Thursday 31 August 2006

Puff, Puff, PUFFER

Well, well, well... it surely is a spectacular race but it is also a toughie... and more in the last 3hrs (Platteklip!) than in any other part.

I had a really fantastic run at Puffer ( on Saturday in Cape Town. It's a 80km run from Cape Point to V&A. We started at 05h30 and had the most fantastic run along the Peninsula road, stars ablaze overhead. We unfortunately just missed seeing sunrise over False Bay but nonetheless the colours were beautiful. We were also blessed with amazing weather. When I'd flown in on Thursday afternoon the wind was pumping. It had calmed by Friday and was a cooling breeze on Saturday.

The first 24-odd kilometers followed road, through the Peninsula National Park and onto the Red Hill Road. From here we went off-road, returning to tar only to run through Sun Valley (near Noordhoek) and then again to the finish at the V&A via Greenpoint.

Memorable were the Checkpoint aid stations: friendly volunteers (one lady even rubbed sunblock on my sweaty face), lots of water and refreshments and lots of munchies. I didn't realise that these would all be here so I had my own food packed anyway but I did grab a baby potato here and there. The volunteers were really incredible and encouraging.

The route isn't marked so I just followed people on the route. Again, all very friendly and helpful. It actually turned into quite a social run ;)

Physically I had a relatively easy run. The three weeks before the run had been hectic with work, projects and all sorts so I hadn't put in the training I'd have liked to. Add to this a bit of a cold from mid-July... Nonetheless, I'd been running my best 10km and 21km times for 6-years and had some good orienteering runs pre-Puffer so I was fairly non-stressed. And, I was healthy and uninjured, which is always the best start.

I ran a lot of the race, swiftly walking the uphills and running the flats and downs. My worst section was definitely coming down Platteklip. I'm not a big fan of steep drops anyway and this one was particularly nasty. Big step downs - bigger than a normal steps - that just never seemed to end. If you ever go up or down Table Mountain, don't take Platteklip! The last section through to the finish from the Lower Cable Station along Signal Hill and down to the V&A was very pleasant.

Needless to say, that downhill was probably the single section responsible for my sore quads - always worse on Day 2. I went for a massage on Monday and am 100% stiffness-free today.

I finished this 80km route in 11h50 and placed 49th overall. I was 10th lady. 135 runners started. 38 did not finish. Am very happy with this result, especially as I had a really comfortable run.

Martin, Trevor and your PUFFER team, thank you for a really wonderful event.

Wednesday 23 August 2006

Creature of habit

I'm busy packing my running gear 'cos I'm off tomorrow for Puffer, an ultra in Cape Town. I've got all my favourite, favourites in my pack...

I haven't done a race for a while and so I'm really looking forward to Puffer. It's an 80km trail run from Cape Point to V&A where the first 23km is on road. I'm actually doing the baby race. The big daddy is Tuffer Puffer, a there-and-back route starting from V&A.

Anyway, I'm in for the little one and this will be my first time on da Mountain, depsite having been in CT many, many times.

The reason for this blog (there's always a reason) is that I'm busy packing my gear and got to thinking how pernickety I am about stuff.

Essentially this is just a run. We have 3 gear drops and at the one just over mid-way we have to collect things like rain jacket, compass, map, gloves and hat for the rest of the way to the finish. That's it. No other compulsory stuff required. But, I like to be prepared at all times, especially as I don't know the route at all and I know that conditions in the mountains can change in an instant.

From the end of the tar I'll carry a lightweight First Ascent shell (I'll pick up my heavier one later). I'll have my small knife, whistle and compass with me the whole way. I've even got my small space blanket that has been with me on every AR and ultra run and staged ultra for years. I've also got a little first aid kit in which I've got extra contact lenses, a little mirror and baby powder for my feet (should I need it). Also a couple of Myprodol (should I need them) and surgical needles - which I hope not to have to use on blisters. I always carry an extra pair of socks and will have others at each gear drop. I don't often need to change socks, but maybe I will so then at least they're there. I always have contact solution and lipice in the front pocket of my Salomon Packvest. When I change from my Adidas road shoes to my Adidas Response trail shoes I'll put on the mini gaiters I've been making for some years. I loooovvveee gaiters to keep all that irritating trail debris out of my socks and shoes.

My water reservoir... it's my good old faithful Camelback bladder, which goes in my Packvest. It's now 7-years old and although I've got a newer one I won at a race a couple of years ago (hardly used it), I still go for my old one. Part sentimental and part because it's my favourite.

I'll also pick up my small Black Diamond headlamp at a later checkpoint. I'll probably be in by mid to late afternoon though. And, believe it or not, I've also got my GloToob packed.

The moral of this tale - and it applies to AR too - is that I could be carrying far, far less but that for my comfort and from habit, I like to have my stuff with me at all times. I've rarely had to use my first aid kit, I seldom need my extra pair of socks and I've never used a space blanket. But, having these things with me makes me feel safe, secure and prepared. The extra kilogram (if that) is worth it for the psychological benefits.

I always pack the same stuff. I always pack things in the same place. Most importantly, it works so I won't be changing my habits anytime soon.

P.S. My friends Ugene Nel and Michael Graz are running Tuffer Puffer. They start on Friday morning running through Friday night. I only start on Saturday morning. Good luck boys!

Friday 11 August 2006

What was he really on?

While my last blog had glowing comments about Landis, this one questions why he just doesn't own up?

The results from Sample B have confirmed that Landis was indeed shot up on synthetic testosterone during his miraculous ride to victory on Stage 17 of the Tour de France. He made all kinds of statements to the press about the unusual 11:1 ratio (physiological levels are 4:1) being due to a) the beer and whisky he drank post-Stage 16 and b) resulting from dehydration on Stage 16 and other such comments.

A cyclist friend at gym said to me on Tuesday night, "I wish he'd just own up to it and take responsibility for his actions". She's quite right.

Still, I have questions... physiologically, how can his blood tests from the previous stages show absolutely nothing and then sim-sala-bim he logs an 11:1 ratio? Testosterone has an anabolic effect - it enhances muscle development, strength and endurance. This makes me ask how a massive shot of testosterone the night or morning before he started Stage 17 could have had such a remarkable effect? Some say that testosterone wasn't actually the 'performance enhancer' but that it masked whatever gave ol' Landis the kick he needed to dominate the stage.

My final question is: how can he possibly be so stupid?

George's comments on the AR mailing list last week caused a flood of responses. He suggested that there be two racing categories: those on drugs and those not on drugs. Those doping should monitor what they're on and their stats and should submit it for the benefit of physiological research; legalised use of performance enhancers in the name of science. Not such a bad suggestion troops.

I too wear blinkers. I don't want to know that these guys are achieving excellence through artificial, not natural, means. We all just pretend that drugging is not happening but the reality is that it is and it is not about to stop. And, we're naive if we believe that the anti-doping urine and blood tests will 100% detect offenders. They haven't in the past and they don't now.

The one problem I have with this whole "legalise doping" concept is that a) athletes are going to die and b) we're saying to kids "Don't do drugs but if you get into pro cycling/running/swimming/rugby you can take whatever you want to".

The solution? I don't know. I do hope the testing becomes more stringent and more sensitive. If the stand continues to be to forbid doping, then the penalties given to offenders need to be severe. Landis' 2-year ban and TdF title removal is joke considering his offence as TdF winner! Athletes must realise that disregard for regulations will see them not only not just restricted from competition for a defined period but that they will be jobless, sponsorless and outcast.

There is no acceptable excuse or reasonable explanation.«