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

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Quite a Scare

On Saturday evening my stomach started to feel a bit uncomfortable with a few cramps and just general soreness. As the evening progressed this became worse and later nearly unbearable. By 3 AM Sunday morning I was literally crawling on the floor and I was sure my appendix was about to burst.
So it was off to the emergency room of the closest hospital at speed. On arrival I started vomiting and without going into any details I knew immediately this was not my appendix, but gallbladder problems. To cut a long story short, that is exactly what it was/is. Gallbladder infection in a bad way.
So obviously no long run for me on Sunday and no running for a while. The rest should be good for me but I’ll need to evaluate my training and race plans for the next few weeks. I’m feeling a lot better now and will keep you posted.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Tribute to the garden gloves

In my previous post I raved about my NB trail shoes and how great they are. Today I have to pay tribute to these guys…

These gloves were recommended by several runners that ran the mountain race previously. The main reason for taking them on the run is for holding onto the rope while going down the gully.

I put the gloves on long before the gully because it was icy cold and I could not feel my fingers anymore. They were warm and shielded my hands completely from the wind. At the chain ladders I felt comfortable climbing up while grabbing the ladder with these gloves. They were fantastic for the rope and also in many places to hold onto rocks.

I recommend garden gloves for any mountain run where you might have to use your hands in some places. They are great for protecting your hands and are warm as well.

Talking about the gully, you can see where the stone on my trophy comes from…

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Goals & Races

With my 50km mountain race something of the past and my recovery week also over, I now look to the next goal. This is the Nedbank 50km Circuit Race on 23 October. Before I give details about this race a quick note on my recovery after the mountain race.

I am happy to say I am 100% recovered! I ran 5km 3 times last week and 10km yesterday. The 10km was great and I didn’t feel the 50k in my legs or body at all. My feet were perfect after the race! I was so happy I even wrote a letter to New Balance to tell them how good these shoes were for me.

My trusty New Balance trail shoes.

I’ve had some inquiries about the Next Race and Next Goal countdown clocks on my sidebar. I have some goals I work for every year. This will be some big races or races that are important to me. As part of my training for these goals I do lots of runs in races. In these races I only look at achieving some training milestone, never any race/time goals. It is also a great way of doing some long runs.

So at the moment my next goal is the 50km circuit race. My next race is a run in a business relay where I’ll run 7km for my company. There are two more races after that before the next goal will be the next race as well.

The 50km circuit race is a road race on a 5km course. I’ll be running 10 x 5km during the race. It is at a school so part of the course will be in the school grounds with the rest in the roads around the school. I love circuit races and think they are great for mental strength.

Have a great week everyone! Happy training!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Foto Friday

My Goodies from Saturday’s race...
Long sleeve t-shirt, sleeveless fleecy jacket, water bottle, lunch box and some magazines. The chocolate and sweets are long gone!
Trophy for finishing the race. It is a stone from the top of the mountain.
Have a wonderful weekend and good luck to everyone racing!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Mont-Aux-Sources 50km Challenge Race Report

I don’t know exactly how to describe this unbelievable experience in words. I’ll write a few and add some pictures to tell the story of my journey. Warning: long report!

In short:

I ran from here...

…to the top of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre and back again following this route…

The race is open for 250 athletes only and I felt privileged to run through this world heritage site. It might be a small field, but it has all the makings of a big event.

Registration and the pre-race briefing took place Friday evening in the marquee tent and there was a feeling of excitement among everyone. I met up with a few members of a local running forum and it was good to meet some people in person at last.

Team Runner's Talk

Ready for tomorrow's big race!

We camped in a tent and I didn’t sleep very well. I woke up at some stage and could hear some drizzle on the tent. Not long and this turned into light rain, which stayed with us the rest of the night.

Saturday morning started with drizzle, mist and cold conditions. We assembled in the marquee tent for a final update and everyone was busy with final preparations.

Final preparations!

Kevin aka Runner's Talk and me, ready to run!

There were 4 starting batches and I was in the last. We waited inside the tent as one by one the batches were called to the start and sent on their way. Suddenly it was our turn and all I could think was “this is it..."

Checking in at the start.

Waiting for the start.

Then we were on our way and everyone scrambled for position before we reached the single trail. The first 10km is a climb of 1700m (5577ft) on single trail to the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge at 2286m (7500ft). The trail was wet and muddy and I had to be careful not to slip and fall right from the beginning. The mist was really thick in some places.

I was feeling super and extremely excited to finally run this race. We reached the Mahai Falls where a few runners took the time to drink some fresh, icy cold mountain water. I also stopped for a very refreshing drink.

Taking a drink at Mahai Falls

I made certain from the start to drink enough as it is easy to forget this in cold, wet conditions. I drank water and had two GU gels during this 10km climb. My legs and body were feeling great and I felt positive my hard training and preparation would pay off.

Then, almost suddenly, I was at the top and Witsieshoek came into view. I gave a Heee Haaa yell as I ran onto the paving. First milestone reached feeling fantastic! I was very happy to see one of my old running friends, Elsa, at the aid station here. She was happy to see me and gave lots of encouragement.

Witsieshoek at 10km. Happy to see an old running friend here.

I had some Powerade and a few jelly babies here and were on my way very quickly. From here it is 9km to the Sentinel Car Park. This 9km is run on a gravel road with some paving at the beginning and end of the road. The road climbs about 300m (984ft) from Witsiehoek to the car park. I had to put on my gloves here as the wind was extremely cold and I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. I didn’t feel my fingers for the next three hours…

Wet and cold on the gravel road.

Above some clouds already.

Finally the car park came into view and I let go of another Heee Haaa!!! Another milestone reached! I was still feeling very good. There were two aid stations on the gravel road and another one at the car park.

Sentinel Car Park in the distance.

After the car park the route follows a concrete path for a while before you get to the technical and most challenging part of the race. The path suddenly changes from this…

...to this...

...and this.

This is the climb on the way to the infamous chain ladders. The path goes past the Witches, the Sentinel, Western Buttress and Sentinel Caves to the chain ladders, a further climb of 450m (1476ft). The organizers were kind enough to place a string along some parts of the route for runners to follow in the mist.

Follow the line.

At the zig-zags. Really tough part of the course.

This was a very tough part and I had to use my hands in some places. I remember people mentioning that this is where you’ll start experiencing the lack of oxygen, but I must say I didn’t feel anything. I was tired, but fine. Everyone was moving slow over this part. It was still very cold and unfortunately no views to enjoy through all the mist.

Up to the chain ladders.

When I finally reached the bottom of the ladders I was shocked to see a long queue of runners waiting to go up. This was strange as everyone said the wait will be 4 – 5 minutes. I felt disappointed but decided to just relax and use the time to rest and drink some chocolate milk.

Long queue at the bottom of the chain ladders.

We soon realized this wait can cost us a lot and after enquiring we realized that we will lose about 40 – 45 minutes here. Not good for the slower runners on the course! In the end I lost about that much and from reaching the end of the queue to the top of the ladders took me 1 hour and 5 minutes! My hopes of finishing below 9 hours were gone. I changed my goal to finishing below 10 hours, the cutoff, and was still confident and happy.

The chain ladders. There is another set at the top of these.

The wait at the bottom of the ladders was extremely cold. I had no feeling in my hands and just hoped I was grabbing the ladder properly on my way up. The ladders can definitely be scary and those who don’t like heights will have a hard time. At the top of the second ladder there is some more climbing to do and then you are there…on top of the amphitheatre!

On top of the world!

We were now above most of the clouds and mist and the sun was even breaking through here. I was expecting bitter cold up here, but it was actually very pleasant. I think I started feeling my fingers again somewhere on the top of the amphitheatre. We followed the path towards the top of the Tugela Falls. My spirits were high and I had another Heee Haaa moment here.

Top of the Tugela Falls. Total drop is 948m (3110ft).

Being up here was absolutely magic! I was happy and felt fantastic. I had a GU gel and some water and then started another hard climb to the top of the Sentinel Gully. This is the highest point of the race at 3110m (10200ft). Unfortunately the mist and clouds deprived us of the brilliant view. I took this photo just to remember my moment at the highest point.

Highest point of the race on the Sentinel.

Then it was time to start the journey back down. With the long wait at the ladders there wasn’t much time for hanging around anywhere. The Gully is probably the most dangerous part of the route. Loose rocks form the base of the Gully and luckily they provide two ropes to help runners on their way down.

Slowly down the Gully. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It is very steep and very long.

When I finally reached the bottom I was very glad I took the advice of previous runners and brought strong gardening gloves for the run. They were great on the rope and also warm in the icy wind. At the bottom of the Gully I saw two people wrapped in space blankets. I heard later these were runners with hyperthermia that could not continue.

The descent back to the car park had a few tricky parts as well...

Then we were back on the path we came up with and would follow the same route back to the finish.

Going back, Sentinal Car Park in the distance.

Sentinal Car Park. The TV guy did a short interview with me.

Then it was back down the gravel road to Witsieshoek. The mist cleared a bit and it was a little warmer at times. I calculated that I could still make the cutoff by about 15 minutes and finish in about 09:45. That didn’t leave too much to spare so I pushed along at a steady pace. I was still feeling good and had Powerade and some PB sandwiches at the aid stations on my way down.

Back down on the gravel road.

I reached Witsieshoek in 08:02 which gave me 01:58 for the 10km descent on the single trail down the valley. I felt comfortable with this and just kept my pace as we ran down and down. I had a quick drink at the Mahai Falls again and a final GU gel for the last 5km.

10km down to the finish. You can see the trail down below.

The last stream crossing…don’t fall now!

About 4km to go. You can just see the white marquee tent at the finish down below.

The last part felt long but I knew I would finish in time. This lifted me and I realized I never felt bad and never had any problem. I just kept going and going. It was muddy and slippery towards the bottom and this slowed me down a bit.

Then the last checkpoint was there and it was all over. 800m to go, then the finish on the field.

Making my final turn into the finish.

Done, Heee Haaa! Finished in 09:43. Very difficult, but very enjoyable.

I’m extremely happy with my race. Apart from the long wait at the chain ladders everything was brilliant. I felt strong all the way and had absolutely no problems at all. I wanted to run 09:00. I lost about 40 – 45 minutes at the ladders and finished in 09:43. For me that is great. The organisers extended the cutoff to 10:30 because of the delay at the ladders. Many runners must have been very grateful for this. I’ll be back next year and hope to see the views then.

Thanks for reading this long report! I’ll do a few more posts about some details in the next few days.

You can view these and more photos here!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Hey, I’m famous!

One of my race reports made it into one of our local running magazines, Modern Athlete, this month. There is a short online version but seeing it in the printed version is much cooler!

I’ll be MIA for a few days as I travel to this beautiful place to run to the top of that mountain.

I’ll be back next week with a report and pictures of the race. Have a fantastic weekend everyone and good luck to everyone running races. Special thoughts to those running their first marathons this weekend!