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!
Hi All, hope you are all doing well? And looking forward to our first outside run? Going to be the best run ever.
In light of the president’s request that we wear MASKS…we are having masks made in our club colours , with our club logo on. They are very good quality, are washable and have a removable filter. They have been successfully tested through a hospital autoclave machine.
As a community initiative, the club is subsiding 50% of the cost – selling them at R20 each.
Please let me know if you will be interested and how many you would like?
Thanks to Graham Hough from Expand A Sign for providing these high quality masks.
Welcome to our MONTHLY AWARDS evening. Little different – but we can still celebrate our March winners.
Justin Roux for giving up his marathon at Weskus to help an injured runner. A selfless act from an awesome runner. Very proud to have you part of WCAC ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Tamara Maneveld Billimore for persevering like a champ to finish Weskus marathon. Coming back from injury and had to dig really deep. Very well done!⭐️⭐️⭐️
TRAIL RUNNER for March
The amazing Colleen Cross for completing the grueling Addo 44km trail run. Absolutely brilliant!⭐️⭐️⭐️
FEMALE RUNNER for March:
Nominees: Lisl Grobler, Itumeleng Molefe, Elisabeth Stavenga, Monica Paterson and Xolisiwe Tolokazi Booi.
And the winner is…. Itumeleng Molefe for 3 SILVER standards.
Century City 10km (44:29), Slave Route 21km (1:39) and Constantia Village 15km (1:09)
Very very well done ⭐️⭐️⭐️
MALE RUNNER for March:
Nominees: Nick Miles, Wayne Leonard, Willie Coetzee, Elijah Racoco, Anele Bans, Mafika Makhathini,Luca Boyana, Andre Pepler, Graham Hough, Japie Swanepoel,David Yuill, Marius Nel, Iain Park-Ross, Alan Berning, Henricus Cook and Osbourne Renecke.
And the winner is Luca Boyana on a brilliant 2:42 time for the Weskus marathon. A GOLD standard. Absolutely brilliant ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Very well done to all. The awards will be handed out at our first possible awards evening 🏆
The ELE Trading League Cup was born out of the idea of having reward and recognition for the short distance members since they, the majority of the club’s membership, do not participate in the big-name events such as Oceans Ultra, Comrades, Ironman, Puffer, etc. The competition was initially named the Short Distance League Cup and presented at the club’s monthly awards evening on 7th November 2017 by the then vice-captain for short distances, Naz Parker. Subsequently ELE Trading came on board to sponsor the awards for a period of 3 years and the competition is now known as the ELE Trading League Cup.
2. How the ELE Trading League Cup works
The league consists of races up to a distance of 21.1 km only and includes all those in the Western Province Athletics race calendar along with selected races from Boland and South Western District. The competition is based on points. Each race carries 10 points. However, specially selected races carry bonus points. A bonus point race’s points is determined as follows: 10 Points + Points to the value of the race distance. E.g. if you participate in the Timber City SpookHill 15 km Challenge (a bonus point race), your points tally for that race will be 10 + 15 = 25. Similarly, if you run the PPC Riebeek Berg Half Marathon (also a bonus race), you points for that race will be: 10 + 21 = 31.
3. Awards for the ELE Trading League Cup
A quarterly award for the male and female member leading the points table for the said quarter will be awarded at the club’s monthly awards evenings of April, July, October and January. The male and female winners of the league will be awarded a floating trophy and a trophy or medal or shield to keep at the club’s annual awards ceremony in February/March/April of the following year. In the event of a tie (2 or more members on equal points) for the quarterly and/or final awards, the winners will be determined by means of separate 5 km Time Trial races for male and female members.
4. Rules & Regulations for the ELE Trading League Cup
4.1. Participants can be any paid-up ASA registered member of West Coast Athletic Club.
4.2. Only races listed on the ELE Trading League Cup count towards points.
4.3. Results are obtained from the official race results published by WPA. Ensure that your name (as registered with ASA) is correctly written on the race cards at races and that you hand-in your race card at races. If you name does not appear on the official race results, is incorrectly spelled due to race officials not being able to decipher your handwriting, or you have been disqualified during that race, no points will be awarded even if you did participate.
4.4. Updates to the league table will be published on the club’s website and/or Facebook page.
4.5. All league-related queries are to be directed to via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
As some of you may know I attempted my first hundred miler during the month of March. While the event had an unfavorable ending due to a fall my training taught me a great deal about how important rest is. During that time I was researching and having discussions with my coach as to what this entails. The one thing he said that stood out was that rest was possibly far more important than the training itself.
How the pros train has mostly been a secret. If they do divulge on their training methods it has been in a book or training programs you need to purchase. Even in this instance, it has not been down to the exact detail of how they did it.
Jim Walmsley has blasted the door wide open with showing each of his runs on Strava.
Jim is one of the Coconino Cowboys, more commonly referred to as “The Cowboys” in ultra trail running. His story is definitely one to read up on.
What makes his training exceptional is that he runs in the range of 120-170km a week. To add to the mystery even further, is that these runs are often done at high intensity. The first question that came to mind for me was how does he achieve this without getting injured!? The theory, as mentioned above, tells us that rest is just as if not more important than the actual training. This sparked a few weeks of frantic research on the concept of muscle recovery and “rest”. Clearly, Jim is incorporating rest in a different manner as to the traditional rest day.
What does rest mean?
To my amazement, I discovered that “rest days”don’t actually mean you sit and do nothing. In fact athletes and patients that have muscle and or tendon injuries that are stagnant in fact recover slower from injuries than those that don’t. The only reason this was a starting point… was that when searching for rest after exercise the majority of hits were more about injury recovery. Right, so during injury recovery you should not be completely immobile. Why though, surely lying down, sleeping and eating would be optimal? Just on this point, one could submit an article to the medical journals of the science why movement assists in injury recovery. Research further reveals that slight stretching should be incorporated daily combined with foam rolling. Here however they hammer on that the muscles be warm before doing so, and that the intensity is very light. This can be achieved with a warm shower or bath, and or warm packs before doing stretches and foam rolling.
I was able to deduce that injury recovery entails movement of some sort if you wanted to heal faster. This still doesn’t answer what to do for recovery between exercises. However, it does bring us closer to understanding “rest”. Clearly, if injury rest and recovery process entails movement then it would be correct to assume that muscles recovery or in short “rest” needs to include muscle movement.
When is this “rest” period though? For most of us, we think of it as the “off days” or rather the days where we don’t run. Some incorporate cross training on days they don’t run to train other muscle groups around the ones they use for running. The point is we associate the rest time with the days we don’t run. How does that relate to Jim or Ryan Sandes, South African 100 mile champion and red bull runner, who doesn’t take many if any rest days? The truth is… “rest” period for them starts as soon as the exercise comes to an end.
Maximising Rest Period
When your running activity comes to an end, the gap between the end of your current activity and the start of the next activity is essentially a rest period. What the professionals do is they maximize this period by aiding the recovery period. Thus making the hours between activities be as effective as doing nothing for a day or two. This became very apparent when filtering through articles that have been written on effective training and the average day of a pro runner.
Let’s have a look at the summarised “routine” of a pro or a semi-pro athlete:
Wake up and consume water with supplements;
Stretch and foam roll while muscles are warm;
Warm up and exercise for the day;
Post-exercise drink recovery drink that is pre-made;
Stretch and foam roll;
Ice bath or Ocean bath;
Hot Epson salt bath;
Stretch and foam roll;
This has been the rough design that I have come up with after combining some of the articles I have read. This excludes Lyno and massage therapists days.
From the above, we can clearly see that “rest” starts as soon as the activity ends. This is also extremely time-consuming for a non-professional athlete. It would almost be impossible to incorporate a normal working day into this. I say almost but I can’t see myself being able to do all of that effectively and work a full days work. Does this mean we should throw in the towel because what’s the point then? Absolutely NOT, what it does give us though is the insight into the concept of the loosely used term “rest”. From this, we might be able to shorten the number of days we “take off” or, more importantly for me, can make the long run days post-exercise feel more comfortable. Not to mention, make the Monday post a hard training weekend feel a little less blue.
While the above gives a high-level framework it doesn’t go into detail as to what exact stretches, foam roll exercises, length of ice-bath, the amount of Epson salts per liter of hot water nor the exact supplements or diet. What a framework like this does do though is help with incorporating routine and discipline.
I am personally in the process of implementing a framework like this for myself, only been toying around with the exact structure for the last week after weeks of research. Below will be the “work in progress” framework for myself, a non-professional ultra trail runner, to give you an idea as to how you might like to incorporate some type of “rest” framework for yourself.
Wake up and consume water with supplements – 5 min;
Prep and Eat breakfast – 20 min;
Hot Shower – Depending on water restrictions, if none then 5 min;
Stretch and foam roll after a shower – 15 min;
Warm up and Exercise for the day – 1h to 1h 30min;
Post-exercise recovery drink and quick shower – 5 min;
Stretch and foam roll – 15min;
Therefore 2h 5min or 2h 35min before my workday starts;
Eat Lunch – 30min;
Walk – 30min;
Sneak in another meal at the desk;
Hot Bath, dependant on water restrictions, otherwise a short shower;
Stretch and foam roll – 15min;
Wake up and consume water and supplements – 5 min;
Prep and Eat breakfast – 20min;
Hot Shower – 5 min (dependant on water restrictions);
Stretch and foam roll after shower 15min;
Warm up and Exercise for the day – Anything from 1h to 4h;
Post-exercise recovery drink and shower – 5min;
Stretch and foam roll;
Ice bath – 20 min (normally eat during the long run exercises so can wait);
Eat a large meal;
Hot Epson salt bath 20min (water restriction dependant);
Stretch and foam roll – 15min;
As to the details of the supplements, diet, stretching and rolling exercises, and the training I won’t be sharing on that. Purely because it is going to be different for each person based on the type of running and training they are doing.
I hope that this has been an insightful and fun post to read and would like to hear what you have tried and found to work or just simply your thoughts even if you haven’t tried this before.
One thing is for sure, “rest” does take up a whole lot more time than the actual training. Makes sense why it is just as important as physical training.
Having a few pre-race jitters already? Thinking about how am I going to manage 56km within the required time or at my target pace? How can I improve from last years’ time? Have I really trained enough?
These are a few questions that will be running through more than just one individual’s mind that will be running the Two Oceans Ultra. So yes, you are not alone.
Whether it is a 100 Miler Trail attempt or a 56km Road Ultra attempt there are a few key things I like to keep in mind. I hope that these will come in handy and thus create a memorable experience for your Two Oceans Ultra. Let’s look at a few steps to achieving this.
Step 1: Things you can control.
Finalize things you can control pre-race.
Here I’m referring to registration, on the day transport, arranging seconds, gear check.
Being in Cape Town I would suggest going on Wednesday, or the first day of registration, to collect your race number and Racetec chip. If it’s not your first time, remember to take your old chip with and get them to check it is in good working order. DO NOT linger around wasting time at registration especially if you are unable to go on the first day. You do not need to add extra time on legs for any reason. If you happen to be going with a group of people that do want to spend time at the expo then arrange to meet them at a coffee shop after.
That being said to make sure that you leave the expo with all the required items you will need for race day such as, race numbers and Racetec chip.
Transportation to the race
Here I would strongly suggest using the Bus provided by the club. It is going to be an absolute nightmare to get to the start in your own transport. It will also be very difficult for anyone to drop you off close to the start. There is simply no need to add-on extra stress or kilometers for the day.
This year however there is no transportation back from the event, therefore organise with someone to collect you, however, I do recommend factoring in some time to enjoy the post-race West Coast Vibe.
For those doing Puffer, this is also a great opportunity to put on your trail shoes and go for a trail run after. This will allow you to get a feeling for what awaits in August, hitting the mountain on tired legs is not something to shrug off.
The race is rather well organised and West Coast does have the traditional marathon mark support section. There really shouldn’t be a need for a second in this race. However, if it will make you comfortable having seconds along the route then keep in mind it will be hard for them to move from point to point. I would suggest for multiple seconding points to arrange with different people for each point.
Make sure that you have all your required gear to complete the race prepped and ready two days before. It is not a pleasant experience realising that you don’t have your kit clean or that you left your favorite running cap at a friend’s place the night before. Not to mention that you forgot to get your needed race supplements.
Use what you know works for you.
Seriously that’s it, don’t try new things on race day it just will end up making you anxious unnecessarily as you will not know how your system reacts to it.
Don’t get into a shitty situation
Try to go to the loo the night before or in the morning at home before getting on the bus.
Grab a newspaper, magazine, tablet or your phone then sit down and wait for your system to empty itself. There is nothing worse than needing to go unnecessarily on race day.
That being said, run with a few wet wipes in a bank bag or a small ziplock bag just for the off chance nature calls during the race. You do not want to get to a porter loo only to find no toilet paper.
Anti-Chafe Cream and Sunscreen
If you know you chafe then make sure you put on the anti-chafe where needed. Apply liberally as it is going to be a long day out. The same goes for sunscreen. You really do not want to be finding yourself getting roasted. I would recommend applying this at home before heading out to the bus pickup point.
Make sure everything you can control pre-race day is sorted out. This will help relieve most of the tension.
Step 2: Plan but respect the race.
Understand the race you are about to run, you should know the race profile to the point where you can recite at which kilometer the profile changes and the type of change.
Oceans, for those that haven’t meticulously studied the profile, is a very misleading race the first +-30km. It’s rather flat for the first half and overcooking it from the gun is a huge temptation.
If you are feeling strong then slowdown is my advice for the first 20km. Use the first 20km as a means to get your body warmed up and comfortable. You can always increase your pace later on if needed. Going out too fast will cost you in this race as the climbs are at the end.
I would also strongly suggest joining the clubs long run that recce’s the last part of the route.
When planning your expected pacing take into account that there is going to be traffic at the start.
A big mistake here would be to try running on the pavement and weave in and out amongst runners. It’s risky in terms of falling and wastes large amounts of energy unnecessarily. The field will thin out as the race goes along. REMEMBER TO WATCH OUT FOR CATEYES!
As with any ultra, whether trail or road, it is highly suggested to have a plan A, B, C, D. Things just happen to go wrong the longer the race is. Setup your desired pacing accordingly and know what you will do if something was to go wrong like an upset stomach, blisters, unexpected chafing, etc.
This way you won’t be caught off guard and will also not feel overwhelmed if things don’t go 100% on the day. Also, take note of the weather forecast for the day.
This is what we refer to when we say respect the race, making provisions and acknowledging that no ultra is easy. Knowing the race profile really does help, another thing not to brush off.
Step 3: Race etiquette.
Unfortunately, we have to touch on this subject. There are just a few small things to remember to make it an enjoyable race, not only for you but for others too.
Firstly and foremost is litter. There is absolutely NO EXCUSE not to put the empty water sachets in the bin or to carry them with you to the next bin. I personally will make anyone’s life a living hell for the duration of the race if I see them doing this. The reason being is that the plastic becomes crazy slippery when there are a few of them piled on the tar, making it an accident scene waiting to happen. Obviously, the environmental impact is also something to keep in mind. So please don’t be that person that doesn’t have basic manners and acts like their parents didn’t teach them the right way on race day.
Secondly, have fun. It really is a beautiful race. The views are spectacular and the atmosphere is contagious on the day. It really is a special race that will leave its mark on you.
Thirdly, smile and remember to great your fellow club mates along the route. It really does mean a lot to people when you say hi to them as they know it takes a bit of extra energy to do so.
Lastly, obey the race marshals and remember that your safety is their first priority. They are not there to make your life difficult. Giving them the thumbs up or thanking them also goes a long way.
Step 4: Listen to your body and ignore the mind.
Your mind is going to pull the usual stunts on race day. It normally starts around the 30km mark. I have no idea why but most runners can concur with this. In two oceans however the profile also starts to change at this point. Here is where the training and knowing your strengths come into play. Some people are great uphill runners and others can allow their quads to take a beating on the downs. Remember what worked for you during training and listen to your body. If it needs to take a walk then take a walk. If you have overcooked it and feel like pulling out the race, take 15 min on the side of the road and relax. If it still is unbearable then take another 5 min before you exit the race. In this time try to get some electrolytes into your system. Most runners that have pulled out of a race say that while they sit in the bailers’ bus they start to feel better shortly after getting in.
Stick to your strategy and remember we all have to run our own race.
Remember these steps and you should have a great race experience!!
Curious as to what I will be taking or using on race day then you can read lower down.
My Two Oceans Preparations
Last year I ran the long trail the day before and the following day the 56km.
This year I will be doing it the other way around, the 56km followed by an additional 44km trail ultra.
My goal is to try and run 100km in sub 15h. Which sounds like a lot of time however a trail ultra is never a quick exercise.
I will need to have a few logistical and other plans in place.
Firstly, I will definitely be making use of the bus to the event.
Secondly, I will be trying to figure out if I can get my trail gear to the finish of the 56km.
That being said, I will have to make sure that during the 56km that I am very well hydrated and my electrolytes are topped up every 15km. Otherwise, the trail section is going to eat me alive and make for a very very long day out.
Thirdly, provided we start on time, I may have to consider that there is a chance I will be running at night. This is going to mean packing in a headlamp and some warm clothes.
Fourthly, food for the trail. There won’t be aid stations so packing light but high-calorie food is also going to be a challenge of note.
The weather is going to determine if I do attempt the extra 44km on the day. As it is not an official race and I will be on my solo in the mountain and am not prepared to risk life and limb if the weather is unfavorable.
So let’s hope for great weather on the day.
You should now have a good idea as to whether or not you are brave or stupid enough to enter your selected 100 miler.
Either way, this is not going to detract from the fact that training is going to take a large part of your time going forward.
We mainly focused on the pre-entry analysis in the last post.
For this post, we will predominantly focus on how to research and plan training going forward.
Ideally, you would like a year or more to get yourself feeling comfortable for such a large distance.
Best to build slowly over time and after a solid rest. Resting and timing when to rest will also play a key part in achieving getting to the start line injury free.
As with the previous post, I will be breaking it up into steps/sections to attempt to make the flow of the document a tad easier and more pleasant.
Pre Training Analysis
Step 1 – List what you know
We have heard and seen that no one person’s body reacts the same to identical training programs, even at the same intensity, time of day, temperature, humidity, etc.
The reason for this is simple, we don’t live the exact same lives. While some tense up their muscles from stress others perhaps struggle to sleep as the brain unwinds, the point is we are different.
To make life a lot easier for yourself and your coach (really recommend a coach that has run a few of these and completed them) we are going to pick your brain on things you do know.
For most people, this will not be their first road/trail ultra.
What do you normally consume during a race?
Do you have a set plan in terms of what supplements you drink or consume?
I, for example, find that a rehydrate or cramp ease every 15km tends to help me stay on top of getting cramps. It is also vital for me to consume some sort of food at 50km like stew or chunky soup with bread, cheese, and biltong. Eggs and bacon is also a winner if possible.
In combination with this, at least 750ml of water is needed every 10km.
For a treat, I enjoy a good date ball that is made of dates, nuts, coconut, and honey. Kind of a reward snack for having reached a certain point in the race or training run.
This combination or strategy has worked for me during my long training runs.
If you do not have a nutrition plan that works for you or one that is rather more guesswork than anything else I recommend to make a huge mental note here. Knowing what does and does not work for your digestive system is a huge plus.
During your long training runs, you will also want to eat, this will teach your system to learn to handle food while running. This will also help you determine at what pace to run before/during/after consuming food.
How long does it take you to recover after a marathon FULLY!?
Recovery in this instance means, absolutely zero stiffness or pain AND a back to normal low HR at regular low HR pace? What do I mean here…
During your training for a marathon, there will be some easy recovery runs that you would have done. These will either be pace based or HR based. An example, if I am well rested I can run at 6:15/km at my recovery pace. If I am slightly fatigued or have been training hard for the week that can be 7:30/km. That way I know I am feeling recovered after a marathon, in terms of HR if I am running anything from a 6:15-6:30/km for an easy recovery low HR run. This is a very important fact to know, so don’t brush it off. How long does it take you to be back to that regular low HR recovery pace with no aches, niggles or discomfort?
This will predominantly give your coach a very good idea as to how to set your recovery weeks, in terms of intervals and intensity for these vital rest weeks as you go along in your training program.
What did you injure previously? How did this injury come about, a fall or overtraining or possibly overexertion during a race?
Knowing the cause of the injury and revisiting that moment in time can give you insight into what not to do. Try and write down the warning signs you had before it took place. You want to ideally avoid this at all costs during training.
What was your recovery time and what steps did you take to recover from this?
Initial Recovery Steps
What recovery steps do you take that have worked well for you in the past?
Some people find that a protein shake post a run has worked miracles for them others have found that 20min ocean baths or hot Epson salt baths have done the trick.
Others prefer and swear by supplements such as slowmag, rehydrate and or vitamin C intake post a run within 20min.
This little piece of information is always overlooked and gently placed to the side. Our bodies recover best when we have had adequate and sufficient deep sleep.
What have you found in the past to be the recommended hours of sleep?
Do you perform better with a regular sleeping cycle?
Have you given much attention to this point before? A vast majority of runners have not. As an ultra-trail runner, this will become your strength or your weakness. Knowing where your best sleeping pattern lies can really give you the edge during building weeks of training.
Shoes and Socks
These two pairs of items can make or break your 100 miler experience.
Finding the right shoes for me personally was not a huge issue but the socks… I could write a whole book on just how darn difficult it was to find the right socks and knowing how to prep my feet to keep them blister free.
The point is though that this is definitely something you want to know as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it is literally a case of trial and error.
A short summary of my experience. I found that trail toe socks worked well for me. I use baby powder to dry my feet, apply Vaseline to the top of the toenails of each foot then place on the sock. Replacing my socks after river crossings or after 50km. I also run the race with a small towel to dry my feet.
Have also found that after all the river crossings to replace my shoes with the socks worked like magic.
It, therefore, is very important to know this before race day as to what works for you.
How does your body react to the weather? Some people really struggle when running in severe conditions. These people have to specifically do heat or cold weather training to get their bodies to adapt to conditions. Heat used to be my Achilles however knowing this I informed my coach and he made sure that my training program incorporated enough heat training.
Try research for the race the different possible conditions for the area and train accordingly. Doesn’t help to train in the snow if your race is in sub-Saharan Africa during the summer.
Felt I had to separate race Nutrition from general Nutrition.
There is a lot of buzz going about as to what to eat etc during training.
My advice is just to make sure that whatever your preferred dietary plan that you consume enough calories in a day. Sounds really strange but make sure you are not starving yourself. It can be extremely difficult as a non-professional athlete to balance a busy lifestyle with enough food. Often you feel like skipping meals because you are just too busy with something. Stop and take the time to eat. Here again, it helps if you know what works for you from past experiences.
If you do not know what works for you or feel that maybe this could be improved upon then now is the time to see a dietitian before the hectic training starts.
How many days do you find that foam rolling and or stretching help?
Do you find that pre or post foam rolling works best? Perhaps rather doing this daily at night before bedtime has a better effect on your system? Do adding certain supplements in this part of your routine also assist with better recovery periods?
Trial and error if you don’t know.
From personal experience, foam rolling at night or at least 5h after exercise works well for me followed by a slowmag and 1 gram vitamin C. This way I minimise cramps in the night and wake up feeling less stiff than usual. In the mornings after a shower, I find that general stretching makes the day a little more bearable especially during building weeks.
Right, so this should give you a comprehensive idea of what you do or rather don’t know.
A lot of these points will come to light as you train.
I suggest having a good old fashioned pen and paper journal whereby you can take note of these things along your journey to training for the 100 miler.
Step 2 … I think that’s enough for this post, next time we can discuss step 2 onwards.
The goal of this multi-part series is to assist those that are thinking of attempting a trail 100 mile race.
Hopefully, this will give some insight into the process of getting to the start line.
If you have never attempted a 100 miler trail race, forget everything you think you know about running a race. Start afresh with your preparations and be prepared to train like never before.
“Really!? You are starting with training as the first post?”
Unfortunately, most of us think of training as putting your exercise clothes on and heading out to do some physical activity. In a 100 miler it would be impossible to finish the race without the physical training however, the mental and analysis skill development outweigh the physical.
“Analysis skill development… right…”
Yes, the ability to analyse, assess and execute in a situation when you are awake for more than 24h gets challenging. As with the physical side, you cannot be expected to master this skill set without some training. The starting point of developing this skill is to learn to research and read.
Your biggest challenges are going to know what to do when faced with adverse obstacles during your run. DNF’s (Did not finish) can be avoided, in most cases, if the runner has mastered the skill of pre-race Analysis. I’m going to attempt to break it down into a few steps to make the thought process seem a bit more logical. To be honest you will be visiting these steps at random, most likely while preparing for your race.
In the first post, we will discuss…
Pick your race carefully. Make sure it will be roughly during the year where you can afford to take some time away from other activities. It will consume you mentally and physically especially leading up to race day. As a non-professional athlete, this is very difficult to predict a year in advance. We all know life happens in between and that we don’t live in a bubble where everything happens according to plan. Note: a year in advance…
No, you cannot click enter just yet… for a while, so relax the submission button won’t jump off the screen!
Don’t get carried away by the sales pitch videos on the website or from pro athlete interviews about the terrain! “Flat, runnable” are two very subjective terms in trail running. For some there are even newly paved roads that are “runnable” or “flat” at 5km into a race but not at 130km into a race.
The term jeep track is also one to take very lightly. I have seen some jeep track that is absolutely not runnable without taking on some serious risk. Even though being simply flat you may discover that they are littered with ankle breaking rocks.
Take into account that running at night can make the terrain also shift from runnable to not.
Another great idea is to establish communication with the event organiser concerning the terrain.
Most of the event organisers will gladly respond to emails or other channels of communication even if you are just a potential entrant. In my experience, if they do not respond to you within a reasonable time it’s most likely not the type of race you want to be associated with. That being said, asking questions one month before a race is not exactly helpful. Allow yourself enough time to research. When asking organisers don’t hold back, it helps you to gather as much information as possible. If you haven’t been able to find videos of the terrain, not the scenery, ask the organiser for pictures or videos.
Make sure you know where the river crossings are, if there are any, and what terrain follows the river crossing. Wet shoes combined with some steep rocky downhills shortly after might make you reconsider or at least prepare you for possible gear change etc.
The two videos give a great example of how even the professional runners can view a race very differently. I think it is clear to see that it is rather subjective as to what is runnable or less challenging.
You should now have an idea if the terrain is something that is acceptable but still a challenge for you over a 161km distance.
Profile examination and checkpoint analysis are generally a great follow up to this. Based on the terrain you get an idea as to why some of the checkpoints are only 10km apart and others might be 6km. The race organiser would’ve pointed out either in the general description of the event or, as a reply to your communication why there might be a difference for some checkpoints. DoNOT forget or disregard this information. Also, take special note as to where the checkpoints are in terms of the race profile and how far after river crossings. It could be on the day or the days leading up to the event that terrible weather has made it impossible for them to set up an aid station. If that was to happen then would you have the correct sized pack and equipment to carry you past a missing checkpoint with adding too much stress to your system?
This brings us to the required and recommended gear list. As mentioned above does your gear allow you, if need be, to miss a checkpoint due to unfavorable weather conditions?
Do you meet the minimum gear requirements and are you able to purchase this well in advance to the race as you need to do the physical training with it. Take into account that when the bag is packed with the required gear and the water is filled that you could be sitting with a 7kg bag, especially if it’s possible that you need to carry food and water for missing checkpoints.
At first glance this is going to be not such a big issue, however, you are going to revisit this point for consideration later. There are some little extras that you might like to add to your gear that you will find during training to prevent blisters, chaffing, cramps etc. A good example of this might be 3 pairs of extra socks and or a towel to dry your feet. Again adding to the weight factor, as wet clothes do add on weight.
Very few bags are fully waterproof for if you fall into the water at river crossings. The last you want is to be pulled from the race because you didn’t waterproof some of the required electronic devices!
If at this point you are happy about the gear requirements, the race profile, and setup, you need to consider the financial implications.
Most events are not around the corner. They require flights, car rentals, accommodation. Often not only just for you but for people seconding and or supporting you.
Make sure you are well prepared and informed into the total cost of this exercise. Don’t forget the car rental deposit…
When computing this also take into account the cost of gear replacement during training. You might be burning through a few pairs of shoes, running shorter “training” races etc to get you to ready for the big day. This part can add up significantly.
Have a discussion with your coach as to what they envision your training would be like for the event. Here you ideally want someone that has done a few of these events themselves. The reason you don’t really find generic 100 mile training programs is that this type of training goes on a day to day basis. Yes, there will be targets set for the different phases that are weekly but it needs to be carefully monitored so that you build but do not injure yourself.
Here you need to get a rough idea as to the amount of training time that make take place to achieve your finish. Also, keep in mind that when you are doing high mileage weeks that post-training recovery time might be needed. Here a good example might be an ice bath or a dip in the ocean or even an afternoon nap on weekends.
You need to take note of the fact that driving to different locations to simulate race day environment might be needed. A great example of this is if you live on the coast that you may need to drive inland for 50km to train in extreme heat conditions. This in order to prepare your body and mind for hot conditions above 40 degrees on race day, which may be common climate for that environment.
The most important step!
Have a discussion with your life partner about what you are wanting to attempt. Show them the research and have a heart to heart about why you are wanting to do this event. Make sure they are aware of the amount of time you estimate it will take in training etc.
If they are not 1000% committed or have reservations as to whether you will be able to manage it then reconsider. Often these people know you better than your happy go luckily race entry clicking fingers. This part can often make or break getting to the start line.
Be honest with yourself, can you really tick off comfortably steps 1-8?
If so, take a night’s sleep and enter for your race the next day.
Running is a great self-esteem booster, especially if you are a beginner runner. Running will allow you to test and expand your limits like never before. With each milestone you reach you will find yourself more confident and able to take on the world.
Initially, once you make the decision to run and actually do it, you will begin to notice changes. You will shed some weight and tone your legs, which will definitely help with your self-esteem. When you start running regularly, you’ll quickly realize that your mental strength or will power, are stronger than ever, which should make you feel as good as you look. You will feel energized and great in general.
After a while you might decide to join a running club, which will be another stepping stone. Eventually you enter a few races for which you train diligently. You muster up courage to show up at the start line of each event. The gun shot goes off and excitedly you run your race. Many races and PB”s later you have grown in confidence and feel as if you can conquer any race.
2) SELF-ESTEEM FLIES OUT THE WINDOW (FASTER THAN YOUR FAILED RUN)
But unfortunately there is always that one race that humbles you. You run the first few kilometers full of confidence and expectation but further into the race your legs begin to feel heavy, your heart begins to race. You force yourself to keep on plodding, gasping for breath. Horrified you watch your slower counterparts effortlessly whizz past. Things aren’t going according to plan and your body is not co-operating. It’s not a good race day. So the comparisons and self-doubt begin. Self-esteem has flown out the window faster than your failed run.
You feel shattered and broken. Feelings of self-doubt and anger start to creep in. How can your body fall apart at a race you prepared and trained so hard for? The answer is… “Because you are not a robot, but a human being with your own unique, individual body make-up of which the brain is the most important and complex organ.” Which means that when faced with failure, we implicitly assume self-criticism is necessary in order to motivate strong future performance. But in reality this strategy often falls flat. Giving oneself a harsh talking to doesn’t just make us feel bad, it also interferes with our ability to calmly examine the situation and identify what to change in order to improve.
4) LIFE IS LIKE A MARATHON. FULL OF UPS AND DOWNS
Have you heard the saying “Life is like a marathon, it’s full of ups and downs that take your breath away?”
So yes! You will definitely experience highs and lows in running. It’s part of the package. It’s what you do with the package that matters.
So please try not to loose your running MOJO because no matter how hard you may have trained or over trained (another story in itself) life happens. It is unrealistic on our part to expect all our runs to be greater and faster. Injuries and failed runs occur to the best of us as we all have our flaws and weaknesses. The secret lies in learning from our failures and to come out stronger and more compassionate.
5) RUNNING AND FAILURE CAN PROVIDE A SENSE OF HUMAN CONNECTION
Running is sometimes considered an isolated and competitive sport, but this isn’t always necessarily true. There are runners who step in to help others in times of difficulty. Running and failure can provide a sense of human connection, because it shows that the struggle is normal. So while running may sometimes be painful, we have to experience a degree of suffering and failure in order to truly value ourselves, to appreciate others, and learn what it means to be self-compassionate so as to pass it onto others. Perhaps because it allows us to appreciate just how small we are in the scheme of things.
6) UNWRAP YOUR PACKAGE
So please do unwrap your package, and if what is dished out to you on the day does not work out, use it to help another struggling or frustrated runner. Be kind to others and yourself, you both deserve it! Remember running is a gift. Open your package and share it with others. Most importantly have fun with like-minded individuals.
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!