Wine Tours, SA Champs & some more ….

Some people have friends that go on “golf tour” , my friends go on Wine Tour! I always battle to have a long lay off after Comrades so when our wine club, affectionately known as the “Sour Grapes”, came up with the idea of going on a tour, my wife Julie jumped at the opportunity. It was great fun, I even managed to squeeze in a few runs to keep my Discovery points ticking over and enjoy a few smoothies on my return! We visited Stanford, Elgin and Hermanus, doing about 4 farms a day and avoiding the well known “brands”. We discovered some gems and tasted a lot of new and interesting wines in the process.

So June 2016 wasn’t a very high mileage month needless to say and the highlight was a 18:35 Parkrun at Piggly Wiggly just before our departure to the Cape, my total for the month being 214 km. The intention was to focus on the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon being run in September using SA Half Marathon Champs in PE and the Mandela Half Marathon as part of my preparation. I wrapped July up on 402 km with a 81:06 on the 30th September in PE, my longest training run was 20 km but I had a fair amount of interval training in the mix. I improved on my 2015 time in this event by about 30 seconds, it felt tougher and I was secretly hoping to dip under 80 minutes, maybe next year.

In August I upped my mileage a bit, finishing on 485 km for the month, including a speed session of sorts at least once a week. I only went longer than 20 km once and on the 28th August tackled the Mandela Half Marathon finishing with a time of 85:38 and claiming second Master pipped by 18 seconds, a good sign for me was that I had improved my time of the past 2 years on this course by 2 minutes!

The Cape Town Marathon was 3 weeks after the Mandela Half, I tapered my training during this period and was getting excited as race day approached. I battled during this period with a stiff neck, had one chiro treatment but it didn’t bother me when I was running so I thought nothing of it. I spent a few days with my son Luke prior to the race and we traveled to the start together with friends as he was doing the 10 km. This is such an awesome race to be a part of, the organisation from start to finish is up there with the very best, nothing is left to chance. I’m fortunate enough to get some VIP treatment with the PAP Athletes (Elite Professionals) so arrive at the start line feeling relaxed and excited, with the normal butterflies doing their thing.

My planned pace was around 19:35 for each 5 km which went very much according to plan for the 1st 10 km and then the going just got a bit tough, not hectic but I really had to focus and concentrate really hard so as not to give up on my goal, 2:47 was the time I had to match from 2015. I went through half way in around 83 minutes so I kept pushing, realising that I was still on track and despite not feeling great a decent time was on the cards. As usual, when you are racing in age categories, you hardly ever know where you are lying, until you cross the finish line! I caught and passed the previous years’ winner of my age group at about 32 km which spurred me on even more. There are always enthusiastic supporters en route providing information and with about 6 km to go I was told that I was the 2nd master, I dug really deep but could see I was losing a bit of time of some of the “bumps” as you enter the last 4 kms. I passed one more master with 4 km to go and thought that I had it in the bag, only to discover that I was 3rd again! My 2:48:37 was a bit slower than I was hoping for, a minute behind 2nd who was the same time behind 1st place, all in all nothing to complain about, I had given it my best shot on the day.

My neck was really bad after Cape Town and now the discomfort has spread to my hammies, so tight and sore into my buttocks! I wrapped up my racing for 2016 with a solid run in my Save Orion AC club race which doubled up as KZN Half Marathon Champs, despite the discomfort that I had to endure. I had a great tussle with 2 other guys but couldn’t keep up with them on the downhills, finishing 3rd master in 85 minutes about 1 minute back. I am going to enjoy some serious rest & recover so I can finish the year feeling fresh and ready to tackle 2017 with a bang!

I’ve really been enjoying my Brooks runing shoes that I have been putting to the test since mid June and will be doing some shoe reviews in the future. Keep a look out for these or visit the Brooks Running SA website to view their range by following the link on my blog.

Take it easy and enjoy the last  2 months of 2016,

Shaun

Comrades 2016, the dust has settled …

It’s hard to believe that 2 months have passed since we all made the trek from Pmb to Durban; the aches and pains have hopefully all disappeared but the memories are still very fresh in our minds – some great, and sadly, some not so great…

One thing is for sure, we have all started planning how we intend to be back next year to improve on our performances, where improvement is possible.

If your name is David Gatebe then that is going to be extremely difficult – what an awesome performance to take the win and smash the down run record so convincingly! This athlete has such great credentials but I’m pretty sure that all the “experts”, myself included, would have put money on Gift Kelehe or Lucas Mamabolo to have lifted the title. David clearly had other ideas and without a doubt he will be a marked man going forward!

In the ladies race there was just as much drama, Caroline Wostmann just had to arrive at the start line and the race would be hers, surely? Reading her blogs since the event, she decided to opt for an aggressive approach and aim at a sub-6 hour time, which would not only give her the win but also put her in the league of the great Frith Van Der Merwe.

The rest is history as things went horribly wrong for Caroline and she bravely struggled on to finish 2nd, relinquishing a lead of what was around 13 minutes at one point. The consistent Charne Bosman took her first win, which was a surprise to many – I’m sure not to Charne though, who would have geared all her preparation to claiming the title. 2017 will be a great ladies race, Caroline just has too much class and character to let this get her down, and Charne and others will be waiting in the wings to pounce should the opportunity present itself ….

Looking back at my own result this year and the preparation that I had, I can be really satisfied that I managed a 6 hr 43 min, missing out on my 4th Masters title by a mere 43 seconds! On my last blog I touched on when and how much training is enough for Comrades, being injured for all of February (146 km) and most of March (225 km including Two Oceans). I had a consistent April (515 km) followed by 384 km in May until the week before Comrades. Total km over a 10 week period was 1,124 with 3 weeks in Mid April of 130 – 140 km per week. I probably wasn’t in the best shape I’ve been in recent years but I felt fresh & strong the whole way. I’ve always felt & believed that 10 – 12 weeks of uninterrupted training is all that is required for a good Comrades, going into that period with a decent base and no niggles or injuries will just boost your chances even more.

Since Comrades 2016 I have also joined Strava, for those of you who aren’t “following” me, please feel free to track my sessions, hopefully it will assist you in some way but at the very least you will see for yourself that “keeping it simple” and consistency are really key to enjoying your running and getting the best possible “personal bests” as a result.

In my Comrades “off season” I like to have a short break and then gently ease back into running. When I feel the body is ready for it, I introduce some forms of speed work – this year I have done a few Parkruns, interval and fartlek sessions. I have been selected to take part in the SA Half-marathon Champs in PE again, so I’m looking forward to seeing if I can equal or improve on my 81:28 from last year on the same course. PE is forming part of my preparation for the Cape Town Marathon in September; I ran my 1st one last year and really enjoyed taking part on a well organised and fairly fast course.

I’ve also decided to put another brand of shoe to the test, in June I started testing the Brooks Launch and more recently the Glycerin 14. What a pleasure, the Launch may just be the shoe to consider for the up-run and fits the mold of “racer-trainer” perfectly. The Glycerin will more than likely be my “trainer”, built to absorb the bulk of the weekly training runs, offering great support and cushioning in the process. I can’t wait to try out the Hyperion, a pure “racing” shoe, ideal for Parkruns, time trials, speedwork and races up to 21km.

Chatting to a lot of my friends it seems like Cape Town is going to be a popular choice, if I don’t see any of you before then hopefully we can catch up in Cape Town.

Run happy and live the way you run,

Shaun

Big “C” looming …..

Wow, 2016 is rushing by and it’s been a while since I posted anything on my blog and my most favorite race in the world is upon us!

My silence is pretty much indicative of the year that I have had on the road, brought about by a nagging ankle injury that first presented itself in January and I can honestly say only got sorted in time to get 8 weeks of decent training under the belt leading up to Comrades 2016.

I ran Two Oceans after being back on the road for one week, a lot to be said for cross training, the stationery bike at Virgin Active being my boring companion for a few weeks. I managed a silver medal by a huge 12 seconds, those watching may have been under the impression that it was a perfectly timed effort, but only I knew that it took a huge amount of persuasion to keep pushing after going though the 42 km mark just over 3 hours!

I do believe, and next Sunday will hopefully reinforce this, that April and May are the crucial months for Comrades preparation and that it is really important to have uninterrupted training during this phase with no racing anything longer than 21 km.

I was pretty amazed during the Deloitte’s Marathon, on the 1st May, at how many runners were running at what I would guess to be a pace way quicker than their planned Comrades race pace. I was running at around 20 seconds slower than my planned Comrades pace and there were so many runners ahead of and also running that same pace?

Having said that, there is nothing any of us can do in the next week to improve our performance next Sunday, we can only mess it up by doing something silly or falling ill. So take it easy, do less rather than more, wrap yourself up warmly and start gearing your mind up for what lays ahead.

Good luck to all taking part and to the friends & family members that have supported us in the past few months, thank you for that. May your run exceed all your expectations & dreams,  you can be very proud to be a part of the Greatest Road Race in the World!

See you on the road …..

Extreme October through to a relaxed December …

2015 has been an interesting year of running, with October being the month that will stick in my mind the most. I was introduced to the good folk at EL Bateman and invited to take part in an Extreme Challenge which they were staging for the second time. The event is held to raise funds for the St Vincent School for the Deaf and involves teams of runners and cyclists racing against each other from Villiers in the Free State to my home town, Pietermaritzburg. The 8 teams of runners, comprising of 5 runners in each team, have it a lot tougher than the cyclists who get to overnight in a comfortable bed & breakfast, eat hot meals and start each day feeling fresh and well rested, or alternatively with a slight hangover from the party the night before.

We started running a day after the cyclists on Thursday 15th October at 15h00 and ran relay fashion, non-stop until we reached the Tsogo Sun Hotel in Scottsville Pietermaritzburg at 8:45 on Saturday morning. Our strategy was initially to run half hour stints until 21h00 on the Thursday evening, after which we split into 2 “teams”, with Team 1 continuing with the half hour splits for 4 hours allowing Team 2 to rest for 4 hours.

On Friday we reverted to being one team and continued with the half hour stints, even reducing the splits to 20 minutes as our bodies got more fatigued. The toughest part of this challenge was the lack of sleep, and having to start running each leg from a “cold” start, stiffness setting in properly from sitting or lying in the mini bus for such a long time.

Our team was made up of some reputable runners with me being the “old” man and trying to lead by example. Linda Doke, Andrew Kelehe, Surprise Makofane and Willie Mtolo were to make up the ELB Superstars Team. Unfortunately Willie picked up an injury beforehand so he brought along Philip Shezi who proved to be a more than capable substitute, Willie still took part as a member of our support team, who were absolutely crucial in ensuring our safe and successful journey along the way.

This was really one of the toughest events I have ever taken part in, but our team never complained once; we stuck together and fed off the support of our crew, always remembering that this was an event for the benefit of someone else and not about us at all – we were there to support and share the importance of what we were trying to achieve, raising funds for St Vincent School.

We did finish 4th in the running event, gaining some insight along the way on how to tackle such an event, so maybe next year we will be back to perform better and also raise more funds that the R280,000 that was raised from this years event. A huge congratulations to Stephen Meijers and all his support staff at EL Bateman as well as the sponsors that made this event such a success.

I had taken part in the Swift AC 21km on the 11th October just before the EL Bateman Challenge and managed to run 81:52, missing the Master age category win by 2 seconds, so I felt pretty sure I was in decent shape to manage the 123 km of the 504 km that lay ahead from the 15th October. What I didn’t realise was that I would feel really buggered for the whole month after the event! I rested really well, only doing 75 km for the remainder of October and only returned to feeling “normal” around the 16th of November when I was able to get back to 85 km a week for the last 2 weeks of November.

I have managed to get up to 100 km per week in December and also felt a bit of bounce coming back into my stride. Our family arrived in Ballito last week for a break before Christmas and it just so happened that the local club, Dolphin Coast Striders, were staging a 21,1 km race which was incorporated into the KZN Half Marathon Champs. My eldest son, Luke, and I entered and I went out hard, determined to finish the year on a high and set matters straight with Willie Majombozi who had pipped me at the Swift AC 21 km in October. The first half was tough; the race was aptly named “The Big Hill Challenge”, and at the turn to come back I was a tad nervous to see Willie only about 20 seconds behind me. I ran as hard as I could back down to the finish, mostly downhill now, with no uphill to assert any authority. I didn’t want to look back, not a good sign and often spurs the chasing pack on as it gives the impression that you are struggling. I wasn’t struggling, I just expected my opposition to be stronger than me on the downhills, which never happened, and I managed to win the Masters Category and KZN title with a time of 86:48 with a cushion of over 2 minutes on my nearest challenger, Willie!!

A well earned rest day on Monday was enjoyed, especially by my family and quads! This morning I went out for a recovery run of 16 km in a light drizzle, the cooler conditions most welcome after 5 days of extreme heat, excellent beach conditions but tough to run in unless you get a very early start. Today’s run brought my 2015 mileage up to exactly 4,000 km with a few days of running still to come.

I hope you all had a rewarding year of running, have an awesome festive season, be safe, have fun with the family, run when you can, and all the very best for 2016.

Shaun

September 2015, my first Sanlam Cape Town Marathon

Everything I did post Comrades 2015 was geared towards preparing for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, my goal being to run sub 2hrs 48mins. I have fond memories of racing in the Cape and I broke the sub 2hr 30min barrier in 1987 for the first time ever at the Peninsula Marathon many years ago and I have 16 Two Oceans Voyages with a PB of 3hr 21min achieved in 1994.

Conditions on race day were great, I arrived nice and early at the start in Greenpoint and did a few strides and drank some water in an area provided to the elite and international athletes. I felt a bit out of place with these speedsters but privileged to be in their company. I walked calmly across to the start with these athletes and took my place a few rows back from the front of the field so as not to get crushed in the very fast start that was sure to happen. I felt a little nervous as 2 weeks prior to the race I was forced to take a course of antibiotics for a bad case of sinusitis which made me feel a little “green”. I took a week off to recover from that and had a decent week training with 3 rest days  leading up to race day.

Shortly after the white pigeons were released and our National Anthem sung, we were sent on our way by the starters gun. I settled into sub 4 min pace from the first km and went through the first 5km in 19:19, I felt comfortable and when I took my second 5km split at 19:41 I realised, that if I stayed focused and concentrated all the way, my goal would be within my reach. I always run my own race and although I was aiming for a podium finish in my age group, I still stuck to my race strategy and only when I got news at 33km that I had moved into 3rd place did I put my head down and work hard to hold onto my position. At around 36km I was joined by 2 strong running VOB runners and I decided to stick with them to the end, keeping an eye on our pace to make sure we stayed under 4 min/km.

I looked up ahead at 41km and to my amazement a SANDF runner with the distinctive red “50” displayed on his vest appeared before me! I dropped my 2 VOB mates and took off after the new target and possibly 2nd position in my age category. I pushed hard for a few hundred meters and my fellow age grouper responded well, he passed me and I tucked in and made sure he didn’t open a gap. About 500 meters into the final km he faltered and I went past him and ran hard until I hit the track, glancing back to make sure he was not within striking distance.

I crossed the finish line in 2:46:54, a minute quicker than planned and my fastest marathon in a few years. A race official immediately came up to me and congratulated me on my 3rd place in my age category! The information I received at 33km was incorrect and I had in fact managed to snatch 3rd place at the death.

All round it was a great day and the organisers need to be congratulated on putting on a world class event, the expo and registration, refreshment stations and everything that makes a race like this a success was on the button!

I am going to do a relay event from Villiers to Pietermaritzburg in October to raise funds for St Vincents School for the deaf, please support me in this worthwhile cause, to find out how go to http://www.stvincentschool.org.za/ and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ELBextremechallenge

Take it easy, see you at the races …..

Rest, more rest, then some speed ….

So the month of June was a proper REST month, my highest weekly mileage of 60 km being 4 weeks after Comrades with my longest run being 15 km. Rest and recovery being so vital to enjoying your running during the second half of the year.

If you are struggling with your running and feeling “flat” or carrying a niggle that you took into or developed during  Comrades  2015, then the best advice I can offer is to back off and don’t force the issue. Many runners make the mistake of trying to run through injuries and more often than not the injury gets way worse than it would have been had a more conservative approach been taken, medical or specialist treatment combined with rest will always produce the best possible outcome.

Hopefully, you have all bounced back from Comrades feeling strong and excited about the goals you have set for yourself for the months that lay ahead. For the next few months us ultra-junkies need to get the bounce back in our stride, something that we tend to lose with the high mileage months that form part of our build up to running an 89km race! Speed work in the form of intervals, fartlek, time trials and strides should now feature regularly in our training with a sprinkling of hill sprints thrown in for good measure. Short & fast, not too steep or too long, 100 meters. The benefit of doing these short hill repeats is to recruit fast muscle twitch fibres which in turn improves our ability to race faster.

My goal for the remainder of 2015 is to race a few half marathons aiming to dip under 80 minutes before I tackle the Cape Town Marathon on 20 September where I would like to break 2 hours 48 minutes. So, I was pleasantly surprised to be selected to represent KZN at the SA Half Marathon Champs on the 25th July in Port Elizabeth. The 21.1 km event is the only distance that I hadn’t represented KZN in at SA Championship road running events, so I was understandably excited at the opportunity offered to me. June was low key as I mentioned, so I only had 3 weeks to try sharpen up a bit and aim for a decent time with stiff opposition in the Masters Category.

The trip down to PE was interesting to say the least. The cost to fly our team down was too expensive so we were driven down by bus, leaving at 18:30 on the Thursday evening with race day being on Saturday. Our anticipated time of arrival was meant to be Friday morning around 8 am. Unfortunately our bus experienced problems about 20 kms before King Williams Town. After limping along for an hour we ground to a halt only 5 kms further down the road. A 22 seater Sprinter arrived another hour later and we took off for PE, the driver seemingly trying to make up for lost time. I put my head between my knees and said a silent prayer that we would arrive safely in PE in one piece.

Rain was forecast for the weekend in PE, lots of rain with the prospect of snow in other high lying areas around the country. Our managers presented us with our race numbers and briefed us on the course details on Saturday evening, we all had rested well during the day so we were pretty much ready to go. It had rained quite a bit during the evening and when we got up at 5 am it was pouring and didn’t look like letting up. Team Manager Norrie Williamson had told us that we had to jog the 3 km to the start as part of our “warm-up”, that didn’t appeal to anyone, arriving at the start “wet & warm” only to be freezing cold waiting for the gun to fire. Miraculously the rain stopped suddenly and the race was run in near perfect conditions, only to resume after the event and flood PE properly.

The race was run up and down the beachfront so it was flat as a pancake and some good times were run, I managed 81:29 which was pretty close to what I managed at the Deloittes Half just before Comrades, the ultra probably still “in my legs” but more than happy with my time, the winning time for the 50+ age group was 75:16 and there was 7 athletes in front of me!

Plans for August include regular speed and hill work culminating with the Mandela Half Marathon at the end of the month, not a fast course but run in my own back yard and which provide a good indicator on how my preparation is coming along for the Cape Town Marathon.

Train smart and don’t forget to listen to your body for tell tale signs that you may be overdoing things, when in doubt, REST!

Comrades 2015, and going forward …..

Comrades 2015 will always be remembered as a “good one” for many reasons. As usual, the race organisers managed to stage a magnificent event, before, during and after. It must take a superhuman effort, pretty much like running from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and back again, and more often than not, these efforts are taken for granted and the CMA and their team of volunteers don’t get the recognition they deserve. Congratulations and all the very best for 2016, after 90 years you guys are certainly building on a strong foundation and keeping the Comrades Marathon and all its traditions not only the biggest, but the best Ultra Marathon in the world.

Personally, I went into the race confident that I had a good build up but nervous what the extra distance would do to my time. Strange as it may seem, I still feel that I have a couple of “good” Comrades left in me and that a 6:45 was on the cards even with the extra distance.

I had an early wake up alarm set for 3 am, surprisingly from a very deep sleep down in Durban. I tucked into a pre-race snack of toasted rye bread with a banana sliced up on top, washed down with a cup of coffee. I took my time getting into my race kit, ensuring that everything was fitting perfectly and that I had vaseline in all the right spots! My Adidas Super Nova Glide 7 being the most important item in my kit, and successfully tested over the Two Oceans route earlier in the year.

By 4:30 am I had finished sipping on 500 ml of 32Gi Endure and felt ready to head to the start. Julie dropped me near the start and I made my way to Durban City Hall. I had an elite seeding which allowed me to warm up in the city hall with all the race favourites and previous winners of Comrades. I felt pretty relaxed but excited that the big day had arrived at last and eager to things going.

The atmosphere was electric as anyone that has lined up for this race will testify, the singing of Shosholoza and the SA National Anthem has your goosebumps standing at attention, and then the gun is fired and we were on our way.

A good start means not being tripped and hitting your stop watch first time, so I guess I had a good start. I settled into a comfortable pace and concentrated hard on not getting too excited and carried away by the runners around me and going too fast. I saw Vladimir Kotov and Stuart McColl, two of the main contenders in the Masters category, early on in the race but also knowing that I always ran my own race and concentrated on my own strengths and that I had no control over their race, the athlete that ran to the best of their ability would win on the day.

I always break Comrades down into smaller “chunks”, 10 km being easier to digest at a time than the daunting prospect of 87.72 km. My times for each split were so close to being perfect and my time at various landmarks also just what I was looking for. I was running the uphills comfortably passing Kotov at Alverstone and felt strong going out of each of the “big climbs” heading towards Inchanga, keeping a close eye on my heart rate ensuring that I kept that under 145 bpm.

I went through Drummond in under 3:18 (position 268) which was almost the same as my time on the 2014 down run, wondering if I had gone out too quickly, it didn’t feel like I had but the second half would reveal if I had. I climbed Inchanga really well and it is now that some of the early pacesetters start crashing from an over enthusiastic start, the first marathon of this ultra is tough with so many hills to climb, but the second marathon is just as tough having already been softened up by the first one!

After descending Inchanga quite cautiously but at close to 4 mins/km I got the news from the side of the road that there was a Master 10 minutes ahead of me! I dug deep and really concentrated hard on the second half, all my 32Gi Accelerate drinks being where I expected them, a great seconding team making my job just a little bit easier. I ran 2 of my better 10 km splits on the second half, dipping just under 45 minutes.

I enjoy the crowd support on Comrades and especially arriving in Camperdown where my family are waiting with a drink and lots of encouragement. I felt incredibly well at this point and ran the nasty “hill with no name” out of Camperdown a lot better than I have in recent years, passing one Master at the base of this hill and another within the next 2 kms. I enjoyed the drink and support at Umlaas Road and kept a steady pace down to Lion Park and all the way to Little Pollys. I even managed to run up Polly Shortts, and was greeted by a song I had chosen and that Wayne Riddin played for me to push me to the finish line, “Freaks” by Timmy Trumpets.

This was home territory to me and I recognised many locals during the last 7 kms which helped me to push as hard as I could to the finish line. I finished in 6:39 and amazingly felt strong all the way. On my 27th voyage I had managed to finish 65th overall and 1st Master for the 3rd year in a row, beyond my wildest dreams and expectations.

A huge thank you to my family, seconds, friends and sponsors for the support again this year, I certainly couldn’t have done this without your help and support.

I hope all of you that took part in Comrades had the experience of a lifetime and that you are already thinking of Comrades 2016, if you would like to share your experience please get in touch, otherwise take a well earned break and concentrate on the shorter stuff for a while, work on your speed which tends to be a weakness of us ultra distance junkies!

Take care and happy running 🙂