Monday, November 30, 2009

Training update

An occasional series. As of today, Monday 30th Nov, I have run 190km since the Gun Run on 11th October - when my training unoffically started. My peak mileage is still low by 'proper' runner's standards: 37km last week. The peak will be about 90km in a week, sometime in March / early April.

Shifting sands

To Kommetjie & Noordhoek yesterday for the Surfer's Challenge. The premise here is a race down Long Beach and back between runners and paddle skis. The final result is pretty much down to the sea - if it's rough, the runners win, if not, the paddlers. I managed to beat some paddlers yesterday, but only in double boats - they must be slower. 12km on sand is tough going, although probably good for some muscles that I didn't know about, and I did get a free cap into the bargain. At the end, it was such a relief to be on a firm surface that I jogged back to my car. I may be turning into a runner.

The highlight for me was to come up the boardwalk to the turning area at the Noordhoek end and to see my whole family standing there shouting! It's great to have a good travelling support.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lion's Head

Trail run Thursday... along Signal Hill and (partly) up Lion's Head tonight. This is a nice gentle run for the first two thirds, then a punishing climb on loose stones, then a nice descent. We ran from the left hand end of this picture, just above the grey road, along the hill to the right hand end, then turned, and came back around the high bit (Lion's Head), then down the yellow path back to Kloof Nek. The views along over Camps Bay, and past the Twelve Apostles to where the cloud and the mountains converge at the horizon are well worth the climb.

I definitely need to replace the crappy Nike trail shoes I returned this week, hopefully with New Balance ones. The road shoes are too slippery and the soles a bit thin for the rocks. About 9km in 56 minutes, excluding the stops to admire the view.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bouncing shoes

Here they are - actually quite simple: just search on "running bouncing shoes". Bizarre.

Walking on the moon

Morning Stu.
On Monday morning I saw a woman running along the road. Thing is, I'm not quite sure you could call it running. She was in shorts & a T-shirt, but on her feet she had the weirdest contraptions which looked like ski boots with bent blades on the bottom - sort of like the end of Oscar Pistorius's running legs. She was bouncing along, a bit like a moon walker, but nothing like Michael Jackson. I'd post a picture, but I was too slow with the phone, and I have no idea where to start looking on the web.

So anyway, I managed to buy some new shoes that actually fit. Strange to think that they will probably be worn out sometime in March. They are New Balance, cos they're the best for me as they come in different widths and I have feet like spades. I don't know why the other shoe people don't do this, but since I have non standard feet, I will always wear NB. So I tried them last night: 8km in 38:56, and after my old worn out ones, I felt just like that woman, walking on the moon.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New goals

Having felt quite good running last week, I went to one of the online 'marathon time predictors' to see if I had got better according to their forecast. The short answer is no, I hadn't, but I noticed a link to a 'celebrity marathoners' page. Now here's a challenge: find a schleb and see if you can beat their time. Lance Armstrong, pass; Chris Boardman, pass; aha! George W Bush - should be OK there. Well according to the list, Dubya ran the 1993 Houston marathon in 3:44.

That's not a bad time at all, and a fair bit better than the "just under four hours" I had been planning. Of course in 1993, he was not yet even Governor of Texas, so he probably had plenty of time for training. On the other hand, in 1993 he was 47 - 7 years older than me. I wonder if he'd given up the booze by that stage - another unfair advantage. Whatever, I now have a new target...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New shoes

I bought some Nike trail shoes a while back - about 130km ago. They look great, but the layers of the sole are all peeling away from each other, so there are flappy bits all over the bottom. They are also lethal on a wet smooth surface, but that's a separate issue. I took them back today and left them for assessment by the Nike person, and then went to replace my worn out New Balance road shoes. NB are the best because they come in different widths, which is important when you have feet like spades. Somehow I managed to buy a pair that's too small. I put them on to run tonight and immediately took them off again. I'm still not sure quite how I managed that one.

So now I have one pair of shoes: knackered NB trainers, in which I ran my standard 7km loop in a record time of 33:19. Imagine what I could do in new shoes...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clear round

It's a famous day. I finally managed to run on Chapman's Peak without falling over. I may have been helped by the fact that this is a quiet week n teh training schedule, so I only ran for 20 minutes, but you have to start somewhere.

The other exciting thing is that summer seems to have arrived at last. It was 26 degrees for the run and no wind. Sooner or later I'm going to have to run in the cool of the mornings. That will test my resolve.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pizza run

The standard marathon training programmes all have the big run of the week on Sunday. The problem with this is that everyone has the big night of the week on Saturday. We were at a party last night, so I really didn't feel like running this morning. By the time I got round to it, having just had a slice of pizza, it was late this afternoon. Alll I could taste for the first half was pizza, and for the second half I had stitch.

Still, I'm getting better conditioned to these runs - under 35 minutes for 7km isn't too bad. Maybe I should try something similar on the evening of 24th of April. I won't sleep well anyway. Maybe just a quick one...

Friday, November 13, 2009


Not running spikes - that's for the kind of distance I'm built for. Perversely, I'm training for the kind of distance that I will never be competitive at. A first class distance runner weighs roughly half what I do. No - I'm talking about quills.

I ran on the mountain last night - the regular Thursday trail run. I'm not sure it's right for my training plan, but it's a great run, in a group, and the scenery is awesome. The problem at the moment is that Cape Town's summer is a little slow getting started. Someone told me last night that the rain we have had in November so far is twice the normal amount for the whole month. Next week is due to be brighter, so hopefully I'll be putting on suncream instead of a rain top. Anyway, I watch my feet a lot when I'm running because I'm clumsy. A friend who trail runs a lot told me that he has never seen a snake in years of running in the mountains, and I believe him. He's probably passed hundreds, but you can't afford to take your eyes off where you're going.

Like last night: as we were going along, I spotted a huge porcupine quill in the path, so stopped to pick it up to show the kids. Of course, at that point we were running on a single track. You need to keep an eye open for protruding rocks or roots, but nobody expects a six foot Pom to stop and bend over suddenly. I nearly caused a pile up. I wonder if anyone has ever been banned from the pack runs?

The quill has gone with Jen for show & tell today, so it was worth the near disaster. She has disguised it in tinfoil so that she can unveil it at an appropriately dramatic moment.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I spend my working life giving people advice. Well, selling them advice anyway. Now it's payback time. In SA everyone has done marathons, Two Oceans, Comrades, and the latest craze seems to be iron man triathlons. At the 40th I was at a month or two ago, all the guys seemed to be in training for something dramatic: iron man, swimming to Robben Island, Everest base camp. I feel a bit puny with my first marathon. It's quite tricky to choose the right advice to follow. The normal sceptic's rule applies, obviously: consider the source.

A friend has now lent me a copy of Tim Noakes's book "The Lore of Running". This tome is 1200 pages long, and is generally considered to be the last word in running guidance. It covers everything from diet to training to shoes to all kinds of ultra stuff I will never touch. It is truly comprehensive. The only thing it is lacking is a large legend on the front: "Don't Panic".

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Tonight I ran briefly on Chapman's Peak Drive. Now this has to be one of the most beautiful roads in the world, and even on a blustery night like tonight it is stunning, but damn - the cat's eyes are fearsome! I ran on Chappies a couple of weeks before the Gun Run, which was great, except on the way down I hit one of the buggers, and the same thing happened tonight. In the UK, cat's eyes are innocuous little rounded pebble-like things. In South Africa they have a vertical surface about 1cm high that contains the reflector. If you hit this there is no scuffing over the top - your foot just stops. It's like being tap-tackled.

My left knee had pretty much healed from the last time, and now I went down on the right one. Luckily it wasn't as hard this time - last time I hit the road simultaneously with knees, forearms, hands and belly. It wasn't pretty. This time I was going more slowly uphill, but it's not nice. I never expected to shed so much blood just running.

What's up, doc?

I've finally, at the grand old age of 40, decided to treat this kind of venture a bit more seriously than I once did. I've also got a family who insist on me doing things properly, so it was off this morning to the Sports Science Institute in Newlands. It's perfectly positioned, between Newlands rugby stadium and a brewery, and I'd made an appointment for a full check up.

The quack checked on all my aches & pains: dodgy knees, sore toe, iffy shoulder. Apparently I'm in pretty good shape for the mileage. The only embarassing bit was when she was testing my flexibility: lying on my front, and when she bent up my leg at the knee, I got cramp in my hamstring.

Just to be sure, they then wired me up to do a stress ECG. This is great fun - wires all over your torso just like in the movies, then run on an inclined treadmill. They told me that hardly anyone ever got to the end at 21 minutes, as if they thought I might. I lasted 15 before I bailed, which was pretty good, and all the little blips on the chart were in the right place too.

So I'm fine to train for the race. Better get on with it then.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Many rivers to cross

I have one big advantage in training for the London Marathon, in that I don't live in London. I will be training through the South African summer, so may struggle with the occasional very hot day, but at least I'll be training in the daylight, and I'll be able to feel my toes.

This morning I had to run in the rain, which is actually quite pleasant. I had carefully chosen my route to give me the right sort of time & distance, and had set off with just enough time to finish it before church, i.e. maximising my lie-in. The last 500 yards or so the plan was to cross the river over the road from my house. If it's dry, then you can walk the 5 yards or so across the weir, or if that's a bit deep, then hop across the stones. Since it's been raining for about 5 days on and off, the stones were underwater, so I had an unscheduled detour, adding about 2km to the route - and only that little because the wife came to look for me.

If that's the worst mishap during my training, then I'll be happy.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I've read (oh boy, how I've read!) that runners can get addicted to running. There is apparently a "runner's high" from the endorphins that are generated when you run. I think that endorphins are the body's natural painkillers, so this is an all natural version of one of the cheaper addictions out there.

What I've noticed is that running for 6 or 7km no longer does it for me, if indeed it ever did. In order to come back from a run feeling on a high, it has to be longer. Thursday night's trail run, up from Newlands Forest to Plumpudding Hill and back, taking in views of the city and the Southern suburbs, did work. I pushed myself a bit, despite walking some of the hills, and came back really glowing. It's a combination of the run, the views, the exercise, the cameraderie of running in a group, and maybe some endorphins.

Sometimes I feel like a real runner.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Trainers & gear

You've got to have the right gear. It helps to have some idea too, but the right stuff helps. Blokes like that kind of thing. Buying the right pair of running shoes gives you some control over the process. This stuff is not cheap though: a good pair of running shoes is heading for R1000, and then there's all the moisture wicking shirts. I didn't know I needed a moisture wicking shirt until I wore one. It takes away that feeling of carrying a sodden blanket that you get from running in an old T shirt.

For my birthday I got lots of goodies - running tops, water bottles, etc. Should be easier to run through the summer in shirts that aren't drenched after 2km. I also bought myself some trail running shoes. Basically they are running shoes with a chunkier grip in a darker colour, so they deal better with stones and don't show the dirt so badly. I went to the Nike factory shop, and bought a R400 pair when they had a one day 20% off sale. Bargain.

Of course, I broke Paul's first law of shopping, which is: buy good shoes. They look great, but they gave me huge blisters, the soles are already coming apart, and they are slippery as hell on a wet smooth surface. I can run up the mountain, but not onto the patio.

Next step is to get some more road shoes, as the pair I am using now won't survive the full training period. This time I am going to get it right. I have to.

Spread betting

Now I've set up a sponsorship website, I am obviously seeking sponsors. Starting with immediate family went quite well. Next step was to approach a few friends from university. This is where the trouble started. I casually suggested in the spiel on the JustGiving site that you might like to incentivise me: perhaps an extra fiver if I break four hours. It seems that I under-estimated my target audience.

I find myself now stuck in a discussion of spread betting on my own time, with a series of people. It goes something like this: if I beat 4 hours, then the Red Cross gets an extra pound per minute, say. If, on the other hand, I don't beat 4 hours, then I pay a pound a minute to the Red Cross.

There are 2 big problems with this. One is that I am in danger of entering this arrangement with lots of people, meaning that they individually stand to pay an extra 10 or 15 quid, whereas I, individually, stand to pay an extra 10 or 15 quid times the number of people I sign up to the crazy scheme. The second problem is that there is a limit to how much faster than 4 hours I could possibly run. The world record is about 2 hours; my best possible time without getting a piggy back from Paula Radcliffe probably about 3.45. There is, on the other hand, an almost limitless amount by which I could miss four hours, and a whole range of potential causes for that happening.

New proposal to those who are reading: give me an incentive to beat four hours, and if I don't, then I will make one payment to the Red Cross. Let's say 25 quid. How's that?

Now shut up and sponsor me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hungover running

Hydration is of key importance when running. For anything over about 8 or 9km you need to carry water, or find it en route. You should also ensure that you are properly hydrated beforehand so that you do not struggle on your run.

That's what they say anyway. One logical implication of the above is something that I can attest to from first hand experience: running with a hangover is a Bad Idea. I know because yesterday was my 40th birthday party. About 3 weeks after the birthday itself (I awarded myself an official birthday too this year), it started at lunchtime with about 45 guests, and ended with an impromptu country music and whisky tasting with my brother sometime after dark. I left the run until the evening of the next day, but as you know it takes a good day of rest and refreshment to get over a big night.

Net result: 5km at 20 seconds a km slower than I managed 2 days later. That's 15 minutes over marathon distance. The price of a pint (or three) ...