pressures on how (or who) to race, then one is at the mercy of these external influences and has equivalently lost focus of what really matters – YOU. Unfortunately, we too often than not, get caught up in this idiocy on race day and hence risk jeopardising the many weeks of training and sacrifice that went before.
In everyday life, we go on a walk to clear the head, to take time-out, to relax or break the manic stressors and pace of life, often returning with renewed energy, vigour and clarity of thought. The same holds true in races. By applying a planned walk strategy we are effectively doing the same. These walk-breaks lower our heart rate, aids our recovery, clears our thoughts, breaks the accumulated stressors of our respective racing pace and just as importantly allows one to calm the ego and return one’s focus to YOU.
With the Cape Town marathon and 10km approaching this weekend, I encourage those bold and wise enough to incorporate a walk strategy into their race plan. Should social pressures and ego start to dictate and play havoc with your well intentioned plans, then provide your walk strategy with an appropriate euphemism such as “refuelling my shoes” to sustain your disposition.
Walking should not be taboo within running, but rather embraced as it is in everyday life.
We are extremely privileged to live in a beautiful City like Cape Town and trail running has become extremely popular and I can understand why. With it’s mountains and surrounding forests and vineyards within the City’s borders, it’s easy to see why it is such a trail runner’s paradise.
I still enjoy road running but mostly prefer trail over road because there is less congestion, prettier scenery, and awesome camaraderie. I was first introduced to trail running three years ago through a friend, Elschen Franklin, who has since relocated to New Zealand. But the bug bit and I’m addicted. Trail running has opened up a whole new world for me. I love being outdoors running with like minded friends through Rocky terrain, tackling hills, sprinting downhill or splashing through puddles of water. This has injected fresh energy into my runs and I am having so much fun exploring the natural world and getting away from it all.
Each and every trail has become a new adventure of discovery, as each trail event has its own unique terrain and challenge. There are wide trails, and of even surfaces. And then there are narrow single-track trails with a variety of obstacles, including tree-roots, rocks, sand, hills, mud and much more. Through trail running I have managed to explore many Wine Estates in Cape Town, which would otherwise have remained undiscovered. I also love to sometimes run up our beautiful Table Mountain although I leave the extreme technical trails to the pros.
Another attraction about trail running and I am pretty sure most of you will agree, is that it’s important to slow down and smell the roses, because running trails can be a lot more demanding than the roads, I figured that it was best to avoid comparing my pace, as I will be slower than normal road-running pace. For this very reason, at the start of any trail event I do not feel the pressure to perform as I do with a road race. On roads I tend to be very conscious of my pacing and sometimes push harder than I should, whereas with trail running I tend to be more relaxed and sometimes walk the hills (take selfies and/or panoramic pictures), sprint downhills (no selfies here) and run the flats. Most importantly, I have fun on the trails.
Each time I run trail I work different muscles because of the different motion and action of my body compared to road running. Afterwards I feel pain in places I never thought existed. It’s a great feeling as it means I have had a great overall workout. It is for this very reason that trail running can also prevent common running injuries. The camber of the road combined with repetitive pounding can cause stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints. Running on grass, gravel, wood chips or sand can save your legs and add longevity to your running career. It certainly has aided in preventing me from getting another streets fracture.
All in all trail running lifts my spirits and adds joy to my running, certainly a breath of fresh air. Getting up early in the morning and driving to some or other exotic destination, practically on my doorstep and knowing I’ll be running in some beautiful forest or mountain adds a sense of wonder and adventure to my weekends. Early winter morning registrations have an added flair as we huddle around warm fires before our start, which adds to the fun and uniqueness of trails. But be careful! You know what they say about trail running – once you get on the dirt, you never want to go back to the roads.
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.
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.
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.
Sunday 2nd September 2018. Approximately an hours drive from Sunningdale through to Noordhoek. So it really was a case of being up with the birds this morning, yes 05h00. On opening our garage door we were met with heavy showers – a sign of things to come i’m thinking. So off we set and well within an hour we reached our destination and parked in a well designated area. The office was open for late entries and number collections – Nico Loubser however, collected his and my number the previous day, so no queing or hanging about for this. The tea/coffee tents were buzzing with folk getting in a quick hot drink before braving the colder elements, mostly all suitably dressed for what lay ahead. Possible temperature in Noordhoek a chilly 8 or 9 degrees – with rain or showers even, predicted. The ever faithful Porta Loo’s were there in abundance, not disapointing those (including me) who needed a last one before hitting the road. Again, really well organized with very little or no queing and a dedicated official armed with a ‘flushing bucket’. Very impressive.
07h30 was set off time and that’s exactly what we did. En masse we left the start line and shuffled our way forward to a narrow opening allowing just 2 or 3 runners at one given time to start the Camel Run. Once through this and over a small slippery wooden bridge, it was go go go. Until . . . yes, I have to add this – the dreaded camel hump hills that every man and his dog had warned me about. Peter Chong had previously posted that the climbs were 329 metres x 2, I would have guessed they were a little more than that. Torturous to be perfectly honest. Handsoncoach Alan Green had advised me to run 20 steps then walk 20 steps, run 20 then walk 20. I really started off with good intention until my second set and then all resistance crumbled. Yup – all that good sound advice went in one ear and out the other. I literally had to drag my sorry rear end up the camel humps muttering obscenities at each step.
Absolute bliss at the top of the hill however, one could see for miles if one dared take their eyes off the tricky surrounding terrain. Down hill’s of grassy patches disguised under moss covered slippery stones – just asking to be slipped on or tripped over. The remainder of the run was actually quite pleasant, if one likes running in the rain? I was totally soaked from top to bottom along with every other participant. Fabulous job from the marshalls – each one cheering us on – flags in hands for good direction.
And so crossing the final hurdle of yet more puddles and rain clouds, the last km became a reality that the Camel Run had been completed. The hills were hard, no other way to describe them. A beautiful run in the most scenic surroundings. Finishers received a Camel Run Buff and I for one shall treasure mine forever. What an experience. And of course congratulations to all who entered and finished this course especially Iain Park-Ross who won his age category. Who knew being 60 could be such fun!!
See you there next year . . . I’m in it for another Buff! Fat bottom girls you make the rocking world go round.
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.
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.
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?
The PUFfeR (Peninsula Ultra Fun Run) is an 80km (approximately, depending on how well you know the route and the shortcuts) part road, part trail run hosted by Fish Hoek Athletics Club, which starts at Cape Point and finishes in Sea Point taking runners along the mountain range of the Cape Peninsula. 2018 is the 23rd year of this event, started in 1995 by a Belgian dude called Jean-Paul van Belle along with 17 other runners, this year they took 180 entrants.
The slogan “Running in heaven feeling like hell” is the perfect description of this race!
The route starts at roughly 5.30am (actually, as soon as everybody’s off the buses) in the dark and goes through the Cape Point Nature Reserve for about 13km to the reserve gate at checkpoint and refreshment stop 1, left onto Plateau Rd to Red Hill, the first biggish climb (half of the John Korasie route, backwards). On Red Hill before the descent into Simons town the rout takes a left at Pinehaven for a few km’s down a scenic tar road to the Waterworks at Lewis Grey Dam, there the runners hit the first trail section, over Black Hill and down into Fish Hoek for some more tar; up Ou Kaapse Road past Noordhoek Manor the route turns off onto the old Wagon Trail up another big climb and over into the Silvermine reserve, another climb on some tar before turning off onto Level 5 gravel road which runs along the mountain over the Tokai forests and around to the Vlakenburg trail and down a knee-busting descent to Constantia Nek. From here the race really starts with a massive climb from the Nek up past Castle (Camel) Rock to Maclears Beacon, highest point on the range, along the top of Table Mountain and down the long, steep Platteklip Gorge, onto Tafelberg road, past Kloof Nek and up towards Signal Hill where runners encounter the incredibly awesome West Coast AC support station (details about that later), down the hill towards Sea Point and to the finish at Hamilton’s Rugby Club.
West Coast: This year West Coast AC had 13 entries to the race, 2 ladies – Cathy & Jenny, both of whom unfortunately pulled out early due to injury. And 11 blokes, 10 of whom were at the start. Carl pulled out the day before due to the flu. The starters were Gary, Guy, David, Charl, Rob, Bruce, Malcolm, Marius, Izak, and myself, Justin. I was unfortunately the only one who did not finish, the other 9 all went on to collect their medals. Super strong team we had this year, well done to all the guys who finished. It was a hell of a tough day out on the mountains.
Some West Coasters before the race (click to enlarge):
My failure: So as you read above, I did not finish. I made it as far as Constantia Nek, 56km into the race, and missed the 1.40pm cut off by 10 minutes. I’m quite certain I was the only runner to be cut off at this vital point because the guy I was running with from early in the race, Laurence and myself were the last to make it through the previous cut off at Silvermine meaning from that point we were dead last, jokingly dismissing all the marshals we passed going forward, much to their obvious relief. He took off ahead of me at Vlakenberg and made the cut off by seconds, I couldn’t keep up down that steep rocky decline, especially in road shoes, making me the only runner in the field to be cut off at this most important cut off point. To be honest, I was relieved because by this stage, after 56km, I was broken. Looking ahead from the top of the mountain I was standing on at the mountain I’d have to climb on the other side of the Nek the thought of pushing my fat ass on up that mountain to Maclears Beacon and down Platteklip on legs that were exhausted, knees aching and feet burning was daunting to say the least, I was secretly quite ok with not going any further despite my usual hearty determination telling me to keep going and not give up. It was an uncomfortable inner battle of decisions between my head and my heart. But, my head had won, I’d already given up. I sat down for 2 minutes to enjoy the view, then hobbled off down to my own finish, both hating myself for now being a deliberate quitter, and also incredibly sad at the knowledge that I’d screwed this up and would be missing out on that beautiful medal that my friends would all be wearing later that day.
You see, I completely underestimated this race. Having done the 90km Comrades Marathon two months earlier I thought the (mediocre) training I’d done for Comrades with a few training runs in the mountains prior to Puffer would be more than enough, I mean, it’s “only” 80km, right? I thought I could take it easy from the start and keep a steady run-walk strategy and make it comfortably. Well I should have known when I was one of the last out of the Cape Point reserve gate at about 13km that I already had this theory wrong, but I didn’t click yet, even as the back-markers passed me heading towards Red Hill, I thought I was ok, and this was just an exceptionally strong field of runners (something I HAD noticed at the race briefing 2 days earlier, I was the only fat guy in the auditorium. Somehow I thought this was funny!) I also wasted time in the reserve taking photos, again thinking I had more than adequate time to bugger around with the camera. Of course I got some stunning photos, but to the detriment of my race, partly. Having listened to some advice in hindsight it became clear that “taking it easy” on the road sections is not gonna suffice, it’s important to make up distance as fast as possible without burning out on the road sections to provide adequate time on the trails to make the cut-offs and not finish in the dark.
Heading towards Red Hill I hooked up with Laurence and we decided to go all the way to the finish and pace ourselves comfortably. I didn’t know it yet but this was also a mistake. See, he had done Puffer last year and convinced me the pace we were going was more than enough. I stopped making calculations in my head and went along with his theories. Boy did we get them wrong, we were going too slow, too much walking at times we didn’t need to. When we got to the Silvermine checkpoint, coming up the road the supporters were yelling we had just 2 minutes to make cut off. I thought they were taking the piss, we believed that 11.20am cut off was at the previous checkpoint an hour back at the bottom of Wagon Trail (somebody there told us that!) Anyway, after some refreshments and a good 5 minutes for a badly needed number 2 we headed off to the Nek with only 2 hours to get there. We got our pacing wrong here too, much too slow at first and having to push hard later. By the time we got to the trails leading up to Vlakenberg I was knackered, yet still hoping to make the cut off. At the top of Vlakenberg before the descent Laurence went flying past me and down the trail to the Nek determined to make it despite his dodgy knee, I didn’t have the legs left to go down that descent at speed, nor, honestly, the desire. I let him go, resigning myself to the fact that my race was nearly over. Honestly, having just missed the cut at Silvermine and being stone last all the way from there had already broken my mental resolve, I knew I’d stuffed up and the new goal of having to play catch up and chase cut offs was already a deal breaker.
However, despite failing due to a series of poor decisions and being grossly unprepared for the race, it was not all negative! I really enjoyed the experience as far as I did get. It’s a fantastic race in some spectacular places, if you are strong enough to do this and fortunate to get an entry it is well worth every moment, albeit a long tough day out!
I learned an enormous amount from my experience at Puffer, and I’m determined to come back tougher and stronger next year to fetch my medal with a strong finish. I have decided to skip Comrades next year in order to train properly for Puffer, the plan is to do a LOT of mountain running in the next year, loads of road and trail and strength training, and go back to Puffer with the strength and confidence to nail that bad-ass as a midfield finisher! (Providing of course Andy, the organiser, accepts my entry next year!! Pretty please Andy!!)
My journey to PUFfeR: As previously mentioned, I ran Comrades in June. It was not a good race for me this year because, like Puffer, I went in overweight and under-trained due to an overconfidence from having a good finish last year at my first Comrades, however I still finished in time, by a few ball-hairs, but I got my back to back, and regarded Comrades and the journey there as sufficient training for the road parts of Puffer. Basically, a lazy excuse to not have to do too much more.
I ran in the mountains a few times, getting to know the equipment I had and building up what I needed as money permitted. I entered and participated in the Bastille Day 25km which I absolutely enjoyed. That was a big confidence boost since that was a proper mountain trail run that I did fairly comfortably and wasn’t last. Thereafter through the Puffer Whatsapp group we organised weekly training runs on the actual routes, a few of which I dropped out of, for various reasons, basically I didn’t take them seriously enough. I ran sections of the route from Red Hill to the finish only once each. Not enough. Then came the taper leading to the big day. Through all this training I was not watching my diet and packed on about 6kg shortly after Comrades (the post ultra hunger from this one was insatiable and unstoppable), leading up to Puffer I lost about 2kg.
Let me tell you from experience – being overweight and taking on an ultra trail is NOT a bright idea at all !!! The extra energy you need to use to move the extra weight and the stress on the knees is huge. This fact, I believe, is the main reason I was so buggered by the time I was done. My knees were shattered and I was exhausted.
Again, lessons learned!
Some photos I took at the beginning in the Cape Point reserve (click to enlarge):
My race: The day started with a 1am wake up alarm, all my kit was packed and prepped over the 2 days before, a full printed A4 page worth of stuff. Bruce and his wife Tammy and her dad picked me up at 2am, we picked up Izak and headed to the Cape Point Reserve gate where we get the bus to the start. I think we were second there, after the organiser. The toilets hadn’t even arrived yet. Over the next hour and a half the other runners arrived, there was an excited buzz in the cold night as we filed onto the buses for the long drive to the start at the tourist centre in Cape Point, close to the lighthouse.
We were no sooner off the buses and had a quick leak in the bush (I’m sure almost everybody did) when the race was started. This is the part I liked most about the race – running in the cold dark of night with the only light being the stream of headlights on the runners like migrating fireflies, and the bright stars above. No cars, buildings or other man made lights around, besides the distant glow of the city across the horizon. As we progressed the morning faded in slowly as the sky lightened and changed colour and broke into a beautiful day, perfect for the occasion!
The first checkpoint was at the gate, I forget which clubs hosted which checkpoint and refreshment station, which were roughly 10 to 15km apart. Each station was well stocked with food and drinks and varying degrees of vibe and cheer, some were well attended with crowds of supporters and runners seconds. But none came close in intensity and enthusiasm as the West Coast station!
Talking of supporting seconds, I have to say a huge thank you to Tammy Wood and her dad Anthony, for looking after me throughout the route. They were at all the strategic points with supplies, refreshments, clothes changes, toilet paper, etc. It’s vital to have support at this race, and we had the best.
Well, I plodded on slowly for the rest of my race, enjoying the people and the awesome scenery… you know the rest!
From Constantia Nek, when I retired, I got into the car with Tammy who was just waiting for me, and we drove around to the West Coast station on Signal Hill to wait for our club runners to arrive and pass through, all of whom were surprised and disappointed to see me there, obviously having bailed early. I was very happy for them all for doing so well.
The usual cheesy selfies:
The West Coast Station: This has to be mentioned! The WC station on Signal Hill has over the years become an epic part of this race, a club tradition to put on a show as the best support station on this race by miles! Positioned about 4km from the finish at the top of the very last climb on the day, it is a refreshing relief to the exhausted and broken runners who for a brief moment get to relax, enjoy a drink including beer, wine, OBS, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, etc, hot pancakes, sweets and loads of food choices. The ladies rubbed sore shoulders, the music and enthusiastic cheering made them feel like celebrities briefly. They left there revitalized for the final stretch to the finish.
A hearty thank you to Evette and her team of eager supporters who all played a role, from running drinks orders up the road to the tent (some racking up near half marathon distances on their Garmins), Louise on pancakes, Lisa on the camera, Justin R with his new GoPro, the name-checkers, hostesses with welcome drinks, dancers, DJ’s, Jacqui with her splash bucket, etc, etc. You guys were all fantastic! Well done!
A final word: This first Puffer was personally a bag of mixed emotions from the excitement of getting there and the disappointment of not finishing. I’ve learned a lot about what to expect for the event and about myself and my own shortcomings and potential capabilities. I know that with the right training and my head in the right place I can finish this thing easily enough, and next year that is what I will do. I regret missing it this year but the sulk and pity was over by the time I got home that day, I will use the lessons I’ve learned from this to come back strong as an ox next year and collect my medal at the finish and drink that free beer with pride!
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.
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.
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?
There are many aspects to being a runner and I love it’s diversity. You get the fast runner, slow runner, average runner, the long distance runner, short distance runner, the road runner, trail runner and the list goes on. Imagine how boring the world would be if we all fell under the same category?
We might also have contrasting definitions of running and of course we set individual goals. To keep fit and stay healthy, to loose weight, to be outdoors and have fun. To get as many PB’s (Personal Best) as possible or to experience a runner’s high.
These are all valid points and I certainly run to experience all of the above but as a runner who has experienced the recurring disappointment of injury, (stress fractures) my definition of running has changed slightly. My number one priority is to run injury free, while still experiencing all of the above benefits.
First of all I have had to learn that our bodies are different and not all of us are made to run certain distances. Success has many different facets. Whether you run 3kms or 5km parkruns you are considered a runner and shouldn’t put yourself in a box because admittedly that is what we tend to do to. We are all unique and different and should celebrate each other’s uniqueness.
As a first time runner, many years ago I went all out and pushed myself to the point of burn out which inevitably ended in an injury in the form of a stress fracture. Since then I have had to learn to listen to my body and apply self restraint. While others are able to train everyday, I had to learn that I am “Me” and not “Others”. It meant running three times a week for me as an individual. At first, holding back was not easy, but the rewards have been well worth it.
Needless to say, I am delighted to announce that I have enjoyed running consistently, injury free for the past four years, which has led me to decide on a bold move. To tackle a new challenge which will be in the form of a 30km race.
I believe that when it comes to making resolutions, we should consider goals based on process instead of outcome. Be consistent with good habits, discover who you are as an individual and do not be afraid to make adjustments. That way, you can sustain momentum by celebrating small, frequent victories and that is what I intend to do, to enjoy the ride until I have reached my goal.
So how do we define a successful runner? You have laced up your running shoes, got up and hit the road or trails. You have run your first kilometer. Well done. You are an achiever. A success. Be yourself, make adjustments while doing what you love and enjoy the journey.
The below was my “speech”/contribution for our recent Women’s Day Awards Evening held at the club earlier this month. I was a nervous wreck to stand up and speak but I knew it was something I wanted to do. As we are still in OUR month, I thought I’d like to share this for those that perhaps missed the “ladies night”…and the pink bubbles…and the yummy cupcakes…and the TLC from our guys….and all the usual fun!
But have a read – maybe you need some reminding from time to time….
I work in the travel industry and our company DNA is something that is very close to my heart. Of our company’s 6 philosophies, there is maybe one doesn’t appeal to me that much but there is one that REALLY stands out for me. “SAY IT AS IT IS” – that is me to a T and how I like to roll in life – and so I decided that I would bite the bullet, stand up here tonight and from my point of view, I will tell you why I personally think that women runners / athletes are just SO awesome! No technical jargon and no higher grade statistics to comprehend – just my straight up thoughts on the subject.
So as most of you know, I’m hardly a runner, I have a handful of medals to my name which I am very proud of – and I still find myself puffing and panting for short 5 or 8km runs which is sometimes pretty frustrating I must be honest. And being a woman, a thinker (or maybe more accurately – an OVER thinker in my case) – I often sit back and wonder as to why I haven’t given this whole running thing up yet……and it boils down to this – the following DNA bits about us running ladies in my opinion.
I entered the 10km Tyger Run last year with literally no training, other than maybe having half run and half walked around a soccer field a few times with my previous running club – but I had SUCH a bee in my bonnet, I wanted to do it and thought 10kms didn’t seem too much to ask. So on race morning we arrived super late at Meerendal (being the novices we were), we parked with literally 5mins to spare before the gun went off – but … we were there. During the race, we ran when we could and we walked when we needed to and we didn’t stop other than for a quick selfie or a glug of water. We were 2 determined friends on a mission that morning to achieve our first medal together – and we did it. We couldn’t have been or felt any prouder at the end of that race, we were glowing (yes from the sweat) but also from such pride. The determination that day was and still is a big chunk of me – my goals may have changed now but that feeling remains. And I think DETERMINATION is one characteristic that we all have inside of us.
FLEXIBILITY / ADAPTABILITY:
So in this pic of these beautiful ladies – lies a whole mix of talents. I looked at this photo and it struck me just how different we all are, how we all have such varied running outlooks, achievements and aspirations – from Puffer trail ladies, to Comrades champs, to first time Park Run heroes and so much more. And in that vein, it struck me just how open minded, FLEXIBLE and ADAPTABLE we all are and we probably don’t even realise it half the time. Here we were challenging ourselves on a hike, some trying to do something way out of their comfort zone – but yet still doing it and succeeding at it too. Sometimes one can become so fixated on a particular style or area of running – or just have such a habit with something that you close off to other ideas and just stick to what you know cos it works and it’s generally easier.
This can even go as far as to include things like training programs, running shoes, exercising or warming up and cooling down – where women would tend to be more open minded to adapt to things like that, than the opposite sex would. I think part of the reason is that we are so accustomed to change, not just with running matters but with life in general too – so being flexible with our sport comes almost naturally to us beautiful ladies!
This is a very personal one for me but I think it very much applies to all us amazing females out there. We all have an inner strength, a physical strength, mental and also emotional strength inside each and every one of us. We may not sometimes feel it or believe it – but it’s there.
Recently I was getting tired of people always telling me how “strong” I was for whatever reason – but then I actually started to believe and feel it – and so I decided that this one word was going to be my first tattoo. It is now my personal constant reminder when I’m on the road or when I’m sweating it out with some weights at the gym or even if I’m having an emotional wobbly…..just that one word carries so much meaning for me.
I really believe that our bodies and minds are stronger than we realise, we can handle so much and I don’t think we give ourselves half the credit we deserve sometimes. So believe it ladies… STRENGTH – you’ve got it !!!
We know we are unique and we are proud of it. We are comfortable in our own skin and do not shy away from being who we are. We are happy to run our own race, be it alone on the beach or chugging along in a bus with a group of strangers at a race like I just did on Sunday! I think we stand tall and are quietly proud of the things we achieve as individuals. Sure we can be competitive out there too, we all have that in us somewhere, but we know and accept that we have our own capabilities and can run our own race without having to keep up with the Jones’s. And we do this with our own style, approach, attitude and manner – which just makes us fantastic INDIVIDUALS!
FRIENDLY & SOCIAL
So by no means am I standing here now and saying that you guys are all a bunch of anti social grumpy geezers – BUT – what I am going to emphasize is that the female walkers, runners and athletes out there, bring a different dynamic to the feel of this sport. We’re chatty, we can be giggly, we’re the first ones to smile, wave and chirp at others on the road, the first to dress up and have some fun too – and we have a soft element to us that takes away the “hardness” of running in a way.
It takes all types out there and both sexes sure, but I think us chicks have the upper hand here! I know from my personal experience and from being around at a few races supporting and maybe even running the odd one – the buzz around us ladies is always so contagious! Without us, let’s be honest – it would make for a pretty quiet and dull club!
But on a serious note, there is so much more that I could say as I do believe that we are complex souls and we have so many characteristics, traits, ways, attributes – call it what you like… BUT they are all just different aspects that make us women such diverse, powerful, interesting and awesome humans. I haven’t even touched on things like willpower, perseverance, endurance, positivity, patience, discipline, supportive and so on……we’re just FAR too awesome for me to keep talking here but I think you get the idea anyway…..!!!
Most of you know that I generally speak very openly and straight up – so I can admit that I know I am often very hard on myself, for whatever reason – and I think in general we all need to be kinder to ourselves, be gentler out there and actually believe that the few things I have mentioned tonight – are all very much a part of each and every one of us. Our DNA is amazing ladies!!!
Right – so in all fairness – I also could not stand here now and NOT say something about the opposite sex too!
So – to you rocking guys out there that are our partners, husbands, lovers, friends, relatives and more……I’m sure many of the ladies here tonight will agree with my sentiments. We may not always be easy, we may challenge you, push buttons, drive you to drink and whatever else – but at the end of the day, your love and support means the world to us and knowing that you are proud of our achievements, no matter how big or small, is all that matters. Understanding our DNA will go a long way – and maybe you have heard a few words that ring true tonight about your better halves …. So yes guys, we love and appreciate you loads.
In ending, I will say this to the ladies – stay true to yourselves, have the courage to face those challenges and have fun while doing it all. With regards to your running or even your walking goals – remember that what seems hard now, will one day merely be your warm up.
Your running shoes have magic in them. They have the power to transform a bad day into a good day, frustration into speed, self doubt into confidence – and my favourite bit of magic – the power to turn chocolate cake into muscle !!!
We spend our lives obsessed with and controlled by time. We wake up at a certain time, get the kids to school at a certain time, go to work at a certain time, attend meetings at a certain time, leave work at a certain time, fetch the kids at a certain time, and go to bed (mostly) at a certain time … only for the cycle to repeat itself the next day, and the day after that.
For some this brings structure and we call it routine. For others, it brings monotony and inflexibility and we call it boredom. Some love the structure of time and are hardly ever late, while others operate as if time does not exist. It can be argued that where we fall along this continuum informs how we define time – as an immovable finite point or as an elastic band that can be stretched in perpetuity.
When it comes to running, our obsession with time escalates to the point of being unhealthy. Hang around any group of runners and the conversation invariably leads to, “What is your best time for …?”, “How fast can you run this distance?”, “What speed are you training at?” and so on.
When we run, we are constantly monitoring our time, speed and distance. If we can do a 5km in X time, then we should be able to run a half marathon in Y time. Or alternatively, if we want to achieve a target time in a race, then we need to train intervals or thresholds at a certain pace. Hence, time becomes ingrained into our running psyche, becoming the sole criteria that determines our ability.
But running is not all about time; it’s about far more than that. Running is about enjoyment, regardless of the time it takes to complete a race. It’s about the friendships we make, laughter, stories shared, journeys travelled together and supporting one another. Yet we often lose sight of this.
For example, when we get injured, we immediately want to know how long it’ll be until we can run again, rather than what we should be doing to avoid injury in the future. Time becomes the focal point, the end goal, and we lose sight of what actually is important.
In running, as in life, time will always be there – from the start of the gun to the finish line. What really matters is how we spend that time, how we enjoy ourselves, how we support one another and how we thank others for giving up their time .
So, at your next race, don’t focus on your finishing time. Rather focus on enjoying the camaraderie, helping or encouraging others, and thanking those who give up their time (like the marshals and supporters). Time flies when you’re having fun, so focus on the important things and you might fly as well.
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….
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?
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?
Another lovely, well organised race out at Riebeek Kasteel in the Boland farmland district. The vibe was there on a chilly cloudy morning, along with West Coasters in droves. Only 5 of the clubs’ most hard core took on the tough marathon around the mountain, while the half marathon was almost half West Coast with many familiar faces and a few new ones in club colours.
The morning started with a car pool of 5 of us driven by Naz, 2 guys, 3 chatty ladies on the back seat, lots of good conversation for the hours drive, with a drunk driver mounting the pavement and taking out a street sign in front of us in Malmesbury adding to the entertainment. We arrived to find West Coasters in swarms.
The small field of the marathon kicked off at 7.30am, with the half starting at 8am. Apparently there was a 10km and 5km fun run, I didn’t see them or who was participating.
Sean Falconer of Modern Athlete Magazine was his usual chirpy self on the mic at the start and finish, (though he STILL doesn’t know my name despite many interactions over the years, but he knows Naz! Pfft!).
The half kicked off with great a load of cheer down a short steep hill and out of the PPC factory grounds and on to the main road back towards the quint arty town of Riebeek kasteel, passing through the rather uglier Riebeek West on a route dominated by rolling hills that added to the challenge of the race. Zita and I ran together all the way from about 5km pacing a comfortable speed with lots of conversation and cheering other runners to make the time fly past faster, finishing at 2h15m with Thelma having joined us in the last few km’s.
We passed the long wait for our chauffeur Naz to finish with photo’s, selfies and chit chat with the many other West Coasters already finished. I filled a nagging gap with a boerie roll.
In all an enjoyable morning on the road. I only have one complaint – the old stuck record chant of the mess at water stations. This time the organisers to blame as there were quite a few water stations with NOT ONE bin. Many of us do try to run clean and simply refuse to drop our litter on the ground, but when no provisions are made for rubbish it is annoying and awkward. I carried my empty water sachets in my vest pouch but I dropped a cup at a water table and felt really bad for doing so. It’s really not fair to bang on at the runners all the time about litter and even depriving us of water at some races, yet at others the organisers simply don’t do their bit. Ironically Sean Falconer is the campaign leader for RunClean yet at a race he’s MC’ing there’s no bins.
That’s my contribution! Thanks to my team West Coast for many reasons to be a proud team member!
Here’s my pics. Feel free to add more in the comments below.
The idea behind this website is to be a one stop all inclusive information portal for both potential members and existing club members. Besides general club information we also would like the website to be interactive with contributions from the club community. To do this we are welcoming members of the club to become registered contributors to the News & Blog page, we only ask that contributors adhere to a few basic guidelines.
To become a contributor please contact Justin at email@example.com, I will set up a user name and password with access to compose and upload posts with images and send you some basic instructions to create interesting posts. Of course your access to the website will be limited to posting blogs posts only.
Images: You are welcome to upload some photo’s to your post if they are your own images. If you upload somebody else’s images you need to ensure the owner has given you permission, and you need to credit the person who supplied the images.
Please ensure the images are of decent quality and not too big in file size. In the image settings a width of 300px is suitable, you can select the “Link to Media File” option then the images will open in a full screes lightbox window when clicked.
Links: Text and images can be turned into links to other pages, websites and media files as required. Please ensure firstly that in the link settings you select “opens in a new window”, and CHECK the link to make sure it goes to the intended page and the content is clean!
DO NOT post advertising or inappropriate content, even as a joke. Offenders will have access rights permanently revoked and you will be named and shamed.
Keep the content to running, across all genres, in fact we’d love contributors from road, trail, cross country, walking, track, etc. Not just road races. But this is a running club website, not your personal diary or self-glorification platform. Admin reserves the right to disallow the publishing of non-suitable content to the blog page. All posts will be moderated (checked for suitability, NOT edited!) before going live.
Start your article with some facts about the event. Location, route, distances, hosting club, etc.
Write about some interesting observations about the event such as weather, vibe, the organisation, praises & complaints, etc.
Then tell your personal account from the perspective of a West Coaster.
Add your picture gallery to the bottom of the text content.
Make it interesting, funny, fascinating and not just factual.
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If contributors can adhere to these general guidelines the blog content will be consistent and interesting enough for readers to come back for more.
For any queries please contact Justin, Website Admin, on 0617468928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cape Town Festival of Running half marathon started at 7.30am on the Sea Point Promenade, routed through Bantry Bay to Camps Bay and on towards Bakoven for a while then turned back to finish at the same place as it started. Hosted by the Hewatt running club, the event also featured a 100km and 50km Ultra in loops around Sea Point and a 25km relay all the day before.
The weather on the day was unexpected, with a hot dry Berg wind in the middle of winter runners found themselves struggling a bit in the energy sapping atmosphere, this coupled with a serious lack of water on route and badly congested water tables far and few between many runners got uncomfortably thirsty. That’s my experience and I didn’t speak to another runner who felt otherwise. Something the organisers will need to look at in future. Most of us are all for the RunClean initiative but if the organisers are going to make us queue at water tanks with cups for water they seriously need to streamline the process, because it didn’t work today. I also found registration to be quite disorganized, but it wasn’t something that bothered me. In all the event was fun and sociable on a scenic, not too difficult route and seemed to be well attended and enjoyed, despite the dry mouths!
From a West Coast perspective, the club was once again proudly well represented with many runners in club colours taking on this race with lots of cheer and smiles and camera’s all over. As always it was noticeable how most West Coasters acknowledge each other on the road way more than other clubs seem to do. The new members seemed somewhat taken aback by all the greetings by fellow club mates, but they’ll soon fit in. It’s inspiring what a friendly and encouraging group of athletes West Coast comprises of.
There was no club gazebo at the finish, so the club crowd dissipated off to their Sunday lunch destinations rather fast after the race.
From a personal point of view, a hearty thanks to Tamara Billimore for the company towards the end, both of us struggling with injuries so we quite happily walked and chatted the entire last 5km right through to the finish line, rather comically and unceremoniously.
The West Coast 2018 Comrades Awards evening was held at the club house on Tuesday 24 July 2018. The fantastic and informative presentation and video was created and presented by WCAC Comrades Guru – David Yuill as liquid refreshments flowed copiously in true West Coast style.