5 weeks to go …. keeping it together & some mental preparation to be done

I’ve ticked a few boxes in recent months, including my 20th Two Oceans where I managed to time my finish to perfection (that’s my story and I’ll stick to it!) – earning my 18th silver medal with a 3:59:38. No drama this year, thank goodness, I just had to work hard the last 7 km when I realized that a silver is never going to be a breeze and you have to concentrate right until the finish line!

The 31st March brought my total for the month up to 576 km and year to date up to 1,433 km. I enjoyed a consistent April achieving 572 km and passing the 2,000 km for 2018, something I haven’t been able to achieve in recent years due to persistent niggles and the serious plantar faciitis injury in 2017. My weekend long runs were 4 x 40-42 km with one 50 km in the 3rd week – no racing but at least one speed session and sometimes two in a week in the form of fartlek, intervals or a short time trial.

This weekend I ran another 42 km training run, trying to relax and focus on form and also using the opportunity to visualize a bit of how I may feel on race day running at a similar pace. I find these long runs, especially when I’m on my own, perfect for preparing the mind for race day. In the latter stages of a race like Comrades, when the going gets tough and you are literally on your own, it takes an enormous amount of “self-talk” and grit to work through these tough patches and push harder. It does help to have spectators encouraging you on and even fellow runners, but at the end of the day it’s going to be how well you have prepared for this stage and how hard you are prepared to work at it on the day that gets you the results and goals you have set for yourself.

I’ve seen on all the various social media platforms that thousands of runners also used this weekend to fit in what I’m hoping is their last long run in the build-up to Comrades 2018. This coming week should signal the beginning of what we all look forward to, the pre-race taper phase. That is cutting back on our weekly mileage, mainly in the form of that long weekend run, which should bring about a spring in the stride, and by race day we must be rearing to go.

I would typically base my taper on my highest weekly mileage that I achieved and cut back by 80%, 70%, 60% and 50% from this week until the final week where I will run 75 minutes, 60 minutes and 50 minutes (Monday – Wednesday) and total rest on Thursday & Friday. On Saturday I do a very light jog for 25 minutes, but you may choose to give this one a miss.

To wrap up this blog post I would just like to share with you all that although this is a very special Comrades for me, being my 30th, I will be dedicating my run to a fallen Comrade, Piet Vorster, who sadly passed away this year, losing the battle against motor neuron disease (MND). Let’s remember a fellow runner that has fallen; Piet will be watching down on us come 10 June 2018, and I will draw some strength knowing this and that he will be encouraging one and all towards their individual goals and to arrive safely at the finish line.

ASIJIKI and safe training for the last month …..

Shaun

It’s been a while ….. now for the #BIG50

Wow, it’s been such a long time since I last posted on my blog, I suppose that being injured and really struggling to cope with what I thought was an impossible recovery, I could hardly talk running to anyone let alone sit down and write about it.

Looking around, I realised that there are far worse things that people deal with on a daily basis and overcome their challenges – if I was going to recover, it would be entirely up to me and how hard I was prepared to work at getting strong again that would determine not if I would run again, but rather when.

My niggles first surfaced way back in October 2016 when I had to receive treatment for a stiff neck, which included some physiotherapy and chiropractic sessions. I was able to train despite my neck being “stiff” and uncomfortable and managed 357 km for the month. In November I was keen to do well in our Save Orion AC 21k which was awarded KZN Championship status, knowing that trouble was on the horizon. I managed 85:14 and 3rd Master on the day but struggled on the down hill sections and both my hammies were extremely sore.

I decided to have an ultrasound scan as the pain was really bad the day after. The prognosis wasn’t great with Ischial Tuberosity Bursitis being the diagnosis! I was advised to take at least 6 weeks off and resumed training on the 20th December with runs of between 6 and 15km, really being cautious and gradually increasing the effort and distance. By the end of January my highest weekly mileage was 77km; and 270km for the whole of January 2017. I finished the month with a 21k at the Johnson Crane race in Benoni (94 minutes) and that was a struggle in terms of my fitness but I felt that my injury was a thing of the past.

During February I tried to increase my mileage to around 100km/week and broke down the week after running the Hillcrest 21km in 89:41. I took another 3 weeks off and tried again, building up from 70km – 125km in an attempt to prepare for the OMTOM. The 2017 OMTOM was probably the toughest race I have ever had to endure. Whatever “imbalances” I had been struggling with, combined with managing to run through by compensating for a weakness in one area & loading somewhere else, hit me hard at around the 40km mark. I hobbled home in 4 hrs 16 mins with a very sore left foot and a bruised ego, my slowest time ever at this race.

Despite this setback I was determined to line up at the start of Comrades 2017 and grinded out 539 km in April, managing a fairly comfortable 3 hr 16 min Deloitte’s Marathon. My foot was still not happy but the discomfort was bearable. I continued to have massage and some physio treatment and pushed through May with 450 km training looking forward to the taper and some healing in the process, aided by rolling an iced bottle and a hard ball  under my foot, foam roller treatment and massages with arnica oil.

I lined up on the 6th June not feeling very confident or optimistic at all but hoping that I could sneak under 7 hours. This proved to be a tad optimistic, and I finishing in 7 hrs 4 mins.

Comrades 2017 nearly finished me, and I was forced to take almost 5 months off running, dealing with a “mild plantar fasciitis and heel spur” – nothing minor about that I promise you!! I consulted with specialists, had an MRI scan done to confirm the problem, had orthotics custom made, wore a moon boot, shock wave treatment, ice treatment, massage, the list was endless. The turning point came in mid November when I was given a pair of Step Forward orthotics, which took a while to get used to but they really got my foot working and strengthening it in the process.

After a couple of weeks in the Step Forward orthotics I cautiously started running again, on the grass, slowly and for 30 minutes at a time and monitoring pain levels after every run. Only if I was pain free did I run again, every second day to start with and only after 2 weeks progressing back onto the road. During December on our family holiday in the Cape I was able to run almost every day; not fast at all but comfortable and by the end of December I had managed a couple of 20 km runs – progress at last.

I’m feeling optimistic about 2018 and would really love to strive to achieving the goal of completing my 20th Two Oceans voyage and 30th Comrades Marathon in the same year, hence the #BIG50. I have already had a highlight for the year in running my first race ever with my eldest son, Luke, who managed a PB at the McCarthy 21km in Pretoria a couple of weeks back (sub 94 minutes). I’m looking forward to many more races with him and who knows, maybe a Comrades side by side.

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My January log book was pleasing, managing 430 km – including a sprinkling of speed and hill work, something I haven’t done in a few years. I’ll post some more updates and stories in the near future. If you don’t already, follow me on Strava, Twitter, etc. and I hope to see some of you at the races or out on the road training!

Train smarter not harder,

Shaun

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 …..