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

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

A Cold and New Shoes

Yesterday afternoon I began to feel some cold symptoms and last night I woke up with a proper cold and also some coughing. I hate when this happens but there’s not much you can do. It is winter and at work there are sick people all the time. Shopping malls are also full of sick people and avoiding a cold is close to impossible.

So this morning I had to skip my run and will rest tomorrow as well. I’ll take stock on Friday and see how I feel. At the moment I’m reasonably happy as it hasn’t gotten any worse so far.

A few days rest won’t do any harm. In fact, it might be a small blessing for my body to get a bit of rest. Next week I’m starting my serious training for the 50km Mont-Aux-Sources trail race in September. July and August will be hard training for this difficult race.

This also means I’ll have to wait a few days before I can try my new (very fast) shoes on a run!

I bought new running shoes and I must say thanks to everyone who responded to my post about new shoes and me cutting my shoes to be perfect. These are the new Nike Pegasus 27 and after trying on many different shoes at various running stores, I realized (again) that there is no other shoe that fit my feet better.

Will I cut them? I’m not sure yet as they did change the shoe a lot and maybe I won’t have to. If necessary, yes, I’ll cut them. The shoes still have the support thingy that caused me blisters in the previous models, but it has been changed and may just be fine. I’ll only know for sure when I run far enough in them.

I’ll keep you posted on the shoes and also post more details about the Mont-Aux-Sources challenge and my planned training for the event. My next race is the 21km Vaal Trail Run on 11 July.

Happy running!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Winter Trail Series - Race 4 Report

Yesterday I ran the 4th and final run of the Gauteng Winter Trail Series. This brings to an end a very well organized and enjoyable series. I received this medal for completing the series.

The run was great and even felt easy compared to the monster climbs and steep descents we had to contend with last week. I had a good run and would say this was my best run of the four in the series. My legs did feel some of the climbs, but I felt great the whole way.

The race was run at Pelindaba next to the South African Nuclear Energy Research Centre…luckily no melt downs! We ran parts along the Crocodile River and there were some beautiful views again. The first few kilometers were run on jeep track which was good to spread out the field before we got to the single track.

Jeep track first few kilometers.

Start of the single track.

Shortly after the single track started we got our first glimpse of the river. It was a beautiful view and I felt excited and privileged to be running outdoors again, enjoying the beauty of nature. We started going down towards the river and the trail became a bit more technical.

1st view of the Crocodile River

I kept it fairly slow as my legs could still feel last week’s monster descents and climbs a little. I also knew we would have to go back up again at some stage. When we got to the bottom there were some tall reeds along the river bank. I was disappointed to see a lot of plastic bags and other items stuck to the reeds in some places. We people sure know how to mess up something beautiful…

A friendly runner took some pics of me along the river and between the reeds.

Not long after this we started the first of a few climbs away from the river. I was enjoying myself and was happy that I was completing the four run series. We ran above, but along the river for some time. It was really beautiful in some places.

Climbing from the river.

Running above the river.

There are a lot of rocks and stones in the area and at some stage the stones formed a sort of natural paving along the trail. There are thousands of very flat stones in this area.

Lots of flat stones...natural paving.

We went down to the river again and ran through some beautiful bush on a very nice trail for some time.

Lovely trail.

Then we started climbing again and once again had some fantastic views from above the river.

Following the trail above the river again.

Stunning views from here.

All too soon we turned away from the river and headed back towards the finish. Here I could see the nuclear research centre and I knew the run was almost over.

Nuclear Energy Research Centre.

There was some downhill to the finish and then the run and the series were done. I was happy and felt great. I’m really glad I did this very pleasant trail series.

The finish of a lovely trail series.

I posted these and a few more photos here.

Have a great running week everyone!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Right Shoes

One of my first posts on this blog last year was about cutting my running shoes to remove a part that gave me blisters. You can read the post here.

Since then I’ve cut and ran in 3 pairs of Nike Pegasus. This is the Pegasus +25 and +26. I’ve done more than 3000km in these 3 pairs and have had no injuries. This alone is probably a great success formula. I now need to buy shoes again and can’t help to wonder if this is the right way of doing it.

I had no injuries, so the shoes are perfect…after I cut of some part that gives me blisters… Is this right or should I look at another shoe? I’m not sure, but cutting a piece off a brand new running shoe I just paid R1000.000 for is not always that much fun. I’ve only seen a picture of the Pegasus +27, but it looked as if the part that doesn’t work with my running style is still there.

So what do I do? Stay with the same, cut them and be sure I won’t get any shoe related injuries. Or do I look for something similar that I don’t need to cut and hope I won’t get any shoe related injury?

Would anyone else cut their new shoes to be perfect or would you rather choose a different brand that won’t need cutting?

Monday, 21 June 2010

Gauteng Winter Trail Series – Race 3 Report

Yesterday I ran the third race in the winter trail series I’m doing this June. This was race 3 of 4. This was another tough run with lots of ups and downs and zillions and zillions of loose stones. The views and scenery were the best of the 3 races so far. I even saw some Waterbuck and Blue Wildebeest on the run! Unfortunately they were running at the time and I couldn’t get pictures of them.

Another beautiful venue.

This race was really tough and the fact that I ran 21km the day before didn’t help much either. I’m still busy with my buildup for some marathons and ultras later this year and decided to run the last two trail runs in the series “on tired legs”. So I ran 21km Saturday morning and will run 25.5km this coming Saturday.

The race was run on some 4 x 4 or off-road track. Although not as technical as most single track, this was still a very challenging route. We started on some down hills with a few little bumps here and there.

Shortly after the start.

I started very slow and almost right at the back of the field. I wanted to feel the effect of my run the day before first. I was happy that early on all was fine. We ran down some more and passed this waterhole.

Not long after the waterhole the trail started to show its true colors, with loose stones everywhere. This would be the nature of the route the rest of the way, getting much worse in certain areas.

Loose stones became the norm of the day.

We ran next to a fence and could see the runners ahead of us going up a steep climb in the distance.

The red line is where the runners are going up.

Not long and I reached this climb myself.

It was tough and I decided to just put my head down and get to the top. The scenery was absolutely fantastic and even though I was huffing and puffing and sweating like a pig, I was happy to be there. A friendly runner offered to take my picture!

Here I am, happy to be there, happy to be at the top!

Great view from here!

Then we went down again, right to the bottom where we started, about 20 feet from the trail that we ran up. We turned and climbed again. This became the norm of the race. Steep up, steep down, steep up, steep down… My legs definitely felt this and some of the steep downs were hurting. All of this with loose stones covering the ground.

The 2nd tough climb.

Somewhere between 8 and 9km we got to one of the longest climbs of the day. I think this took us to the highest point of the route. The climb was really tough, but once at the top the view was worth it.


...and up.

View from the highest point.

I was feeling tired but good. My legs were tired on the climbs, but I was still enjoying the run. I loved being out there!

Not long after the highest point the trail became very rocky and going down was really tricky.

Runners going down slowly on the rocky path.

This was the first place where my legs actually hurt going down. Obviously all the up and down plus my 21k previous day run were taking its toll now. I adopted the motto of “head down and to the top” at this stage and just kept going.

I felt sorry for some people that weren’t carrying water or anything else. They must have struggled. I don’t understand how people can do this and I actually think the organizers should force people to carry some water. I had my hydration pack with 1 liter of water and 2 Gu gels with me. I used it all.

Another very steep hill/climb.

Looking back from the hill above. That is one of the climbs we did earlier.

Eventually we joined a “road” that was more friendly and this took us over the last climb to the finish.

The last hill.

The finish...a welcome sight.

I was really tired and my legs were protesting at the end. But I did what I wanted to do and that is good. I ran on tired legs and although it was tough, I did it without any problems.

You can see these and more photos here.

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Winter Training

I’ve been bragging and going on about the lovely winter weather we get here in Johannesburg. This may be true, but it doesn’t mean the winters don’t get cold. At the moment South Africa is very cold. A strong cold front passed through earlier this week and large parts of the country is covered with snow. We don’t get snow often in Johannesburg, once every ten years or so, but we do get the cold that comes from the areas that do get snow. At the moment, this is the case.

What this really means is that the evenings and mornings are cold, while the days are warmer with lovely sunshine. This week the minimum temperatures in Johannesburg are below 0°C (32F) every morning. At my house it was -2°C (28.4F) yesterday and -3°C (26.6F) today.

About -2.5°C (36.5F) when I left for work this morning - sun shining.

For me this is cold, but obviously it is far from extreme. As long as the wind doesn’t blow it is fine. So I carry on with my early morning runs through the winter. Again, if the wind doesn’t blow it is fine. I just dress warm and run. Most people, including other runners, think I’m crazy to go out between 4 and 5 AM with the temperature below zero. I obviously don’t agree with them and since I’ve become a member of blogland I know I’m not crazy. When I look at the winters people in the Northern hemisphere get I know how lucky I am to be able to run outside through the winter. To give you an idea, I’ve been running for 29 years now, but I’ve never run on a treadmill. I’ve never been forced indoors by winter. For that I am grateful.

So I was out the door just before 5 this morning. When I got back from my 9.2km run the temperature was -3°C. There was no wind and the run was great. I know I look like I’ve just come from a line-up at the local police station, but I ran!

The running shorts over the second skins might look a bit dorky, but they keep the cold out where it matters…

When I walked on my lawn this morning there was a white layer of frost covering it. The rest of the garden is also feeling the cold with frost and black frost taking its toll.

A lot of the plants in my garden look like this with black frost this morning.

Apart from this I’m happy. Winter is here, the mornings are cold, but I’m training. The forecast for the next few days look like this:

Happy running everyone!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Gauteng Winter Trail Series – Race 2 Report

We had another beautiful day on Sunday and the weather was perfect again for running. The start was a bit colder than last week as the venue was at Hennops River outside Pretoria and right next to the river. When I arrived it was 5°C (41F), but it warmed up quickly and was 19°C (66F) when I finished.

Hennops River flowing strong.

This was a tough race of about 12.3km. The race description warned to carry enough water and expect to be out on the trail for about 2 hours. I finished in 02:05:54.

Waiting for the start.

About 350 runners started the race at 09:00. The first 3km was along jeep track that helped to spread the field before the single track started. I started at the back and just kept it slow and easy. It wasn’t long before I passed the first runners that started to fast. We climbed steadily right from the start and the jeep track ended with a long steeper climb that reduced most of us to a walk already.

At the end of the jeep track I was a bit disappointed to see a queue of runners where the single track started. The 3km was not enough to spread us out. On closer inspection I found that we had to cross a fence with a small ladder where the single trail started. This was a one at a time fence crossing and I had to wait about 7 minutes for my turn.

This queue was not great.

Crossing the fence.

Once over the fence the trail was rocky and very technical right from the start. There were lots of climbing and holding on with your hands and passing anyone was impossible. We were in a queue and there was no way around for anyone. To make matters worse I ended up with a chirper just two places behind me.

A chirper is someone that never stops talking on a run and never say anything useful or smart as well. They love their own voices and think they know best about everything and everyone around them love them. To give you an idea of Sunday’s chirper, among the first few things he said was:

To the girl running behind me and in front of him: “Hey Gorgeous, at least I get to stare at your sexy bum the rest of the way”. That was followed by various “Hey Gorgeous” comments and the rest was about himself. Never was he quiet for more than two seconds and never did he say anything that mattered.

Anyway, between all the chirping we started a heavy climb. No running was possible here and everyone just climbed and climbed, trying not to fall and making sure of your footing. The whole climb was technical with rock after rock after rock.

Apart from this and the chirper, the view and surroundings were spectacular and I was happy to be there. I love being outdoors in the bush and this was a typical South African environment. The smell and sounds were awesome, apart from the chirper. We finally reached the summit and the view was splendid!

On top of the ridge we could run again. The trail was a little less technical here as well. We soon realized we were stuck behind a slow woman who didn’t notice she was holding us back. We all tried, even chirper, but she didn’t react to any of our comments/remarks or anything. Then I realized she and the two girls behind her were running with iPods and they didn’t know we were behind them. It was only when the guy in front of me squeezed in next to them that they realized we wanted to pass. Why people come run on a trail like this, with dozens of bird sounds and the sound of the wind through the grass and trees, with an iPod I just don’t understand. Why pollute the sounds of nature with music? Well at least they didn’t have to put up with Chirper.

Trail on top of the ridge.

Once we passed them we could move a lot faster. I then decided I’ve had enough of Chirper and when we got to the next great view I stopped to take some photos and let him pass. The feeling of relaxation that came over me was fantastic. I was suddenly alone on the trail and could enjoy nature while I moved along at my own pace.

One of the pics I took to let Chirper pass.

We started going down and soon I could see the river below. Down there is where we have to cross over the river on a very suspect and wobbly bridge. But first we had to get down there. The down was technical again with lots of rocks and loose stones. Finally I could see the bridge for the first time.

The river with bridge down below.

Climbing down was tough in places and I caught up with some people ahead of me. I could even hear chirper crossing the bridge! He obviously did it like no one else before him… When I got to the bridge there were a few hikers going in the opposite direction. I waited for them to cross, but they were scared and very slow, so I had to cross and pass them on the bridge. Luckily it went without incident and I crossed while taking a few photos.

Immediately after the bridge we had to climb out of the river valley over some rocks again, just to go down towards the river again. The trail next to the river is beautiful.

We ran next to the river the rest of the way. The river is flowing strong and the sound of the water was beautiful. I was happy and in a very good space. I wasted time taking photos, but it was great and I enjoyed every second. At some point we were right at the water.

Then we turned away from the river and soon the finish came into view. I was running comfortably and crossed the finish feeling great. I could feel I had a good workout, but I felt strong and happy. It was a good run.

The finish.

Sign of a successful trail run.

You can view these and more photos here.

This weekend will be race #3. I can’t wait! Have a good week everyone!