Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Training update

Four days before the next challenge and I've not even posted an update on the previous huge adventure, our glorious time in Europe and the Zermatt Marathon! What a trip that was. Hopefully I'll get around to a proper recap of the whole Zermatt ordeal event. But first an update of the here and now.

This  Saturday, 3 October, I will hopefully line up for the Lucky Star Marathon taking place at the Namibian coast. The Lucky Star will be my second official marathon although this will be the first road marathon, where the Zermatt Marathon was an alpine trail run. The Lucky Star is a relatively fast and flat one, starting in Swakopmund and ending in Walvis Bay (this is the first year that the route is this way around, previous years' races always started in WB). It will also, hopefully, serve as a qualifier for me for the Two Oceans Ultra which I hope to run in 2016. I competed in the Half-marathon category of the Lucky Star last year and clocked a PB  in this distance. Hopefully we will experience nice, cool weather again with a slight northerly wind in our backs. One can hope..

Yesterday marked the official start of The Taper. Yes, Tapering needs to be capitalized, because for some it marks the start of an awful period of putting in less miles and the associated withdrawal symptoms. For me, currently, it serves as the mark to a wonderful week of blissful denial! I have to admit that, after Zermatt, I tried my bestest to commit to my previous marathon training programme again, but it just didn't stick. So instead, after a prolonged period of disappointment and a subsequent (short) loss of interest, I switched to a time-based programme (instead of the previous mileage-based programme) and I have to say it made things a lot easier. Possibly too easy... now with hindsight! But alas, we are in Tapering week and what will be will be. Nothing really I can do about it now, except blissfully indulge in some rest (hahaha, we moved house today... *follow ironical and cynical sneers*) and a few short happy runs.

Just a small peak at our current accommodations. ..

Our tiny castle in the middle of beautiful Damaraland...


Sunday, September 27, 2015

On tunes, tuning out and tuning in.

People, I have a confession. A big one... about something I was quite outspoken and judgmental about and never thought I would be confessing to...

You see, for all my years in running I have always professed that running is one of the purest, easiest and most basic forms of exercise there is. Most people don't need to spend much money to get into the sport. Put on some comfy trainers, a t-shirt and some shorts and you can easily get into a 5k run/walk regime for some weeks until you get the hang of it. Sure, if you want to go 'the extra mile' later you can invest in some good running apparel.  But you don't need loads and loads of stuff to get into running. It is the purity and simplicity of running that attracted me and that I keep celebrating. Getting into the run, feeling it and experiencing it with all your senses was very much what it was all about. Being aware of the crunch of your shoes, the rhythm of your breath, ambient sounds, smells, sights... just all 'n all being present with mind, body and spirit, pushing through the lows on your own steam and celebrating the highs with song of praise and a proverbial pat on the back. All you.

So for this reason, I usually frowned upon runners that trained with music in their ears that effectively cut out all sound stimuli and feedback from their run itself and their surroundings. I simply couldn't comprehend why one would tune out the sounds of the ocean while running at the coast, the sounds of the bush while running at Spitzkoppe or miss the friendly cheers and greetings from supporters or fellow runners while competing in a race. And really, I am still at a loss about aforementioned, to a large extent, considering the dangers of oncoming traffic and approaching predators (including vicious canines), but... I have gained some understanding.

You see, training for a marathon requires extensive time on the road. And sometimes, said road can be extremely lonesome, and ... behold...  extremely boring! Enter a wicked idea: lets throw some tunes in the mix to help alleviate the boredom. At first the idea was shoved off and suppressed, but as more time passed, I was it as a necessity to be able to continue. After another mile or 20 I thus scurried to the nearest tech store (which in itself was a huge feat) and acquired a tiny little treasure, a smart little  black mp3 player. I compiled some awesome playlists and behold... before long I was actually looking forward to my weekly longruns! Incredible! And although I would still not wear my headphones permanently and become dependent on music to make my feet move, I have a better understanding of why people run with music.

You see, music has an incredible capacity to transport us to and from places and events and enrich an ordinary activity into a soul-soaring, mind-blowing experience. And sometimes, just sometimes, such a soulful experience adds a much needed, sorely missed aspect to one's life that may have become routine and take it to the next level again. The bottom line is that I realised again that we should be adaptable, keep reassessing and discovering and not become disheartened or complacent by accepting the mediocre.

Proof in point was my longrun this morning. I commenced on the 1.5 hr planned run shortly before dawn, the most beautiful time for me in Damaraland. For the first few kays I tuned in and appreciated the ambiance of the pre-dawn veld, together with the damp smells of cool night as it started to heat up. After about 4k's I hit the district road and felt the need to pop in my earphones to distract me from the monotony of the wide, white, undulating gravel road. I enjoyed my newly prepared playlist, compiled for the last few days leading up the the Lucky Star Marathon next weekend. Fast forward a few kays and a few songs, and I landed up in one of those moments... One of those experiences that will just stay with you for a very, very long time....

Early morning runs in Damaraland with the Brandberg as backdrop... it just doesn't get old. 

I was approaching a lazy bend in the road at the foot of a range of low koppies, when one of our Uis friends came drifting by slowly in his ultralight aircraft, a beautiful and peaceful sight clearly etched against blue skies with its gentle patchwork of clouds. Of course my wild and wondrous aviator heart always skips a few beats at the sight of anything on the wing, no question, but this morning, what would usually be a mere sighting and happy wave, was transformed into an whole different, mind-altering experience. This experience may or may not have been brought about by the following song in my ears: Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
Click on it, I dare you, and tell me you are not moved.

Although I have always loved music, playing it or listing to it, the last few years with babies were possibly spent more  seeking quiet breaks whenever possible. Silent breaks were subsequently given up to the sounds of nursery rhymes and toddler singalongs. And although we still seek quiet moments and still indulge in happy times with rhymes and songs, I think the rediscovery of music and this to accompany/support my love for running was a necessary and well-timed one for me, well worth celebrating.