The Ride

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I was so angry and disappointed that morning. So very disappointed.

I felt trapped, wanting, needing to break out and be free of the frustration and worry. I wanted to argue and shout and beg and cry (some more).

Instead I went cycling in the city of gold.

I fought the hills. I fought with you. I fought with God. And I fought myself.

Who won?

I’m not sure. But it was good.

In the brisk morning air the grey clouds yielded to the sun.

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Soundtrack for a run

Life needs a soundtrack. Especially when you are running.

When out and about in the streets, most runners these days are sporting headphones.  Even in races it is more and more becoming the norm (although music is not allowed in official races, the rule is rarely enforced).  Just about everyone is hooked up to a music player.

According to an article I read, studies have shown that listening to music while you are running reduces your perception of how hard you are running by around 10%, thus making running feel easier.  No one can complain about that happy side effect.

The purists’ argument is that running with music “removes” you from the run: it prevents you from hearing your breathing and foot strike and from focusing on the task at hand.  You are less aware of what your body is doing (bunch of masochists, these purists…).  A more practical problem is that it makes you more oblivious to your environment (other runners, traffic, opportunistic Jo’burg criminals…), which could have you end up in a dangerous situation when running outside.

I confess that I find it hard to run without music. Depending on where I am running and whether or not I have company, boredom can become an issue (although this is more of problem on a treadmill). I need to have something to take my mind off my complaining body or to give me that extra boost to really kill the run.  Participating in triathlons, where race officials still strictly enforce the “no music” rule, I have gotten more used to the idea of running without music.  Now I am at least able to have a decent, enjoyable run when the iPod battery dies or some other technical disaster strikes.  If given a choice, though, music will most definitely be involved.

What makes a good running song?  I’m actually not sure.  Anything lively with a quick beat can work, I guess.  But I find that some songs that do not fall within the obvious workout music category work incredibly well.  And the right music can mean the difference between a decent run and an epic run.

Some songs have a connotation with something that inspires (think of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, Rocky Balboa running up the stairs and punching the air victoriously as he reaches the top).  Others push you to go harder with a slower, strong beat and angry lyrics (think Metallica or Rammstein).  Sometimes in a shuffled playlist you simply get the right song at the right time in your run, having just the right tempo to push you up that hill at a strong but steady pace or kicking you into a sprint on the flat to the finish line.

Here are some of my favourite running songs (in no particular order):

  • Faithless – Insomnia
  • Limp Bizkit – Rollin’; Break Stuff (dedicated to my favourite clients)
  • Kula Shaker – Hush
  • Prodigy – Breathe; Smack My Bitch Up; Firestarter (these guys really rock your run)
  • Liquido – Narcotic
  • Republica – Ready To Go
  • Coyote Shivers – Sugar High
  • Basshunter – Russia Privjet (horrible Euro dance crap, I know, but it is just so awesome for a workout!)
  • Bryan Adams – We’re Gonna Win (this one will get you to the finish line first)
  • Enya – Book Of Days (who would have thought that Enya could be on a running playlist)
  • Bon Jovi – Lay Your Hands On Me
  • My Chemical Romance – Welcome To The Black Parade
  • Evanescence – Bring Me To Life
  • Apollo 440 – Stop The Rock
  • Jan Blohm – Tangerine
  • Muse – Supermassive Black Hole
  • Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now
  • ZZ Top – La Grange
  • Bloodhound Gang – Kids in America
  • Drowning Pool – Bodies
  • Safri Duo – Played-A-Live (The Bongo Song)
  • Spiderbait – Black Betty
  • Rage Against The Machine – Bullet In The Head
  • Billy Idol – White Wedding, Pt. 1
  • Muse – Supremacy

Do you run with or without? What are your favourite running songs?

Jo’burg on wheels

I love this time of year in Johannesburg.  From when spring rears its pretty head in September, the good citizens of the City of Gold are on their bikes preparing for the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge.  This race is to Johannesburg what the Argus is to Cape Town – maybe not quite as scenic but us Jo’burgers love it anyway.

Young and old, black and white, skinny and fat, all have dusted of their bicycles (or borrowed some wheels from a friend) to ride 90 odd kilometers on a hot summer day in their city on 16 November.

In honour of all the brave cyclists out there, Jozi Jottings’ header picture shows a typical Kromdraai Road scene on a weekend morning.

Only two weekends left to train.  Happy and safe cycling everyone!

Half marathon training: Week 5

What a disappointment of a training week!

In my attempt to shuffle our training schedule to not miss another long run because of the Sunday trail running race, I ended up doing only two proper training runs this week. Oi… not good.  This is what happens 9 out of 10 times when you try to arrange something for before 18:00 on a week day, particularly if you are a lawyer. Once you are at the office, there is just no escaping it. Not necessarily because you have to be there but sometimes only because you feel guilty to leave (or because you haven’t yet billed your budgeted hours for the day…).  And to top it all, my training partner has developed a pain in the gluteus maximus… literally! She’s still running, though – hopefully it won’t get worse.

Change of plans this week.  If I have to spend an hour or more on the treadmill, then so be it. Only one more trail run to go in the Trail Series, and then we can get back to our usual long runs on the weekends.

Summary for the week: three runs (two on the treadmill and one trail run), 1 hours and 47 minutes of running, covering 15.85km.

(head hanging in shame…)

Race report: Gauteng Winter Trail Series #2

Last Sunday was the one year anniversary of my trail running venture (and running races in general for that matter), with my hubby and me and some friends participating in the second race of the 2012 Gauteng Winter Trail Series at Hennops River. In 2011 we participated in this race, which was our first trail run ever.

The Trail Series consists of several trail running events in the Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces of South Africa, comprising short (5 to 8km), long (12km) and a few extra long (approximately 20 to 25km) distance events. The races are well organised, with plenty of food, drinks and running goodies available for purchase, some cool prizes (courtesy of sponsors such as Adidas), well-marked race routes (something that trail running organisers sometimes get a bit wrong…) and very good attendance.

The short course this year was around 4.35km in distance, compared to 6.5km last year. It was also a bit warmer than last year, something for which we were quite thankful in a Highveld winter.

The course was quite technical, with plenty of rocky sections, a hang bridge across a river and a climb over a ladder to get to the other side of a farm fence, just to keep things interesting. So now and then you have to use both hands and feet to navigate the trickier sections. Consequently, the route is not the fastest around as actual running is not always possible (giving you a welcome chance to catch your breath, though).

Quick pic on the course… people behind me are probably cursing me…

We even saw some of the local fauna, in the form of a big herd of goats (yes goats, like on a farm, not antelope). I would’ve loved to take a picture of them (they were really cute!) but the particular section of the course was very rocky and tricky and I was too busy trying not to fall on my face. Maybe one of those little sports video cameras that you strap onto you head is not such a bad idea… Taking photos on a trail run with your iPhone, on the other hand, is probably not so smart. The things one is prepared to do to document events for a blog post…

Some photos before and after the race:

Vital statistics: 4.35km in 33:39 (amounting to an average pace of about 7:45, compared to 8:26 last year on the somewhat longer course).

This morning we took part in the third race of the series at Segwati Game Ranch. Look out for a post on that race soon.

Half marathon training: Week 4

One month down, two to go!

Another week of training is behind us.  I skipped Saturday’s long run because I was participating in the second race of the Gauteng Winter Trail Series last Sunday.  Trying to do well in trail running races the day after doing a long run has not worked out well for me in the past.  Still did four runs as per the training program, though.

This week I need to shuffle our training schedule around a bit, as we’re participating in the next two races of the Trail Series on both upcoming Sundays and it seems to not be a great idea to miss the long training runs three weeks in a row.  The thinking is that a trail run is probably much better hill running practice than a hill interval treadmill session could ever be… my sore muscles after Sunday’s race seem to be supporting this argument.  So I’ll attempt to switch the two and see if we can manage a long run in the week, while adding a fifth run to our schedule from this week.  I’m not feeling up to doing an hour plus run on the treadmill, though, so I’ll try to sneak away from the office early for a late afternoon run.

Well then, summary for last week: four runs (three on the treadmill and one lovely trail run), 2 hours and 34 minutes of running, covering 22.3km.

Half marathon training: Week 3

Week 3 is behind us! Four runs, 25.2km, 2 hours and 45 minutes of running time.

Our shorter sessions were once again done on the treadmill.  I was not as bored with the treadmill as I was last week. In fact, I really enjoyed the runs.  I will seriously have to hunt for some more good running music, though, before I get bored with my playlist, otherwise I’m going to get really frustrated with the treadmill sessions.

For our long run yesterday we followed our usual, quite scenic route through Greenside and Parkview, past Zoo Lake, and back to Parkhurst through Parktown North (approximately 9km).  With a nasty cold front arriving in Johannesburg yesterday, it was a chilly run.

I want to work out some new run routes in the coming weekends, to keep things interesting and to get to know more of the surrounding areas.

At the moment our training program comprises one easy short run, one short run with hill intervals, one short run with sprint intervals and one long run per week. From week 5 we will be doing a fifth session per week, adding another longer run. Then we will begin seeing a more significant increase in mileage. We are looking forward to the program getting more challenging and pushing our boundaries a bit.

We are participating in the second race of the Gauteng Winter Trail Series next Sunday at Hennops River, so we may have to skip our Saturday long run if we want to achieve a decent time on Sunday. Hopefully the weather improves a bit this week so that we don’t freeze our buts off next weekend. A treadmill inside a reasonably warm gym actually sounds quite appealing at the moment…

Have a great running week!