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

Friday 30 April 2010

You actually are in better shape than you think you are…

On Kevin Sayers’s website, UltRunR.com there is a link to a humorous list under “You know you’re an ultra runner if…” I love this list and two of my favorite entries are:

28. People at work think you’re in a whole lot better shape than you think you are.
29. You actually are in a whole lot better shape than you think you are.

I thought about number 29 a lot during our recent visit to the Sterkfontein caves after my last race. I was absolutely shocked to see how people battled to do the bit of walking, crawling and stair climbing during the tour of the caves. I finished my second half marathon in three days 90 minutes before the tour and was a bit worried that my legs might feel the stairs more than I would like. I didn’t feel a thing as we walked and climbed very slow, waiting for people who couldn’t get up and down the stairs because they were too tired. I realized, 29 is absolutely true, us runners actually are in better shape than we think we are.

There were 116 stairs down into the cave and 119 up to the exit with some small staircases between this inside the cave. There were a few places where we had to crouch, crawl or whatever was best for you and this also got the people down on their knees, literally.

Apart from running 6 days a week I also climb these stairs (7 flights) up and down at least once every day and some days two or three times.

It seems that all of this actually has me in much better shape than I realize. I think we feel out of shape for a specific race or distance very quickly, but we forget that our base fitness or readiness for shorter distances put us in far better shape than the average person is.

So next time someone at work tells you how great you look and in what perfect shape you are, you can agree and know that you really are in great shape.

I promised a few more photo’s of the caves and placed them here.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone and good luck to those running races. I’ll be training this weekend, 6.2km Saturday and 25.5km on Sunday.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Cradle Half Marathon Race Report with a Lion's Roar!

I didn’t plan to run this race, but since Tuesday was a public holiday in South Africa I decided to go. I was feeling fine after my Sunday half marathon but the plan was still to just get the time and distance on my legs…no time goal at all, just a comfortable finish.

This is an out and back course run in the protected area of “The Cradle of Humankind” one of the world heritage sites in South Africa. This is where they found, and are still finding, some of the oldest human fossils in the world. Check out the Maropeng website…very interesting!

The cold and wet weather is still with us and yesterday morning at the start was wet and cold, but very fresh and there was something magic about the mist on the hills around us.

There was a big field and it was clear that runners don’t get put off by a bit of rain and cold. The half marathon and the 10km started together with the 5km 15 minutes later. I started very slowly to see what my legs were like after Sunday’s half marathon. I felt surprisingly good! The start was slightly uphill and I concentrated on not tripping over someone’s feet or not bumping into walkers that for some reason always start at the front…?! There were lots of not so fast walkers doing the 10km and maybe lack of experience played a role in them starting at the front.

After about 2km things got better and spread out a little more and we were running comfortably. I found one of my old running friends and we started chatting. She is recovering from flu and was also taking it easy. The chatting became chatting and chatting and chatting for the rest of the race! We ran a bit slower than I would have on my own, but I think it was a good thing two days after my previous race.

We kept a comfortable pace with no walks and I was feeling stronger and stronger. The last 8km my friend was a bit tired but she stuck to the pace. I decided to stay with her as there was no point in running a few minutes faster. I was just happy to feel so good towards the end of my second half marathon in three days! Something is slowly coming together for me.

The race description contains this text “You are running close to the Rhino and Lion nature reserve. With some luck the breeze may carry the roar of a lion”. With 3km to go I heard the roar of a lion! How cool is that? The guys at the water table there told us to get a move on; they’re letting the lions out soon for lunch! We got a move on…

Soon we were at the finish and I was feeling absolutely great! Better than Sunday, when I ran 02:24. My son wanted to take the photo below and with all of that I forgot to look at or stop my watch. The time was around 2:29 or 2:30.

I was happy to receive my medal and felt ready to run the route again. I’m very happy with my progress and will continue my training feeling very positive.

Afterwards we went to the nearby Sterkfontein Caves. This was very interesting with a beautiful exhibition and a guided tour through the caves. I’ll post more pics of the caves later, but the theme is all about the fossils and the people that lived here many, many years ago.

The entrance to the cave. I'll post more pics later.

Monday 26 April 2010

Jackie Gibson Half Marathon Race Report

With words like “good hill training” on race flyers and in other race descriptions you can be sure that some tough running will be part of the race ahead. That was the case with the Jackie Gibson half marathon I ran yesterday. The race is known to be one of the not so easy runs in the Johannesburg area. As I mentioned somewhere before, I need some good hill training so I was up and ready for the race at 05:00 with all systems go.

The race is one of a few that is close to home for me, 10.2km to be exact. I still left early as all the races this year have very big fields and traffic and parking can be a problem. This was no exception and the queue for parking was about 1.5km long when I got there. I still managed to find a nice spot fairly quickly. Luckily there are a few open fields in the immediate vicinity of the venue.

Winter is fast approaching in this part of the world...still dark when parking.

We’ve been having some cold, rainy days and I was worried we might have a cold and wet race. The clouds were very low when we started but the rain stayed away. Although a bit cold, the weather was actually very good for running. All around me runners were taking off any extra layers during the first few kilometers.

The first half of the race is tough and hilly. Just after the 2km mark we ran up the first tough hill. Some people were walking here already. I don’t have any specific rules for walking during races. One thing I’ve learnt over the years is that walking is OK. When you get to running ultras walking is important and you should train to do this well. You can read a previous post of mine about walking here. One rule I have is that I don’t run up a hill if I can walk up at the same speed. When a hill is really steep and I find myself running at the same pace others are walking, I walk. There were a few hills like this on Sunday and I used them to practice some power walking.

The race went through the suburb where I grew up and I was excited to run past the church where I went to Sunday school many years ago. My parents still live here and I could see their house on top of the hill to our North. This really got me going and I felt a bit of a runner’s high running through this area.

We ran through here…my childhood suburb.

Although a road race, we ran around the nature reserve where I do most of my trail training runs. This is a beautiful area and the scenery is lovely, keeping in mind this is a Johannesburg (big city) race. I was looking out for some game and spotted a loan Black Wildebeest at some point. Then I nearly tripped over a traffic cone and decided to rather look where I was running instead.

The first 11km were up and down all the way with some challenging hills. I did my power walking routine on the hills between 7 and 11km and somewhere between 13 and 14km as well. As with any circular route what goes up must come down and eventually we got to some nice, long downhills with flat stretches to go with that. I was feeling extremely good with 6km to go and was still enjoying the run a lot. I think the power walking on the hills in the first half worked well and helped me to keep enough in reserve for the last part of the race.

The last 2km were a steady climb and here I was glad I didn’t run the full marathon. I’m sure some of the marathon runners didn’t enjoy those 2kms as I did. It was great to reach the finish feeling so good and positive.

Another great medal, t-shirt and goody bag with a few sponsors items… the goody bag in support of the 2010 soccer world cup in South Africa.

If I have to describe the race in one word it would be “pleasant”. I had a lovely run and enjoyed everything. Organization was superb and I don’t have anything negative to say about the race. Next year I’ll do the full marathon here. Tomorrow I’m running another half marathon, the Cradle half marathon at the Cradle of Humankind. This should be a nice outing and I hope I’ll be writing another positive report after that.

Have a good week everyone!

Friday 23 April 2010

Back to Original Goals and 1000km for the Year

On my run this morning I passed 1000km (621.3 miles) for the year. I’m excited as I’m still well on track for my goal of 3000km for 2010.

Although the 1000km is good I’ve made the choice not to run the 89km Comrades marathon this year and rather leave it for next year’s up run. This was my original plan but then they announced this year’s race as very special and I thought it was a good idea to give it a go. Entries had to be in months ago so there was no option to wait and see closer to 30 May if I would be ready. Well, I’m not ready. Maybe distance wise I’m OK but I’m not ready speed and weight wise. I would prefer to lose at least another 10kg (22 pounds) before I run this race again. This is me finishing the Slow-Mag half marathon two weeks ago…definitely far from ultra shape.

So I’m back to my original goals for the rest of this year. On a high level these are to run the Gauteng Winter Trail Series in June (4 races of 11 – 15km) and to run 2 x marathons and 2 x 50km races during the second half of the year. Between these there are other important races and I’ll write about them as they approach. The main goal is to be able to run a marathon and 50km comfortably by October this year. Then I’ll start building for the longer ultras.

I’ve already entered the Winter Trail Series and will start the year’s trail running on 15 May with a 12 – 15km race in Pretoria. I’m really looking forward to do some trail running again. I’ve got three road races left before the first trail run.

On Sunday I’ll be running the Jackie Gibson half marathon. This is a hilly race but I need some good hill training anyway.

Have a great weekend of running everyone!

Monday 19 April 2010

A good run and some weird blisters

This past weekend I didn’t run a race but I did do a 25.5km training run in perfect conditions on Sunday morning. It was a good run although I was extremely tired towards the end. It was one of those days where I could keep going without any problems even though I was dead tired. I think this means it was a good workout.

Back home after my good 25.5km run. Beautiful morning!

One strange thing that did happen this morning is that I got three small blisters on my left foot during the run. The three blisters are in a small group and I think a fourth might have formed if I ran longer. This is strange and it looks like three small blisters formed instead of one bigger one. I haven’t had a blister in this area recently and I think it was maybe my sock that caused it.

Three small blisters…weird…

This week’s training will be all normal with a half marathon on Sunday. I hope you all have a great week of running!

Schedule for the week:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 9km
Wednesday: 15.1km
Thursday: 9km
Friday: 12.2km
Saturday: 6.2km
Sunday: 21.1km

Total: 72.6km

Thursday 15 April 2010

Have you ever had a DNS (did not start)?

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

Have you ever had a DNS (did not start)?

I’ve had a few DNS’s over the years. In fact, I’ll be having one this Saturday. I’ve decided that I’m not ready for a 50km at the moment since I missed a few long training runs when I had a stomach bug and then the flu. I decided to be careful and rather sit this one out. There will be plenty more. So I’ll have a DNS at the 2010 Loskop 50km.

I suppose a DNS is when you don’t start a race that you entered earlier. I’ve had a few of those (not sure how many) and also some where entries are only taken on the day of the race. Do those count as well? I planned a half marathon in March but missed it because I was down with a stomach bug. I would have entered on the morning of the race but didn’t go, so I suppose it is a DNS as well.

There was a 15km race in the middle of winter in 1995 where I went to the race with a friend in the morning and we entered. It was very cold, -7°C (19.4°F). We bought coffee after we entered and went to sit in the car to drink it. We never got out to start the race and went to a nearby mall for breakfast instead.

Another DNS was a night race (10km) where we entered and then it started to rain. We found shelter at a local restaurant and just stayed there for dinner and drinks!

Happy running everyone!

Monday 12 April 2010

Slow-Mag Half Marathon Race Report

This was one of the best races I attended in a long time. Everything was good. The organization, water tables, route and even the weather was great. Someone mentioned a few weeks back that this race always reminds us that summer is over and she was absolutely right. It was overcast with the temperature at 15°C (59F) the whole way. Perfect!

I’ve been recovering from flu and decided to take this run very easy. I wanted to have a comfortable run and still feel comfortable at the finish. I estimated that this would give me a time just below 02:30. As I never look at my watch during a run I was pleased to finish in 02:27:24. Everything was perfect all the time and I ran and finished feeling very comfortable.

There was a huge field as many runners wanted to use the marathon to qualify for this year’s Comrades marathon. Although I was feeling good I was still glad to run one lap only. A second lap would have been difficult.

The route was great and fairly easy. I’ve run this race many times before but the last time was in 2004. The race has always been quite easy with a bit of a sting in the tail over the last 5km. I remember some tough times in the last few kilometers especially on the full marathon. I soon realized the route has changed completely, but wasn’t sure what the finish would be like. I held back a bit for those last few kilometers.

The first 9km were mainly downhill. At 9km we entered a golf estate and ran around the golf course and lakes. This was a very pleasant part of the route. As I entered the estate I looked at some of the front runners exiting at the same entrance. When I reached the exit I realized those runners were already 5.5km ahead of me at that point. In fact, the leader of the full marathon just approached the golf estate for the second time as I went through the exit. I love watching these guys run, so effortless!

I missed the 13km marker along the way so I was happy to see 14km when I expected 13. At 16km I was still feeling great and wondered about the last few kilometers. Will this new route still have a sting in the tail? It turned out not. I was glad about this but could have gone a bit faster if I knew how easy the last 2 – 3km was. I was feeling very good and knew I’m finally over the flu…yeah!

I was stopped for traffic twice in the last 1.5km and this cost me at least a minute. I was very surprised when at the first stop Eric Wright pulled up next to me. He was 2nd in a 10 day circuit race that finished a week ago and ran 815km in the 10 days for his second place. He said he was still a bit tired and was just taking it easy. So was I, but I didn’t run 815km a week ago! Some runners are just incredible.

The first runner in the marathon passed me when I was at 20km and I had about 25m to do when the second marathon athlete finished. Johannesburg is at altitude (2000m / 5661ft) and most marathons are won in about 02:20 here. I finished feeling very good and happy that I achieved exactly what I wanted. All in all a great race with a nice medal and t-shirt.

I’ll be on a business presentations course Tuesday and Wednesday with no time to run so I went for a 15.1km run this morning. I was surprised that I didn’t feel yesterday’s half marathon in my legs at all…nothing! I had a great run this morning! This is very good news for me. I’m slowly getting back into high distance form.

Friday 9 April 2010

Badges and Medals

In my previous post I mentioned that I’ve been running for 29 years. In general people seem to think this is a long time and they are right. I’ve never thought about it like that as running has always been a part of my life.

So I was thinking about my first race back in 1981, a half marathon, and my last race, a marathon on 20 March 2010 and realized this is actually cool. There I was, running my first half marathon while still at school, 17 years old, and here I’m still doing it 29 years later, aged 46. Yes it is cool!

I had a look at some of my badges, medals, photos and other goodies I got for finishing races over the years and thought it would be nice to share some of that with you. Running photos of the eighties are a bit scarce (no digital cameras or even auto light meters), but I found these two.

Me finishing the Wally Hayward half marathon in 1982.

Running my first ultra (bib 1623). The 1985 Milo Korkie 56km. The runner cut off on the right with the black and gold/orange is my dad.

These were the times of badges. We didn’t get medals for finishing races, but badges. The cool thing to do was to sew them all to your tracksuit top and pants. I did the whole thing. Unfortunately I can’t find the pants. This is my old school tracksuit top with badges, front and back.

Special badges here are the one for my first race…

…my first full marathon…yes, no medal for my first marathon, but this badge…

…and the badge for my first ultra.

It was only during later years and the nineties that we started getting medals for basically every race. I still like the badges. Medals eventually end up in boxes somewhere. I have plenty and don’t really know how to display them all. I usually hang or place them around the house through a year and then put them in a box at the beginning of a new year and start the process again. I have four boxes with medals that contain many that are still sealed in the plastic bags I received them in.

Taking out the contents of a box looks like this. Multiply this by four and you’ll understand why I don’t display them all somewhere. Maybe one day I’ll find a proper solution to this problem.

Have a great weekend everyone! I'm running the Slow Mag Half Marathon on Sunday for another medal. :) What do you do with your medals and other goodies from races?

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Have you ever had a DNF?

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

Have you ever had a DNF (did not finish)?

I can remember 4 DNF’s in the 29 years that I’ve been running. I think that’s actually pretty good and don’t feel bad about it at all. I learned a lot from those and think that’s the best to do when you do end up with a DNF. Learn from it.

It was between 1994 and 1999. 2 X Comrades 89km runs, a 100km circuit race and a marathon. I had some issues with high sugar levels with three of these and had to quit eventually. The one Comrades I tried to run with ITB problems that were only 75% healed. After about 48km they were back 100%.

Since then I’ve sorted the sugar issues and learned the hard way not to do stupid things with injuries. I also make sure I’m really ready before I run a marathon or ultra.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Not the long weekend I planned

I planned to do some long runs this weekend to have a good start for the new month as well. All of that is now out the window as I’ve got a bad sore throat and my chest is starting to feel it a bit too. So yesterday after work I was off to the doctor and I’m on antibiotics now. I’m really not feeling great and don’t think I’ll be running at all during the next few days. I’ve got a feeling next week Tuesday will be the earliest I’ll be able to run again.

So my long weekend will not be filled with time on the road but rather with time in bed. I’ll just have to live with it. I haven’t been sick for a long time and just hope it’ll pass quickly. I have a half marathon planned for 11 April and will have to wait and see what I feel like next week before I’ll decide if I’m running it or not. I’m supposed to run a 50km on 17 April but don’t want to think about that yet.

On the bright side, we have a new family member! No, no baby in the house, just this fellow.

Long story short, we got him from a lady living in a flat that couldn’t take care of him. She got him from someone who left the country and so he ended up with us. At least the two of us can get to know each other better over the weekend.

Have a happy Easter everyone!