Running the Two Oceans Ultra? This is a brief insight into the practical bits of running the Two Oceans. Firstly, let’s have a look at the big picture: The Ultra run (there is a short 21k version as well) is undoubtedly the world’s most beautiful marathon, I have run many races around the world including Sydney and San Francisco, which come close but not like the beauty of the Two Oceans. The Two Oceans was named by the Stamper brothers (Wanderers members all their lives) as you run next to both the Indian Ocean (well sort of) and the Atlantic Ocean The Two Oceans 56k includes one of the fastest marathon’s (42,2k) in the country, with only one hill up Chapmans Peak. But, it is also one of the toughest ultra marathons as the last 14k includes an unrelenting climb, normally in the heat of the day. Remember this when planning your run. This is one race which can be dramatically affected by the weather, so do not set rigid times; the South Easter can literally blow your times away. We have run in howling gales to the extent that runners hug the mountain passes on Chapmans for fear of being blown off the cliff, but also in unbelievable rain when wading in the dips was necessary because running in water is not possible. You can comfortably walk up the hills, jog the rest and you will finish within the cut-off time. No-one apart from you actually cares about your finish time. It is quite possible to run the Two Oceans on nothing but Coke and water. I have very successfully run most of my 18 races on Coke and water only diluted 60/40, taken every second feeding station. To me the lesson is that you should consume only what you have trained with and take care not to consume too much fancy stuff. I have never eaten solids on the run and do not know of anyone who does (apart from Wendy who eats jelly babies). Your body simply cannot take solids due to the prolonged jostling of your innards and its natural tendency to void the stomach and bowels as your body re-directs its resources to your muscles. This is also why Distance runners tend to pay a lot of attention to what they eat and drink in the days immediately preceding the run You will be a bit sore during and after the run, mainly because of the sharp declines such as coming off Chapmans Peak, everybody is. Do not take pain killers on the run if you can avoid doing so, although many, many athletes do. This is because your body is stressed enough and probably dehydrated, without adding to the Kidney’s task of dealing with more chemicals. If you suppress the pain you will push beyond what your muscles are happy with, ending up with more muscle damage and more after race stiffness and pain You will recover quicker if you do not take pain killers You will have one or more bad patches; every runner has them from first to last. Accept that this happens but know also that you will recover, just keep moving forward Massages on the run from the well intended therapists actually do not help apart from the respite during the rub. To me you feel worse afterwards, so save them for the finish The occasional walk is normal and good, so walk briskly if you need to; most of us do, particularly up Constantia Neck. Always have a plan B, sometimes a plan C is also needed! About 50% of the field finishes in the last hour, so hang in and avoid the bail bus Make friends and chat to the spectators, it helps a lot. The recovery drink of choice comes in a can or bottle and is amber in colour! Enjoy Now then, to the race 1 Race day minus 3 (days) The training is done; nothing more you do now will improve your fitness or your time. You will just get injured or tire your legs if you run now. Your body needs recovery time. Many runners are so hyped up at this point and need to be doing something so will stupidly play football or touch rugby. This is the best way to get injured; because you are fit and hyped, you tend to push too hard at whatever you are doing. So, here is list of things to do on this day: a. Increase carbohydrate intake. b. Increase water intake. c. Stop all alcohol (except Mark who believes that a day without beer is a day wasted) d. Eat only what you would normally eat, preferably fresh and uncooked, but increase the Carbs. Avoid all take-a-ways and fast foods like pies and stuff. e. If not normally eaten, avoid energy bars and all dairy products f. Have a good massage by a sports masseuse g. Stay away from people if possible, colds and flu may be around, so if you have to meet someone, ask about them having a cold, they will understand. h. This is the day I start my Carbo-load diet and for me is the time to mentally fine tune the race; from preparation to start to all the target points and times and of course crossing the line on time feeling like a champion. i. Tell your seconds what your (realistic) times are at various points. There will be a timing mat at half-way from which your supporters can get your times via SMS. Tell them to multiply this time by 2 and add 20-40 min by which time you will be having your first cold one on the field at the finish. Unless of course you blow completely! If this happens, do NOT look for the bail bus, it is not a nice place. Fight on and you will finish, you will not be the first to walk the last 15k’s nor will you be the last. 2 Race day minus 2 For reasons best explained by the experts your body tends to operate in a 48 hour cycle, particularly in athletes. What you do and eat today will impact more on race day (2 days time) than the immediately preceding day, so:- a. This is a critical day b. See one above and continue in the same vein, but rather “graze” all day much as a cow would do, as opposed to having a big meal. c. Your largest meal should be a late lunch rather than dinner. Marie biscuits are great for this type of grazing, chocolate is not! d. Water intake must be such that despite all the vitamins, your pee is totally colourless and transparent e. Do not run, and if you need to, walk around the block easy f. Rest is best, feet up, read a book, watch a video take your mind off the run. g. Go to bed early and relax as much as possible. You should feel full and well hydrated with no aches and pains h. Beware the virtual cold or sore knee at this time. Many runners, including me, get virtual flue around now. Your nose is sniffy and your throat scratchy and you are convinced that you will be unable to run. Unless you are actually coughing with a deep wheezing chest, ignore it and believe that it is just that, a virtual cold, you will be just fine at the start. The only time to properly assess if you are too sick to run is when you are at the start at 06h25 not before; so stop worrying. 3 Race day minus 1 This is always a long day, which drags, rest as much as possible, avoid walking on the beach as it strains your calves/Achilles tendons, avoid diuretics such as alcohol, tee and coffee. a. Go and register if not done so already, feel the vibe and look around the expo. You will surely recognise some of the worlds great distance runners b. Watch what you eat as today can do more harm than good from a dietary point of view if you are not careful as you can negatively influence your run rather than contribute to it, by getting an upset tummy, or diarrhoea or overeating/drinking c. Graze most of the day; drink a lot (of water!) d. Last big meal at lunch time e. Set out all the stuff you will need in the morning; clothes with your numbers pinned on, Vaseline, sun block, cap, watch, running chip, dark glasses, throw away T-shirt, shoes, plasters, gels, and breakfast. f. Pack your bag to leave with your seconds or to place in the tog bag truck. Remember, the weather will dictate what you need at the finish, so have alternative clothing ready, take a towel, change of clothes, rain coat, tracksuit, a pair of sandals with open toes as you may well have blisters or black toe nails (Distance running is not for sissy’s!) and you will have to walk to the car. (This is the worst part of long runs). g. Despite having the best seconds in the world, I still prefer to send my tog bag with the tog-bag truck, so that I know for sure it will be available whenever I finish. The finish is probably more stressful for your seconds than it is for you; with limited parking, blocked roads, a field full of athletes’ broken and bent, tents and fences and bridges and things, and they may not be where you need them so at least you will have your post race gear while you await them. h. Agree precisely where you will meet your seconds. The finish is a very crowded place. Tell our seconds that whatever time you finish, you will wait at the designated spot and they must find you. If you are not where you should be, they must go to the medical tent i. Set two alarms j. More mental racing and preparation. Know that you will go through bad patches and you will be sore, everyone is. But believe, because it is true, that you will get through the bad patches and you will only be sore for a few hours. Remember it hurts more and forever if you give up just because of a few aches and pains. k. Sleep may be difficult, no matter! Sleep tonight is not important, rather than toss and turn, watch a video or read 4 Getting to the Start Most hotels and most B&B’s are very Runner friendly and will put on a good pasta dinner the night before, a buffet breakfast at 04h00 and most will take you to the start if needed, do not stress about it just organise all this the night before. a. The Start is a stressful time for first time or inexperienced athletes. b. Eat as soon as you get up to allow for digestion. My favourite pre-Race meal is 2 slices of toast with honey, 1 banana and a cup of strong black coffee with honey. But ignore my diet, eat what you have planned and what you have tried and tested. c. Get dropped off as near as possible to the start about 05h30 to 05h45. d. Take your tog bag to the truck and hand it in. e. Unlike the Comrades down run where freezing cold starts are guaranteed, the Oceans start could be anything from mild and warm to freezing rain or howling wind. Stick your head out the window when you wake up and only then can you decide what to wear. Remember, dress in layers which can be removed and preferably discarded later on the day as you warm up or dry out f. Do not accidently go to the 21k start, which is just around the corner. g. Use the toilet if needed. I try to avoid these smelly places if at all possible, there are many toilets and trees along the road h. Grab some water; there will be refreshment stations before entering the pens i. I always carry a bottle of diluted carbo-load drink with me for the first 10k’s as the tables are busy and crowded. This also helps psychologically as I feel that I am still “fully loaded” after 10k’s j. Get into your pen about 25-30 min before the gun. Despite the organisers best efforts there is usually a crush at the pen entry points. Runners are stressed and anxious and push and shove and climb the fences. Go with the flow you will get in before the gun, as with about 15 min to go, all pens are opened and the athletes surge forward to the line as if they are migrating bison in the Serengeti. The entry gates free up and you can join in. This is not the start so chill for a bit more k. In the pens there will be more space, so relax and above all take in the atmosphere. If you can find a place to sit, do so l. Remember that being stressed out or cold simply uses energy, and you will need every bit of all your energy later in the day. Try to keep calm and warm. Take deep slow breaths and chat to the runners around you m. The start is emotional and fun with a great vibe, stretching far back, surrounded by thousands of athletes all fit and ready to go, with a common purpose:- get to the finish in one piece and who cares about the time, it’s the medal that matters; the smells; colours; banners; TV camera’s; nervous tension; banter and sheer terror pervades all. This is your day. n. When the traditional fish horn sounds, start your watch, this gives you a few added seconds. In fact I start my watch a minute before, you forget about this minute along the way and if you happen to be chasing seconds to achieve your goal, you suddenly remember the bonus. o. Check your watch after the first K or so as it is often bumped off in the crush and you will need to re-start your time. 5 The Gun goes off a. Two Oceans is a gun to mat race, so actually crossing the start line is only for timing chip notation, not for start times, but the finish mat is for finish times. b. The start is fast as the road is wide and fairly straight. Do NOT get carried along by the TV runners. c. Do not try and push through for the first 1-2 k’s use them to warm up, it may be dark so take extreme care with your footing, there will be many discarded bottles, T-Shirts, black bags, water and so on. d. Weaving in and out the crowds is pointless, you will make little progress and simply waste energy. Look around you as you will surely recognise a few runners and probably see then later on in the day. e. Having regard to the above, however, do not dawdle; you can waste up to 15 minutes crossing the start line and in the first 10k’s if you get stuck with the slow runners pace. Get into your rhythm as soon as practicable and keep an eye on the pace/time. If you are planning a steady 5min/k you should do the first 10k in about 55 minutes. This will easily be caught up later so not to worry. 6 First bit a. A few mild and small rises in the pre-dawn will get you through the first 4 or 5 K’s b. You should be warm by now and getting into a rhythm. c. After the first few rises is a good place to empty your bladder which will almost certainly be needed if you drank properly before the start. Run easy and enjoy, there is usually good crowd support. d. The road starts levelling out and is fast with most of the next 10 K’s a net gradual down. Keep a look out for Spotty Dog, a huge concrete painted dog on the left. e. I hope you remembered the shades as the run along Main road is straight into the rising sun. f. If the South Easter is blowing, find a big runner going your pace and tuck in behind him. This wind will be in your face for about 13 K’s and can be quite horrible. g. The road gradually veers right through Muizenberg and depending on the time of year you could be watching a beautiful sunrise over Gordon’s Bay and the Indian Ocean h. The biggest danger on this first section is that you will run too fast, it is easy running mostly down and you are fresh. Take it easy! 7 Second quarter a. Now you are running along the Indian Ocean coast line with truly magnificent views of the fishing harbours, and the sea. When Oceans is run later in the year it if often possible to see whales whilst running b. Lots of support along here and all the way through St James, Kalk Bay and Covelly. There are some great restaurants and pubs along this stretch, make a mental note for later c. The wind is not too bad on this stretch as you are protected by the buildings and the wind if any is likely to be coming in from your left, all the way into Fish Hoek. d. Again, the big danger on this stretch is going too fast and you may well find you have done a PB 21K as you get into the fish Hoek village. This is not good. e. At the Fish Hoek circle you have run about 22 K’s and will turn right away from the ocean. You should be feeling really good and if the wind is blowing it will be on your back- Phew! f. Do not increase your pace or effort as again this is an easy stretch with a few minor rises. Go too fast here and you will pay later. g. Keep a look out for the wrinklies on the right just after the Fish Hoek circle as they always give us good support. Remember that one day you will be one of them! h. A bit of a drag through Sun Valley, but some nice crowd support, starting to get hot as the wind is on your back. Just keep it steady, it is not time to race yet. i. Finally cross over Ou Kaapse Weg (where we used to turn right when Chapman’s was closed) and onto the now slightly rising road to half way and Chapmans Peak. j. Running is not so easy anymore after 25 K’s of flat and down and we are a bit inland so no sea view yet. If you did wander left off the road there are some more great pubs and restaurants in Noordhoek k. Suddenly there is the half way timing mat and in your face is the toll gate and Chapmans Peak which just seems to go up and up. l. At this point check your race time. For every 1 minute too fast based on your own planned time for the whole race, you will repay at least 5 minutes in the second half. So a five hour race plan should see you through half way at about 2h25 and a 6 hour race plan about 2h50. Any faster and you will struggle to make your time. m. So far the running has been easy, your times are looking good and you are probably enjoying the day, wait. 8 First half of the second half a. Suddenly there is no traffic, almost no support and you are climbing. b. Keep a look (and ear) out on the left shortly after the toll gate for a lady playing violin. It is really soothing and peaceful. c. A few years ago the girls from Teasers were at the start of the climb giving the boys (and girls!) a few flashes. It sure took my mind off the run for a while d. Up little Chappies. Yes there are actually two climbs, with a respite in between. e. Look left and back over the magnificent Noordhoek Beach and if you look over the bay you will see the quaint village of Kommetjie and the Kommetjie lighthouse. Often pods of whales are in this bay. f. Just climb steadily and enjoy the view. When climbing up big Chappies, past the new overhang, look out to sea. The next land due South is the Antarctic, due West (sort of in front of you) is Brazil and the sea you are seeing is now the Atlantic Ocean. g. If you are Spiritual, this is the place and the time to say “thank you” for your ability to run with likeminded people doing exactly what you want to be doing in the most beautiful part of the planet. Think about where you are on the world map! h. Then, just when you think you have reached the top, you have not. There are several false tops on the Chappies road, don’t be fooled. i. We have occasionally had falling rocks along this stretch and also baboons throwing rocks at us. Keep a look out j. The top has a plaque telling you that you have arrived at around 34 K’s and the photographers will be there. k. Around the corner and before you is the even more magnificent Hout Bay, with Seal Island in the distance and the harbour opposite. Great sea food at the harbour, a must for lunch or dinner. l. A long down run with brutal camber and very dangerous large cats eyes in the middle of the road. Be careful, a lot of runners’ and cyclists’ skin is on this section of road. m. Just before hitting the bottom after many twists and turns, look up right and on top of a large rock (yes there are many rocks but this is a big one) you will see a gentleman playing the bag pipes. Enjoy. n. Every year the Stamper brothers (the guys that named the Two Oceans) take a dip fully clothed in Hout Bay, as the run is very close to the beach. Not for me but each to his own. o. This for me is where the real drag starts. Hout Bay circle is at 39K’s at an elevation of 12 meters and before you is the daunting 215M climb up Constantia Nek and all the good views are a thing of the past. p. Time to get down and dirty, you are here to race not on a sightseeing ramble 9 The final Quarter a. Running through Hout Bay is, well, not the best bit of the run, although the crowds are good. b. I say this because the big climb starts with a gentle incline, it is hot and your legs are jelly like from the 4 K down off Chapmans. c. Past the circle look left and you will see prime real estate, horse stables, bird sanctuaries and mansions. Look right and you will see a smelly squalid squatter camp. Welcome to Africa! d. As you approach the marathon mark on your right is a cemetery, be grateful that you are only tired and sore, unlike the residents lying about in there. e. Check your time over the mat at the marathon mark. You have probably done a PB. Not necessarily the right thing to have done, but enjoy the feeling, it will not last. f. While the real climb starts here, you have been climbing steadily from the bottom of Chapmans, again on uncomfortable camber in the heat and traffic. g. 4K’s of climbing after having run a marathon, a climb that starts (in fact it started some 4 K’s back) gradually but increasing in severity without a break. The steepest bit is the last bit so it just gets harder and harder and harder. h. Try to keep jogging; there are lots of huge trees and many watering points. Keep hydrated and cool. Pump you arms to help you legs, rent a mate, whatever; just keep going i. The climb is endless with many twists and turns and false tops. You are not at the top until you get there so do not anticipate the end of the climb j. Smile for the camera’s they have been filming you walking downcast from before you saw them, so make it up to your fans. k. The crowds tell you where the top is (46k) and at this circle coming in from your right is where the 21K route joins the 56k route. l. A 7K undulating, shady, down initially along the top of Kirstenbosch Gardens then down the Western side of the gardens. The camber is awful and many runners use the drainage ditch on the right rather than the road. m. This is again a fast section if you have any juice left and you can more than make up for time lost on the climb. n. If you are done with racing, enjoy the support, the enormous houses and the shady trees. You are in Bishops Court, a very larney and pleasant area. o. At the bottom of Rhodes drive a sharp left just at the 53 K mark brings you on to the home stretch. p. The water table at 53k is backed up by George in his blue Powerade caravan. The Gauteng runners know George as the usual race commentator who has the ability to talk #$%^ for 6 hours non-stop. q. This last 3 K’s is just plain stupid, 80% of it is uphill on a motorway in the hot sun with idiot supporters telling you that you have made it! Watch out for a sense of humour failure. r. A short down into the University of Cape Town left onto the fields and at last the finish line. s. Find your second and the club tent, chill for bit, the finish is good and well set out, the venue superb and you are done for the day. t. Many runners gather at Forries pub after the race and some have been seen in the pub still in their running gear well into the evening. Final tip, ignore all the advice, just go run and enjoy th th Denis will be completing his 19 Two Oceans in 2009, looking forward to his 20 in 2010 with the rest of you.