Thursday, July 16, 2015


Long before the chill of the early morning I found myself looking at the “entry form”, 15km, 25km, 35km or what about the 50k… Last year I was doing the run the 35k, but been very unfit I found myself downgrading to the 25km! (Then I ran the 2013 route and was out of the race, but that’s last year’s story!) I had friends running the 50 and the 35, so I settled on the 25… OK I had raced a 50 in May and have a 40k race in a couple of weeks so, together with the start time 08h00 it seemed like the best choice! I was still up in the cold and dark at 05h00.

The cloud in the sky and the mist on the mountain as we drove in only promised rain later in the day, but some of the 50km runners would get caught… They had started at 06h30 in the dark and we could see the headlamps bobbing along the side of the mountain! It was still dark when the 35km runners left and those headlamps disappeared down the trail.

We only started at 08h00 so no head light for us… Runner conditions were perfect as we set of down the gravel road, but unlike other years I didn’t have the legs to set the yearly pace! The top kids were out to play and they didn’t want to play with this old man!

Away we go

4:03 ok I wasn’t running slowly, but on that first hill I felt a little sluggish, so I didn’t push or drop the guys I was with. While we were still on the gravel road it was no longer wide enough or smooth enough for a car (of any kind!) There were about 8 guys ahead, but 2 of them were catchable… I made my move in the 5th km as we turned off the gravel road up the mountain!

Focus Dion
By up I mean up though a forest, the kind of hill that you use the trees to pull yourself up on, Strava calls it 100m with 96m climb! With only the top 6 ahead I took to the single track along the contour to the saddle and hoped to open a gap on the chasing crowds. I was going along nicely till I kicked a rock (stupid thing to do) no I didn’t hurt myself, but I tumbled into the bushes and lay there in the dust trying to get up. In my head I could hear the clock ticking as everything had turned to slow-motion! I was running again, but now paying a little more attention to the path, as one should in trail running. Maybe I wasn’t sluggish, but tired!

Someone was chasing and once I was over the saddle I picked up the pace again and while I wanted to fly down the ‘road’ it had to watch my footing… The clay was too hard for my shoe to ‘bite’ into and as slippery as ice. I was running in the New Vivo WP’s (weather proof)… they were great for the hard trail and for splashing through puddles.

Our 25km race kept right as the 50 and 35km races turned left and up, maybe next year! We soon turned off the ‘road’ and I caught a glimpse of 2 guys chasing me… While I attacked the firebreak with new found speed this was Dom’s forte and shortly after I turned onto the next single track I let him pass… Colin, another 40+ athlete, wasn’t far back, so I used Dom to set the pace and the 2 of us eat up the miles! The 50 and 35km races had re-joined us and then at the next junction our route turned down again while the others went straight… Dom went straight…

Dom, Dom, Turn Turn!!! I now had the lead (ok we were only 7th and 8th) 3:51 the fastest km of my race, but I wasn’t dropping Dom who had closed the little gap because of his detour. We had dropped Colin!

Now it was time for the river… My laces should have been tighter, my socks should have been thinner… My WP’s had been great and this would be a new test for them!


You can’t run quickly though rivers but with Dom on my tail I pushed on sliding over the rocks and splashing on, out, onto the sandy bank and down river. My shoes were heavy… a tighter shoe less water, lighter socks less water, less water less weight! Back across the river, and again, I let Dom pass and with the river crossings finished for now I pulled my laces tighter. As we passed the aid station Dom pulled ahead on the climb! I had worked hard and was feeling it now. He was passing people from the longer races and if I didn’t want to totally lose touch I had to get running properly again. 

Dom Setting the pace

Look at the lean!
Oh dear Colin was back on my tail, so I upped my game again and started to chase Dom putting in a couple of faster km on the gentle climb next to the dam. Dawn had done her own run and was on the, now gravel road supporting. While I caught right up to Dom it was too late as we turn down and he dropped me again. Colin was now about 60+sec back but I wasn’t letting up, he’s a good runner and 20 years ago use too kick my butt! Now the route takes us around the dam and over the river, but one of the signs had blown down and with the dam so low, we (Dom, Craig, who Dom was chasing, and me (others also did)) we ran on the edge of the dam up to the river crossing! With the laces tighter for this crossing the shoes did better, but I wasn’t catching anyone… I could see Craig and Dom fighting it out as we headed home!

Which way to the finish?
I finished about 6th and kept my 1st 40+ place. It had been a hard morning out and I was ready for a sherry from one of the French Maids on hand!

Lets find those French Maids!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Packing it on the Trail!

If you know me and don't know that I love the mountains and run on the mountains then... it's time to wake up the coffee's cold! Now While I’ve run lots of miles on the mountain I’ve also run lots of miles on the road! Now if you are heading out for a 2 hour + run on the road the you might plan your route past a couple of taps so you can stop for water, other than that I would pull on a pair of shoes and hit the road. So easy…

When hitting the trails, well it’s another story: The weather can change, you could take a tumble (not saying that this doesn’t happen on the road), you might want to stop and take a picture! And then the trail might not have any water…

So what about a pack to run with? Yes over the years I’ve run with a lot of different packs, and maybe each one I’ve run with has been better than the last, so let’s run though the packs I’ve ventured onto the trails with…

This might well be the first pack, not made for running, but a day pack!

The in the early ‘90s I found this pack…

Very Basic
Then while running The Cape Odyssey I was lucky enough to win a Salomon pack… It was a little more aimed at running and worked well.

Many Miles on the trails
I was also lucky to get my hands on a Camelbak Blowfish, and while I enjoyed running with this pack it was a little heavier (good for training) but very comfortable on the back, extra padding!

Might start using this for training again!
Now 8 years and who knows how many racing miles later it's time for a change, it's time to upgrade, it time to put a new generation pack through it paces...

So how do you choose a pack, well it's about what you need the pack for, and like all those packs before I need a pack for trail racing, something that sits comfortably on your back, holds enough water and then all the gear the race organises ask you to take on the trail… Food, Cell-phone, First Aid Kits, Rain Jackets, and sometimes a fleece! 

I have been lucky enough to get my hands on one of the best pack out there... The ULTRASPIRE ALPHA

Nice and New

WOW look at that stretchy straps in front to keep the pack from moving around and pockets in the front. I use one for a water bottle with an energy drink in, while the blader has just water. There is more to this pack than that, but...

Out for a run
Carring a full load
OK so that was me out on the mountains with a full pack seeing how it feels... Now for me who likes to run without a shirt this UltraSpire didn't leave a mark, those front stretchy straps worked well! In the past I've had "carpet burn" on my back when running without a shirt. One more thing that stood out for me was that with the front and side pockets the weight you are carring is spread round a bit and not all pulling your shoulders back, so the pack feels lighter!

Can't wait to race with this baby on...

Friday, June 26, 2015

I'M FAT !!!

Some people might say I'm a little OCD when it comes to running, and I guess they might just be right. I know (being the coach and all) what is needed to take me to the top, well as high as I can go! And while I train hard and do a whole lot of other little things to 'fine tune' my body I don't do it all.

I'm lazy... I know it's hard to believe but it's true! Morning runs and those extra km before session, the longer warm downs needed for the long races I do... what about the bits of cross training I would love to do? Well life gets in my way, and why shouldn’t it, running isn’t my jog, it’s just a passion!

Now also needed to take you there is a good diet! Don't get me wrong I eat well, but I would guess I eat to well. I like food and the odd drink! 

Wine tasting last week
So where am I going with this? Well on Sunday I ran The Table Mountain 16km for the 26th time, and while I’m not as young as I was in the ’90 nor as fast, strong or fearless, I still like to take the youngsters on…

Like most mornings before races I was up in plenty of time and pottered around the house doing the things runners do before heading out to put their bodies to the test… One of the things I do most morning, whether racing or just heading out to work is climb on the scale! Yes I weigh myself all the time…

Race day morning: 68.3kg oh sh… that isn’t good, somehow in the last 2 days I’ve picked up 1.1kg, Dawn was in the passage as I left the bathroom: Sorry Love I’m not going to have a good race today! How do you know? Well I’m fat… What? I’ve just weighed myself and I’m heavier than I’ve been all week!

So does that really make a difference? Well yes, but only a kg… It’s not that it’s 1.1kg, it that I’m heavier than last week, and that is what it’s about, maybe if I was running an ultra the extra weight, (read here nutrition/energy reserves) might help… But this is a “sprint” up a mountain and I would really like to have been at racing weight… OK maybe I can only dream of getting back to the 62kg that I weighed back in the ‘90s, but 67 or even a high 66 would have helped.

From the gun Admire and Jareyd took off with me following… In the old day I would have run them down, but that wasn’t happening the body felt heavy (and I’m not talking about the extra 1.1kg) and I was sluggish but I pushed on. Admire was strong and while I kept hoping that he was break he didn’t! Jareyd is a junior and it took me a long time to run him down, I’m guessing if he had started with me I would never have dropped him and it would have been me dropping into third. I watched Admire as he opened a nice lead and I watched the time as he reach the top. 26:40ish, me, I was 50 sec back in 27:30. Now there have been studies about weight and how it affects your times on the flat, most of the studies I've seen have used track TT to measure things. Me, well I have run a set of R/Mem hills with a pack on, and then for the last 2 (numbers 9 and 10) I took it off and without pushing was a good 10sec faster, and that was over 500m (ok the pack was about 3-4kg). So I’m guessing if I had watched my diet those couple of days before the race I could have stuck with Admire on the way up… (but we will never know)

Climbing up
Jareyd was about 45sec behind me and I would need something special if I was going to keep him there… I was running hard and pushing myself all the way, but it looks like I’m not only fat,  I’m also getting old, he caught me on the early parts of the down and while I chased hard I had no answer to his speed… 

flying down
I was lucky to hold on to my 3rd while the rest of the field was also flying down the hill.

Next year we will try again.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


With JMC (39.1km 2400m climb), Slave route Half Marathon (21.1km 200m climb), HMC (24.4km 2400m climb) and The Beast (48.7km 2100m climb) all run in May I needed some time out before tackling the next race...

With a week of easy runs I was ready to start training again!  Ok I started on the Friday morning with a light hill session... Which I followed up with a proper hill session on the Saturday! And a hill climb on Sunday (Price drive, 1.6km with 160m climb). 

I have been known to be strong on the hills, and this is why: I like hills! So I run a lot of them, if I liked to "plod" I would have ended up a good plodder!

So why all these hills? Well my next race is a little mountain race... Just up from Constantia Neck around the dams and back down. A classic 10 miler with a climb of about 500m in the first 6km! Having run this race 25 times before I know the route rather well , and with many top 5 finishes I also know what is needed to finish on the podium. 

I have plenty of hills in my legs so I should be strong going up, but that isn't enough to win the race... I am going to have to set a solid pace round the dams before racing down. over the last couple of years I have been overtaken by too many guys on the down hill, it looks like I just don't have the raw speen needed to stay ahead of them.

Back to my training:

After a weekend of hills I took the Monday easy and headed back the the hills on Tuesday! this time it was a great session of 90sec easy followed by 30sec hard before heading down. Why you might ask, well a number of my athletes often fade in the 2nd half of a race, so we need to teach there bodies the work in the 2nd half of a race...
Wednesday should have been a little longer but.... (Lazy) Thursday I took the guys down to Ronderbosh for a tempo session, and while i thought I would run easy tempo that didn't happen as the legs were working and I was running well... So it was 11min hard the a couple easy before I set off again, this time only 10min... then on the way back to the club we hammered another 2min, this was turning into a good weeks training!

After a rest (read 5km easy) on Friday I headed to the mountains on Saturday, nothing big, just some time on the legs.

Frost = Slippery
The rocks and sand were fine, and while it wasn't warm, it wasn't till I was slipping on the boardwalks that I could felt the cold!

It wasn't all cold:

and the views are worth it...
The 21.1km (ran round the car to to reach that distance!) I ran took me 2h27, so it wasn't fast, but a bit of time on the legs... Sunday I headed out on a flat run, it was also 21,1km (ran round the block to make up distance) This run was a little faster, in fact it turned out to be a tempo run... 88min!

The next next week started like the week before and it wasn't till Thursday that the program changed and we hit the track for a couple of rolling 200's... The Saturday's long run was just that long... 3h27 28.1km. Needles to say Sundays long tempo was short and not much of a tempo, but I was pushed for time as I had bags to pack for a few days off...

Wine Tasting by bike
Autumn colours
It's a good thing the roads were quiet!