"I'd rather be seen on my bicycle than on a park run" - Quote from the dark side

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Run, Eat, Drink, be Merry…With Moderation!

I’ve never been on a diet and hope I’ll never have to be. I’ve never had a serious weight problem, but I do pick up weight very quickly if I don’t run. Luckily I’ve been running most of the last 29 years! I’m currently on a comeback after the longest running layoff I’ve ever had and yes, I’ve got weight to lose.

When I was in my late twenties and early to mid thirties, I could eat and drink what I want and as much as I wanted and still lose weight, as long as I ran 40km or more per week. Now that I’m 46 this has changed completely. I only started losing weight worth mentioning when I reached 60km – 65km per week. The chart below shows my weight loss from May 2009 to Feb 2010 (in kilograms). It looks good, but it’s not that much for 9 months. I weigh myself on the last Friday of every month.

Although it’s been a slow process, I’m actually quite happy with this. I’m not dieting at all and eat pretty much anything I feel like having. I believe my body tells me what I need, so if I get a craving for red meat, I’ll have red meat, if I crave cheese, I’ll eat cheese. I do however eat and drink with moderation. I’ve always been very disciplined when it comes to moderation. That’s been the case my whole life. I never eat or drink too much.

I still believe this is the way to go. The more I run, the more I eat, but I still do so in moderation. If I eat chocolate cake, I’ll have one slice and that’s it. I also drink alcohol only once per month at most and often only once in three months or so. When I do, it will be one beer or two glasses of wine. I don’t drink any other alcohol, only beer and wine. Other than that I stay away from any fatty or oily food and only use low fat milk, yogurt and anything else that comes in low fat. I never go for fat free. I believe if I train a lot I must take in some fat.

So I eat just about anything but always stick to moderation. I’m losing weight a bit slow, but at the same time I’m running injury free and haven’t had a cold or flu for a very long time. I know as I increase my weekly distance my weight will drop much quicker. The secret is to do this and stay cold, flu and injury free at the same time. For me this means run, eat, drink and be merry…with moderation.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Replacing Running Shoes

I always try to get as much distance as possible out of my running shoes. I’ve been keeping track of this since 1994 and get an average of 1210km (750 miles) per pair. The most was 1549km (960 miles) and I’ve also had shoes that only lasted 820km (508 miles). I would say 800km (496 miles) is the minimum distance one should get out of a pair of shoes. Maybe I’m totally off the mark, but I think most would agree 800km – 1000km should be the minimum. I’m happy with my average 1210km (750 miles) per pair. This is all when running on the road only, no trails. That’s a different story.

I was applying some Sole Saver patching to my old shoes a while back when my son asked me why I made such a mess of my shoes. After explaining that patching the soles help a little to get more distance out of the shoes he suggested I rather buy new ones. Well his eight years old and buying new ones obviously looks very logic to him.

I usually run with two pairs of shoes, alternating them for long and short runs. I use a pair for long runs until I’ve done about 800km with it. Then I swop them with the newer pair and use the old ones for shorter runs until they really can’t be used anymore. That’s when I buy a new pair and run the short runs in the new pair until I swop with the older ones and so I carry on, alternating older and newer shoes as I alternate hard (long) runs with easy (short) runs.

In South Africa running shoes aren’t that cheap and paying about R700 to R1000 (that’s SA rands) is normal. I asked about shoes and the distances people get out of a pair on a local forum recently. It seems my average of 1210km is fairly high compared to most other runners. The average for other runners was between 600 and 800km (372 and 496 miles). The shoes in the photos below had 1000km behind them when I applied the patching. In general the soles still look very good. I always have problems with front foot support before the soles show much wear and tear.

I usually buy 2 - 3 pairs of shoes per year if I run throughout the year as planned. Seems I’m lucky I don’t need new shoes more often. How often do you buy new running shoes?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

How or when did you know you caught the running bug?

This post is in response to Christina's Running Question Challenge.

How or when did you know you caught the running bug?

For me this was very long ago in 1981. My dad signed our whole family up for a race. He, my brother and I did a half marathon and my mom and two sisters a 10km. This was my first official road race. I was in grade 12, my last year at school. I went on to join my dad at more races and was hooked for life. I knew I caught the bug when I started feeling normal about getting out of bed at 4AM to run.

Since then I’ve run 1270 official road races. I hope to reach 2000 races one day. The 1270 is 175 x 10km, 245 x 15km, 378 x 21.1km(half marathons), 184 x 32km(20 milers), 121 x 42.2km (marathons), 111 x ultra marathons and 56 x non standard distances (9km, 16km, 20km, 25km, 30km). Most of these were done in the 1980’s and 90’s.

Monday, 22 February 2010

A Good Week

I completed a good week yesterday with a 25.5km training run. I enjoy these long runs on my own and feel they add more than just the distance to my training. I feel these longer runs build character and helps with mental strength as well. It’s definitely easier to do long runs with someone or in a race. Toughing it out alone when you’re getting tired towards the end is sometimes difficult and this is where the mental training starts. On these runs I just relax and run, starting my watch at the beginning and only looking at it again when I stop it when I finish. Time doesn’t matter and this makes the long runs more enjoyable. I just go out and run like I feel. Yesterday’s run was good overall.

This is me before I went out at 4:30. I think I’m staring at the camera like that because my eyes were shocked that I actually made them look into a flash at that time of the morning.

The weather was perfect and I enjoyed a spectacular sunrise. I felt good and happy that I can really see and feel progress with my running. A wise lady (running buddy with 20 Comrades and a string of 100 milers behind her) always tells me,(in Afrikaans, my home language) “jy moet eers padhard word”. Directly translated that is: “you must first become road hard” or road tough. I thought of her yesterday because I feel I’m getting road tough.

That’s me after my 3 hour run. This time I’m staring at the camera because my eyes were burning from the sweat. At least it looks as if I had a good workout. Actually it was better than that. I had a great run!

This completes a good 75.8km week and I also passed 500km for the year. Today I rest and I’m already looking forward to the next good week. This, if all goes according to plan, will be an 85.5km week. Have a nice week everyone!

Friday, 19 February 2010

ASA Bans iPods From Races

Athletics South Africa has banned iPods from all races. I won’t even try to get the logic behind this decision. Apparently it comes for the cycling world with the controversy over the use of ear pieces to get information from team managers and coaches about the race and opponents. ASA took this further and banned all electronic devices connected to ear pieces or something like that.

Now I wonder how someone can receive info via an iPod. Maybe I can record a motivational message that can give me an unfair advantage…? For decades top runners have been receiving information from the side of the road, written on water bottles, pieces of paper or just shouted out. What’s the difference? Receiving it via a device in your ear or having it shouted to you as you run past your coach? You may also not use your cell phone with a headphone or ear piece. Wonder if you can still carry it and phone someone to come and pick you up if you run into trouble and want to bail out of a race? What about just a MP3 player?

Anyway, this is dumb! If they want to make stupid rules for the top runners that’s fine, but to ban something like this totally is a joke. I never run with music anyway so I don’t get affected by this myself. Not that many runners run with earphones in races. In SA running is a very social affair and once you get to being a regular runner, you’ll rather enjoy the company of those around you than listen to your iPod.

We’ll have to see if and how they enforce this rule. I wonder if any other country will do something stupid like this.

Whatever and wherever you’re running or not running this weekend, enjoy! For something inspirational, have a look at this post by Dave.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

100 Days to go!

Well, there’s 100 days left to get in shape and ready for this year’s Comrades marathon on 30 May. Time certainly flies when you’re having fun! With 100 days to go I think it’s a good time to take stock and look at where I am with my running.

The main focus at the moment is to qualify for Comrades. At the same time I’m building up to go beyond the marathon and run some ultras as part of my Comrades training. This year I’m just going for a sub 12 hour finish at Comrades. For this I don’t mind to qualify in the slowest batch (H). To do this I must run a marathon in less than 5 hours or a 50km in less than 6 hours. There are also some easier options with a 48km in less than 6 hours or a 52km in less than 6:30. Sounds easy enough, but I’m in a comeback phase after a long layoff from running and my last marathon was in April 2004.

My marathon training is going well and I’ve done 2 x 32km races as long runs this month already. This week and next week will be my peak training before the marathon with 75.8km and 85.8km respectively. Then I’ll cut back a bit for two weeks leading up to the Elands Valley marathon on 20 March. If something goes wrong here, there are a few alternatives.

So my schedule for qualifying and training for Comrades will be as follow:

20 March – Elands Valley Marathon (Qualify for Comrades)
28 March – Bruce Fordyce 50km (Only if I qualify at Elands Valley)
2, 3, 4 April – Easter 100km (48, 33, 19)
11 April – Slowmag Marathon (Can qualify here if needed)
17 April – Loskop 50km (Can also qualify here if needed)
24 April – Coaldust 48km (Easy last desperate qualifier, 48 under 6 hours)

26 April – Closing date for qualifying

2 May - 65km long run
3 - 29 May - Taper
30 May - Comrades Marathon (89km)

Even if I don’t qualify I’ll still run most of these. I don’t run for Comrades only. I’ve got a few ultra goals for the second half of the year as well. All of this looks very exciting and a bit daunting at the same time. One thing is certain; the 100 days are going to pass extremely fast!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Newton’s 3rd rule: train first for distance, only later for speed.

No I’m not confused about Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of physics. This is Arthur Newton’s laws of training. You might not know who Arthur Newton is, but he is seen as one of the greatest ultra runners of all time. He started running at age 38 and is mostly known in South Africa for his 5 Comrades Marathon wins.

Arthur Newton on his way to his 1st Comrades win - 1922

In his running career that lasted from May 1922 to June 1935 he held both the up and down Comrades records, the London to Brighton record and the world 30, 35, 40, 50, 60 and 100 mile, and the world 24 hour running records. In this time he ran 102 735 miles (165 403 km) in training. Now that is distance! He was also the first to write a book about ultra running and training for ultra running. I think it was first published in 1936. The booked included Newton’s laws of training.

Finishing London to Brighton - 1924

So why this whole Arthur Newton thing? It’s all about distance. In South Africa a lot about running revolves around the Comrades marathon. At the moment, more than 20000 runners are training for Comrades and obviously every expert wants to tell every other expert how to go about this training. The Comrades is an ultra marathon of 89km (54 miles). It is run over a very difficult route and you have to prepare properly to earn the medal. In the past it was accepted that training for an ultra means running very long distances. This has changed over the years and today the modern approach is to run less distance and put more quality into the running.

I’m what Runner’s World refers to as an “old timer” when it comes to these things. I did most of my running between 1982 and 1997. I learnt about ultra running during the years of distance. However, when I listen or talk to most of the “modern runners”, I constantly hear talk about injury, pain, sore knee, niggle, runner’s knee, ITB and the normal list of runner’s aches & pains. Then I look at how they train and find nearly all these runners include some speed sessions in their training or they are constantly worried about the times they run, in training as well as in races. I also find I’m running more per week than most are doing at this stage. Yet, I’m one of few that are running completely injury free. Why? Because I still follow Newton’s rules of training.

Speed will come later, first get strong by running long and regularly (6 days per week). Arthur Newton ran 20 to 30 miles seven days a week. Yes, it was many years ago, but I think this man knew what he was talking about when he created his rules for training.

Newton’s Nine Rules of Training

1. Train frequently all year round
2. Start gradually and train gently
3. Train first for distance (only later for speed)
4. Don’t set yourself a daily schedule (rather a weekly one)
5. Don’t race in training and run time-trials only infrequently
6. Specialise
7. Don’t over-train
8. Train the mind
9. Rest-up before the race

During his 100 mile world record run - 1928

I might be old school or conservative, but I still stick to Arthur Newton’s rules. I don’t worry about the time I finish a race in. I don’t run time-trials. I train for distance. Speed will come later.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Bronkhorstspruit 32km Report

The heat demons are still following me around and Saturday’s 32km race was a lot warmer than the one of the previous week. The temperature was 33°C (91F) when I finished and went up to 35° (95F) after that. Needless to say it was not the fastest run.

I’ve never run well in the heat and don’t think I ever will. I used the race as a long training run so in that way it was good. I certainly got time on the legs! Nearly 4:30 hours of it! I planned to run between 3:50 and 4:00 but at some point a few of us on the road decided to rather be safe and backed off completely. We walked most of the last 7km in a merciless sun. “This can’t be healthy” went through my mind all the time. There was no shade on the route, not even a little spot for some relief.

Apart from the heat the race went well although I had to make an emergency bathroom (bush) stop just after 3km. Luckily I found a perfect spot under a railway bridge and the necessary numbers, which felt like all numbers 1 – 18 could be accommodated. When I emerged from the bushes under the bridge I was stone last! In the end this was a good thing as I could just relax and run at my own pace, overtaking runners the whole way.

I felt extremely good up to the 20km mark. Hey, only 12km to go! Well, that thought didn’t last very long. Between 20 and 21km the heat started to bother me. There was a really tough and long hill up to 23 or 24 km. This is where everyone started to suffer. It was just too hot! The organizers were brilliant and extra water was off loaded at all the water points. These were 3km apart from the start to 30km. Ice cold water was available at all the water points. There was also more than enough Coke and the helpers really did their best to make us comfortable. They must have been cooking in the sun…no shade anywhere!

There was a silent type of agreement between all…just make it to the finish, regardless of how long it will take. We were all there, sharing the experience and there for each other. No one questioned anyone else for walking or taking it extra easy. We all just carried on to the finish.

I actually recovered almost completely with 2.5km to go. I was feeling good and not tired at all. This was a very good sign. The last 2km I ran most of the way and my legs felt as if they didn’t run at all. Even Sunday and today I feel completely recovered.

So I suffered in the heat again, but I still take only positives from the race. I recovered before the end and finished feeling good. I definitely got good time on the legs done. I did some good conditioning for running in warm weather. I completed my 124th 32km / 20miler. I can carry on with my build up for the marathon on 20 March tomorrow with my legs feeling 100%.

Oh yes…and I had these two waiting for me at the finish, both proud finishers of the 4km fun run.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Running Dreams

I have running dreams quite often and most of the time I’m running some race but my legs won’t get moving. I’ve had a few good runs in dreams as well but usually they are pretty messed up.

Last night I had another crazy dream. I think it came from my last post. I mentioned that I would like to meet certain people and afterwards thought I should have added Davy Crockett. I’ve been reading his stories and reports for many years and he also writes about his running dreams sometimes. If you want to read about insane distances and adventures, read Davy Crockett's blog. Last year he ran 7 hundred milers and is planning the same this year. He started the year with a PR at Rocky Raccoon 100 last week.

By the way, in South Africa we don’t PR, we PB (personal best). We also don’t crew, we second. I know at boxing matches when a new round starts you always hear: “Seconds out, round #2”, so it must come from that. In Afrikaans we say: “Helpers uit” (helpers out). So if you help (crew) a runner at a race, you are his second.

In my dream I was walking inside my old university, but everything has changed. No stairs where stairs used to be and no lecture rooms where they used to be. In the end I ended up at a table with some young guy that ordered food for us. This was for his run he said. The food never came and I was upset. I must have been hungry. I’m often hungry during the night and when in heavy training (90 – 120km per week) I often have a 2AM snack.

Anyway in the dream I suddenly joined the youngster’s mom and dad on a trail somewhere in California and told them, this is so great, I never thought I’d be running on a trail during this trip. The mom answered, it will be even greater later when we meet Davy Crockett. Wow, this was magic! I’m finally going to meet Davy Crockett!

Not long and we were sitting at a table with burgers on our plates (I was definitely hungry). Next minute the man himself appears from a trail, Davy Crockett! Coonskin hat and all. The hat had large white ears at the sides and he was carrying a cricket bat. I didn’t find any of this strange, but I did wonder why a cricket bat and not a baseball bat. In SA cricket is as big as baseball is in the US. Maybe he was a cricket fan…? He did approach the table but… alas, we never met…I woke as he stopped running…

I think I like running dreams. I wonder if all runners have these.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! I’m running a 32km race Saturday morning at 06:00. My 2nd 32km race in 6 days. Will report back on that.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

If you could run a race in a country different from where you live, where would that be?

This is the next questions in Christina's Running Question Challenge.

If you could run a race in a country different from where you live, where would that be?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few years now and hope that one day this will be reality. I’ll travel to Phoenix to run the Across the Years (ATY) 24 hour race. Years ago I was inspired by Lynn David Newton when I read his book, Running Through the Millennium. Since I read the book I’ve been following the race and runners closely every year. I’ve downloaded just about every photo published for this race and has read many reports.

So that’s where I’ll go, for the 24 hour race. I don’t know if I’ll travel that far and then run the 48 or 72 hour. That might mess up the rest of the adventure. Yes, this will be an adventure and I’ll hope to meet Lynn David Newton as well as the Zombies (Don and Gillian) from ZombieRunner. I’ll make sure my trip allows me to drink at least one good coffee prepared by Don at the Zombie Runner store.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Striders 32km – Finished with some problems

My 32km run this weekend didn’t go as well as I hoped for. I ran it as a training run so I didn’t bother about time at all so the fact that I finished another 32km is good. The heat got to me a bit. With all the rain we’ve had this was the first really warm run of the summer. The temperature went up to 29°C (84F) and this was warm for me. The last 10km I struggled and did a lot of walking. Afterwards I was nauseous and even had to stop and vomit next to the road on my way home. Not good at all. I think somewhere I didn’t drink enough water and my sugar levels got a bit high. The sun also got me and my shoulders and back of my neck were sore last night. But I finished and got the distance done which is important at this stage. Another medal on the wall and moving on to this week’s running.

I’ll take it easy during the week and finish the week’s training with another 32km race on Saturday. This will be a LSD training run as well and I’ll concentrate more on my water vs sugar intake. I’m planning a slow run and want to take the first half real easy.

Overall I suppose things are still looking good. My son Rohann added his 2nd 5km medal to his wall as well. I’m positive this week’s race will go much better.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Weekend Happenings

Friday afternoon and I’m working like crazy. It seems that all the projects I’m busy with developed some crisis during the week and everyone everywhere is trying to get things solved before the weekend starts. I’m not complaining and I’m always happy and grateful that in these tough times I still have more work than I can handle.
There is a silver lining though…its weekend and Sunday I’m running a race! I’m running the Striders 32km (20 miles) in Springs on Sunday morning at 06:00. This will be the 5th time I run this race and I’m really looking forward to it although I’m treating it as a long training run. The pics below are from the 2008 race.

This will be the first of three 30+km runs for February. The next will be Saturday next week (32km) and a 35.5km run on the 28th. That will be my peak training for my marathon on 20 March. Things are really starting to get exciting and before I know it, it will be ultra time! I’ve already entered the Loskop 50km on 17 April but will run a 50k on 28 March as well if the marathon goes well. I’m also planning some long training run for Easter weekend (maybe 100km spread over 3 days???). I’ll keep you posted!

Have a lovely weekend all and happy running!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Happy Birthday Dad! 3 February 2010 - 80 and counting

I’ve mentioned my dad and the influence he had and still have on my running a few times on this blog. Well, today is his 80th birthday and I though it well to dedicate a short post to him. So dad, this is for you, for an amazing 80 years, lived by an amazing man. Cheers dad!!!

A few pics of the man himself:

At 80 still ready for a good wine anytime!

Running his 1st marathon - 1982 Jackie Gibson Marathon in Johannesburg

Finishing his 1st Comrades Marathon in 1985

The last race we ran together – 1999 Skukuza Half Marathon. That’s me in red with my brother and his wife between me and our dad.

Good times!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

If you could ask Pheidippides a question, what would you ask him?

This post is in reply to Christina's 3rd question in the running question challenge.


If you could ask Pheidippides a question, what would you ask him?

The first question that popped into my mind when I read Christina’s post was how long did it take? That was followed by what was he wearing? Did he drink any water at all? Was he carrying some weapon or armor? Then I also wondered, did he really run the distance or is there some myth attached to the story? Anyway, this is a great question, I wish I could really meet and talk to the guy.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Living and Running in South Africa

I always get mails and questions from people about life in South Africa. A lot are work related, but since I’ve started my running blog I’ve been getting more general and of course running related questions. Julie asked me about this as well so I’ve decided to add some facts about life and running in South Africa to my posts from time to time. So to start off here’s our flag!

I was born in Johannesburg and have never lived anywhere else. SA is a great place with 11 official languages. My home language is Afrikaans so if you see some strange English from time to time, please forgive me. English is my second language, but luckily I had a brilliant English teacher when I was at school.

Running in SA is huge. Road running is extremely big with the 89km Comrades marathon the main event each year. Trail running is not as big but growing very fast. We have a very strong club structure in South Africa and most runners belong to a running club in their area. This is one of the reasons we have many good races to choose from each weekend as most clubs host at least one race every year. I can choose between 2 to 4 races in a 50km radius from my home almost every weekend…very lucky indeed.

This year I’ve joined a new club and got my new club colors last week. Club members have to run races in their club colors. We also have a license number that we have to wear during races. Usually we run with the race number in front and the license number at the back. Runners that don’t belong to a club must purchase a temporary license when entering a race.

My new club is called “Lewensentrum”. That is Afrikaans for “Life Centre”. This is a picture of my new club colors and license number. This is the colors you’ll be seeing in my race photos in future. Hope there’ll be many of them to share!

To end this post, just in case you are wondering…this is where South Africa is...in the red circle with the small red star (yes it's a star) where you’ll find Johannesburg.