Sunday, March 28, 2010


I've just noticed: this week I passed 1000km of training.
Since the Gun Run in October, I have run 1,032km. I've killed one pair of shoes, and now own three pairs, one of which took a near fatal pounding this morning. Boy, it was worth it though! We climbed the Vlakkenburg from Constantia Nek, then ran along the track on top, to the fort below Chapman's Peak, then down again and home. It was tough going up the steps to the Vlakkenberg - the steps themselves are steep, but the "treads" aren't even level - they slope too. About 2km of heart pounding climbing. Once at the top, though, it's beautiful. There are spots where you feel like the only person on earth - in among the fynbos and the rocks, and the views down onto Hout Bay are stunning.

That route is leg 3 of the Hout Bay Trail Challenge, so all I have to do is twice that distance, then that leg, and I'm home. Doddle. In the meantime, it's 4 weeks to the marathon: one long run next weekend, then I start (continue) to slow down. I've actually slowed down a fair bit already: 42km this week instead of about 70 I should have done according to The Plan. I was just stuffed after the 30km last weekend, so have taken it easy this week. I've decided that it's a sign of my growing confidence in my own fitness that I am no longer a slave to the schedule. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quiet week

A gentle 12km or so last night turned out to be a match for my PB on that route to the second. Must be the new shoes. Still not feeling like running 5 or 6 times a week. I think my natural limit may be a half marathon, and the full one is going to wipe me out for a month or so.

Meanwhile, I re-read the symptoms of over-training in The Book, and listed there is diarrhoea. And guess what..? Maybe that's why I'm losing weight - it's got nothing to do with fitness, it's the dysentery effect. Oh well, every kilo is another one I don't have to lug around the streets of London ("have you seen the old man...?" That's me.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010


According to The Plan I should be doing 6 hours of running this week, running six days, with a long one on Sunday and shorter ones during the week. The Plan, unfortunately, doesn't allow for the fact that I was absolutely knackered from the 30km on Sunday, requiring at least a day off, and also that I went to see Elton John last night. So it's back to Signal Hill and the trails tonight, something tomorrow, then a longish one on Sunday. I'm going to be short again on the mileage, but longer on energy and stayingawakeness. I've finally got enough confidence in my fitness to ignore The Plan when my body tells me to slow down. My achilles tendons are still stiff, so I've got a lot of stretching to do as well.

Elton, incidentally, was brilliant. The combination of Kirstenbosch, Elton, some fabulous boogie woogie, Ray Cooper, and even a bit of rain, made for an unforgettable night.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I wish I was. I'm forty, and 30km is a long bloody way. Actually it wasn't too bad, apart from the feet. For the last few km, my feet were getting very sore. Since I ran in my second newest pair of shoes, I'm hoping that the new pair will make all the difference for the big day, but I fear that may be a bit optimistic. Perhaps I need to stretch something a bit more.

Still, 75km this week is a new record, and 2h34m is my new PB for 30km. Only two more weeks until the big taper.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Shiny shoes!

Trainers are a bit like jeans. They can be a bit stiff and uncomfortable at first, then when they're broken in there's a phase when they are relatively smart looking and comfy, then they start to decline in looks while getting even comfier, then they pass straight to knackered, at which point wearing them is generally not a good idea. I tend to think of jeans as 'new' until just before they start to get holes in them, or are replaced. It's the same with running shoes - the pair I bought a few months ago are pretty buggered, sending me back to the New Balance factory shop. I've bought the update of my other pair, so I now have two generations of the same shoe. Presumably the latest model is in the proper, full price, New Balance shops.

Anyway, the new pair has gold coloured trim, so I need to get them dirty quite soon. I ran in them for the first time last night, though, and took 1m40s off my best time for my standard 7km loop. These may be the shoes I run my marathon in - they should be nicely broken in and still good and padded. Maybe the gold will attract the TV cameras too.

I've not yet decided whether I am going to run my race tomorrow in them, though. It's 30km, which is 5km further than I have ever run before. It's a bit daunting, and I'm not sure I want to be worrying about possible new shoe problems. 30km is quite enough to keep my mind busy. They say you shouldn't increase your long run by more than 5% each week. I'm going to work on time, not distance (which would be 20%), so since last week's run was 141 minutes, I've got to complete my 30km in 2h35m. That's 5m10s per kilometre. It's my best half marathon time, then 5m30s km for an extra 5km on top of that. I think I may be over analysing this. Still, the mental arithmetic will give me something to do for two and a half hours tomorrow morning...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Next Big Thing

I must be mad. I have just entered the Hout Bay Trail Challenge. It takes place in the middle of the Cape winter around the mountains of Hout Bay. Reading a bit about it (after entering, cos I'm clever like that), I found the following:

"... is considered unequivocally the most technically difficult of all trail races in the Cape. The route is exceptionally challenging, and incorporates the mountains surrounding Hout Bay."

It starts and finishes at the Yacht Club at the harbour, from where you go up to the mast on Klein Leeukop, down to Suikerbossie, up to the reservoirs on the back of Table Mountain, down to Constantia Nek, up to the Vlakkenberg, and down to the cannon, along the beach and home. It's about 36km, and I'd be chuffed to do it under 6 hours. There's an individual version, or you can do it as a relay team of 3. Guess which one I've chosen?

It's good to have new challenges to look forward to. Now back to training for the marathon...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Blown away

I nearly was last night. I put off my run until later in the hope that the wind would calm down, and it got stronger. I decided that this was all part of the fun and set off, turning left up the road, and therefore upwind. Turning right is far better - downhill and downwind - but the 16km route I had worked out required going the hard way. After about 8km I started to climb Chapman's Peak drive. My plan was to run to the tollgate, then turn round and head back, but about 100m short I just couldn't go any further - it was physically impossible to run into the wind. Having turned round to head back, it was almost as hard, being shoved along by an invisible hand. Very weird.

I ran back along the beach, losing several layers of skin to a sandstorm, via the video store to pick up a DVD, then started to feel a bit rough. Stomach cramps again. It's no fun running when your core muscles are trying to do two things at once. Getting home, I discovered that the front door was locked, and my wife took an agonisingly long time to open it. I'll spare you more details, but I just made it in time. The funny thing is, I really enjoyed the run. Maybe the shits are endorphin related or something.

It seems that I am either allergic to exercise, or I've got my diet badly wrong somewhere.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gusting a but

On Saturday I felt clunky when I ran. Last night I felt like a gazelle, bouncing along, eating up the road. I did one of my regular loops - 8.8km, and felt like I was flying. The strong wind made things a bit tricky in places, but I was sure that I had murdered my PB for that route. Sure enough I did: by 2 seconds. I thought I'd knocked at least a minute off it. I'm finding that it's very hard to tell when you're going fast: whether you feel good or bad is not really a guide. You'd think I'd be getting a feel for it by now.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Making it easier

I ran 24.5km on Saturday morning, but it was hard going - I never got into a good rythym. There are just days when it feels like you've borrowed someone else's legs for the day and they don't quite fit. On those days the last 2km is the worst. At that stage you know you are nearly there, and so you gradually allow yourself to hear all the things your feet and legs are telling you. Suddenly everything seems uphill and upwind.

At brunch later, a friend told me about a technique he uses. He runs for 9 minutes, then walks for 1. He does this right from the start of the race, and claims that it helps him go further, faster, feeling better. To me, the idea of walking feels like cheating, but I'm hoping to grow out of that. It's certainly more culturally acceptable in trail running to walk from time to time, especially since there are hills that you just cannot run up. In marathon running though, it feels like I'm not playing the game. Maybe next time. I assumed it was also for wimps, until I asked him what sort of time he does: under 3h30m. His best time for 21km is 1:25. So maybe there is something in it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dancing the trails

I was back on my favourite trail run route last night, only backwards. Not running backwards, just running it anti-clockwise. This means that we went down into Kirstenbosch, then climbed the wall of steps that we usually come down, then cam back along the single track and down to the finish. It means that the only really hard bit is the climb up the steps, then it is net downhill. The problem is that you do the tricky single track rocky bit immediately after the steps while your legs are still wobbly. Mind you, there's nothing like a precipitous drop to focus the mind on the feet.

According to Roan, running behind me, I am light on my feet for a big bloke. I took it as a compliment. On reflection, it's the kind of thing you might say to a fat guy who doesn't knock over the side table. Hmmm...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Body Heat

The movie Body Heat takes place in a heatwave that matches the steam coming off Kathleen Turner and William Hurt. When they first meet in a bar, he sits down to talk to her on condition that she doesn't mention the heat. Since moving here from the UK, my thermostat has re-adjusted. My personal scale now runs from 20-25 degrees: comfortable; 25-30: nice & warm; 30-35: hot; 35+ : too damn hot.

Yesterday it was 25 at 8am, rose to the high 30s, and the temperature in my bedroom at midnight was still 30 degrees. It becomes all consuming, and the only thing anyone can consider or talk about. I wanted to get a T-shirt: "Yes it's hot. Get over it". Like William Hurt: I'll talk to you, just not about the heat.

Boy, am I glad I didn't run yesterday!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A new PB

Every week it's another new personal best for me right now. That's not because I am getting fitter, although I hope I am, but because I am running further than I ever have. Yesterday was 25km: around Chapman's Peak to the end of Noordhoek beach and back. Not too fast, not too slow; early so not too hot - just right. Too bloody windy in places though, and during the run we saw the cat's eyes take out two other runners. The only danger for me, apart from desparate cyclists hoping to get fit before next week, was the wind blowing one leg into the other as it came through. Getting tap tackled by a cat's eye is one thing, but getting tap tackled by the wind is something else. That would have looked really daft.

After last week's blip, I am now nearly back on track, as you can see below. Having run on Saturday instead of Sunday, I managed to miss out a run this week, but I'm getting there.

Now going, because it's my wedding anniversary, and I'm going to lunch.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Windy city

Another 9km or so this morning, but very hard going. My total is now up to 811km since October. I know I'm going to be a bit short of sympathy from the crowd running in the cold & dark, but it's bloody hard work getting back into it when the wind is howling. You can't get into a rythym, and it's hard to catch your breath. Even downwind is tricky because of the buffetting. Maybe I should wear a tighter shirt.

Anyway, I don't feel dead again, so I may even run tomorrow. Watch this space.

Monday, March 1, 2010

On the road again

Ran again yesterday for the first time since Tuesday, and I feel OK. Luckily we got going before it got too hot, and did a nice steady 15km or so in about 90 minutes. I'd spent rather longer, and drunk rather more, than I had intended to at a party on Saturday night, so I think I may be on the road to recovery. Today is most definitely a day off, as opposed to an off day, and I may even run again tomorrow. Woo.

The only problem now is the weather. Look away if you are in the northern hemisphere. It was well into the 30s yesterday, at least 30 today, and much the same forecast for the rest of this week. I may have to get up early to run when it's reasonably cool. I'm going to have to put ice down my shorts to acclimatise me for London.