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

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

What is the most interesting thing I've seen on a run?

This post is in response to the next question in Christina's running question challenge.

What is the most interesting thing you've seen on a run?

As I do most of my runs early in the morning (between 4:00 and 6:00) I don’t see that many people or people related things during my runs. Over the years there is a few that stand out.

Once I found a Spotted Eagle owl in the road. It seemed to be injured and I thought it was struck by a car. I went home and drove back with my car armed with thick gloves and a blanket to rescue the owl. I took it to a bird sanctuary where they help injured birds. Unfortunately it died soon after arriving there. They said it was poisoned and not struck by a car.

Other interesting stuff on my runs:

The IIS and Space Shuttle together before docking.
A few car accidents, one serious.
A drunk couple going at it in their car with all the doors open.
A police helicopter chasing a hijacked car.

I’ve also run on game farms and in nature reserves where I’ve seen wonderful wildlife including lions, elephants, rhino’s, all kinds of antelope, baboons, apes, snakes, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, lizards, hundreds of birds and just about anything alive you find in South Africa.

Wow, running is so great!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Chocolate milk anyone?

In a recent Runner’s World they had a few “what is the best”, “who is your favorite”, “who is the best” questions that were put to runner’s and gave the answers that came out tops. One question was: “What is the best recovery drink?” The answer was chocolate milk. I was surprised when I saw this but very happy as well because I’ve been drinking chocolate milk for many years after a bad run or a race where I dehydrated badly. In 1996 I ran a 54km race in the heat and dehydrated completely. This is what I looked like at the finish.

Luckily I traveled to the race prepared. I took a dozen of my favorite flavored milk, Super M, with me. I drank 7 bottles of chocolate and 2 bottles of strawberry milk and recovered well and quickly. This was not the first time I’ve used chocolate milk to recover, but this was the worst condition I’ve ever been in after a race or run.

Over the years I’ve always craved milk or some form of milk drink when I dehydrated or started feeling nauseous on a run. A Fanta Orange float is a favorite as well. However, chocolate milk has always been at the top of my list followed by some strawberry milk.

During my last marathon there was a problem with water on the route and I was handed drinks by my family who was driving the route. They also helped many other runners in trouble and later on I had to drink whatever they had left. In the last 10km I drank to bottles of chocolate milk and a glass of water. It was only later that I realized I felt bad between 25km and 32km and much better the last 10km. Did the milk have anything to do with my recovery? I think maybe it did.

I recovered very quickly and didn’t feel sick or anything during the last 10km. I’ve always had the milk after a run and never while running. I’ve always thought I will get sick and throw up if I drink milk while running. This didn’t happen at all. I ran a good last 10km on chocolate milk!

Now I’m wondering if I should try this again on my next long run. Maybe I should have some chocolate milk for the last part or when I start feeling bad. I’m planning a 35.5km training run for the Easter weekend and think I must try some for the last 7km. If this works well I’m thinking of taking some with me for my next long race. I’ll be running a 50km race on 17 April. On this race, the Loskop 50km, the road is closed for all traffic so I won’t have anyone to hand me milk. If I want some I’ll have to carry it with me. I’m thinking of using my hydration pack for this. Maybe I can fill it with chocolate milk and ice cubes and then only use it when I hit a bad patch or in the last part of the race. Well, I’ll be experimenting with this a bit and will let you know what happens.

For now, I’m recovering quickly after the marathon and will be back to normal by the end of the week. No long runs this week though. Only 15km for Sunday and then a hard 87km week next week with 35.5km next week Sunday. This will be followed by a half marathon the following Sunday and then the 50km race on 17 April.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Elands Valley Marathon Report

As promised my race report with a few pics.

After a short morning at work on Friday we traveled to Waterval Boven for the long weekend and of course for me to run the Elands Valley Marathon. The road was busy as lots of people took the opportunity to get out of the city for the long weekend. We travelled safe and without any incidents and arrived at Waterval Boven at about 16:30. The peacefulness of the little town had a calming effect on me and I felt good to be there.

I was glad we decided on a camping weekend as I haven’t done that for a while. Elandskrans is a beautiful resort in Waterval Boven and also very close to the start of the marathon. The camp was full of runners. We had the option to collect our race numbers at the finish venue on Friday evening, but I decided to get it at the start Saturday morning instead. I was not in the mood to drive 42.2km to pick up the number and then all the way back in the dark.

I didn’t sleep very well, but I think I got about 4 hours of good sleep in somehow. The start was at 6:00 and we left the campsite at 5:20. The little town was crowded! Luckily we found parking in a small street close to the registration venue, the local primary school. One thing was certain; the organizers were not ready for the big field. This race is popular and usually has about 2000 runners. This year, with 2010 being a special Comrades year and the soccer world cup in South Africa, all the races have huge fields. This race was no exception. Finding one’s number was a nightmare. Envelopes with names were on tables, but in no particular order. Maybe they were earlier, but when I got there it was a huge mess. No proper queue, just a crowd of runners looking for their numbers. Luck was on my side! When I got to the table my number was right there on the corner, on its own! I grabbed it and went outside quickly to pin it to my vest.

I had about 10 minutes to relax before the start. I never heard the gun or whatever started the race. I just saw the runners moving forward and guessed the race has started. We slowly moved through the town towards the main road. Friendly faces were everywhere and I was in a good mood for the run ahead.

The road out of town is a steep climb up to about 3km. Then we turned right onto the N4 for the rest of the run, going downhill most of the time. I was worried at the first water point when there was no water. Another sign the organizers wasn’t ready for the big field. In the end the first 3 water points had no water left for the slower runners like me. This was really bad and I was lucky to have my family driving on the route and handing me and many others water.

The scenery made up for any negatives. It is beautiful here and this will be the reason I come back for this race again. The town in the early morning sun, with mountains surrounding us, looked fantastic! Spirits were high even though water was in short supply.

I kept an even pace and just enjoyed the scenery and the company of some very friendly runners. Things were great and I loved seeing my son cheering me and the others along the way. My son is probably the friendliest person on the planet!

After 25km I started feeling a bit tired for the first time. My legs were also starting to hurt from all the downhill running. I had to dig a bit deeper here and took a few walk breaks to relax myself. This was the normal long run tiredness and nothing serious or desperate. I just kept going like this and never felt too bad. After some time, at around 32km, I started feeling better again. My spirit lifted again and when I saw the 9km to go sign I was happy again. The last part of the race is still a bit downhill with some long flat stretches in between. You can see the finish with 7km to go and I knew I could now just carry on doing what I was doing and finish fairly comfortably.

On the down side…the last 12km had no water for us slow runners! If I didn’t have someone driving the route and handing me water and other drinks I would have died a slow death here. Many runners were in big trouble. It was warm now and the sun was burning down in the valley. We shared what we could and helped as many runners as possible with what we had. This cost me a lot of time, but I was not worried about that anymore. I knew I would finish and was glad we could help others to do the same. I saw many runners dropping out. Later on our way back, there were still people on the road, with no water, battling to get to the finish. This was after more than 6 hours already. I felt so sorry for them. We had nothing left to give them.

I finished with mixed feelings. It was great to finish a marathon again. The medal is beautiful. It was great to finish this beautiful race in this beautiful part of our country. It was sad that the organizers didn’t cater for the large field. There were pre-entries…why not be ready? I was disappointed with the almost “just don’t care” attitude from the race organizer's side. Families travelling with runners saved the day for many. Without my loving family I might not have finished this race. They are my heroes and I’m proud to say the heroes of many others.

Will I be back? Probably because I love this part of our country and it is a lovely race. Maybe not next year…maybe I’ll take a break from this race for a bit to forget the poor organization and then return. Maybe in a year that has nothing special attached that boost the number of runners participating in this wonderful sport.

All in all I’m happy. My legs are sore, but it’s that good sore…the sore from finishing a marathon.

View these photos and a few more here.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Elands Valley Marathon

Hi all, marathon done! Got the medal and the sore legs to show for it! It was a beautiful race and I had a nice run. I struggled a bit between 25 and 32km but the last 10km I felt better again. We’re still unpacking after the weekend away. We had a great time. Full report to follow. This is me at the finish.


Monday, 15 March 2010

Elands Valley Marathon…Final Countdown

I must say this week seems to just suddenly be here. 20 March was still far away not so long ago. Now suddenly it’s 5 days to go! Am I ready? I think so, as ready as can be anyway. My mind is ready for a marathon and that wins a big part of the battle already. I’ve got no injuries or niggles so the body seems to be ready as well.

The Elands Valley Marathon starts at the station in the town of Waterval Boven. Waterval Boven is nestled in the Drakensberg Mountains on the fringe of the escarpment, at the foot of the southern hills in Mpumalanga. It is a beautiful place and the Elands River and waterfall make it popular with tourists. It is also famous amongst rock climbers.


The marathon starts in Waterval Boven and runs down the escarpment next to the Elands River, East on the road to Mozambique. The run goes through the Waterval Boven tunnel and passes one of the area’s main tourist attractions, the waterfall and old railway tunnel. Runners go through Waterval Onder and the race finishes at the Sappi training grounds at Ndogwana.

We’ll be camping at Elandskrans holiday resort for the weekend as Monday is a public holiday in South Africa. I’m looking forward to the weekend and run. I ran this marathon in 1997 and it’ll be good to be back. I’m going for a relaxed run and just want to finish under 5 hours.

I ran a relaxed 21km yesterday and I’m resting today. I’m glad to say I can’t even feel I ran yesterday. My legs are ready for longer runs. I’ll run 9km tomorrow, 6km Wednesday and 5km Thursday. Friday is rest and travel day. Saturday at 06:00 the marathon starts.

Now to get through the week’s work and stay sane. I’ll be busy at work which is definitely a good thing. Have a good week everyone!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Gadgets and Goodies

Although I love technology I’m not very big on gadgets. When it comes to running I’m not into gadgets at all. No heart rate monitors or Garmins or fancy watches or iPods for me. I run with my stop watch that has two settings…Start & Stop.

The table below appeared in the January 2010 edition of the South African Runner’s World. According to that I’m close to being an old timer with some of the ultra guy qualities added. I really enjoyed reading this table and can relate well to being an ultra guy old timer. I certainly have a lack of gadgets and run in old shirst!

At least I’ve worked through my 1980’s and early 1990’s t-shirts. I currently run in my 1998 t-shirts, working my way through the piles of t-shirts from races all over.

One area where I’ve upgraded my old timer status is the no gadgets area. I’ve replaced my water bottle with a hydration pack for the longer runs.

The most recent upgrade is a running belt to carry my gels and other goodies on long runs. I’ve been using these plastic bags that I pin to my shorts. They work fine, but the newer bags (I use money bags from the banks) are smaller than and not as strong as the older ones. So I decided to finally get myself a proper runner’s belt.

So am I moving into the age of gadgets and goodies? Maybe a little, but I’m very far from any electronic gadget. For now I’m still happy being an old timer.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Ryan Sandes

I’m a proud South African and South Africans are very proud of their top desert runner, Ryan Sandes. He is currently running in the Atacama Desert Race in Chile and won day 1, 2 and day 3. Have a look at Ryan's blog and website. Go Ryan!

Photo by RacingThePlanet

Photo by RacingThePlanet

Photo by RacingThePlanet

Photo by RacingThePlanet

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

What was my worst running moment?

This post is in reply to Christina’s running question challenge.

What was your worst running moment?

My worst running moment by far was when a very close friend of mine was hit and killed by a car while we were on a club run in 1999. The driver skipped a red light and swerved to avoid another car. He hit our friend instead and she died on the scene. I can’t even describe what went through my head. It was just awful and it took a long time for all of us to get over the shock. It was the worst day of my life. RIP Angel.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Downed by a stomach bug

If there is one thing that always floors me completely it’s a stomach bug. Unfortunately that is exactly what got me last week. I started feeling a bit miserable on Thursday and from Friday to Sunday it was man down with cramps right through my digestive system.

I’m feeling better today and hope to run again tomorrow morning. I’ll decide about that tonight and make a final decision when I wake up Tuesday morning. Luckily I’m in a taper phase anyway so I’m not worried too much. As long as I recover completely during this week everything should still be fine for my marathon on 20 March. I think running less than planned during a taper period is actually a good thing and may result in a better race. That is if training up to the taper went well and I’m feeling pretty good about that.

So for now the good news is that I seem to be recovering well and should be running as normal from tomorrow onwards. With 12 days to go to the marathon I hope this stomach bug was the last (and only) bump in the road.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

When I’m Not Running

I’m sure all runners at some point have this remark made to them by some non-running person: “You need to get a life…”, when the person learns about some run or race you’ve done or are planning to do. I get this quite often and my first thought is always that it’s actually the other way round. This person needs a life!

My life is full, with or without running, but running and being in shape makes me cope so much better with my full life. Someone at work made this comment yesterday when he heard that I was up at 3:30 on Sunday morning because I wanted to do a long training run. I don’t respond to this anymore, but thought it might be a good idea to post about some of the things I do when I’m not running.

So here it is! Some non-running stuff I do…

I’m a software engineer and work full time as a software performance tester. In short this means I test software for performance and mainly performance under load. For example I test Internet Banking for banks and see if 1.5 mil people can use the software at the same time at the end of the month. I spend a lot of my time working through graphs like this. This is great as I’m a stats fanatic!

I’m passionate about software and software testing and I write and publish articles and papers on a regular basis and give presentations and talks at seminars, user groups and workshops often.

I enjoy a lot of good times with my son. He will be 9 on 12 March. We like to watch DVD’s and play computer games together when the weather doesn’t allow us to be outside, but if at all possible we’ll be outdoors.

I spend many hours in my garden. I was born with very green fingers. Any plant I touch grows well!

I love taking photos of the flowers in my garden.

I love trains and model trains. I’m building a model train layout and do this often when I want or need to relax.

I keep and breed tropical fish

I have 3 dogs and 3 cats.

We do lots of hiking on trails wherever we are.

I’m an enthusiastic bird watcher.

Between all of this I love to run…a lot.

I’d like to do much more, but I don’t have time as my life is full.