Thursday, January 28, 2010

Quick Cut

64 days to go

I'm proud to say I've slacked in the blogging but not the training. I've done a couple more 'Rewards' and have taken to running around town before work (I'm not disgusting, I shower at the gym). The city bowl itself is an unpleasant running environment, simply because it's dirty. But it is hilly and that's done wonders for my strength.

My 5km timed run is 23.2 minutes. Not as fast as ultimately desired but on track to get there all the same. I'll tryo to be a better blogger but for now, that's the update.

Back home, I’m so not loving it.

74 days to go

Circumstances forced me to take an early morning run today. Much as I should be doing more of these to get accustomed to the time of day, (as this is when most races happen) I’m a much happier evening runner. Also, to be fair, most races don’t start at 5.30am. But I was off and doing one of my more familiar routes. The route, which I’ve nicknamed ‘reward’ starts off at my house and winds (I’ve mentioned that I like starting off with a few turns before right?) around the neighbourhood for about 2km. The next two kilometres are a steady drag, with one drastic climb at the start and one short drop at the end. I then head left into a flat for about 700m before doing a drastic (easily 30 degree) climb for 400m. At this point I’ve done 5k with only climbing. And the reason I call the route ‘Reward’?

Because after all that climbing, this is what I get to see. Picture pending but I get the most fantastic view of the city, stretching all the way from Blouberg to Muizenberg It’s like I’ve pounded my way all over the city and get to look back at it with impunity. No, really, I marvel, every time. I’ll never regret living here. “I love this city tonight. I love this city always.”

So? The nitty gritty? Reward can be run quick or slow. I can drop immediately after the view for a close of little over 7km or I can drag it out and go back through the neighbourhood for 10km. Today I compromised because I was concerned about time. I’d guess the distance to be 8km. And my time was 35 minutes, still very very slow. Ideally I should run 8k’s in an even 30, well, between 30-32. Back to the speed work drawing board. I was right a couple of days ago about the flats being too easy. The 12k’s there felt much easier than the 8k’s here.

Anyhoo, I clearly have work to be done. Next run will be a timed 5k for speed, looking forward and dreading it all at the same time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What used to be my playground

76 days to go

I went for something of an unintentionally symbolic run on Sunday. Starting in Rondebosch East I headed over the M5 bridge, right into Milner all the way to the common, circled it (again) before heading down Campground until Lansdowne Rd which took me back over the highway and full circuit to my starting point. A total distance of 11.8 km.

What was interesting about this run (he said as everyone yawned) was that it took me past all my old schools and places of similar relevance when I was younger. Garlandale Primary, where I cut my teeth. Golden Grove Primary, where I lost them all. Groote Schuur High School, where I made friendships I retain to this day. The Vredenhof field where we played countless early morning hockey games. At the common I passed Rustenburg Girls High School, a school ground I’d only visited twice ever, but from which many exceptional girl friends (note the spacing) of mine hail.

It’s a complete novelty for me, running in streets so familiar but so distant. I live in the north but lived my school days in the southern suburbs. It’s entirely stimulating, I was so wrapped in my thoughts and nostalgia that the distance fell with relative ease. All the gripes mentioned in the previous blog were missing. Probably still a little slow, but I was aiming to put in the distance, not the time. It felt right though.

One note though. It may be the case that the Cape Flats are entirely too true to their name to be an effective training ground, much as they were a great playground for young me. There’s little challenge in the small climbs offered over the distance. There are no long drags, no true tests for the will. So I think I’m going back to my hilly north. Asap.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


79 days to go

The Rondebosch Common is a curious piece of land. At a the width of little more than a rugby field and not much longer than three, I'd wager it's one of the smallest conservation areas in the country. And certainly one of the more uninspiring, a dry patch of bush in the middle of a busy suburb.

See? Eat your heart out. Anyway, it's a popular spot for walkers, joggers and runners alike and it's flat all round, which was exactly why I chose this locale to do some speedwork in. I arrived at the Common on what turned out to be a sweltering evening. The Celtics Running Club use the Common for their time trials and, as I understand it, they circle the Common twice for a distance of 5km. So my aim was to circle the common at least twice and see how it felt. No timing, just spinning the legs out.

About 1.5 laps in, a few things started to go wrong. Firstly, my breathing was too rapid, a fact which might be attributed to the stifling heat but more likely came from a furious start and a festive season which was entirely too restive. Next my left hamstring started to pull, I've never had hamstring problems before. Cramping calves, side stitches and a bum knee yes, but no hamstring. It's a concern I'll have to keep and eye out for. Lastly I became increasingly aware of the feeling of the ground on my feet and my shoes began to creak, a sure sign that they (my third pair of Nike Air Pegasus in as many years) need to be replaced.

I didn't time myself but my guess is my time was around 25 minutes, terribly slow. I could blame the heat and will test the condiitons next week but it's likely the lazy holiday passed that's to blame. Ideally, the 5km time for a silver half marathon runner (and that's what I'm aiming for) should be 20 minutes or less.

So. Short term goals: Shave 5 minutes off 5km time; buy new shoes; resolve to stretch before runs and start slower.

Today I rest, going ice-skating with some friends, which should actually test out the leg muscles quite nicely. More after the next run.

80 days of Training

I begin this blog with a lie. There are, in fact, 79 days of training (including today) left before the Two Oceans Marathon on April 3 2010, but I started my training in earnest yesterday and that's the direction this blog will take until the race is over.

Whoops, my last paragraph was misleading. I'm not running the Two Oceans Marathon, I'm running the Two Oceans Half Marathon. The Half (as she shall now be affectionately known) is a scenic 21km run starting in Main Road Newlands and ending on UCT's main rugby field. She is extremely popular, fielding about 11 000 runners annually and widely considered to be the toughest half you can run in the beautiful city of Cape Town.

San Tzu advocates that you know your enemy and I know her well. Here's her profile:

You're looking at a rather twisty warm up climb for the first three kilometers, which makes for some excitement (there's nothing more dull that beginning a race on a dead straight). We even out near Wynberg and into Constantia. Around the 11k mark there's the 3km steady incline climb known as Southern Cross. It's here where the men are separated from the boys (I'm not trying to be sexist - I've had grannies beat me up that hill). Many will walk, many hit their 10k training wall, many lose their breathing rhythm and their pace. If you've never run a half before and decided on the Two Oceans 'just for the hell of it', this is the point where you start thinking 'baaaaaaad idea'. Once over, you're rewarded with a refreshing downhill at Kirstenbosch but don't be fooled, Union Avenue holds one last teasing climb before you ease into the finish. Anyone's whose run this race will tell you that, at least on the first try, that last climb caught them completely off guard.

So training for this race you need to bring your artillery. Pacework to take full advantage of the first 10ks, hill training for Southern Cross, and overall distance training to get the body acclimatised (so to speak) and the mind ready for a long haul.

Although the picture is not pretty, let it be said that there's an aweful lots of pleasure mixed in with this pain. An incredible sense of comeraderie amongst runners in the field, unwavering and enthusiastic support from the crowds, the beauty of our mountain and our city and, of course, the high that comes after the work is put in and the fruits of labour are yours.