One Step Closer

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I guess good things come to those who wait. I am so happy to report that Christo qualified this morning for Comrades at the Sarens Marathon in Edenvale. He finished in a time of 04:37 which brings him one step closer to Comrades 2017.

He was supposed to run the Johnson Crane Marathon with me earlier this year but got ill and was unable to train and was not well enough on race day to attempt that qualifier marathon with me. So he had to move his focus to a later race, and this was the one. His dad is here visiting from the Western Cape and farther and son did this run together this morning.

His finishing time this morning secured him a spot in starting batch “G” at Comrades but he hopes to improve on his time at another race to get him into the “F” block where I am seeded. This will mean that we can start together, after all that is the whole idea of doing Comrades “together”. This will also ease the tension on race day for both of us because starting in separate blocks will mean that he will have to first play catch up to get to me and then the added pressure of finding me in that massive line up at Comrades. It is also dark when we start and most of us will be wearing something warm also over our club kit which will just make finding one another even more difficult. This is something we will deal with later. For now it is happy days with that one hurdle, qualifying, out of the way.

Our #Road2Comrades2017 continues and you will see us on the road at many more races before the big day in June. You can find a list of our planned races [ HERE ]

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The balance between training runs and weekend races

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TeamVitality at Garbie 32km Race

To me there are basically three important races if you are training for Comrades Marathon, your weekend races, then your qualifier and then the biggy, Comrades. Those three, in that order.

I get really nervous when I hear people talk about their personal bests, week in and week out. Your Comrades training runs and weekend races are not to set up personal bests.

It involves a huge commitment when you decide to take on the iconic ultra of all ultras, “The Ultimate Human Race”, Comrades.

We usually meet up with running buddies and get so caught up in the hype of Comrades and before you know it you are onto it, convinced that you have to go all out on every run and run one PB after the other. Not so. Not necessary. In fact, you will gain less by doing that.

Races are an important part of Comrades, but they are not there to see how fast you can go or how many PBs you can run, they are then to keep you focused, they are there to bring that balance between a casual training run and a little more effort and to test your progress.

In my training runs, over the past three years of doing Comrades, I have always believed in a good mix up of runs. During my training runs I do speed work, hill training, some gym work ( although I have to admit, I am lazy with this ) and also do some slow runs and finish off the bouquet with some nice pace runs. PB’s do not make you fast, focusing on specifics during training do. Most Comrades runners will tell you that the only thing you will get from going all out at every single run is probably a good dose of fatigue and burnout and if you are one of the unlucky one, you can and often will end up with some injuries too.

Your training runs during the week should be the more relaxed ones where you get your needed kilometers on your legs and where you can test all your supplements, new running gear, your drinking habits etc. Your weekend races, because it is organised and more structured, will be more intense and ideal to focus on a little more pacing and rhythm and also help you to see how you manage the crowds at the start and on the route off course. It is important to finish your races feeling comfortable and more on the fresh side; not strained and definitely not sore. In fact, when you’re done, you should be able to turn around and do an easy four of five kilometers recovery run.

The weekend races form a really important part of your training and preparation for Comrades and should not be neglected. The training load you get from them is in general higher than what you get from your training runs during the week. Oh and it is a great opportunity to meet up with your team mates and friend and enjoy the time out on the road.

Know this, if you apply variety to your training program, your times will actually come down by themselves as you approach Comrades.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
– Benjamin Franklin

So, to recap, train hard, focus on your speed and stamina and then get your qualifier out of the way. A good qualifier will not only set you up for a Comrades start with a little more peace of mind, but it will also give you a good idea of where you are in terms of training. After that it is a good healthy balance between variety, quality and quantity. I am not going to get into details of how many kilos you should do a week, there are a variety of training guides out there for that and they also vary depending on what kind of runner you are. I do not think there a generic and single plan for all, in fact I know a few people who tried those and got into trouble at Comrades. Use these as guidelines.

Whatever you do, learn to apply self-discipline, be focused and do what is needed to get you first to the start line and then to the finish. And last but not least, do not underestimate Comrades. It is not called “The Ultimate Human Race” for nothing.

Happy training everyone.

Unexpected detour on the #Road2Comrades2017

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Sunday morning I lined up at Johnson Crane Marathon for my Comrades qualifier race, but I was alone. My running buddy Christo had to withdraw from the race because he was sick during the week and I advised him not to run the marathon, but to do the 10km and he did.

On the #Road2Comrades there will be some detours. Fact is, in the moment, we don’t understand this, and we don’t know why this has to happen. We most likely won’t know how valuable such detours will prove to be, but I have learned that life has a way of revealing the hidden magic in these moments down the road at the appropriate time. There has to be a reason why we face these challenges.

This is the #Road2Comrades2017 and detours are inevitable.

I knew this was going to be a solo run for me and I focused on the task at hand, I had to better my Comrades seeding. I qualified at Cape Town Marathon last year already, but I wanted to secure a F seeding for Comrades, and I did. I took some renewed focus and hard running to maintain my sub 6 min per km pace. I kept most of my run at around 5:50 min per km but settled into my planned 6:06 per km as I got closer to the finish. My planning was to not dip below 6:08 min per kilometer, this was to keep me safe from that 04:19:59 qualifying time. I crossed the finish line at 04:16:09. Mission accomplished !

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Thanks for the support guys.

This unexpected detour, Christo not being able to run with me, is something we will deal with in due time. For now he will focus on strength training, getting stronger and faster to get himself to a place where he will be able to also secure his F seeding for Comrades. That is the plan and I know he will work hard to achieve this. It is important for us to be in the same starting block at Comrades because of the unique nature of our running partnership.

A last thought. If Christo decided to attempt the marathon on Sunday and tried to keep up with me (and I had a tough day) I am almost 100% sure it was going to be a bad day at the running office for him. It is tough, I know, but it is better to deal with the decisions we make rather than succumbing to the unexpected curve balls and be disappointed in that way.

The #Road2Comrades2017 continues. Watch this space !

[ Also Read This ]

A compliment from a friend

It was Leo Buscaglia who said,

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Today, this unexpected message from my good friend and mentor Dieter Gloeck totally took my by surprise. I once again realized how #blessed I am to live the life that I do. I cannot be more grateful for the “second chance” I got to change my own life into one worth living, to live my best possible life and for the opportunity to also help others do the same.

Thank you Dieter Gloeck for the kind word and for making this day a beautiful one. I appreciate it ! #MakingMilesAndMomentsCount #LiveLife#PayItForward Discovery Vitality #ASICSFrontRunner 

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Note : Of all runners Dieter Gloeck is the single person who knows me the longest; he met me through work when I was still overweight and a rather miserable person. Dieter really witnessed my whole journey from the very beginning. Read what he had to say about me and my journey at this link  http://myownjourney.co.za/self-discovery.htm on my web page.

As a Team – We will tackle his dream!

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I (me Douw) was more walking than running when I survived my 5 km race way back in January 2011. That experience was, however, enough to convince me to lace up permanently and develop into a full-fledged runner. I loved it. Here I am, six years later and still enjoying this wonderful sport.

Throughout my running years I have learned that runners and walkers are not made from a single blueprint. We come in a variety of shapes, sizes, sexes, ages, colours and abilities, each one having his/her own strengths and weaknesses.

During Comrades 2016 Cornelia Hutchinson and I ran for more than our own medals by supporting the Bible Society of South Africa’s Run4Bibles charity drive. We were overwhelmed by the love and support we received from our friends, family and even strangers. In the process we managed to raise a stunning R14,000 plus for Bibles.

This year my journey will be somewhat different. I have committed myself to run Comrades 2017 with a friend and to try ensure that his Comrades dream becomes a reality. Christo Kris Lourens will be by my side on race day. Our special challenge is that Christo has a hearing impairment and has a cochlear implant. When he runs without the transmitter unit, he is literally deaf and totally cut off from the outside world.

The main challenge for hearing impaired runners is always safety. Deaf runners always have to be constantly aware of their surroundings and watch out for traffic, not just cars, but pedestrians and other runners too. It is all evolves around their safety. For this very reason have I committed myself to assist Christo and be alongside with him – hopefully all the way.

Due to many factors, first and foremost the length of the events and the resultant exposure to numerous hazards, disabled athletes comprise a small minority in endurance sports. Christo and I decided that he can use this opportunity to inspire and motivate others and afford him the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for this minority group. It’s a role he shied away from at first, but he now understands that having overcome the odds for himself, he now has the added responsibility to defy stereotypes that exist about deaf people in endurance sports.

Christo is such an inspiration to me, because he is living his life to the fullest while he just happens to wear a hearing aid along the way. He has successfully completed various road races, half and full marathons and he has also hiked the Fish River Canyon trail twice.

Sport is a great equalizer. We may not all finish at the same time, but our efforts and the end results are often not far apart. Our times may differ considerably but that is not the final benchmark. We have to embrace and respect the diversity of everyone’s own challenge, and refrain from judging other athletes by ingenuous criteria alone. When we truly find out about the other person’s challenges, the chances are that they may just surprise you.

Christo runs all his races without wearing his transmitter. Cochlear implants are sensitive pieces of electronic equipment and they are at risk of breaking if they fall out of the ear during vigorous activity. Furthermore, it is not only the transmitter that can be damaged, a sportsman with a cochlear implant is always at risk of suffering a blow to the head on or around the site of the internal package – which may damage the internal package or external parts or the skin around the area. This can happen during a fall or a collision with another person. These risks may seem small, but they are certainly real and any injury would have severe consequences.

I met Christo through mutual friends and we ran our first race together at the Castle Walk 10km on the ninth of August last year. Little did we know how our friendship would develop and what was lying ahead. That single certainly led to an amazing journey towards Comrades 2017. Another proof of the unique ability of this wonderful sport to create meaningful friendships.

When the entries for Comrades Marathon 2017 opened last year, I told Christo that if he entered for this iconic and amazing race, I would commit myself to be at his side and assist him in any way possible on this journey to make his dream come true. And here we are in 2017, Christo has entered and we are on our #Road2Comrades2017. The TeamVitality and Magnolia Road Runners duo is now pushing forward towards the forth of June 2017.

To date we have run various races together, most of them half-marathons – but we are literally only days away from our first joint marathon, the Johnson Crane 42.2km on 29 January 2017. Needless to say, it is important for us to get the qualifying race out of the way first so that we can then start working on the finer details of seconding someone. As a running duo we have to work on our communication, figure out how we will get one another’s attention, how to keep eye contact while communicating, work out brief and simple instructions and start using pre-agreed visual signals to navigate our way safely though the massive crowd on the road. On all the races, but more so on Comrades race day, I have to be sensitive in order to pay attention to many aspects: how we run as a pair, our pacing and running conditions, and the physical and emotional state of my running partner. The responsibility rest firmly on my shoulders to get Christo safely over that finish line in Pietermaritzburg and I am determined and motivated to do just that.

Our running together is based on commitment and dedication but as we got to know one another better and started doing longer runs, I have noticed how the bond of trust has grown between us.  I realised that Christo entered Comrades on the basis of this trust and if it wasn’t for me he would have not done so. I am feeling blessed and so fortunate to share this amazing journey with him and to help him achieve his Comrades dream.

Meeting this amazing individual has forever changed my life and in the process added a new dimension to my own personal passion for running. Last year was a special Comrades Marathon when Cornelia and I ran for Bibles, this year will be double the blessing, running for Bibles again and helping a friend to realise his Comrades dream.

It seems that the above account carries two very important messages for everyone out there. When I started my own journey way back in 2008 I never thought to be living the life I do now. I literally afforded myself a second chance, gave myself a new lease on a happier and healthier life; started to run; lost 53kg; completed various half- full- and ultra-marathons, including three international marathons; and I will line up for my 4th Comrades this year.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” The impossible is possible! Through my running I also hope to inspire others to improve their lives. Sharing my humble wisdom and experiences through my own personal web page www.myownjourney.co.za and other social media interactions is aimed at achieving this. Christo also has a simple, but powerful message: “I love challenges and nothing needs to stand in your way to make your dreams a reality. I’ve been dreaming about doing Comrades for a long time, and this year I am going to do it with my friend and wingman Douw next to me.”

You will be able to follow our journey through my web page at www.myownjourney.co.za or find me on social media, Twitter and Instagram ( @myownjourney_sa ) You can find Christo on Facebook and Instagram

Written by DOUW PRINSLOO
Edited by DIETER GLOECK

Freeze athletes, Cryo Therapy is here !

I had my first Cryo recovery session today. Let me start with this, this is absolutely no spa treatment. The word cryo or cryos is a Greek word that means “icy cold” and believe me, this water is icy cold.

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Two brave boys in a 6’c water bath !

If you are a runner, I think you will know how amazingly soothing it is to get into a cold pool or just submerge yourself into a cold bath after a tough race. Well this is the ultimate cold pool experience you can hope for, or not. As part of the booking confirmation I also got instructions on what to bring with, apart from the obvious like a bathing suit of some shorts and a towel, it also tell you to bring a long a whole lot of bravery, and believe me, this you should pack first, because the water is not just cold, it is icy cold. We were lucky I believe because we caught it at around 6°c.

Pieter Venter went with me and we both decided to save this appointment until today so we can go there with tired and maybe sore legs after the weekend’s back to back races; the PwC Half Marathon on Saturday and the Garbie 32km yesterday.

When I got to Cryo Recovery in Old Farm Road Office Park, Altie Clark explained what we can expect from getting into this cold bath for the first time and she was clear, “Survive the first two minutes and you will be okay.” and she was right.

I was first. I got changed and then the fun started. I gathered all my bravery an without overthinking it I just climbed into the Cryo bath and oh boy, it was freezing. A minute or so in, I started to feel dizzy and almost off balance, but I decided to hang in there, stepped forward and held onto the sides of the bath. This feeling lasted for a short while, but then, when the first two minutes of torture were over, things dropped to a point of “bearable”. It definitely helps to chat and focus on other things while in there because I think if you are in there alone, one will rapidly reconsider the craziness you got yourself into.

While in there Altie shared some testimonies of people who have benefited from this treatment and also shared some info in other studies they did overseas on the whole idea of low temperature treatment. Very interesting.

The journey to Comrades 2017 started and naturally this means a general increase in training and obviously in kilometers on the road. The kilometers increase and time for proper recovery decreases. Unfortunately, long runs also come with their own set of hazards and the main one is that we as runners risk injury and this usually results in unwelcome time off from training. One simple way to offset this risk is what we as runners know as an ice bath, but be honest now, how many of us go through that whole process of actually doing this. Right, not happening. Well, this is where Cryo treatment will be the answer to your needs.

Basically what happens, while you are in this bath, is that the cold water, together with the added pressure of the Epson salt, plain salt and aerated water, makes your blood vessels smaller and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling, possible spasms, inflammation and tissue breakdown. Once you get out of the bath, the underlying tissue warms up again and trigger faster blood flow, which helps return the by-products of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. So the ice bath does not only reduce inflammation, but it also help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles. Quite nifty hey ?

I also suffer from piriformis syndrome that can sometimes really hurt, especially after long drives of flights and when piling up the kilometers on the road, running, like this past weekend. So Altie challenged me to sit on the upper step in the bath with my lower body totally submerged, and I did. That was pushing the envelope, but I thought I am already half way there and can just as well try it. Yes, it took a little extra bravery to do that, but so what, if there is a possibility that it will help, why not.

Well, finally ten minutes was over and I was allowed to get out. When I stepped out of the pool, I could hardly feel my legs when I started to dry myself off with a towel, in fact, it felt like drying off someone else’s legs. It was just kind of numb. A rather strange feeling. The pain in the piriformis was gone, like in totally gone and my legs felt marathon ready. After a few minutes, as the underlying tissue started to warm up again, there was a strange but pleasant sensation in my legs. I also felt cold after a few minutes, like when you shiver in winter, but it came from within.

Later in the afternoon I started to feel the pain in my piriformis again, but not half as bad as before I got into the bath. I also had a spinning class this afternoon, maybe that was not a good idea, but I did it, and right now, as I type this blog, I am feeling fine. My legs are feeling okay and I can honestly say that it does not feel like I did 53.1km in races this weekend and that is a good thing.

So, with all that said, the experience was not that bad. Yes the water is cold and it is not a very pleasant experience while you in there, but you definitely feel revived afterwards. So if you want to shorten your recovery time post exercise, get faster healing of soft tissue injuries, reduce fatigue, lower the risk of new or recurring injuries, treat muscle or joint soreness and fight off inflammation or just boost your neutral and cardio vascular system recovery, then maybe you should also pack a big bag full of bravery and head over to Altie for your very own Cryo treatment session.

You will find Cryo Treatment at 881 Old Farm Drive, Faerie Glen, inside the Old Farm Road Office Park. You can also visit their web page at www.cryorecovery.co.za or email info@cryorecovery.co.za

Disclaimer : This is just a write-up of my own experience and anyone doing this will do so at his or her own risk. Some medical conditions might also exclude you from being a suitable candidate to try this so check this first.

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PwC George Claassen Memorial Road Race 2017 : My Six Year Anniversary Run

This morning’s PwC George Claassen Memorial Road Race marked my six year running anniversary. This is where my running journey started, on the 29th of January 2011.

Let me take you back to that day real quick. There were more than 3000 athletes lining up that morning for the 10km and 21.1km races, but there was also the walkers and more specific, the 5km fun run group; I was lined up there. Although I was already two years into my weight loss journey, I have never done a single race in my life, and there I was, hoping to make the 5km with a combination of running and walking, hopefully no crawling. Well, I did finish with an ‘accomplished’ time of 00:30:20. For me the time was not important, I was just very happy to finish. I loved the whole vide of this event so much that I joined the Running Inn running club, bought my first running shoes, got my first ASA license that very day ( after the race ) and I guess I could then call myself a ‘runner’.

That morning Pieter Venter was also there, doing his first 10km race and also he never stopped. That day marked the beginning of new chapter for the both of us.

Following this event I started doing races on a regular basis and looked forward to every weekend because it meant, like I called it then, ‘races and places’. That gave birth to my current slogan I love to use – ‘Making Miles and Moments Count

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This morning, lining up for this very same event, I was overwhelmed with so much gratitude, feeling so blessed, that I can still do what I love and love what I do, running, sharing the road with so many awesome people and maintaining my healthy lifestyle and in the process encourage others to do the same, to live their best possible lives. Standing there at the start of this morning’s race I was taken back in time for a split moment to thàt first 5km fun run just a few blocks away from where we were this morning ( back then the race started at the back of Menlyn Park Shopping Centre ) and then an announcement by Pete brought me back to this morning’s event. I looked at Christo Lourens standing next to me and immediately thought of the #Road2Comrades2017 we are on, the road to his very first Comrades Marathon, my fourth. I thought to myself, ‘Here I am, six years down the road of my very own running journey and in a privileged position helping a friend to realize his very own Comrades dream.’ On the 4th of June I am determined to cross that finish line at Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg with Christo Lourens next to me.

My message to everyone reading this is simple, ‘Let no one ever tell you that something is not possible, because it is.’ My favorite quote, the quote that carried me through my very first Comrades, are these words by the late Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ If you dream it, chances are pretty good that you can achieve it. With hard work and commitment the impossible is very possible. It is always within your reach to achieve extraordinary things. Believe it. Always remember, there are always something out there to help you achieve your goals, you just have to find it. For me, joining Discovery Vitality made a huge difference, helping me to stay focused, committed and determined to carry on and then also rewarding me for doing so. Never was it so simple to work out and get rewarded all at the same time.

Let me also take this opportunity to just thank everyone who was and still is part of my journey for your love, support and encouragement. No, it was not always easy and no things did not always worked out as planned, but, I never gave up, never quit, never opted for second best, I worked hard, pushed on, set new goals, leaned forward and reached out for what was ahead. All of you made that possible for me. If I had to do this alone, I am not sure that it would have played out this way at all. I’ve learned to never underestimate the value of a friend of fellow runner, because they are the people who lift us up when we need it most, when we are tired, discouraged and weary.

Happy running everyone and have fun chasing your dreams !

[ Read more about my journey here : http://www.myownjourney.co.za ] and follow me on Twitter or Instagram @myownjourney_sa ( links on my web page )