Archive for Cross-Training

Trail Running at Altitude

Last weekend I was in Pretoria for my brothers wedding and decided to do one of the Gauteng Trail Running Series runs with my mom.  Not thinking much about the 12km route and arriving very badly prepared without a cap or water – I was looking forward to running in a different area to what I am used to.

Starting on an uphill (the trail running guys seem to love doing this), it wasn’t long before my mom and I were huffing and puffing like antique steam engines.  This didn’t do much in terms of confidence, especially since I thought I was pretty fit – but then I remembered that the Cape (my home) is at sea level and Pretoria sits at roughly 1,350 metres (4,500ft) above sea level.  At higher altitudes there is less oxygen which means the amount of oxygen in your blood is reduced, which would account for me feeling tired and heavy during the race.  I am used to the more dense sea air, so when I run on the Highveld, it actually feels like the air I’m breathing in is not actually getting to where it needs to go.

Prolonged training at higher altitudes results in an increase in red blood cells, to conpensate for the reduction in oxygen levels, which has an overall positive effect on your performance because your body is being oxygenated more efficiently.  I don’t incorporate high altitude runs in my training program, but I can see the value in making the extra effort.

The trail run turned out to be one of my fastest times yet because at the 4km we came upon a man who had twisted his ankle very badly and needed help.  I volunteered to run off and find a marshal who would call in the paramedics, but the first marshal I saw was about 1km from the end.  Luckily someone had a cell phone with which they called the injury in and by the time we crossed the finish line, the ankle was already strapped.

On the serious trail runs you are not allowed taking part if you don’t have a cell phone, injuries being one of the main reasons for this, but on the less formal runs there are no specifications or procedures which need to be followed to take part.  I have always enjoyed the Trail Running Series sponsored by Salomon and Capestorm but I do feel that on this occasion, they could have had just one or two more marshals on the course.

Luckily I’m back in Cape Town now and running again as normal which I’m very grateful for, especially with a half marathon coming up on Sunday 🙂  Oh and well done to my mom who came first in her category!

That's my mom in the middle

That's my mom in the middle

Running Challenges

For the past little while I have been writing about trail running and how I would like to get into it a bit more – well it seems I prefer the deep end of things (a little like how I got into running the Comrades in the first place) and have been entered into the African X, a 3 day trail run here in the Western Cape.

My mom and Linda actually did it together last year.  You have to enter as a team of 2, making sure you are always within sight of each other.  This is the first race of it’s kind apparently, where runners start and end in the same place every day – namely in Kleinmond.  The trail takes you into the exquisite Kogelberg mountains with each day bringing new challenges from beach running to steep and technical inclines.

Day 1:  25km with  538m of climbing.


Day 2:  42kmwith 886m of climbing


Day 3:  22km  with a 287m climb


So as you can see this is going to be a pretty spectacular run, especially considering I’ve never gone further than 16km on a trail run before 🙂

Luckily I have until May next year to get my 4 X 4 gear into shape and to make sure that I keep my mom (my team-mate) in my sight the whole way…  Don’t you love a new challenge??

Never Again!!!

This is what I said when I practically dragged myself out of the water after the swim on Saturday, and then I said it again and again after I finished the race…

So as I’m sure you can figure out I didn’t drown although I came pretty close to it.  I had the whole day to work myself up into a bit of a froth because the event only started at 15:00 which was just enough time for the wind to pick up and create waves, complete with white horses on the Clanwilliam dam which is where we were doing the swim – and damn did the buoys we have to swim around look far away!!

At the start I stood back and allowed the faster, more professional looking people to go ahead.  About 100 metres from shore I took in a lungful of water and then went into a flat panic because I couldn’t breathe, I was being swum over by other participants, swamped by waves and I couldn’t see the support boat.  So after bobbing around trying to get my breath back and fighting back the tears I managed to calm myself and carry on heading in the direction which was nowhere near shore.  Luckily I struck up a conversation with 2 other swimmers who were just behind me who had had a similar experience – apparently most first timers “almost drown” – not so sure about that but there you go…

I came in nowhere near the front and absolutely exhausted after swimming breaststroke the whole way because I was too scared to put my face back into the water.  I managed to redeem myself by passing a few people on the bike and run legs although when I crossed the finish line I wasn’t feeling fabulous and was a bit zoned out for the rest of the evening.

Today, as I write this I’m making plans to collect a swimming schedule to follow on my own now that my swimming lessons are done.  I’m not sure if I want to compete in any more triathlons because I was seriously shaken on Saturday – which probably means that the Half Ironman will have to go on the back burner, but I’m going to keep trying with this swimming thing to get over that fear of whatever it is that seems to want to consume me when I think about open water swimming!

Preparing at the start

Preparing at the start

‘Helpful’ advice…

I’m a little bundle of nerves waiting in anticipation for tomorrow when I take part in my first triathlon – I really can’t believe I’m so nervous for the 800 metre swim, I mean I run 89km for heavens sake!!!

Anyway I’ve been receiving very ‘helpful’ tips from family and friends and I’d like to share some of them with you – my mom suggested I wear a brightly coloured shower cap so that people can see when and where I go under as I drown, this of course was after her suggestion of arm bands hidden in my wetsuit because of course they can’t see those…

My friend Vanessa offered to erect a stepladder on the shore of the dam to watch me through her binocs with a whistle at the ready to alert the safety personnel when my tired, limp body sinks below the surface…

Pollyotters and life-jackets were other options of course both redundant because the rules say “No flotation devices”.  I am in the process of trying to persuade my partner to hire/borrow/steal a rowing-boat so that he can follow me and make sure my worries of impending death by drowning do not come true…

The race only starts at 15:00 tomorrow afternoon so I’d appreciate a little prayer around that time as I make my way into the water with everyone else.


Looks about my size...

I’m a Runner because…

  • my bum didn’t come with the ability to be accessorised with a saddle
  • after a run I’m left with a feeling of accomplishment, with swimming all I’m left with are raccoon eyes (def:  that is where your mascara has smudged from the fog in the goggles, resulting in a black ring around the eyes) and cycling, well you can read about that here
  • it is social and you get to chat with all sorts of people while you are chugging along – swimming is without a doubt a sport for loners and unless you have bionic hearing and can keep up with the pack,  so is cycling.
  • if I’m tired I can just stop, if I try that with swimming death by drowning is the only outcome…
  • I saw immediate progress which is what kept me going way back in the beginning of my running career 2 years ago, I’ve been swimming for a month now and the progress I see is negligible – barely even enough to comment on AND that is with swimming lessons!!

Any contributions are welcome!!

raccoonPhoto Credit

The Freshpak Clanwilliam Fitness Festival

On Saturday, October 3rd I will be taking part in my first triathlon in Clanwilliam.  I’m having sleepless nights about it already!!  I’m not nervous about the run or the cycle because if I’m tired or I suddenly feel like I don’t want to keep going – I can just pull off on the side of the road and wait for someone to come and fetch me, but with swimming it is another story all together…

As mentioned in my previous post about swimming, I think I made it pretty clear that it isn’t one of my talents especially after a practice swim last weekend left  me exhausted and barely able to crawl out of the pond I’d just come from – after only swimming 3o0 metres…  I’m sure you can understand why I’m battling with anxiety!

The distances are relatively short which apparently make this event “fun” and “for the whole family” – I’d hate to be the one to put a damper on things and insist on an age restriction when they pull my half-drowned body out of the water, cursing my sinking body and Nicola for making me say I’d do the Half Ironman…

The triathlon is made up of an 800 metre swim, followed by a 20km cycle and a 5km run which can be done individually or in teams.  There are other events too so check out the website to see if you (or your kids) would like to take part.

Let me know if you will be there too…

The Clanwilliam Dam

The Clanwilliam Dam

Photo Credit

Running vs Swimming

I’ve been trying to think of the parallels between running and swimming – my result…  there aren’t any!!

Let me try and explain.  My “swimming” career consists of

  • a hand-full of lessons when I was about 8,
  • hours upon hours of playing in our pool and
  • paddling on my surfboard

– as you can see far from anything of value.

So to bridge the gap between swimming and not swimming I decided to sign up for some lessons.  Now, I’m not going to go into too much detail here because this is a running blog after all but the bottom line is, I sink… Yip butt first!

My body starts out reasonable flat and near the top of the water and gradually sinks from the hips to the legs so I look like a boat with a very fat person sitting in one end.  Obviously I had never really noticed this with a surfboard keeping me safely afloat but this may be an issue with a 1.9km swim in the ocean to start the Half Iron Man.

Any ideas??

SwimmingPhoto Credit

My First Spinning Class

How many of you have done spinning before?

The concept of cycling, balls-to-the-wall and not actually covering any ground has always seemed a bit bizarre to me, but I put this aside last night and joined Nicola for my first spinning class.  “Its only 45 minutes” said Nicola which sounded a lot better than the 90 minute class which I thought was our only option.

I felt like such a beginner when I walked in and had to be talked through the bike set-up by Nicola (it is quite technical), then I settled in not really knowing what to expect from the super ripped, all muscle guy who was our instructor.

The first 10 minutes was a bit of a warm-up which had me a little worried about how the rest of the class was going to progress considering I was already battling,  although I had at that stage made a mental note NOT to wear the shorts I was wearing to cycle in, ever – I’m not even going to go into my views on camel toe.

Before we ‘really got going’ I was picked on by the instructor because he said I looked funny on my bike and needed to change the setting – a small dent in my already fragile ego.

And then…  Well lets just say that half the time I was totally lost with increasing and decreasing the intensity, trying to work out what 70% of my max was (with nothing to compare it to) and there was something about cadence – whatever that is – that I just ignored because I was concentrating on not flinging sweat onto the person next to me or melting into a little puddle on the floor (which was already there and belonged to me) from exhaustion.

And yes, the class was only 45min – with a 10 minute warm up and a 5 minute cool down…