Pre-Race nips (penned Saturday 24th February 2018)
I always think that the word ‘race’ is somewhat of a misnomer. Race implies all-out, balls-to-the-wall, maximum threshold stuff, and I certainly won’t be doing that on Sunday.
Maybe ‘event’ is a better name. My even raising the subject, brings up the whole question of participation vs competition, a topic I definitely feel I have some interesting insights into and will definitely explore in greater detail in future. So let’s be clear. I’ll be ‘participating’ on Sunday and in all other running activities before Comrades Marathon 2018, but in going for my Bill Rowan medal (sub-9 hour), I will be racing myself for that PB and goal medal on the day.
Sunday’s Township Marathon is more of an early season experiment to establish that I’m not horrendously off the mark. Having missed two full weekends in January, I feel quite seriously underdone, a point that was highlighted spectacularly to me by the pain felt in my legs at the end of last weekend’s 3-hour effort.
That said, the recovery was quick and I didn’t have any pain on the 2 days following so maybe I’m not that far off the mark. Sunday will be my litmus test.
Having now completed a fair number of ultra-distance events, I think that there is a distinct danger in relying on past experiences / muscle-memory to make up for deficits in training. The raw unbridled fear of first time participation is replaced with a calmer, sometimes misplaced confidence, that you’ll probably be able to push through any serious issues in a race.
The mind is certainly in a better position as the question of “Can I complete it?” is at least largely answered. There’s also a confidence built from enduring long painful hours on the road / in the saddle that you know you can call on. BUT (and that is very pointedly a BUT in capital letters) you cannot neglect the preparation the body needs for big endurance efforts or you do so at your peril.
I’ve always trained pretty hard and don’t recall feeling under-prep’d before, but this time I’m feeling like a 3.5-year abstinence from running has my legs very pap in comparison to where they need to be.
Goal for Sunday is simple:
- Employ recently tested and successful Run / Walk approach
- Sneak in under 4 hours. 3hr59m59s would suit me fine and qualify me for D batch and decent start for my Bill Rowan. This somewhat contradicts my point made earlier about participation, BUT if possible, I want to get a suitable qualification done and dusted now so I don’t have to worry about it later.
The 2018 Township Marathon – Sunday 25 February – Eldorado Park
What a lekker day out.
Late for the start
I almost fluffed the whole mission by being horrendously late for the start. I always find it difficult to get the timing of a 06h00 start right. This is mainly due to me wanting to maximise my sleep and so calculating the latest possible time I can wake and still get there in time.
Unfortunately, no matter how much preparation I do, I always seem to miscalculate. Throw in a few curve-balls like the need for a toilet stop on the way out to the venue, OR the relied upon GPS app not working (as happened this morning), and the plans quickly fall apart.
This morning that meant leaving Parkmore for Eldorado Park at 05h15, with the GPS showing a 38-minute journey, rather than leaving at the originally planned 04h45. YIKES.
The late arrival required me to park outside of the Eldorado Park stadium and jog the final few hundred metres in (never ideal) to avoid the traffic, scurry into the number collection office, pin the race number to my shirt and race off to the Start line to arrive at 05h58. Too much.
Today I made a commitment to self, to sacrifice a half hour of sleep to avoid any unnecessary pre-race drama and anxiety in future.
Run / Walk
I didn’t follow the prescribed method (outlined in last week’s post – Shockwave Therapy and the joyful discovery of run/walk), but due to some practicalities and an anxiety that walking too much towards the end would negatively affect my ability to finish under 4 hours, I adopted it to suit the race.
The plan was to further test last week’s successful run / walk experiment in a Marathon distance. With heavy runner congestion upfront and a desire to put a bit of distance between me and the start line, I decided to avoid the very short run intervals, and went straight for a 4-min run / 1 min walk interval. I repeated that longer run component about 3 times before then beginning a climb from 4 minutes up to the 14-minute run interval one would need to employ for a 42.2km effort.
The outcome?? It worked really well up until 14 minutes (which I got to at 2h38), but then an anxiety of taking too many walks on the way back down and the fact that those significantly slower minutes (usually walked at between 7.30 and 8 min/km pace) might cause me to miss my 4-hour goal, I decided to just keep running. PLUS, I was feeling pretty good. Despite fighting a bloody sore left calf and a painful sole of my right due to wet socks from the rain, my engine felt good and I was still moving nicely. The result, only two one-minute walk intervals in the last hour.
One great benefit of the voluntary walks is that I feel like they’re equipping me mentally to be able to get going again immediately after the end of a walk break, rather than letting it stretch out as I am fearful of and sometimes prone to do.
Another interesting observation in the adoption of the run / walk, was the lively banter from fellow runners joking about the fact if already walking so early in the race, I was going to suffer later on. I assured them each time it was all part of my very calculated master plan, and that they would doubtless be seeing me yo-yo in my position around them all day. And that’s exactly what happened.
In other news, Greg Strachan, the mate who put me onto run / walk, cracked a PB of 3hr39 (down from 4hr06) in the Pietermaritzburg marathon yesterday. He’s a rooting-tooting convert.
The Route and weather
The weather was superb for a marathon. Overcast and cool for the whole duration with one or two bursts of light rain that did wet shoes and clothes substantially, but not right through. I’d opt for that kind of cool weather every time and while I’m not a massive fan of wet clothes and shoes on a long run, it wasn’t bad enough to materially affect ones enjoyment of the race or the outcome.
Dealing with pain
WTF happened to my left calf? After nursing my right Achilles over the last 4-6 weeks, including my shockwave therapy, the right felt good throughout.
This time it was the turn of my otherwise bullet proof left leg to throw me a curve ball. At the half-hour mark it tightened up into a tiny little all of pain that felt like a muscle in constant spasm which had me shuffling, hot-stepping and altering my running gait continually in a vainglorious attempt to ameliorate the sharp pain.
It might have just been gritting my teeth, but I did something right cause after about 45 minutes of wincing the pain seemed to dissipate into a bearable discomfort.
When faced with little issues like this, I always try and force myself to work through them. The rationale; what happens if you bust your balls for 6 months training for a big event like Comrades or Iron Man only for something unexpected to happen on race day? You don’t just pull over and register a DNF. Not without a fight you don’t. Unless you know (which may be difficult to do) or firmly believe some injury / issue may cause you permanent damage, then you just have to suck it up and deal with it. I figure the more you can learn to handle different issues / situations and most importantly pain in training, the better you’ll be equipped to handle them when you really need to.
Music and phones
I remember the debate that raged on back in 2014 when I last looked, with regards to whether runners should be able to listen to music during races.
I DJ as a hobby and am a massive music fan. I do a significant amount of training by myself (both running and cycling) and cannot imagine doing it without music / podcasts as an accompaniment during the long lonely hours. In today’s hustle bustle world, it’s the only time I can squirrel away the completely selfish me-time to indulge myself in whatever music / topics I want to listen to.
Podcasting wasn’t as well developed a medium back in 2014 (when I favoured listening to music) as it is today. I really discovered and took to it big-time while training for the ABSA Cape Epic in 2017 (thanks in large part to the excellent Tim Ferriss show) and the learning and journey of discovery I have taken since has made a massive meaningful impact in my life – definitely a topic for a future post.
So yesterday I had my phone with me as I always do. How else does one take pics and video of the race, or get in contact with someone should they need to? I also had my headphones with me, should I want them. And boy did I want them. After soaking up the race atmosphere and runner comradery, when I got to the business-end of the race at about 2hr15, I wanted some music to help with some mental relaxation and sore muscles. I went for my Cool Chilled listening playlist on Deezer and want an absolute treat it was as tune after luscious tune carried me through the last hour-and-a-half.
So imagine my surprise when greeted at the finish line by a very polite but paraat (serious) older gentleman who quoted me chapter, line and verse from one of the rulebooks that I was not allowed to carry a phone on me during a race or risk disqualification. I was lucky I had removed my earphones already, and hidden them in my pocket. Shoo.
But I really am at a loss as to why. Clause 20.4 (6) of the ASA Rules and Regulations 2015 says that it’s to ‘ensure proper communication between officials and athletes’ for the safety of the athletes. Can there really be that much danger posed by wearing them that could warrant disallowing them altogether. Surely not??
Anyway, if disqualification is really a threat, I may have to choose a spy-like in-ear set of wireless earphones for future use because I can’t see myself sacrificing the use of earphones completely.
Hazel Moller – the inspiring woman behind 10 Ten
I had the privilege and good fortune of bumping into the amazing Hazel Moller on the course on Sunday. I recognised her unmistakeably strong figure and running style from many photos and videos I’d seen in the past while tracking her amazing running exploits
The 10-15 minutes we spent chatting flew by and took my mind off the task at hand.
Hazel is a well-known member of the South African running community, who in 2014 devised a ‘little’ fundraising event called the Ten 10 http://www.ten10.co.za/
The word little couldn’t be further from the truth. Hazel’s crazy-assed plan involved running the equivalent of 10 consecutive Comrades marathons in 10 consecutive days with the 10th effort being the Comrades Marathon on race day.
Hazel is passionate about animal welfare and wanted to use her effort as a fundraiser to support a charity called PETS (Pet Empowerment in Townships). So she enlisted the help of running mate Hilton Murray, and planned their 800 kilometre journey to the start line at Pietermaritzburg. Unfortunately, Hazel’s own success in her initial venture was scuppered on the last few days of the effort when she had to be withdrawn with a stomach ulcer that had her vomiting blood. She is one seriously tough athlete though and didn’t let a day or two out stop her completing the 2014 Comrades Marathon.
Hilton did complete all 10 runs that year and having followed their efforts keenly beforehand, I had the good fortune of spotting him and chatting to him for a while during the race. He was difficult to miss at about 6ft3 with a toy stuffed penguin mounted on his cap.
Hazel has gone on to do 2 subsequent 10 Ten’s since then and at the time of talking was not completely decided on whether she would be doing one this year, although it hadn’t been ruled out.
In news just in, the crazy but inspirational lady is doing it again. Visit her website, her Facebook page, or her Givengain page – where you can donate funds to the charity:
It felt great to earn my marathon straps again, but I was reminded how tough running is in comparison to cycling. In all the ‘brutal’ cycling I’ve done over the last 3 years which includes the 2017 ABSA Cape Epic and the uBhejane X (which involved 17 continuous hours in the saddle), I don’t recall being in half as much pain as thatwhat I felt in the legs after finishing the marathon or the 33km run the weekend before – for that matter.
While I love running and consider myself at heart a runner, it’s a brutal sport. Particularly when you get into the longer distances. Hard training does tend to make it a little easier.
So more running, more strength training and more vasbyting till raceday.