Personal Best 101: Tips to your fastest 5k #1 – The Warm Up

PersonalBest101_5KThe 5km Time Trial is a classic weekly event on every running clubs schedule. Both back of the packers and racing snakes love to use these to get in a good quality workout and to test their progress when preparing for longer events.

Fast and slow alike love to crack a personal best over the 5km time trial, so over the next 6 weeks I will be offering weekly tips to help you do just that:

Tip #1 – The Warm Up

To run a fast time trial your body needs to be ready to run hard from the word go. In order to do that, it is important to prepare your body for the hard running to come with a good warm up.

The pre-run warmup does more than just warm your body enough so that you are able to brave removing your tracksuit.

It also:

  • Increases blood flow to the muscles enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients.
  • Stimulates the energy-releasing reactions used during running and makes the muscles suppler.
  • Prepares your muscles, joints and tendons for greater range of motion.
  • Raises your heart rate, preparing your heart for the increase in exertion.
  • Focuses your mind for the upcoming hard effort.
  • Primes your nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for running.

How to do a warmup:

Allow at least 15 minutes for your warm up. The fitter you are and faster you plan to run, the longer the warm up you will require. Plan to finish your warm up just before the start of the 5km, otherwise you will cool down again and lose a lot of the benefit of the warm up.

Start with very light jogging and gradually increase the effort every minute so that in the last 3 minutes you are running only slightly slower than your planned 5km time trial effort. This run will be 10-15 minutes long depending on your fitness level.

legswingsFollow the jog with a few dynamic stretches for example: leg swings, arm swings, walking lunges, bum flicks.

If you are a very serious racing snake then finish off with 4 x 100m acceleration runs.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

Go smash that PB now!

Coach Kathleen


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A Celebration of Journeys

The amazing thing about running is that many runners may run the same road, but no one runs the same journey.” –

fb_img_1522583049779.jpgIf you are a regular follower of my blogs you will be familiar with the phrase “it is all about the journey”, something I remind runners of often. For indeed it is. Race day itself is just one of many adventures along the continuum of the life of a long distance runner. The race is not a destination, but a passing through onto new challenges, new highs , new lows, new laughs, new pain and most importantly, more amazing humans, old and new, that you get to share the road with along the way.

As a coach I have the massive privilege of  helping navigate many runners’ personal journeys. Ordinary men and women who juggle family, work and running on a daily basis to achieve their dreams.  Everyday champions!

Follow  this link to hear what some of our everyday champions had to say about their journeys.

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 12/12 – You’ve Got This

superhero-2503808_640Welcome to paranoia week! Focusing on work is going to be a big challenge as your mind keeps drifting to Saturday and on every run those little buggers doubt and fear are going to want to torment you.

You have done the hard work, your body knows what to do, silence those voices of doubt, chest out, superhero grin on, You’ve got this!


Here are 10 basics to keep you focused:

  1. Stay off your feet!
  2. Trust your body!
  3. Remind yourself of those long runs where you felt strong.
  4. Don’t overthink your race.
  5. Stick to foods that you are used to.
  6. Stick to the race nutrition strategy (and product!) you have rehearsed.
  7. Talk about something other than the race (at least now and then)!
  8. Go to bed early on Thursday night.
  9. Triple check that your timing chip is on your shoe!
  10. Encourage your running buddies and enjoy each others race week quirkiness.

Folks, it has been great sharing this journey with you, Run with joy!…because you can!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 11/12 – KEEP CALM (unless being chased by a zombie)


We have arrived at the final phase before race week, The “Freak Out” phase! If you live with an ultra runner, good luck.

In the second last week before the race, your biggest challenge is that you have way too much time to think. This is when those little voices of doubt come to torment you. So what to do in order to stay calm and sane?

  • Do not join the conversation. If you have done the training, you have nothing to fear. Also, stay away from negative talking runners.
  • Go back to your training logs for reassurance. The work is done, now trust your body!
  • Resist the temptation to add in “just one more” hard long run. You will feel a little sluggish and grumpy, this is a normal part of tapering. A bit like a drug addict coming off a high! It is rest that is needed to convert all that hard training into superman fitness.
  • Try not to think too much about the race. Go watch a movie, read a non running book, spend some quality time with friends and family (without talking running!) …
  • Do not stress about every niggle you feel.  If it is something you were feeling in your last long training, get it seen to by a professional therapist. The rest of the random little aches and pains are a normal part of the tapering process, your body is in hyper repair mode ahead of the big day and the best thing you can do is to spend plenty time off your feet and allow it to do its thing. Everything is going to be more than okay.
  • Don’t become a germaphobic. The paranoia is more likely to make you sick than the actual bugs. Get in good immune boosting nutrition and then be nice to people.
  • Avoid obsessing about the weather forecast, you cannot change it, you can only be well prepared.
  • Do sleep. You will start feeling very awake and even a little hyper as the tiredness wears off. Don’t see this as a cue to go partying all night. Your body is busy repairing and your immune system is likely on the low side, best thing you can do to help it is to get good quality sleep.

Finally, give yourself a pat on the back for getting this far! You are a champion already!


Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 10/12 – Taper Time

CoachKat1Congratulations, the hard work is done! We have now entered the easiest training phase, but the most important preparation phase of your Two Oceans journey. This is the phase where all your hard work can be converted into a great race or completely undone. It is a bit like baking a cake, this is the point where you need to put the batter in the oven and just leave it alone to rise. Training now is just gentle ticking over with a few short sharp sessions to keep to the fires burning.

Remember: We want to get to the start line healthy, strong and injury free!

(A word of caution: If you have missed a significant portion of the past 3 weeks training or are currently struggling with illness or injury then it is wise to get professional advice from a coach, doctor or physiotherapist on whether it is advisable for you to still run.) 

As you start to cut back on the training and your body starts to relax, your immune system will also let down the guard a bit. It is therefore important in this time to get in plenty of good nutrition and sleep and to minimize other potential stressors as far as possible. If you do pick up a head cold or the flu, allow enough time to get completely well. You are going to make no gains by trying to keep training.

This is also not the time to try anything new!

In the last 3 weeks reduce your mileage while maintaining the frequency (this is very important to prevent feeling sluggish on race day!)  of training. ie. if you were training 4 days a week, continue to train 4 days but cut back the mileage. A good general guideline is as follows –

With 3 weeks to go – do 75% of your usual weekly mileage, with 2 weeks to go – do 50% of your usual mileage, in the last week follow a schedule of short runs with a few acceleration runs.

3 Weeks before should be your last very long LSD and should be at the most 32 km. If you did a big one with 4 weeks to go, only do a 20 km. A long run of 40 km or more takes at least 4 weeks to recover from! 2 Weeks to go, only do 90 min- 2 hours or 18-20 kilometers.

If you were doing strength work in the gym – cut back to light bodyweight exercises in the 3rd week before the race and in the last 2 weeks use your gym time to focus on activities that aid recuperation such as foam rolling and gentle stretching (Or just chill out in the coffee bar!).

Below is a sample schedule for the last week before race day:

Sunday: Easy 30-40 minute run

Monday: REST

Tuesday: 5km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

(If you are going for a massage before the race, it should be no later than the Tuesday, closer to the race and it can leave you feeling flat and sluggish)

Wednesday: 4km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

Thursday: REST REST REST!!! This is the most important rest day. Feet up! If you must go to the expo then walk around as little as possible. Thursday is also the most important day to do most of your carboloading and to get to bed very very early.

Friday: 3km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

Saturday: GO TIME!

Coming next week…

This phase is the time where you are probably going to have the most doubts about whether you will be able to achieve your goal and you might start feeling some panic set in. Next week I will be discussing strategies to stay calm in the final build up.

Keep running, laughing and living TO THE MAX!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 9/12 – Maintain

construction-703807_640With just under 4 weeks to go until race day, you have just entered a bit of a no man’s land period of your preparation. The big training is done, but it is not time to taper just yet.

This week feels to me a bit like the stretch between the half marathon mark and the 32 kilometer mark in a marathon race. You need to stay focused on the basics, keep it steady, take careful note of your hydration and fuel status and then just ride out the kilometers before that final 10 kilometer push.

The same goes for this upcoming week, it is all about maintaining your body by keeping on doing what you have been doing and paying close attention to your health, allowing space for the body to heal from the hammering it has been taking.

  • Don’t try anything new in training. Keep it steady and take time out if experiencing any overtraining warning signs.
  • Pay extra attention to your nutrition. Your body is likely to be quite depleted at this point. Make an effort to get in regular sit down balanced plates of whole food and top up with some veggie juices and nutrient dense smoothies. Think immunity and fuel.
  • Listen to what your body is telling you. Get any nagging aches and pains seen to by a running specialist physio. This is probably the best time to take a few days off if that is what is needed.
  • If you are feeling any cold or flu symptoms or just sleep deprived, take a mini break!
  • Replace one of your weekly runs with a TLC session for your body. Some ideas: Go for a massage or do some self-massage, give your feet an epsom salt soak, do an hour of foam rolling, mobility and stretching.
  • Replace your shoes if they are needing replacement.
  • Give your mind a break by doing some watch free runs!

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 8/12 – Time to Knuckle Down


Race day is so close now you can smell the sweet scent of taper. Just two more weeks of digging deep! Keep moving!

At this stage of your preparation there are two dangers:

Firstly – Losing momentum:

You might find yourself struggling to motivate yourself to get up for those early morning runs and weekend long runs loom like mountains before you, especially if you had your qualifying marathon as a motivation deadline and that is now ticked.

Should you be feeling a little over it, first step is to take two or three days completely away from running. You won’t loose any fitness and the breathing space to sleep in or just play with the kids after work will do you good. Next, you need to remind yourself why you started the journey in the first place, pat yourself on the back for of all the hard yards you have covered up to now and then knuckle down!

Some tips to help keep you motivated around the final bend:

  • Run with a group as often as you are able
  • If you don’t feel like running, commit to just heading out, even if just to go once around the block. You will very likely find yourself feeling great once you have just taken that first step out the door.
  • Do a couple of runs without a watch. Just run. As fast as you feel like. As far as you feeling like. Stop to enjoy the view and chat to people without worrying about needing to press pause!
  • Reward yourself with some new gear.
  • Run somewhere new
  • Set yourself some mini challenges on your run
  • and finally, tell someone why you run! Amazing what a little reminder can do for your motivation!

Then, the second danger – Overcooking your training:

Watch out for these signs of overtraining and back off the training for a while –

  • Higher than normal heart rate while resting and sleeping that seems to be a trend
  • Moodiness
  • Continuous bouts of colds and flu
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Struggling to complete regular workouts
  • Heavy legs
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Continuous muscle aches even when at rest
  • Ongoing niggly injuries (get them seen to by a physio!)

Take it easy out there!

Coach Kathleen

Driven by passion, pursuing excellence.

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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 7/12 – The Final Long Runs

As we enter the final 6 weeks of preparation, the question many are asking is, when must my last big long run be, and how far?


Firstly, if you are doing one of the final qualifying races this upcoming weekend 24/25 February, then that will be your last run over 40 km. You will then take an easy weekend and do a long run of 28-30 km to end  your long training.

If you have already qualified, take this weekend easy then do 2 more long weekends, one over 4 hours and one around 3 hours.

Below I give a suggested breakdown:

Date Qualified Still to qualify
24/25 Feb 8-10 km Qualifier 42.2 km
3/4 Mar 40-46 km or 4-6 hours 8-10 km
10/11 Mar 28-30 km or 3 hours 28-30 km or 3 hours
17/18 Mar 16-20 km 16-20 km
24/25 Mar 8-10 km 8-10 km

What if you are pressed for time and cannot get in a 4-6 hour run? Do 2-3 consecutive long runs over a 24-36 hour period. eg. Saturday 3 hours/Sunday 2 hours OR Friday evening 90 min/Saturday 2 hours/Sunday 90 min.

Most importantly, you need to start cutting back as you get closer to race day. Remember:

Your primary goal for success is still to arrive at the start line healthy, strong and injury free.

Almost there! Keep running, laughing and living to the max!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 6/12 – Cruise the Hills Like a Kenyan

road-1209369_640The “H” word is one word that you will hear repeatedly muttered (often preceded with adjectives that are not appropriate for a family friendly blog), by every runner preparing for Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, whether back, middle or front of the pack. And for good reason. If Chapmans Peak and Constantia Nek are not tough enough, just when you start enjoying going down, along comes the “little” bumps near Cecelia forest, aptly named, Bugger 1 and Bugger 2. You are not out of the woods yet, just when you can see the finish line  flags waving (I think they are actually laughing!) at you in the distance, you are faced with the Everest of all climbs on the day, Chet’s hill!

That said, here are a few tips to have you cruising the hills like a Kenyan:

  • Slow and steady gets the job done, don’t look at your watch pace, focus on a controlled steady even effort. Listen to your breathing and go at a pace that your breathing is controlled, focusing on breathing with your belly.
  • Run tall. I often see runners bent over at the waist, shoulders hunched forward. Think Superman, chest out, shoulders open and relaxed, hips tall and belt buckle moving forward.
  • Use your arms to drive the legs. Focus on driving the elbows backwards while keeping the shoulders loose and relaxed.
  • Keep your eyes focused straight ahead. This will ensure your head stays level and posture tall.
  • If you walk on the hills, walk tall and with purpose.
  • Always run over the top of the hill.

Finally, when hitting the much anticipated down, ease into it, get your breathing under control, relax into the descent and then allow gravity to gently take you down at a comfortable rhythm (avoid excessive braking). Resist the panic to try make up time on the downhills, especially down Chapman’s Peak, it is still early days and you will pay heavily later on.

I hope these tips help put the Happy in your hills. Pop me an email if you have any other questions about your preparation.

Coach Kathleen



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Two Oceans Ultra Tips 5/12 – Small Things

Your training should be in full swing by now and with only 8 weeks to go until race day this is not the time for making big changes to your training, running style or gear. The most important now is to keep moving, one training run at a time.

This is the time though to do those little things that will add the edge to your training. Here is a list of ten little things you can do to maximize your training:

  1. After your run, soak your feet in warm water mixed with epsom salts for 10 minutes and give each foot a good massage.
  2. Minimize non running fatigue – stay off your feet as much as possible when not training.
  3. Follow the 3 R’s of recovery
  4. Spend 10 minutes on mobility and core exercises each day
  5. Have those niggles seen to before they become full blown injuries
  6. Rehearse what you will be wearing, eating, drinking in the race. Also try to simulate the race route profile on your long runs.
  7. Eat well! Up your daily nutrition a notch, especially get in extra immune boosting foods.
  8. Create an environment and pre-bed routine for quality sleep. Aim to get as close to 8 hours a night as is realistic.
  9. Spoil yourself to a massage.
  10. Stop regularly to enjoy the view!

Train hard, be nice to people and remember to laugh (a lot!!).

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 4/12 – Because You Can

With the weekly mileage piling on thick now, while at the same time work and family commitments are not becoming any less, it is easy to get so weighed down by pressure of needing to train for an event that we can easily lose track of why we became runners in the first place.IMG-20150419-WA0012

Whatever our reason for starting, we all eventually got captivated by the  simplicity, the freedom, the challenge, the endorphines, the sweat, the burn, the camaraderie … that simple joy of “Hey, I can”. And so we run, because, “we can”, and it is awesome. This is our joy.

So if you find yourself dragging your feet through the streets just getting the kilometers ticked for Strava, stop a moment and celebrate the that are running today because, well,  “YOU CAN”.

Keep moving!

Coach Kathleen


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