Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The loneliness of the long distance runner

 A tail of Langkloof Beast Trail Run 2020

For a couple of years now I've been running in sandals and when I saw that "my sandals" (T-rockets) were one of the sponsors of this race and offering your entry fee back to you if you raced in sandals, I thought it was time to make a Covid Comeback to racing… 

Now The Langkloof isn't in my backyard so I packed the car and we headed off for a long weekend!

Our destination Louvain Guest Farm (somewhere between George and Oudtshoorn). 

Arriving on the Thursday (yes a proper long weekend) meant we had the farm to ourselves till Friday afternoon. 

No, the time wasn't spent lying around relaxing with my feet up, we had dogs to walk (Jack Russells, 3 of them), and wait for it, horses to ride. 

Saturday, race day and I was ready to go… 

I took the lead with the hooter that set us off (mostly because I was the only person standing on the start line!). It was nice to be racing again, running with focus… My lead was short lived as 2 young guys jogged past just as the first climb started. I tried telling myself I wasn't racing as they pulled away into the mist, I was just running… I looked back to see a couple of guys chasing up the hill, but it seemed I had the better of them for now. 

Don't race Dion, you aren't fit enough to push for 36km (3 to 4 hours on the mountain) I told myself this at every turn as I start to close in on one of the young guys. After about 4km (3 of climbing) I was about 15m from him… But the road flattened and once again he disappeared into the morning mist. 

We reached the saddle and the 1st water table at about 6km. I hadn't touched my water, but forced down a cup of theirs. The race now headed down the other side of the mountain for 2 or 2.5km (some of that was flat) then The Beast turned right (leaving the guys doing 16km to head on straight)... Don't think this road had been used in years leaving us a slow 230m climb in the next 3km before we crested the top of the next mountain. 

The guys ahead had vanished, but I could see a red and a blue shirt still chasing me. I was now taking a couple of splits and while I had seen them I didn't get a time, it was over 2 minutes, no need to race (yet) 

What followed next was trail running heaven, a freshly cut single track around and down the mountain 160m drop in that 1km and 104m in the next. We now had hit the old forestry roads, and next 5 or 6km took us down to the river dropping another 350m. I was controlled in my running keeping the pace around 4:30.

Still no sight of the leaders whom I guess were gunning it down fighting for line honours. A glance over my shoulder told me my 3rd place was safe for now with the chasing guys out of sight. 

The sun was long out now, and had first melted the mist and had now turned its attention to the runners..! 

22km brought up the next water point and a river crossing… I hopped off the bridge and dropped into the cool mountain stream. Magic, just magic having that cold water wash over me, just sorry I couldn't really stay in for longer than a couple of seconds as we were still in the race and lying 3rd meant a chance of climbing onto the podium. So I filled my water bottle knocked back a coke and set off on the last climb of the day… 

Ok we could really break that into 2 climbs the first 3km long with the middle km climbing 100+m (the other 2 not so bad). Then after a 1km flattish the next 6 climbed 550m.

I was slogging it out km after km, just to scared to walk for fear of never getting going again. 

I rounded a corner and saw a water table, the top I hoped, but while I filled my water bottle the guys told me: only 1km to a turn, then 2km to the top… (only, they said, I had just climbed for the last 3km and that "only" would haunted all the way up). 

I tried to keep running but the road wasn't really the running type, it called for low-range… 

With my eyeballs now floating in lactic acid I thought they were deceiving me when I saw one of the front guys walking and I was catching… 


This wasn't the time to be stupid so I didn't drop the hammer and run past, no I just kept my walking pace strong and passed him as he stopped to stretch out another cramp. 

The top, the top and the last water table… My water was almost finished, but with only 4+km of mostly downhill I hoped it would be enough I didn't have time to stop. 

Flat isn't down and my legs had had enough the running time was over 3 hours and I wasn't really trained for this. I wasn't dropping fast enough and running fast enough, and I don't know if he had control of the cramps and was now catching… 

After 2km I could see the farm and finish, but there was still a mountain to descend! 

Then, there in my path was a puff adder! And not there, it was right under me… Oh my sandals, I had to put in an unplanned jump… or step on a fat little puff adder! 

Jump it was, (not the first time I've had to take evasive actions for a little or not so little snake in my path, but normally not 3h30 into a race when the legs are wobbly !) I made the landing, but not without a tweek of a cramp… OH dear after 3h30 of running smoothly controlled running had I just thrown my race away! 

Wait it was under control 2.5km to go and 250m descent left, (oh the last 1km is almost flat) if I ran slowly and carefully… 

3h47.00 I crossed the line 2nd place, not bad for an old man in Sandals… 

Before I go, let me say this: I hope I get to return here next year, we have had an amazing weekend, long weekend, and next year, we'll make it longer… (the weekend that is!)

Thank you for reading

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

T-Rocket Yeti Sandals

For my birthday in December I was lucky to score a pair of T-Rocket Yeti Sandals.

Now having run over 500km in them it's time to look at them and share a couple of thoughts:

Where does one start? Well I can start by saying I don't wear flip-flops! I don't like them! Never felt comfortable with something between my toes! That said I didn't mind 5 fingers so, lets put these on and see what happens...

Ok, putting them on the first time took a bit of time:
• I set the back strap
• I set the tension around the ankle
• I set the tension of the thong through the toe.
All set... and like a mad athlete with a new toy, I just had to head out for a run!!! Only 1.6km around the block but it was enough to test if I had the straps right, if I was ready to do some real running.

I did tinker with the straps a bit, but it's easy.

Most of you would wear flip-flops, these are not flip-flops, these are sandals, so they 'stick' to your foot! So if you shake your foot around it doesn't come off!

Let's run:

No wait, let me tell you this first, I have been running in 5-fingers, Vivobarefoot shoes, and NB minius for years now so what I'm about to tell you about my runs not everyone can do!

• Run 1 (2 Dec), 1.6km around the block
• Run 2 (5 Dec), 4km pushed for time, but had been wearing them in the house.
• Run 3 (8 Dec), was wearing them as I drove to the track... ran in to enter a couple of track races!!! It felt comfortable! Kept them on for a 3000m track race, a 1000m race and the Mile.
• Run 4 (12 Dec), 14km on the road.
• Run 5 (15 Dec), 21.1km not a race, just a run 88:47
• Run 7 (22 Dec), 30km 2h25 half road, half easy trail over 500m climb
• Run ? (23 Feb), 14.3km 2h06 real trail, single track on Vlakenberg 700m climb.
Wow, I've run a bit of everything in them... from the runs above you can see I've run road, gravel road trail, rocky single track trail and track! yes tartan!
Only pic left of me on the track, with me 40 years ago!
Now what do they run like?
I'm having a ball in them!
But it's just a hard piece of rubber under your foot!

Truth be told, it's not that hard, it bends and wraps around anything and has enough give! Have you ever been on a tartan track? Well next time take you shoes off and go for a run! That was what it feels like! Don't ever get near a track? How about the carpet at home? Jog down the passage!

When running I feel someone has rolled out thin rubber mat in front of me, yes I feel the rocks and stones but you want to feel the ground so all is good. The rubber is thick enough so sharp rock aren't a problem.

What I can say: that 3rd run, the track races, my toes felt a bit of a burn, the type of burn you might feel running on the beach... so start easy for a couple of runs, till you get use to running in sandals.
Blisters? No problems, No NOT even between the toes, the foot doesn't move! I can say, the little plastic that connects the straps was uncomfortable for a bit, but I sanded the ruff edge off and I don't feel it anymore.

Another thing I've noticed is that in the wet, while the soles might still grip to every rock and road, my foot wanted to slide a bit... this just meant taking turns a little slower. No problem on the road, but on a twisty trail... if you are a racing snake you will be loosing a bit of time!
I also felt, due to the fact you don't have big lugs, some loose rocky down hills slow you down... ok they slowed me down. That said I'm old and take them slowly in any case!
Some real single track heading to Blackburn

In the mean time I have a 2nd pair, The Streetlite, They are a little softer, thinner and lighter. (and the foot slips more in the wet, but this will improve as the sandal molds to your foot. The sole mean while grips to anything!)
Raced 30km in them on the weekend

Who should own/run in a pair of sandal?

Well, I would say everyone, yes you, you, and even you... but that said not everyone will be racing track races and running 30+ km long runs in them...
Most of you will just put them on for a jog round the block, to walk to the beach, to go shopping in! A sandal is not a flip-flop it allows your foot to relax and move freely strengthening it. Strong feet, good for running.
So your feet get dirty

Sunday, September 30, 2018


Back in 2014 I was lucky enough to be on holiday in Croatia and ended the trip running and winning The Ston Wall Marathon! It's a small marathon (about 20 people that year) and the prize wasn't €250000 it was a painting by a local artist and a small trophy.... and they said; if I returned the next year they would give me a free entry and 2 night accommodation!

Wanting to see more of Croatia and it's neighbour, Slovenia, we started saving!!! 2015, 2016, 2017, all passed... All this time I kept in touch with the Marathon with the odd comment of FB. Roll on 2018 and we were heading back. I contacted the organizers and wait for it... 4 years later they still honoured the prize!

Having had time off for an injury I started training from zero in March!
Over the last 6 weeks I had built up quite well and if I had been lining up for one of the fast City marathons I would have set my sights on stealing a sub 3... Ston is not fast!
• You don't go there to run a PB
• You Run for the challenge of the marathon
• You Run it because of The Wall
• You Run because of the salt pans
• You Run because of the small towns
• You Run because of the Adriatic and it's views.
The Wall is waiting for us
With registration and a pasta party on the Saturday we cycled into the old town.... pasta, yes with mince / Bolognese and wait for it mussels (grown locally)

Spent some time catching up with old friends, the organizers, and 2 guys who had run it 4 years ago with me! Antonio from Spain, this would be his 5th run. And a guy from Split in Croatia this would be his 10 run. (It's only the 11th running) And making new ones... an English lady and her husband, Bikers! Next time he says they'll cruise down on their Harleys! While in Skradin we met a runner, Mikael, organizing an ultra for diabetes awareness. Having told him about the race he decided to pop down and run. Then there was Dion (great name for a runner) and Australian who had travelled to Croatia for the world 100km champs but had a small injury and didn't want to race 100km and get properly injured! So after watching his team mates race 100km he was now on holiday and with the injury coming right thought a little marathon would be a good idea.

With Ozzie Dion in the field my hope of a 2nd win was off the cards, but never say die!!!

7h30 found us on the startline ready to go. I set off at sub 3 pace... the first km is easy as you head down the main road to Ston. Dion joined me with Antonio and a Frenchmen behind. I wasn't running smoothly but I was running ok as Dion entered Mali Ston and started the climb up the wall. I was not far back.

The wall runs from Mali Ston to Ston, half over a mountain! We climbed 120+ meters over the next km only to climb down again... before running round Ston on the wall (more climbing as the wall also served as a lookout!). While Antonio had caught me I had caught Dion and the 3 if us left the wall together... race on!
Dawn didn't get a picture of us coming off the wall, but this is me running past at about 25

Dion showed his youth and 2h24 marathon pace by pulling away as we hit the flat. I couldn't find any rhythm in my running... was it the heat that was climbing and would almost reach 30°c, was it the humidity that had been draining the life out of one through the European summer? Or was it the 1500km of driving I had done while having my amazing holiday? I will never know.
Stopped for a drink in the shade
The Frenchman caught Antonio and I before the next hill and while I thought I could go with him I didn't, saving the legs. I was planning on running him down later. With the Frenchman pulling ahead in 2nd Antonio and I traded places till on the way back at about 18km when I stopped to walk a bit of the hill and take a Turbovite! I was melting so I took off my shirt and with a new lease of life I set off the pull back the guys ahead.
Dawn was at the top of the hill on a bike so I tossed her my top and got focused for the job at hand... hunting! It was easy to up the pace to 4min/km on the down hill, but once on the flat again reality set in!

It was going to be a long 42.2km...

At about 26km we passed Ston for a stretch down the other side of the peninsula. The beautiful views and picturesque small villages did nothing to spur me on. Goals had changed and staying in 4th and staying under 4 hours now took priority... Dawn was taking more pictures of the views than me.
35km and the turnaround finally came, it had taken forever!
The front guys were all taking strain:
• Dion would win in record time 3h07
• The Frenchman 2nd in 3h21
• And Antonio 3rd in about 3h31
Me... I run in, yes I was running, slow but running, crossed the line in 3h49. It wasnt my best marathon and while I was thinking I should have run about 3h20, I'll take it... I made it through in one piece and while I didn't enjoy all of the race. I enjoyed the fact that I have it in me to fight to the end.

And then there is the rest of the race weekend... mussel pasta and beer for us finishers, great medal and an atmosphere to top it all...

We then met the organizers in the evening and they invited us to join them for a drink and a bite to eat... If you want to eat local best you join the locals...

Who knows, maybe I'll make it back... would love too.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

4% faster... I wish

So the other day my friend Grant from RUN asked my if I wanted to give his Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% a test run.... hell yes... I grow up running in Nike!

Now before I go on I must tell you that now a days I run in barefoot shoes... (Vivos) Shoes with zero drop, zero cushioning, and a wide toe box...

This was going to be an interesting run... not only because of the reasons above, but his feet are a full size smaller then mine! Knowing I would never get another chance at trying this news making shoe I squeezed my feet in and... walked around the office. It was Friday, rest day and it was raining, so my run would have to wait till Saturday.
I'm training for a marathon and had a longish run planned for Saturday, so because I could never run 20+ km at marathon pace in shoes that small I would run 20km first in my normal Vivo's then head out in the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%....
Good plan...
Some 90 min after I started I found myself squeezing into the Nikes... my run wasn't going to do them justice! Such a pity... I turn and headed I turned back after 1km. Tried on the way back to run freely but the shoes were just to small.

(Is someone else willing to lend me a test pair for a 20min run? Ok really I would like to test them proper, but 20mins will do!)

So what can I tell you about this shoe:

Should it be band? As much as spikes should be band on the track!

It, like a number of other shoes on the market had quite a bit of cushioning... but not marshmallow soft. I wasn't sinking into the shoe like I had some other shoes, making running fast impossible. So it looks Nike is one up on those shoes. 4% faster... I don't know... Now as for the run: it's not easy for me to tell you much but there was a hint that the shoe would run well. I can tell you this: with my big foot squeezed into the shoe I was feeling pressure on the ball of my foot. I wrote it down to the size of the shoe and the fit, but then, my wife, now back from her run. Thought she would take them round the block. Her foot went in easy the shoe a couple of sizes too big. But with the laces tightened off she went.
Short answer, what colours do the ladies come in she wouldn't mind a pair! But they feel a little hard under the ball of her foot! (Interesting)

I couldn't run fast enough or long enough to let you know if the shoe really works magic with the way it's put together. Maybe I'll get hold of a pair that fits one day and let you know.

Monday, August 20, 2018

5 Weeks to go!

I've always said it only takes 4 weeks of training to run / race a marathon or any race for that matter... so with 5 weeks to my marathon it's time to put that to the test.

4 weeks training and 1 week taper / rest and I will be standing on the start-line of a marathon for the first time in a couple of years (Nov 2015). And yes I'm a little afraid...

I've been running again since 1 Feb, started with 2km! By May I was running 10km and I was ready to start building a base. 

The last 4 weeks I've built up to 90km.

Now I hope that base is big / fast enough for my goals...

This last Sunday I lined up for John Korasie 30km, not an easy race, but a nice route. I wasn't there to race, but to run easy to 9km (up Red Hill) and then MP to the end. 21km in sub 90, or more importantly still be running well in the last couple of km.

The first 5km from 9-14 took us down Red Hill and down the road in the direction of Cape Point. 19:53 it was easy, and we had a nice little group going... about 1.5km into the next 5 and the road starts the climb to the top of Smitswinkel. I felt the pace drop, so I moved to the front of the group to take the pace... and I found myself out front on my own with only Mark trying to stay in touch. It wasn't easy and I lost a couple of sec in the 5th km (to km mark 19). But 20:55 for the 5 was fast enough and now I had a couple of easy km as we headed next to the ocean to Millers Point. 24km done and those 5 down hill kms had ticked by no worries in 20:05. I had been caught by a young guy in a temp number about 500m earlier and had upped my pace to stay with him. I would need help for those last kms as the North West wind had picked up and they start with a nasty little hill...

He stopped, right in front of me I almost had to stop in mid stride and then start up again, on a hill into the wind... I was on my own!

The 4:15's I was looking for weren't going to happen, and with a 2nd hill outside Cape Times Fresh air Camp, I had to settle for 22:54. I could have pushed the last km, but my sub 90 for the last 21 was in the back... 88:07, so I happy with my run...

Now, no cheating in these weeks as the log book never lies! I have a little base, something to work with, let's see what my marathon holds.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


How can so little training make one so sore...

One of the biggest problems with a comeback is getting the, now soft, body accustomed to training!
After the doctor gave the go ahead I didn't waste any time and jumped straight into training...

Day 1: 15min on the Bike! I want to say that was easy, but having not really bent my leg for the last 3 months it wasn't easy to peddle without my seat as high as it would go.

Day 2: 35min on the bike and the knee has started loosening up.

Day 3: and I went big ... a full hour on the bike!

Day 4: Monday back to work and on the motorbike for the first time in 3 months. Sitting back a bit and I can get my leg bent enough to put my foot on the brake!
An evening cycle up to the club and then while the guys set off running I followed. Good to be out.

Days 5 and 6 pretty much the same as Day 4!

Day 7: still cycling up to the club... but today I was ready to run! The guys left for their warm-up and I headed down to the track for a couple of laps. The week of cycling had loosened the legs up enough for my first run! (Or had they?)
I hit the go button on Ms Garmin and off I went. It wasn't easy... the track didn't slide under my feet... I didn't glide through the air inbetween strides. There was almost no knee lift, but I was running. The knee cap felt loose the quads felt tight but I was running... my senses were  heightened to every niggle on every step I took! My head was working overtime deciding if the niggles were because of lack of running / training or the injury wasn't healed.
2km later I stopped enough for the first run.

Day 8: Friday and I was up early... not to run, but the swim... I wasn't heading to the gym / pool I was heading to the Waterfront and the canals. I squeezed into a wetsuit (great to keep the wind off you on the bike) and looking more like The Michelin Man then an IronMan I took to the water with the guys and girls from ATC.
Enjoyed it and I didn't die... will be back!

Ok the truth be told they were long gone before I hit the water and that's a good thing! Ms Garmin was ready and had started counting the seconds before I had time to think about what I was doing.
Swimming is like riding a bike you never forget... my brain just takes longer to figure it out, to remember what to do. Good thing I was wearing a wetsuit... because if I wasn't I would have be crawling on the bottom of the canal, instead of doing crawl on top of the water!

Under the first bridge (I almost swam into one of the pilings) and my arms were hurting and I was thinking I would be turning early... then NO! I own Batman socks I can do anything! (I wasn't wearing them at this stage!)

After what seemed like an eternity I could see the landing jetty and I swam on straight up... I wasn't going very fast so I didn't get very far up! I had no strength left in the arms but I still managed to pull myself up and slowly I inched my way up, like a walrus beaching on the ice!
Day 9: Firgrove Half no I wasn't running but on the bike to watch...
This wasn't the easiest ride.
The quads still burning from a 10min run two days earlier, 10min are you sure I didn't run a marathon! Then my arms ... never felt my arms before and now I could hardly lift them...
Oh boy I love training I love feeling like that... I want more... I've missed it!

Monday, January 1, 2018

GOALS 2018

January 1 and everybody is setting goals and resolutions for the New Year...

Over the years I've set many running goals but they have seldom been made on January 1st! They get set after reaching the last goal or when coming back from an injury.

My comeback may only be starting on 1 February but I'm excited and scared, 4 months of no exercise has left me fat and unfit (by my standards). It's going to be a long road back.

So the question is: What is this old body still capable of?
I'm looking at running a marathon in September so everything I do from 1 February will be building to that.
1. Goal 1, to finish
2. Goal 2, to be running well at the end.
3. Goal 3, sub 3...
So in talking this through with my coach he says: first we'll need a 21min 5km (marathon race pace)

No problem I said... Park Run here I come! That said it will take at least a month before running 5km is easy so maybe come March we'll think about the first test!

Next goal will be 10km in 42min and then a sub 90 half.

I know I should be able to run sub 3 for the marathon again, but can I do it off 8 months training?

Make that 9 months training... I'm starting today! No I won't be running but I'll start with a couple of slow walks with the puppies and a push up or two should help! Ok I'll also throw in a couple of planks and some calf raises! And then when I can bend my knee enough I'll start turning over on the bike (I've also got Argus on the cards.)

Now let me get training...
2018 here we come