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

Thursday, 27 May 2010

My Running Hero

It is the Comrades marathon in South Africa on Sunday so I decided to write a bit about my running hero, the Comrades King, Bruce Fordyce. Yes, I’m not a kid anymore, but I still have heroes and with running my hero is Bruce. I often quote him in posts or comments so I thought those who don’t know who I’m talking about will benefit from this.

Bruce Fordyce is seen by some as the greatest ultra runner of all time and if you look at the times he was running in the 1980’s it still compares with the best of today. That he was in a class of his own is no question.

Bruce Fordyce winning the 1986 Comrades marathon.

He is most known for his 9 wins in the Comrades marathon, the greatest ultra in the world. However, he didn’t race only the Comrades. He won the London to Brighton race 3 times and set the world record for 50 miles (04:50:21) in 1983 during the race. He also held the world’s second fastest time (04:50:51) that he set in the 1984 AMJA US 50 mile championship in Chicago. In 1989, the year he skipped Comrades to run the world 100km championship, he set a world record for 100km on the road by winning in 06:25. He also, almost obviously, held both the up and down records for the Comrades. The down record stood for 21 years which gives you an idea of how good he was.

Bruce Fordyce with his sister during the 1983 London to Brighton.

Bruce in the 1984 AMJA 50 Mile Championship in Chicago.

Another statistic that not many know about is Bruce’s best time for the mile. That is the mile on an athletics track. The Comrades Mile was run in the 1980’s with about 20 top Comrades runners taking part. Bruce showed his class here and won in 03:58! His best marathon time is 02:18.

The first time I saw Bruce Fordyce in person was in 1983, my 1st year next to the Comrades route on race day. His easy running style was remarkable and I became a forever Bruce Fordyce fan that day. He is a remarkable person with a natural ability to captivate an audience.

Nowadays Fordyce is often seen at endurance events participating to raise money for Charity. He has written a book, “The Marathon Runner’s Handbook”, and had a book written about him, John Cameron-Dow’s “Bruce Fordyce: Comrades King”. He is a highly sought after motivational speaker and is also the CEO of the South African Sports Trust.

Bruce finishing the 2010 London marathon in 03:20.

Bruce is 54 years old now and will run his 28th Comrades on Sunday. He remains my running hero.

Monday, 24 May 2010

A thorn in the flesh…

This past Saturday morning I went for a training run on a trail in a nature reserve close to where I stay. The weather was perfect as it is most of the time during our winter. Cold mornings are followed by open-blue-sky-lovely-sunshine-days. Johannesburg is in a summer rainfall area so the sun shines 95% of the days during winter…lovely!

The reserve is not very big but there are some lovely trails to run with a few challenging climbs and drops over lots and lots of rocks. 

Entrance to the reserve.

I decided to run the Western Scenic Route. I’ve learnt over the years that anything with the word scenic in it guarantees you a tough climb or two. This route is no exception and after 0.5km the climbing starts. 

Rocky trail to the top

I was really taking it easy and didn’t run for any time. I just wanted to run the 9.4km at a comfortable pace, stopping for a few photos along the way.

Look at that blue sky!

The arrow points to my car.

I reached the top of the first climb and started to relax as I ran along the top of the ridge. The trail makes a loop towards the North and then goes all the way to the Western fence of the reserve. There are many rocks to climb over and at times the going can be very slow, but also very enjoyable.

Next to the fence. The trail is somewhere...

I reached the highest point of this trail and stopped for some photos and water. I was carrying my hydration pack and a few jelly babies.

Highest point on this trail.

Just after I started running again I heard someone calling and when I looked up there was a group of hikers about 400m from me towards the West. At first I thought they were just greeting, but then I heard they were actually calling for me to help them. They were lost.

Being the saint I am I diverted off the trail through some very tall and tough grass towards them. There were stones an aloes covered by the grass and it took me a while to get to them. It was a few teachers with a group of children. They were going in the opposite direction that I were and lost the trail somehow. I directed them to the trail where I was when they called me.

Then being the dumb saint I am, I decided to make my way back to the trail by cutting diagonally over the field towards the trail instead of following the children directly to it. Little did I know that the trail makes a 90° turn away from where I was just after the point where I left it. The reason…to loop around a hill covered with some very nasty thorn bushes.

By the time I realized I was in the middle of a very thick thorn bush my legs were already looking like this…

There was no way through these bushes, so I had to go back to where I met the school group and then back directly to the trail. That was the only way around this. Lesson learnt: don’t be clever and try to take a short cut. Just stick to the trail.

After this the rest of the run was pleasant. I met two very friendly donkeys next to the trail and stopped for a chat, some water and a photo. Then I ran down and started the 3km run back to my car on the “easy” trail that runs through the middle of the reserve.

These guys were really friendly

"Easy" trail through the middle of the reserve.

Back in my car my legs were on fire. The fire got even warmer when I hit the shower once I was back home. After that it was fine. At least I got to help some lost kids with their teachers. All in all it was a great run.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Seven things about me

Thanks to Molly I’m now a versatile blogger.  So I owe you seven things about myself…

1. I’m a stats fanatic and keep stats with graphs and trends and anything statty for various things.

2. I often drive different routes to work and back home.

3. I’m a good chess player and sometimes play for charity.

4. I love gardening and like to cross-pollinate flowers to get results as below.

5. I still remember the birthdays of people that were with me in 1st grade…don’t know how, I just don’t forget it.

6. I love trains and model trains and I’m busy building a layout as time allows.

7. Dogs and cats always come to me and want to be best buddies.

If you aren’t a versatile blogger yet, you are now!

This weekend I’m not running any races but will be training hard. 9.4km trail run planned for Saturday including some picture taking practice and a 25.5km road run on Sunday.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Runner’s World Wildlife Challenge

Finally after a crazy but very fun weekend I can get the report of the Runner’s World Wildlife Challenge done. This was a very nice race with a very relaxed and enjoyable vibe overall. The race was run at the Groenkloof nature reserve in Pretoria.

The start was at 7:30 and it was a beautiful, fresh morning. Although it was a short race, advertised as 12 to 15km and 13.1km in the end, I decided to carry my hydration pack with water as well as a few jelly babies with me. I want to be 100% comfortable with everything I need to carry on longer runs so I often carry more than needed on shorter runs as well. I see this as part of my training. I also took my new camera with me to take a few photos and see if I can get comfortable with that.

My 1st photo during a run or race

We started quite fast and everyone was running as if they had to be somewhere in a hurry. Maybe they wanted to get ahead of some people before the single track started. We got to this after about 0.5km and I just fell in behind the guy in front of me and kept going. The pace was still a bit fast for my liking and I realized later that I started close to the front and not close to the back as I normally do.

Soon we were at the first stream crossing and I decided to stop for a photo. This gave some runners that were in a big hurry a chance to pass and I could start some experimenting with the camera. My main concerns were keeping it dry and not dropping it. I had the camera in a plastic bag in one of my running belt’s pouches. This worked well but I did realize if I wanted to take a lot of pictures I’d lose a lot of time. On a trail this is probably worse as you need to be careful not to fall as well. I’m sure taking pictures during a road race would not waste as much time.

We entered the reserve and ran on jeep track next to the fence for a while. Then we turned onto the single track again and also started climbing. There were plenty of rocks on the trail and it twisted and turned all the time. My last time on a trail was in January so I had to get into “trail mode”. It was a perfect morning and I loved every second of the run. The route had something of everything. Jeep track, single track, stream crossings, some sand, rocky areas, tall grass and even a short bit of tar road.

There is some game in the reserve but I only saw a few giraffes just before the first water point. I stopped for a quick photo, but the sun was not ideal. At least you can see a giraffe in the picture if you look closely.

The water point was not great. They were busy filling cups with water when I arrived and a few runners were waiting for water. There was some energy drink in powder form, but none were mixed. I decided to skip the water point and just used my own. I was glad I had my hydration pack as there were about ten runners waiting for water.

We climbed more from here and there were some very technical parts with rocks and roots to climb over. I was having a ball! It was just great to be out on a trail. At some point I could see the leaders running through some long grass down below. They were flying!

We started our way back through the long grass and the field was spread out and sorted according to pace now. I was very relaxed and just had fun. I passed the second water point without stopping as I was relying on my hydration pack. I also ate a few jelly babies just because I had them with me.

The single track back to the finish was very rocky. I had to concentrate on my footing all the way. My legs were a bit tired on the climbs, but this was from the past two weeks running and training and not because of the trail.

As I neared the finish I was feeling fantastic. I ran very comfortably and the thought of the four trail races I signed up for in June excited me. My son was waiting for me on the road to the finish. He could see the runners approaching from far and screamed and waved when he saw me. It was great. As I came closer he sprinted ahead and I tried to catch up with him but couldn’t close the gap.

I crossed the finish line happy and even a bit disappointed that it was over so soon. I was happy and everything was perfect. After all the road races I’ve been doing this was very enjoyable.

Happy after the race

You can view these and more photos on the link below:

Friday, 14 May 2010

A New Toy

I’ve always wanted to take photos during a run or race, but my camera is not for that…

I’ve been looking at some smaller options and there are many available, but I definitely don’t want to carry an expensive camera with me on a run. Through my searches I came across this smallish one and also found it on sale at 35% off!

I don’t want to take professional photos and just want to show where I run and some of the views along the routes. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time so I just went ahead and bought it. I’m very keen to try it out and will do so when I run my trail race this Saturday…weather permitting.

So I’ll be playing with my new toy and hopefully be able to include some nice pictures of my runs and races from now on. I really hope you’ll see some of this in my next post!

Have a wonderful weekend of running everyone!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Colgate 15km Race Report

Sunday morning I was up at 04:00 again to get ready for my second race of the weekend, the Colgate 15km at the Boksburg Athletics Stadium. This was a great race and I had a good run.

I pre-entered for this race so I could relax a lot more before the start. I arrived early as this is one of the bigger races and traffic can be a real problem. The field was big…about 5000 runners. A lot of these were running the 32km (20 mile) race. This was the last long run before Comrades and the mood at the start was great. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me and I went to the race alone. 

In spite of the large field the start went well. The route went along some really wide roads for the first few kilometers and this helped a lot. It was only at about 6km that we turned into a smaller street and things got crowded a bit.

I felt very good the whole way. I did take it very easy and just wanted to get the time on my legs. I was happy as I hardly felt the 25km of the previous day in my legs. I wanted to run about 01:45 so my pace was slow and relaxed. Unlike the day before I ran the whole race on my own. Between the 5000 runners finding friends can be a bit difficult. I spotted a few, but never got to run with anyone specific.

The route was quite easy with no serious hills or downhills. There were times where I had to slow down because the road was congested and at the 7km water point it looked like a water point in one of the big races like Comrades or Two Oceans with runners everywhere.

My legs felt a little tired for the first time at 11km, but I’ve run many races from this stadium before and knew it was easy running to the finish. Just after the 12km water point I could see the stadium below us and my spirit really lifted as I ran the last 3km feeling good and relaxed. My legs were feeling good again and everything was great.

The finish on the tartan track is always nice and makes me feel like a real athlete (dreams). I finished in 01:42:11 and collected my medal and one of the best goody bags around. Medal, t-shirt, shower gel, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush and even some fabric softener…great value! I’ll definitely be back!

I’m very happy with my two races for the weekend. Although slow, I wasn’t very tired and my legs are fine. I can do my normal training in the week ahead. This morning, Tuesday, I ran 9km and felt 100%.

This was my last road race for a while as most road races in South Africa have been cancelled or postponed because of the soccer world cup from 11 June to 11 July. For me this means trails and this Saturday I’m running the Runner’s World Wildlife Challenge (±12km) at Groenkloof, Pretoria.

Happy Running!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Jackie Mekler 25km Race Report

After a very chaotic week at work (that seems to be ongoing today) I was really glad when the weekend finally arrived last Friday. With two races lined up for the weekend it could only be good. I’m glad to say it was very good!

We left home at 04:30 Saturday morning as I didn’t pre-enter for the 25km race and it was in Pretoria. We were parked at the venue at about 5:30 with 30mins to enter and get everything ready. Entries went smoothly although we had to park quite far away, so I had about 15 minutes to get everything ready in time. I’m well organized with my pre-race routine and was standing at the start with 7 minutes to go.

There was a big field and everyone was very excited and full of chatter. The Comrades marathon is close, the rugby season is reaching a climax and many runners are at their peak training for the year. The start was good but rather congested. The road was not wide enough for everyone and we had to walk from time to time the first two kilometers. We ran a loop through some houses with a very steep hill right in the beginning and then passed under the start banner from the opposite direction before we continued out onto the course.

This race is organized by the military marathon club and we ran inside the military area the whole time. I had some flashbacks as I was in the army here in 1985. We passed the mess hall where we used to eat and the memories weren’t all that good...

Luckily I found some good friends on the road and we started chatting. I ran with Yvette and her twin sister and was feeling relaxed. No one was in a hurry and we just kept a steady, relaxed pace. I was running a 15km race the following day so easy going was my motto for the day.

Just after 3km the front runners came from the opposite direction and it was great to see them racing past, already nearing 8km. I enjoyed seeing Josia Thugwane, the 1996 Olympic marathon winner in about 5th place. The guy is amazing and still wins local races and ultras often and place in the top ten in almost every race he runs.

Josia Thugwane

The first half went very well, but we ran more down than up. I knew we would start climbing soon. I was happy to hold back and stayed with Yvette who was pacing us very well. We were joined by Emmy at the halfway mark. She was running her first 25km. Yvette’s best friend, Susan, also joined us. It was great to have some good company as it really made the distance go by very quickly. Susan is one of South Africa’s true ultra legends, having won numerous hundred milers, including the famous Washie 100.

Susan Hurter, top SA ultra runner

The climbs started and although I felt very good, I could feel I’ve been running for more than two hours. Our group stayed together and Yvette had us on a strategy to walk from lamp pole to lamp pole on the steeper hills, saving energy for the last 5km as she put it. Susan confirmed this…save energy on the hills, you’ll need it later. I was happy with this. I’m not sure how Emmy was feeling, but I was definitely happy every time we took a walk break on one of the hills.

This strategy worked and before we know it we were at 23km with 2km to go. From here it was nearly all downhill and I definitely had enough energy to run comfortably to the finish. Saving energy on the hills worked very well and I felt strong as we ran onto the field. It was a long run around the field to the finish and we were happy to cross the line in 02:56:04.

Entering the stadium...I’m on the far side with Yvette in the middle and Susan closest to the camera. Emmy at the back is very happy to finish her 1st 25km race.

A big thanks to Yvette for pacing us and well done Emmy on your 1st 25km finish. It was a very pleasant run and I’ll be back for sure. After the race I was glad to see one of my old friends and another ultra legend, Hazel Quilliam. She had just collected her prize for winning the Grand Masters category in 02:31.

Old friend and another ultra legend, Hazel Quilliam

Rohann ran the 5km fun run and was also photographer for the day.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Last road races for a while

It’s Friday!!! This weekend I’m running two races; the 25km Jackie Mekler on Saturday and the Colgate 15km on Sunday. Both will be slow training runs with distance the main focus. I need some longer back to back runs and doing that in races make it a lot easier.

This will be my last two road races for a while (about 2.5 months). From next week my races will change from this…

to this...

I’m really excited about the trail races coming up and just as excited to do some training on the trails. Here in Johannesburg the winter is starting and the winter is dry. That means winter time is great trail time. But first I need to get through the two races ahead. Will keep you posted!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and good luck to all of you running races. A special good luck to Anne (Asthma and the Gift of Running)  for her first race!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Do you remember your first race?

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

Do you remember you first race?

I remember my first race very well, even training for it. It was a half marathon in 1981, the SABC Road Race in Johannesburg. My dad got our whole family to run that day. My dad, my brother and I ran the half marathon and my mom and two sisters the 10km. I was 17 and still at school. I remember at the start I felt very small and young between all the runners. When I saw a runner with his permanent Comrades number on his back I thought I was totally in the wrong place. I felt like a complete amateur between all the “pros”.

I was very new and dumb with the whole running thing. I remember the first water point. They gave me a paper cup with water, but I wasn’t thirsty or didn’t feel like drinking it. So I poured it over my head. The water was ice cold and took my breath away. That was probably one of my first running lessons.

I also remember the route going past a fire station and the firemen had hoses out and were spraying the runners. Then I remember the last 3km or so going up a very steep and very long hill. I walked a lot here and eventually finished in 02:15.

That was my first official race and first half marathon, 29 years ago. I received this badge for finishing.

It was a fantastic day and our whole family finished the races we ran. I have now completed 381 half marathons. I’ve finished a total of 1274 official races.

Monday, 3 May 2010

What is your favorite pre-race meal and/or drink?

Do you eat anything before a race? This is something I’ve experimented with and it seems that the answer varies from person to person. Some can’t run with food in their stomach while others can’t run with empty stomachs. I’ve tried both and find that I do better if I eat something before a race.

I usually have coffee with rusks or coffee with toast and honey about 2 hours before a race. I try to do the same always and will have the same before a 10km race as I would before a marathon or ultra. The idea is to get used to the same stomach content and even pre-race routine when preparing for the race ahead. If I’m running a longer race I’ll have a gel or gu 15 minutes before the start as well. When I’m training I drink water only before my run but will sometimes have a gel if the run is longer than 15km.

At the moment this seems to work for me so I’m not changing anything. What is your favorite pre-race meal or do you prefer an empty stomach?