Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

#OMTOM2015 - Two Oceans Half Marathon - Take 2

I ran the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon (OMTOM) - Half Marathon event on Saturday morning. It was only the second time I have run this race - the last was in 2012 the day after returning from a Thailand/Cambodia trip - so I didn't really do it justice as I was under-trained, tired, jet lagged, had an upset tummy etc and also the weather was horrendous that year and it was very cold and raining for most of the way. I knew I had to go back and do it again. But then the next year I was in India at the time, and there was a howling gale for that race, and then last yer I was actually entered, but I was pregnant so I decided it was not a good idea to run a half-marathon more than half way into the pregnancy so I gave up my entry. So this year even though it was only 7 months (and one week) post pregnancy I decided I had to go back and do it again. If nothing else I wanted to prove that I CAN still run and do a half marathon, after having the baby. As so many people said 'but what about your running' when they found out I was pregnant, as if it was the end of the world and I'd never run again.

So I wanted to prove to them, and myself, that I've still got it, even though I am not officially a 'verteran' (i.e. over 40). My goal was to complete sub-2 hours. I have been training quite a lot, and doing more distance than before, doing runs of between 15-19kms about twice a week, and a total of about 60kms per week for a couple of months. I knew I could manage the distance, but speed seemed to be an issue. It seemed my pace was more like 2:05+ for 21kms.

Noting also that I have not even done that many 1/2 marathons. I usually only run 10km races. I think I had done 9 other halves previously.

After doing well at the Spar Ladies race 10km the preceding Sunday I was motivated though. I ran 11kms on the Monday, 17 on the Tuesday and 10km on the Wednesday. I had planned to run on Thursday as well, but by then my right hip and glutes had become really tight and I decided I needed rest more than training, so I rested on Thursday and just registered, did a little bit of power-plate stretching and had a fantastic sports massage. Where the masseuse 'Kevin the Bear' told me I was VERY stiff and tense. In his words I 'need massage, like obese people need diet and exercise'. LOL.

On Friday I rested again, and had a leisurely stroll on the promenade etc.

Come Saturday morning, despite not a great night (few nights actually) with baby N, I was up and ready on time. I left the house at 5am and drove through to Rondebosch without too much hassle. But once the traffic got bad near the Baxter, and with less than 20 minutes before my start time I decided to cut my losses and just park wherever I could. So I parked, sadly left my piece of protein bar behind, and ran to the start. I had to navigate around the Ultra Marathon start pens and get to the B seeding section of the Half marathon, which by the time I did I only had 5 mins before the start. I was already sweating and had run about 1.5kms by then. LOL.

**Slight tangent, this is one of the few running races with a proper seeding system and it is great and makes SO much difference. It is so difficult to get a PB, and so frustrating to be stuck in a mob at the start. If you are seeded, you start in a group that is pretty much the same speed as you and ahead of the people who are slower. So much better, easier and SAFER too. There's no pushing, shoving, tripping and hot stepping to get around walkers who have pushed in to the front. This year they actually started the A,B & C seeded groups 10-minutes ahead of the rest too, to allow a proper head start from the main throng of the 16000+ mob. I had a B-seeding this year and I have to fess up that I cheated a bit to get it, as I had no valid results from last year as I was pregnant and hardly ran at all. But I KNEW that's where I could and should have been seeded and so I used a result from the previous year and submitted it for my seeding. A bit cheeky yes, but unwarranted? Read on and then you decide...**

There was no time for nerves, loo breaks or much of anything. I saw and greeted Dr Ross Tucker (who was leading the sub-1:45 bus) and the infamous Michelle Cupido in my B-group pen. Before we knew it it was 5:50 and the gun was fired and we were off. We started at a gentle trot. I could have ad would have started faster but I reminded myself not to sprint off as this was a half and not a 10km and I needed to pace myself. So I stayed patient and just ran as the group allowed at that stage. As always I was running with my iPOD. I don't care what anyone says 1) I can and do hear what's going on around me and can chat to and chirp other people while wearing it. It is not dangerous, and 2) It makes running so much more enjoyable. Especially since I train and race alone. The day that iPODs are really banned and/or I get disqualified for wearing one is the days I'll stop racing. If I am not enjoying myself, I'm not doing it. SO there I was listening to music and enjoying my early morning run - in the dark - through Claremont. I felt good. The legs felt fresh, the weather was great, the seeded start meant it was busy but not congested, and the supporters flanking the route were cheerful and encouraging.

Soon enough we hit the dreaded Edinburgh Drive. Yes it's a hill and yes it is quite steep, but I really don't find it THAT bad, not on the Cycle Tour or on the OMTOM, it's just a steady climb. You get into your own rhythm and just plod up. Now that I am used to the REAL hills of Fresnaye, normal hills do not scare me. ;) Once at the top we started the decent down to Constantia. I love downhills, but from previous experience I knew this section is completely dark at that time. The sun is not up yet and there are no street lights. Even though you are running down an even surfaced freeway, it is hard to run freely when you cannot see where your feet are falling. And downhills are my thing. I like to let go and just let gravity take me. This year I was smart and I wore my peak cap with LED lights. I turned them on and was quite happily bombing down the hill passing people as they carefully ran their way in the pitch dark. I did not see one other person with a light at all. I am surprised no one else has twigged to this. I did notice one or 2 people falling in around me and catch my 'light bus', realising the bit of light really did help.

Before I knew it we were at 7km and leaving the M3 for Kendal Road already. And then there was Sean Falconer at the Spaansemacht Corner. I yelled and waved and he announced my name. It's silly how motivating that is. You feel like a bit of a hero. On I pressed down Parish Road and on to the dreaded SOUTHERN CROSS DRIVE. I did not remember Southern Cross being bad last time. I think it's because I was so tired and disoriented I didn't actually know where I was in general last time, and also it was so cold and raining that I just kept moving to stay warm and was looking down to keep the rain out of my eyes so most of the race was just 'one foot in front of the other'. This time I was string, aware and looking up and wow it is actually quite a ill isn't it!? As per Dr Ross Tucker's race advice and commentary the 12-13km section is indeed the toughest and was my slowest KM of the race.

Once on Rhodes Drive  I checked my thigh tattoo, which I'd got in my race pack which said 'Dig deep, you got this' and I told myself that yes I have got this. I have been training on Rhodes Drive for a few months. This last section is Mine. I know it, and I know I can do it. No holding back. So I carried on, pounding down the hills and plodding as strongly as I could up the inclines.
It was a bit disconcerting seeing a few people collapsed on the side of the road. Pushing too hard, or under-trained I guess..? I could feel my legs were getting a bit tired but I otherwise felt good. I was literally smiling and thinking what a wonderful race it had been. The weather was great, I felt good, the support was great and the water points plentiful and well stocked with water, coke and powerade.
On and on I went. Once I passed Kirstenbosch main gate I started feeling weary for the first time. Anticipating the end, but knowing I still had 4-5kms to run. I sucked on one of my sweets for a sugar and energy boost and pushed some more. Someone asked me for the time and I honestly told them I had not idea. I was not watching the time at all, and had my Heart Rate showing on my watch. I wasn't even tracking that, although each time I glanced at it it said 163BPM. The whole race I just ran. No thinking, timing, I just ran as fast as I comfortably could at each stage. I was starting to wonder if my sub-2 hour was in reach but had no idea.

As I turned into Newlands Avenue and the renowned Chet's Hill I had my first real thoughts of being tired and wanting to be done. Again I knew this section though and have been running up there a few times a week, so I dug deep and pressed on. The university seemed to have moved further away for the day and the rain had started now so it was cold and wet too. This section of the race is mental. SO many people seem to give up (or are just spent?) and start to walk. It's so close and yet so far to the end. I refused to give up or slow down and kept on. And on. And on. And just when I really thought it would never end, suddenly and finally there was the off ramp to UCT and the rugby fields and the finish. YAY

I surged forward even managing to pass a few guys at the beginning of the field and ran around the field to the finish line, scanning for the clock, which I couldn't see at first. When I caught sight of it it had just ticked over to 1:50... What!? Wow. I raced forwards and managed to cross it before it ticked over again and went though at 1:50:49. I did it! My first post-pregnancy half, and first in 2 years and I did it well under 2-hours. I was thrilled.

I had hoped to stay at the end and socialise but due to the rain and cold I just went to my club's gazebo and chatted there for a bit, and then decided to go home to get warm and dry.

t was a fabulous race though and I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. I will be back.

Here are my results:

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Spar Ladies Race 2015 - My come back Post-Pregnancy

I ran the Spar Ladies Race on Sunday. It was my first race in a full year. I 'ran' this race last year at 21-22 weeks pregnant. I had planned to run the Sundown Race in December, or the March Moullie Point Race but due to circumstances I missed competing in both of those, so had not had an official post-pregnancy come-back yet. I have been running pretty consistently for the past few months and as I have entered the 2Oceans Half marathon too I have been doing a reasonable amount of distance running. So I knew I could handle to run 10kms pretty easily. I just didn't feel particularly fast. When I run these days it feels like a comfortable plod, more than competitive running. But as it is principally for my own fun, relaxation and 'me-time' so I am ok with that.

I generally enjoy the Spar Ladies Race. It's a big, fun, festive gathering. This year I entered the 10k event and I entered the boys for the 5km event. Griffin was away at school camp though, so Quinn's friend Josh came along in his place.

I managed to get up in good time and we arrived at the stadium nice and early and got a good parking spot (at the gym) used the loo and headed to the start with about 45mins to spare before the start. I wore my club kit - as this race finally has a club runner's 'seeding' section in the front so you don't have to fight with thousands of other participants who are WAY more enthusiastic than capable when it comes to running so they push to the very front and then just walk slowly after the race starts. It would be funny if it wasn't so darn irritating if you are trying to compete for a PB.

Sean Falconer (of Modern Athlete and Runner's World fame and who commentates a lot of the running races now. And so much better than whiny Neville(?) did) knows me and I'd chirped him about this being my comeback race on FB, so as I arrived he said 'And here is Jane Fraser just arriving'. I felt like a minor celeb, even though no one besides the 2 boys with me heard or knew me. LOL.

I got into the club pen (I had to climb over the fence as the idiot security guy said I was too late - 40 minutes before the race started!? Dimwit), and felt ready. We waited quite a while and the start was a bit delayed but finally the gun went off and we were off. Despite being about 20-30m from the start line and with the club runners there were STILL slow people in front of me who I had to dodge and pass but eventually I found my place and pace and got into a good rhythm. Having waited so long for the start though I found I needed to pee after just 1-2 kms. Argh. So at the first water point I dashed into the port-a-loo, wasting precious minutes peeing. Oh well, one does what one must.

Once I'd pee'd I felt much better and got going again. I got into a steady rhythm and started enjoying the run. I'd told A where the route was going and that the turning point was down the hill from his house near the Seapoint swimming pool and sure enough there he and Nathaniel were as I got to the turn. I was tempted to stop and say hi, but because I was trying to get a decent time and prove that I was 'back' I didn't want to lose time and smiled and waved as I passed but pressed on.

My aim in this race was to get a sub-60 time, my stretch goal was to get a sub-55. My wildly ambitious goal was to aim closer to sub-50 but that seemed completely unrealistic as it took me years and year to crack sub-50 the first time, so I didn't want to aim too high. (my fastest ever 10km was at this race 2 years ago when I was fit and strong and blasted out a 47:48!). Anyway buoyed by the support of the boys I continued onward and tried not to slow down even though the legs were starting to feel a bit heavy.

Before long I got back to the stadium, entered the grassy area and headed for the finish. I was delighted to see the clock tick over from 48 to 49 minutes just as I got there and I passed the line. My watch recorded 48:58, the clock said 49:06 and my official time is recorded as 49:12. I'll take it thank-you very much!

I must say I felt really impressed with and proud of myself. 7 months to the day since giving birth and full year since my last race and even then I was not competing, it's closer to 18 months since I ran at full pace. There's still life in this old body, and now I am officially a veteran (over 40), if I keep it up and can improve I have a chance of potentially being placed in the top 10 of my age category.

The results are out form Sunday:
- I came 107th out of 3321 10km running finishers. So in the top 3%.
(There were another 7000+ 10km walkers and about another 10000+ who did the 5km)
- I came 15th out of 690 in my age category. So top 2%.

I bumped into my colleague Wendy-Joy at the end of the race.
Displaying Spar.jpg
 On Saturday is the 2Oceans Half Marathon, and I am really hoping to manage a sub-2hr for that.