Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I feel good!

Which is a relief because I ran 14km last night and felt terrible. Tonight I ran 8km in 38 minutes, and I felt like a runner. The change is notable - suddenly I felt balanced and smooth, like I know how to run, whereas yesterday I was plodding and staggering along. I'm still knackered, but it's a good knackered.

It's nice to feel like a runner. I saw the manager of a local restaurant when I was out last week, and she was also running. When I went to collect my take away the following evening, she recognised me: "did you have a good jog last night?". Bloody hell - I'm not a jogger, I'm a runner! Damn cheek.

Monday, January 25, 2010


When I was a kid there was a feature on Radio One called something like "True Confessions". It was hosted by one of those sloppy DJs - Tony Blackburn, Simon Mayo or someone - and it featured listeners writing in with stories from their past to make a public confession. The only one I can remember was a guy who, at college, had got fed up with an acquiantance who would always have long lie-ins, then copy the confessor's borrowed lecture notes and catch up. By the final year, the patience of the guy who was getting up each morning had worn thin, and he started to make deliberate mistakes in his notes. The sleep would duly copy them, did his revision from them, and actually failed his final exams. By this stage, the originator of the notes had left it so long that he couldn't say anything. The other guy then studied diliigently for his retakes, and failed again, working as he was from duff information. The final line of the story was that the job that this guy had ended up doing - the one who hated getting up early - was a postman.

I felt a bit like that on Sunday. I am notoriously fond of my sleep, and very hard to rouse in the mornings. At 6am Sunday I found myself stretching in the cool breeze, ready to begin a long run. Come to think of it, I used to be notoriously shy of any run of more than about 200m as well. The strange part is that I am loving it. Chapmans Peak on Sunday was a great example - nearly 20km, the second 5km of which is solely uphill, but the scenery, the weather, and the run is beautiful. It's also amazing how many other people are out there running or cycling at that time in the morning. The best part is, I don't feel too bad this morning, just a bit stiff. Probably a good thing since I am due to run for 70 minutes tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lost in the big city

I've been up in Johannesburg for two days, back tonight in Cape Town. I managed to get a brief run in before I flew yesterday, but then had to run in Joburg this morning. I had mapped out my route in advance, and then written down the road names on a piece of paper. I set out confidently from the hotel, then promptly took a wrong turning. Joburg is a bit short on street signs, so my first guess turned out to be wrong. No problem - I had a rough idea of where I was going, and I was confident that after a few kilometres I would recognise the streets near the hotel I used to run from when I spent time up here last year.

Plodding on, with the same Led Zepp song on repeat for the first 15 minutes - one thing at a time - I turned occasionally in the direction of what I thought I knew. After running for 30 minutes I had still not spotted anything familiar. This is where the iPhone comes in handy. Standing in the middle of a park in the Joburg drizzle, queues of commuters on one side, and mums dropping kids at school on the other, I opened up the map GPS thingy. Where the hell is Dunkeld? After a few minutes of fiddling it turned out that it was just round the corner from Rosebank, where I was staying. Ten more minutes got me back again, albeit knackered.

I got back to the hotel drenched in sweat, having really struggled. Then someone pointed out that Joburg is 1900m above sea level, i.e. Cape Town. I have now done my altitude training. Bring it on!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tired but smarter

According to the Telegraph, and others, this morning running makes you cleverer. It stimulates the brain and helps your memory, thus staving off the debilitating effects of ageing. Not much consolation for President Sarkozy, who took up jogging to try and keep up with his young wife and shortly after collapsed while out on a run.
Jogging: die of a heart attack, not Altzheimer's.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fundraising techniques

Here's a new one. My regular poker night met on Friday without me as I was double booked with my wife's birthday. We had a great evening - thanks for asking - and apparently the poker guys did too. With one or two new players, they had a few practice rounds, then did the usual R100 in from everybody, and played through to the now traditional final round with the dodgy cards. At that point, they decided very kindly to donate the evening's cash to my marathon fund, which was a wonderful surprise.

In the meantime, I ran a 15km run yesterday morning in 74:30, which I was pretty chuffed with. It was a very up & down race too around the mansions of Constantia. I came 317th, for what it's worth. I did get a pair of socks for my effort though. Ran again this morning, so I managed to get to 48km for the week. It still doesn't sound like much compared to the 42 I have to run in 14 weeks time...

Friday, January 15, 2010


Not out here, but in here (taps head). On the hottest day of the year so far, I manage to get a cold. I didn't run for two days until this morning, and it feels very weird - the first time I've taken two days off since the start of November. My wife managed to talk me out of running in the rain on the mountain last night, but I'm still planning a 15km race in the morning. Should be OK, as long as I take it fairly easy. The main problem is that all these races start at 6 in the morning, which doesn't really work with my biorythms. Or something.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Juggling schedules

I've realised why I'm so attached to my running schedule. It's a mental thing, as apparently marathon running is too. If I follow the plan, then the plan says that I'll be OK in the race. Therefore if I follow the plan, my head will be straight, and my legs will have to follow. Or something.

Having said that, the plan goes out the window today. On the hottest day of the summer I'm feeling like I'm getting a cold, I'm knackered, and it's too hot to run: pushing 40 degrees. I am juggling this week's running anyway to accommodate a long run / race on Saturday instead of Sunday, so I'll have to move today as well.

Sponsorship and South Africans

I always feel like a bit of a fraud pushing South Africans for sponsorship, as I've said before. While I'm making a big fuss about running my marathon, I am often surrounded by those who've done the Two Oceans (56km), Comrades (90km), Iron Man (swim miles, run a marathon, cycle even further), or Cape Epic (8 days on a bike in the mountains). In those circumstances, it almost seems a bit much to ask for sponsorship, but as all the advice says, it pays to be thick-skinned!

So here's the thing. I'm not saying that running a marathon is a big deal, although it's a big deal to me; or that it's anything unusual, but I am saying that you should sponsor me. Don't sponsor me because it's something special, sponsor me because my cause is important, and you want to support me in raising money for them. Now click here and get your credit card out!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

South African Airways

It's not just about the running. When you live in Cape Town and are racing in London, there are logistics to take care of too.

South Africa has a national carrier that is everything you might expect of such: inefficient, poorly run, but well equipped, funded as it is by the taxpayer. Unfortunately, I have got myself hooked into their Voyager miles programme, so when it came to book a flight to London for the Marathon, I did it via them.

I need to be in London in time to recover from the flight before the race on the 25th April, so I planned to leave on the 20th to arrive on the 21st, then leave on the 28th coming back to give me a few days of recovery and socialising time. I booked my ticket, then realised that the 21st is son no. 1's birthday. I got back on the phone, and explained my predicament to a guy who was obviously a father, very sympathetic and helpful, and moved my booking. So far so good, so out of character with SAA, but we can all change.

A few weeks later I got an email from SAA advising me of a change to my booking. The JHB-London leg was now 30 minutes later (I have to go via Joburg to be able to leave on the 21st). No problem, just an extra half hour loitering at OR Thambo. A few weeks after that, I got another email, sending me to another schedule on their site which now showed two return flights, one on the 28th as booked, and one on the 27th. I only need to come back once, so I called SAA. They informed me that my booking has been moved forward 24 hours.

"Technical difficulties"
"So you can forecast technical problems 4 months in advance?"

Anyway, I am now coming back earlier than I had hoped, and further changes to my schedule seem to be at the whim of SAA. My guess is that the flight has been over booked, so they are bumping airmiles passengers to accommodate. It's interesting that the customers who have racked up a lot of miles are the ones to suffer, but then we are all self loading cargo.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bay to Bay

... and back again if you do the whole thing. I didn't, citing my all important schedule, which does not say that I should be running 30km at this stage - I'm quite happy with a relay leg of 15km. Bruno, my running partner, did the whole thing, at least I assume he did. Last I saw he was heading back off through Hout Bay. The Bay to Bay runs from Camps Bay to Hout Bay and back again. I did the first leg as Bruno's pacemaker. Actually it's the other way round. I normally go off too fast then struggle later. Bruno runs the same pace for the first km as for the 20th, and goes the same speed up and down hills. It's a bit uncanny, but very good for teaching me to pace a run properly.

I've worked out that my running schedule is neatly split up into three areas. I had read the books about doing hill training, speed training, and just getting the miles in your legs, but hadn't worked out how to accomodate all that. As it turns out, I've got my trail running on the hills for strength and speed, running with friends for just getting the miles, and then when I run on my own I tend to go faster, pushing myself. It's all working out quite nicely.

441km of training so far...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fell running

I was running, then I fell. Boom boom!
Seriously - I've just read 'Feet in the Clouds' by Richard Askwith. It's subtitle is 'a tale of fell running and obsession', and it's absolutely absorbing. He interweaves the story of a year's fell running races with a history of the sport and a narrative of his own attempts to conquer the goals he has set himself. Fell running is probably closest to trail running, but more extreme in terms of the peaks and valleys. Some of the things that the runners achieve are incredible, and humbling. I'm struggling enough having run last night, on the mountain, and this morning again. We're going out for dinner and there's a decent possibility I'll fall asleep in the starter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hot, hot, hot

My wife is also busy getting fit, so she went for a bike ride first thing this morning. That pushed my run back to 8am to 9, by which stage it was about 30 degrees. Centigrade. I'd also forgotten quite how steep the route I had decided to run was. I ran up the track to Hout Bay's shipwreck, which is past where we used to live. As I puffed up the road, it occurred to me that I always had to put the car in first gear to get up. Then I'd forgotten how rocky the path is, and since I was last there, the wind has put a dune across it as well. Not a hugely successful route. By the time I did the downhill return I was finished. It took me about half an hour to stop sweating.

I was forced to go and relax at Newlands all day. Poor day for England, but after my experience this morning, I know how their bowlers feel. It was hot enough sitting and watching, let alone running around in the sun!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The land of the blind

As soon as  you get into something new, you discover how little you know, or how bad you are. Some people deal with this by building up their achievements, and telling anyone who will listen how good they are. People like me start out all excited, then realise that we know nothing. I've always wanted to find out how good I am - especially in sporting terms. When playing rugby, I kept going until I found a club where I had to really work to hold down a first team place. In business, if someone asks me about a field, I can talk about it for a while, but will then point them at someone who knows more. Now I'm running what my mother thinks is a lot, I know that there are plenty who would consider my weekly mileage a nice morning warm up.

I guess that's the thing: there is always someone better. I tend to under-value anything that comes easily, or that I've forgotten how hard I worked for, especially when I know how much I don't know. The corollary is to try not to over value anything that currently seems impresive because I'm finding it hard. Ignorance is bliss, and in the right head, expertise. Beware the novice who thinks he's cracked it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy new year

So now I have run on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Funnily enough, it was easier getting people to run off their hangover than it was to exercise pre turkey. I'm feeling pretty stiff, having run 4 days in a row, but I also feel strong. It's really encouraging to see the progress I am making. Perhaps when I lay off the booze and pies a bit after Christmas, I may even get slimmer. I certainly hope so. At the moment I'm keeping consumption and expenditure of calories about equal.

My temporary running partner goes home tomorrow, so I may be back to me and the iPod for a few weeks. I'm planning to spend some time at Newlands in the five days from Sunday, so I'm going to have to get out early so I can get there in time. Having watched England lose to South Africa at Newlands (I think) every time I've seen them, my expectations are low, but it's always a great place to spend some time.

In the meantime, I'm a bit worried about the craving I get for running, and about the fact that it's becoming one of my main topics of conversation. I may be in trouble here.